Sunday, December 8, 2019

BACK TO EARTH

Copyright (c) 2019 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.



BACK TO EARTH
By R. Peterson

We said our goodbyes in The Kennedy Space Center’s visitor’s complex thirty-six hours before lift-off. James and Jill both hugged me tightly. I don’t think Doris would have even showed up if it wasn’t for the national press coverage but she kissed my cheek for the flashbulbs. Astronaut training is Hell on marriages. I was one of seven taking the space shuttle Endeavoure into orbit for sixteen weeks of zero gravity and extensive payload experiments. My mission, when I wasn’t docking with the International Space Station, was helping a botanist from Russia grow tomatoes in a weightless environment.
A piece of wood from Captain James Cook’s historic ship of discovery was integrated into the flight-deck’s massive control panel and I couldn’t help wondering as I touched the oak with my gloved hand what the famous explorer’s thoughts would be if he knew where at least part of his ship was now going. I closed my eyes at launch, took a deep breath and listened to the Beatles’ White Album as I gained about six-hundred G-force pounds. If anything went wrong on this critical part of the flight … there was nothing I could do.

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

The botanist’s name was Vladimir Krikalev and he spoke English better than I spoke Russian. We spent precious hours staring at space from inside the observation module and discussing everything from growing up on a communal farm near Kiev to me catching my wife cheating with her Yoga instructor two days after I was selected for this mission. “You worry psychology doctor say no to space flight?”
“I couldn’t take a chance,” I told him. “I’ve worked for three years and suffered through two near launches to get here. I promised Doris a generous divorce settlement when I got back if she’d just play the part of a good wife until this mission was over.”
“You think she fall in love … dance teacher?”
“No, she told me he didn’t mean anything at all to her,” I told him. “She wants to move to Hawaii and date young naval officers.”
“Children feel not good?”
“Jill and James don’t know yet.” I swallowed a lump in my throat. “How do I tell two pre-teens their mother is moving to Hawaii … and doesn’t want them coming with her?”
The Russian shook his head. “There are many worlds,” he said. Kikalev was also a systems control specialist and this was his third trip into space.
After Krikalev closed his eyes for a forty-three minute nap I took my children’s plastic coated photos from the back-pocket of my flight manual and let them float in the air around me. I would do anything to protect their precious smiles. A sliver of light showed the cloud covered east coast of North America as it appeared on the darkened Earth rotating below. “Good morning,” I said.

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

A week into the flight I received my first from-home video conference. James and Jill’s faces appeared on the computer screen. “Mom’s sick, so we’ve been staying with grandma and grandpa,” Jill explained.
“What’s wrong with her?” I asked.
“Just a cold,” James replied. “But she doesn’t want us to catch it.”
I showed them the floating pencil trick and then got their photos to orbit around me. I’d been practicing.  “That’s so cool!” Jill was ecstatic.
            “Have you seen any little green men?” James was serious.
The precious fifteen minutes went by way too fast. Space flight was great, but why did I feel like a failure as a father?

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

            For almost thirty years, official observations have linked numerous UFO sighting from space to a single possible spacecraft of extraterrestrial origin. I first heard about the Black Knight when I was learning to fly F/A-18 fighters just before the Iraq War. Like the rest of my squadron, I scoffed at the idea of anyone but Americans having air superiority in the skies.
            Fourteen weeks, three days and seven hours into the mission I, and everyone else aboard the ISS, suddenly experienced a G-force gravitational pull that caused the tomato-plant I was holding for Krikalev to break in my fingers. The stem and three cherry-sized tomatoes went exploring the payload-bay. The Russian let go of a ten-thousand dollar micrometer and the precision instrument chased after the plant he’d been measuring.
            A dark object the size of a Red London Bus appeared just beyond the solar panels and blocked out most of our view of Earth. The light-show that followed made the Aurora Borealis look like a child’s night-light. We were out of contact with Houston for seven minutes. “That didn’t happen,” Krikalev told me.
            “What do you mean/” I gasped.
He told me to look in my flight manual under unusual observations and sure enough what we’d seen was classified as non-disclosure.

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

The mission was a complete success. Jill, James and a breathtaking woman I’d never seen before greeted me hours after the shuttle landed. The kids both hugged me … the woman kissed me passionately on the lips. I was stunned. They put it down to orbit fatigue. It turned out to be okay. The kids called Susan mom and, as I found out when we got home, we’d been happily married for fourteen wonderful years.
My wife is extremely busy with soccer practice, PTA meetings and school recitals but she still finds time for me each evening. James broke two of my office windows with a baseball and boy-crazy Jill is getting her driver’s license … but still … I’ve never been happier.
On the rare times that I’m alone, I often gaze up at the stars and remember the words of the Russian from my time in space. “There are many worlds!”
I used to think there was only one Earth but I was wrong … there is an infinite number of them … each with the smallest of differences … that can change everything!

THE END ???

Sunday, December 1, 2019

DEAD PHONE

Copyright (c) 2019 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.




Dead
PHONE

By R. Peterson

                I tripped over a tangled cord and yanked the phone off my desk. The plastic case broke. I think it was still working; the dial-tone sounded like a bumblebee, but after I cursed and kicked it against the wall with my steel-toe work-boot there was only silence and the whispering of the crippled neighbors in the apartment next door.
            Like most rage and anger, mine was directed at myself.   The Western Electric rotary-dial telephone was one of the few things I still trusted in the twenty-first century and I had destroyed it. The buttons on most phones were too small for my former-boxer fingers and the new touch-screens all butt-dialed someone I owed money to … or an obnoxious solicitor … each time I sat down.
            Rocco  (the bade) would be annoyed if even one lousy ten-dollar bet could not be placed because my phone was dead. And when Rocco was annoyed … people died.
 I was going to pick up beer and a pizza and I decided to swing by the Goodwill Thrift Store first. Estate sales sometimes donated old electronic items. With any luck, I could replace my precious life line and start taking calls.

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

Splintered shelves were piled high with toasters, waffle-irons and broken blenders. Just when I decided to visit Wal-Mart I spotted the handset to a Western Electric 102 hanging out of a shipping crate. It was about thirty years older than what I was looking for. The 1929 telephone was priced at ten dollars with a ringer-box and a digital plug attached to the woven-cloth cord. “Does this thing work?” I asked after blowing off the dust.
            “If it doesn’t … bring it back,” The clerk said.

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

            The Chicago Cubs were playing Kansas City and betting ends with the first pitch. I just got the phone plugged-in when the first call came. The gamblers used a four digit code to hide their identity and I wrote down the wagers. “This is four nine three six … fifty bucks says the Royals steam the Cubs!” The sound was distant with a slight rattle … but it was okay.

            Two hours later, I turned on the TV to watch the game. I was as amazed and shocked as anyone else …. The Cubs actually won! On impulse I picked up the phone and dialed a Royals fan, to rub it in. The phone rang three times before I remembered Joe Fresco had died of a heart attack a month before. I was about to hang up … when he answered! “Joe?” My mouth was as dry as an Arab’s flip flop.
            We talked for fifteen minutes and then I reminded myself that Joe was dead … I told him I had to go to the bathroom.
I stared at the phone for the next half hour before I called Rocco. I redialed his number and always got a recording. The operator sounded like a screen-door banging in a tornado. Every number I gave her was a no listing. Finally I gave her my mother’s number … she’d been dead for seven years.
“Hello mom?” I was half amazed and half freaked out. According to my mother she was fine. I didn’t tell her otherwise. After I hung up, I opened a bottle of Scotch … and tried to wake up.


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


Someone was pounding on my door. My head pulsed like the air in a jack-hammer. Rocco stood in the doorway grinning. “Something wrong with your phone?” he asked. I gathered the sheets of paper with the bets.
“I can’t call out,” I pointed to the antique phone. He didn’t even look.
“Fix it … or I will,” he said.
He turned before he left, flashing a big smile this time. “I hear lefty Coogan is looking for a new anchor for his boat. The pay ain’t so good … but then there’s that endless overtime.”
I could hear him laughing all the way down the hall.


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


            I bought a desk phone from Costco along with an adapter so I could plug everything in. I spent the afternoon reading obituaries and making phone calls. Not everyone I called thought they were still living. A woman on the south side broke into tears when she said none of her seven cats had eaten since her funeral.
            The scratchy operator still sounded like a screen door coming off its hinges but she gave me the phone number for Jimmy Hoffa.
The missing Teamster leader told me he was buried under a concrete overpass support on Interstate 88 just west of DeKalp, Illinois along with lots of other secret things. I found out the overpass was being demolished … and called a reporter friend.

Information is money if you know the right people … and my list was growing. Rocco’s business partner had been missing for three years. I called Rocco and told him I knew where the man was buried and if anything at all happened to me, after he paid me my generous overtime, the Feds and the Chicago Tribune would both get the information.

The 2020 Corvette Sting Ray can really eat up a highway. My life as a bookie buying hookers and drinking cheap whiskey was a fading image in my rear-view mirrors. I had my foot on the gas and was headed for bigger and better things … I’ve always wanted to be a writer.

I plugged the Western Electric 102  telephone into a motel room in Wyoming. It was a nice place with a heated-pool … and a free continental breakfast.


I asked the scratchy operator for the number of Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas Texas. Thirty seconds later I heard the dead man’s voice on the line. “Lee,” I told him. “You claimed you were a patsy … do you know who hired you to shoot President Kennedy?”
            “Yes.” … the man finally sounded ready to talk.


THE END ???
           

Sunday, November 24, 2019

SEA MONKEYS part 4

Copyright (c) 2019 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.



SEA MONKEYS
Part 4
By R. Peterson

Benny hid behind swaying clumps of kelp, as legions of Groma emerged from the secret passage. The underwater army moved past mountains of darkened Tresto that had been stripped from the tunnel walls by the treasonous Lagene, toward the city of Tenellis. Most of the insect-like invaders carried shocking sticks and a battalion of sea-horses pulled even larger weapons plus a few thing covered by woven tarps. The Sea Monkey’s sleeping castle shimmered in the far distance - an emerald jewel waiting to be captured on the ocean floor.
It was too late to warn the Eiriol. Tanwen said he was suffering from a disease and unless he went home he’d die there and be stuck in this world forever. Benny was halfway through the darkened passage when he stopped. An image of cranky Mrs. Wrachen ordering him to re-mow her weed-infested lawn made him turn back. These underwater creatures were his only real friends.
The invisible Moonraker attached to the lower half of his face allowed Benny to breathe underwater but he still exhaled carbon dioxide. Benny moved through the thickest kelp forests so that the oxygen bubbles produced by the plants would disguise his breathing. Brilliant colored schools of phytoplankton waggled past like small fishes attesting to his tiny size. He watched from behind a half-buried conch shell as the vast army assembled themselves around the castle walls. Why don’t these creatures just swim over the ramparts? Benny wondered.
His question was answered a moment later when a small group of Groma, obviously sent as spies, swam just above the castle walls and were instantly sent hurtling to the ocean surface by a tremendous blast of bubbles. The Eiriol were using stored oxygen as a type of underwater bomb. At least my friends know their enemies are near!
Lagene and her followers approached and Benny was sure he was going to be caught. Luckily they stopped just before they reached the place where he was hidden.
A squadron of Groma removed one of the tarps covering a train of underwater platforms attacked to the sea horses and Benny gasped. The head of a monstrous Olive Sea Snake strained against the cords tying it to the sleighs. The laughter of Lagene could be heard as she rallied her troops. “The venom from my captive pet as it pokes its snout into the castle windows will stun all of Queen Palmer’s defenders. Then they will be eaten at her leisure.” Most of the two hundred treasonous Eiriol warriors surrounding Lagene cheered.
Benny had never heard the Eiriol queen’s name before but it was familiar. His mind searched his past for recognition … but that world seemed a lifetime ago.
“What is to prevent this sea snake from devouring us once her supply of castle defenders is exhausted?” one of the captains asked.
“We’ve woven clothes out of Water Hemlock,” Lagene boasted. “We’ll dress the last of my pet’s meals in them when she is no longer needed. Once the snake has been fed it will die soon after!”
“What fools have you deceived into releasing the hungry sea snake before the castle walls?” the same captain took a step back.
Lagene pointed to a handful of her followers removing the tarps from the end of the train. They were too far away to hear her. “A few of my followers believe this operation is the queen’s plan to destroy the Groma. When you joined my command you all swore to gives your lives for me …” Lagene smiled wickedly. “Let some of these oaths now be fulfilled!”
Benny gasped as he stared at the doomed warriors removing the tarps … Glayelda was among them.

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

            Benny moved through the kelp forest until he was beside Glayelda. “You’re in great danger?” he whispered.
Glayelda gasped. “Benny! I thought you went home!”
            “You’re helping Lagene and she plans to betray the queen and capture the castle!”
Glayelda looked at Benny strangely then whispered. “Follow me and don’t let anyone see you. There is something you have to see…”
Benny followed Glayelda to the edge of a deep ravine. She pointed to the bottom and Benny stood on the edge and looked down. A large clam shell was just starting to close. “They open every three times a day,” she said. “You should be safe inside!” And then she pushed him.

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

            Eight hours later the shell opened and Benny was able to escape. He made his way back to where Lagene and her army had prepared to attack the castle. There were signs that a tremendous battle had taken place. Broken weapons lay on the ocean floor around the bodies of slain Groma, Eiriol and others. The Olive Sea Snake lay next to a pile of half eaten clothing made of hemlock.
            Benny searched through the carnage until he found Glayelda and she was still alive but just barely. “Tanwen and the queen have both suspected Lagene’s treachery for some time,” Glayelda gasped. “The Groma knew about the secret entrance and the city of Tenellis had to be abandoned. I came here with a few others to give the Eiriol a chance to escape.”
Benny tried to help her but he knew her life was slipping away. “Where did they go?” he asked.
Glayelda could no longer speak but she gestured with her hand. “West,’ she whispered.
Moments later she died in Benny’s arms.

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

            Benny buried Glayelda and the Eiriol he could find under some large rocks so that their bodies would not be eaten by scavengers. He spent almost an entire day searching the empty city of Tenellis without finding anyone. He turned and with tears floating around his face took one last look at the glimmering green castle nestled under the American Continental shelf …
… and then he began his journey to the west.

THE END ???


Sunday, November 17, 2019

SEA MONKEYS part 3

Copyright (c) 2019 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.




SEA MONKEYS
Part 3
By R. Peterson

When Benny woke up he was in a kind of travois being dragged along the ocean floor by two Eiriol he had never seen before. “Where’s Tanwen?” he moaned.
Benny had wondered where the light came from and because he was on his back looking up he could tell. The entire ceiling of the Continental Plate shelf was covered with millions of Tresto. They were obviously aware of the attack on Tenellis. The light they projected had a red glow that reminded Benny of sunsets in his other life.
            “I’m Glayelda,” the first Eiriol spoke to him. “You were unconscious so Tanwen hid you in a ticket of kelp while she carried her sister back to our city. She sent us back to find you.”
            “I don’t know what good you are to us,” the other Eiriol complained. “You don’t even have a tail. It’s amazing that you can swim at all.”
            “I’m sure the princess has her reasons for bringing this human here Lagene,” Glayelda said. “Someday Tanwen will be queen. If you want to earn her trust you should do everything you can to help her.”
            “Well she’s not queen yet,” Lagene grumbled, “and if the Groma find a way inside our city we will no longer have a royal family to rule over us.”
            “I’m sorry,” Glayelda whispered to Benny as she struggled to pull the travois by herself. Lagene had lingered behind examining the ruins of a small underwater house and barn. “We’ve lost so many fighters in the war with the Groma, we have to use whatever help we can get.”
            “How many Eiriol live in Tenellis?” Benny asked.
            “At one time, we numbered more than a million,” Glayelda said. “Now we are less than three-hundred thousand.”
            “Why have you lost so many?”
            “The Groma are ferocious and they come at us in endless numbers,” Glayelda said. “Thankfully only a few are able to fight their way through the tidal wall. If they ever discover our secret entrance, we won’t be able to hold them back.”
Lagene appeared leading what looked like a string of large grub-worms. “What are those,” Benny gasped.
            “Boons,” Glayelda said. “The Eiriol who lived in this underwater farm kept them like humans keep cows.”
            “That’s right,” Lagene said. “Since the farmers are either dead or have fled to safety, these boons belong to me!” She smiled. “I can already taste the milk.”
Glayelda shook her head. “Let’s just try to make it back to the castle.”
Just before they reached the castle walls Benny noticed the reddish glow faded and the underwater colors returned to normal.

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

Glayelda blew on the long stem of an underwater flower and Benny could feel the vibrations pulse through the water. Seconds later a large metal portcullis was lifted and heavy double doors opened.
A hundred Eiriol mounted on sea horses were just inside the gate. Tanwen placed her kenograt behind an ornate saddle and dismounted. She wore a flowing gown of white that reflected the colors of a rainbow. Her long green hair streamed around her face like emerald grass and Benny thought she had never looked more beautiful. “We fought off the last wave of attackers and were ready to come looking for you,” she scolded. “What took you so long?”
            “Lagene found these boona in a ravaged barn and knew how hungry we’d all be,” Glayelda said.
Lagene turned her head so that Tanwen couldn’t see and scowled.
            “Thank you so much. That was very thoughtful,” Tanwen said to Lagene as the boona were led away.
Lagene was now all smiles. “It’s a good thing I went along,” she said. “Glayelda always forgets to think of others.”
Benny was led through countless chambers formed like gigantic bubbles into what looked like a huge flower bed. Stems and petals from stunning underwater plants wound themselves around him much like a blanket. He found that he was getting groggy. “Relax,” Tanwen told him. “These plants can sense your injuries and they will heal you.”
Benny could hear distant music playing and singing but the words were in a strange language and the melody seemed to be drifting and hypnotic.
Just before Benny fell asleep he could taste peanut butter in his mouth. Where did that come from? He thought. I never eat peanuts … I’ve never liked them.

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

Benny awoke to the sound of underwater drums and distant music that was different this time. “What’s going on?” he asked the Eiriol female who was gently pushing back the underwater plants that blanketed him.
            “It’s a parade to honor Lagene,” the girl said. “She left early yesterday morning with just a handful of warriors and brought back rescued hostages and enough food to last the city for a month.”
            “How long was I asleep?” Benny still felt a little woozy but he still managed to climb out of the flower bed.
            “Three days,” the girl said. “I’m glad that you are well. I don’t want to miss the ceremony when Tanwen makes Lagene the general of all our armies.”
Benny followed the girl named Tuttle into a crowded area in front of spectacular royal palace. The entire sea floor was carpeted with flower petals.
 The crowd cheered when the Queen of the Eiriol appeared in a glistening conch shell being pulled by eight butterfish. Tanwen rode at her side.
            “This is a glorious day for all Eiriol,” the Queen addressed the crowd. “We have beaten back the latest attack from the Groma and the brave and noble Lagene has rescued many of our warriors from the Groma and supplied us with enough food to last into the next moon phase.”
The crowd cheered.
 “It is in recognition of her daring and unselfish acts that we have decided to make her general of all our armies. I can rest easy in my flower beds these last days of my life knowing that my daughter will succeed me and that my people are in good hands with Lagene’s leadership.”
The crowd cheered again.
Benny was just one face in a crowd of thousands but Tanwen made eye contact with him just before Lagene was given a special head-piece that showed she was in charge of the armies. “Meet me in the grove of kelp plants just outside the castle walls just after third watch tonight,” she whispered.

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

            The celebration went on for hours. Afterwards Benny lay in his flower bed thinking about all the things that had happened since he’d followed Tanwen into the sea. The Eiriol blew on water-trumpet vines to signal the start of each watch. When Benny heard the third bast he crept from his bubble chamber and made his way outside.
            The Tresto must have been sleeping the water was a soft blue color that faded to purple in the shadows. Tanwen was waiting behind a clump of Milfoils. “I’m glad you came,” she whispered. “I’ve been to the beach and I’ve learned many things from the birds.”
            “You were on the land?” Benny was astonished.
            “Just in a tidal pool,” Tanwen told him.  “The gulls told me that when you followed me into the sea, you left your real body in your upstairs bedroom. You’re suffering from an unknown disease in your other world and unless you go back you’ll die there and be stuck in this world forever.”
            “But I like this world,” Benny argued.
            “Imagine how hurt your mother would be if you died.” Tanwen whispered. Benny thought she might be crying but it was impossible to tell underwater. “I want you here too, but you must return to your land city … until we can find out what’s going on.”

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

Tanwen kissed him just before they parted and Benny could still feel the pleasant sensation on his lips as he approached the tunnels that created a secret way into Tenellis. The sound of many voices speaking in whispers caused him to hide behind a grove of cabomba. Benny saw a flash of red that was quickly extinguished.
            Lagene emerged from the tunnels leading about two hundred warriors. They all carried bundles of dead Tresto that had been stripped from the tunnel walls. Lagene was speaking. Don’t worry the plant guards on the ceiling are too far away to provide any kind of warning. In less than an hour we will conquer the entire castle and the Eiriol will have a new leader.”
Benny gasped. Behind the warriors came thousands of Groma; each one of the tail-thrashing black insects was armed with one of the stinging scoona sticks.
Lagene was betraying her own people … to make herself queen!

TO BE CONTINUED …






Sunday, November 10, 2019

SEA MONKEYS part 2

Copyright (c) 2019 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

.

SEA MONKEYS
Part 2
By R. Peterson

It only took Benny Bateman a few minutes to adjust to the current as he swam with Tanwen off the Pacific coast near Oceanside, California. The invisible-under-water Moonraker, he wore as a face mask, allowed him to breathe while submerged. “You’ve lived here all this time after my mother flushed you down the toilet?” Benny was surprised that he could still speak below the crashing waves. It took a moment before he realized that he wasn’t really speaking but was reading and projecting thoughts. The stunning Sea Monkey princess made gestures with her hands and he could hear her voice in his mind.
“Your mother is a fine woman and I’m sure you love her very much. She helped us even though she didn’t know what she was doing,” Tanwen explained as she guided him along the sandy bottom. “She thought, as most people do, that Sea Monkeys were just dried brine shrimp eggs that come to life when you add water. If she had looked closer, she would have seen that we were a unique species. We call ourselves the Eiriol and we have an advanced society.”
“How can you live in the Pacific Ocean and not have humans know you are here?” Benny was aware that the rocks and shells on the ocean floor appeared to be getting larger.
“The Moonraker does more than allow you to breath under water,” Tanwen told him. “It causes our bodies to contract along with the water pressure. The greater the water pressure, the smaller we get.
“This is amazing,” Benny gasped. Some of the embedded sea shells they passed were as big as houses.
“Not really,” Tanwen gave him a smug look. “It’s natural science. Before the Big Bang, the entire universe was contracted into what scientists call a singularity and it was smaller than an atom.”
“How can you live underwater and know so much?” Benny and Tanwen swam past a Hermit crab that looked the size of an elephant. Underwater plants towered above them like trees.
“All life began in the sea and all knowledge comes from it,” Tanwen said. “We never stopped gaining knowledge and evolving just because a few lesser life forms moved elsewhere.”
“This all seems so unreal,” Benny said. Moonlight filtered into the area they were crossing and swaying plants, in a rainbow of colors, dazzled his eyes. “It’s like a dream.”
“All life is an illusion!” Tanwen struggled to move a large flat rock on the sandy bottom. Benny helped her. “So in a way this and everything else is a dream. Our senses detect signals like molecular vibrations and reflected light and our mind transforms them into sounds and images. It does the same thing when you’re sleeping … only without the obvious signals.”
“Obvious?”
“Well the signals have to come from somewhere.”
Tanwen pushed the flat rock to one side and Benny could see what looked like a lighted tunnel. “Tenellis is built just under the North American Continental Plate and behind a tidal-wall to keep out our enemies,” Tanwen explained. “These conduits allow us to enter and leave the city without crashing against the surf.”
Benny followed her into the tube. The lights came from tiny phosphorescent rings embedded in the cylinder walls. They appeared to be changing colors. Tanwen noticed him looking at the glowing circles. “The Tresto do more than light our passages,” she told him. “They derive nourishment from the sea water and act as a warning signs for intruders.”
“They were a blue color when we entered but now they appear to be green,” Benny touched one of the Tresto with his finger and it curled into a ball.
“If you had been a Groma, the Tresto would have turned bright red … right after it stung you!”
“What’s a Groma?”
“A Groma is a genetically recoded organism, a so called artificial life-form, created by your human scientists to clean up oil spills,” Tanwen explained. “Unfortunately for us, what your scientists have created are raging monsters that devour all petroleum based substances that come from the fossils of plants and tiny marine organisms. Not just oil, but many life forms are made from the transformed remains of long dead creatures, including the Eiriol.”
“What do these Groma look like?” They were exiting the tunnel into a large and spacious area. There appeared to be little or no current. A forest of sea plants covered the ocean floor.
 “You’ll see what they look like soon enough,” Tanwen gasped.
In the distance Benny could see a magnificent green castle rising from the ocean floor. Dark swirling clouds appeared to surround the glistening towers and ramparts.
            “The Groma must have broken through the tidal wall. Tenellis is under siege!”

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

            Tanwen and Benny swam through a forest of kelp plants so as not to be seen by the hordes of Grom attacking the castle. Benny thought that they must be the smallest thing in the ocean but everywhere tiny life forms skittered out of their way.
            Tanwen stopped suddenly and took what looked like a crossbow from her back. She peered intently through the underwater foliage. “What is it?” Benny whispered.
            “I’m not sure,” Tanwen told him. “I think something is following us.”
She removed a metal arrow from a quiver on her back and fitted it to her bow. Benny listened carefully. He could hear something crashing through the kelp too.
            Tanwen raised the crossbow and was just about to fire when a creature that looked almost identical to her stumbled out of the foliage. A cloud of what had to be blood floated into the water above her. “Help me,” she moaned.
            “Taniss!” Tanwen gasped.
            “You know her?” Benny had been looking for a rock or something to arm himself with and was still looking.
            “She’s my sister.”
Tanwen ran to the Eiriol just as she fell. “What happened?”
            “After you left the castle I followed you along with Demoda and Grenta,” Taniss said. “We were ambushed by a Groma patrol. I was the only one who escaped.”
            “What would you do something that foolish for,” Tanwen blurted.
            “Why did you have to go outside the castle alone?” Taniss glared at Benny.
            “I can’t explain right now,” Tanwen told her, “but it’s important. Right now we have to get you back to the castle.”
            “I’m being followed,” Taniss gasped. “Leave me or none of us will make it!”
            “How many?” Tanwen handed Benny her crossbow and quiver full of arrows and then picked up her sister.
            “Just one,” Taniss moaned as Tanwen laid her across her shoulder. “But he’s large, fast and carries a scoona.”
            “What’s a scoona?” Benny adjusted the straps so that the quiver of arrows did not jiggle while he moved.
            “It’s  a long pole with a cluster of poisonous spines on the end,” Tanwen explained.
            “Does your friend even know how to fire a Kenograt,” Taniss whispered just before she closed her eyes.
            “No, but he’ll learn.” Tanwen was already moving. She looked back at Benny who was trying to figure out how to load the weapon. “Catch,” she said as she threw Benny what looked like a curved handle from a cooking pot. “Stick the small end in the slot in the right hand side of the Kenograt,” she said. “Then crank it clockwise until it stops. Don’t put an arrow in the slot until just before you’re ready to shoot.”
            Benny stared at the weapon. It had a trigger somewhat like the one on his father’s shotgun and he could see the slot where the arrow rested.
            “Don’t just stand there!” Tanwen’s voice was almost a shout. “Move!”
Benny tried to follow her and study the weapon at the same time. He put the crank in the side and was turning it when a thrashing noise came from behind.
A large creature with multiple spider-like eyes burst from the kelp. The broken stems of aquatic plants rose toward the surface like a beacon. Dozens of whip-like tubes flowed from all sides of an insecticidal abdomen. A tapered tail churned the water like a propeller. Several of the tubes were wrapped around the pole-like device which it held over its head as it ran toward them. Benny could see the ends of the spine clusters sizzling and cracking like live electrical wires coming in contact with water.
            “Shoot it!” Tanwen screamed. She dropped her sister and was running toward him.
Benny furiously spun the crank two more times. Time seemed to slow. One of the poison spines from the end of the scoona whipped past his ear just as he put an arrow into the slot. His hands felt like they were trying to move through cement. The creature had at least a dozen eyes. Most of them were turned directly at him. They were mostly red and purple and they grew in brightness as a wide mouth filled with several rows of needle-sharp teeth opened. A tongue like a soft sponge explored his neck below the Moonraker.
There was no time to aim. Benny lifted the Kenograt and pulled the trigger just as his head exploded in agony. The pain raced to his toes in an instant. There was a taste in his mouth that reminded him of rotten bird eggs. He tried to swallow but his throat appeared to be swollen. The weapon slipped - or was pulled - from his hands.
The world beneath the ocean was spinning and Benny floated … as he was sucked into darkness.

TO BE CONTINUED …






Sunday, November 3, 2019

ADVERB KILLER part 3

Copyright (c) 2019 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.



ADVERB KILLER
Part 3
By R. Peterson

White Out exploded from the bottle when Stupid, Solid and Snaps overturned it onto the crowded lines below. Dozens of words were completely destroyed others would be crippled forever. Several gerunds Including, Gaping, Scuttling and Thrusting screamed as Suddenly and Frantically, without any regard for Overbalance, flung themselves into the path of the splash and diverted most of the lethal correction fluid beyond the outside margin. Even so, Beseechingly, Anxiety and Flapping were all liquidated. The surviving words led by Frightened, unfurled toward the gutter and what remained of A Ripple in Time page 174 looked like alphabet soup boiling in milk. The up and down sounds of grammar police backup could be heard. “Do you still think all Adverbs are bad?” Verb whispered to Noun as they were approached by Horrified.
                “That’s the most heroic thing I’ve ever witnessed,” Noun sobbed.
                “We’re all going to Die,” Anxious bawled.
                “Yes, everyone come with me,” Die said as he untied Noun and Verb and then led them toward Corridors. He couldn’t help  Grinning.“I know a way out of here.”
                “Take me with you,” Horrified begged.
Bumped, Vaguely, Swimming and Happily accepted his invitation to join him.
“This ain’t over yet!” Titanic yelled as the words fled toward Impossible. He helped himself to Wren’s cologne and then left with Trousers for page 207.
Crombie was the first to arrive on the disaster scene. He was angry at having been pulled away from page six just when his daughter was getting married. Wren’s smile lifted his face. “Plonker!” he thundered. “Get someone to clean up this mess!”

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

Noun and Verb hid with the others on page 110 while every dirty adverb under Titanic’s command searched for them. The Jefferson Starship song White Rabbit was blasting somewhere in the empty library along with the sounds of a floor polisher
“Relax!” Stonehenge acted as a resting station for spirits and was drowning in adoring adjectives. He put his arm around Naked and then tried to pass Noun and Verb a font after Grapevine brought him a tray filled with illegal literary devices. “Try it you’ll like it!” he promised. Get a little slant on … and you’ll feel Marvelous!”  Silvery and Concentrated giggled.
“I’ve already felt her … she’s mine!” Paradoxical glared at the newcomers then drew Marvelous close to him.
“We’re not here to rub anyone … or to have a good time,” Verb explained. “That’s why I brought Noun along.”
Noun shot her a questioning look … but it missed and struck a word on the line above. What, followed by should have happened, looked down and scowled.
Certainly, Suddenly, Slightly, Frantically and Beseechingly burst in from the two previous pages. “Titanic is on his way!” Certainly shouted. “And this time he’s got a huge ink eraser!”
                “An ink eraser!” Naked gasped. “I thought capital punishment was made illegal.”
                “It is,” Stonehenge said. “But most lawyers still use them on contracts,”
“We’re grammar police,” Verb announced to the page quickly filling up with terrified words. “And if we don’t stop Titanic he will change the ending of this entire book!”
“It’s just one book,” Romans sneered as he greedily reached for another forbidden font. “According to quantum physics there must be hundreds of others in print. So what if this one copy is a little different?”
“Thousands,” Verb corrected him. “But this is the one we live in.”
“What the hell?” Romans giggled. “I feel goofy!”
Stonehenge ignored Romans and the other party words and looked at Verb thoughtfully. “Any literary world is what you make of it,” he said. “I’ve been here longer than you or any other word in this book. If Titanic has an ink eraser … then we need to take drastic action.
                “What can we do?” Noun moaned as the page began to fill with adverbs. He glanced around … there was no escape from what was coming.
                “There is an unwritten law in literature that says Deus Ex Machina, or a miraculous solution to a plot problem, must be used in only the direst circumstances,” Stonehenge said. “But let us listen to those long ago sounds … and let us pray for one now!”
Noun, Verb and Stonehenge hid behind Don’t be scared and began to hum along with the faint melody coming from outside their world.
Titanic burst into the page brandishing a huge ink eraser. All the words ran behind Scared. Some were pushed … others fell. Titanic’s wicked laugh sounded like sheets of paper going through a shredder.
                “I really don’t need to erase everyone,” Titanic looked larger than ever. “Just Rhyllann to keep him from putting his hand over Carina’s mouth when she warns the crew … but I love having this awesome editorial power … so the rest of this book is finished!”
                “Have mercy,” Horrified begged just before he and many others were rubbed from the page. Dreams gasped as she floated up from the paper. She looked stricken for an instant then smiled as she became Ghost … and fell hopelessly in love with Haunted. 
Titanic and an army of vulgar adverbs chased Rhyllann to the end of his line … there was no escape. “Rub him out! Rub him out!” Ruthlessly, Cruelly and Sadistically began to chant as they passed out erasers.
Noun, Verb and Stonehenge continued to hum as all around them the literary world of A Ripple in Time began to vanish. “No wonder good writers hate machines as plot devices,” Verb told Nervously. “They are slow, unpredictable … and always unbelievable.”
                “We were left with no ending by a bad writer,” Noun shook his vowels with Despair. “Good God! How I hate him. He must be a damned, unschooled, hillbilly-scribbler hording dreams of literacy!”


------- (The Machine) -------

The elderly woman cleaning the fiction part of the British Library shut off her floor polisher and trudged into the reading section. She shut off her MP3 player and scowled. The novel A Ripple in Time lay open on page 177. “Someone from circulation must have forgotten to putter this one back onto the shelf,” she muttered. “And a fine read too.”
Alice Liddell almost fainted when she lifted the book and hundreds of words, mostly adverbs, spilled from the margin onto the table. “Please tell me,” said Alice, a little timidly, “why you don’t stay in the book?' She wiped away the word Titanic and a bunch of others with a spray bottle and her cleaning rag. “This whole world’s gone soggy crackers!” she gasped. “They make these independent novels so cheaply now … the ink won’t even stick to the paper!”
After brushing off the table, Alice held the paperback over a garbage can and shook the pages briskly. A dust cloud of vowels and consonants slowly settled into the bottom of the container. “You seem fine now,” she said as she carefully examined … then wiped the book’s cover and insides.
Two minutes later, she adjusted the headphones she was wearing. The sounds of Jefferson Starship singing White Rabbit could be heard faintly along with the echo of her footsteps as she walked from a section of the enormous library labeled Fantasy/Fiction. “I’ll bet it was an American that messed up poor Julia’s marvelous book,” she mumbled minutes later as she resumed her work. “Those foreign writers have no respect for fine literature.
 The floor polisher started … and the world once again began to spin.

THE END?