Sunday, November 19, 2017

THE PROJECTOR part 2

Copyright (c) 2017 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.



By R. Peterson


Jesse tried everything to get Chloe O’Brian’s attention. She wouldn’t even turn her head in his direction, not even when he tripped Ruben Butterfield, and caused hysterical laughter from the boys in the classroom as the beefy teen returned from the pencil sharpener and ripped the back of his pants exposing yellow polka dot underwear. “I owe you double, Paco!” Ruben promised.
 Mrs. Dern stopped reading mid-sentence. Several girls were crying as the English Literature teacher slammed the almost finished An Episode of Sparrows onto her desk. “Jesse Paco! To the principal’s office. Now!”
Kurt Smith covered his mouth and whispered words of encouragement as Jesse shuffled past. “Moss broke a yard-stick over my butt last week … The janitor has a whole pile of broken ones by that clanking furnace in the basement along with a pile of rags he uses to wipe up blood. Bernie burns them to start the coal on fire and of course to destroy criminal assault evidence against the principal.” Kurt began to giggle. “I hear Porky buys them by the truckload.”

Jesse turned to look just once before he closed the classroom door. Chloe O’Brian’s dangerous green eyes flashed at him for the briefest of moments, but it was enough. It had to be … he was in love.

 Louise Porter, the Junior High Principal’s part-time secretary, was compiling absentee reports when Jesse approached her desk. She was a high school senior and five years older. Jesse had had a huge crush on her before Chloe O’Brian stole his heart. “Is Por … mmm I mean Principal Moss in? I need to get a re-admittance slip for Mrs. Dern’s English class.”
            “Mr. Moss is in conference with the girls’ volleyball coach.” Louise looked up from her pages and smiled when she saw him. Her dark brown hair framed her face perfectly and her blue eyes danced. “What have you done now Jesse?”
            “Ruben Butterfield tripped over my foot in the classroom,” Jesse explained. “Mrs. Dern thinks I did it on purpose.”
            “Yeah, as if you wanted a black eye from that brute during lunch break.” Louise pulled out a pad of re-admittance slips and began filling one out.
            “Don’t you have to get Porky’s signature on that?” Jesse realized his error almost as the words flew out of his mouth but there was no coaxing them back in.
            “I sign the principal’s name on almost everything,” Louise grinned. “It’s really my signature not his. But I don’t write Porky … it’s always just J. Peter Moss.”
            “Thanks,” Jesse told her.
            “Try not to get detention,” Louise said as she handed him the slip. “Ruben Butterfield got two weeks for beating up two High School seniors. Spending an hour after school with him in Mr. Larsen’s unsupervised classroom would be like being locked in a zoo-cage with a gorilla.”
            “I’ll try to be good.”
Louise laughed. “I’m sure you will try Jesse … just don’t get caught.”
The bell rang when Jesse was halfway down the hall. He didn’t want to meet up with an enraged Ruben Butterfield so he took the long way to his locker … His face was already starting to hurt … lunch time would come soon enough.

-------2-------

            Kurt Smith looked at the re-admittance slip Jesse showed him at lunch. They were sitting on a table outside watching the cheerleaders practice on the lawn next to the sprinklers. “I know you’ve had a thing for Louise Porter for years … looks like you finally consummated things huh?”
            “Nothing like that,” Jesse snorted. “She’s like my big sister.”
            “And your family was so poor you had to shower together to save water …” Kurt was shaking his head.
            “She’s not as old as Brigitte Bardot … you two was like wet minks wrapped around each other!”
            “What happened Friday night still freaks me out. Do you think Cranston knows what his new projector is capable of doing?”
            “I’ve been thinking about that,” Jesse said. “I think we’d better have a talk with him before the weekend.”
            “Friday night wasn’t so bad.” Kurt’s eyes were half closed as he stared at the sky above the school entrance.
            “Having Brigitte Bardot to make out with on a city park picnic table is one thing,” Jesse said. “Having that demon thing that possesses Linda Blair spider-walking across the theater ceiling looking for trouble is an entirely different situation.”
            “If that thing would only hook-up with Ruben Butterfield we might have had a better chance of graduating High School without being in wheel-chairs …” Kurt pointed.
Ruben thundered across the lawn like a three-hundred pound freight train wearing a cowboy hat and with a full roll of masking tape covering the seat of his pants. “Today is my lucky day,” he bellowed. Jesse half expected steam to come out of his ears. “I owe both you chicken bastards a payback and it looks like I get to kill two stones with one bird!”
            “That’s two birds and one stone … you dimwit cowpuncher!” Kurt taunted.
            “Birds? I really wish we had wings!” Jesse was on his feet trying to pull Kurt after him.
            “Chickens don’t fly from dogs, they run around in crazy circles,” Kurt said.
Jesse didn’t like the wild look in his friend’s eyes. “Whatever you’re thinking … it won’t work!”
            “No one has ever accused me of thinking …” Kurt was on his feet sprinting toward Ruben flapping his arms and making rooster crowing noises before Jesse could stop him.
Ruben skidded to a stop and drew back his beefy right arm as Kurt ran directly at him. Just as he swung his fist Kurt veered sharply to the left and Ruben’s knockout punch went wild. “You clumsy, lumbering ox!” Kurt chanted just before he slipped on the grass.
            For a very large teen Ruben was remarkably fast. He kicked Kurt as he tried to stand and had already punched him once in the face before Jesse could get to his floundering friend. Jesse pummeled the schoolyard monster from behind without effect and an instant later Ruben had his beefy arms wrapped around both boys’ necks dragging them across the grass. He stopped long enough to punch Jesse in the face and pull out a clump of his hair.
Chloe O’Brian and the rest of the cheerleaders stared open mouthed as Ruben plopped each boy down on a running sprinkler. “Look the little babies have wet their pants!” Ruben chuckled at his own joke just as the school-bell rang.
Chloe turned and smiled as she and the rest of the girl’s strolled past. “If only that whore Bardot could see you now,” she snickered.

-------3-------

Ruben rode the same school-bus as Kurt so he decided to stay in town with Jesse and have his mom pick him up later. Coach Evans had allowed them to put their wet clothes in the dryer during gym class. Mr. Cranston was mopping the floor in the theatre entrance when Jesse knocked on the door and he let both boys in.
“What’s the matter … you don’t like the free tickets for next Friday’s show?”
“The tickets are fine,” Kurt told him. “We just don’t think you should be showing a film like The Exorcist until you get the bugs out of your new projector.”
“What bugs?” Cranston was animate. “Everyone said it was the most real movie experience they’d ever seen!”
“Maybe a little too real,” Jesse told him. “We ran into Brigitte Bardot in the park after the movie. When you said it looked like she jumped right off the screen … well it was because she did!”
“It’s true,” Kurt said. “I’ve got the sucking marks on my neck to prove it.
“Why didn’t you mention this before?”
“At first we thought it was kind of cool,” Kurt said. “Bring our fantasies to life that sort of thing. But if you show the Exorcist this Friday night this town could be in real trouble.”
“But it’s out of my hands,” Cranston threw both arms in the air. “I’ve given out almost two hundred free tickets … if I cancel the show now … no one will ever trust me again.”
“We’ve got to do something. You just can’t let a little girl with a demon inside her run loose in town just to save face.”
“That’s how you two knew when I’d fixed the film and finished running it. Brigitte Bardot disappeared when the film ended … right?”
“Yes, I guess she did,” Jesse and Kurt both reluctantly agreed.
“Then there is no problem,” Cranston told them. “I told you I installed a high powered fan to keep the film cool … what could go wrong this time?”
“Mr. Cranston, we’re talking about Cloverdale,” Jesse pleaded.
The theatre owner was quiet for a moment … then he nodded.  The truth about the small town was hard to argue with. “I’m not cancelling the show and I don’t have any answers. Perhaps you two better talk to the projector’s inventor … explain what’s going on. If anyone can fix this … problem … old Joe can.”
            “I haven’t seen Joseph Callahan for years,” Jesse said. “I didn’t know he was still alive. Does he still live in that old textile mill just inside Motha Forest?”
            “As far as I know,” Cranston said. “He called me on a radio phone that he invented and had the projector delivered by a local driver.”

            “This keeps getting better and better,” Kurt said as they walked back to Jesse’s house. “Not only is it illegal for anyone to go into Motha Forest, but Chloe’s father is the administrator of a special land trust set up for that strange Mommet cult. We’ll be lucky if we don’t get shot. Airplanes are not even allowed to fly over the forest. No one knows the way in. It’s like the trees bunch up and create a wall whenever anyone gets too close.”
            “There’s one person in town who knows almost all of Cloverdale’s secrets,” Jesse said. “All we have to do is ask an old lady to help us!”
            “Dr. Descombey’s witch sister!” Kurt gasped. “I’d rather call Ruben Butterfield and ask him if he’d like to dance with me by the river!”
            “It may come to that,” Jesse said. “If we don’t stop that movie from showing … that might seem like an easy way out.”

-------4-------

            All the windows in the Victorian mansion on the south west corner of Galbraith and Main Street in Cloverdale appeared to be blind. The enormous house was even scarier than Kurt remembered from October nights half a dozen years earlier. It was scarier now because he knew this time they would have to face whoever or whatever answered the door instead of shrieking and running like howling banshees after they banged on the heavy carved door during a Halloween dare.
            A pathway made of flat stones, mortised with blackened green moss and crawling with worms, led up three levels, each intersected with six stone steps. A flock of shadowy ravens rose into the sky with only a slight whooshing sound and settled on the numerous gables. Dark eyes followed them like cameras. Snowball bushes, clipped in the shape of funeral attendants and weeks past the blooming stage, lined both sides of the sunken entryway. Something dark with a spiked tail vanished into the shadows ahead.     
“There’s no law that says we have to go to the movies every Friday night,” Kurt said with a shiver.  “Plenty of kids go roller-skating or God forbid bowling on the weekends.”
            “While we’re at it, let’s pull our pants up to our armpits, tie them in place with twine and see if we can get ourselves library cards,” Jesse told him. “We’ll both end up writing books about flowers and dancing horses with yellow bows in their manes instead of being astronauts or helicopter pilots.”
Kurt was forced to laugh in spite of his fear. “Don’t you have to have some kind of a certificate from a vocational college to do that?”
Both boys were aware that they were being watched; by who or what they knew not … and the thought sobered them.
Rows of dust-caked arched-top windows set deep in the stone walls loomed above them like tombstones expecting still limber tenants. The entryway was inset at least three feet from the exterior walls. A cast-iron knocker in the shape of a horrible gargoyle rested against a tarnished striker plate.
Kurt stretched his hand and slowly lifted the heavy iron. A sound like breathless words falling into a rusty bucket from the bushes behind them almost made the ring slip from his trembling fingers. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you!”
A figure seemingly made of darkness stepped from the foliage. “That’s a thumping sure to wake the dead … and we wouldn’t want that … no, we wouldn’t want that!”

TO BE CONTINUED …

           


Sunday, November 12, 2017

THE PROJECTOR

Copyright (c) 2017 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.



By R. Peterson



            “What the Hell!” Tommy Everett pointed to a cardboard sign attached to the ticket booth at the entrance to the Royal Theatre. “Now it costs fifty cents for kids under twelve to get in the damn show!”
            “I know you ain’t under twelve,” Louise Porter stopped chewing her gum long enough to get angry. “Pay the seventy-five cents or go back home!”
           
            “This is outrageous!” Tommy looked at the movie poster for Viva Maria! showing an almost naked Brigitte Bardot and then reached for his wallet. “If I didn’t want to see the scene where BB invents striptease I’d go down the street to the Main.”
            “The Main is still showing Zorba the Greek Louise laughed. “I think old man Clancy actually bought the film reels … so be my guest!”
            “That film has been stinking up the place for two months,” Tommy moaned as he handed over a dollar bill.
            “Hurry the hell up Everett!” someone yelled from the back of the line. “We don’t want to miss the opening credits!”
Tommy was arguing with the theatre’s owner when Kurt Smith and Jesse Paco walked past the concession stand. “I had to raise my prices,” Mr. Cranston explained to a belligerent Tommy. “This new projector cost a fortune … but wait till you see the picture! It’s so real the characters seem to jump right off the screen!”
            “We’re not gonna have to wear any of them hokey 3D glasses are we?” Kurt joined the conversation as Jesse bought a large-popcorn from Cranston’s wife.
            “No … No nothing like that,” Cranston insisted. “It’s all in the projector!”
            “Film is film,” Tommy argued. “A beam of light just enlarges it on a screen.”
            “Let me show you boys,” Cranston insisted. He included Kurt and Jesse by looking at them. “You’ve never seen anything like this before.”
            “I don’t know,” Jesse stammered scanning the crowd already entering the dark theatre. “We don’t want to miss the movie.”
Cranston laughed. “Who do you think starts the projector?” The boys followed him up a tiny set of stairs.

-------2-------
           
            The first thing Jesse noticed was a metal tag on the side of the technical wonder that read THE PROJECTOR THAT MAKES THE WORLD COME TO LIFE Callahan Industries. Other than a strange box attached to the lamp compartment it looked like an ordinary 35 mm movie projector. “I thought old-man Callahan only built refrigerators?”

Tommy laughed. “He only built a couple of Frostman 419’s before his crummy plant closed down. I heard it was a million bucks down the drain.”

            “Joseph Callahan was a genius,” Cranston said. “He invented more things than Toby Edison.”
            “I think you mean Thomas Edison,” Kurt corrected.

            “No Toby was Thomas’ brother,” Cranston said with a wry grin. “Kind of the black-sheep in the famous inventor’s family.”

            “I heard Callahan used technology he stole from a crashed UFO in the bottom of Palasidies Lake to build the damn refrigerators,” Tommy said. “Is that where he got the idea for this crummy projector?”

Cranston ignored him.

All three boys watched as the theatre owner threaded the first reel into the projector. “Better get to your seats,” he said looking at his watch. “The show starts in three minutes!”


-------3-------

            The lobby was full of kids buying popcorn, soda and candy before the show began. Jesse caught a glimpse of Chloe O’Brian as she disappeared into the right aisle of the dark theatre with one of her friends. Kurt started down the left aisle but Jesse pulled him back. “No this way,” he insisted.

It was dark inside. Interlude Music was playing. Only the shadowy silhouettes of heads could be seen. Most of the seats were already taken. I think there’s a couple of seats in the middle of this row,” Kurt pointed. Jesse had to squeeze past two fat ladies each with half the concession stand piled in their ample laps. Ruben Butterfield had both his bowed legs draped over the seat in front of him and refused to move. He was sitting next to Nancy Benton. Jesse and Kurt were forced to step over him and his gum chewing girlfriend. “Why don’t you two girly boys go around?” Ruben complained from under a ten-gallon John Wayne hat as he yanked at Kurt’s hair.
            Kurt turned and bent back the pudgy fingers on Ruben’s hand. The scruffy cowboy roared in pain. “The Butterfield Ranch, where men are men … and the sheep are scared!” Kurt chanted.
Ruben clambered to his feet and took a wild swing. Kurt ducked and Jesse had to drag his ready to fight friend away so there wouldn’t be a scuffle. “Not now Cassius! We don’t want to get kicked out!”
Mr. Cranston’s wife was already walking down the aisle with a flashlight in her hand sweeping the rows looking for the cause of the disturbance. Ruben sat down swearing under his breath. “This ain’t done you bastards!”
Kurt and Jesse moved three more spaces over and slipped into the first seats available. Jesse’s nose picked up the delightful scent of Chanel No. 5. He was almost afraid to turn his head and look. When he did he was sitting next to Chloe O’Brian.

-------4-------


            Chloe’s smile was dazzling in the light from the projector as the movie previews started. “Hi,” she said.
            Jesse felt like someone had poured a bottle of Elmer’s glue into his mouth and it was setting up fast. All he could manage was a distorted “mmmmeeeeeeyaaakk” sound.
            “Hi, Kurt responded. “You’ll have to excuse my friend. A baby bird fell out of a tree and he’s still looking for the nest.”
Chloe and her friend Susan McKinney both laughed. “I like guys who are kind to animals.” Chloe gave Jesse’s hand a squeeze.
            “Yeah,” Kurt said. “Jesse wouldn’t hurt a fly!” He replicated the pulsing screech from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho almost perfectly and made both girls jump.
Someone on a back row didn’t like Ruben’s  oversized cowboy hat. “Hey Ruben! Take off your damn hat!” a voice called. It sounded like Tommy Everett.
Ruben turned around and raised his middle finger.
He had just turned back toward the screen when a half-full box of Junior Mints struck him in the back of the head knocking off his hat. “Thank you,” the same voice called out.

Jesse finally got his tongue untangled and was about to say something when the movie started. To say the Royal’s new projection system was mesmerizing was a vast understatement. The characters looked so real they appeared to almost jump off the screen. “Wow!” Jesse gasped as Brigitte Bardot and Jeanne Moreau, both named Maria, met in a South American country and then start to sing and dance together in a nineteen-twenty circus. Brigitte tears her skirt during the performance and finally removes it so Jeanne takes hers off too. Brigitte flings her skirt into the audience and Kurt feels the material brush past his cheek. What follows is two breathtaking women undressing to out-do each other as they sing and dance.
            Jesse is unaware that Chloe has been trying to talk to him until she punches his arm. “Me and Susan are going to get a Coke … do you want one?”
            “Do I want what?” Jesse’s eyes were spinning in his head and he couldn’t peel them away from the screen.
            “Forget it,” Chloe snapped. She and Susan both stormed up the aisle.
Jesse felt like it wasn’t so much that he was being drawn into the film world it was the film being drawn into theirs.

“Wow!”
“Damn”
“Oh my God!”

An hour later Brigitte and Jeanne are captured and their Catholic inquisitors decide to tickle-torture them.
            Kurt and Jesse stared transfixed as a giggling Bridget escaped her captors and then bolted right off the screen. Jesse felt the sex Goddess’s delicate hands on his shoulders as she vaulted over him and then caught a whiff of Intimate perfume as she ran up the aisle.
The audience exploded in mayhem as the film broke and the screen was suddenly a huge wall of flashing white light.
           
Mr. Cranston’s voice came over the sound system. “I’m sorry folks. Our equipment is new and we seem to be having some technical problems. Please hang on to your ticket stubs and you can see the film’s ending tomorrow.”
The lights came on and Kurt was one of the first ones on his feet. Snorting like a rodeo bull Ruben Butterfield spied them and was pushing people out of the way as he charged forward. “Let’s get the hell out of here, Paco!

Kurt and Jesse ran from the theatre weaving around people on the sidewalk and didn’t stop until they were safely inside Cloverdale City Park.

            “Those muscles on that rodeo ape are good for pounding fence-posts into the ground,” Kurt gasped. “But Ruben can’t run worth a damn!”

Both boys burst out laughing and finally got over the giggles when they heard a noise.
            “I don’t believe this,” Jesse gaped. Moonlight slipping from behind dark clouds illuminated the open space between cottonwood trees almost like a movie screen. They walked forward with slow steps … suddenly terrified.
Brigitte Bardot was sitting on a picnic table with her head in her hands … crying.

-------5-------

           
“You’re real!” Jesse gasped.
“Je suis perdu et je ne peux pas trouver mon chemin du retour,” Brigitte moved her hands from her face and looked at the two boys hopefully.
“On the film she spoke our language almost perfectly!” Jesse looked bewildered. “Your mother was born in France; what did she say?”
“The film was dubbed in English you moron,” Kurt told him. “I think she’s lost and wants to go home.”
“Où habite-tu ?” Kurt spoke the French hesitantly.
Brigitte smiled. “Tu parles comme un chien... J’habite à Paris.”
“What did she say?”
“She says you remind her of her dog in Paris,” Kurt said.
Brigitte shook her head and then began to cry again.
            “Tell her as soon as Mr. Cranston gets the film spliced back together I’m sure she’ll go back to where she belongs.”
            “That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard of”
            “We have to tell her something!”
            “Nous devons seulement attendre ici un peu de temps, et alors tout sera fixé.”
Brigitte wiped her eyes and then smiled at both boys. “Peut-être nous pouvons être plus que des amis!” She moved to the center of the table and motioned for both boys to sit beside her.
            The moon slipped slyly behind some more clouds as Brigitte shivered and then put her arms around both boys drawing them close. “Je suis tellement heureux que j’ai trouvé des amis !”

Warm!
Wonderful!
Strange sensations!

            “What did she say?” Jesse whispered.
Brigitte was brushing her pouty lips against Kurt’s cheek. Both boys realized that the best part of their lives might be in their dreams as their eyes closed. The trees seemed to be singing. To everything … there is a season … and a time to every purpose … under heaven …
            “Who cares … I think I’m falling in love!”

-------6-------

Kurt and Jesse both felt a chill like someone had pulled away a warm blanket; they both opened their eyes; Brigitte was gone. “Was that real?” Kurt gasped. “I’ve got a hickey on my neck … it must have been.”

Jesse and Kurt wandered through the park making sure she was really gone and then walked with great sadness down Townsend Avenue. The lights were on in the Royal Theatre and when Mr. Cranston saw them on the sidewalk he opened the door.
            “Sorry about the film,” he said. “This new projector uses a tremendous amount of power and I had to install a large cooling fan to keep the film from burning.”
            “You fixed the film and ran it to the finish about twenty minutes ago didn’t you?” Jesse was smiling at Kurt.
Mr. Cranston looked at his watch and then looked bewildered. “I spliced the film back together and then ran it to the end to make sure everything was okay.”
            “I told you so.”
Kurt glanced at his best friend and then shrugged his shoulders.
            “I won’t be able to show the rest of the film tomorrow,” Mr. Cranston apologized. “It was already rented to a theatre in Missoula so I’m handing out free passes to next week’s show.”
            “You sure everything is going to be fixed this time?”
            “With any new technology there are always glitches … but I hope for the best!”
Kurt and Jesse thanked him as he handed them each a ticket and then locked his doors.
            “The next show should be even better. I made some adjustments and if you think my new projector made this film came to life … just wait until next week!” He waved as he walked toward his ride, one of the only cars left on the street.

The boys were halfway home when Kurt finally got a chance to look at his ticket. Ruben Butterfield had been secretly driving up and down the empty streets in a smoky old Ford pickup with a bent tailgate and he had chased them down several alleys before they finally ditched him. “I think we’re in trouble,” Kurt gasped.
            Jesse looked up and down the street but he didn’t see the angry cowboy. “We always go to the Friday night show and we’re always in trouble,” Jesse was trying to catch his breath. “So what else is new?”
Kurt held up his ticket. “Ever heard of a movie called The Exorcist?”

TO BE CONTINUED …
           




            

Sunday, November 5, 2017

GOBLIN

Copyright (c) 2017 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.



By R. Peterson

In nightmarish fashion my legs moved toward the dark corner of the room without being able to stop them. You aren’t supposed to be able to smell in dreams but I caught a whiff like burnt almonds. A tiny silver-bell attached to a heavy-timber threshold tinkled once as I opened the rough plank door. Warped wooden stairs led down into the darkness. God in heaven! I didn’t want to go down there! My legs refused my frantic commands to stop. Floating cobwebs investigated my cheeks with a spider’s touch and icy daggers stabbed at my spine with every step I took.
            When I’d crept about halfway to what looked like a dirt-floor bottom a squat figure suddenly stepped from the darkness. An overlarge swollen nose jutted out and down from a dried-apple face in which gleaming black eyes stared upward with murderous intent. There was no railing and wooden splinters tore into my finger-tips as I tried to slow my descent. Pudgy fingers with dirty nails like ragged claws reached upward for me. The touch was as cold as death …
            I woke and sat up in bed without a scream … I had no breath. It took a few moments to realize where I was. I was home in the fold-down bed in the living room that I shared with my brother Mike. “You better hurry you don’t want to miss the bus!” my mother called from the tiny kitchen. This was the third night in a row that I’d had the same horrible dream. Each night the dark fantasy got a little longer and with greater detail. Last night the creature had touched me. Tonight would he grab my arm and lead me into the darkness?
            I couldn’t handle another night of terror. Using a child’s logic even though I was five months past six-years old I folded my arms and began to pray. Father in heaven … if you will make the dreams stop I will not have them again until my wedding night.
            “Rupert Lynn James! Fold up that bed and get in here right now! You don’t want to miss the first day of school and I don’t have a car to drive you!”  I lifted the frame at the head of the mattress until it clicked into place and then did the same to the bottom. Locking the two halves together with a slotted metal bar. I covered the bed neatly with an old pink quilt and rolled it against the wall next to the rattling furnace heater.
My older brother was already drinking milk from a bowl behind a box of Kellogg’s cereal. He slapped my hand and grabbed it from me when I tried to look at the illustration for a free Model Guards Bandsman on the back. Mike smiled as he dropped the cellophane-wrapped plastic figure, molded to look like a Buckingham Palace guard, into his shirt pocket. “I had to reach all the way to the bottom for it!” I noticed the spilled cornflakes on the table and the floor.
I ate my own cereal as fast as I could then my mother herded me into the bathroom before she dragged my winter coat from the closet brushed off some dust and then dabbed at several stains with a damp rag. “Be sure to comb your hair after you brush your teeth. You don’t want to look like a hooligan!”
The ride into Cloverdale was a dizzy adventure. I’d never ridden in a long car with more than one back seat. There were more than twenty with a narrow isle between two rows. There were only a couple of kids I knew … the rest were strangers.
Mike left me at the foot of very wide stairs right after we entered the two-story brick building. He was just starting third grade and his classroom was on the second floor. I clutched tightly to the slip of paper my mother had given me looking for an adult in a sea of tiny faces … some of them were crying. “Dern room five,” the woman with the sharp nose and glasses read after she snatched the paper from my hand. “It’s the third door on the left.” She pointed.  The bewildered look on my face must have made her angry. She frowned as she dragged me down the hallway.
            Mrs. Dern smiled just before she began each lesson. Only a few things I could comprehend. We read from tiny books an older student passed out. By recess I knew a few the words … Dick, Jane … Spot. The girls surrounded three swings and a merry-go round on a playground set while I followed the boys to a grassy field. I had no mitt. I looked on shyly as two bigger boys took turns choosing up sides. I didn’t know much about baseball but I was sure I could learn. My heart sank … as I was chosen last.
My first day at school was a jumbled mixture of change, apprehension and homesickness but that night … the bad dreams stopped.

-------2-------

            I had to be the loneliest kid in school until the start of fourth grade. That was the year my parents moved into town from the country. Suddenly I was surrounded by neighbors most with children about my age. Nights were spent sleeping out in each other’s backyards, wandering the streets of Cloverdale after midnight, filching apples from strangers’ orchards and tumbling in the coin operated dryers at the local Laundromat for just a dime. Summers were forever for nine-year olds.
            Winters were what we made them. Snowplows were unheard of. We caught rides all over town holding tight to the back bumpers of cars whose tires spun on the packed snow and ice. If you had any guts at all you “hooky-bobbed” the cop car as he made his rounds. We were fearless.
            By age eleven we were habitual Friday night movie goers. The theatre tickets were thirty cents if you were under twelve. We watched all the Frankie Avalon – Annette Funicello beach movies and one of my friends could talk just like Harvey Lembeck: When Eric Von Zipper likes someone, they stay liked! James Bond gave us our first taste of sex and A Hard Day’s Night showed us girls were crazy about guys who could play music.
            I sat on the cement steps of my house and listened to the band playing two doors down and I knew they were good; too bad they were already full up. We spent hours going through stacks of record albums at the local drugstore. My best friend talked me into buying an album by a black guy named Jimi Hendrix. I’d never heard of him but when I got home I listened to his songs for hours and learned Purple Haze by ear. The Bass player for the band two doors down came to my room in the basement while I had my amplifier cranked to the max … and was blown away by the distortion … and the smoke.  It was my job to tell the former lead guitar player he was no longer in the band.
            We played mostly High School victory dances and had a strobe light on a high pole that we could activate with a car’s floorboard dimmer switch mounted in a wooden box. The entire system was powered by an electric-fence generator and a twisted neon tube inside a huge reflector made by the local electronics genius. Girls were fun to watch in the flashing lights and fights even more exciting.
            The band broke up after four years of High School and one year of College but by then we were all moving in new directions. I got married when I was twenty one and she was just seventeen … you know what I mean.
Even after thirteen years I remembered the covenant my six year-old self had made. As my wedding day approached I grew more and more anxious. I spent hours in the library researching dwarfs and other little people. To the best of my knowledge the thing I’d seen in my nightmares was a Goblin a small and grotesque creature from the middle-ages.
After the traditional consummate sex - not the first time by a long shot … I lay awake wondering about the ugly little man and if I’d have the nightmare … the plank door, the stairs, the darkness and him. To my great relief … I woke the next morning with no bad dreams. Perhaps my bargain was just a childish fantasy.

-------3-------

Thirteen years later, my marriage began to break up and I was devastated. She was in love with someone else. My brother described it best: Divorce is like tripping when there is nothing in your way. My parents forced me to eat food along with the cigarettes I chain-smoked and I struggled through the bad times. Depression is a deep dark hole in your mind that only time fills in.
I met my second wife at work and it was love at first sight even though she was already married. I brought my guitar to work and sang songs to her during breaks. Her marriage was failing and she longed to have children. After her divorce we began dating. The wedding ceremony was rushed because she was already pregnant. We honeymooned in Jackson Hole Wyoming, the playground of the rich and famous.
I thought about the goblin that night, I’d given him the name Hobb years before, and wondered if he would appear in my dreams. I prayed that he wouldn’t. What twenty seven year-old woman wants to wake up in bed with her new husband screaming? Hobb was a no show, no splintered plank door, no stairs leading into the darkness and thank God! No ugly little man.

-------4-------

The marriage was a success. We raised three children and my wife lived to bounce nine grandchildren on her knees. My wife was so much younger than me I always thought I’d go first. Cancer never plays by the rules. The best part of me died with her.
I was eighty-eight years old and very lonely. The doctor says I have a bad heart and can go anytime. Molly worked in a garden shop and I stopped in one spring to buy red-potato seed. She was easy to talk to and at my age that’s what counts the most. After dozens of dinners and long walks by the river we decided to get married. I’d sold my house years before just to make ends meet and we decided to move into her parent’s old house in the country. I’d never been there … it was to be a surprise.
We were married by the county clerk without ceremony this morning. Molly just drove with her daughter into town to buy stuff to make a wedding cake. I’ve been here alone the last half-hour just thinking … remembering my life. When Molly showed me around the place, a small farm with an old barn and empty corrals, I didn’t remember seeing the old plank door in one dark corner of the rustic kitchen. It looks familiar … probably leads to a basement … or a cellar. There is a smell … burnt almonds. Perhaps Molly is baking … but the oven is cold.

-------5-------

A few minutes ago just as I finished my coffee I thought I heard a sound … coming from below … my hands are shaking … it is time.
I’m standing up now. My legs are moving toward the dark corner of the room and I can’t stop them. A tiny silver-bell, attached to a heavy-timber threshold, tinkles once as I open the rough plank door. Warped wooden stairs lead down into darkness. God in heaven! I don’t want to go down there! My legs refuse my frantic commands to stop. Floating cobwebs brush my cheeks with a spider’s touch and icy daggers stab at my spine with every step I take.
            Halfway to what looks like a filthy dirt-floor bottom a squat figure suddenly steps from the darkness. An overlarge swollen nose juts out and down from a dried-apple face in which gleaming black eyes stare upward with murderous intent. This time he smiles. There is no railing and wooden splinters tear into my finger-tips as I try to slow my descent. Pudgy fingers with dirty nails like ragged claws reach upward for me.
The goblin’s touch is as cold as death …


THE END ?

Sunday, October 29, 2017

COLONY part 2

Copyright (c) 2017 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.



By R. Peterson

            I never received the vast amounts of life science transference that others did but I know one thing; the creature that crawled out of the eight-hundred foot diameter bio-metallic ball scientists for decades had been calling a Sfärer was not of this world.
Our scientists were wrong about so many things and those that are left alive … still are. For three decades sheets of ice have moved downward from the north freezing plants animals and people. Global Warming advocates still insist it is only a brief hiatus in Earth’s perpetual warming trend as each year they accumulate thousands of petabytes of empathetic Climate Change facts. What they do with the non-supportive data is anyone’s guess. New York City will surely be under water soon … if not this century then the next. Right?
The Sfärers were not indestructible globes but eggs that took sixty-nine years to hatch. Over a quarter million people in Pittsburg and the surrounding areas jammed the electrical slot system trying to leave the city. The world population peaked in 2026 at 7.7 billion and less than two centuries later was a little over 900 million. Over half of these shivering people now lived in Brazil.
Sexual encounter simulators and 3D holographic encounter videos had become so adapt at satisfying people’s wildest desires … physical sex between humans seemed old fashioned and went out of vogue. Children, for those with enough energy credits to afford them, were designed, planned and carried to term in a glass womb in a pediatric center.
What was once a smooth-as-silk transit network that allowed super high speed self-driving cars to merge effortlessly into the first available empty space was now complete chaos. Horrified hackers overrode the transportation computer systems turning the super highways into free-for-all automotive stampedes with fanatical laser wielding ISLS-snipers cutting rails and thinning the stragglers in the name of their damned merciful God.
            The alien creatures resembled spiders in that they had eight legs but their size alone would have made them the monsters the press was calling Terrors. I was one of the few who chose to stay where I was. At One-hundred twenty-one years old I was considered merely middle age and not yet past my child rearing years, easily able to travel, but I was just tired. Perhaps it had something to do with my ancient twenty-first century unmodified genes but I had lost my husband when Yellowstone blew away almost the entire Republic of California and my daughter was now living in German occupied London. I was abnormally happy most of my life and I deserved the relief that comes from being depressed.
For months hundreds of U.S. Air Force F-438 non-radiant nuclear drones blasted away at the invaders shaking apart the tectonic plates under North America and collapsing historic buildings … with no effect on the Terrors. There was no standard electrical grid although Alvin Sullenger’s self-charging Nobelium batteries were predicted to last a thousand years. The sub-zero solar panels on my building’s roof had all shattered like glass from the bombing and I broke into numerous abandoned apartments and sliced up expensive antique furniture with an Apple I-Pocket laser for firewood. Most of the rich gave their pets language or other skills and I shared what exotic meals I could scare out of Nobelium operated Kitchen Chefs with a congenial rat (Mickey), great for slipping under metal doors and finding spare keys and someone’s shy abandoned Python (King Lear) that could recite all of Shakespeare’s sonnets.
This were to be new made … when thou art old
and see thy blood warm when thou feel'st it cold.”

We huddled together in a dark corner at night, listened to classic music from the twentieth century on a solar-powered hippy-robot radio station KRNR in Vermont that had been broadcasting for two hundred years …
“There must be some kind of way out of here!”
… and tried to keep each other warm.
Less than a year later it was once again quiet. The military didn’t run out of missiles … they were just tired of trying to provoke a fight from the aliens. The Terrors, for the most part, ignored people the way zoo elephants would a micro ant colony. The sound, or the lack of it, nearly drove me and my new friends crazy.

-------2-------

It was an unusually warm day the summer of 2170 … almost fifty degrees in mid-July. I almost forgot to shiver. Damn those Chicken Little Climate Scientists; we should have been stockpiling self-heating thermal artic underwear … not building Noah’s disaster boats. We decided to venture out.
The buzzing sound could be heard from two miles away. One of the Terrors, there were a half dozen in North America, appeared to be dozing. Mickey, always adventurous, wanted to go check it out. King Lear held back not sure that the massive aliens might think him something to play with … or nibble on. Mickey bit his tail and with a wild laugh said “Tastes just like chicken!” An angry King led us toward the sound.
The giant arachnoid-like creature had been digging. It and the others seemed to double in size every few weeks. A massive hole on the southwest corner of Bedford Avenue and Crawford Street looked to be hundreds of feet deep. “I thought the terrors just stood around with their heads in the clouds looking dumb,” Mickey said.
“No one has been able to figure out exactly what these creatures eat,” King Lear began to make himself into a coil. “It could be the Terrors draw elements out of the ground and then change them into whatever they need the same as we do only using some biological function.”
“Or it could be they’re digging a hole for a huge Dutch oven,” Mickey said glancing slyly at King. “And they plan to slow-roast every snake they can capture!”
I had no opinion one way or another. Biology was just one of many subjects my parents were too poor to have loaded into my cranium. “The fact that these monstrosities appear to be docile has to be a good thing,” I told them. “I can’t figure out why all the people who left Pittsburg haven’t returned yet.”
            “There’s no need to,” Mickey said. “It’s too cold here and since the City of Steel rusted away centuries ago the main source of income outside of energy production of course is matter transference and assembly and they don’t need people to work on that.”
            “Robots? That’s nothing new,” King Lear said. “And technology has been able to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear for centuries. But the power costs have to be enormous. When you’re using energy you’re literally sinking money into your business venture.”
            “Not many people know this … but it’s no big secret for my species,” Mickey said. “Follow me I want to show you something.”
We passed several other people mostly alone or in tiny groups who seemed to be in a hurry. We didn’t make eye contact and they scurried away.
Mickey led us down the street to a large plain building without any decorative flora or ornamentation. I’d passed the same building several times while foraging and always thought it was a warehouse. There was no slot-car parking or highway access ramps. Mickey slipped under a steel door in a space I thought barely large enough to insert an energy certificate and was back a minute later. The door opened. The main floor area most of it underground was massive. Row upon row of molecular printers were busy manufacturing hundreds of different items out of what looked like mountains of dirt. I was aware of the basic science of twenty-third century manufacturing technologies but was shocked by the thousands of workers.
            “Ever since some greedy industrialist decided to implanted knowledge into the cerebral cortex of animals slavery has returned to the modern world.” Mickey twitched his whiskers a habit I associated with him being annoyed. “It’s against the law to own a human … but there are no such laws for animals.”
Most of the animals operating the high tech machines were raccoons, probably because of the dexterity of their human-like fingers. Large herbivores pulled bins filled with materials much the way I imagined the animals working a thousand years ago. A large breed of shaggy dogs, probably bred for the cold weather, ran between stations barking orders and stopping and starting production lines.
            “They work twenty-four seven,” Mickey said. “With no pay, no vacations and only minimal rest cycles.”
            “This is cruel and disgusting!” The words soiled from my mouth almost like a scream.
            “People don’t get rich working their fingers to the bone,” Mickey said, “they get some other poor slob …or in this case species to do it for them. It’s not much different than the way they used to export jobs to China two hundred years ago. This isn’t the only place. Almost every manufacturing plant in the world uses the same basic production model.”
            “Why doesn’t someone do something?” King Lear had risen half his body length vertically and was looking up and down the thousands of work stations with dismay.”
            “Every animal in the place was genetically engineered for complete loyalty,” Mickey said. “They have no idea there is another kind of life and if they did … what are they going to do about it?”
We left the building and I felt saddened. For more than a hundred years I had enjoyed thousands of exotic food dishes prepared by a Kitchen Chef in just seconds and traveled via slot car system to any location I desired with no effort on my part with no thought to the pathetic animal slaves who were doing all the manual labor. I felt like crying.
            “The manufacturers don’t want people to know,” Mickey said. “They have too much energy invested in something with too many wild isotopes that people wouldn’t understand. They don’t call this the Technetium Generation for nothing.”
The day that had started out sunny and almost fifty degrees was suddenly much colder. A gust of wind pelted our faces with icy snow as we headed back to my apartment building.
            “I’ll never feel sorry for myself again,” King Lear said as he slithered past a giant holographic display offering a wild night of simulated sex with any movie star god or goddess from the last three hundred years for only two hundred energy credits. “To wake up not knowing what the day brings has to be one of the best feelings on earth.”
            “I never thought about it that way,” Mickey said. “Waking up hungry and without a plan is a good thing?”
            King Lear closed his eyes and resorted to his immense knowledge of Shakespeare. “In contrast to the wormlike submissiveness, and therefore the dishonor …”
The ground was shaking. We decided to take the long way home. The spider that towered above our part of the city appeared to be moving. I caught a glimpse of giant bristle covered legs moving between skyscrapers and flinging drifts of snow hundreds of feet into the air. Digging? The worst part of the alien Terrors was their seeming indifference to the world that they found themselves in. We couldn’t hurt them … and they ignored us. I wasn’t sure about the creatures drawing elements out of the ground. My thought patterns were largely un-programmed and it just didn’t seem right for some reason.

-------3-------

The winter of 2171 was the longest I’d ever endured in my life. The solar panels atop the building were coated with ice and no longer worked. I hadn’t heard from Juliet in months. She said Europe was becoming one giant glacier and now they had their own terrors. One of the creatures hatched right inside Buckingham Palace. The German Chancellor said nothing could be done. Her and Mitch were thinking of moving to Africa.  
My non-human friends and I huddled in a corner of my apartment operating the Kitchen Chef with a Nobelium battery that Mickey stole from an abandoned Twenty-Seventh Street sexual simulator. Sometimes I punched in twentieth century twenty-pound roast turkey just so we could stick our feet, in King Lear’s case tail into the steaming cavity to keep warm.
“Do you ever wonder where this is all going?” King Lear said one morning as we were deciding what to have for breakfast.
“I live for the day,” Mickey told him as he appeared from beneath a mountain of thermal reflective blankets.
“I mean every few days I go outside just to feel the sun on my scales and there are fewer and fewer humans about. I’d be surprised if there were a hundred people left in this entire city and hardly any pets.”
“If the slot system wasn’t jammed I’d be leaving too,” Mickey said. “I hear Florida is nice! Some days it gets up to sixty degrees and you can go outside without thermal wraps.”
“I hear there are swamps in Brazil,” King Lear mused. “I wonder what it feels like to swim in water that isn’t frozen on the surface?”
“I’ve wondered about that too,” I told them. “The world’s population has been declining for centuries ever since people decided that they could have the pleasures of sex without a human partner. But lately the loss of total life on Earth seems to be accelerating.”
“It’s the Terrors digging holes all over the city,” Mickey said. “That and the cold. People just don’t care anymore. It used to be that you had to work to eat but with Kitchen Chefs making any kind of food out of smoggy air that doesn’t happen.”
After eating European white truffles with a white wine sauce that made my toes curl we decided to listen to the radio. KRNR was playing music from the 1960’s. King Lear surprised us with a perfect pitch voice as he sang along with Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. Mickey had been suggesting for weeks that we immerse ourselves in embryotic fluid and go into hibernation until spring. He had been scavenging and knew where we could find three chambers that still operated. I spent half the morning staring out the window. The snow was still coming down in blankets. I couldn’t see the Allegheny River only three blocks away. I said yes … and King Lear didn’t want to be alone so he came with us.

-------4-------

The embryotic chambers were in an underground complex on Mason Street. The machines were powered by sixteen massive self-charging Nobelium power plants guaranteed to keep a person in deep sleep for thousands of years. The time dial on the operation console went from one hour to infinity. I set all three for six months and climbed inside. The fluid was surprisingly warm. I heard King Lear hiss with delight and with his eyes closed I’m sure he imagined swimming in a swamp. Mickey kicked his legs a few times and then was still … like a cold mouse drowning in a bucket of hot water.
It seemed like I’d slept for centuries … and I had.

-------5-------

I was aware of the sound of rushing water and something reminded me of seeing Old Faithful erupting many years before with my husband Rod. It had to be just another in an endless series of dreams. I didn’t realize how many. Something was wrong and my eyes opened. I pressed the controls which allowed the chamber to drain opened the hatch and stepped outside. I was standing in water up to my ankles before I fell. A cool-air fan blew me dry and a vacuum sucked off the fluid residue. A post-hibernation transfusion began to regenerate my muscle tissue. After two sequences I could stand.
The chamber where Mickey had slept was empty. I could see where he’d tried to gnaw open the lock on my tube … he never was good at computer overrides. King Lear was still inside his chamber … but he was long dead. I never thought I’d cry for a snake but he was more than that. “The valiant never taste of death but once.”
A sequence readout on the operation console showed the embryotic chambers had reset themselves more than nine-thousand times over two thousand years before finally correcting. The huge Nobelium batteries that took up most of the floor space looked swollen and melted. I hadn’t eaten for two centuries and my bio medical wrist band still said I was 6.3 pounds overweight. Damn! I could hear a large pump running somewhere.

-------6-------

It only took a few hours to find my way out of the basement building but it felt like forever. I was a good swimmer … I had to be. Pittsburg was an ocean with the tops of structures sticking out of the water like iron and cement Islands. It was warm. I hoped to find Mickey … but it was impossible. The air felt like the medical center laundry rings that washed and dried your clothes when you walked through them. The terrors were everywhere and surely in the thousands … more like millions … billions … wading through the water with the upper parts of their bodies lost in the clouds. I was so small I’m sure they didn’t even know I was there.
I finally understood. The holes they were digging were for eggs. Our world now belonged to them and without a fight. I wondered about my daughter Juliet and also about Mickey … but two centuries had passed … It was impossible and I felt so alone. The Climate Scientists were right about global warming … they just had the time all wrong.
It was harder swimming underwater to the embryotic chambers but I made it - through the force of will. This had to be the end. I spent most of the day with my hand on King Lear’s scale-covered head. The pumps sounded like a heartbeat. He felt warm … almost as if he could still be alive. Let’s not go there.
“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind …”
After carefully setting the controls … I had to be sure.  I climbed inside with my last friend. I tried to smile as the chamber filled with warm fluid but it was too hard. We as a species had too much life and lived too long. They say ideas and feelings are forever … moving forward and backward in the space-continuum like the pendulum on a universe-sized clock. If you are receiving this thought transmission from one Naomi Lyn Medford who was never really a part of the madness … then it must be true.
Eternity is a very long time.

THE END ?