Sunday, November 29, 2015


Copyright (c) 2015 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

“…and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars…” Revelations 2/2

Amna pulled the ragged coat around his shivering body. Two buttons were missing and it was hard to keep out the freezing wind. Most of the richly dressed people walking into the newly built NEW WORLD CHURCH OF THE DIVINE LIGHT Convention Center ignored him and the wooden sign he carried. Still he thought with thousands of people using the main entrance, someone would notice his words. He didn't have to wait long.
A hard faced man stooped to study Amna's sign; close enough for his coat to brush against Amna's cheek. The material was of the softest cashmere and smelled store fresh. Amna reckoned that coat had probably cost the equivalent of two months' welfare checks. 
“THE END IS COMING!” Cashmere Coat read the words out loud with contempt and then laughed. “Why doesn’t a scumbag like you get a job instead of stinking up the doorway for decent people?”
            “This is my job,” Amna replied. “I am to make wide a path of righteousness for he who comes.” Amna knew the man was an officer on the New York City Police Force and a vain man with ruthless ambition but he was not afraid. More information about the man was pouring into his memory all the time. Captain Charles W. O’Conner was evidently a very important part of God’s plan and purpose.
            “I should run you in for blocking the sidewalk,” O’Conner said. “But I don’t want to get my hands dirty.” He pulled an I-phone from his coat pocket and punched a call-button. “I’ll have a car here in five minutes. If you don’t get the hell out of here you’ll spend forty-eight hours in lock-up and one of my boys will break that #%&$@# sign over your head. Do you understand?”
            Amna nodded and began to shamble down the paved stone walkway. The tiny soft voice in his head told him to leave. The voice in his head was always right. And lately, all it took was the slightest brush or contact with another person for the voice in Amna's head to know everything about that person; good and bad.
 A long white stretch limousine pulled to the curb and the Reverend Jason White and four others, one a woman wearing a fur coat made of Russian sable stepped out. Three of the men wore dark suits and dark glasses, the usual choice of uniform for bodyguards. In keeping with his name, the Reverend White wore a white silk Brioni suit. Amna glanced at them. The men all had hand-guns with silencers hidden under their coats. White had a VIPERTEK VTS-881 micro stun gun in his vest pocket. The charismatic evangelist hated for his followers to touch him. The value of their clothing would feed the poor who flocked to the Eighty-sixth Street Mission for the Homeless for more than a year. O’Conner held a door as he waited for White and his party. “Can’t you do something about these vagrants?” The woman was pointing at Amna. “They make our Crusade of Light look bad.”
            “It’s been taken care of,” O’Conner assured her.
            “Then let’s go inside … my obedient flock awaits!” Reverend White took Cecilia Evans’ arm and they walked behind the first guard. Cecilia had been a thousand-dollar a night prostitute before White reformed her. Now she came from a wholesome Nebraska farm background with impeccable credentials thanks to O’Conner’s vast connections.
            “…and it’s shearing time,” Captain O’Conner finished White’s words, but not too loudly. There were still hundreds of people clambering to get inside and find a seat. Some of them recognized White and surged forward trying to touch his hands or even his coat. The guards kept them away. Every seat in the 41,900 capacity stadium was taken. The roar of the crowd was like the rumble of thunder. Surely this would be a night to remember, White mused as he waved his arms in the air and moved toward the stage.


            Amna almost made it to the alley that was his home, when a blue and white police car squealed onto the curb and blocked the alley’s entrance way. One of the officers (a cop with five children the oldest named David attending New York University) threw him to the ground. “You want to put him in the back?” Louis Constello asked his partner.
            “Naw,” the other cop said. (Pete Swensen who made an extra six thousand a month reselling confiscated crack cocaine.) “O’Conner wants him out of the way. They only hold these creeps for two days … I’ve got something in my belt that will save the city a few bucks. He unfastened a baton called a Texan, a length of lead wrapped in leather, from his utility belt as they dragged Amna into the alley.
            Amna felt the first blow that struck his head … but not the second … or any after.

“I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it.” Revelations 3/8

            A child’s cries roused Amna from unconsciousness. Although his right eyelid refused to open, when he squinted towards the child, the pain in his head disappeared. Tears made white vertical lines under six year old Dani Garafalo’s eyes as she staggered into the alley. “What is it … Dani?” Amna beckoned the raggety-tag child towards him. She held a lifeless animal in her thin dirt-smeared arms.
            “It’s Tripper,” Dani sobbed. “My gatti (cat) got ran over by a taxi.”
            “Bring her to me,” Amna’s voice was soft and reassuring. “I think she is only sleeping.”
The animal’s head was crushed and bloody, the body already cold when he took her in his arms. Not much older than a kitten … too young for such a fate.
            Amna closed his eyes and concentrated on a mountain stream he’d seen as a boy hiking with his father in the mountains of South Eastern Idaho. Bright clear water had bubbled out of solid rock like a kind of magic. He blocked all of his senses until he could hear the sounds of the water and feel the mists of memory on his face. A cool breeze cleared his mind of all tribulation and replaced it with faith. All power comes from loving God.
Tripper was purring when Amna handed her back to Dani. The cat snuggled into her arms.
“Thank you Benim Kurtarıcım,” the child said.

“Turn your back on sin,” The Reverend Jason White declared from the pulpit as thousands in the audience rose to their feet, “and say no to the demons who seek to lead your children into the darkness.”
            Offstage, Cecilia Evans sucked at a cigarette and checked her watch for the twentieth time; only an hour had elapsed since the three-hour revival meeting had started. Captain Charles W. O’Conner made sure that none of the stage crew could see him then he slid one hand seductively across Cecilia’s stomach and over one breast. “Let’s go in the lounge area and lock the door,” he suggested.
            “The Alter-boy suspects that his enemies may be a lot closer than he thinks,” Cecilia whispered. “What would he do if he knew someone from another farm was riding his pony while he was out gathering the hay?”
            “He’d keep his mouth shut if he knew what was good for him!” O’Conner cursed under his breath as he squeezed her breast with an iron grip. “I’ve got enough dirt on him to create a dozen farms! God, I want you bad!”
Cecilia moaned. “Why didn’t you say this was a prayer,” she whispered as she took his hand and led him toward the lounge area, “…as the good book says … ask and you shall receive.”

“And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book …” Revelations 5/4

They were getting to the part that Jason loved: A very pretty twenty-three year old woman wearing a simple cotton yellow-flower print dress pushed a wheelchair toward the stage. Her passenger twisted in the chair as if in the midst of a serious seizure or convulsion. He was dressed in an Operation Desert Storm officers-uniform which automatically granted him the title War Hero. Reverend White stopped in the middle of a discourse on the evils of homosexuality as if startled by the intrusion. He left the pulpit and approached the woman as the crowd gasped. “What is it my child?” The audience was alarmed; many rose from their seats. Three microphones on booms miraculously appeared and picked up the woman’s voice with amazing clarity and detail. “It’s my husband,” her voice broke. “He came back from Iraq broken and twisted.” The crowd was hushed. “We’ve always believed in God … and in you … Please help him!”
            “My child!” the Reverend declared. “What makes you think I can help you?”
            “They say that you have been touched by the hand of God,” she whispered, “and those you touch shall be healed.”
            “It is true that I have seen God and that I have eaten at his table,” White said. “But I have no power unless it comes from his grace.”
            “Please help us,” the woman wailed.
White raised his hands as if in exasperation. “I truly know how Jesus felt,” he boomed. “The troubles of the world come knocking on my door.”
            “Please,” the woman sobbed hysterically. “Touch his head and he will be healed.”
White addressed the crowd with wide eyes. “Shall I heal this woman’s husband?” he shouted.
            “Yes!” the crowd thundered back.
            “Shall I rescue him from Satan’s bloody child-stealing hands and lead him into salvation?”
Jason White removed his $18,000 Armani white silk coat and dropped it on the stage. The crowd was working itself into a religious tumult.
            “Yes!” thousands of voices chanted over and over like the first rumbles of an earthquake. Jason secretly thought the sound was better than snorting cocaine. He dashed from the stage, caught-up in the crowd’s fury and placed his hands on the disabled soldier’s head. “By the grace of God I declare you whole,” he thundered. Overcome by the apparent release of power from his hands, the Reverend trembled all over, and then slumped to the floor the same time as Corporal Edmond Lewis rose from the wheel-chair and began to walk. Mrs. Lewis dropped to the floor and began to pray as four men lifted the unconscious White and carried him from the stage.
            Lemont Hicks who was head Pastor at one of the more than twenty-six NEW WORLD CHURCH OF THE DIVINE LIGHT branches picked up the coat and as he hung it on the pulpit the microphones picked up his voice. The next two hours belonged to him. “Come forth,” he declared over the noise of the crowd. “Come forth and feel the power of God!”
The congregation was formed into six lines … those who dropped more than five-hundred dollars into the collection box were moved into the fastest line, and were allowed to actually touch the coat. Others, who donated less, were allowed to shake hands with one of the more than fifty Angels who made a tremendous spectacle over touching the white jacket and then passing on God’s power to the masses.

Jason White watched from backstage. It was a good night. The last Evening with God had netted almost seven-million dollars in tax-free donations … tonight looked to be even better.
            Gracie Lewis followed her now healed husband off the stage. Jason grabbed her from behind the curtain. “You’re a good actress,” he told her, “and so is your husband.”
            “Eddie is not my husband,” Gracie giggled. “God! That damn queer doesn’t even like women.”
            “Ten thousand for three hour’s work … is that right?” White’s eyes roamed over her cotton daisy-print dress.
            “Yes, that’s for each of us,” Gracie said. She was aware of White’s hand moving across her backside.
            “Then I still have more than two and a half hours of your service.” Gracie shrugged her shoulders and nodded her head … she’d been with rich and powerful men before.
            “Just don’t get too rough,” she said.

White smiled as he led her to one of the private healing rooms. This one had a lock on the door, a furnished bar and a king sized vibrating bed.
            “Ten minutes later, after they had each drank a tiny glass from a four-hundred dollar bottle of  Dom Perignon Champagne, White pulled the yellow daisy-dress over her head and removed her underwear. He pushed her roughly onto the bed and enjoyed the look of fear in her eyes. “Now you’ll see the power of God,” he said as he removed his belt.

“And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see.” Revelations 6/1

Amna and Dani walked east toward the river. “Where is your mother, Child?” Amna asked her. Carla Garafalo was a part-time prostitute dying from alcoholism. Dani still held the cat in her arms; the just-out-of-kitten-stage animal appeared to be sleeping.
            “Sometimes when Mama goes viaggio she is gone for several days. I haven’t seen her since Wednesday.”
            “Who looks after you while she is gone?” Amna was impressed with how bright her eyes were. It must be the result of her love for the feline.
Dani laughed. “My mother does not look after me, I look after her …. I have been searching for her.”
            “The voice tells me that I must find a proper bed for you to sleep in until your mother returns,” Amna told her. “You’ll see, I’ll help you find her.”

“How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” Revelations 6/10

It was snowing. They were approaching a narrow service access between two tall apartment buildings. In addition to the apartment blocks dumpsters, a makeshift ghetto of cardboard boxes and torn-fabric tents lined both walls. Amna thought this might be a good place to look for Carla Garafalo. More than forty-five adults and sixty children lived in the forgotten alley some residents of the inner city called Bratton’s Abyss after the heartless police commissioner who said “ …stop giving these troublesome bums money and they’ll go away..”

They were halfway down the alley, stepping over several men sleeping inside plastic garbage bags and a woman trying to wrap her child’s feet in discarded newspapers. Amna noticed a headline on the first page of the New York Times: TURKEY DOWNS RUSSIAN JET! IS THIS THE BEGINNING OF WORLD WAR III? A new Dodge Ram pickup-truck screeched to a stop in the alley entrance. Six young men wearing New York University sweat-shirts and waving metal NYU Bobcat baseball bats jumped from the back. Four others, including two women with lengths of metal bars, climbed from the truck’s cab.
            “It’s time to take out the trash!” a red-headed youth yelled as he beat a man trying to run with plastic tangled around his feet. Blood from a broken jaw splattered against a wall and started a frenzy of clubbing as the homeless were driven to the end of the alley. Thin childish wails pierced above the screams of men and women, Amna followed behind the murderous college mob.
            “This is what’s wrong with America,” a young man thundered as he broke a woman’s nose with a bat and sent her squalling baby rolling across chunks of broken asphalt and frozen garbage. “All of our tax money goes to these lazy people who refuse to work and live off the system!” He chased three Asians from an overturned garbage-can where they’d been huddled together. Amna noticed the shoes on the thug’s feet: $1800 Nike Men’s Air Jordan 5 Retro Premio "Bin 23" and would most likely feed a family of six street people for three years.
            “We ain’t asking you for money! Why don’t you go on and leave us alone?” A black man wearing a Vietnam era army jacket threw his arms in front of the woman. Mike Bloomberg broke-out his teeth with the bat and then sneered. “You people are the #%$& of the Earth and by God! It’s time someone cleaned things up!”
            “Do not invoke God’s name unless you are here to do his bidding.” Amna’s voice was a whisper that echoed down the alley like a gunshot. Eight young men holding bats and lengths of rebar turned and looked.
            The thug wearing obscenely expensive shoes pushed attackers out of the way and opened a pathway for Amna and Dani. “You want to join your friends?” he yelled. “Go ahead!  This will say us the trouble of hunting you #%$&$ down later.”
As Amna moved forward, a beautiful co-ed wearing a Trump for President tee-shirt tried to grab the kitten from Dani’s arms. “They buy the best cuts of steak with their damn food stamps and then waste it on mangy animals like this!” she sneered. Dani screamed and clutched the cat tighter. The woman grabbed and tried to twist the child’s arm. Amna closed his eyes for an instant, when he opened them the woman was flying across the alley. A stench filled the alley as she splattered against the cinder-block wall like an over-ripe tomato and her inner ugliness spilled out. Several of the men in the mob backed away from the strange homeless man who appeared to be radiating some kind of light.

Amna recognized the frightened faces of John Bingham and Conner Wilson huddled with the frightened homeless. The two obviously homosexual men were trying to drag the injured behind a flimsy barricade made of cardboard.
            “Let’s get this over with,” Mike Bloomberg yelled. “The first keg at the Sigma Alpha fraternity party should be getting tapped … just about now!”
He moved forward and swung his bat at Conner Wilson just as the overly meek man opened his mouth to beg for mercy. Alma lifted his hands in the air and the baseball bats the attackers wielded turned into pythons. The iron rods became red-hot liquid metal and dripped onto the women’s hands as the huge snakes curled around the shrieking fraternity brothers’ arms. Backward curving fangs, acted as barbs as the fraternity brothers ran shrieking from the alley dragging the snakes behind. The girls followed screaming and holding burned fingers in the air like blistering forks.
“Amna! God walks with you,” Conner Wilson gazed at the homeless man who had saved them all from a terrible beating as John Bingham fell to the ground.
“Is your friend hurt?” Amna asked him.
“Not by theses fiends,” Conner said. “John has a large lump in his abdomen. We think it must be a tumor. Unfortunately neither of our jobs offers medical insurance.”
“I know a place that will look after your friend without charge,” Amna said. “It is important that we take him there at once.”

“…and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.” Revelations 7/15

Amna and Conner Wilson helped carry John Bingham into the Emergency Room Entrance of New York City’s Mercy Hospital. There was almost an hour wait as friends and family raged over the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by police. “This is outrageous,” the father yelled. “My son was shot sixteen times … that officer reloaded his gun and shot him again and again as he lay on the ground.”

            Amna sat with Conner, Dani and Tripper when the medics finally took John into a room for a computerized axial tomography (a C.A.T. Scan). The group waited for more than two hours. Conner told Amna how he’d been a member of The Presbyterian Church of Oak Springs and a choir boy until first his parents disowned him and then the Church. “Being homosexual puts a weight on a person,” he said, “and the equality in life isn’t always fair.”
Amna disagreed. “The balance in life is always equal,” he said. “People choose the good in this world and in the next. Good must always be balanced by an equal measure of bad.”
            “You may be right,” Conner said. “I was in a despair so deep I though death was the only way out. I was on a high bridge over a ravine getting ready to jump when John found me. He spoke with truth and courage when others, even my own parents, only acted out of fear. They thought they could change me. Only John accepted me as I truly was.”
            “It sounds as if you and John were made for each other,” Amna said, “did you ever think about getting married? That seems to be the in-thing for gay couples now-a-days.”
            “John doesn’t believe in gay marriage,” Conner said. “He believes that those of us who are different were put on this Earth for a specific purpose. We never engaged in any kind of sexual activity. We are first and foremost friends but we don’t take the term lightly. We would die for each other in a heartbeat.”
            “Let’s hope it don’t come to that,” Amna told him.

            Edward Dickens, the doctor caring for Conner, came into the waiting room flanked by four other doctors. “We have examined John Bingham thoroughly,” he said to Conner. “John has you listed as his closest relative and to be notified in a medical emergency.
            “That’s right,” Conner told them. “Is John okay?”
            “We performed over twelve physiological tests and some Neurological ones,” Dickens said. “Finally James here who is an Obstetrician suggested an ultrasound.” Dickens pointed towards a white faced white coated man behind him. “We all laughed because we checked every inch of John’s body and we know without doubt that he is male. There is absolutely no evidence that he was ever anything else. No sex change operation, nothing of that kind. No one in this hospital or any hospital anywhere in the world has ever seen anything like it. Although there are no other female organs, John Bingham has a uterus … and he’s pregnant.”
            “This can’t be right,” Conner stammered. “Things like this do not happen.”
            “Actually they sometimes do,” another doctor said. “Parthenogenesis (same sex reproduction) has been documented before, but it’s confined to the female of the species, never the male, and it’s never occurred in humans.”
Henry James handed Conner several x-ray films showing the curled fetus. “It’s a boy,” he said.
            “How will you deliver this baby?” Amna asked the doctors.
            “We have some of the best doctors in the world flying in to New York City as we speak,” Doctor Dickens said. “I’m sure it will be similar to a standard C section with every precaution taken for the safety of the child and the mother … err make that the father,’ he stammered.
            The small voice inside Amna’s head muttered a warning. Out-loud he asked, “How many people know about this … son of man?”  
“I think it’s safe to say, that by morning, the whole world will know of this baby’s impending birth.”

            On the other side of the city, the Reverend Jason White emerged from a shower. A towel was wrapped around his mid-section while he dried his wavy hair with another.  Gracie Lewis lay naked on the king size bed. Most of the welts and her back and butt were bleeding from White’s belt. He liked to show women who God put in charge.
 An aide knocked twice before entering. White recognized Lemont Hicks who had been with him from the time when they burned their first church in Mississippi and then blamed it on a rival congregation. The people’s wrath had propelled White into his first position of power. Religion was a game like any other and Jason intended to win, still he was furious at Lemont’s intrusion.
            “Don’t you ever knock?” he complained when Hick’s eyes wandered over the naked girl.
            “I try,” Hicks said. “But you said to keep our eyes and ears open. What you’ve always predicted has come true. A baby has been born into this world with no mother and only a father.”
            “Where?” White blasted. “This better not be some kind of trick.”
            “Right here in New York City,” Hicks said. “Isn’t that convenient?”
            “And you are sure?”
            “We have confirmation from at least a dozen different sources,’ Hicks said. “It is true.”
            “Prepare a news conference for the morning,” White said. “This news will rock all nations and thrust us into the spotlight of the world.”
            “You are prepared to embrace this child? After you know what is to come?”
            “Of course I will at first,” White said. “Then I will receive a revelation from God declaring that the child is the spawn of the Devil himself and must be destroyed. All the Christian Churches of the world will accept this. Is the father not a homosexual? The one sinner on Earth whom Christ truly hates? By the time we are done I will lead not just a congregation but an army … and no power on Earth can stop me.”


Sunday, November 22, 2015


Copyright (c) 2015 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.


Part 2

By R. Peterson

Oreo’s yowling woke Tim; the unearthly noise came from the kitchen. Tim staggered to his feet and clutched the back of the tattered sofa for support. His torn ear throbbed and his neck was swelling … had he been poisoned? The cereal box, with SERVINGS printed on the front, lay on its side. There was no sign of the tiny demon-like creatures.
He stumbled into the kitchen and saw Oreo's black and white hair spiked from her arched back. As he approached, the usually docile cat hunched low, emitted deep warning growls, and then hissed at a closed cabinet door under the sink. Tim tried to shake away the buzzing in his ears and his headache. If this was a nightmare it was time to wake up.
Aspirin would help with the headache, and Tim found some on a shelf next to blood-smeared Band-Aids, a few rubber-bands, a wrist rocket and two leaking flashlight batteries. When his trembling hands yanked off the child-resistant cap, all three of the pills inside dropped and rolled across the floor. #%& Damn it! One tablet rolled under the refrigerator, another into the open air duct. The third spun like a top for an obscene amount of time before plopping smack in front of the under-sink cabinet. Tim was on his knees reaching for the pill when the cabinet door opened. Three Servings pushed an upright can of Raid Flying Insect Killer toward him while another of the tiny demons crouched on top. Tim read the price tag on the can $4.19 just before the stinging spray blinded his eyes.


Valeen Jardine was putting mascara on her eyelashes when racket blasted from the apartment below. It sounded like a fight. Someone was getting murdered and whatever slammed into the wall made her hair-dryer fall into the sink. Good thing it wasn’t full of water. She stomped repeatedly on the floor and finally got on her knees and leaned close to the heat vent. “Knock off the crap,” she yelled. “Or I’ll come down there and knock you off!”
Valeen hadn’t been in a fight since ninth-grade. She’d caught her best friend Marylyn McKinney, a member of her cheerleading squad, kissing Brad Hines under the football field bleachers. The Cloverdale Stallions were being ridden hard by the Butte Bobcats. She’d left Brad’s going-steady ring on until after she gave Marylyn a bloody nose and left a long-gash across her left cheek-bone. Even now, the memory of Brad Hines’ smile when he’d raised his hands in the air and insisted that he and the Marylyn were only fooling-around still made her furious. He’d been a blast to be with. She’d thrown the too-large, five-dollar, crush-ring that had made her finger turn green at him … and missed.
Valeen stomped on the floor again when a crash like breaking glass came from below. “Good Lord! Don’t some people ever grow up?” She hadn’t been near such a fight since her own marriage broke up. The guy in the downstairs apartment was cute, but it sounded like he was mating with a female gorilla.


Tim rolled across the floor blind, with at least three of the creatures biting his face. His sprawling legs kicked out a leg from a wobbly stand. The black and white TV crashed to the floor and exploded like a smoke-bomb. The picture tube shattered on a concrete block he’d been using as a bookcase. At least I won’t have to beat on the side to stop the picture from rolling Tim thought. He wiped tears from his eyes and yanked off an imp tangled in his hair.
Oreo ran past, with a Serving in her mouth, chased by three others who brandished kitchen utensils while muttering squeaky gibberish. Tim smashed his Serving on the floor. Tiny arms and legs wiggled in a tangled pile of flesh like a crushed spider. He thought he heard a girl’s voice yelling from upstairs.
The refrigerator was rolling away from the kitchen wall. Impossible! Tim couldn’t even move it alone … unbelievable strength! Then he saw the cords. Nylon strings from the apartment drapes had been tied together and wrapped around the top of the freezer compartment. A half-dozen of the tiny monsters used it as a block and tackle tow-line to pull over the appliance. They were guided by another Serving, a larger creature with red demon-like eyes, as it swung on the cat-clock pendulum.
The almost one-of-a-kind Frostman 419 hit the floor and bounced, coming to rest on its side with the door sprung open. Leftover spaghetti, rancid cottage cheese and a half-gallon of milk sprayed across the vinyl floor. Eight of the tiny demons waded through the goo like thirsty cattle. Tim’s eyes were clearing, but still hurt. “Damn you little Devils,” he screamed slapping the floor with a broom. Oreo hissed and went flying past his legs. A Serving danced in the corner between an open box of Blue Diamond matches and a rusty can of Cover Girl hair-spray.  A lit match waved in the air like a torch. Betty Boom Boom Jagger had been a one-night-stand, but bits of her lustful façade still littered the apartment. Tim knew the creatures were crawling up the inside of his pants like bugs. He did his own tango of terror as he raced toward the bathroom. There was no shower, just a cast-iron tub covered with rust-stained porcelain. Tim turned on the water and danced-off his pants. Two Servings were already biting into his legs. Blood turned the water red as Tim leaped into the tub, spilling toiletries from the plastic surround shelves and breaking open a bottle of Cinnamon-Buns bubble-bath.  
Through the bathroom’s open door, Tim watched Oreo spinning on the couch, flipping end-over-end trying to douse the flames that engulfed her. Three Servings advanced toward the terrified twisting cat, holding broken shards of glass from the television as fragments of upholstery stuffing floated in the air like snow.
The water was rising above his knees and Tim felt the biting demons lessen their grip. The creatures were strong and inventive but they didn’t mix with water. Tim submerged both legs; then when two tried to surface, he held them under the water. They thrashed in his grip and sunk needle sharp teeth into his fingers but he held fast. He waited for at least a minute after the last movement to pull first one and then another from the bathtub. Tim left the water running and laid the bodies on the counter next to the sink. Oreo had one for sure and this made three he’d killed. His neck and face were swelling. Four down and … what was it the box said …12 Servings? … Eight to go!
Three of the creatures were flying a model airplane Tim had built when he was ten hanging by fishing-line from the living room light fixture. One of the Servings balanced near the tail-wing of the plastic B52 Bomber and dropped lit matches into Tim’s hair as he walked below the swinging aircraft. The Raid insect killer they sprayed in his face earlier must have been flammable. He was on fire. Tim couldn’t go back into the bathroom because the air force from hell blocked his way. He ran in circles like a candle on a record player turntable before he picked up the half empty carton of 2% and poured it over his head. “This means War!” he screamed as milk dripped off his face.
Tim still had Black-Cat firecrackers from the last Fourth of July and matches from the Blue Diamond box littered the floor. He grabbed the wrist rocket from the junk shelf, lit a fuse and took careful aim. The firecracker blasted in the air about a foot from the swinging model but the Servings capering on the wings squealed. Oreo brushed against his legs as she cowered behind him on the floor. The next shot blasted off the tail fin and part of the rear wing. He’d spent a month gluing the parts together. One Serving straddled the plane’s fuselage and used a straw from an empty McDonalds’ Slurpee-cup to shoot him with lit matches. A lucky match landed on the firecrackers and ignited the entire string just as Oreo streaked past with four demons biting her back. The hapless cat tangled the blasting firecrackers around her tail.
Oreo ran into the kitchen halfway up one wall and down the other as tiny explosions of gunpowder sent bits of demon flesh and feline fur flying. She slid through the spilt milk and cottage cheese and broke a lamp as she ran in circles ripping and blasting the couch and drapes to shreds.
Tim grabbed the two leaking flashlight batteries. The can-opener spun in the kitchen but there wasn’t time to investigate. His first throw missed, but the second was a direct hit and sent the World War II model crashing into a wall and then spiraling to the floor. One Serving lay dead next to a dented battery; the other two limped toward the open heat register. Tim heard a splash and watched as Oreo thrashed in the overflowing bathtub. He lunged for the opening in the floor at the same time as the monsters did. He had a firm grip on one, but the other creature bit his finger and dived into the heat register. Tim plunged his arm into the filthy heating duct and fished it out. It had been trying to claw through ten years’ worth of lint, beer cans, cigarette butts and marbleized tuna-fish sandwich crusts. Sometimes it paid to be a slob.
Tim pounded both demons into the vinyl floor. A shower of sparks erupted from the counter-top above him. The last Serving was heating a ten-inch long butcher-knife inside the operating microwave while it held the door-closed safety button down with one clawed hand. Electrical current, like a tiny arc-welder, heated the knife red hot and put a razor sharp edge on the deadly sword. The tiny imp danced to the edge of the counter holding the weapon high above its head. A soup can, open at both ends, was secured to its body with rubber-bands like a tiny suit of armor. The Serving jumped to the floor with a clank. A tidal wave of foam rolled from the bathroom behind it. Tim retreated into the living room. Both he and Oreo were without weapons as the largest of the creatures, the one with large, red demon-like eyes, stalked toward them.


Valeen had put up with enough. Not only was the fight in the apartment below causing things to fall off her shelves but now she also smelled smoke. There was no way she was going to work and lose all her possessions in a fire. She’d lost everything when her ex-husband Larry had chosen money over marriage. The rat hadn’t come home from a poker game and she found out he’d cleaned out their joint bank account. She sighed, just when things were going great something unexpected had happened.
Valeen stormed out of her apartment and clomped down the stairs in high heels. The door to apartment 419 opened just as she raised her hand to knock. Clouds of acrid smoke billowed out followed by Tim Fowler and a mangy cat too ragged to be a stray. Tim raised his arms to protect his face when he saw her raised fist. “What the hell is going on down here?” Valeen demanded.
She looked past him into the ravaged apartment. A beat-to-hell couch that looked like it came from the city dump and a matching recliner were in flames. Puffs of torn upholstery-padding floated in the air. At least an inch of water covered the floor and a tidal wave of advancing soap-suds clung to broken lamps, an overturned bookcase and a crushed and battered television set spraying a shower of sparks. The overturned cereal box on the kitchen table made her gasp.
Tim was speechless. The petite girl was pretty, even if she did want to kill him. All he could manage was to point to the center of the floor where a tiny hairy creature holding a glowing butcher-knife rose to its feet. “Servings,” Valeen gasped. She wasted no time removing her shoe and throwing it like a ninth- inning relief pitcher at the tiny demon. “These are my best shoes, you had better be worth it,” she said. The pitch was dead center and the last of the creatures from the cereal box writhed on the floor. The hot butcher-knife, which had been knocked from its extended claws, hissed in the surging foam.
Valeen removed the other metal and buckle red fashion pump and waded through the suds that smelled like cinnamon with her bare feet. She dispatched the creature with three blows. “Is this the last one? Did you get them all?” she asked. Tim had thought he was dreaming. Now he realized his nightmare was real. “I think so,” he stammered. He tried to remember … the box said twelve Servings.
“Better be sure,” Valeen told him. “If just one gets away … no elmas for you.”
“Elmas?” Tim wasn’t sure he understood the word. He was thinking about how pretty his upstairs neighbor was, even if she did have a terribly cute temper.
“I’ll show you.” Valeen said. Tim waded after her into the war-zone ravaged apartment as they collected tiny demon bodies from the battle zone. “Servings are a type of Turkish cookie,” she said as she waded around the overturned refrigerator. She laid the tiny bodies in a row on the counter top. “Not your regular Keebler Elves either. God! Don’t you ever clean this place up? I only count eleven. Where’s the last one?”
“I’ll find it.” Tim was stricken by one of Cupids arrows and thought her eyes looked like morning sky … reflected on a mountain-meadow-pond filled with tranquil water.
“Er, I remember Oreo had one in her mouth,” Tim muttered. He searched through the wreckage and found the last imp body on a clump of dripping dishtowels floating behind the overturned bicycle.
“An enterprising Turkish baker named Basak, made the first batches of Servings from a special grain that only grows in a desert region of Erzurum.” Valeen said. She gave Tim a stern look as if he might be ready to call her a liar. “The young businessman thought of them as a kind of gingerbread cookie that children would eat instead of breakfast cereal. He was said to have bought the grain from an old Cadı, a witch woman who traveled the countryside in a painted wagon like a gypsy. Basak didn’t realize his baked goods were enchanted until the first cases were already shipped. By that time, it was impossible to retrieve every order. Somehow a few of the boxes found their way to America.”
“You seem to know a lot about these evil creatures.” Tim looked at her with adoring suspicion.
Valeen giggled. Tim thought her laughter sounded like music. “I’m not a bad person, even if I was ready to kick your ass. I needed to find out all about these things.” She reached out and flipped his nose with her finger. “If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in my life, it’s that there is a bit of good in everything. Probably even in you, Tim Fowler. Do you have any salt?”
Tim looked through his mostly bare shelves. He found a cracked glass shaker with a few grains of salt as Valeen continued. “Basak forgot to use this spicy mineral in his Serving recipe and that’s why the creatures come alive.”  She sprinkled salt over each tiny body.  Instantly the forms began to shrivel. Moments later, the Servings all looked like dry pretzel-sticks lined in a row.
“This is the good … in the bad,” Valeen said. She took one of the dry sticks and snapped it in half with her fingers. A large gemstone rolled across the counter-top. Valeen picked it up. “This is an elma, an almost flawless diamond with a unique amber color. I’m not a jeweler but I’ll bet this must be between four and five carats!” She looked at Tim and grinned. “I’d say for all twelve, you’re looking at upwards of six million dollars.”
“Did you say six million?” Tim’s legs felt weak.
“At least that,” Valeen could see Tim’s wet cell-phone smoking in the corner. “Why don’t you turn the damn water off in your tub and you can use the phone in my apartment to call in permanently sick at that creepy clown barf-bag where you work.”
“How did you know I worked at McDonalds? And how come you know so much about these monsters?” Tim couldn’t take his eyes off Valeen, even as he waded into the bathroom.
“My ex-husband and I bought a box of Servings just before we were divorced,” Valeen said. “We had a tremendous battle with them just like you did. After we discovered the fortune hidden inside the creatures by accident, my rat husband decided being a millionaire was best enjoyed as a single man with no wife. He vanished, probably to someplace in South America and took all the diamonds with him.”
“Money can’t buy a guy like me love,” Tim assured her trying to make himself look taller.
“I was hoping you’d say that,” Valeen told him.


Tim parked his Maserati Quattroporte next to a rusty Volkswagen Beetle in a Gas ‘n Grub parking-lot on their way to Las Vegas. Southern Utah was hot in July and this was the first convenience store they’d seen since Cedar City. Tim was getting two bottles of mineral water from the stores’ ice cooler when Valeen pointed to a cereal box at the end of a cluttered shelf. “Servings!” Tim gasped. “You cannot be serious…”
“Why not?” Valeen said as she picked up the box. “We can’t spend all of our time in bed at the Palazzo.” She blew off the dust on the old package. A faded-sticker read $1.79 on the box top. “And twenty million dollars won’t last forever – not for a fun-loving, world-traveling, married couple like us.”
“My darling, you're probably right; as always,” Tim said with a smile.


Sunday, November 15, 2015


Copyright (c) 2015 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

Tim Fowler’s fake-smile was part of the McDonalds’ uniform. He opened the window to the drive-through and handed the fat woman driving the Mercedes her order: two Big Macs, large fries, a double-cheeseburger with extra pickles, an apple pie and a root-beer float. “Here you go; sorry about the delay,” he said. The woman had been in line less than five minutes. The lady took hold of the bag and then released her fingers the same time he did. The sack fell onto the concrete curbing but miraculously remained upright.
“Look what you did!” she bawled. “I’ve waited in line for hours and you throw my order on the ground!”
“I’m so sorry,” Tim said sticking his head out the window and looking down. “I don’t think anything spilled … I’ll get it for you …” He ran out the side-door. The woman was blasting her horn as he lifted the bag and peered inside. Nothing was amiss. The bag of fries hadn’t spilled and the root-beer float with a plastic-lid was intact. The woman slapped the bag out of his hand when he tried to give it to her. This time root-beer and ice-cream splattered against the side of the building. “You expect me to eat something that’s been on the ground?” the woman fumed. “You can do better than that!”
Norman Jackson, the assistant manager, opened the sliding window. “What’s the problem?” he asked the furious woman.
“The problem is your employee,” she said. “He expects me to eat something he spilled.” Norman stared at Tim and at the mess on the brick building. “We’ll make this right and at no charge’ he assured her.  He told Tim to get a bucket of hot, soapy water, a sponge and to clean-up while they replaced her order.
Tim left work at two a.m. on his bicycle with his paycheck stuffed in his back pocket minus $28.75 for the two unpaid-for orders. “We’re not in business to lose money,” Norman had lectured. Working double-shifts for two week’s at minimum wage, Tim had just two-hundred ten dollars left after deductions and a child-support garnishment. Tim finished eating the ice-cream soaked cheeseburger and fries and decided to save the two Big Macs for tomorrow. The way he calculated, he’d have just $4.19 for groceries until his next paycheck. He pulled into the Cloverdale Dollar Store, the only store in Comanche County that stayed open all night, looking for milk and a real-cheap breakfast cereal.
The milk was a good deal at $1.00 a half-gallon even though it was a day old. The cheapest cereal on the shelf was a generic looking brand called Servings that also promised twelve of the same. You can’t expect Sugar Pops for a buck … If I eat small portions this should last two weeks Tim thought.


KNRN Channel 6 was showing The Bride of Frankenstein on their late- night Creature Feature. Tim had to bang on the side of the black and white TV set two times to get the picture to stop rolling. It was late, but an anxious energy kept Tim from falling asleep. He wondered what Julie was doing. Were any of his four children awake? Was his x-wife sleeping beside Greg Lewis the tattooed lead singer of Hard Roll … or were they busy doing something a little more pornographic? He hadn’t had a date since before he was married.
Frankenstein’s reincarnated monster had just discovered the blind hermit (played by O.P. Heggie) in a remote cabin in the woods when Tim fell asleep on his dusty sofa without pulling out the hide-a-bed.
An hour later, thunder rumbled in the distance outside a cracked and taped apartment window as Tim snored. A Kit-Cat wall-clock, with its swinging black-tail as a pendulum, ticked off the seconds to a background of TV static. A faucet dripped on a greasy frying pan. The thunder, closer this time, shivered the tiny apartment. Minute vibrations caused grains of sugar, stuck to the sides of a cut-crystal bowl, to sift from the pantry shelf like snow. A squad of cockroaches appeared from a crack in the wall foraging the sweet fragrance. Something rustled inside the box marked Servings followed by a scratching sound. The real-life cat Tim had adopted after his divorce woke from a pillow next to a heater-vent and padded out to investigate. Tiny black claws made ragged holes inside the cereal box.
An arched-backed Oreo spun like a mix-master trying to find traction on the vinyl kitchen-floor and streaked into the living room. The hissing feline hunched on a pile of dirty laundry behind the Schwinn bicycle. It began the rain. Water drops clinking on a rusted metal roof covered the sound of cardboard being torn. Tim did not wake up.


A door opened and then closed, whispered voices, muted giggles; he must be dreaming not quite awake. Tim rolled off the couch and rubbed his eyes. It was a little after eleven. He was scheduled to be at work at One P.M.
Norman Jackson was a tight wad. Most fast-food employees got at least one free meal each shift. Half price for a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, a Coke and fries was still $2.90.
Oreo wasn’t pacing near the sink yowling to be fed like she usually was. Tim couldn’t remember letting her outside. The vinyl in the kitchen felt cold on his feet. He didn’t want to turn on the apartment heat. The gas company was still calling about the bill he hadn’t paid last month. Halfway to the refrigerator Tim noticed a smear of something that looked like blood on the floor.  He couldn’t image what made the mark, unless Oreo caught a mouse and dragged its bleeding body … under the sink? Tim opened the door but there was nothing there except a half-empty bottle of Drano and a bloody tuft of fur? … He’d ended-up calling a plumber – twenty-two bucks down the drain.
He took the half-gallon of milk from the fridge and reached for the Servings cereal from the dollar store. It was empty? Impossible! He’d just bought it the night before. The bottom right corner had been torn away. What kind of mice eats that much cereal in one night? Tim shook the box. Nothing but a rustling noise came from inside. Tim poured out the contents anyway. He was sleepy … and he was hungry. Could he be dreaming? Tiny bits of chewed cardboard filled the bottom of the bowl. Whatever made the hole did it from the inside. No wonder Servings was only a buck. The box had probably been on the shelf for a couple of years and rodents had been living inside. He’d take the cereal back to the store and get a refund. A dollar was a dollar. Maybe not?  He couldn’t remember seeing the hole in the store. He was tired but would have noticed the light box … or the sales-clerk would have … wouldn’t he?
Tim took one of the Big Macs removed it from the box and placed it in the microwave he’d picked up at the Salvation Army store for five bucks. The clerk said someone had heated a TV dinner without removing the aluminum foil. A quarter-sized hole was melted through one side of the plastic case, but it still heated. The escaping radiation couldn’t be much worse than using a cordless phone … that’s what Tim hoped. He turned the dial to one minute, ignoring the popping noises coming from inside and a clunk that seemed to echo from somewhere else in the room.
Stinging pain shot through his left foot and ran all the way to his buckled knee. He lurched and almost fell before he regained his balance. What the hell? Some kind of tiny exotic-looking Sushi fork was stuck, not in the bottom of his foot but, into the side. How could that have happened? Tim hopped over to a chair sat down cursing and began to remove the needle-like tines. A rapid scraping sound like claws on a smooth surface made him look up.  He watched some kind of tiny dark creature dive into a square hole next to a heat register cover lying sideways on the floor. Then another skittered across the vinyl from behind the garbage can in the corner and did the same. Too small to be mice and they ran like little people! So that’s what was inside the box marked Servings! Not something to be eaten but something that eats. Wake up this has to be a nightmare! My God! Were there really twelve in the box?
Tim yelled. It wasn’t quite a scream but an unidentifiable loud garble intended to scare whatever it was he had seen and diminish his own fear. It worked for about thirty seconds. Tim stared at the open heat register stunned by the mental timeout humans feel when they see what shouldn’t be. He yanked the fork from his foot and brandished it in his hand. He felt like a fool. The fork was less than two inches long.
The microwave timer dinged. Tim didn’t want to take his eyes of the open register hole but he was hungry. What if this was his last meal? He backed toward the microwave holding the tiny fork like a weapon. The electric can-opener spun and whirled. Tim turned just in time to see another of the creatures leap from the disengaged lever and skitter across the counter top. It went behind the toaster. He thought he heard a squeak that sounded like faint muted laughter.
Tim dropped the fork on the table and picked up a broom leaning against the wall behind the garbage can. He held it close to the straw fiber end and then flipped it around … harder to miss. Tim limped toward the toaster; the pain in his foot forgotten. He extended the broom and pushed the toaster to one side. It was about three inches tall and covered with black bristly hair. The creature hissed and bared yellow-white teeth. Tim swung the broom and missed the first time knocking the toaster clattering to the floor. His second blow caught the Serving as it skittered across the floor. Take that Greg Lewis! Tim shook his head … he must be losing his mind! It was writhing and twisting on the floor when two of the Servings dropped from the overhead light fixture and landed on his shoulders.
One vicious urchin sunk jagged teeth into his ear-lob while another bit into his neck. Tim dropped the broom and beat at the creatures with his hands. He felt like he was inside a spider’s nest filled with fowl attacking arachnoids as he pulled one imp from his neck and slapped the other from his ear. Instinct made him stumble into the living room. His head was dizzy and spinning when he yanked open the front door. Cold morning air rushed over his falling body. The floor rose up to meet him as his head became a hive of buzzing bees. Divorce was hell … pure agonizing hell! Just before the descending darkness rode him toward unconsciousness, Oreo leaped over his crumpled form with her claws extended.

To be continued …