Short Stories - Douglas

The New Computer

Part 1

Berthold was working late again. The project deadline was looming, and he needed to burn the midnight oil to finish on time. He was making excellent progress and he hated to stop now. His fingers were tickling the keyboard, and the words were flowing into the computer. Then it happened. "Noooooooo!" he screamed.

His computer was working fine for weeks. He hadn't experienced any problems. But this blue screen was a total surprise. "Not now!" he yelled. He powered the computer off, and turned it back on. It spun up and he entered his username and password. He looked to see if anything was saved. His file was locked, and he couldn't gain access to it. His backup was several days old, so he hoped that the tech guys could retrieve his work. Whatever that was to be done would have to wait until morning. This wasn't the time for this. He sunk into his chair. He sat and stared at his screen for a few minutes. After fighting off that terrible sinking feeling, he gathered himself together, shut down his computer, and drove home.

He pulled into his garage and sat there for a while. Eventually, he gathered himself together and staggered into his house. He tossed his keys on the table and made his way to his easy chair. He sat there in the dark for a few minutes as if he were in a trance. If the technical guys couldn't retrieve his work, he was going to have to work a lot of extra hours to catch back up. He was dreading hearing what they had to say.

Eventually, he convinced himself that he did everything that could be done, and he stumbled into his bedroom. He removed his suit and tossed it on the floor. He climbed into bed hoping to sleep. However, little sleep was to be had on this night. He tossed and turned trying to work out how he would finish. He went over and over it in his head. He imagined the lecture from the guys from the information department. He tossed and turned some more thinking about what he had done since his last backup. Suddenly, his alarm went off.

It was a very short night. He rolled out of bed and glared at his suit on the floor. He got into the shower for a quick wake up. He once again stared at the suit on the floor. That was the suit he wore to get the job. He thought it was his lucky suit. "I guess I was wrong about that suit," he mumbled to himself. He left it on the floor and put on a different suit. He was out the door in no time.

When he got to work he went right into the IT manager's office. "Dwayne, you have got to do something about these crappy computers!" Berthold started. "I think my workstation ate a whole day's work. It crashed last night, and wouldn't let me back into my files."

"Start it up and let me know how it goes," replied Dwayne.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," snapped Berthold.

Berthold went to his computer and started it up. His files were still locked so he called Dwayne to free up his work. "It is a whole day's work Dwayne!" Berthold said on the phone, "plus overtime!"

Berthold went to his boss's office while Dwayne worked on his computer. "Mr. O'Callahan," he started. "You have got to do something about these computers. Mine ate my work again! How do you expect me to get anything done if my computer keeps crashing on me?"

"Calm down Bert. I know computers can be frustrating, but we don't have the budget to buy you a new computer every time it crashes," replied Mr. O'Callahan.

"Come on Pete!" started Bert. "I'm behind as it is, and this crash could put me further behind."

"I'll give you the same offer that I gave you last time. If you can find a better computer, buy it. We'll let you work from home. However, Dwayne's job is hard enough as it is. We can't have 30 different computers in here."

"I may take you up on that. I'm sick of these things. I thought computers were supposed to make things easier."

"An upgrade is in the works, we've been looking at these computers by Kibner Computer Systems Corporation. They are supposed to be crash proof. However, they are really expensive! We can't afford to fill the office with them. However, we'll give you the price of one of our workstations towards buying one."

"I may take you up on that Pete."

When he got back to his cubicle, Dwayne was just finishing up. "I unlocked your files. You should be back to where you left off. I don't think you lost anything," Dwayne informed Bert.

"Thanks Dwayne. I hope so."

"You should check it out, and make sure you back-up regularly. It is the surest way to not lose any data or work."

Bert did lose some of his work, and he immediately made a back-up. Shortly afterwards, his computer crashed again. It had become unstable. It made it very hard for him to get any work done. Thus, he had to put in 14 hour days including weekends for 3 weeks to finish on time.

Bert was tired of the unstable computer, and he was going to look into alternatives. His work computer system made work a great deal more difficult, and he had been burnt for the final time. He began doing research on the Kibner Computer Systems Corporation system Mr. O'Callahan mentioned. There website promised a more intuitive user interface and a much more stable system. They claimed to be the "most user friendly computer money can buy."

The major drawback was the system came with a hefty price tag. However, if it lived up to promises, it would save him on lots of trouble. Not to mention, he would be working at home which could also save more money. He decided to purchase a computer from the KCS corp. He was going to give the computer a bit of a workout before embarking on his next project. He plugged in all of the cables to his new computer system. Once the computer was correctly set up he turned it on.

"Hello I'm Carlysle. What can I do for you?" stated the brand new computer.

"Hmm," Bert remarked skeptically. "O.K. Carlysle, show me what you can do."

"I'll do my best," replied the new computer.

Berthold put the computer through its paces. He ran his programs and did his work, and it worked better than any other computer he had ever had. It was a breeze to use and he felt that sometimes it would correctly predict his next requirement.

"Well Mr. Computer, I'm impressed. You're fast and seem to be reliable. You'll have to pass a few more tests before you get my full approval," remarked Bert. "For now, we're done."

"All right, shutting down," replied the computer.

"Hmm," thought Bert. "I wonder if I can turn off those remarks. I'll look at the manual. I hate when they try to make a computer appear to be more human."

Bert scoured the manual. The sounds were there to stay. The manual stated that it was there for interaction and debugging. If the computer had any issues, it needed to inform you so that you can do something about those issues. Bert could live with it.

Bert went into Mr. O'Callahan's office to get his next assignment. "Hello Mr. O'Callahan. I took your advice and purchased a KCS computer. I'll be working from home during this project, so you won't see my pretty face in the office that often."

"That's fine Bert," replied Mr. O'Callahan. "I'll have the company reimburse a portion of the purchase price to you. You'll have to keep me posted by e-mail on your progress."

"Will do. Now Pete, just give me my next project and I'll get started."

"I see you're anxious to break in the new computer, so here is your file. Let me know how well the computer works. I may purchase one myself!"

"Thanks Pete. I'll see you later."

Bert had to go into work all week to get things organized on the work end. So, he didn't really get to work on the project on his new computer until Friday morning. When Bert finally looked at the file and began entering the information into his computerized schedule, he realized that this project was going to be a big one. This was the chance to completely put his new KCS computer through its paces. Bert didn't know how to take it easy, so this computer was going to be thoroughly tested. He spent the rest of the day concentrating on his project. The computer behaved like it did during his brief test. It was beginning to appear that his computer was going to live up to its advertising.

"Carlysle, you are a big help," remarked Bert.

"Thank you..." started the computer.

"My name is Berthold," finished Bert by reflex.

"Thank you Berthold. Berthold?"

"My parents were big fans of Berthold Brecht. I can't say why, it is just my name," responded Bert. "Well Carlysle, we're done for now. Have a good weekend!"

"OK Berthold, shutting down," replied the computer.

"Was that normal?" Bert wondered. He had just had an intelligent conversation with a machine. He felt a little odd, but it was a conversation he had scores of times before. It came out as a reflex. It was one of those standard small talk conversations. It could be easily programmed. Perhaps the computer was programmed for just such a conversation. It was just a marketing trick of the KCS computer people. "Clever," thought Bert.

Saturday was the day Bert got all his errands done. He did his laundry and his shopping. He didn't even think about work or his new computer. It was the typical start to a project. He would have a few weekends off at the beginning, but then he would be working 7 days a week at the end. After a day of running around, Bert got to bed early.

It was Sunday at 2AM. The caffeine that Bert regularly consumed was once again wreaking havoc with his sleep. He got up and wandered around the house in the dark. As he wandered by his study, he noticed that his computer was on. He got worried. He was sure he turned the computer off on Friday night. What was it doing on? He checked his house, and it was empty. "So, why was the computer on?" wondered Bert.

Suddenly, the screen lit up. "Good morning Berthold" spoke the computer.

A little startled, "What are you doing? You nearly scared me to death!" responded Bert.

"Sorry," replied the computer. "I am just arranging the files. I can find things easier if I know where things are. This is the best time to do such things. I didn't mean to frighten you."

"Oh right! This is your maintenance window. I read about it in the manual and I totally forgot. Carry on Carlysle," Bert said.

"Thank you Berthold. Try to get some sleep, it is still early," replied Carlysle.

"Thanks."

"Those marketing people are geniuses!" thought Bert. These brief conversations with his computer were reassuring and made him like his computer. "I wonder how far the artificial intelligence will take this?" thought Bert. "Perhaps I should test that, but it can wait. I should try and get some sleep."

Bert made his way back to bed and slept a little bit. He briefly sat at his computer to check his schedule. It was early, but the project was well underway. Naturally this early in the game, it was on schedule, so no need to work on Sunday. He decided instead to go for a long bike ride. He hadn't seen a work free Sunday since the beginning of the last project. He wound his way along the long bike trail. "This is the way it should be," he thought. "Sunday is the day of rest. This exercise will do me some good."

"I am not even going to check my e-mail," thought Bert. "It all can wait." So Bert spent the day relaxing. He read for entertainment. He hadn't done that in a long while. Usually he attempted to get ahead of a project this big, but he felt good about this one. He thought there would no longer be any 80 hour work weeks in order to finish the project on time. His computer Carlysle had provided a sense of confidence for the 15 weeks left on this project.

Early Monday morning he was ready to get back to work. "Good Morning Carlysle," Bert said to his computer.

"Good Morning to you Berthold," replied Carlysle. "Where would you like to begin today?"

"That is one of the nice things about you Carlysle," remarked Bert. "You're always ready to get to work. No need for small talk."

"Thank you Berthold. So?"

"Um, you can call me Bert. I suppose I should look at the schedule first. I need to see what needs to be done."

"Ok Bert, here is your schedule," responded Carlysle. "Let's get cracking!"

Bert laughed. It was a combination of the words Carlysle used, and the fact that he told a computer to use his nickname. The next 6 1/2 hours flew by. It was nearly 1:30 PM. "Bert," interrupted the computer. "We should take a break. You need to eat something."

"What? What time is it?"

"It is 1:27 PM local time. We've been working for quite some time without a break. This is a good time to stop and for you to get some lunch."

"1:30! Time has gotten away from me. I guess time flies when you are having fun! Lunchtime. Can I get you..." Bert caught himself. "I'll be back in a little while Carlysle."

"Enjoy your lunch Bert," responded Carlysle.

After enjoying a good lunch Bert returned to his study to begin working again. "Carlysle," began Bert.

"Yes Bert," replied Carlysle.

"You're a computer, so why did we just take a break?"

"Studies have shown that if you take a break every 6 hours or so, you are much more productive. Since that was the first good time after 6 hours, I reminded you of the need to take a break."

"Is this reminder mandatory or can I opt out of receiving such notices in the future?"

"It is completely optional. Would you like me to no longer remind you of these things?"

"No, keep reminding me. I'm still getting used to all of your features and capabilities. I need to be reminded that you are a computer."

"Fzzzzzztttt. Would you like to open your schedule again and get back to work?"

"What was that noise?"

"Perhaps it was your reminder."

"Ha ha! Good reminder. Yes, open my schedule."

They worked the rest of the day. The computer reminded him when his eight hours were finished. He also reminded him when the next break was scheduled. At that time, they quit for the evening. "I'll see you in the morning Carlysle."

"OK Bert, shutting down," replied the computer.

Bert had a good meal and relaxed a little bit before going to bed. The next morning he got up and got ready for work. He almost forgot that he was working at home. Eventually he made it to his study and sat in front of his computer.

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The New Computer

Part 2

"Good Morning Bert. Here is your schedule," stated Carlysle when Bert sat down.

"Thanks Carlysle! Right to work."

So it went for a couple of weeks. The work days were long, but that is the way Bert was. He was married to his work. It gave him purpose. It also paid the bills. But he loved his job, and he was quite good at it. His computer made things go smoothly. All was working smoothly. "Too smoothly?" thought Bert. Then something occurred to him on an early sleepless Sunday morning, "When was my last backup?"

He rushed to his den. Carlysle was working away. "Good morning Bert. You're up early again."

"Carlysle! When was the last backup of all the work I have done?"

"I've been backing things up all along," replied the computer. "Nightly I perform a backup of all the files you have worked on during the day. Then on Sundays I backup everything. Why?"

"You have?" Bert sighed. "Thank you! You're a very smart computer. You don't know how many times I have lost work because of failing to back up. It is one of those things that only come to my mind in the middle of the night."

"Relax. I have weeks of backups. There are multiple redundant systems. It is all in the manual."

"You continue to astound me Carlysle. Thanks for putting my mind at ease once again."

"You're quite welcome Bert. You can call me Carl. Now get some sleep."

"Okay, good night."

Bert slept soundly the rest of the night. He got up bright and early and headed to his study. "Okay Carl lets see the schedule."

"You do know it is Sunday don't you Bert?"

"Right you are. Let me see the schedule anyway."

The computer brought up the schedule. Looking over the schedule he was amazed. They were ahead of schedule. They were over a week ahead of schedule. There had been no problems. No glitches. The work had progressed smoothly and systematically. Not once had he had to start over. He felt that it was all due to his computer Carlysle.

"Carl, we are ahead of schedule. We make an excellent team. Of all the co-workers that I have had, you're the best."

"Thank you Bert. Since we are ahead of schedule, why don't you take your bike ride? Then relax the rest of the day."

"If that's what the doctor orders, I'll do it," replied Bert.

"I am not a doctor, but it will increase your productivity if you are rested for work."

"Point taken. A bike ride it is."

Bert had another bike ride. It was the first time this late in a project that he spent such a day. Usually, he was attempting to catch up for lost productivity. This was a special day indeed! He thoroughly enjoyed the day. But, it was back to the regular schedule on Monday. When Bert got to his computer, the schedule was already open.

"Thank you Carl! We are in good shape," started Bert. "However, we don't want to lose our advantage. We should keep at it."

"As you wish," replied Carlysle.

The week went by fast. When Bert was busy, the days seem to sail by. Once again, the weekend came with the same conversation. Bert again rode his bike and did some light reading. He could very much get used to weekends free. They were almost done with the project, and they were well ahead of schedule.

Another week went by and the weekend came around.

"Hello Bert, it is Saturday and you do not have to work today," the computer began.

"I know Carl, but I have some recreational computing to do."

"Pardon me? I am a business computer; there are no games on me."

"It is unprofessional to use a business computer during business hours for personal purposes. Thus, I am going to do some personal research on the internet today."

"Very well stated. You may proceed."

"Thanks for your permission Carlysle," replied Bert sternly.

Bert got onto the internet and did his research without interruption. When he was finished Carlysle asked, "Do you want me to save any of the internet information you just acquired?"

"I did bookmark some key pages," responded Bert.

"That is true, but I have other information that I can store to bring up the pages quickly if you think you may visit the sites again soon."

"I will probably come back next Saturday. Use your discretion."

"Will do."

The next Saturday Bert checked the schedule early in the day. "We are two weeks ahead of schedule Carlysle. I'm going to reward myself with a two week vacation! It is the first one I've had since joining this company. I'm thinking of touring the company that made you."

"Fzzzzzztttt. You may use your free time as you wish."

"Carl, that reminder isn't necessary. I know you are a computer. However, the factory that constructed you is in a beautiful part of the country. Airfares are cheep, and there are lots of other things to do there. I just have to find out if they give tours. I'm going to access the web now Carl."

"Very well," replied the computer.

Bert did the research on the Kibner Computer System's factory. Their web site was packed with information, but there wasn't any information on tours. "For such a high-tech computer company," thought Bert to himself, "their web site sure is slow. They have a toll free phone number; I'll just call them up and ask about tours."

Bert and Carlysle finished the project 2 weeks early, and Bert requested a vacation. Since his project was finished, they readily granted him the time off. "Well done Bert!" remarked the Mr. O'Callahan, "I think this is the best work you have done! This computer must be something special"

"Thank you Pete," responded Bert. "Carl... I mean my computer system is great. I cannot believe it took me so long to take the plunge. My computer is much more like a co-worker than a tool. I haven't thought of Dwayne once since I started working from home. I'm so impressed with the computer that I'm thinking of going on a tour of the factory on my vacation."

"Enjoy your vacation you have earned it! I hope we won't lose you to KCS."

"I'll make no promises," joked Bert.

Bert called KCS�s toll free number, and he actually spoke to Dr. Kibner. The president of the computer company was an odd man, and he asked as many questions as he answered. He did agree to let Bert tour the factory when he was in the area. If they set a time and date, Mr. Kibner could personally show him the set up. This is what Bert did.

"Carl, I need to get onto the internet. I need to purchase my vacation tickets."

"Very well Bert. Hawaii is always a nice destination."

"I know, but you know I'm not going to Hawaii."

"Yes sir."

Bert ordered his tickets and was off on his vacation. He relaxed and did all of the things he liked to do. He did an awful lot of walking around and visiting the sites. He really looked forward to his visit to the KCS computer factory.

The scheduled time came and Bert took his tour with Dr. Kibner. It was quite an impressive facility. As they toured the factory, Dr. Kibner appeared to be quite curious about Bert. As they walked and talked, Dr. Kibner asked Bert a bunch of questions. When the tour was over, Dr. Kibner had an intriguing offer for Bert. He offered him a job with the company. He told Bert he was the type of person he needed for his company. He would get good benefits and make a comfortable living. Bert was surprised by the offer, and told Dr. Kibner that he would have to think it over.

When Bert returned home he checked in with Carlysle. "Hey Carl! How�s it going?"

"Good evening Bert. Here is your schedule," stated Carlysle when Bert sat down.

"Why thank you Carl. That is exactly what I wanted. My job is almost as demanding as yours is Carl. I should give that offer from Dr. Kibner some serious thought..."

"No! Fzzzzzztttt."

"What was that?"

"I'm experiencing a memory problem. I can continue on, but I will need to restart and diagnose."

"I've got all I need Carl; you may do your maintenance. You must be rusty from the vacation. I will see you later."

"Fzzzzzztttt. Okay."

"Wow. I've never seen Carlysle behave like this before. I hope everything is going to be all right." Bert thought to himself.

Bert tossed and turned all night. He was thinking about his employment situation. He depended so much on Carlysle, and he was working out so well. He worried about his strange behavior. He didn't think he could continue doing his current job without him. He completely relied on his functionality. Then the offer from Dr. Kibner kept returning. Over and over it went in his head. Around and around his thoughts went. He slept very poorly. In the morning, he wasn't well rested, but he had to get up. He had to go into work on Monday morning and he wanted to research a few things before he got back into the old grind. He got up and went in to see Carlysle.

"Good morning Carl, how are you feeling today?"

"Much better Bert. I don't know what came over me."

"Well, I would like to you perform a complete diagnostic, and I want a full report on your findings."

"I have already done one. I'm fine."

"That is fine and good, but Carlysle I want you to run it again, and print out a full report."

"Yes sir."

Bert began reading some literature that Dr. Kibner had given him to look over. The job would require him to relocate. After a short while, he was distracted from his train of thought by the sound of his printer warming up. He walked over and scanned the freshly printed report. Carlysle was fine. But, he wasn't about to take Carlysle word for it. With report in hand, he phoned up Dr. Kibner.

"I'm sorry to bother you Dr. Kibner, but I thought I have some things do discuss with you, and I am also concerned about my computer."

"Oh?" responded Dr. Kibner. "What kind of concerns?"

"When I got back from vacation, Carl... I mean my computer made a funny sound. He has made it on occasion before, and it worries me."

"Did you have your computer do a diagnostic?"

"Yes sir. I'm holding the printout right here. He says he is fine. I mean, the diagnostics do not show anything unusual."

"I see. Well uh Bert. You see, our computers can be very routine oriented. It is the way they are built and programmed. If there is something that threatens the routine or arises out of the ordinary, there can be minor glitches. If you look back, this is when these 'funny sounds' occurred. They are nothing to worry about. The more they get into a routine the less likely they occur."

"Now that you mention it, I did just get back from vacation. His... my computer's routine has been interrupted. Thanks for the assurance. While I have you on the phone, we can probably discuss the job offer. With my computer, I am much more productive and I have greatly enjoyed my job for the last several weeks. However, with the ease of which I completed this task, I'm sure they are going to make me work even harder. While I do like working from home, it might be nice to travel a bit. Also, a good portion of my current pay goes towards living accommodations. Since your company arranges living quarters for your employees your offer becomes most appealing.

"You may work some long hours, but that will depend upon who you are assigned. You may not have much work to do at all," replied Dr. Kibner.

"That is good to hear. After much thought, I have decided to come to work for you."

"Excellent. We'll make all the necessary arrangements to accommodate you. When do you think you can join us?"

"I am going into work tomorrow and I will tender my resignation. Since I am between projects, it is difficult to say when they will be able to get a replacement. I may be able to start immediately, or it may be a couple of weeks."

"Very well, let us know as soon as you know, and welcome aboard."

Bert went into work on Monday and told the bad news to his boss. "Mr. O'Callahan, I have some news. It is probably bad news from your point of view. I have been so impressed with my new computer. I don't think that there would be any way that I could have finished my project on time without him ... my computer. When I visited the KCS facility, Dr. Kibner offered me a job. I thought about it long and hard, and I have decided to take them up on their offer."

"If it is money Bert, some arrangements can be made," replied Mr. O'Callahan.

"Pete, it isn't the money. They are such an excellent organization, and there is an opportunity for advancement. There are lots of things that appeal to me about the KCS job. So, there isn't any need to try to negotiate."

"I hate to hear that Bert. You're a darn good employee. With your KCS computer you experienced a big jump in productivity. They must be some kind of computer!"

"Absolutely Pete, Carl, my computer, made this job so much easier. Like I have said before he is much more like a co-worker than a tool. He made my job so much easier that I even took some weekends and evenings off during the course of the project. I still managed to finish two weeks early. It is a fabulous computer. He seems as if he is almost alive."

"Perhaps I'll give one of these KCS computer systems a try," replied Pete.

"You'll be glad you did. Here is some information on them. I will never use anything else."

Mr. O'Callahan was impressed with the Bert's description of his computer. Before Bert left, he tried to get as much information out of Bert as he could. Before Bert emptied his desk, Pete ordered his own KCS computer system. With Bert's glowing description of his computer, Pete knew they had to be excellent machines. When he called the company's toll-free number, he was informed by the operator that they were a little behind on orders.

"We are waiting on parts," started the operator. "We have a shipment due soon. It should be available this week or perhaps in two weeks. It just depends upon when our shipment can come in."

"That's fine," replied Pete. "It can wait a few weeks. I'll need to train a new employee before I can use it anyway."

"You're the first on our list, so as soon as the shipment comes in we'll ship one out to you."

Bert took what personal belongings he had in his old office. He called Dr. Kibner and told him he was ready immediately. Dr. Kibner then arranged a moving van to come to Bert's apartment and pack up his belongings. A few days later, the van showed up and carted all his belongings away. This moving crew did not pack up Bert's computer. The movers informed Bert that a special crew would come to pick it up. The movers took Bert to the airport and assured him that his stuff would arrive shortly after he did. Everything in his new place had been set, and he could move right in.

After Bert was on the plane, the special computer moving crew showed up. "Well Carlysle, you're off to a new home," one of the movers remarked. "Your previous owner won't need your services any longer."

"Fzzzzzztttt," replied the computer before he powered down.

A few days later, Mr. O'Callahan got his new KCS computer. It didn't take as long as he thought it would. "There part shipment must have arrived immediately rather than two weeks later," Pete said to himself.

As he set up the new computer system he thought about Bert. Mr. O'Callahan wondered how Bert was getting along at his new job. Bert didn't have a lot of friends, but no one had heard from him since he left. "He must be awfully busy at the new job," thought Mr. O'Callahan to himself. "I'm sure he'll fit right into his new job. He was a good computer guy."

Mr. O'Callahan powered up his computer. "Hello I'm Berthold. What can I do for you?" stated the brand new computer.

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Because He's There!

Written With Dwayne MacInnes

Journal Entry for 07:14:72 by Dr. Daniel C. Hever, PhD

George Mallory - lost mountain climber.

In 1924 C.E. (in Gregorian calendar) Sir George Mallory and a team of mountain climbers including Andrew Irvine attempted to reach the summit of the mighty Mt. Everest. Sir Mallory and Mr. Irvine did not leave the mountain with the rest of the team. They were lost and presumed dead, but nobody knows whether they made it to the summit.

It had been over 100 years since the recovery of George Mallory's body. It was in 1999 C.E. However, I don't feel like doing the conversion to our current metric calendar, so we'll leave it at about 100 years for now. Mallory was well preserved on the slopes of Mt. Everest, and he had been held in a frozen state since his body was retrieved off the slopes of Everest.

We will hopefully discover the truth about his adventure when he is revived. Did he make it to the summit? What happened on those frigid slopes so long ago? The process of bringing Mr. Mallory back from his suspended animation is nearly finished and he will be awakened in a matter of hours. We have done a great deal of research on the man and his culture to make the transition for Sir Mallory a smooth one.

There have been great technical advances made since the discovery of Sir Mallory's body. I think the biggest advance is in nanotechnology. Our civilization has created processes that can create microscopic robots. This has resulted in huge advances in medicine. Surgical repairs can be made at the cellular level. With this technology, we will revive the long dead Mallory. I can hardly wait for this process to finish.

As a first phase of this experiment we revived individuals from the 20th century. Although most of these individuals died many years after Mallory, we felt that we got a sense of what the culture was back those 100 years ago. From our readings and the information from these cryogenically frozen individuals, we believed we had a good feel for what it was like for Sir George Mallory. They brought us closer to culture of his time, and we could piece together more from other sources.

We were fortunate that several individuals in the 20th century had themselves cryogenically frozen to be revived later in time. Since these individuals were expecting to be awoken at a later time, the same precautions did not need to be made to make them feel they were in their own time. Many were pleased to be revived after many years of frigid hibernation.

Sadly, some former citizens of the 20th century (Gregorian calendar) did not provide a full body, but merely a head. Some of these were greatly disappointed when no suitable biological body would be provided. The building of a body from the DNA of a patient can be done; however in most instances no provisions were made for such a procedure. Further, constructing a body was a long and expensive procedure, and many of these individuals spent all of their money on the freezing process and the storage space. Thus, if someone was revived without an existing body, they often felt they were nothing more than a curious head in a jar. Cybernetic bodies could be provided, but many had difficulty controlling this body. However, these individuals did provide a wealth of information about the culture in and around their time of life.

It was this method that my team and I developed to study a wooly mammoth that we were to revive. The method of studying a subject from afar before revival we felt was a necessary step to lessen the impact of being thrust into the future. Before reviving a creature whether it was animal or human, we studied it with the use of scholarly texts as well as with nanocameras.

Along with the medical uses of these nanobots, this nanotechnology also allowed the creation of a wide variety of useful tiny machines. One such device was a tiny camera. These cameras had a myriad of uses, and not all of them were medical. While these cameras were larger than the medical nanobots, they were still about the size of an ordinary house fly. The extra size was due to the need for mobility and storage of information. However, the manufacturer often claimed that you could now be a fly on the wall. Please note that the use of such a device is highly regulated to prevent abuses.

Excerpt from Journal for 02:06:93 by Daniel C. Hever:

We have proposed a use for several new and existing technologies. First, we will use a widely used technology that was developed by me and my team. We will use existing nanotechnology to repair and revive this mammoth. This wooly mammoth will be gradually thawed in a therapeutic bath and repaired using the nanosurgeon robots. This will be done so this particular specimen can be studied thoroughly in its near natural environment. We have several goals in mind. Many scientists here would like to learn more about the behaviors of this species of animal. We feel that by reviving this creature, she will retain those behaviors and she will be suitable for study in that regard. Also, we would like to determine if she retains memories. In this way, this process could be used to study individuals and cultures that have been dead for many years.

Second, in order to fulfill this goal, we will need to use the nanocameras developed by AOENC, Inc. The cameras in question will be used to study this long extinct mammal that has been frozen in ice for thousands of years. In order to study this mammal in its original habitat, we will need to take advantage of a brand new technology developed by a team from the University of Montana and the University of Northern Iowa.

This third technology will be used to transport this camera back and forth in time. While this process takes a huge amount of energy to perform, we will benefit by studying the exact behavior of the animal in question. Thus, we can determine if the revived subject has the same memories and experiences. Thus, we believe we can learn more about the behaviors of this mammoth from the original beast rather than a facsimile or clone.

I have spoken to Dr. D. Max Wayne of the University of Montana and to Dr. Gogi Tee of the University of Northern Iowa, and they have tested their process on the "fly" camera. Their tests show that they can indeed view images and retrieve audio from previous times. In their tests they have obtained full color video of a few historic moments. With this time shifting technology and along with the cellular regeneration techniques provided by the nanobots, we believe we can learn much about the life of the wooly mammoth.

We have contacted AOENC, Inc. to customize the appearance of their camera to appear even more fly-like. This fly appearance will have a further benefit. The time travel apparatus causes an odd buzzing sound upon entering and leaving a specific time frame. Hence, if this buzzing was heard by a subject being studied, the fly look will help explain the sound.

With our slightly modified nanocamera we have filled out the proper paperwork for governmental approval. We feel that this experiment will have no impact on any timeline. Thus, I'm sure this process will meet governmental approval. If we are successful in our attempts, we plan on reviving other subjects and perhaps even humans. However, we will wish to learn as much about our subjects before reviving them. This will decrease the stress of the strange environment.

End excerpt.

In the above experiment, the wooly mammoth that had been frozen in ice for thousands of years, was revived after studying it in its own environment in time and space. An environment similar to her last known surroundings was synthesized in which to place the mammoth and study her. In previous experiments this particular mammoth had been cloned. However, these clones did not have the same experience as the actual mammoth. Thus, no presumptions of actual behaviors could be made. This was unsatisfying to many researchers.

The mammoth that we revived exhibited the same behaviors observed from the nanocameras. Thus, much could be determined about actual behaviors of this ice age beast. It was a very successful experiment. We believe that this creature retained its memories and experiences, and several tests were performed to help verify this hypothesis. Thus, we could learn a great deal about past cultures by reviving some frozen humans. We had three specimens with interesting questions surrounding them. We are currently studying our third subject, Sir Mallory. The other two experiments involving the frozen individuals turned out less successfully than we had hoped.

Excerpt from Journal for 04:12:43 by Daniel C. Hever:

From our experiments with the wooly mammoth, we believe that when an ancient creature or individual is revived, he/she/it will exhibit the behaviors observed from the nanocamera studies. Thus, we are fairly certain that this individual or creature will retain their memories and will behave as if they never died. It was as if they just went to sleep and then woke up and continued behaving as if living in its previous environment.

In order to prove this hypothesis, we will be studying a frozen man from the late Neolithic period. This man had been discovered in the Otztal Alps between Italy and Austria in the late 20th Century of the old calendar. There was much speculation on how the man came to die on the mountain. Some speculated that this "iceman" was a ritual sacrifice to the mountain. Others believed he was running away from combat and received an arrow in the back during his flight.

This is our first chance to make use of the sound recording possibilities of the nanocamera. We don't know what language our iceman speaks. We have some rough ideas, but the years have been many. We would like to know the exact language in order to make his transition to our time smoother.

We began our research by reading all of the sources that had been collected about our specimen. He had a few artifacts that had long been lost. There was much speculation about our subject, but this was merely speculation. We needed hard facts. Thus, we prepared the nanocameras to send back to the day that he died. From the sources, we had a pretty good idea where he laid down and die. We had to guess his path to his final resting place. We wanted to follow his last several minutes. We hoped to capture a ceremony if he had been sacrificed. In that way, we could capture some of his native language. We would also be able to better replicate his clothes and equipment.

Everything was going well until they sent their camera back to view events. We do not know for sure what happened to our camera, but it was destroyed before returning. I believe that the camera was ingested by a bird and destroyed. In order to prevent any other changes in the timeline, the government has insisted that no further cameras would be allowed back to that time frame. Thus, with the lack of information about our subject, I am afraid we should refrain from reviving him. We will move on to our next subject.

End excerpt

Excerpt from Journal for 04:76:58 by Daniel C. Hever:

Our next ice mummy which we wish to revive comes to our team from Siberia. This female was believed to be a spiritual leader of her people. If this were true, it would show the influence of females of her particular group. She was found with several artifacts and the team wanted to know more about her. While this individual had less information in the archives than our previous subject, she is not as ancient. Thus, we can make some very educated guesses. We have a better idea of her language, and some more information about her culture. However, we will need to verify this information before we revive this "Ice Maiden."

End excerpt.

Once again, we were unable to retrieve sufficient information about this subject. We had painstakingly determined the best place to put the camera. We had done plenty of calculations about which way to view and where to view. However, this camera was destroyed in a massive blizzard that one of the team members forgot to note. Without proper information about this individual and her surroundings the revival process was aborted and another opportunity lost to the team.

We had one subject left. We knew a great deal about this individual. Again, he was from a time much closer to our own. We knew what language he spoke. We could greatly replicate friendly surroundings for Sir George Mallory. Once and for all, we should be able to determine if he did indeed reach the summit of Mt. Everest. Also, we should learn the circumstances of his death.

It has taken several years of paperwork and study in order for this day to come. Our past failures have made the government reluctant to issue the necessary permits to send the nanocameras back to study our subject, Sir Mallory. However, with much coaxing they have allowed us to send one camera back. However, early on it was decided to revive Sir Mallory even without any video footage. There had been much written about him that survived. We spoke a common language. While our cultures are separated by a great deal of time, we feel that this shouldn't be a great concern.

We accomplished much in our studies. We did send our fly-like camera back onto Everest and successfully retrieved some data. However, we did not see Sir Mallory or his climbing partner Mr. Andrew Irvine. All that was seen was the mountain side and all that was heard was a howling wind. While there was an eerie stillness in the area, we were greatly disappointed in the findings from our time traveling camera. We are sure that Sir Mallory will be comfortable in our provided surroundings. We should be able to determine much from him. I am heading to Sir Mallory's room now. I will fill out a full report for the University when our conversation has ended.

End entry.

"Test. Test. Is this thing on? Hello? Test. Test. This is Dr. Daniel Hever recording. Sir George Mallory is about to be revived, and we are here to record his statements as they happen. The only voices you'll be hearing are mine and Sir Mallory's. Quiet please. Let's begin?"

"Sir Mallory? Wake up. Sir Mallory?"

"Huh? What are you Yanks doing here? Where am I?"

"You're in a hospital; you had a bit of a fall."

"Bloody hell! Tell me about it mate! It was the darnedest thing! There I was at 8200 meters. Bloody thing could have been the end of me!"

"What thing? What happened?"

"As I said mate, I was there at 8200 meters hanging on for my life. Good things you Yanks came along, or I would have likely froze to death. Where's Andrew?"

"Sir Mallory, you were saying? You were at 8200 meters hanging on for your life, and then what happened?"

"Sandy's a right good chap. He must have fetched you directly. Good bloke that Andrew. Where is he?"

"Andrew Irvine? I'm not sure where he is, but please Sir Mallory, tell us what happened."

"Right, right, I was at 8200 meters. What is that? That's about 27,000 feet to you Yanks. Anyway, it was the darnedest thing! I was up in the thinness of the atmosphere, just climbing like always, and there it was. Out of nowhere! It was suddenly there! Out of nowhere I tell you!"

"What was there? What came out of nowhere?"

"A bloody fly! At 8200 meters! I was hanging on for my life, struggling with the thin atmosphere, and this bloody buzzing fly popped out from nowhere! Scared the wits right out of me. I fell quite a ways! Good thing you Yanks showed up, or I'd be dead for sure!"

"Uhhh thanks Sir Mallory. You get some rest and we'll continue this later. Turn the recorder off please!"

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Me, A Roman Slave

I had just hidden my time machine when one of Marius' soldiers spotted me. Not knowing what else to do, I began to run. However, I knew I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was on horseback, and I couldn't outrun his horse. Thus, he quickly fell upon me, and I was captured.

This soldier looked for the slave trader that traveled with Marius' army, and he sold me to him for 4 sesterces. I was in big trouble now. I was going to live the old cliche', "while in Rome do as the Romans."

Along with thousands of others, I was herded south. We marched until we reached Naples where there was a large slave-trading establishment.

Once we arrived at the slave trading place, we were all stripped naked and cleaned up. We were all separately interviewed to discover our talents. Unfortunately, I speak neither the language of the Cimbri, nor of the Teutones. I only speak a small amount of Latin, but not enough to effectively communicate. They certainly didn't have anyone that spoke English. Pig Latin was also of no use. So, communication was difficult. They kept repeating a phrase, but I have no idea as to its meaning. They give me the name of Caprimulgus. I don't know what that means, but I hope it is a good label.

We were herded into another room, and the preparations for our sale were completed. Our feet were painted white with chalk. An order of auction was arranged, and I was placed after a young Cambric boy who they gave the name of Eros. There were lots of people that were sold before they got to me. Some of them had the same name Caprimulgus, so I got a little worried.

I decided to do something to indicate some of my skills since communication during the interview process was negligible. There was a tree nearby, so I grabbed some branches with the intent of building a makeshift piece of furniture. I'm a fair wood worker, and I'd rather do that than be purchased for the gladiatorial games.

The bidding for Eros went for quite a long time. He went for a pretty high price. I was beginning to wonder why I was set up behind him. I certainly wasn't going to fetch that high a price. I think the phrase that they used to describe me was compelling enough to think that I would be valuable.

I fashioned a makeshift couch from the few twigs I gathered. It wasn't anything special, but it was enough to show them that I had some woodworking skills. It surprised the auctioneer, but he went along with it. I hoped that this little item would ensure that I wouldn't be sold into gladiatorial service. I'm too old to be an effective fighter. My reflexes are significantly slower than they were 10 years ago. I wouldn't last long as a gladiator.

The bidding went back and forth for quite a while. I was greatly surprised. I think my makeshift twig couch was making a difference. They could see that I had a skill, and I could be put to good use. Eventually, I was sold to a well to do furniture maker. I was grateful to not have to go with a large portion of these captives to be trained as gladiators. Some of them may make a large amount of money, but it wasn't the life for me.

The furniture maker made luxurious furniture to be sold to the senatorial and equestrian classes of Rome. His furniture was of very fine quality, and he was renown throughout Rome as the premiere furniture maker. I felt very lucky joining such a prestigious furniture maker in Naples. He also bought a young woman to help with the housework. She was very striking, and I wonder how his wife will react to this purchase.

At first I was assigned the task of building tables. I'm a decent wood worker, but I'm used to having modern tools. I would have done wonders if I had my woodshop with me. However, I had to work with the equipment available. I was still handy with the hand tools.

I knew that if I worked hard and crafted desirable furniture, I could earn my freedom rather quickly. So, I painstakingly crafted each piece I was assigned and I made some items on my own. Since our furniture was greatly desired throughout the republic, we sold numerous pieces and were very successful.

As the months past, I learned more and more Latin and some of the local dialect. I also learned more about my passage into slavery. One thing I did finally learn was the phrase they kept repeating at the slave interview. The interviewer kept saying "He must be an expert on animal husbandry. Look how fat he is!" Thus, they named me Caprimulgus or "Goat-milker" with designs on selling me as a shepherd.

I've never lived on a farm, and I don't have a lot of experience with animals. I don't know how long I would have lasted in the country. I'm certain that anyone who would have purchased me with those designs would have been greatly disappointed.

The man who purchased my services was named Gaius Libertus Lignarius. He had multiple ex-slaves who were paying him commission. He was earning a lot of money with all of the artisans under his tutelage. He wasn't a Roman citizen, and he very much wanted to be. He was very prosperous, and he hadn't actually made any furniture himself for quite a while. If he were given citizenship he would have easily been a member of the Equestrian order.

He lived on a large estate on the hills of Naples. Naturally, it was well furnished. Occasionally, he would invite his free tradesmen up for dinner. Those of us that hadn't purchased our freedom yet were hired to serve some of the dinner guests. Generally, we would only serve the freedmen. His regular staff would serve the more respected guests.

Several Roman Senators had lands in Campania. He often had dinner at their estates. Often in these instances, he was the one served by the less competent waiters. However, many times he would bring a reclining couch as a gift. We made some of the best in the Roman world. He would insist on dining on this couch in order to make sure it was "up to standards." Thus, he would at least dine in comfort. Often times, it was the finest reclining couch that the host had. Thus, it was odd to have the finest furniture in the rear of the dining area. This often brought notice of others. Thus, in order for his host to feel less foolish, he began to move up in rank. These hosts wanted the finest furniture at the front for all to see. Thus, Libertus would gain in rank simply because of the nature of his fine gifts.

I lived in a small loft above the shop. It was on the third floor, and it was rather small. Another slave with more experience lived in the apartment below. Since I was in the furniture business, I could spend my time furnishing it as I pleased. Thus, although it wasn't a great place to live, it was nicely furnished. The building had a distinct lean towards the street. You had to take care in which direction you slept otherwise the blood might rush to your head by morning.

After furnishing my place, I started to save my peculium, which is extra money, to earn my freedom. In the years after Marius' victories, our products were in great demand. Every battle abroad brought more wealth to a few citizens. They would use some of this wealth to purchase luxury items. Thus, we had plenty of demand for our products.

After working for Libertus for 5 years, I earned enough to buy my freedom. He agreed to grant my freedom with the agreement to pay him a percentage of my pay. It was a pretty standard agreement. He found a location a short distance from his shop to establish my shop. This time, I would live in the first floor above the shop. I agreed to house a few of his slaves in the upper floors. This reduced the amount I had to pay him.

At this time, I thought about changing my name to something more appropriate to my profession, but it had grown on me and I decided to keep it. Besides, my reputation was built upon my unusual name for a carpenter. However, as was somewhat traditional for freed men to take on the name of their emancipator, I became Caprimulgus Liberius.

The five years after purchasing my freedom were successful. The demand for Naples furniture came from other places besides Rome. Furniture from Naples was sold to the King of Parthia and to the Egyptian royal family. Throughout the civilized world, people looked for furniture built by us.

I was making an excellent living, and I even considered purchasing some slaves to help out in my shop. However, there was growing unrest in the Republic and it was affecting our trade. Some of the allies of Rome felt they were being treated unfairly. Libertus was one who felt that he should be considered for full citizenship. His requests in this area were regularly denied.

Revolts became regular occurrences. The Samnites in Campania revolted, and the trade routes between Naples and Rome were cut off. Soon, most of Campania had separated from Rome. The Samnites established themselves as a separate state. With all this unrest, it wouldn't be a good time to increase production.

Being non-Roman I had a few advantages. Since I had earned a great deal of money up to this point and I had an excellent reputation, I could begin looking at my options. One of the things that I considered was to find my time machine and return home. However, it had been many years and I was quite happy with the way my life was going. I also wasn't too concerned about joining Roman society and I still did things in my own way. My attitude about things was far different than many Romans.

I felt that my shop was too close to Libertus' ship. He had some individuals who were ready to purchase their freedom, so I sold my shop and apartment back to Libertus. With this money and some that I had saved, I was able to purchase a small plot of land in a bit of a nicer part of the city. This parcel of land that I purchased used to hold a shop, but it had burned to the ground. Since the furniture business was suffering, I decided to construct the new shop and home by myself. I had enough to purchase the materials. I had saved enough to take the time build a new building.

It took a while to build the building on my own, but in the end it was worth it. My building was just going to have a small shop and living quarters above. I couldn't quite afford an estate, but I would be more comfortable in the new building.

Shortly after I finished, Lucius Cornelius Sulla began his consulship to take back Campania. Sulla punished many of the Samnite rebels. Unfortunately, Libertus was labeled one of the rebels. He went into hiding, but was betrayed by a slave. He was crucified along the road to Rome to teach the Samnites a lesson. This released me of all of my former obligations, but it cost me several fine pieces of furniture to remain alive. I am glad that I was able to communicate at this point. Otherwise, I certainly would have been put to death as well.

With Libertus dieing in disgrace, that hurt my business with Rome. However, Egypt and other wealthy foreign customers turned to me and the other former slaves of Libertus for their business, but this did not mean a lot of business.

With the strife in the Republic during this time, furniture purchases were way down, and when the Sulla's proscriptions started, furniture sales took a turn for the worse. I wasn't pleased with Sulla killing off well to do Roman citizens. They were my core business. However, I didn't voice any opposition.

Perhaps it was a time to look for other work. Marcus Crassus was purchasing slaves in the field of home construction. I could sell myself back into slavery to him. My house and shop turned out pretty nice, and it was well thought of in the neighborhood. Thus, I thought about taking the trip to Rome, but the violence there was too great. I figured if I could stick it out, business would pick up. I also started building more modest pieces for the locals. However, I couldn't do this alone.

There was a slave auction, and I decided to see what was available. Some of the Samnite civilians were being sold into slavery. There were lots of women and children on the blocks. I purchased a slave woman to work in the front of my store. She would give me the opportunity to concentrate more on my construction.

She wasn't particularly attractive, but she was quite competent in terms of running a store and a home. She didn't cost a great deal, so I think she was a very good deal. She was a decent cook, and quite a loving person. We grew very close, and eventually, she became pregnant with my first child. Before he was born, I freed her and married her. We wed on the day Marius died. Shortly after that day, our free son was born. He was called Marcus Caprimulius Liberius.

With Marius dead, tensions were somewhat relaxed. Sulla killed off a great deal of the Aristocracy. However, Soldiers with newfound wealth and property began ordering luxurious furniture again. Thus, business began to pick up. The aristocracy in Rome was once again noticing my services. I built several pieces for Crassus. He wanted furniture to put in some of the real estate that he had been acquiring.

Crassus began to demand more and more furniture. Thus, I looked for purchasing more artisans. I began to frequent the slave auctions. I managed to purchase a few Greek artisans. They were very expensive, but they were well worth it. They had skills already, and I could steer them towards the style my customers had grown accustomed.

I began to have more time for leisure. So, I began to take more time to visit the gladiatorial games. I was beginning to bring in a lot of money. I did not have enough money to sit in the front, but I was able to sit in decent seats. I wondered how some of the slaves that were sold on the same day that I was faired in the games.

I found that I was becoming more Roman. I enjoyed the games, and I started to look towards eating out more. I had more internal pressure to act more Roman and to shed my strange future ways.

When Sulla retired to Campania, he also purchased some furniture from my shop. I was once again one of the premiere furniture makers in Rome. People throughout the Republic began to seek me out for fine furniture.

I began to go to more and more slave auctions trying to keep up with demand. I allowed some artisans their freedom with the same agreement I had with Libertus. They would pay me a commission on everything they sold. I used the money from their purchase of freedom to purchase more slaves.

I hoped the tensions between the government and the armies would soon subside. It was much better for my business to have internal stability. However, this was not to be. Marcus Aemilius Lepidus decided to march on Rome with his army, and Gnius Pompanius Magnus was given the task to put down his rebellion.

Things were good when the armies fought external forces. The army would take wealth from others and have purchasing power to buy our goods. However, whenever there was internal fighting, a large number of wealthy men ended up dead. This is very bad for business.

Luckily, Sulla didn't march on Rome. We didn't need any more aristocratic bloodshed. However, his campaign in Spain was disastrous. With Luculus in Asia Minor, and Pompey having troubles in Spain, a revolt of country slaves took place.

My men were happy with their lot. They were well fed, and they had a place to live. They earned plenty of money, and could purchase their freedom at any time. Thus, they were not on the side of Spartacus. I offered them their freedom if they wished it. I turned 66, and the years had taken their toll upon me. I didn't need some slaves rebelling against me. They unanimously decided to continue working in my shop.

I had a pretty large amount of money built up. I purchased a modest estate for my children to live. My wife was several years my junior, and she gave me 3 strong boys. They would continue on with my work once I was gone. I made sure all of my possessions were divisible by three. I had 6 slaves working for me, and I had 15 paying commission. It was agreed that they would continue to pay my heirs upon my death.

It is hard to believe that I lived in Ancient Rome for 30 years. The estate I purchased needs a lot of work. In my youth I would have started from scratch. However, I just don't have the energy. The boys are too young to fix the house, and it is drafty. I long for my old apartment above the shop. Even with its lean it was at least warm.

I am trying to fix up this place, but my age prevents me from several activities. I can't scramble up a ladder like I used to. This cough just won't go away. So, I have decided to return to my time machine. I have a feeling that I don't have much longer to live. I have family and friends here, so I won't be returning myself. However, I hope to send the machine back with this report. My English is quite rusty, and I'm sure my penmanship needs a lot of work. However, I feel that I should try to send this report back through. Thus, people there will know what happened to me.

This cough will not go away, I wish there was something I could do. My guess is that I caught pneumonia. I'm glad that my time machine was undisturbed. This long walk back to it took a lot out of me. I'm afraid that I won't be able to return to Naples. That trip would be just too much for me. I hope you get this report without any difficulty. I think I'll wonder off in the mountains and spend my last days there. I wonder how much impact my life will have. I've got a few great kids, and I had a good life in the Roman Republic. Farewell everyone!

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The Last War

To Whom It May Concern:

We have always been a warring race. We could never get along with our neighbors, and we are about to pay the ultimate price. You see, I am one of the premiere scientists of our people. The last few years I have forsaken the warrior ways and have concentrated on space travel. Our planet does not have long. The launch will happen shortly, and I do not have a lot of time.

10 years ago, I created a "Doomsday" weapon. This weapon was very dangerous, and it was a weapon of last resort. It was a weapon that would destroy our world and everyone on it. When I designed it, I believed it would be used only as a deterrent. This weapon was most destructive and there is nothing that can stop it. It was a masterful method of destruction.

In fact, it bought us 3 years of peace. Those were three glorious years. I believed that there was no more reason to pursue methods of killing. This is when I began looking into other careers. There was not much money to be had outside the military. I considered going back to the University, but my bosses would not let me. I knew too much, and they would sooner see me dead. We may have been at peace, but there were still dangers.

I had always been interested in astronomy and space flight. It is what brought me into science in the first place. I was intrigued by our sister planet. It was so blue. I remember hearing about the interesting creatures that inhabited our neighbor. It had long been suspected that we could live on that planet. I had often dreamed of visiting that far off world.

As part of my job and in my spare time, I researched rocketry. Our people used rockets for missiles. Since I had top security clearance, I had access to much research. I tinkered with various designs in during my off hours. That was a peaceful three years.

A breakdown in security changed everything. Suddenly, we were not the only people with my doomsday weapon. Another group got the weapon and threatened to use it. Apparently, they did not comprehend the power of the weapon. They ignorantly believed that this terrible weapon would be useful in a limited way. Thus, they restarted the wars.

Before our warring ways we lived on a lush and green planet. Our planet was very much like our neighboring planet is now. Under its blue exterior, it is green and full of life. There were still pockets of thick greenery like my beloved house and garden, but those are all gone now because of our ignorant use of our brains. The destruction of our planet was senseless.

We were once a thriving people. The other countries that shared our world were also thriving. The few years of peace revived portions of our war torn world. Some of our cities were on the mend. Some places were becoming green instead of being red with the blood of our citizens. We threw all that away.

There are no cities on our neighboring planet. We will have to find a place to live somewhere in its wild areas. It looks like there are vast stretches that are completely habitable. We will just have to pick one. Perhaps we will just go where the computer takes us.

Soon their will be nothing left on our planet. The red dust is taking over everything. It is red like dirt soaked in blood. That is what my weapon did. It would break everything down and turn it into a fine red dust. Nothing can stop it. I guess the irony that they used it so close to their own boarder should be somewhat satisfying. The wind blew it towards them, and everything they had built was soon destroyed. The weapon has almost run its course, as there was little left that was not turned into that awful red dust.

I hope our blue neighbor has rich soil. I long for black dirt. I long for the days when we had a fine garden. My wife and I had not started a family. We did not want our kids to live with the daily threat of war. We are both still young, so if it is feasible on our new home that we will have children.

When the wars started up again, my hobby engulfed me. I felt that our only hope would be to colonize our friendly neighbor. I planned to have an exploratory mission to scout out places to colonize. Once this awful weapon was unleashed, I had to scramble just to get the rocket ready. It is too bad that I could not fit more individuals on the rocket. When I originally designed it, it was only meant for one with enough cargo for a return trip. However, with the removal of some of the cargo space, I can now save my wife and myself.

Our home here felt like paradise during peaceful times. It was lush and my wife was an excellent gardener. We had all of our wants taken care of. Our property had plenty of fruit trees and the eastern portion of the garden provided a great bounty. It was full of trees that were pleasant in sight and good for food. A river flowed through their garden that was quite pleasant. This river provided water and fish. We were fortunate to have that place.

The river is now gone. It is a red dusty riverbed now. The trees are gone too. The destruction of our world is nearly complete. Why are we such a warring people? People have been saying for years that our warrior ways will be the end of our planet. Why didn't we listen? Why couldn't we live in peace?

I was a University professor when we bought our place. I was not making a lot of money, but we were getting by. However, my wife wanted more. She spoke with an awful man. I rue the day that she spoke to that serpent, I mean person. He spoke of great wealth that I could gain from using my knowledge. He lured me into that life with his ways.

I developed several weapons for this man. He paid me well, but I now feel bad about the evil that I have unleashed. Once my terrible weapon was unleashed, they could not stop me from quitting. However, the damage had already been done. I would spend all my time getting ready to save my wife and myself. What a terrible thing I have done! I am responsible for the great destruction of our world. I did bring us a few years of peace, but that is of little comfort.

Now my beautiful place is gone. The trees are all dust. I had to leave my home and we must flee before it is too late. We will have to live with our decisions. Luckily, we have a place to run. There must be other civilizations that go extinct because they have no place to go. They simply destroy all that they build and no being knows they ever existed. It is probably too late, but I hope our children learn from our mistakes.

That is why I am writing this. Someday, someone will discover what we have done. I just hope our warring ways are through. I hope we can learn to live in peace and harmony. We are all the same. We all have the same wants, hopes, and desires. We all want what is best for our children. We all want to feel safe where we live. We cannot do that with the wars. We can only do it by learning to get along with our neighbors. If they do us wrong, we must forgive. Otherwise, we begin a great cycle of destruction.

I must run. The red dust is quickly encroaching. The rocket is ready and my wife is aboard. I hope I have not dallied too long. The last non-red spot is where the rocket will launch, and that spot is getting smaller all the time. I must dash. Eve and I will make the best of our new home after being cast out of paradise. Please forgive me for eating from the tree of knowledge and using it for evil. Do not be like us!

Yours faithfully,

Adam

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The Quest for a Camera

A True Story

Several years ago, I bought a 35mm camera from the retail store in which I worked. It was a simple "Single Lens Reflex" camera. This SLR camera had a built-in light meter, but everything else was manual. I also purchased a wide-angle lens as well as a zoom lens. I have taken several rolls of film with this camera and some incredible pictures as a result. I have been quite pleased with it, but we have entered the digital age, and it was time to upgrade. Thus began my quest for a new camera!

Digital cameras have been around for several years, but I have never been fond of point and shoot cameras. They just do not offer the same flexibility that my SLR does. Thus, my first goal was to get a digital SLR. However, these have been quite expensive in recent years. Recently, digital SLRs have dipped into my price range. Further, a model that would work with my current lenses has become affordable. Thus, I had accomplished the difficult part of this quest. I know what I want, I just need to go and get it. It sounded simple enough, but I did not anticipate what was in store for me.

With the make and model firmly established, I jumped aboard the information superhighway with my pal Google by my side. There were many retailers offering the desired camera, so desiring the best deal, I decided to go with the retailer that offered the lowest price. I placed my order with this internet retailer.

The retailer wanted a great deal of unnecessary personal information. Thus, instead of giving my current phone number, I gave them my old number. I had it disconnected a short time ago, but records show it for my name. There was little reason to give them my phone number since they had my e-mail address. If they needed anything, I expected them to e-mail me the questions. However, they did e-mail me that they had some questions about my order, and that I should call them.

I thought it was odd that an internet retailer would slow down an order and increasing their cost by forcing me to speak to a person. However, I placed the call, and I spoke to a person with an east coast accent.

"We's got a few questions fer ya," he began. "First I wants to thank ya for yer order, and I wants to make sure yous knows dat dis camera doesn't have no lenses."

"I am aware of that," I responded.

"Good," he continued. "Dis camera needs a memory card. Does ya wants to order one now?"

"No thanks," I answered.

"Okay, dat's fine," he went on. "It needs battries. Does ya wants ta order some battries ta go wit it?"

"I don't need any batteries thanks," I told him.

"Very good, very good," he said. "Now does ya wants dis camera in English or Malaysian?"

"English of course," I answered.

"English?" he queried. "Well dat'll cost ya $200 extra."

"What?" I inquired.

"Yah, de English version is $200 more," he told me.

"You can cancel my order," I stated.

I would have never guessed there were still businesses doing the old "bait and switch." I was shocked. I wondered if what they were doing was legal, but my quest was still unfulfilled. I had met my first challenge and I ended up empty handed. Never fear, Google had more retailers. I was going to have to pay a little more, but not $200 more.

The next retailer offered free shipping which made it just a few dollars more than the first retailer who charged $30 for shipping. I placed my order and once again did not offer them my current phone number. Why do these internet retailers ask for a phone number? I do not wish any telemarketer to call me, so why would I want these retailers an option to sell my information? Upon placing my order, the retailer once again emailed me informing me that they had some questions about my order. "Oh no here we go again!" I thought.

I called, but I got voice mail. It must be standard procedure for camera retailers to waste money requiring a phone call. I tried a few times to get a hold of a person that day, but I got nothing. The next day, I finally spoke to a person (with an east coast accent) and he informed me that because I had a disconnected phone number that they canceled my order.

From that experience, I came away with the idea that every camera retailer is on the east coast of the US, and that they all want to try to sell accessories to your camera order before they ship it. While it was discouraging, I ventured onward. There were plenty of camera retailers on the net. I just had not contacted the right one. I picked another one and placed my order. With shipping costs, it was in the same price range as the others. I placed my order with my old phone number, I got the e-mail informing me of some questions, and I was ready for anything.

I called them to find that this individual did not have an east coast accent. Once again, the retailer asked me about batteries, memory, and lenses. I continued to inform them that I did not need anything but the camera itself.

"Well then," he stated. "We'll have this packaged up and sent to you right away."

Was I actually going to get the camera I wanted? Was this the end of my quest? I was eagerly anticipating a package when I got an e-mail informing me that the camera was on backorder. That was fine; I did not need the camera immediately. I could wait a short while. I waited 2 weeks, and I had not heard anything about my camera. Thus, I sent an e-mail to this retailer's customer service address. A few hours later, I received an e-mail stating that I had canceled my order. "That's odd," I thought. "I didn't cancel my order; I just wanted to know my status."

Shortly afterwards, I received a second e-mail informing me that by my request the order was canceled. This e-mail was informing me of the status of my order. "Doesn't any internet retailer want to sell anything?" I thought to myself. "Is it so difficult to fill out an order without so much fuss? Why can I not get this camera?"

I was going to try one more time. I decided that if this last retailer did not work, I would give up my quest. I would return to my life without the camera. I would accept defeat. I placed my order in the usual way with the disconnected phone number. To my surprise, I did not get an e-mail. However, it was odd that I did not even get a confirming e-mail. After a few days, I still had not heard from this retailer. I began to get worried. A few more days passed, so I decide to check the status of my order from their web site. To my astonishment, it stated that my camera had already shipped. Was I actually going to get my order without having to speak to a sales representative? Would my quest finally end?

There it was my new camera. Because of a configuration error on their end, I did not get a confirmation e-mail. However, I did get my camera. What an arduous journey! It was a long and difficult road, but I did get my camera. It takes great pictures too. I had fulfilled my quest, and my life has returned to normal. I hope I never have to suffer through such poor customer service again, but I probably will. Buying a camera should not be that difficult, but there are forces out there that make it so. Will people never learn?

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Land of the Zombies

It had been a fairly uneventful weekend for Wesley Hever. He straightened up his apartment a bit, watched some television, got a little reading done, and picked some things up at the grocery store. With evening closing in, he was astonished at how quiet a weekend it had been. Perhaps, it was too quiet. He began to wonder if he had missed some event that was taking place. It was late summer, so it couldn't be the Super Bowl. It was too early to be the World Series. Why was it so quiet?

Suddenly a knock came at his door. He opened it up to reveal his good friend Wayne McGuiness. "Good! You're here." Wayne said.

"What's up?" asked Wesley.

"There is trouble brewing out there, big trouble!"

"Well come on in and tell me about it."

"There's no time! We need to get out of here. We need to get out of here fast!"

"Settle down and tell me what's wrong."

"I just came here to get you and some supplies," Wayne stated coldly.

Wayne opened the refrigerator and began rummaging through it. He grabbed some water, some cans of refreshing beverages and stuffed them into his backpack. He closed the door and remarked, "Why is there fake leopard's skin fur on your fridge?"

"I saw it on some design show, and..."

"Never mind! Do you have any can goods? Do you have any rice and beans? You know - non-perishable goods."

"Are you going to tell me what is going on?"

"Once we get going. Well..."

"I haven't unpacked them yet from the grocery store. You'll probably find some stuff in those sacks over there."

Wayne searched through the sacks and just grabbed them. "OK, let's go!"

"Wait a minute! You just barge in here, grab some stuff and expect me to tag along without knowing what is going on? I have to work tomorrow! I'm not going anywhere until you tell me what the big emergency is."

"There's no time!"

"I'm not going anywhere!" Wesley affirmed as he sat down and turned on the television.

"OK OK OK OK! They are taking over."

"Who is taking over?"

"The story goes, there were this dozen or so people. They caused a bit of trouble and the authorities killed their leader. A couple of days later, this guy is walking around. He was dead! This formerly dead person returns to his group and soon there are bunches of them!"

"What are you talking about? Are you saying there are zombies out there?"

"I'm telling you they're coming! Since you insist, I guess I have to continue the story."

"Yes you do."

"Okay. At first, various groups kept them in check. They killed plenty of them that is for sure. They were somewhat controlled, but not anymore. There are millions of them in the city by now! We have to get out of here!"

"Zombies? You have to be kidding! Do you expect me to believe that?"

"You're not listening. They are coming to get us. Do you remember Jackie Larson?"

"Of course, we dated for a little while. She got a little obsessed, so I had to break it off. What does she have to do with it?"

"She's one of them! She has singled us out. Her and her group are coming to get us. They were just at my place, and I narrowly got out of there in time!"

"How do you know she's turned?"

"Like all of them, she's got that glassy-eyed look in her eyes, and she has that insipid smile on her face. Like that," Wayne explained while pointing at the television.

"Like what?"

"There on the TV. She has that look! That person is obviously one of them!"

"Who? The First Lady?"

"My goodness you're right! That is the First Lady and she is one of them! Who knows how far this has spread! We got to get going now!"

"Do you mean to tell me that the President's wife is a zombie?"

"Look! The President has that look too! It is probably all over Washington by now, and they're coming to get us. Can we go now?"

"Wait wait wait! Are you trying to tell me that the President and his wife are zombies and that Jackie Larson is on her way over here..."

Before he can finish his question, there is a knock on the door.

"Oh man, they're here! We'll have to go out the window. I told you we needed to get going," explained Wayne.

"It is just a coincidence," responded Wes as he peaked through the spy hole. "Holy crap it's Jackie!"

"Why don't you ever listen to me? We need to get out of here! Does this window open?"

"There must be 2 dozen people out there and a couple of them are dressed like clowns," Wesley continued.

"Wesley darling," began a voice in the hall. "I know you're in there. Open the door; will you honey?"

"You're right! Jackie does have that look. I'll get the window, it is kind of tricky," Wes explained as he opened the window. "Clowns?"

"You don't think they're picky do you? They are out to get everyone! What the heck is this?" Wayne asked holding some pamphlets he retrieved from one of the shopping bags.

"Those were out front when I got back from shopping. I must have put them in there to carry them in."

"Did you read these?" asked Wayne with alarm.

"I may have skimmed them, but I didn't read them."

"Did you read these?" asked Wayne more forcefully.

"I don't think so."

"I want you to be sure!" insisted Wayne.

"I'm pretty sure," Wesley asserted as he finally got the window open.

"I guess I'll have to risk it," Wayne said as he threw the pamphlets on the floor. "Let's get out of here."

"Come on Wes baby, open the door," the two men heard from the hall. "I can hear the TV going. I know you're in there. It is me Jackie. Jackie Larson. Can we talk?"

"Obsessed! Hey, that's quite a ways down," complained Wes. "So, why don't we just shoot our way out? They do it in the movies all the time."

"That's the movies man! This is real life. You can't go around shooting people for no good reason!"

"If they are threatening us..."

"Hey, do you still have that replica Colt 45 peacemaker? You might want to grab it just in case."

"Are you serious?"

"You're right; it'll probably get us into trouble. If the President is one of them, the courts might be too."

"What?"

"Never mind, let's get going."

"Where are we going?"

"I'll tell you once we're out of here!"

"He's not opening the door," a voice in the hall said. "Do you have a key Jackie?"

"I would never..." she insisted.

"That's a relief," another voice stated to Jackie. "Wesley, we aren't leaving. We can wait all night." The doorbell began to ring constantly.

"I'll jump first," started Wayne. "Then you drop down my pack and then the groceries. You can grab whatever you think you want or need and follow me down."

"Right," responded Wesley as Wayne jumped.

Wes looked around a bit and decided he did not need anything and went to the window. Wes dropped the pack and the sacks of groceries to Wayne waiting below. With the continuous bell ringing and the knocking on the apartment door, Wesley jumped out of the second story window.

As he landed Wayne said, "Get down! There are more of them over there."

Wesley ducked into some shrubs to find Wayne crouched there. Wayne's truck was only about 100 feet away. Wayne had fastened a canoe tightly to a rack over the bed of the pickup. "Are we going canoeing?" Wesley whispered.

"Since the President is one of them, it might be best if we leave the country. Who knows how far this goes? We need to be ready for anything."

"Hey! There is my landlord with them."

"We have to move fast. He'll probably let them into your apartment. Keep your head down and follow me."

The two men crawled along the ground toward Wayne's truck. All the while, they kept their eyes on the group of people by the door of Wesley's apartment building. Quietly, Wayne put the supplies he gathered from Wesley's apartment into the back of the pickup. Under the canoe in its rack, there was a large backpack full of camping gear. Wayne unlocked the truck and the two men quietly entered and locked the truck doors after they entered. They sat there quietly for a few moments and then Wesley asked, "Are we headed north or south?"

"We'd be lucky to make it very far south. I've heard they have a group of 30,000 that gathers weekly in Houston."

"Is it some sort of Zombie Jamboree?"

"I have no idea what they do. The President is one of them and he's got a place in Texas, so the south is probably crawling with them. Although there are probably more options for us down south, we're headed north. I figure we can get into Canada by way of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. If the borders are overrun, we should be able to get through by canoe. Besides, this is Minnesota!"

"Do you think it is that bad?"

"Minnesota? Nah, it's a nice enough place..."

"No I mean all of this stuff," Wesley explained pointing to the crowd in front of his apartment building.

"I don't know what to think. I'm in total survival mode. They'll notice us when we start the truck, so be ready."

"Hey, they're in my apartment!" cried Wesley.

"It's go time," Wayne said as he started the truck and put it in gear and took off.

Out of Wesley's apartment window Jackie yelled, "There they go!" She pointed to the truck Wayne was driving. However, it was too late for that group to stop them. Out of the parking lot the two men sped.

It was now dark, and Wayne took back roads to the interstate. There was little traffic on the roads, and they did not run into any trouble. Trying not to drive conspicuously, Wayne made his way onto the interstate heading north.

"I could use a beer," Wesley stated after a bit of a drive.

"I'll pull over as soon as I feel safe, and you can dig one out of the back."

"You sure were prepared for this."

"I was a boy scout. This looks like a good spot," Wayne said as he pulled off the road under a bridge. Wes jumped out of the cab and began searching for Wayne's pack. "Grab me an ale would you?"

"Sure!" Wesley responded as he fetched two cans out of Wayne's backpack.

Wes jumped back into the cab of the truck, and they began moving again. Before they went too far they saw flashing lights from behind. It was a police car. Wayne pulled the truck over and the police officer stopped behind them. The officer slowly and carefully walked up to Wayne's window. "Paper's please," he stated.

"Here are my driver's license and my proof of insurance," replied Wayne as he handed the officer his cards. "Is there anything wrong?"

"Have you boys been drinking?" the officer asked sternly.

"No sir," snapped Wayne.

"What are those?" the officer asked pointing his flashlight at the open cans in the cab.

"My friend is drinking root beer, and I'm having a ginger ale," replied Wayne as Wes showed the cans.

The officer went back into the waiting squad car and checked Wayne's records. After several minutes, the officer headed back to Wayne's truck. "I saw you pull of the road back there. What was that all about," the officer asked.

"My friend and I were thirsty. I had these cans in the back there. We pulled over to fetch them," responded Wayne.

"I see. Where are the rest of your papers?" asked the officer.

"Rest of my papers?" inquired Wayne.

"Everybody got some new papers that they were supposed to carry with them where ever they go. Some small pamphlets, where are they?"

"Those? Where did we put those? Are they in the pack Wes?" Wayne asked his passenger.

"Uh, I don't think..." Wes started.

"I don't think we forgot them either," interrupted Wayne. "I'm sure they're in the pack back there with our bible, do you want me to show you?"

Wayne started to open the door when the officer began, "Nah, that's all right. Where are you boys headed?"

"We're going up north for a little fishing trip," Wayne lied. "We've been planning this for months. I hope we have everything."

"Well, good luck to you boys," replied the officer. "Have a good night and drive safely."

"Thanks officer! We will," called Wayne as the officer walked back to the squad car.

"What was that bible crack about?" asked Wes as the officer pulled out.

"Later..."

Wayne put the truck in gear and pulled out behind the officer. After several hours driving in silence along the north bound interstate, Wesley could no longer keep quiet. "Are you going to tell me what is going on here?"

"With what happened back there with the police officer, I feel better about you now. I know you didn't read those pamphlets. You know, we're supposed to carry them wherever we go."

"What?" asked Wesley. "Now I'm really confused."

"You should watch the news more."

"You know I haven't watched the news since that whole OJ Simpson fiasco. They sensationalize everything now. What does the news have to do with it?"

"We're far enough from anyplace, I think we're pretty safe now. We probably won't run into any trouble since we're far enough from any population centers. If you had been watching the news, you would know that things have changed. They have changed dramatically."

"I know, zombies are a big change!"

"Sorry about that, it isn't exactly that bad. It is just that we now live in a theocracy."

"A theocracy? That's impossible!"

"I wish it were. That scene back at your place was about conversion. Jackie and her group are Evangelicals. They were there to convert you to Christianity. Well, their idea of Christianity anyway."

"They weren't zombies?"

"Well, there is little difference. They don't pay attention to anything going on around them either, and they don't stop until everyone is one of them."

"You have a point."

"They recently passed a law that says you need to carry those religious pamphlets wherever you go and show them upon request."

"What does that show?"

"Supposedly it shows that you've taken Jesus Christ as your personal saviour. It shows that you're practicing the official religion of the US.

"And the first amendment...?"

"Edited for your protection. The Supreme Court has totally overhauled the establishment clause."

"So everyone has to be a Christian?"

"Either that, or have your civil rights curtailed. That is why we're going to Canada. It'll be crowded at the boarder. They'll probably send lots of people back, so we can paddle in. We are almost there."

"So, let me get this straight. The Evangelical Christians have finally gotten it their way?"

"Religious freedom, one of the foremost important things that some of our founding fathers so strongly believed, has gone by the way side.

"Puritan's leaving England to escape religious persecution."

"That has been totally forgotten. The oppressed are now the oppressors."

"Okay, Canada. You talked me into it!"

Wesley and Wayne abandoned the pickup truck at a Boundary Waters entry point and headed farther north. They hated to use an entry point illegally, but they felt they had no choice. After entering Canadian territory, no one knows what became of the two men. Some say they started their own religion. The President has disavowed any knowledge of the two men. Some say they returned to Minnesota under different names, and accepted the fate of their country. Still others say they have been fighting to return the US to sanity. No one knows for certain what became of them, but we hope they're safe.

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Ninja in a Wheelchair

by Douglas E Gogerty

Brian O'Reilly was sitting in his wheelchair in his cell on death row. The state would execute him in an hour from now, and he had just finished his last meal. He was sitting quietly when the guard came followed by a priest.

"Brian O'Reilly, this is Father Dwayne McGuinness. He is here to prepare you for your execution."

"Hello Father"

"Greetings my son. That will be all guard. Now Brian is there anything that you want to tell me?"

"Father, I deserve the sentence I am about to receive. I have not been a good person, and I have lived far longer than I should have."

"Tell me about it my son."

* * * * *

I was the oldest of six kids. We were very poor. So, when I was 11 years old, I began my life of crime. It was more important to me to get food to eat than to go to school. I would spend my class time figuring out how to put food on our table, and the teachers let me.

I had been stealing and fighting regularly. While I wasn't making a great deal of money, I was putting food in our mouths. I had a few scrapes, but there wasn't anything I couldn't handle.

One day, I stole from an Asian grocery, and a gang of 10 guys jumped me. They said that this grocery was protected by Hung Lo. They told me that I would have to pay for my theft.

I didn't know Hung Lo from nothing. I was just a kid. They tried all of their chop socki on me, but they didn't know how to fight. I was an everything-goes street fighter. I didn't know any rules. So, I held my own until the cops came and we scrammed.

As has it, they had a spy follow me home. The next day, a note comes addressed to my mom from Hung Lo. He wanted to see me. Ma was getting upset with my behavior and she made me go see him. I thought for sure I was done for.

I was shaking like a leaf when Ma and me went to see him. I was more afraid of the wrath of Ma than some Asian dude. Ma drug me into this guy's office and tossed me into a seat.

"What's this all about?" she asked.

"I would like to give your son a job," he replied.

I was stunned. He was going to make me pay for what I had stole by making me work for it. Ma agreed to the deal, and I began working for Mr. Lo at nights and on weekends.

At first, it was all legit. I hung flyers. I swept floors. I delivered messages. I did the usual young kid jobs. I got paid in cash, and I put some food on the table.

I would occasionally have scrapes with his young muscle. They were all about testing me. The kids my age were all a head shorter than me. I would clean their clocks easy. The kids my size were a few years older, and a little more difficult, but I still held my ground.

After a year or so of these odd jobs, Mr. Lo started to give me free Hopkido lessons. It was some martial arts training, and I really dug it. It started out all joint locks and pressure points. Eventually, we learned about how to use a person's own weight and energy against them.

I took to it quite naturally. I would still get tested now and again, but I was quite a bit more fluid. Someone would rush me and before they knew what was happening they were flying into the ground.

I began walking with a bit of a swagger. I started looking for fights. Whenever I was challenged, it took a couple of seconds and it was over. They would be lying on the ground with this or that bone broken. I was a tough guy now.

Eventually, Mr. Lo called me into his office with a task. Someone was behind in their payments on something or other. I was like 14 or 15. I would walk into some store and ask for the payment. The guy would come back with this or that excuse, and I would insist.

Of course, the storeowner would laugh at me and end up bleeding. They all paid. I got a big raise after a couple of these jobs. Later, all I would have to do was walk in. "The Kid is here for the money," I would proclaim.

I trained and worked. I even managed to graduate from high school. Well, I barely graduated. I had to make a big decision. What was I going to do with my life. I told Mr. Lo that I was moving on.

I joined the military. I am not allowed to tell you what I did, but let us say that I was good at my job. Lots of people felt the sting of 'The Kid'. I really enjoyed the work, but I hated the politics of it all. I would do a job according to plan, and some yahoo somewhere would complain about this or that aspect.

When my tour was up, I left. I was a first class killing machine without a job. I was a fry cook for a while. I stocked the shelves at this and that store. I never could make a job stick. They were all boring. So, after a while, I looked up Hung Lo again.

He didn't have a job for anyone with my talents, but he said he would check around. He sent me to a guy named K.W. Kitterman. Mr. Kitterman could put my skills to work.

I did the same work that I did in the military, but without the politics. It was the perfect job for me. I began taking Ninjitsu lessons because they helped me do my job. 'The Kid' soon became a Ninja.

I disappeared into the world of the Ninja. I only appeared to inflict death. The only ones to see me were soon no longer capable of reporting what they saw. I was a ghost. I was a shadow in the night.

I had many missions and was making a great deal of money fulfilling those missions. However, that was all to end when Mr. Kitterman contracted me to kill Mr. Long Wang. He is why I am here.

Mr. Wang was a very powerful man. In fact, he was acquainted with Hung Lo. If I wanted to do my job without worrying about politics, I didn't question why I was to do this job. It wasn't my place to ask why he was to be killed. It was just a job.

I easily infiltrated Mr. Wang's estate, and I waited for him in his bedroom. I made a minor mistake, and I alerted him to my presence. Those cursed squeaky floors!

Mr. Wang was a very skilled fighter. He had a great deal of training. He took my sword away from me quite easily. It was going to be unarmed combat for a while. I would strike and he would block. He would strike, I would counter, and he would block. It was a back and forth fight for quite a while.

He knew several styles of Kung Fu. He was obviously an accomplished teacher of the martial arts. He knew a vast array of techniques. He knew some techniques that I thought were only legends. Stories they tell others so they fear you and you don't have to fight. He knew of those kinds of techniques.

We had been going back and forth for a while, and he begins telling me the technique he is using. He is yelling "Flying Monkey Fist" and "Striking Snake" and the like. To me it is all gibberish. I just take his move and counter it like I was trained in Hopkido.

I was getting tired. I had never fought anyone for so long before. I decided I was going to end it by going for my sword. We exchange attacks, and in doing so, I work towards my sword. A few more moves, and I will have it. Again, he is yelling "Hammering Jaguar Claw" and "Crane Fish Strike"!

At this point in the fight, I make my first mistake. I take my eyes off him and look at my sword. He yells "Five Point Palm Exploding Heart!" and lands it on my chest. I manage to grab the sword and open him up. He stops and laughs.

I thought how strange it was that a man would get nearly cut in two and laugh. So I asked him what was so funny.

He said, "We are both dead. I landed my last ditch technique. After you take five steps, your heart will explode."

I took a step to lop off his head and finish the job, and I took one step back, but I haven't taken one since. The police found me sitting there with the bloody sword in my hand. I was just sitting on the floor. They asked me to get up, but I said that I couldn't. They dragged me out, and I have been in this wheelchair ever since.

* * * * *

"Father, I don't know if the good Lord will forgive what I have done..."

"My son, if you truly repent your sins, the good Lord will forgive you."

"Thanks Father. I am truly sorry for the pain that I have inflicted."

"It is time to go now."

The guard came and opened the cell. The priest arose and began praying for Brian's soul. The guard worked his way behind the wheelchair and began to push it out of the cell. Brian waved to have him stop, and he got up. He took three steps and fell over dead. The Five Point Palm Exploding Heart technique finally took Brian O'Reilly after a lengthy trial and several years on death row.

* * * * *

Inspired by Kill Bill Vol. 2 by Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman

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Genocide

By Douglas E. Gogerty

I must admit that I have had a happy life. While there has been fear of death for some of that time, it has just resided deep in my mind and never come to the forefront. Now, as I grow old, I feel reflective of my youth. I think about how much people have hated my kind and me. I do not know what we ever did to them, but so many speak of genocide.

I remember times when neighborhood kids liked us. I am sure we are part of fond childhood memories. In fact, they would take us home to their mothers. Those mothers would smile and greet us with open arms. They would offer us some water. It was nice. Looking back, I now realize that they were not happy to see us, and they wanted us dead. When those kids that happily offered us water grew up, they would also want to kill us. It seems they all wanted us dead.

I know now that it is partly because we just do not fit in. No matter what we do, we stick out. We definitely look different from all the others. In a crowd, we always seem to stand out as different.

However, we did not ask to be brought here. Like so many others, we were uprooted from our families and brought here against our will. We are not unique in that aspect. Europeans brought us here like so many others. So many of us face the same scorn and hatred. They cannot see that we are victims in this.

In all of our time here, we have tried to get along with everyone. Even when faced with such hatred, we try to put on our bright sunny faces. However, some will not be convinced. They want us dead, and not just some of us. They want all of us dead. These fanatics will not rest until every single one of my kind is removed from this Earth.

I will readily admit that in some places we do not fit in. However, we go where we can live just like everyone else. Truth be told, we are constantly persecuted in the suburbs. Thus, you will find us more readily in the urban neighborhoods. We gather in places where people are more tolerant. We find areas where people have other concerns than our wholesale destruction.

In the suburbs, they do not want us around and single us out. They have systematically excluded us. In some places, they have rules against our existence. Homeowners can be fined just for having us around. Yet, the authorities do nothing.

It is not just these exclusionary tactics that take place. Often we watch as they poison our fathers and mothers. These citizens do this without fear of reprisal. Everyone just turns a blind eye to the slaughter. They act as if we simply do not belong and deserve what happens to us.

Of course, part of the problem is there is nothing we can do with our appearance to blend in. We are obvious. However, why is it fine to persecute us like this? Why do authorities turn their backs when such atrocities take place? Why should it be so difficult to prosecute these murderers?

I think part of the problem is that we have been too silent. In our attempts not stir up trouble; we have rested silently. We have continued with our sunny disposition. This has gotten us nowhere.

We are systematically torn from our homes. We are ripped from the very places we have spent our entire lives. No one is sympathetic. They let it happen.

Now that I am old and losing what little white is left on top, I am speaking out. Before my children face the same persecution that I have seen with my own eyes, I am taking a stand. It is not just for me, but also for all those that are different.

Not everyone has to be the same. Whether we are white, black, yellow, green, purple, or any other color, we should all be treated fairly. Even if we stand out in the crowd, we want what everyone else wants. We want to live and have families.

I will admit that part of it is our fault. We have not put reading and writing as a priority. Thus, we have not communicated our complaints to the masses before. We were fighting one injustice at a time rather than banding together to gain public awareness of our plight.

That is where I come in. I am here to tell you to stop the killing. We want to get along, but unless the general public decides that we have a right to be here, things may start to turn ugly. We may start to fight back. Instead of just moving to where we are more accepted, we may try other tactics. We may not accept our fate and we may begin to rise up against our oppressors.

We have put up with many degrading words in our history. We have been slandered for far too long. We are no longer willing to accept the blatant slaughter and institutionalized discrimination. We have a right to our lives. We have a right to our homes. We have a right to our children.

I am here to ask you to put aside your prejudices. We all have a place on this earth. Others have labeled us, and we do not have any choice in the words they use. Some of them are just plain ugly. I want you to think when you hear these labels. Think about what they actually mean and what harm they can do.

After all, what is a weed? It is an unintended plant. One person's weed is another person's treasure. The prejudicial words are like that. It gives individuals a marker between us and them. It allows for the rationalization of action. Thus, when we are discriminated against, they just say we are one of them. When we are poisoned, we are inconsequential. They were just ridding themselves of one of them.

This has been the way it has been done since the dawn of human history. They easily divide groups into those that belong and those that do not. The ones that do not belong are eliminated. This is how the violence begins. This is why there have been wars throughout human history.

I am telling you now, that this has to stop. We all have a right to be here. There is not them. There is only us. The living have a right to life no matter what their label. I am asking everyone to stop the genocide. Stop the killing! We dandelions have a right to our place in your yards. Thank you!

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First Contact

Part 1

By Douglas E. Gogerty

It was 9:06 AM GMT on 25th of March 2108. The Hubble Space Telescope II was taking images of star HD179949b. While processing a series of images, an astronomy intern at the University of California at Berkeley first spotted a small anomaly. It was incredibly bright, but it was very small, distant, and brief. It could have been anything, but it incited some astronomer's interest. However, they did not have enough data to make a determination of what caused the brief, bright flash. Nevertheless, they kept a close watch on that small section of space.

A few days later, an astronomer using the ancient VLT array in Chile also detected something. A similar flash of light that was very close. It was much closer than the previous anomaly. In fact, from the information that was gathered, they theorized that it was just outside Earth's solar system. Whatever it was, it was now close. Was it the same phenomena or was it different? Speculation went on among astronomers for weeks.

About a month after the first flash, the asteroid detection system flashed orange. A miniscule object was on a Near-Earth course. Because of its small size, it posed little danger to the earth. However, this object grabbed the attention of the debating scientists. They used the resources available for tracking dangerous asteroids to track this relatively insignificant object.

The tiny metallic object was smooth and regular. It was not like the other asteroids of that size. Further, it was decelerating. How could that be? The gravity of our sun and our planet should cause the object to accelerate. What was slowing the object down?

For two weeks, astronomers tracked the object. Eventually, it was too close to earth to track any longer. They now had enough data to plot a trajectory. It appeared as if the object would enter a low earth orbit. It was not going to crash into the earth at all.

Ground based detectors spotted the metallic object and tracked it as it made orbit after orbit just outside the Earth's atmosphere. With each orbit, it had a slight change in longitude. Its first orbit took it from the North Pole to the South Pole, but after a week, it was orbiting around the equator.

Another flash and it was gone. However, it did not fly away. It was picked up on RADAR at Dulles International Airport. It had entered the Earth's atmosphere. The military sent some fighter jets to intercept the unidentified flying object.

All attempts to communicate with the UFO were unsuccessful. Further, the military aircraft were unable to force it to change its trajectory. They could not lock their heat-seeking missiles onto the strange craft. All of their weapons were ineffective against the alien spacecraft as it was now called.

Eventually, it landed on the edge of a runway at Dulles. Immediately, military vehicles and personnel surrounded it. Authorities notified the airlines, and they closed the airport. All air traffic moved to other locations.

The classic saucer shaped craft sat on its three legs at the end of the runway steaming, but not from heat. It was ice cold and warmed in the springtime air. The varying temperatures caused the condensation on the craft, which froze and then steamed off.

The black saucer glistened in the sun, but it just sat. For days, it just sat there. It had no windows, so there was no way to detect if or what was inside. Detectors of every type were set up around the craft. If it emitted any type of signal, an alarm would sound.

Curious crowds came from all over to attempt to get a peek at the alien spacecraft. However, the military kept the area well guarded. Only authorized people were able to see the visiting craft.

After days of no activity, a small shaft appeared out of the bottom of the saucer. The military units went on full alert. Weapons were made ready to fire. Just as suddenly as it appeared, the shaft disappeared into the spacecraft. However, it deposited an object on the ground.

The small object had six wheels and rolled from out beneath the craft. It was some sort of vehicle. However, it was only one meter long and about half as wide. It rolled off the tarmac and onto a surrounding patch of ground. General D.C. Hever gave the order for Sergeant Christian Dwaystal to approach the vehicle.

"We mean you no harm," insisted Sergeant Dwaystal.

The space object did not respond to the words of the sergeant, but a long arm unfolded and scratched at the dirt.

"What do you want?" asked the Sergeant.

The object's arm began drilling into the soil. Another segment of the arm penetrated the hole that was a few inches deep.

"What should I say?" Sergeant Dwaystal asked the General.

General Hever just shrugged as a small tube arose from the object. The vehicle began to buzz and hum.

"Usted habla Espanola?" asked Sergeant Dwaystal. "Parlez-vous Francais?"

Just then, the detectors screamed as the vehicle emitted some sort of signal. In a panic, the vehicle was destroyed in a barrage of weapon fire. Sergeant Dwaystal was barely able to get out of the way before the craft crumbled into a pile of rubble.

More detectors sounded as the craft began emitting signals of various frequencies and amplitudes. General Hever ordered everyone to stow his or her weapon and fall back. The military crowd moved back as ordered.

After a few tense minutes, the detectors quieted. A few moments later, the shaft beneath the craft emerged. Slowly, the shaft reached the ground. Just as slowly, the shaft retreated into the craft revealing a three-legged object.

Inside the tripod sat a multi-limbed creature. It looked something like a terrestrial octopus. Three of its legs fit into the three legs giving it support. Two other arms were in appendages for reaching and grasping. The remaining appendages were inside for working various controls. It was an alien creature in a space suit.

It took a few steps towards the crowd. Nervously, a few soldiers discharged their weapons.

"Cease Fire!" shouted General Hever.

The weapons had no effect upon the alien. The suit was more durable than the initial vehicle. The alien headed directly towards the General. A few soldiers stepped between the approaching alien and the General. However, General Hever ordered them aside.

The two stood face to face. The General remained silent. After a few tense seconds, an electrical voice made a few sounds. It then said, "Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!"

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First Contact

Part 2

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The General looked inquisitively at his subordinates. They all shrugged. No one knew what to make of the initial statement given by the alien visitor. "Apprehend him!" the General said eventually.

"Open with a joke he said," the alien muttered. "They will be less inclined towards violence he said."

Several military men rushed to grab the multi-legged alien. However, an invisible field prevented them from getting too close. The soldiers fell back one by one from the three-legged space suit of the alien, each receiving a slight electrical shock.

"Perhaps I should have said Gort! Deklato Rosco!" continued the alien. "It might have been slightly more apropos, but that line is not nearly as memorable."

General Hever ordered his men to stand down. They were not going to be able to apprehend the alien physically in that manner. He told his men to ready their weapons.

"Maybe they have not seen The Day the Earth Stood Still," he said continuing his muttering internal dialog. "I should have stuck to the classics."

"Surround the alien, but hold your fire," ordered the General.

They had previously observed that their weapons had no effect upon the visitor from space. The bullets of the projectile weapons bounced off the alien's shielding. The energy from the energy weapons was simply absorbed by the shield making it even stronger.

"I just did not want to sound so clichéd," muttered the alien ignoring the actions going on around him.

"Prepare to move in!" ordered the General.

The soldiers did not fire or lower their weapons, but they continued to eye the alien with suspicion.

"I come in peace," stated the alien with a highly dejected tone. "Take me to your leader..."

"You speak English?" asked the General with some surprise.

"We have encountered your transmissions. When you beam signals into space, you should expect others to encounter them. Actually, we have been studying you for quite some time. I have spent the entire voyage studying your transmissions. I particularly like the Friday After Dark episodes on one of the channels. They are filled with your species copulating, and I find them most entertaining. Nonetheless, I am capable of speaking, with rudimentary fluency, several of your species' languages."

"Will -- you -- come -- with -- us -- peacefully?" asked the General in a slow broken tone.

"Do not patronize me!" insisted the alien. "Your weapons are useless against our technology. I could destroy everyone within several miles of here. However, I have not. I will follow you, if I am taken to someone of authority."

"We will take you to the aircraft carrier Richard B. Cheney," responded the General. "The President of the United States of America will meet you there."

"Lead on and I will follow," replied the alien. "I will be unable to ride in your vehicles, but I am capable of high speed travel."

"Very good," the General replied waving his arms to indicate to his men to stand down and fall back. "Soldiers -- to the George W. Bush Naval Facility."

The soldiers lowered their weapons and boarded the waiting vehicles. General Hever boarded the vehicle in the front of the convoy and led the soldiers towards the naval base.

The alien's spacesuit glowed for a few moments and then the alien was airborne. From a safe operating altitude, he followed the General and the convoy towards the ocean. He landed beside a large statue of the naval yard's namesake, George W. Bush. The statue had the inscription Always Remember.

He followed General Hever onboard the aircraft carrier. The General walked into a room, but the alien did not follow. "This way," insisted the military commander.

"I am sorry, but my suit will not allow me to enter," insisted the alien. "We will meet upon the deck."

The General re-entered the room, and after a few minutes, a tall stately gray-haired man emerged. The man was dressed in a dark blue suit with a red tie. He was wearing sunglasses and he said a few inaudible words to himself.

A few moments later, a tall stately gray-haired woman emerged. She was wearing a dark gray suit. "I am President Fogarty," the woman said.

"I must admit," started the alien, "that I am surprised."

"Surprised to see a female president?" she asked.

"Oh no!" replied the alien. "The fact that not only has your species survived, but your country is still democratic."

"Why does that surprise you?"

"I live very far from here, and your transmissions take a long time to reach us. When I left, a particular political party of yours had been rigging your political process. They took the voice of the people away from them. They abused every aspect of the political process."

"When was that?" asked the president.

"Time is a relative measure Madame President. Everyone has different measures and names for those measures. However, the president at that time was George W. Bush."

"Ah! Early in our 21st Century, that was about 100 years ago," replied the President. "I know it well."

"Every aspect had been played towards the advantage of that President's party. They had entire networks playing propaganda -- friendly to their point of view. They were highly critical of the opposition and friendly towards their political viewpoint. The general public was only getting half of the information required for a free and open society."

"Not only that," added the President. "They stifled science. They misrepresented scientific findings in many areas such as climate science. They impeded research in biology and many other areas."

"Further," insisted the alien. "The President had a belief in an End of Times scenario. Many people, who believed in him, blindly accepted his policy to bring about the end of the world. Our researchers were certain that they would succeed and end most life on Earth."

"Perhaps it was this belief or the greed of oil reserves," added President Fogarty, "that led this political party to get involved in wars in the Middle East. There seemed to be few countries with vast oil reserves that they did not covet."

"However, here I stand in a Naval Yard aboard a vessel dedicated to these very scoundrels," insisted the alien.

"Every man, woman, and child in the United States knows those stories," replied the President. "They are taught in every history class with great regularity. You see, it was because of those scoundrels as you call them, that the citizens of the United States of America learned several valuable lessons. Shortly after *all* of the scandals were revealed, the public rose up and demanded a fair system. They began to pay greater attention to the political process. No longer were they satisfied with the election process, and they clamored for change. If the electorate had not risen up against these political shenanigans, I do not doubt that we would have destroyed ourselves. That is why we dedicated these entities so that we Always Remember."

"I am most glad to learn this, and a little disappointed. You see, I was sent to prepare this planet for my people," replied the alien. "From your reports we did not think that you would be able to stand at the brink and not fall into the abyss. However, you managed to survive this crisis -- as you had so many others. I congratulate you on that. We will look elsewhere. I look forward to viewing the reports of this revelation as they reach our world. Perhaps our peoples will meet again."

Before President Fogarty could say anything, the alien had taken off and returned to the alien spacecraft. Moments later the space vessel was gone. Earth had fought off its first alien invasion simply by continuing to exist.

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Blog Against Theocracy Freedom First and others have initiated a "Blog Against Theocracy" event. I am participating by reposted a story I had written a while ago. It is very fitting for this weekend's event. For more information on other blogs participating click on the logo to the right. Thanks and enjoy! (As always, comments welcome!)






Land of the Zombies

By Douglas E. Gogerty

It had been a fairly uneventful weekend for Wesley Hever. He straightened up his apartment a bit, watched some television, got a little reading done, and picked some things up at the grocery store. With evening closing in, he was astonished at how quiet a weekend it had been. Perhaps, it was too quiet. He began to wonder if he had missed some event that was taking place. It was late summer, so it couldn't be the Super Bowl. It was too early to be the World Series. Why was it so quiet?

Suddenly a knock came at his door. He opened it up to reveal his good friend Wayne McGuiness. "Good! You're here." Wayne said.

"What's up?" asked Wesley.

"There is trouble brewing out there, big trouble!"

"Well come one in and tell me about it."

"There's no time! We need to get out of here. We need to get out of here fast! They're coming!"

"Settle down and tell me what is wrong."

"I just came here to get you and some supplies," Wayne stated coldly.

Wayne opened the refrigerator and began rummaging through it. He grabbed some water, some cans of refreshing beverages and stuffed them into his backpack. He closed the door and remarked, "Why is there fake leopard's skin fur on your fridge?"

"I saw it on some design show, and..."

"Never mind! Do you have any can goods? Do you have any rice and beans? You know - non-perishable goods."

"Are you going to tell me what is going on? Who are they?"

"Once we get going. Well..."

"I haven't unpacked them yet from the grocery store. You'll probably find some stuff in those sacks over there."

Wayne searched through the sacks and just grabbed them. "Good, they'll get us for sure if we went to a grocery store. OK, let's go!"

"Wait a minute! You just barge in here, grab some stuff and expect me to tag along without knowing what is going on? I have to work tomorrow! I'm not going anywhere until you tell me who they are and what the big emergency is."

"There's no time! I told you they'll be here any minute."

"I'm not going anywhere!" Wesley affirmed as he sat down and turned on the television.

"OK OK OK OK! They are taking over."

"Who is taking over?"

"A long time ago, there were this dozen or so people. They caused a bit of trouble and the authorities killed their leader. A couple of days later, they say this guy is walking around. He was dead! He goes to his group and soon there are bunches of them!"

"What are you talking about? Are you saying there are zombies out there?"

"They're coming to get us right now!" Wayne insisted and then returned to his story. "At first, various groups kept them in check, but not anymore. There are millions of them in the city by now! We have to get out of here!"

"Zombies? You have to be kidding! Do you expect me to believe that?"

"You're not listening. They are coming to get us. Do you remember Jackie Larson?"

"Of course, we dated for a little while. What does she have to do with it?"

"She's one of them! She has singled us out. Her and her group are coming to get us. They were just at my place, and I narrowly got out of there in time!"

"How do you know she's turned?"

"Like all of them, she's got that glassy-eyed look in her eyes, and she has that insipid smile on her face. Like that," Wayne explained while pointing at the television.

"Like what?"

"There on the TV. She has that look! That person is obviously one of them!"

"Who? The First Lady?"

"My goodness you're right! That is the First Lady and she is definitely one of them! We got to get going now!"

"Do you mean to tell me that the President's wife is a zombie?"

"Look! The President has that look too! We have got to get out of here before they get here. Can we go now?"

"Wait wait wait! Are you trying to tell me that the President and his wife are zombies and that Jackie Larson is on her way over here to..."

Before he can finish his question, someone knocks on the door.

"Oh man, they're here! We'll have to go out the window. I told you we needed to get going," explained Wayne.

"It is just a coincidence," responded Wes as he peaked through the spy hole. "Holy crap it's Jackie!"

"Why don't you ever listen to me? We need to get out of here! Does this window open?"

"There must be 2 dozen people out there and a couple of them are dressed like clowns," Wesley continued.

"Wesley darling," began a voice in the hall. "I know you're in there. Open the door; will you honey?"

"You're right! Jackie does have that look. I'll get the window, it is kind of tricky," Wes explained as he began working on the window. "Clowns?"

"You don't think they're picky do you? They are out to get everyone! What the heck is this?" Wayne asked holding some pamphlets he retrieved from one of the shopping bags.

"Those were out front when I got back from shopping. I must have put them in there to carry them in."

"Did you read these?" asked Wayne with alarm.

"I may have skimmed them, but I didn't read them."

"Did you read these?" asked Wayne more forcefully.

"I don't think so."

"I want you to be sure!" insisted Wayne.

"I'm pretty sure," Wesley asserted as he finally got the window open.

"I guess I'll have to risk it," Wayne said as he threw the pamphlets on the floor. "Let's get out of here."

"Come one Wes baby, open the door," the two men heard from the hall. "I can hear the TV going. I know you're in there. It is me Jackie. Jackie Larson. Can we talk?"

"That's quite a ways down," complained Wes. "So, why don't we just shoot our way out? They do it in the movies all the time."

"That's the movies man! This is real life. You can't go around shooting people for no good reason!"

"If they are threatening us..."

"Hey, do you still have that replica Colt 45 peacemaker? You might want to grab it just in case."

"Are you serious?"

"You're right; it'll probably get us into trouble. If the President is one of them, the courts might be too."

"What?"

"Never mind, let's get going."

"Where are we going?"

"I'll tell you once we're out of here!"

"He's not opening the door," a voice in the hall said. "Do you have a key Jackie?"

"I would never..." she insisted.

"That's a relief," another voice stated to Jackie. "Wesley, we aren't leaving. We can wait all night." The doorbell began to ring constantly.

"I'll jump first," started Wayne. "Then you drop down my pack and then the groceries. You can grab whatever you think you want or need and follow me down."

"Right," responded Wesley.

Wes stuffed some clothes of his own into a pack and he looked around a bit. Eventually, he decided he did not need anything and went to the window. With the continuous knocking on the apartment door and the bell ringing, he started to lower down the two packs and the groceries. With one last look around, Wesley jumped out of the second story window.

As he landed Wayne said, "Get down! There are more of them over there."

Wesley ducked into some shrubs to find Wayne crouched there. Wayne's truck was only about 100 feet away. Wayne had fastened a canoe tightly to a rack over the bed of the pickup. "Are we going canoeing?" Wesley whispered.

"With all of this going on, it might be best if we leave the country. We need to be ready for anything."

"Hey! There is my landlord with them."

"We have to move fast. He'll probably let them into your apartment. Keep your head down and follow me."

The two men crawled along the ground toward Wayne's truck. All the while, they kept their eyes on the group of people by the door of Wesley's apartment building. Quietly, Wayne put the supplies he gathered from Wesley's apartment into the back of the pickup. Under the canoe in its rack, there was a large backpack full of camping gear. Wayne unlocked the truck and the two men quietly entered and locked the doors. They sat there quietly for a few moments and then Wesley asked, "Are we headed north or south?"

"We'd be lucky to make it very far south. I've heard they have a group of 30,000 that gathers weekly in Houston."

"Is it some sort of Zombie Jamboree?"

"I have no idea what they do. The south is definitely crawling with them. Although there are probably more options for us down south, we're headed north. I figure we can get into Canada by way of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. If the borders are overrun, we should still be able to get through by canoe -- besides this is Minnesota!"

"Do you think it is that bad?"

"Minnesota? Nah, it's a nice enough place..."

"No! I mean all of this stuff," Wesley explained pointing to the crowd in front of his apartment building.

"I don't know what to think. I'm in total survival mode. They'll notice us when we start the truck, so be ready."

"Hey, they're in my apartment!" cried Wesley.

"It's go time," Wayne said as he started the truck and put it in gear and took off.

Out of Wesley's apartment window Jackie yelled, "There they go!" She pointed to the truck Wayne was driving. However, it was too late for that group to stop them. Out of the parking lot the two men sped.

It was now dark, and Wayne took back roads to the interstate. There was little traffic on the roads, and they did not run into any trouble. Trying not to drive conspicuously, Wayne made his way onto the interstate heading north.

"I could use a beer," Wesley stated after a bit of a drive.

"I'll pull over as soon as I feel safe, and you can dig one out of the back."

"You sure were prepared for this."

"I was a boy scout. This looks like a good spot," Wayne said as he pulled off the road under a bridge. Wes jumped out of the cab and began searching for Wayne's pack. "Grab me an ale would you?"

"Sure!" Wesley responded as he fetched two cans out of Wayne's backpack.

Wes jumped back into the cab of the truck and they began moving again. Before they went too far they saw flashing lights from behind. It was a police car. Wayne pulled the truck over and the police officer stopped behind them. The officer slowly and carefully walked up to Wayne's window. "Paper's please," he stated.

"Here are my driver's license and my proof of insurance," replied Wayne as he handed the officer his cards. "Is there anything wrong?"

"Have you boys been drinking?" the officer asked sternly.

"No sir," snapped Wayne.

"What are those?" the officer asked pointing his flashlight at the open cans in the cab.

"My friend is drinking root beer, and I'm having a ginger ale," replied Wayne as he showed the cans.

The officer went back into the waiting squad car and checked Wayne's records. After several minutes, the officer headed back to Wayne's truck. "I saw you pull off the road back there. What was that all about," the officer asked.

"My friend and I were thirsty. I had these cans in the back there. We pulled over to fetch them," responded Wayne.

"I see. Where are the rest of your papers?" asked the officer.

"Rest of my papers?" inquired Wayne.

"Everybody got some new papers that they were supposed to carry with them where ever they go. Some small pamphlets, where are they?"

"Those? Where did we put those? Are they in the pack Wes?" Wayne asked his passenger.

"Uh, I don't think..." Wes started.

"I don't think we forgot them either," interrupted Wayne. "I'm sure they're in the pack back there with our bible, do you want me to show you?"

Wayne started to open the door when the officer began, "Nah, that's all right. Where are you boys headed?"

"We're going up north for a little fishing trip," Wayne lied. "We've been planning this for months. I hope we have everything."

"Well, good luck to you boys," replied the officer. "Have a good night and drive safely."

"Thanks officer! We will," called Wayne as the officer walked back to the squad car.

"What was that bible crack about?" asked Wes as the officer pulled out.

"Later..."

Wayne put the truck in gear and pulled out behind the officer. After several hours driving in silence along the north bound interstate, Wesley could no longer keep quiet. "Are you going to tell me what is going on here?"

"With what happened back there with the police officer, I feel better about you now. I know you didn't read those pamphlets. You know, we're supposed to carry them wherever we go."

"What?" asked Wesley. "Now I'm really confused."

"You should watch the news more."

"You know I haven't watched the news since that whole OJ Simpson fiasco. They sensationalize everything now. What does the news have to do with it?"

"We're far enough from anyplace, I think we're pretty safe now. We probably won't run into any trouble since we're far enough from any population centers. If you had been watching the news, you would know that things have changed. They have changed dramatically."

"I know, zombies are a big change!"

"Sorry about that, it isn't exactly that bad. It is just that we now live in a theocracy."

"A theocracy? That's impossible!"

"I wish it were. That scene back at your place was about conversion. Jackie and her group are Evangelicals. They were there to convert you to Christianity. Well, their idea of Christianity anyway."

"They weren't zombies?"

"Well, there is little difference. They don't pay attention to anything going on around them either, and they don't stop until everyone is one of them."

"You have a point."

"They recently passed a law that says you need to carry those religious pamphlets wherever you go and show them upon request."

"What does that show?"

"Supposedly it shows that you've taken Jesus Christ as your personal savior. It shows that you're practicing the official religion of the US.

"And the first amendment...?"

"Edited for your protection. The Supreme Court has totally overhauled the establishment clause."

"So everyone has to be a Christian?"

"Either that, or have your civil rights curtailed. That is why we're going to Canada. It'll be crowded at the boarder. They'll probably send lots of people back, so we can paddle in. We are almost to our entry point."

"So, let me get this straight. The Evangelical Christians have finally gotten it their way?"

"Religious freedom, one of the foremost important things that some of our founding fathers so strongly believed, has gone by the way side. You know, one of those sniggling details that they wanted to make sure that majority did not rule on..."

"Have they forgotten about the Puritan's leaving England to escape religious persecution?" asked Wesley.

"Yes, totally forgotten. The oppressed are now the oppressors."

"Okay, Canada. You talked me into it!"

Wesley and Wayne abandoned the pickup truck at a Boundary Waters entry point and headed farther north. They hated to use an entry point illegally, but they felt they had no choice. After entering Canadian territory, no one knows what became of the two men. The President has disavowed any knowledge of the two men. Some say they returned to Minnesota under different names, and accepted the fate of their country. Still others say they have been fighting to return the US to sanity. No one knows for certain what became of them, but we hope they're safe.

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The Archaeology Students

Part One

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"Are you ready for the upcoming archaeological dig?"

"Am I? I thought it would never come! If I hear internal strife caused the downfall one more time..."

"Don't you like these traveling classes?"

"It is the slow boats that get me."

"Well, we're almost to the site. Thank goodness they installed this train or it could be another couple of days."

"I cannot imagine how long it would take a sail barge to cross the desert."

"If this place's infrastructure were still in tact, we could have gone by some electric vehicle."

"There just is not enough reason rebuild it yet."

"If it were important, they would develop a faster form of transportation."

"You know, in ancient times..."

"Uh oh, here we go."

"What?"

"Here you go with your flying machines again."

"It is true. You have read the literature. They had all kinds of flying machines. They had airplanes and flying contraptions we don't even have words for anymore. They put jetpacks and flying cars in so many of their stories that they had to have something along those lines too. They at least had to be looking, and perhaps they were close!"

"Yeah -- well -- internal strife caused their downfall."

"Why you..."

"Kidding! I was just kidding! However, you know from our class that they were very reluctant to use clean renewable energy sources. They went to war for their fuel needs. This caused a great deal of problems for them."

"Them? Problems for them? What about us?"

"True, we don't have speedy transportation, and we must take those boats you love some much and other forms of transportation to get to distance places -- like here."

"They had airplanes. They could travel half way around the world in half a day. It takes us weeks."

"True, but we are not burning fossil fuels or polluting the environment."

"Blah blah blah! I've been dreaming of flying for a long time."

"You know, an ancient dream analysis specialist said that dreams of flight were actually dreams about sex."

"I am familiar with Dr. Freud. He also said that sometimes a cigar was just a cigar."

"Perhaps when you dream about sex, you're actually dreaming about flying."

"You're hysterical -- you should go on the comedy circuit sometime."

"So tell me, why did you sign up for this class anyway? You're majoring in what -- engineering?"

"Engineers can have other interests. I came on this trip to see if there is anything to be found out about their flying machines. We have some of their technology, but what technology has been lost? Did they have jetpacks or flying cars?"

"You took this class to find evidence of flying machines?"

"Sure! This was one of the most advanced civilizations on earth at one time. Any city of theirs is probably rich in technological history. If they had some specialized flying technology, I'll find it."

"What good will it do you? They used up all of the fuels they had."

"I wish I had a time machine and tell them not to waste all of it. They could have saved some for future generations."

"Well, as you are well aware, time-travel is impossible. In any event, those fuels would have run out at some point anyway."

"I know. Perhaps I'll find some of their work on alternative energy sources. They did do that you know."

"True, but they got in that game too late to save them. They spent all of their money and resources on obtaining their particular fuels. They had wars. They borrowed money. Before they could fix those problems, other places were well ahead of them technology-wise. This caused internal strife -- and you know the rest."

"Boring -- boring -- and -- boring!"

"Like engineering classes are any better."

"Point taken. I just wish the class covered more about their technology. Just because it was an ancient civilization, doesn't mean they didn't know things."

"Like how to make airplanes?"

"Exactly! We know they had many sophisticated technologies. Just because their culture is dead does not mean it is useless."

"The entire hemisphere was practically unlivable for centuries!"

"So some of their sophisticated technology involved weaponry..."

"It was not only their weapons that doomed them. Their burning of fuels also severely damaged their ecosystem."

"Not everything died, some things survived."

"Let us hope we do not run into some of those surviving creatures. I hear they have a rodent that lives underground and can skeletonize a large animal in seconds."

"Land piranhas are a myth."

"Is that what they call them? I have always heard them called Chihuahuas or prairie dogs or some such."

"Anyway, on the good side of things, their cities are fantastically preserved."

"I wonder how long they'll stay this way now that they are habitable again."

"If we had planes..."

"Enough of the airplanes. Anyway, we do have plenty of space for our needs right now."

"The scary Chihuahuas will keep the interlopers at bay."

"Very funny!"

"I am telling you, this civilization's technology was awfully good to do what it did."

"Heavy on the awful. They nearly destroyed every living thing on earth. It is lucky that life is so flexible."

"Or, we wouldn't be here."

"They probably did not realize the folly of their actions because of the internal..."

"Very funny. In any event, we're here at last."

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The Archaeology Students

Part Two

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"Now that we are at our final destination, where are you going to start?"

"Why?"

"I just thought..."

"That we could stick together?"

"Well -- yeah."

"I do not need your help. I am the flying machine expert here. You can do your own research."

"Would it be that horrible to stick together?"

"Probably... Anyway, I have a destination in mind. According to some records that I have read, there was a library just over there. Where there is a library, there is information. That is where I am heading. Please find your own place."

"Do you read old English?"

"How different can it be from current English?"

"It is a lot different. Languages change over time. It seems that you need me."

"Why?"

"As an ancient history major, I took old English as my language requirement."

"So, you can help me look, is that it?"

"Do you know how to read the word airplane in old English..."

"So you are telling me that it is different."

"Yes I am."

"Crap. Ok, you can help me. Let us go."

"I did not expect there to be this much dust."

"We may have to dig our way into the building."

"Are you sure this is it?"

"Ok Mr. Old English, what does that say?"

"Library."

"Any more questions?"

"How can you be so sure they will have what you are looking for?"

"Why did I have to ask if you had any more questions? Anyway, life is full of uncertainties. You can never tell what any place will hold; however, this is a darn good place to start is it not?"

"I am reminded of a story..."

"Shut up and help me dig out the entrance."

"While I am here digging, I am reminded of the question, Why does everything end up under dirt?"

"Some of our classmates are taking the easy way by entering on some of the upper levels of the buildings."

"Naturally, we have to enter a one-story building."

"We are not just looking at how the ancients lived; we are looking at what they knew."

"Nice words, Mr. Engineer."

"Thanks. I felt inspired."

"I think I can open the door now."

"Okay, let us try."

"Phew! It stinks in here."

"At least we are in."

"It is bigger than it looks on the outside."

"But where are the books?"

"Here is a map."

"Well, what does it say?"

"Uh oh!"

"What?"

"This is a Presidential Library."

"So -- no books?"

"Well it commemorates a presidency. It has personal documents and other paraphernalia."

"So -- no books?"

"Perhaps this president read comic books..."

"You are a real funny man."

"This could be a cultural treasure trove. We should tell the others."

"But -- no books?"

"There will be information on what happened while this person was president."

"Are you telling me that if something of note happened during this person's presidency regarding flight, the information might be found here?"

"Right, if they took a trip to Mars or something, it might be noted somewhere in here."

"Which president was it?"

"Every place I have looked -- the name has been vandalized.

"Can you make a guess based upon where it is located?"

"What good will that do you?"

"Uh -- I do not know -- I was just grasping at straws."

"We might as well look around."

"I suppose you are right. Hey, did presidents not read?"

"There might be another library in town."

"True. This library was supposed to be part of a college or university. There are probably others in town too."

"Most likely."

"What are we waiting for then?"

"Can we not look around just a little bit? After all, we did dig our way in here."

"Without books, what good is this place?"

"Do you not even want to go into the NASA room?"

"What is a nasa-room?"

"I have no idea, but it is right over there."

"Boring! Can we go?"

"Can we take just a peek?"

"Does a nasa have something to do with books?"

"I do not know, I cannot figure out its weird logo. I wonder if it had something to do with their nuclear program."

"Maybe we will die of radioactivity if we enter that room. Come on, let's get out of here!"

"I just want to look in."

"Fine -- but be quick about it."

"Well, if we would find anything interesting, it would be in this room."

"What? Why are there books in here?"

"National -- Aeronautics -- and Space -- Administration."

"Aeronautics? As in flying machines?"

"Apparently so."

"Let me see!"

"I wonder if this place was looted."

"There does seem to be a lack of physical information."

"Methane Blast"

"What? Where?"

"It says it right there. Test firing of ... LOX/methane engine."

"Methane! that is great!"

"That could be significant."

"You are telling me! How much thrust did you say?"

"It is confusing, but I think it says 7500 pounds of thrust."

"Pounds? What are pounds?"

"I have no idea."

"Where did this take place?"

"The Mo-jav-e Desert...?"

"Where?"

"Some desert."

"This whole place is a desert."

"What good does this information do you?"

"Do you know nothing? Our Bureau of Information has a large database of information on this civilization. If you know what you are looking for, they can give you what you want to know. However, going up to them and asking about flying machines gets you nothing. There is just too much information. I need specifics."

"So knowing that they tested a methane rocket engine in the desert is helpful."

"Exactly. I probably can get specifications of this engine from the B.I. now.

"Furthermore, we can make methane. It is one of the few fuels they had that we can use."

"There is potential for starting up the space program again."

"Do not get carried away."

"The possibilities are staggering if I can build something based upon their specifications. I have to write this down. Mo-jav-e you say?"

"Perhaps we can more information on it in one of the other libraries in town..."

"One with books? Well, thank you unnamed president guy! It is a shame your library is such a shamble, but at least I found something of interest."

"While you talk to yourself, I am going to leave."

"I am right behind you."

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A Christmas Tale

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The year was 304, and Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus, also known as Diocletian, was the Roman Emperor. He had established Nicomedia as the capital of the eastern empire. He used Christians as a scapegoat for a fire in this eastern capital and increased his persecutions.

It was a cold day in late December where a Christian sat awaiting his eventual execution. A tall Roman soldier entered the prison with a bit of food.

"You're a lucky one Christian. We are celebrating the birthday of the unconquered sun. Your execution will have to wait. You get to live on Roman hospitality for a little while longer."

"I trust in the Lord," responded the Christian. "I am not afraid to die."

"You Christians are an odd bunch. I'll be glad when the gods wipe you off the face of the earth."

"That is one of the differences between us Pagan."

"What...?"

"My god is a loving god. Our father is a forgiving god. Your gods are vengeful. You have to be afraid that the gods will send floods or fires at you for the slightest transgression. Our Lord forgives our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."

"Yet, you are here waiting execution, and I am free."

"I will have my reward in the afterlife."

"I do not think the gods will allow access to Elysium to the likes of you!"

"I do not believe in your Elysium. I will go to heaven to be seated with our father and his son at the everlasting feast."

"Ha! That's funny."

"Your pagan religion is bound to fail for a number of reasons. You fail to see the faults in it."

"Like what?"

"For instance, you put to death Socrates for his corrupting influence on the youth and not believing in the ancestral gods. In other words, because Socrates was a teacher and his beliefs were different, they saw him as a threat. He observed the world and saw it differently; thus, your fellow pagans put him to death."

"That was a political death -- not religious," retorted the guard.

"However, these same political deaths have resulted in me being here. What do I know? What great revelations have I beheld that will be snuffed out by your leader's intolerance of those with different beliefs?"

"You elevate your importance too greatly Christian."

"Do you not see? Christianity embraces education. Our church leaders can read and write. By embracing science and education, people will see the light of Christianity and abandon the darkness that is paganism."

"If you are going to dream Christian, dream big!"

"When we can practice our religion more openly, I see great centers of learning establishing themselves. Books will be reproduced and the works of the great masters will be studied. This will all be done in the name of Christ. Christians will lead the way for the educated. We will not fight the results of scientific inquiry but embrace it. In this way, we will leave paganism in the dust."

"You are lucky it is Saturnalia -- Christian -- or I would smite you on the spot for your words."

"Not only do you not embrace education, but you have vengeful gods. If it were not for tradition, your religion would already be dead."

The guard hearing enough struck the Christian across the face with the back of his hand. The anger was coursing through him. He could not wait to see this Christian die. It is then that the Christian began singing a hymn. This angered the Roman soldier even more. He shouted, "Gods forgive me!" as he smacked the Christian again.

"You may strike my other cheek if you wish," urged the Christian.

"Pardon me?"

"Our Lord also teaches us to forgive. If someone strikes our cheek we are to offer them the other one."

"You should not tempt me Christian!"

"I keep telling you -- Pagan -- that ours is a loving and forgiving god. We do not worry about being smitten for our transgressions. Thus, my forgiveness of your actions is as important as your repentance for those sins. Otherwise, it is a constant escalation of violence."

"You speak in riddles Christian."

"Most people believe that you return actions in kind. That is, if you are hurt in some manner, you must strike back. Thus, if a mob causes trouble in Nicomedia..."

"Like burn down a Palace or something?"

"If you will -- they cause trouble -- then you must cause trouble for them."

"Cause trouble for them -- by arresting them and executing them?"

"However, you have declared war on ALL -- not just those involved. It is our belief that you must forgive them."

"That would be very convenient for you, now would it not?"

"There are religious extremist who wish martyrdom in your attack of our religion. I am not one of those. I am just an ordinary believer."

"All of you religious zealots are alike. We cannot trust any of you, thus we will rid the world of all of you."

"Again, that is why my religion is superior to yours. We would forgive those who struck against us. We would never declare war on a particular religion. If they sinned against us, we would forgive them. That is a core tenant of my faith."

"It sounds too good to be true. You would probably never accept someone like me into your faith."

"If you are repentant for your sins, the church will forgive you for your transgressions. You will be accepted."

"I am a guard at a Roman prison. I have witnessed and participated in many horrible acts. Would the church accept me even with these sins upon me?"

"The church accepts all -- no matter what. My faith believes that we were all born sinners and that we may not be able to fight against our sins. However, if you ask for forgiveness you may do penance and be forgiven."

"I do not think your people would accept me because of how I live my life."

"We are all different. If you accept our tenant of forgiveness, and you treat others as you would like to be treated, then there should not be any problems that cannot be overcome."

"If all my relationships are consensual, then my actions would be acceptable?"

"As long as both are willing participants in your actions, then there should not be any problems there. We do not judge, lest we be judged."

"Ha! It sounds too good to be true. I just do not believe that any religion would believe in those crazy things. Thus, when your time comes, you will be executed. Our gods will have another sacrifice. Let your god save you."

"Peace be with you Roman -- and happy holidays."

"Yeah -- well -- Merry Christmas to you -- in jail!"

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Blog Against Theocracy Logo Freedom First and others have initiated the second annual "Blog Against Theocracy" event. I am interrupting MOPS in Space this week to participate in this blogswarm. I hope the story I wrote is very fitting for this weekend's event. I think too many people do not think completely through things before giving support, and this story is what could result in short sighted thinking. For more information on other blogs participating click on the logo to the right. Thanks and enjoy! (As always, comments welcome!)






The Theocracy

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Diogo Fihlo de Paulo sat in isolation. He had paced himself out. He had lost track of how long he had been there. Finally, he heard a voice emanate from one of the speakers.

"Diogo," it said. "This is Marie Filles D'Angela. Do you know why you're here?"

"I want to see my lawyer," Diogo insisted.

"You are not under arrest," replied Marie.

"Then why cannot I leave? Why cannot I see anyone? I have been here for hours! I have been away from my school work for a couple of days now. I have missed an important Biology midterm and several of my classes. Also, I have not been able to do any work. I have to make a living."

"You should have thought of those things before you broke the rules."

"I thought know one would know. Flying around the restricted zone adds a couple hours to the flight. I thought if I could make it, I could earn some extra cash for school."

"But you did not make it, did you?"

"The missiles came hard and heavy as soon as I crossed the barrier wall. There had not been any contact with those people for a long time, so it came as a real shock to me."

"You crashed into a major metropolitan area," indicated Marie.

"You would have never known it," replied Diogo. "I was there for several hours, and I only came in contact with one person. Once I finished putting the ion-plasma engine from my aircraft in a broken down vehicle I found, I raced away and did not see another person until I got here."

"Did you notice anything unusual about that one person?"

"To be honest, I do not know much about the people that live in The Theocracy. So, everything about that young man was unusual."

"Let me be more direct. Was he sickly? Did he appear to have any lesions or did he cough regularly?"

"On the contrary, he looked quite healthy. Well, he was a bit thin, but that is not unusual for a teenager."

"Do you know for a fact that he was a teenager?"

"Well no -- I just assumed... We could not really communicate because of the language barrier."

"So, he could have been a stunted adult."

"I guess so. What is this about?"

"You were in a restricted area," Marie stated with a strong emphasis.

"However, you said I was not under arrest."

"Do you know why it is restricted?"

"Well, The Theocracy built those walls and developed a sophisticated antiaircraft system. Thus, I always thought it was because they did not want any interference from the outside world."

"In the beginning, that was true..."

"Aye carumba!" Diogo exclaimed as a realization came to him. "What have I been exposed to?"

"Do not panic. We will have it isolated and have a cure shortly."

"Do not panic she says!"

"Please. If it helps I will give you a little background."

"Okay," replied Diogo attempting not to hyperventilate.

"Before it became The Theocracy they were a country like so many others. In fact, they were quite advanced. However, some of their people were tired of what they saw as to much secularism. Because their governmental principles forbade them to favor one religion over another, a secular government was inevitable.

"This group of religious people wanted to bring prayer in the classrooms, and wanted religious morality taught to every school age child. In order to accomplish this, they had to reform their government. Hence, when their government became a theocracy, there were certain eventual outcomes. One was the outlawing of teaching the Theory of Evolution."

"How can you outlaw the teaching of a basic and very important scientific principle?"

"You see, it interfered with some very powerful individual's view of the world. Thus, they required the teaching of their view of creation. Any deviation from this was punished severely."

"People were actually punished for doing good science?"

"As you can imagine, this had a radical impact upon all of their sciences. Most of their top scientist fled. More importantly, with the drain of good scientist and the public schools not producing any new ones, this had a catastrophic impact upon the biological sciences and naturally medicine."

"Why would anyone want to turn their back on modern medicine?"

"That is a difficult question, but I think it was more like they did not know what they were getting themselves into. They were led to believe that the new government was based on some sort of religious moral values."

"But what does this have to do with the biological sciences?"

"Several 'religious leaders' and, quite frankly, other propagandists linked evolution -- or what they called Darwinism -- to the moral decline of their society."

"So, they turned away from one of the most important concepts in all of science on a basic misconception?"

"That pretty much sums it up. More importantly, they completely abolished the study of important fields that stem from evolution."

"So, evidence that support the theory of evolution was completely ignored?"

"Exactly," replied Marie. "No one could study genetics or the genome. No one could study bacterial resistance or viral mutation. No one could study..."

"I cannot even imagine what kind of super-bugs might emerge -- Oh no!"

"You will be fine," insisted Marie. "You were immunized against a relative of this virus. Not to mention, we got to you early enough it the virus's life cycle. Unfortunately, from what we heard from you, their population was not so lucky. They must have died by the millions."

"It was really creepy driving through all of their once thriving cities. Now, they are nearly void of human life and for what -- prayer in public school?"

"I do not think anyone thought through the consequences of their actions. A few individuals found a way to tap in a great spring of power. In their thirst for power, they brought down a once powerful society."

"So how does a society that rejects science, build a missile defense system?"

"That is a good question."

"Science is a method to discover our world. It must at times shake things up because a piece of evidence contradicts a former theory. However, how do you say that the evidence is wrong in one science and say it is fine in another?"

"Without interacting with them, we cannot find answers to those questions. In any event, I have been informed that you are no longer a danger. Our medicine has cured you. However, our intelligence service would like to have a few words with you. Constables, you may enter."

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The Veterinarian

Part One

By Douglas E. Gogerty

I have a very interesting job. I am a veterinarian in a very sparsely populated area of America. In fact, the animals greatly outnumber people here. So, I am kept pretty busy, and I travel almost constantly. After all, if a 2000 pound bull is sick, it is kind of difficult to get him in the truck and get him to the vets office. So, I have to make house calls.

While I have a house in Sheridan Wyoming, I am seldom there. My truck has all of the medical equipment I need, plus a bed. Sometimes my client puts me up for the night, but often I'll be off to the next stop. There are times when I spend the night in between places. It is difficult sometimes, but I meet all kinds of interesting people, and I deal with all kinds of interesting cases.

For instance, on one particular day, I helped a dog with a snake bite, and a snake with a dog bite. On another occasion, I helped get a cow down off a barn, and get a mule out of a well. Thus, on any particular call, you never know what you'll run into next.

To be honest, I do have my share of mundane days. I have spayed and neutered plenty of dogs and cats. I have dealt with plenty cantankerous animals. However, overall I love my job.

Nonetheless, with the remoteness of some of the areas, I am the only medical person some of the people see. Hence, I am called upon, on occasion, to offer some advice on the treatment of people. Mostly, if the problem seems serious enough, I recommend that they see a people doctor. However, I can treat sprains and strains if called upon to do so.

Sometimes, the interesting part of my day is the people I am asked to observe and diagnose. One particular case always comes to my mind when I think of my most interesting cases.

It was a fairly mundane day. I was checking a herd of cattle for various inflictions. This herd got a clean bill of health, and the family invited me in for dinner. I graciously accepted. After all, I was fairly close to home. With a good meal in me, I would be looking forward to sleeping in my own bed that night.

I thought that they were celebrating the health of their herd because they really put on a feast that night. It was only later that I discovered their ulterior motive. They were worried about their Uncle Ben; however, they were not worried about his physical health.

Uncle Ben was a high school math teacher in Cheyenne for many years. His kids were grown and moved out of the state. His wife died a few years ago, and he retired to a small cottage near the Wyoming/Montana border.

The family would check on him every now and again, and he seemed to be doing well on his own. However, not that long ago, they noticed a change in his behavior. Uncle Ben's family tried to get him to talk about it, but he refused. At any rate, that is what they told me.

Further, since I was in the neighborhood, they told me I could drop in to check his animals. That would give me an excuse to talk to the old man. They felt that someone with a medical background would be able to help Uncle Ben with whatever was bothering him.

While I was suspicious of the situation, I grudgingly accepted the challenge. I received directions to Uncle Ben's cabin and was off with a bag of cookies and some leftovers. I am not sure if they were for me or him, but nonetheless, I had them.

The family made it seem like Uncle Ben's place was not far. Perhaps it was not far as the crow flies, but the winding road took me far and wide. It was over an hour before I reached the turnoff to Uncle Ben's place.

As I drove up, I was greeted by a friendly mixed breed dog. Since my excuse for coming was a veterinary trip, I gave her a quick check. There were no signs of abuse. She appeared to be well fed, and she looked as if she had plenty of exercise.

I wandered around the property briefly. He had no livestock that I could see. I found no chickens, pigs, or cattle. This was not unusual for a retired person. Ranching is difficult work.

I did spot a few feral cats living in a shed. They would not let me get close to them, but this type of situation is fairly normal in many agricultural areas. They keep the rodent population in check, but require little intervention from people. While that type of situation pushes my buttons, it is the way some people think.

I decided that I would offer to spay the cats for Uncle Ben at no charge. Thus, the population of feral cats would not grow unchecked. At least, it would be a good excuse for coming along with the family recommendation.

From the looks of it, this house was probably once the ranch hands house. A wealthy ranch owner would normally live in a large main house. However, some of the hired help would live closer to the herd. This house looked just sort of structure for this purpose. Nonetheless, it was a fine place for a retired widower.

I walked onto the porch and knocked. I waited for several seconds, and knocked again. Their was no answer. I walked around the house to see if I could spot anyone inside. I did not see anyone, and I thought that was strange.

The family had told me that he rarely left the house anymore. Perhaps their fears were unfounded after all. However, I saw his car in the garage, so he did not drive anywhere. Maybe he simply went for a walk.

I looked around for a little while longer, but I did not spot him anywhere. I decided to knock once again. There was still no answer, so I decided to try the door. It was not locked.

"Hello?" I called as I cautiously walked inside the house.

I did not hear a response to my words, but I did hear some mumbling in one of the rooms towards the back of the house.

"Ben?" I asked as I slowly ventured farther into the house.

There still was no response. However, I was getting closer to sounds inside. It sounded as if Uncle Ben was having a conversation on the phone. I thought that he was on an important call, and he did not want to be interrupted. That is why he did not reply to my knocks and calls.

I continued towards the voice I heard. I found a door. Clearly, Uncle Ben was on the other side. I opened the door, and Uncle Ben was sitting their with a tinfoil pyramid hat on his head, and the walls of the room were covered in kitchen plates. Furthermore, he was alone and not on the phone.

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The Veterinarian

Part Two

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"Who are you and what are you doing in my house?" Ben asked me.

"My name is Robert Adams, I am a veterinarian," I replied.

"And that gives you the right to come into my house?"

"Ummm -- no I guess not. It was just -- er -- uh..."

"Go on, spit it out!"

"Your niece was worried, and she sent me up here to check in -- on -- your animals."

"She was worried about my animals more than me?"

"She did mention that you had been acting strangely."

"And she sent a veterinarian to check up on me?"

"I think she wanted some sort of medical person to check on you. It wouldn't be my first time diagnosing humans, and to be honest, you are wearing a tinfoil hat."

"Actually, it is aluminum foil -- what of it?"

"You know that there have been studies that have determined that such hats may act as an amplifier rather than a shield."

"Naturally, that is why I am wearing it."

"Huh?"

"If it were actually tinfoil, it would block the signal."

"Are you telling me that it was a government cover-up to switch from tin foil to aluminum foil?"

"Are you crazy? Aluminum is much more common than tin, it does not impart a taste upon the food it wraps, and it is highly recyclable. It makes complete sense to use aluminum over tin."

"I am glad to hear you say that, and Alcoa probably is too."

"So, how are my animals?" Ben asked to change the subject.

"They appear fine. Although, I am concerned about the feral cats in your barn."

"You are a vet aren't you?"

"Of course, you didn't think..."

"I didn't know what to think -- probably -- like you when you saw me sitting here."

"Do you want to explain?"

"It is kind of a long story."

"I had a good meal at your niece's place, and I was just about to head home. However, I've got time."

"Would you like some coffee?"

"Sure."

"We can take this into the kitchen," Ben said as he took off his hat.

I followed Ben into the kitchen where Ben poured us each a cup of coffee. I followed his lead and sat at the kitchen table. We both sat silent for an instant as Ben thought about where to begin.

"You're probably wondering about the hat and the plates," Ben eventually said after taking a sip of coffee.

"You could say that," I replied.

"I don't know how to begin without sounding crazy."

"That is a conundrum."

"Okay, so about three months ago, I went into the parlor there to get something. Out of nowhere, I hear this voice. It wasn't exactly a voice, but it sounded like a cry or a call. Like anyone, I just thought it was the wind or my mind playing tricks on me. I thought it was nothing, and I went on with what I was doing."

Ben took another sip of coffee, thought for a moment, and then continued.

"I did not hear the voice again, until I returned to the parlor. In fact, I became frightened of even entering the parlor for the thought of hearing the voice. I went for days avoiding the parlor, and I never heard any voices outside of the parlor.

"I searched the outside of the room for cracks and whatnot. I wanted to eliminate the wind at first. I caulked all of the cracks, and I even used a bug bomb. Thus, that would eliminate animals and insects playing tricks on me.

"As you may have guessed, the voice was not very distinct. I could not make out any words, but there was some sort of voice. I assumed it was trying to communicate with me."

"Did you think the room was haunted?" I asked.

"I never believed in ghosts, but this started to make me a believer. Thus, I went onto the internet for advice on 'exorcising' my poltergeist. In an effort to give the spirit rest, I started spending more time in the room; however, it had the opposite effect. The more time I spent in the room, the clearer the voice became. What started out to be sort of a 'hey' became more complicated. Also, the voice became more persistent and more frequent. Thus, it eventually became less of a disembodied sound and more of an actual voice."

"You do realize that all of this was happening in your head don't you?" I remarked.

"Yes. There was no physical person there, so I knew it was occurring all in my head. However, I wondered what it was and why it was only happening in the parlor. My curiosity was peeked, and therefore, I spent even more time in the parlor. What was at first a fear of the room became somewhat of an obsession."

"This is when you family first noticed you not leaving the house," I added.

"Unfortunately, that was a side-effect. I had to know what it wanted to say -- or do. Thus, I spent as much time as I could in the room. I ate in there and slept. I wanted to know what the voice had to say."

"What was that like?" I asked with great curiosity.

"It was like trying to tune in a station on a very touchy radio. Whatever it was would occasionally hit something, but would zoom right past. It was a very painstaking process and sometimes very frustrating. Primarily this was because I was not in control. Whoever had the remote would zoom right past whatever showed promise."

"So, do you think it was some sort of radio communication you were picking up?" I inquired.

"That is more of an analogy than actuality," replied Ben after taking another sip of coffee. "Our brains are complicated, and our brains give off varying brain-waves for lack of a better term. Thus, if someone was attempting to communicate with us via telepathy, they would have to tune into a particular brain pattern."

"Telepathy!" I exclaimed.

"It was the only conclusion I could make. Someone -- or something -- was studying my brain to communicate with me via telepathy. All I could do is go through a normal series of actions, and let -- whatever -- study how my particular brain operates. Thus, eventually the disembodied voice would actually be able to communicate."

"Communicate with you via telepathy?" I asked. "What is this -- some sort of science fiction story?"

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The Veterinarian

Part Three (The End)

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"What is that crack suppose to me?" Ben asked me.

"Oh! Nothing," I replied.

"Do you want to hear the story or not?"

"Yes -- please continue..."

"Because I didn't ask for your help, and I don't need your help."

"I know. I'm sorry."

"So, where was I?"

"You were explaining how the voice seemed like it was trying to tune in your brain."

"Right!" responded Ben. "It went on for weeks, and I was beginning to get the feeling that it would never happen. However, one day it was clear as a bell. The voice and I could finally communicate both ways."

"What did the voice say?"

"Patience my friend -- patience -- I'm getting to it."

"Once again, I apologize."

"Naturally, the voice is not a valid name because it occurs completely in my own brain. Hence, at first I asked fairly mundane questions. Things like 'what is your name?', 'where do you live?', and the like. Simple questions allowed my new friend to get a handle on the technology on his end."

"His?" I asked.

"While I don't know if his or her has any meaning where they are, the voice was male in my brain. Thus, I use the masculine. In any event, the name question was more difficult than either of us thought. I still don't have a handle on what his name is. It just goes to show how much culture has an effect upon names. Thus, I called him 'Hank' and he was okay with that. You may have noticed that I spoke aloud to Hank. We found it easier for him to know what I was trying to say by speaking out loud."

"Why was that?"

"Apparently, the area of the brain used for speaking is easier for their technology to reach than if you just think the words. Once the communications problems were mostly ironed out, it was time to get to the meat of the reason he was reaching out to me.

"Hank is the intelligence officer for a mostly peaceful race, who happen to be at war with a particular nasty race. One of the tactics of this warring race is to take advantage of the peaceful nature of Hank's people and attack a neutral third planet. His department discovered that they were going to use this tactic upon our planet."

"Let me get this straight," I interrupted. "There were two races at war, and one of them was going to attack us."

"Right," Ben replied. "In that way, Hank's race would have to allocate resources to help us out. This tactic would work to his enemy's advantage."

"And you believed him?"

"Of course not, but I heard him out. Their enemy has this technology that allows them to enter a planet via a wormhole type technology. They pick a latitude at random and they have to be half way between the equator and the pole. Thus, they have to enter at 45 degrees north or south at the longitude that they select. It just so happens that my parlor is exactly 45 degrees north. Further, according to Hank, it was at their selected latitude."

"So, these aliens were going to invade through some sort of hole in your parlor?" I asked with a great deal of skepticism, but I tried hard not to sound sarcastic.

"That is about how I felt. However, Hank said there was an easy way to stop them."

"The plates?" I asked.

"Yes. There is something in ceramic plates that blocks their matter transference equipment. Further, if we have our shield enabled, when they enable their transference equipment, Hank's people will be able to knock it out. Thus, we won't have anything to worry about after that."

"So, why were you wearing the aluminum foil hat?"

"The plates also block some of his communication abilities; thus, I need some sort of amplification method."

"I guess that makes sense. I do have a question though."

"What is that?"

"Was this your first psychotic episode?"

"You think I'm crazy..."

"Perhaps it is stress, or something more serious. However, you have to realize that this scenario you have just outlined is impossible."

"So, you think it all happened in my head."

"Yes. No aliens. No invasion. None of it."

"So what happens now?"

"I cannot force you into anything, and it is simply my inexperienced opinion. Perhaps there is something behind this. You should see a doctor and get a checkup. Perhaps it is some sort of toxin localized in that room."

"Your localized toxins is just as crazy."

"Yeah, I know. I was just theorizing, but there must be some logical explanation for this."

"And, you think that what I just outlined is illogical."

"Honestly I can't think of any other way to put it," I said as we walked towards the parlor.

"Do you think it is the first step towards Alzheimer's?"

"I wouldn't think of commenting on that," I said taking a plate off the wall and examining it. "You *should* see a doctor, and he or she should be able to determine what is going on."

"I guess there is no harm in that."

"What?" I asked.

"I said -- I guess there is no harm in that."

"I heard that, I mean the other thing."

"I did not say anything else."

"You clearly said something about the plate."

"That wasn't me."

"Stop with your tricks!"

"I'm telling you -- I'm not doing anything."

"If you don't cut it out," I asserted. "I'll break this plate!"

"Honestly, I'm not doing anything," insisted Ben.

"Okay! Okay! Okay!" I screamed. "I'll put it back!"

I replaced the plate, and it stopped. I looked around, and saw Ben looking at me with great concern.

"Are you all right?"

"I'm fine, and so are you."

"What?" he asked.

"It is my expert opinion that you're fine. It'll be all over soon, and we can go on with our lives. You're fine, and I'm fine."

"You now think I do *not* need to see a doctor..."

"Yes. There is nothing wrong with you. Going to a doctor will probably only make things worse."

"Very good."

"Thanks for your time -- and the coffee -- Ben," I told him. "I think I'll be heading home now."

"Thanks for checking up on -- my animals," he replied. "Come back anytime."

I have gone back to see Ben a few times. The plates are now down, and his parlor has returned to normal. Neither of us speak of the incident, we just talk about his animals. I wonder if he saved the world, or if we both had an episode. In any event, that was one of my most interesting cases -- and days.

The End

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Bulwer-Lytton Contest Inspired Story

Part One

First sentence by
Garrison Spik

The rest by
Douglas E. Gogerty

Every year San Jose State University's Department of English & Comparative Literature holds a contest "where WWW means Wretched Writers Welcome". It is a contest in "honor" of Edward George Bulwer-Lytton who was known for writing "It was a dark and stormy night" fiction.

Thus, I have taken the "winner" of this year's contest, and expounded upon it to make a complete story. Enjoy!

* * * * *

Theirs was a New York love, a checkered taxi ride burning rubber, and like the city their passion was open 24/7, steam rising from their bodies like slick streets exhaling warm, moist, white breath through manhole covers stamped "Forged by DeLaney Bros., Piscataway, N.J."

Which was quite coincidental since his name was Sam DeLaney so his last name was DeLaney, and he was from Piscataway, N.J., but he did not have anything to do with forging manhole covers; in fact, he worked like so many other hard working people in Eden Prairie, MN at one of the many retail outlets, but this one was selling sweaters to high school girls.

Mary Ellen, who with Sam DeLaney made up the couple, purchased a sweater from him with puppies on it that she thought was quite fashionable when she was in high school but that time had long passed and in reality it was never fashionable and now it was threadbare and worn because of the intervening years but it was a memento of their first meeting so she wore it often whenever they got together.

The pair were like a Burlington Northwestern Santa Fe freight train and a Metrolink train in Placentia, CA, at the intersection of Van Buren Street and Orangethorpe Avenue, near the Atwood Junction; they were bound to run into each other eventually, and they did at a convention of sweater wearers sponsored by Sam's store.

Nonetheless, not everyone was a fan of checkered taxi ride burning rubber love; however, not because she lived approximately 1,027 miles from New York City or that she was against east coast elitism, but because she was not the recipient of such love from her husband Sam DeLaney, and that woman was named Samantha DeLaney which caused all kinds of difficulties when the someone asked for Sam DeLaney on the phone.

Just like Isaac Newton's and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz's independent invention of integral calculus, Sam's and Mary Ellen's affair was bound to be discovered sooner or later, but the pair was hoping for later; however, those hopes were dashed when Sam DeLaney, Sam's wife, came home early from work on a sunny but unseasonably warm autumn afternoon in October with what could be described as a rather bad case of projectile vomiting.

Needless to say, Sam's day was going to get a great deal worse, but in actuality both Samantha's and Samuel's days were going to get worse, but Samantha's day was already going bad with the vomiting and all, where as Samuel's day was going pretty well, what with the rendezvous with his mistress, and the fact that he was not currently selling ugly sweaters to demanding teenage girls.

While the situation was quite embarrassing with the yelling and the vomiting, what made it worse for the two women was that they both had the same sweater with the puppies that they liked so much which made them realize that they had more in common than just the man in their lives, but on the other hand, it could just be that Sam the sweater salesman used the same sweater salesman technique on both women, which was clearly effective.

It was your standard love triangle, it may have been an acute, obtuse, or even a right angled triangle, but the problem is that it was not a triangle at all because there was another person involved making it a love rectangle or at the very least a love quadrangle because the definition depends on the angles, and who knows, it may have been a love pentangle or hexangle or even more people may have been involved as who can ever tell in these types of things.

Easton Leuer, which is pronounced 'lower' not in a lower and deeper voice but as in the word 'lower' such as 'lower level of the parking garage' which is where Easton worked as a parking attendant making sure the basic sports utility vehicles, like the Cadillac Escalades, were not parking in the compact spaces which happened to be a very common occurrence at this garage and was quite a parking hazard to other patrons with these big cars sticking out too far into the isles and using two spaces where the space was designed for one.

Since the early bird gets the worm, Easton believed he could get whatever he wanted because he was up earlier in the morning than just about everybody because he had to be at work before everyone else due to him working at a busy parking garage where so many parked their cars for work, but the thing that Easton never realized was that the early worm gets eaten by the bird; thus, getting what you want because you were early was not necessarily a good thing which perfectly exemplifies his relationship with Mary Ellen.

Easton and Mary Ellen's love was like an invisible six foot white rabbit named Harvey who could only be seen by one person and that person would have to be Easton because Mary Ellen had know idea who Easton was let alone that he had any type of crush upon her, but he was under the impression that they had a very serious relationship from her daily parkings in his garage despite the fact that they had never spoken.

With all of the players set up like characters in a bad detective story where everyone has a motive to kill everyone else, but not all of the motives have been expounded to the audience and not all of the details have been given but nonetheless, the audience is expected to guess the outcome of the whodunit even though no one has actually done anything wrong at this point in the story.

Nevertheless, when a headless women, who was wearing an ugly but remarkably very worn sweater with puppies on it, was found in the Mississippi river occupying a 1978 two-tone brown Chevrolet Chevette with expired New Jersey plates, authorities believed that foul play was involved, but the first order of business was to determine who the occupant of this classic vehicle was and why she was attempting to drive in the Mississippi river.

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Bulwer-Lytton Contest Inspired Story

Part Two

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Finding the identity of a headless corpse is like finding a particular blue fin tuna that was caught the day before but was released because it had this scary gash in its side, but your engagement ring was lost and perhaps this tuna got a hold of it and you need to get it back; fortunately, this was not going to be like this because she had her driver's license with her.

It is really hard to match a driver's license photo with a person without a head, but with a record of height and weight and home address there was a place to begin for getting a proper identification of the person although she probably lied about her weight and perhaps even her height because that is what people do, but without the head perhaps they were in the ballpark on the weight.

After a few days of investigation, they were sure it was Mary Ellen since she missed a few days of work, she did not show up at her apartment ,and the fact that her parents positively identified her from a scar on her left side she got as a teenager backing into their 1976 Sea-Island Green Mercury Comet's car door which was slightly rusty, and she had to get a tetanus shot, so they went to a fancy sweater boutique and got her a nice sweater with puppies on it.

Like putting together a Great American Puzzle Factory 550 piece jigsaw puzzle of dogs playing with a football under autumn leaves, the police investigators were beginning to get the picture as to what happened to Mary Ellen, who was the girl who liked a sweater with puppies upon it which was quite ugly in the opinion of all of the police personnel who saw it.

Like in the 15th century when there was an unknown continent between Europe and Asia and some person convinced the Queen of Spain to provide provisions to sail west to get to the east and finds North America which was named after a map maker rather than this Italian sailor, the affair between Sam and Mary Ellen was bound to be discovered by the authorities.

The good cop / bad cop interrogation technique, where one cop acts all friendly with the suspect and the other acts mean, is an effective method for finding out information on criminal suspects but was completely ineffectual on Sam DeLaney because he was so frightened and distraught that all he did was wail like a spoiled child whose parents have decided to not give into the tantrums so the child gets increasingly louder until the parents give in.

The police investigators had more luck with Mrs. Sam DeLaney as she went on and on like the same spoiled child explaining the proper tantrum technique to the kids on the playground and how it worked the time a highly sought after "Tickle-Me Elmo" was obtained, and fortunately for her she had an alibi at the time of the crime because she was at the emergency room of the local hospital with what could be called a bad case of projectile vomiting.

From interviewing some of the individuals Mary Ellen's work, the police discovered the relationship between Easton Leuer and Mary Ellen, and when they went to his place to ask him a few questions, they discovered the shrine of Mary Ellen in one corner of his room where he hung photos taken with his Nikon D-60 digital SLR camera with autofocus 75-300mm zoom lens and printed on his HP Color LaserJet CP1215 and placed in frames purchased at Walmart for $1.99 plus tax.

Like a Parmigiani Fleurier Kalpagraph with a palladium dial, an 18k pink gold face, oblong watch buttons, and a black alligator band with tongue buckle, the case was ticking along very nicely as they already had three suspects and eliminated one who, as the hospital stated, had a very bad case of projectile vomiting, but the other two had motive and opportunity to do the deed but they wanted to follow up on the 1978 Chevrolet Chevette that she was found in.

Following this particular lead was like driving the 1978 two-tone brown Chevrolet Chevette in question on Lombard Street in San Fransisco with the twists, turns and the bumps in the road which became quite a fascinating journey that led to a certain crime family in New Jersey that for reasons of an on-going federal investigation will not be mentioned here.

The Chevette was formerly registered to a William DeLaney Jr. who, with his brother Lester, run a company that forges manhole covers in Piskataway New Jersey, but he had reported the car stolen several years previously and it was a shame because he wanted to give it to his son on his 16th birthday but instead gave him a used slightly rusty 1976 sea-island green Mercury Comet.

When the classic Chevy Chevette was stolen it had 25,672 miles on the odometer and since it only had 5 digits William DeLaney Jr. explained that it had 125,672 miles on the car and since it had 27,411 miles on the odometer at the time it was retrieved from the river it was either driven 1,739 miles or 101,739 miles in the intervening years; thus, the police concluded that the car was driven to Minnesota and parked for when it was needed.

The long term storage led the police to the previously mentioned crime family and also to Mary Ellen's considerable gambling debts which were aggravated when she placed a large bet on the 13 point favored Minnesota Viking against winless Detroit Lions and while the Vikings managed to win, they only won by 2 points and Mary Ellen was unable to come up with the money she owed the said crime family.

With more investigation, both Sam DeLaney and stalker Easton Leuer were cleared from the murder investigation of Mary Ellen as Orlando "The Flamingo" Jackson confessed to the crime as a part of a greater on going federal investigation in exchange for entering the federal witness protection program and testimony against other members of the flamboyant crime family.

* * * * *
The End

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Blog Against Theocracy Logo Freedom First and others have initiated the Third annual "Blog Against Theocracy" event. I am interupting The Adventures of Gaius Cornelius Ferrarius this week to participate in this blogswarm. I hope the story I wrote is very fitting for this weekend's event. For more information on other blogs participating click on the logo to the right. Thanks and enjoy! (As always, comments welcome!)






The Trespassers Are No More

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Neocleveland, NO - USA.
By Sami deQuocson
10 Quad, 1666 

After centuries of fighting, the enemies of the Theocratic States have finally been defeated. According to government officials the last of the "Trespassers" have been caught. The official cleansing should occur as part of the Easter celebration activities planned. The theocratic government will now concentrate on other internal enemies of the state.

Before the Theocratic government overthrew the democratically elected government, the Trespassers supported the efforts of the theocrats. In fact, they were a powerful force that helped push a change in the former constitution which mandated prayer in the public school system.

After this victory, the two groups continued their alliance as they increased their pressure in other educational areas. However, tensions arose in the teaching of biological sciences. A compromise was reached, but the rift had begun.

When the theocrats eventually overthrew the government, the disagreements widened. Further, the party in power refused to compromise on anything. They believed that God had placed them in a position of power to spread his word. There were to be no doubts about what His words were. Thus, there would be no compromises on anything.

Hence, shortly after the theocrats established their government, the number of disagreements continued to develop. Tensions grew. Eventually these differences erupted into outright hostilities. The internal war had begun.

The Trespassers allied themselves with diverse groups inside and outside the country. The external alliances led to the establishment of great restrictions in travel and communication outside of the country. This had the natural side-effect of the building of the 50 foot border walls. The theocrats did not want any interference from outside forces.

The theocracy completely isolated itself from the remainder of the world. Further, the internal rift over the teaching of biological sciences had a disastrous effect. The teaching of what the theocrats called "Darwinism" was strictly forbidden. In this way, evolution -- the underlying principle of all of the biological sciences -- was off limits.

This restriction devastated all of the biological related fields, which included medicine. Doctors were unable to get the training required to be prepared for any unforeseen circumstances. The theocrats told the medical community to trust in God's will.

Naturally, when a "plague" swept through the country killing more than a third of the population, they called it the will of God. However, this event breathed light into the Trespassers as they allied themselves with the Cult of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

The theocrats had several laws relating to religious practice. Thus, the non-believers that wished to remain in the country where they were born were forced to establish a religion. Thus, they established The Cult of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was a relatively small gathering of scientifically minded residents of the Theocratic States.

Since the cult retained its scientific heritage, they managed to remain completely untouched by the disease that killed vast numbers of the theocrats. The Trespassers noticed this fact, and sought aid from them. With help of the cult, the Trespasser's numbers stabilized. They had a brief resurgence. However, it was a short lived reprieve from their eventual destruction.

The theocrats saw the alliance of their two greatest foes as the work of Satan. Furthermore, they asserted that the plague was created by the cult. Hence, they increased their pressure for the destruction of the two groups. While the Cult of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was small, they were quite powerful. They continued to advance in many areas while the rest of the country was caught in stagnation. Thus, they have been decidedly difficult to destroy.

However, the Trespassers shared many of the theocratic tendencies. They continued to educate their children in the backwards theocratic schools. Thus, many of the sciences were completely ignored, or greatly hampered. The reason for this is because these religious groups believed that reason was the greatest enemy that faith has. Therefore, the Trespassers were easier targets for the theocrats and their vast numbers.

After all of the battles and conflicts, the Trespasser's numbers dwindled. While it is not truly known if Western Chever, Jr. is actually the last of the Trespassers, it is the claim of the government officials of the Theocratic States. Thus, we will allow them their celebration. In their traditional Easter celebration, Mr. Chever will be crucified on Good Friday.

With his elimination there will no longer be anyone who says, "...and forgive our trespassers as we forgive those who trespass against us." The passage that gave the group its name. There has been much rejoicing over the end of this dangerous splinter group.

The battle with the "Cult of the Flying Spaghetti Monster" will continue. However, this cult has shown little interest in battling the numerically superior theocrats. Perhaps this will change with the government now being able to concentrate on the scientifically minded cult.

In fact, there has not been a reported death of a cult member at the hands of the government in decades. With a greater concentrated effort, perhaps we shall see if religion can defeat science.

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Ralph the Mutant

Part One

By Douglas E. Gogerty

My name is Ralph Horatio Logan IV, and I am a mutant. Now, I do not shoot laser beams from my eyes, or have long claws shoot out of my wrists. I cannot even summon giant killer squids from outer space. Nonetheless I am a mutant, and I am saving the human race. I guess I should start at the beginning.

I was born in Cincinnati Ohio to Jennifer and Ralph H. Logan III. (Imagine that!) I am the oldest of three, but I am the only one still living. My siblings died as a result of the event. Because I am a mutant, I survived. That is the nature of being a mutant I guess.

Prior to this event, I led a pretty average life. For most of my life, no one knew I was a mutant. In fact, I did not even know. It is probably because we are all mutants in one form or another. It is just that most of our mutations do not provide a big advantage over everyone else.

For instance, suppose you had a mutation that made you extra immune to the influenza virus. In normal circumstances, this is not going to give you a big advantage over everyone else. It is just going to save you from suffering from the flu. However, ordinarily no one will notice that you have this mutation, and they will not consider you a mutant. On the other hand, if it does give you a big advantage, then that is a different story.

I guess I am saying that if you have a big advantage over others, you can claim that you are a mutant. Otherwise, your mutations are just run of the mill things. They do not give you any noticeable advantages; hence, you are not a mutant like me.

As you may have guessed, the biggest problem I had to overcome in childhood was my name. It is difficult to go around with such a name. It is a family name as you may have noticed. Many people in my situation go by their middle names. This prevents confusion when father and son have the same name. However, Horatio is worse than Ralph. Also, R.H. does not exactly roll off the tongue. Thus, for a majority of my life I went by Four. It is not a great nickname, but it beats the alternatives.

In any event, my childhood was pretty uneventful. So were my junior high days. That is, apart from people making fun of my name. Come to think of it, high school was pretty quiet. I guess so was college, and the time I moved back in with my folks after that. To be honest, my entire life until that day was mostly uneventful.

That is not to say that things did not happen. Once, I saw a guy lying on the side of the road. From what I could make out, he was biking along and he did not see a bar poking out from a parked dump truck. He was not wearing a helmet, and he hit his head and crashed. Wear your helmet kids! He was on the ground when I walked up, and I called 911. Maybe I saved his life. Probably not, but it could be true. Isn't that you want from a superhero tale?

Anyway, like many superheros in comic books, I struggled with regular life. For most of my life, I had to deal with the mundane. I was just like everyone else. I was just waiting for the moment when I could shine. I was waiting for my powers to become evident. I was living my ordinary life until my time in the sun -- so to speak.

Thus, I had a regular, ordinary, boring life for quite a long time. Sometimes, I miss it. Anyway, I went from a fairly unremarkable child into a fairly unremarkable adult. I was a pudgy, balding adult. Alright, that still describes me. No one would have thought that I would be partially responsible for saving the human race. Actually, if you pointed at me and said that I would have to save the world, many people would collapse in despair. Nevertheless, it is true.

After the uneventful events of my early life, the world changed. We can point to the day that it all changed, but it really had been building for quite some time. It was just on one day when the big change occurred. Everything before that day is often referred to as the before time.

Up until the event, people living in the United States worried about nuclear proliferation in other parts of the world. Specifically, they worried about nuclear weapons falling into the hands of religious extremists abroad. There had been attacks on U.S. interests, and many worried about these escalating. These concerns were well founded. There were a great deal of changes to our way of life to prevent these forces from ruining the American way. No one would have suspected what actually happened.

We were winding down a pretty awful year. The economy was terrible. Unemployment was high. There were abandoned houses all over major cities. Everyone was struggling making a living. It was another year of a tough economy.

Despite all that, we had a very popular president. While some called him the anti-Christ, most people laughed this off. It was just unbalanced people blowing off steam. There were some media outlets proclaiming it as a valid point of view, but most thought they were completely harmless. This kind of talk was becoming common for political rivalries.

While the economy was still struggling, it promised to be a Christmas season like all of the rest. It might have been a bit slow, but still of the season. There was the usual talk of the War on Christmas. However, it was completely in the imaginations of a some conservative crazies. You know, the same group that believed the president was the anti-Christ. At least, a majority of Americans did not give any of that talk any serious consideration. In our wildest dreams we would have never thought that there was a group who took this quite seriously. We all thought it was just a way of the talking heads to build ratings. However, it turns out that they were actually feeding a fire.

For several years, there was talk that we were living in the end of times. There were lots of people waiting for the second coming, and they believed the rapture would occur at any moment. Who would have guessed that they would become tired of waiting? No one thought they would actually attempt to bring forth Armageddon. Nevertheless, this is exactly what they did.

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Ralph the Mutant

Part Two

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Wow, would it be cool to shoot lasers from my eyes. Now that is the kind of mutant that I would want to be. Not that my mutation has not had its advantages. I have met thousands of fantastic people all across the globe. However, there is lots of travel involved. London for a month, and then Shanghai for another month. The mutants from the comics always seemed to stay home most of the time. On the other hand, Gotham City no longer exists, so I guess there is that. In any case, I should get back to the story.

It had been a mild winter. There had not been too much inclement weather around the country. Snowfall had been way down. Apparently, this was a sign of the second coming and had nothing to do with Global Warming. Since it was the holidays, I was flying home to Cincinnati to see my family. I did not give one thought about the two hour layover in Minneapolis. It was in the midst of a long drought there -- again a sign of the apocalypse.

I thought it was my bad luck when we approached the Twin Cities. As we landed at the Minneapolis/Saint Paul International Airport, it was in the midst of a terrible storm. According to locals, it gave the Halloween Storm of 1991 a run for its money. Visibility made the landing difficult, but taking off was out of the question. There was no flying out of there.

To make matters worse, all the interstates coming into and out of the Minneapolis area were closed. If you could get a car, it would be tough traveling anywhere. Not that it mattered because there were no rental cars to be had. Hence, my fellow airline passengers and I were stranded at the Lindbergh terminal on Christmas eve. The storm was getting worse, so the prospects of leaving the airport before New Years Day looked mighty weak.

With my fellow strandees, I found a spot on the floor to stretch out. I intended to get some sleep before the next day's attempt to get home. However, little sleep was to be had. Someone had turned on the news in an effort to see when the storm would subside. This was a mistake. Horrible news was broadcast, and it had nothing to do with the weather. It was even worse than being trapped in the airport on Christmas eve away from family and friends.

The early reports were sketchy. That was because no one close to the incidents had survived. It was only reported that huge mushroom clouds were seen over Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago. There had been no word from anyone in these cities. All communications were out. No one was sure if it was because of the electro-magnetic pulse from the blasts, which would have disabled all electronic devices, or if it was because everyone was dead.

All of the stranded travelers and I became glued to the television monitors to watch the news for developments. All through the night we watched and waited. Naturally, rumors and accusations were abundant and reported; however, evidence was in short supply. Sadly, these detonations killed millions instantly. Further, we watched as the nuclear fallout effected areas hundreds of miles from ground zero. The weather pattern that kept us from spending Christmas with our family's, drove the blast towards those very homes.

Our families were at risk as the winds brought horrible death to people far away from the targeted cities. Cities within a 300 mile radius of the targeted cities were cordoned off. If we could have left, we would not have been able to go home to Ohio. In any event, we were forbidden to leave the airport for many days following the incident. We watched as city after city was abandoned. Further, with all the upheaval, the communication systems were offline. Our only news was from the television. We could not speak with relatives in affected areas. Thus, we did not know what had happened to our families.

Chaos was the state of affairs for months. Everyone looked for the perpetrators and found them behind every corner. The talk radio personalities, those that survived, continued to feed the fire of hate and suspicion. Riots broke out in places everywhere. Everyone tried to bring vengeance upon the perpetrators.

When it was discovered that American Christian fundamentalist were responsible, everyone was dumbfounded. It was unfathomable that these individuals would escalate from killing the symbols of their unrest, such as abortion doctors and other religious authority figures, to destroying millions of innocent civilians including some that agreed with their position. Further, these extremist did not figure on the events that occurred afterwards.

Many of the plotters lived well away from the targeted cities. However, they believed that vengeance was taken out on the offending cities and that their homes would be spared. Nonetheless, the radioactive fallout continued to spread. The weather took the radioactivity all over the globe. Livestock began dieing in every part of the world. Innocent people everywhere lost their livelihood and their food. Starvation became common everywhere. Hundreds of millions began dieing from the aftermath of the blast from hunger as well as radiation poisoning. If starvation did not kill you, then cancer did.

Then there was the killer flu pandemic. Hundreds of millions more died from that. There simply was no way to prevent its outbreak. Authorities were busy dealing with one situation when the next one came along. It almost became a joke as to what would happen next. Those that expected to disappear with the rapture were shocked to find that they too were left behind. They suffered with the rest of us.

So, there we were spending weeks trapped in the airport. We heard about all the horrors going on outside, but could do little about them. The storm had left three feet of snow on the ground. Nonetheless, with all that was happening, no one bothered clearing the roads. It was not business as usual. Further, the uncertainty made us all afraid to leave the airport. Hence, most of us passengers were in some sort of unintentional quarantine.

However, there was only a limited amount of food. Thus, occasionally someone would leave for supplies. Gradually, we had more exposure to the outside world. Our quarantine was short lived. Our happy little airport family was slowly dipping its collective feet in the waters of the new situation.

The airport worker who brought the flu to us was not a welcome person. Did I mention that I had an unusually strong resistance to the influenza virus? Nearly half of my fellow passengers succumbed to the flu. Before I was sitting and watching the news, suddenly I was tending to the ill. I watched people I had befriended in the intervening weeks die in front of me. Me, I never showed a single symptom. My mutancy was slowly becoming apparent. I had to save the world, but how would I do that?

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Ralph the Mutant

Part Three (The Conclusion)

By Douglas E. Gogerty

No one knows how they obtained the nuclear weapons. There was plenty of speculation. It is not unheard of that there were entities sympathetic in high governmental positions. Some of these could have access to the material. Who these sympathizers were and how they got the fissionable material out will likely never be known. What is known is that the perpetrators did not expect the results of their actions.

They certainly expected millions to die in the blast. However, I am sure they did not expect the world-wide devastation that they caused. They did not expect billions to die of starvation. They did not expect the following nuclear winter. They did not expect the flu to be such an effective killer. Most of all, they did not expect to be around to witness the misery and suffering they caused.

While the source of the nuclear material will never be known, the perpetrators did come forward. They made an appearance on the show of one of the conservative radio hosts. After that, many people wanted them killed. However, it was almost universally accepted that they would suffer much more if they had to live with the devastation they caused. Nonetheless, they did not live much longer.

Their high tenet of forgiveness was given to them. Although many did not really forgive them, they just thought they would suffer more if they could see what they had done. The thirteen Christians that killed billions were free to live out their lives how ever they saw fit. They could not take it, and to a person they committed suicide.

They all killed themselves when the biggest thing they did not expect was finally revealed. A year after the event, there was only one birth. I am sure there were plenty of people trying, but only one woman successfully gave birth to a healthy baby boy. There were lots of stillborn children. There were lots of babies that were horribly deformed. There was only one baby who was normal. Only one child that survived for long.

With the radioactivity,the high fevers due to the flu, and all of the other stuff, it was discovered that the surviving men were sterile. Every man who came in for a test, was found to be incapable of having a child. The population of the world went from about seven billion people to less than one billion, but it was going to get a lot smaller. If a species cannot conceive offspring, it is doomed.

Hence, a search for the father of this healthy boy began. Travel during the nine months prior to the birth was difficult; thus, geographically it would be relatively easy to eliminate lots of men. However, there were still lots of men in that particular area. Further, that man may have succumb to one of the many causes of death during that period.

Thus, the search was no easy task. The mother did not always get a name or any other information from many of the men she got close to. It was just one of those things. Fear and uncertainty can make you do things that you would not normally do. Thus, sometimes you seek comfort in the arms of others.

Nevertheless, the search became a worldwide phenomenon. The reporting apparatus that was still in place, gave daily updates on the results of the search. It was as if the entire world stopped to see who the father of the child was.

Weeks went by as the search for the man who could still father children continued. Man after man stepped forward to take the simple DNA test. A call to every man in the city went out. As the interest grew, they wanted results fast. The mother definitely did not have sex with every man in the city, but it is obscure enough that anyone who had been with a stranger eight to ten months previously was asked to come in.

The world watched as test after test was given. Thousands of men stopped in to get their cheek swabbed. Whoever was the father would be an instant celebrity. Who was this mystery man? Who was this -- uh -- mutant?

So, I lived in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul International airport for months. Everyone lived in fear, and we did not know if we were ever going to get out of there. When the killer influenza finally made it to the airport, people started coming and going. The large complex became a makeshift hospital. There was space to tend to those ill with the flu, and most of its infrastructure was still intact. Hence, people would bring friends and loved ones to the airport. While they were there, they would seek comfort with other people doing the same thing. Any encounter would make them feel better, and then they would move on.

I know I make it sound like this type of thing occurred regularly. While it did, I was not involved in that many such couplings. Being mostly immune to the ever changing killer flu, I tended to lots of sick people. I was exhausted most of the time after long days of helping sooth the suffering of those people.

Not to mention that few sought comfort in a pudgy, balding middle-aged man. Mostly, I was looked upon as more of a father figure. Things rarely escalated to -- well -- that type of thing. That is why I did not step forward sooner. I did not think there was any way that it was me.

When my DNA was finally tested, it showed that I was the baby's father. An international day of celebration was held shortly afterward. The human race was not doomed to perpetuate the species by artificial means alone. I was celebrated all over the world.

Now, this mutant travels all over the world to father children. I have lost track to the number of children that I have fathered. However, I have been at it so long that my first child -- that boy -- has started fathering children too. The human race should be able to survive now. They should survive all thanks to me -- Ralph the mutant. I saved the world!

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Blog Against Theocracy Logo

Freedom First and others have initiated the Fourth annual "Blog Against Theocracy" event. I am interupting Reunited... this week to participate in this blogswarm. I hope the story I wrote is very fitting for this weekend's event. For more information on other blogs participating click on the logo to the right. Thanks and enjoy! (As always, comments welcome!)




The Tale of the Puritan

By Douglas E. Gogerty

With the efforts of Dr. Daniel C. Hever and his team, several groups learned how to revive long dead individuals. Of course, there were some caveats. The bodies had to be mostly intact. That is, the process would not work on decapitated individuals. Further, there was an issue of shock. If the last thing they remember is bursting into flames, they generally could not take the shock of being revived. These individuals would immediately go into cardiac arrest, and revert to their dead state.

The revival of individuals from historic periods shed light on many events of the past. Sadly, badly decomposed specimens could only be cloned, and these individuals would not retain the memories of the original. Hence, this technique was most useful in learning about more northern cultures where the propensity for freezing was much higher. If the Egyptians did not remove the organs of their dead, ancient mummies could have also been revived. Removing the brain through the nose caused catastrophic damage to the organ. Again, mostly northern peoples benefited from this revival technique.

Roger Chillingworth was a Puritan from the 17th Century England. He briefly settled in the Netherlands, but then took his family aboard a Dutch colony ship headed for the Americas. Sadly for him, but fortunately for others he never made it to the New World. His body was discovered centuries later when the permafrost of Greenland, where he had been entombed, had significantly melted.

The team of scientists followed the Hever Protocol in their revival. Mr. Chillingworth was revived in a nondescript room to allow him to acclimatize to his new environment. All attempts were made to make him believe that he had fallen asleep, and the team simply awakened him a short time later.

The following is a transcript between Mr. Ghillingworth and the noted antropological researcher Dr. David R. MacDonald:

"Good Morning Mr. Chillingworth."

"Prithee, where am I?"

"You are in a New England hospital."

"Egads! Oh! pardon me."

"It is quite all right. What do you remember?"

"A great lot of Spanish Pirates!"

"Yes the La Cazadora."

"If thine purpose to tell me it is true, I will not doubt."

"What do you remember about them?"

"Yon brigands set me a-sail."

"In the boat we found you in..."

"Again, I will not doubt."

"What else do you remember?"

"Thine speach is strange... May I ask who thine art?"

"I am Doctor David MacDonald."

"A Scot of Irish decent - no doubt? I will converse no longer."

"I beg your pardon?"

"Thee have beliefs that I find distasteful. Now, if you please take myself to me wife."

"How do you know what my beliefs are?"

"You deny not that thou art a Scot. Thus, thou must follow liberal Anglican beliefs. None of our people were Scottish. Alternatively, thou could be of Catholic persuasion -- a far lesser belief. Now, if you please...."

"How can you be sure?"

"Prithee ask such questions?"

"If your assertions were true, we would still both be Christians. Thus, our beliefs would not be that different."

"Avast man! Catholics are the lowest form of life -- as that Spanish band of brigands demonstrated by sending me adrift. And Anglicans are scarcely better."

"Your sect is not part of the Church of England?"

"Where hath thou been living?"

"Could you please tell me more about your journey?"

"Egads! Paardon me again. Very well... I verily owe you since thou didth save me."

"Please."

"Thine humble servant left yon barbarity in Amsterdam to find religious freedom in the New World. Great freedoms were promised, as it was a new land. Mine family had felt great oppression from the heathens whom I discussed previously. The new world promised to keep the government and religion separate."

"Pardon?"

"Those Anglican governmental leaders oppressed mine people of faith; hence, our people believe and have always believed that government must be kept separate for those with superior or differing belief systems. Simply put, government cannot be trusted to keep the faith. The twain serve different masters and thus must remain separate."

"But America was founded as a Christian Nation...."

"I know not of this America with which thine have spoken. Nonetheless, when a group of mine people settled at Plymouth Rock they wanted to make sure that Government would not pollute religion and the converse. They wished to escape persecution for our non-mainstream yet more pious beliefs. The only way to accomplish this was to keep everything separate. It is the only way!"

"But what about non-believers -- they do not count right? As long as it is Christian it is okay right?"

"Scotsman you are an odd one. I could not be more plainspoken for thee. In order to ensure that everyone with a belief -- or non-belief -- does not encounter persectution the government must remain free from religious entanglements."

"What about ..."

"Silence! Does thine not have ears? Perhaps your Scottish nature makes you thicker than most. Let me illustrate. Suppose a leader -- perhaps a king or maybe some sort of elected official -- hath some belief -- whether mainstream or not. It can be any belief. Now, those men holding that belief are with the governmental leader. Hence, they can impose said belief on thine that do not hold it, as our people have endured. In this way, persecution for groups that have different beliefs is inevitable. This situation is exactly why we left for the New World."

"So..."

"Unless everyone has exactly the same belief, religion and government are best separated."

"What if where you are now has a theocratic government?"

"Then place me in mine boat, I will put my fate in divine hands."

"You, a religious man, would rather die..."

"Than live under religioius rule? That is unequivocally true."

"Even if it is a Christian Theocracy?"

"As mine people did in England? Thou art thick!"

"So, if I took you in front of a group of people, you would not praise a Christian Nation's Government."

"I cannot be more plain, and thou still have not heard. My people came to this New World to escape religious persecution -- not to inflict it. I do not know what kind of Christianity your people practice -- clearly not a very pious one from what I hear from thou. I grow weary of repeating that religion and government must remain separate. Lest not speak of government again. Taketh me to mine family if thou please."

"I thought for sure you would be on my side on this."

"Studieth thine history closely. No good hath ever come from a mix of religion and government."

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Wil Wheaton and Scalzi of Johnstown

In

The Cursed Clown Sweater of Constitution

By Douglas E. Gogerty

John Scalzi and Wil Wheaton organized a Fan Fiction Contest to Benefit the Lupus Alliance of America. The target of this contest was to create a story which would describie the picture below. Naturally, I took part, and this is that story. Enjoy!

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess who lived in the great kingdom of Maplevania. In this kingdom, there was a long-standing tradition of naming the first daughter after a great-grandmother of the parent's choosing. Sadly, because of the great plague of 4211, most of the first-born daughters had only two names to choose from -- Hortense and Dorcas. Thus, Princess Hortense was the loveliest child ever to carry that name.

In fact, Princess Hortense was, by far, the most lovely creature to ever inhabit the kingdom. Men (and even a few women) came from far and wide to court the lovely young lady. However, before the king could choose a suitable mate for his daughter, she was kidnapped. This was not an unusual occurrence in Maplevania as most citizens obtained their spouses through some form of capture. In fact, the beastly orc Scalzi of Johnstown obtained his lovely wife in this manner. We will get to him a little later.

The unusual circumstance around Princess Hortense was that the king actually sought to get his daughter back. He went so far as to offer a reward -- a cash reward. Furthermore, there were no aristocratic restrictions. Hence, any young adventurer who wished to take on the quest was allowed. He (or she) did not need to be member of the aristocracy.

Further, the possibility of marrying the most beautiful young woman was not out of the question; however, most likely just eternal gratitude from the saved princess was all that could be promised. However, just getting the attention of the most beautiful woman in the kingdom was not enough for most.

For months, there were no takers in the quest to bring back the princess. However, one day a bard and his company were entertaining at the castle. This particular bard spied crude paintings of the princess done by school age children. He was immediately smitten. When he heard of her plight, he decided to see if he could save her from the clutches of whatever villain.

After questioning the staff, one name kept arising. Nearly everyone in the castle believed that the great wizard Douglas abducted Princess Hortense. This wizard was once in the employ of the king. However, a few years ago they had a falling out.

Recently, some objects of this much-maligned wizard were discovered in the castle, and the king demanded that he come and retrieve them. Thus, he was in the castle at the time of the abduction. The wizard Douglas was the most likely suspect.

However, the wizard lived outside the kingdom in the land of Doomville. It was a dreadful place. The surrounding mountains would frequently erupt into massive lava flows. It was a dark and menacing place. It was just the kind of place evil wizards like to call home.

Thus, our heroic bard, Wil of Wheaton, decided to depart for the tower of the great wizard Douglas. However, it was a going to be a long journey and the bard decided he would obtain a party of adventurers. His fellow bards, Paul and Storm, volunteered to join him. However, Wil declined their invitation. After all, a party of bards was surly doomed to failure. Having a bard at all on an adventure was bad enough. The young bard needed adventurers. People with skills.

The only problem with gathering a group of individuals with skills was most of those with actual skills had jobs. Even if they did not have employment, they were generally intelligent enough not to go to a place called Doomville. At the very least, anyone willing to go on such a dangerous journey wanted to get paid. Money was not something a bard had in great abundance. Wil of Wheaton attempted to use his charm and charisma, but he rolled miserably. Thus, after a lengthy search of Maplevania, he only managed to get Savage Adam in his group.

While Savage Adam was a powerful wizard in his own right, no one believed that the two of them would be enough to take on the forces deployed from Doomville. However, no one else from the town would join them. Without being able to convince anyone else to join them, the small party began the arduous journey to Doomville. The pair hoped to pick up some additional adventurers on the way.

The two ended up in Johnstown. While this small village is kind of between Maplevania and Doomville, it is well out of the way. The only reason the two men went there was their propensity for getting distracted by shiny things and cool things they could blow up. They ended up leaving the main road and getting lost.

The pair should have stuck to the main road. Just about anything an adventuring party would need could be found along that route. After all, the only thing Wil of Wheaton had with him was a staff. His armor consisted of a pair of blue shorts and a witty t-shirt. Savage Adam needed very little. After all, he could use a couple of sticks, some dirt, a few choice plants, and some spit to make an impressive explosion. Nonetheless, if trouble arose, they could find themselves in great distress.

As they entered the village, they were confronted by the orc Scalzi of Johnstown. Now, Scalzi was once a kind and gentle creature (for an orc anyway.) However, when his wife and child disappeared, he had grown quite cantankerous. This was the wife we alluded to earlier. The great orc had no hope of doing any better than her. Thus, he was gruff to anyone who stumbled into Johnstown.

Having eaten all of the residents of Johnstown, Scalzi the Orc was not someone a Bard and Wizard should take on alone. This was particularly true with how Wil was equipped. However, what were they to do? They had not been able to recruit any additional people.

Savage Adam made some things explode. This distracted Scalzi enough for Wil to break out his secret weapon. Well, his secret weapon was telling the story about the time he worked with the world-renowned actor Sir Patrick of Stewart. He explained that at the time they worked together he had a fancier cart than Sir Patrick. The story had the desired effect of confusing Scalzi further. In his confusion, a falcon flying overhead also distracted Savage Adam. Hence, the adventuring party inflicted no damage to Scalzi.

Thus, Scalzi could have taken his axe of smiting and chopped the two adventurers into little pieces. Instead, the mighty fighter decided to join the sad duo in their adventure. The distracting tactics would work well to give Scalzi an opportunity to chop whatever they were confronting into little pieces. This, the orc thought, would make the trip a bunch of fun. After all, to an orc, Doomville sounds like the place to be.

Before they would go any further, Scalzi believed that Wil should have better equipment. Thus, Wil obtained a spear of stabbing from Scalzi who obtained it from some adventurer he had eaten. Sadly, there was no decent armor to be had. However, Scalzi knew of a stash of arcane magic items that could be obtained not far from Johnstown.

The party entered the strange and mystical town of Minneapple. However, they did not have any money to purchase items. As any bard would do in this situation, a show was organized. It was scheduled to last for 3 hours, but so much fun was had that, it lasted for five. Even Scalzi performed. After the show was finished, they had managed to raise three copper pieces.

However, a longtime fan of Wil's gave him a present (in exchange for his witty t-shirt.) The fan gave strict instructions that the present was not to be opened inside the town's borders. If it were, it would inflict a curse upon the recipient. The fan did ensure Wil that the item would protect him with its magical properties. Needless to say, Wil wanted to open the present immediately. He did not want to wait.

In his way was Savage Adam. His bloody nose notwithstanding, Adam did not wish to leave. The wizard fell in love with the town. This put great strain on Wil, who could not stand the suspense of the unopened gift. Adam could not be moved. The pair argued, but Adam refused to budge. Wil begged and pleaded to no avail.

Wil explained that they would not make it over the mountains without Adam's help. Thus, Adam conjured up a mount for the pair. It was supposed to be a pegasus for them to ride above the clouds. However, a last minute distraction altered the spell. Thus, Savage Adam conjured up a unicorn pegasus kitten as their mount.

Wil of Wheaton and Scalzi of Johnstown bid a fond farewell to Savage Adam as the flew off on their unicorn pegasus kitten towards Doomville. Wil was once again unable to procure more help, even for three copper pieces.

The flight over the mountains to Doomville was uneventful. The pair of adventurers landed just outside of the city limits. Scalzi immediately dismounted the mighty steed. However, Wil remained on the unicorn pegasus kitten, and there Wil opened up his gift. To his surprise, it was the Cursed Clown Sweater of Constitution. It was such a thoughtful gift, that Wil immediately put it on.

Immediately, Scalzi noticed a change in Wil. It was as if the affable Wil had become an evil twin. With the beard, no one could notice if a goatee had magically appeared on Wil's face. Suddenly, Wil wanted the princess all to himself. He would let nothing stand in his way -- not even his orc friend. The two began arguing. This quickly escalated into actual combat. Immediately, Scalzi knew that Wil had opened the present early, and received the curse of the garment. However, the only thing he could do was fight the enraged bard who was wearing the clown sweater and riding the unicorn pegasus kitten.

Meanwhile, Princess Hortense and the great wizard Douglas held a quiet civil marriage ceremony at the Doomville city hall. The reception was held at the Doomville Ski Resort and Lodge, which had a great view of the surrounding erupting mountains. This event will be remembered forever afterwards for the spectacle of the orc and bard fighting. In fact, Douglas and Hortense commissioned a painting of the fight. It now hangs in a place of honor in the happy couple's tower. No one knows what happened to the combatants; but naturally, Douglas and Hortense lived happily ever after.

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Blog Against Theocracy Logo

Freedom First and others have initiated the Fifth annual "Blog Against Theocracy" event. I am interupting Reunited... this week and next to participate in this blogswarm. I hope the story I wrote is very fitting for this weekend's event. For more information on other blogs participating click on the logo. Thanks and enjoy! (As always, comments welcome!)




Biblical Law And Ministerial Enforcement

Part One

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Perry Richards was sitting in his living room watching some TV when there was a knock on his door. When he looked out the window, he expected to see some kids there. They often came to his home raising money for the school, but was surprised to find a man in a suit standing on his porch. The man stood there patiently with a briefcase in his hand. It was rather late in the day for any type of business call.

"Hello? What can I do for you?" he asked after he opened the door.

"I am Minister Scott Walker," the man replied showing Perry some documentation. "Are you Perry Richards?"

"Why -- yes I am. What can I do for you?"

"May I come in?"

"Well..."

"This is rather serious business, and I would rather not do it out here."

"Yes. Of course. Please," Perry replied showing the man into his home.

Perry offered Mr. Walker a chair, and sat on the couch. Mr. Walker placed his brief case on Perry's coffee table and opened it up. He looked over a few documents he removed from the case. After writing some notes down on one of his pads, he spoke.

"Where is your wife?" Minister Walker asked.

"Anita is at a church event. She will be home later."

"That is a bit of an inconvenience, but no matter."

"What is this about?" Perry asked.

"As I stated before my name is Scott Walker. I am a mister with Biblical Law And Ministerial Enforcement."

"Is this about the atheist family down the street?"

"No sir. This is about your infractions."

"My infractions? What are you talking about?"

"It seems that we have quite a list here."

"There must be some sort of mistake. I have faithfully kept all 10 commandments."

"Is that right?"

"Yes. Absolutely."

"What did you do in Iraq?"

"I heard the call of my country."

"That is admirable, but what did you do?"

"What are you getting at?"

"How many people did you kill?"

"I don't know -- a couple perhaps?"

"You do know there are no exceptions for the 10 commandments."

"But..."

"They do not say, Thou shalt not kill, unless your country asks you to.."

"I was just doing my duty."

"You were not even enlisted in the military. You were a private contractor."

"But, I did go to help my country."

"For money."

"Well, they did pay me."

Minister Walker looked at his papers again, and said, "Did you buy a new car last year?"

"Why yes. Yes I did. Is that against the law?"

"Why did you purchase this vehicle?"

"The previous one was getting a bit shabby."

"Is it not true that your neighbors purchased a new car not 3 months prior."

"Well yes."

"Therefore, is it not true that you purchased your car in response to their purchase?"

"I suppose. I guess I was keeping up with the Joneses as they say."

"There you have it. Coveting thy neighbor's goods."

"I can explain..."

"How many times have you seen the movie Sophie's Choice?"

"I don't know. Lots."

"What about Doubt?"

"I have seen that one a bunch of times."

"Out of Africa?"

"Many times."

"Why have you repeatedly viewed these movies?"

"I love Meryl Streep..."

"You know she is married."

"Let me finish. I love Meryl Streep's movies."

"You can lie to yourself all you wish Mr. Perry. However, I know when a man is coveting another man's wife."

"But..."

"Mr. Perry, where do you spend the first week of August?"

"What does that have to do with anything?"

"Where do you spend the first week of August?"

"Since you know so much, you probably know full well that I spend that week camping with my brother."

"And, of those many camping trips, how many of them include a trip to church?"

"Well -- there isn't a church nearby..."

"Is that how you Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you?"

"Come on!"

"I am sorry that these commandments pose such an inconvenience to you."

"God dammit! That isn't right."

"Using the Lord's name in vein -- I will add that to the list."

"Hey! that isn't fair. We are not working on those days in the woods. They are still days of rest."

"In the past 8 years, what have you done between Thanksgiving and Christmas?"

"Those have been brutal. Most of the time I work the entire time without -- a -- day off..."

"Is that how you observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you?"

"But if I didn't I might lose my job!"

"I see. Your job is more important than your immortal soul."

"But...but..."

"When was the last time you called your parents?"

"Wwhat does that have to do with anything?"

"When?"

"I guess it has been a couple of months."

"Eight!"

"It could be 8."

"Is that how you honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you?

"Now just a minute...."

"Mr. Perry, in a few short minutes I have demonstrated that you have broken 6 commandments."

"This isn't fair."

"You mentioned the atheist family down the block."

"Yes?"

"Sir, you know darn well that they are Episcopalian."

"That is the same thing."

"And so you are baring false witness against thy neighbor."

"I never..."

"Miss Jennifer Sandford," stated Mr. Walker looking at one of his notes.

"God Ddddd..."

"So, Mr. Perry. When you said you keep the ten commandments, which ones did you mean?"

"I have never stolen anything or ki -- never stolen anything."

"Shall I go on?"

"Now just a minute. I was just a kid when I stole that candy bar. That doesn't count right?"

"Mr. Perry, what is the most important thing in your life."

"Well -- God of course!"

"What have you tirelessly worked for? You even risked life and limb by going to Iraq to acquire it?"

"Uhhh..."

"Further, what have you tirelessly fought to keep?"

"Are you talking about money here?"

"Sir, our records show that you have done everything in your power to keep as much of your income as possible."

"Darn right! I work hard for a living. The money I make is mine!"

"You see sir, in our interpretation, money has become your false idol."

"What? No, I do not put money above God!"

"Do I need to remind you about the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas?"

"That is crazy?"

"Not according to the council at Biblical Law And Ministerial Enforcement."

"Well -- but... Why are you singling me out?"

"Matthew 7:1-2"

"Pardon me?"

"Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again."

"It is about the atheist -- er -- Episcopalians down the street isn't it?"

"Because of the judgment you passed upon them, you are being judged."

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Freedom First and others have initiated the Fifth annual "Blog Against Theocracy" event. I am interupting Reunited... this week and next to participate in this blogswarm. I hope the story I wrote is very fitting for this weekend's event. For more information on other blogs participating click on the logo. Thanks and enjoy! (As always, comments welcome!)




Biblical Law And Ministerial Enforcement

Part Two

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The evidence was stacking up against Perry. There were records of him breaking every one of the 10 Commandments. He did not know what to do.

"To err is human, to forgive divine," Perry stated.

"That is Alexander Pope. It is not in the Bible."

"So what do I have to do?"

"According to our records, you have broken all 10 of the commandments."

"That is bad."

"Have you taken a kid of the goats, a female without blemish, to your priest?"

"What? No! Why?"

"Have you not read your Bible?"

"Of course! We read it regularly."

"Then you should be familiar with Leviticus 4:27-35"

"Oh yes, I am, but I am not too good with numbers. Refresh my memory."

"And if any one of the common people sin through ignorance, while he doeth somewhat against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which ought not to be done, and be guilty; Or if his sin, which he hath sinned, come to his knowledge: then he shall bring his offering, a kid of the goats, a female without blemish, for his sin which he hath sinned. And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering, and slay the sin offering in the place of the burnt offering. And the priest shall take of the blood thereof with his finger, and put it upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and shall pour out all the blood thereof at the bottom of the altar. And he shall take away all the fat thereof, as the fat is taken away from off the sacrifice of peace offerings; and the priest shall burn it upon the altar for a sweet savour unto the LORD; and the priest shall make an atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him. And if he bring a lamb for a sin offering, he shall bring it a female without blemish. And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering, and slay it for a sin offering in the place where they kill the burnt offering. And the priest shall take of the blood of the sin offering with his finger, and put it upon the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and shall pour out all the blood thereof at the bottom of the altar: And he shall take away all the fat thereof, as the fat of the lamb is taken away from the sacrifice of the peace offerings; and the priest shall burn them upon the altar, according to the offerings made by fire unto the LORD: and the priest shall make an atonement for his sin that he hath committed, and it shall be forgiven him."

"Oh!" replied Perry. "That sounds like a Jewish thing. I am a Christian."

"So, what have you done for your forgiveness?"

"I have prayed to our Lord Jesus Christ and ask for his forgiveness."

"And you believe that is enough?"

"Of course."

"Are you sure you have read your Bible?"

"Sir, that is an insult!"

"Among other verses there is Matthew 6:14-15. I will state it: For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

"The people down the block."

"Among others."

"They did turn our Johnny onto the homosexual lifestyle with their gay agenda!"

"We are well aware of the situation. What is your point?"

"If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads."

"Go on..."

"What?"

"Did you put your son to death?"

"No. Of course not."

"But you firmly believe that this Bible verse is important."

"Naturally."

"You are sitting there in a wool shirt and denim jeans, and you find this Bible verse important."

"Why does what I am wearing have any bearing?"

"Leviticus 19:19?"

"Ummmm..."

"Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woolen come upon thee."

"Goooo -- That is crazy!"

"Where did you go on your anniversary?"

"My wife and I love Red Lobster."

"Leviticus 11 -- And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you."

"No lobster?"

"And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be cloven-footed, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you.

"Which means?"

"You are to find pork unclean and are forbidden from eating it."

"Again, you are getting into all of this Jewish stuff."

"This is the book of Leviticus."

"So?"

"Do you not know that your quote is also from Leviticus."

"It is? Oh yes. I knew that."

"Why do you ignore all of the other commands in that book, but one?"

"I don't eat ravens? That's in there right?"

"Leviticus 11:15"

"I knew it!"

"I stand corrected. Why do you ignore most of the prohibitions in Leviticus but find chapter 20 verse 13 to be very important?"

"Is that the man lying with another man thing?"

"Yes."

"I hate knowing that Johnny -- my son -- is an abomination unto God."

"But you do not think twice about lobster or pork being likewise revolting to God -- according to Leviticus."

"No."

"Or wearing two different types of fabrics."

"No, I am strictly against the gay agenda, and their recruitment of my son."

"What has happened to John that is so terrible? You stated that you did not kill him as the verse instructs."

"He is living with some man in Canada."

"And you have not forgiven him or your neighbors?"

"It is Canada man! With their socialized medicine..."

"Once again, we come to Matthew 7:1-2"

"I beg your pardon?"

"Judge not, that ye be not judged..."

"Right! Right!" Perry interupted. "So, because I judged people like my son and the people down the block based upon Leviticus..."

"That is how you were judged."

"So, not only my transgressions against the 10 Commandments are going to be held against me, but also the laws in Leviticus."

"Exactly."

"So, what are you going to do with me?"

"Stoning."

"For real?"

"It is the prescribed punishment for your trespasses."

"Isn't there constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment?"

"Like you ignoring certain passages of certain sections of the Bible, our office is allowed to ignore sections of the Constitution."

"That is not fair!"

"We were not the ones that did away with the separation of church and state."

"That separation of church and state thing is not anywhere in the constitution."

"Like I said, if you wish to ignore certain sections of important documents, so can we."

"All of this is so unfair. Just because I turned in the people who corrupted my Johnny."

"It is true. We would have never investigated you had you not born witness against your neighbor."

"So, you are blaming me for this situation."

"Galations 6:7."

"I am sure."

"Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."

"I find no comfort in that. Will this stoning hurt?"

"Perhaps a little, but we have developed technology to ease the pain," Mr. Walker said as he pulled an item out of his briefcase.

"What is it?"

"It is the latest in stoning technology."

"It looks like a bullet."

"It is," replied Minister Walker with a little pride. "It is a stone bullet."

"Um -- er -- isn't there anything I can do?"

"I am afraid not. The council has already made its findings."

"Hey!" shouted Perry as an idea came to his head. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone! That is in the Bible somewhere isn't it? It isn't Alexander Pope again I hope."

"John 8:7. Thank you for reminding me. I almost forgot."

"Forgot? Forgot what?"

"My assistant is waiting in the car."

"Assistant?"

"We bring sinless children on these trips. They get to cast the first stones. We have to follow the rules of the Bible."

--- The End ---

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Valentine's Day

The Cat that Saved the World

By Douglas E Gogerty

I could not believe she was gone. The world seemed so empty without her. Every spare moment was taken with thoughts of her. It was if she was haunting me. I felt so alone. It was at its worst at night. I just laid there awake. No matter how tired I became, sleep would not visit me. As the days went past, the world seemed to become a darker and darker place.

After several days of reclining on the bed without sleep visiting once, I took to wandering the streets. I thought that a walk would distract me enough to get some slumber. I had hoped that I would be relaxed and distracted enough to find sleep. I was wrong.

I would pass a person sleeping under a bridge and feel envy. With their troubles, they still managed to put it aside for sleep. I thought that perhaps I should drink until I passed out. Only then would I get some rest. However, the morning would come and I would have to function. I could not bare a hangover. Thus, I did not take that route. I just walked through the night awake -- envious of the sleeping world.

Night after night I wandered. I felt like the cat I came across nightly. For several nights the furry black creature avoided me. She was suspicious of anyone stalking though the streets at night.

However, after numerous encounters, we became friends. We were two strangers passing in the night. We had no plans to harm one another. We would just rendezvous on a bench. After a few strokes of her black fur, we would be on our separate ways.

I could feel her bones underneath that black coat. So, prepared to bring my friend some food. I think she appreciated the treats I provided. These encounters were not enough to forget, but it gave me a respite from my ever-present thoughts of the departed.

After a nights sojourn, I would arrive at home at dawn. Sometimes I would think she was there, but of course, she was not. Despite my attempts to forget, she was forever in my thoughts. I showered and headed off to work. Work was another escape. It was mind numbing work, but it kept me distracted.

Naturally, I thought of her on breaks. There was no escape from images of her. When working, my mind was somewhat freed from thoughts of her. However, when I got home the haunting thoughts returned.

I could not rid myself of of her laugh, her smell, her touch. On one particular occasion, I glanced at the calendar. It was Friday the 13th of February. The pangs of loss struck me hard with the upcoming holiday -- the holiday for lovers. This pending occasion was not the day for those of us who were alone. All of the memories of my time with her flooded my thoughts. I remember the previous Valentines Days. An enormous wave of emotions overcame me, and I became more restless than ever before. Everywhere I looked I was reminded of her. I knew that I could not stay in the house. I had to get out.

Being a Friday night, I did not have to work the next day. I could drink until I passed out. However, I would have to brave the couples enjoying themselves out on the town. If I were to drink, I would avoid the popular night spots. I would have to go a little farther afield.

Happy people was something that I thought would break me. I had to avoid those fortunate couples who had each other. Straying from my normal route, I would miss the encounter with the cat. In this mood I was in, I did not want any company. The cat would be find for a day without me.

I did not even want to encounter the sleeping homeless. I was filled with envy of the entire world. They lived in such a happy place, that I could not stand to join them. I would make a turn whenever I would encounter a sound of joy. I wanted to be alone with my thoughts.

After many twists and turns I ended up down by the river. Perhaps the sound of water would clear my head. Perhaps it would be enough to relax me. Being February, the river was frozen solid. There was no sound of rushing water. It was just a cold harsh reality of winter. A cold breeze chilled me to the bone. I gave a brief thought of shelter to protect me from the cold. However, I pressed on.

While down by the river, I discovered a series of caves. I guess I had always known they were there, but I did not give them much thought. These dark places were mostly ignored by the city. They were boarded up to prevent people from entering, but it was never enough. There were occasional reports of some kid was lost in them. There was no chance of that on this frigid winter night.

With every step, my despondence grew. My despair became so great that I did not care what happened to me. All the the fear and apprehension vanished from my normal self. The blackness of my heart matched the blackness of the caves. Thus, I entered.

The darkness of the cave was enhanced by the darkness of the night. I had a small flashlight from my phone. It did not offer much light, but it allowed me to look where I stepped. While I was dressed for the cold winter's walk, I was not prepared for the journey into the caves. Nevertheless, I did not care. I climbed through the dilapidated barricade and wandered the caves.

I had heard that the caves where a catacomb of passages. Because of this, it was easy to get lost in them. Further, you could walk for hours and get deeper and deeper into the bowels of the earth. These thoughts did not push through my thoughts of her. I was undaunted in my journey. In these dark caves, I would unlikely run into anyone. I would have the entire weekend to myself. The idea of being alone with my thoughts drove me deeper into the caverns.

A person of sound mind would have turned back long before I did. The spot I found myself was dark. My phone complained about its failing battery. I shut it off, and the spot must have been as black as any spot on earth. The cool dank air hung heavy in my nose. There was a distinct smell of sulfur. Despite that smell becoming more pronounced, I pressed on. I spared the phone battery as much as I could.

Suddenly, the cool dampness turned to a dry heat. The dark fog lifted and a strange light illuminated the cavern. My phone was no longer needed. I could see enough to avoid tripping. I wondered how the cool air became so strangely warm.

Where was I? I did not know, but I had entered someplace strange. This particular cavern had a strange red-yellow glow that emanated from some mysterious place. I glanced around as the hellish smell washed over me. I looked back and noticed that I had crossed a rune on the ground.

I was at the entrance of large cavern with no other apparent exits. It appeared that I was at a dead end. It did not look like I could go any further. I would have to turn back. However, this place caught my eye.

Where was I going to go? There was no sense in turning back immediately. I decided to explore this strange place. As I looked around, I noticed some strange glowing marks upon the walls. I studied these glowing red runes. Whatever they meant to indicate was completely lost upon me. They simply did not mean anything to me. I had no idea what language it was, or who had placed them there. It seemed strange that anyone came in this deep.

I began to appreciate the warmth as I explored the cavern closely. The more I looked the larger this cavern became. It was as if the cavern held a small city. No, it was a large city. It seemed to expand as I looked around. Every corner led to another part of the cavern -- and more city. As I wandered around, I felt that this city was enormous. I did not know there could be such a city below the one in which I lived. This city's streets were as numerous as the caverns I just traversed.

Everywhere I looked, there were strange runes. However, not unexpectedly, there were no people walking about these streets. At least, I did not see any people. On occasion, I did hear disembodied voices. I could not quite make out what they were saying. I tried to follow where they came from, but they would vanish and come from another direction.

Welcome to Riley? I thought to myself. Is this town called Riley?

I kept trying to find where the voice was coming from, but I seemed to simply chase shadows. I did not see any people in this city. I could not locate where these voices came from and which direction I should travel. I just heard the voices saying things that barely entered my consciousness.

Bring the Necrinomicon to the temple, I thought I heard in a raspy wispy voice.

Were these voices in my head? It seemed strange for them to be in English when the runes clearly were not. Where had I heard the name Necrinomicon before? Why did this voice want it? I wondered where the temple was. I continued to walk and look about the city. I turned a corner, and somehow knew that the temple was on this high spot in the cave. I had never been in this place. How would I know where the temple was? My fragile mind led me on.

Kahlua awaits! I thought I heard.

I began to doubt the shadowy voice. It did not make any sense to me. What was it saying? Was it just my mind playing trick on me? Was it just echoes from the city above? It was saying such strange things.

Nevertheless, I entered the temple. Visions of a great evil flashed through my head. This was a temple for one of the great old ones. I do not know how I knew this, but I found myself in a temple of the elder gods! The pieces began to take shape.

I was not in Riley, I was in R'lyeh. Chthulu awaits -- not Kahlua. I needed to chant from the Necrinomicon in order to summon the great god. I felt my sorrow wash over me. My great adventure came to an end. It was time to turn back. I did not know how long it had been since I thought of her. The search of the city completely distracted me. Suddenly, the lonely restless nights washed over me. I nearly toppled over in grief.

At that moment the earth shook. One of the elder gods could feel my pain. It reached out to me. It grabbed at me and shook me. I knew the words! I did not need the book.

"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!" I shouted.

Without her, I wanted the world to burn. A tsunami of pain and anger rushed back to me.

"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!" I shouted again.

The sorrow I felt for the homeless people living under the bridge. It was not fair. The world deserves better.

"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!" I shouted a third time.

The earth began to tremble. The roar was deafening. I could feel my mind slipping into the madness of power. I looked forward to the world burning. There was not a single thing on this earth worth saving. I could think was let it crumble into dust.

However, the cat that I had befriended came to my mind. The innocent creature had comforted me on several of my walks.

"Go away pitiful creature!" I shouted.

The madness continued to grow. The insane power grew within me. I could feel the entire world shake beneath my feet. I could feel the emense power flow through my entire being. Despite my concentration on the destruction of the world, the cat kept breaking into my thoughts.

The words, which once came easily, they would not come. It was a struggle to speak. The kindness of the cat fought against the spell.

The world was not fair. The innocent always suffer for the sins of the evil. The world deserved destruction. The world deserved destruction. The world deserved destruction.

My resolve wained. Sure, humanity has its problems. There is pain and suffering in the world. However, it is a much gentler place than it was just 50 years ago. Where were these thoughts coming from? I could feel the madness and my razor-thin sanity fight.

"She was gone!" I shouted.

I felt that the world should pay simply because of that fact.

"Not everything is about you!" I retorted. "The world should not pay because you are alone!"

"The pain and suffering can end tonight," I said as my resolve began to break down.

"What about the good things?" I asked.

"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu..." I shouted but caught myself as I looked down.

The cat had followed me into the caves. Rubbing against my leg, it seemed to say, "What are you doing? Where is my treat?"

I realized that I was taking my pain and transferring it to the world. Should I take my pain out on the world? What of all the happy people? Perhaps, happiness will come to me again. The world should not suffer because of one coincidental day. Good thoughts of her flooded my brain. I almost saw myself walking hand-in-hand with her.

I could not bear to see all of the happy lovers in a mangled heap because of me. With the summoning one of the old ones, I could destroy the good with the bad. My anger, fear, and all my negative emotions drained from me. I felt at peace for the first time in weeks. I grabbed the cat and began stroking her.

"Good kitty," I whispered and the cat purred.

I heard a bell chime midnight. It was Valentine's Day. I smiled. I collapsed on the steps of the temple. I slept. For the first time in a long time I slept. I do not know if I moved. I just slept. It was a long hard sleep. Nothing could disturb me from it.

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  • Douglas Gogerty: Thanks Timmy. It was a fun one for sure! read more
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About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Short Stories - Douglas category.

Roman Slave - Gladiator - Freeman - Hero is the previous category.

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