Monthly Archives: April 2013

No. 370

She was perfect, in the videos.

Every night before Nick went to sleep, he would stop at his computer and watch. He was in love with her.

He didn’t know who she was, exactly, just that she would occasionally post brief updates about her life on her blog. Every time she added a song, or said “goodnight”, he wished it was about him.

Even though there was a link on the page that said “Contact”, he was too scared to click it. What if she didn’t feel the same way?

Once, she didn’t update for three weeks. Nick feared that she was gone forever. It turned out that she’d been on vacation. He was relieved when she returned.

The break spurred him to make a move.

 

He set up his camera and stared into it. He was about to speak when he realized that it wasn’t recording yet. Fumbling with the buttons, he turned it on.

“Hi, my name is Nick,” he said nervously. “If you’re watching—I don’t think you are, but— if you are— I want to say hello, I guess.”

It wasn’t much, but it was something.

 

Of course, she never saw his introduction. If she had, she would have thought nothing of it. She wouldn’t have known it was for her.

 

Nick understood, later on, the impossibilities.

No. 369

The Noise had descended on the town four days earlier. Oddly, no one could agree on a description. Some called it a “buzz” while others insisted that it sounded more like a whistle. A faction dedicated to keeping the peace between the two camps labeled it a “hum”.

Tensions ran high, as people struggled to cope with the constant din. A meeting in the community hall was called.

“When will it end?” somebody shouted from the crowd.

Silas Barry, the mayor, had no answer.

“How far does it extend?” was another question. “Can we escape?”

A chorus of voices rose, all asking variations on the same thing.

Mayor Barry held up his hand to quiet the rabble. “We don’t know,” he said.

The audience began to turn on him.

“Wait,” he said. “We tried to find out. I sent Oscar Landry to find out about that. He made it as far as Clarksville and he could still hear it. But when he asked the folks out there when the Noise had reached their town, they looked at him like he was funny in the head, and asked him ‘what noise?’.”

“What’s that mean?” Ellen Fairfield demanded from the front row.

“It means,” said Barry, with a worried breath. “That we might be the only ones who can hear it. And we may have to wait it out.”

There was a loud burst of shattering glass from the back of the room, then screams. Someone had broken a window in frustration.

The riot began almost immediately.  

“Please,” Barry implored. “Patience!”

But nobody was listening to him anymore. All they heard was the Noise.

No. 368

Wayne drove the ball downrange. He immediately felt something wrong with his swing and, without looking up, scooped another ball onto his mat to try again. This time his performance met his standards and he tracked the shot, watching it arc up into the distance and then drop near the target placard he’d been aiming for. Allowing himself half of a celebratory exhalation, he lined up his next drive.

“I’m sorry to interrupt you,” said somebody from behind him.

Wayne turned, annoyed, to face the discourteous speaker. It was a woman.

“But could you show me how to do that?” she continued.

Wayne evaluated her quickly. She was young and pretty, and her clothes and clubs suggested that she’d spent a good deal of money to be properly outfitted. Her nervous bearing, however, indicated that, although she might look the part, experience was severely lacking. He decided to forgive her error in etiquette.

“What’s your name?” he asked, before answering her question.

“Emma Conner,” she told him. “I’d like to learn,” she said. “The lady in the clubhouse told me that you occasionally taught lessons.”

“Did she, now?” said Wayne. “The lady behind the counter told you that?”

Emma nodded. She tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear.

Wayne readjusted his hat. “She’s my wife,” he said.

“So, could you teach me?” Emma pressed. “I’m a quick learner.”

“I suppose,” Wayne agreed. “How about you set up in the box beside me, here, and try to hit a couple. I can take a look and see what we’re working with.”

She hurried to do so, while Wayne looked back towards the clubhouse. It was true that he’d once given lessons, but the last time had been ten years before. He wondered what his wife was up to with this suggestion.

“Ok, I’m ready,” said Emma excitedly, addressing the ball with an entirely incorrect stance.

Wayne returned his attention to her. “Go for it.”

No. 367

Every day at summer camp, after craft time, each boy was allowed to choose two pieces of candy from the snack window’s selection.

On Wednesday night, three days into his two-week stay, Josh Hill outlined his plan to his astounded cabin-mates.

“We rob the joint,” he told them. “Hit it fast and hard.”

Eyes widened in the flashlight-glow of the secret conference. “That’s brilliant,” said somebody in a top-bunk.

The rest of the boys agreed wholeheartedly.

Josh laid out the details of the heist. “Tomorrow, right after lunch, we’ll need a distraction. Two of you will head out on the lake in a canoe. At exactly 1:05, you’ll start shouting for help. I’ll have swiped the keys and four of us will go in through the back door while the counsellors are occupied with the rescue.”

“Sounds awesome,” said Robby Parker. “But there are twelve of us. What are the others going to do?”

“I’m not finished,” Josh assured him. “We’ll have three on standby, in case the canoe caper is resolved too quickly. One of them will have to fall into poison ivy. That’s nine. The other three are essential to the getaway. After the breach-team escapes, the alibi crew goes to work. You’ll plant a portion of the loot in the dogwood cabin, incriminating our rivals and throwing the fuzz off the scent.”

“It’s perfect,” Robby whispered. A chorus of satisfied murmurs from around the room affirmed his appraisal.

“Are there any questions?” Josh asked.

The conspirators were silent.

“Good,” said Josh. “Now get some sleep. We’ve got a busy day ahead. This time tomorrow night, we’ll be eating like kings.”

No. 366

 “The Australian Outback?” asked Betty Porter.

“No,” said her husband, Richard

“Why not?” Betty pressed.

Richard put down his book and looked up at her. “Snakes.”

“Alright,” said Betty. “Where do you want to go?”

Richard considered the question. “Antarctica, maybe?”

Betty shook her head. “Too cold.”

“Mexico?” Richard tried again.

“We’ve already been there.”

“Yeah, but we liked it.”

“That’s true. But we should go someplace new.”

There was an awkward silence. By now, the vacation discussion had been lingering on for most of the evening. Both parties were getting annoyed with the other.

“Well, I don’t know,” said Betty. “Why don’t we just stay here?” she suggested facetiously.

Richard leaned forward at the suggestion, his interest piqued.

Betty’s eyes widened.

“Road trip?” they both asked at the same time.

No. 365

Kate Shaw finished the story. “The end,” she said.

“Can you tell us another one, Mom?” her two boys asked as she tucked them into bed. “Ranger must have plenty more adventures.”

“Not until tomorrow,” Kate told them. She gave them a kiss. “Goodnight.”

She turned out the lights and closed the door.

Making sure she wasn’t followed, she tiptoed down to the basement and typed a code on a disguised keypad.

The wall swung open, revealing a hidden room.

Kate stepped inside and pulled on her mask. Then Ranger snuck out of the house to fight crime.  

No. 364

“Did you see that?” asked Officer Kelly Dale as she and her partner sped down the dark forest highway.

Brandon Irwin, who was driving, slowed the cruiser and turned on the spotlight. He turned around and retraced their path back down the road.

“What did you see?” he asked, peering intently into the night.

“Something was moving along the shoulder. It looked human, but it was kind of off, somehow.”

“You haven’t been reading the tourist brochures again, have you?” Irwin asked her. The forest around them was on the edge of an enormous park, and the locals liked to play up Bigfoot sightings.

Dale ignored him, and continued to scan the edge of the woods.

“Look!” she pointed. “There.”

Irwin slammed on the brakes. He couldn’t believe what was loping across the road in the beam of the headlights.

The creature was tall, and had a shaggy brown coat. It turned toward the two police officers and raised its arms.

Dale leapt out her side and braced herself against the open door. “Freeze!” she shouted at the strange animal.

Irwin followed her lead, but whispered through the car at her. “I don’t think it will speak English.”

“I do,” said the beast. It lifted off its head to reveal a teenage boy.

The police officers looked at each other.

“Step to the front of the car,” Irwin ordered.

The boy did as he was told, leaving the costume’s mask in the middle of the street.

Once the officers searched him and found nothing illegal, they began to question him.

“My name’s Mike Harmon. I live around here,” he told them.

“What are you doing so far from town?” Dale asked him.

“And why are you wearing that suit?” Irwin added.

“You’re not going to believe me,” Harmon told them.

“Try us,” said Dale.

“I heard there was a party on the other side of the hill. I wanted to see if I could get in.”

“A party?” said Irwin. “Who has a party out here?”

Harmon looked around suspiciously before he leaned in to whisper his answer. “It’s not a regular party.”

Irwin stepped back and crossed his arms over his chest. “Maybe we’ll have to check it out,” he concluded.

“You’re going to want this,” Harmon said, indicating his furry suit.

 

A short time later, Dale had changed into the Bigfoot getup. “How come I have to wear this again?” she asked Irwin.

“Because we flipped, and you lost.”

“Sweet,” she said. She was not amused. “Tell me where you think this party is,” she told Harmon.

“Like I said,” said the boy. “Just over this hill,” he pointed to his left. “There’s a valley on the far side. It should be close.”

Dale grabbed her radio and a flashlight and headed off into the trees. Struggling against the cumbersome suit, she made her way up the rise to where Harmon had indicated. Upon reaching the top, she dropped to her belly and inched ahead the last few feet.

 

“Irwin,” his radio crackled.

“Dale?” he answered.

“You’re going to want to see this,” she told him.

Irwin turned to Harmon and hustled the boy into the back seat. “Stay here,” he said, slamming the door shut.  Then he rushed up the hill to assist his partner.

She saw him coming and waved her arm for him to stay low, as well.

He crawled up beside her.

“What is it?” he asked, slightly winded from the climb.

“Look,” she pointed.

There, in a clearing in the small valley below, was the strangest gathering of beings Irwin could have imagined.

“Is that a—?” he asked, trailing off.

Dale nodded. “Yup.”

“And a—?”

“Uh huh,” said Dale.

“This has got to go in the brochures,” Irwin gasped.

 

Back at the car, Dale was on the radio back to base, while Irwin stood over a smug Harmon.

“That’s right,” Dale told her dispatcher. “A sasquatch, a fish-man, some kind of Loch-Nessy-looking thing, a giant bird, and what I’m guessing is a chupacabra.”

There was a garbled question from the other end.

“Yes, that’s right,” Dale clarified. “Real ones.”

No. 363

Stanley and Livingstone were alligators kept by the Rowland’s Circus. The Circus’ time, however, had come to an end, and all assets were to be sold at auction at the end of the week.

Henry Morton, the reptile’s caretaker, was not about to see his charges removed from him and sold to the highest bidder. He had four days to save his cold-blooded companions.

His first attempt failed. Planning to lure the beasts from their pool with large pieces of meat, Morton had not taken into account that they’d been fed recently, and would have no interest in expending energy chasing surplus food.

His second attempt, to drive them away by beating them with a stick, was similarly unsuccessful. The animals’ thick scales prevented them from feeling their keeper’s prods. They sat still, exactly where they were.

Livingstone, the frisky one, did, however, attempt a lazy bite at the stick.

On the third day, Morton tried to move the entire tank onto a flatbed truck and abscond with the creatures, but a roving security guard intercepted him before he could get close enough with the crane, and Morton was lucky to explain away his presence as “routine maintenance”.

By the time the auction started, Morton was almost inconsolable at the thought of never seeing Stanley and Livingstone again. But he was surprised to discover that, while the bidding had started beyond his financial means, it had soon fallen to a more reasonable level.

In the end, Morton simply bought the Livingstone and Stanley. As it turned out, nobody else was keen to own two thirteen-foot, potential killing machines.

Morton eventually set himself up on a small piece of swampy land in his hometown and charged the local children an inflated price to watch the alligators bask in the sun and do absolutely nothing exciting.

No. 362

Lillian Lockhart had lived a completely normal life before the day she removed the envelope from the post-box without looking at the address. The letter was home and opened before Lillian realized that she was not the intended recipient. Still, now that the deed was done, she read it.

The letter was written to a Mr. Henry Black, and detailed the outfitting of an expedition to “confirm or capture the Beast of Broad Rock”.

Lillian’s heart pumped hard in her chest. Every child knew of the Beast. It was said to live in a cave at the end of an icy maze, deep within the mountains. Many had sought it out. Few had returned.

The endeavor was to begin on June 12th. It seemed that Black was to be the leader of the team, having been hired by the organizers for his vast experience tracking wild game.

Lillian looked out her window at the drab wall of the apartment next-door. The harrowing journey described in the letter triggered her imagination. In her mind she was the one coming over the top of the ridge, pointing down at the creature below. She was jolted back to reality when she realized that she was out of breath.

She glanced at the now-crushed paper clutched in her hand and began to form a daring plan.

She put the crumpled sheet on her desk, smoothing it to read the sender’s information. She copied the address to the outside of a fresh envelope from her drawer. Then, after only the briefest hesitation, she placed a fresh page beside stolen correspondence and began to write.

             To whom it may concern,

Mr. Black has taken ill, and will be unable to perform the duties outlined in your letter of April 22.            

             In his place, he recommends the hiring of his associate, Ms. Lillian Lockhart.  

No. 361

Jefferson Jackson had prowled the desert canyons for almost twenty seasons. Ostensibly looking for gold, Jackson would have settled on a mother lode of almost any marketable mineral but had, so far, proven unsuccessful.

He made his discovery three days before the rains were meant to begin.

 

A weathered human skeleton lay propped up on the rocks blocking the mouth of a narrow crevasse. Jackson dismounted his horse and moved closer to the remains for a better look. He searched the body for any hint of identification, but there was none. It was only when Jackson shifted the bones that he noticed something strange.

The skeleton’s left arm fell from the moldering clothes that the corpse still wore. The bones were silver. Jackson examined them and determined that they were not merely the color, but solid metal.

“How does that happen?” he said, his first words spoken aloud in almost a month. He looked up at the shadowy gap in the rocks that the dead man guarded. “Was it in there?” he asked the grinning skull.

Jackson approached the fissure, stepping gingerly around the deceased. There was something scratched into the rock.

“CURSEI”

It appeared that the letter “d” had been started but not completed. Jackson ignored the warning and peered into the dark hole. There was a faint glow from within the crevasse. The slot was too narrow to enter and Jackson worked his body around so that he could reach toward the tantalizing shimmer.

 

Many years later, another man rode through the same valley. He saw two skeletons. There was a word gouged into the wall behind them.

“CURSED”