Monthly Archives: August 2013

No. 448

There were thick bars in the windows, and the heavy door was locked tight. The only object in the room was a small, weathered black box.

The box sat on a white pedestal in the not-quite middle of the floor.

Abigail had only been a guard for three months. Tonight was her first duty in the chamber. She wasn’t watching for intruders, though. Her orders were clear.

Prevent whatever was in the box from getting out.

She checked her watch nervously. The digital numbers ticked down. Only six and a half more hours to go until shift-change.

Was it her imagination, or did the box seem larger than it had been, just a minute ago?

No. 447 – The Disappearing Part 3

Ray’s phone rang. He picked it up, his hand drifting through the device, but there was nobody on the other end. He could hear the faint sounds of an office. “Ruth Carver?” he asked the open line.

 

Carver heard a small noise from her phone. She looked down at the screen and saw the open call. That was strange. She thought she’d hung up on the crank caller already. She began to tell him that she really didn’t have time to listen to his bizarre story.

 

“No, look,” said Ray. “It’s true. I can prove it. I can be at your office in four hours. I think. If this doesn’t get worse.”

 

Carver decided that if the man was crazy enough to travel that long to speak to her, the least she could do was give him five minutes of her time. She could have security waiting in the lobby to throw him out, if need be. “Tomorrow, then, at two o’clock,” she told him.

“I’m sorry,” he insisted. “It needs to be right away. Four hours from now.”

She sighed. “Ok,” she agreed. “I’ll be in my office. I’ll leave a pass for you at reception.”

 

Laney smiled. The meeting was the first positive step that had happened since she’d started fading away.

She drifted down to the basement of the Centennial to wait. It was where she’d collected all the information that she could about her case. There had to be an answer somewhere in the stacks of papers.

No. 446 – The Disappearing Part 2

“Mr. Thompson,” said the reporter. “I have to let you know that I’m recording this phone call. Now, what can you tell me about Laney Yarrow’s disappearance?”

Carver kept her ear pressed to the phone as she fumbled for a pen. She’d received more than a few phone calls regarding the Yarrow case. Most had been cruel pranks, or well-intentioned-but-confused tipsters. This Thompson fellow seemed different. Carver wondered if she was talking to a kidnapper.

“The same thing is happening to me,” Thompson told her.

“You’ve been taken?” Carver asked.

“No,” said Thompson. “It was in her journal. I’m melting away somehow. Just like she did.”

Carver’s opinion changed. She wasn’t talking to a criminal, just another crazy obsessed with the missing girl. “I’m sorry, sir, I need this line,” she said abruptly. Then she hung up on the man’s frantic rambling.

She stopped the recording and sighed. The Yarrow case was still an open wound. Laney was her niece.

 

Laney had heard most of the conversation. Quite invisible, and unable to communicate with the rest of the world, she’d stayed around town after fading away. Most days she spent in her aunt’s office, skulking about and hoping to stumble across something that could turn her back.

She’d realized, for the first time, the moment Ray had started speaking, that there were others like her. Maybe he could see her, and maybe he could tell somebody else that she was still around.

She summoned all over her concentration and used all of her effort to complete one task. She focused her energy on hitting the button on her aunt’s phone to return the call.

No. 445 – The Disappearing Part 1

It began innocuously enough. When Ray Thompson put his hand down, it touched the desk, not the paper that was in between. Ray didn’t notice the difference.

Over the next several days, the problem grew worse. Ray remained unaware until he tried to pick up a pencil and it went right through his fingers.

He turned his attention from his computer screen and looked down. Still thinking that he’d missed on the first try, Ray attempted to grasp the pencil again. He watched in horror as it phased through his flesh. He grabbed the arms of his chair to steady himself and found that his hand half-disappeared into the cushioned support.

Ray sat very still for a long time, his mind racing through ways to clarify the issue. He chose to act on the best idea he could come up with. He ran up the stairs, painfully aware that his feet sunk ankle-deep into every step.

He reached the bathroom, and clumsily retrieved the scale from the cupboard underneath the sink. He placed it in the middle of the floor, and rested his whole weight on it. It displayed a number that was twenty-five percent less than it should have been.

He returned to his computer and, with great effort, searched for other people who might have experienced similar conditions. There was only one result.

Exactly six months earlier, a nineteen-year-old girl named Laney Yarrow had been in her local paper with an incredible story about how she was “disintegrating”. The page from her diary was published on page six and had only been printed after Laney had gone missing.

Ray found the paper’s phone number and called the writer.

“Ruth Carver, Midland Daily Centennial,” a woman answered.

“My name is Ray Thompson,” said Ray immediately. “I know what happened to Laney.”

No. 444 – No. 417 Continues

Andrea sped up and swerved her car through the traffic. Pierson, in the larger vehicle, struggled to keep up. Andrea kept her eye on the rear-view mirror and watched as he fell further and further behind.

Throughout the chase, Katy sat still and quietly hummed to herself. Andrea said nothing to disturb her passenger, but worried about the extent of her injuries.

Once they managed to ditch their pursuer, Andrea headed directly for the hospital. When they arrived, she got out of the driver’s seat and hurried around to help Katy out.

“I think we lost him,” Andrea told her.

“Yes,” said Katy.

“I didn’t think they’d be so brazen about chasing you down,” said Andrea as she gently helped Katy up and toward the emergency room door.

“Yes,” said Katy again.

“We’ll get the doctors to check you out, and then we’ll see Charles Franklin. He’s my employer.”

“Yes,” said Katy. She took three steps from the car, then wavered and fell to her knees.

“Katy!” said Andrea. “Somebody help us!” she yelled toward the building.

Katy looked confusedly at the driver. “Who’s Katy?” she mumbled, before she passed out.

Andrea screamed for assistance. Soon the fallen woman was surrounded by doctors and rushed inside.

Once Katy had been admitted and taken for examination, Andrea hit the speed-dial on her phone.

“It’s me,” she said into the speaker. “We have a huge problem.”

She listened carefully to the instructions from the other end of the line, then replied.

“I’ve got it. I’ll go to Plan B.”

 

To be continued…

No. 443

Pineapple and Cat-Shark!

They fight crime!

Pineapple and Cat-Shark!

Rabbits who fight crime!

Pineapple and Cat-Shark!

All the time!

 

This week, on “Pineapple and Cat-Shark”, Cat-Shark fights crime while Pineapple looks on.

What will happen next? Find out, on “Pineapple and Cat-Shark”!

No. 442

The heavy snowfall did nothing to improve his mood. Derek Saunders closed the blinds and retreated back to the couch and blanket. It was dark outside, and he’d missed daylight again.

The only illumination in the room was the toxic glow of the television, a show he’d already seen three times.

He checked his phone. No messages since before he’d fallen asleep. Not that he was expecting any.

Restlessness gnawed at him, and he checked the window again. The streetlight at the end of the block reflected off of the individual flakes. He watched them land, and merge with the thick layer already on the ground. It was now piled up past the wheels of his car in the driveway.

A short time ago, it had been summer. Derek Saunders missed summer.

No. 441

Ozarg lived in the storm drain that ran underneath the street. Every night he’d crawl out and search the neighborhood lawns for toys that had been left unattended. He’d steal them and drag them back to his lair. Ozarg was not a very threatening monster.

On the second-to-last Sunday of every month, Ozarg would put on his human-disguise and have a garage sale, selling the pilfered toys to make a little money. He would be careful to have his sale several blocks from his home, so that the children who owned the toys would be unlikely to visit.

Ozarg had been running this scheme successfully for over twenty years when, one day, a little girl stopped by his table with her mother.

“That’s my baseball glove,” she said, pointing at the stolen merchandise.

“Run along,” said Ozarg. “You’re mistaken.”

“It has my initials on it, right there,” insisted the girl. “L W”.

“Ten dollars,” said Ozarg, who, despite his vast experience, was still a terrible negotiator.

“I’m not giving you any money,” said the girl. “You’re a bad man. I’m calling the police.”

“Seven dollars,” said Ozarg.

“Mom, this man is a stealer,” the girl insisted.

“Five dollars,” said Ozarg.

Mom came over to see what all the fuss was about. “I thought you said you lost your glove?” she told the girl.

“Well, I did. It got lost after I left it outside.”

“Are you sure this is your glove?” Mom asked.

“Four-Fifty,” said Ozarg.

“Of course I’m sure,” said the girl. “It’s even missing the label.”

“Is that my daughter’s glove?” Mom asked Ozarg.

“I have to go now,” said Ozarg, finally grasping that the dispute was not about price. He began to pack his wares.

“I’m calling the police,” said Mom. She pulled out her phone and began to dial.

Ozarg realized that he was going to be in some hot water. He decided that he could live without the inventory he had at the moment, and took off running in the opposite direction of his home, to throw the police off the scent.

“He’s getting away,” the girl yelled. “He’s getting away!”

Mom finished telling the dispatcher the details of her complaint and hung up the phone. “He’s gone now, honey. How about you just take the glove, there, and we get some lunch?”

The girl agreed, and left, clutching her prodigal glove close.

Ozarg stopped, just around the corner, breathing heavily. His human-suit wasn’t made for exercise. He was angry that his sale had been interrupted, but relieved to have escaped.

That night, he made a special note to return to the yard where he’d found the glove and to pick up everything that had been left unsecured.

Ozarg wasn’t a scary monster, but he certainly was vindictive.

No. 440 – No. 439 Part 2

At that moment, there was a noise from below deck. Something mechanical had broken. “Charlie,” called the Captain. “Get down here. We need help.”

Charlie made a move toward the hatch, but Other Charlie stepped in his way.

“Now,” said Other Charlie.

Charlie shoved his double aside. “I don’t know what you are, but you’re not me. They need me.”

Other Charlie kept his hand on the original’s chest. “It was hard for me to make the choice, too.”

Charlie stopped his attempt to pass.

“Where are you, man?” the Captain was yelling.

“The gear in the hold,” Charlie asked Other Charlie. “It’s a machine, isn’t it? That’s why we’re out here?”

“It’s why you’re so far from anywhere,” Other Charlie confirmed. “Less chance of an accident.”

“What will happen?” Charlie said quietly.

“You’ll drift for thirteen days. Then you’ll make it home to do what you were always meant to do. The others will get airlifted off the island another three days after that.”

“Salamander” scraped the bottom close to the shore. Charlie knew escape on the ship was a lost cause.

“The life boat?” he said.

“Bring water,” Other Charlie suggested. Then he disappeared, having done what he came to do.

No. 439

The engines had quit sometime around midnight. The boat had drifted much closer to the shore since then.

 

Charlie stood watch at the bow while the others tried to complete the repairs. “There’s not much time,” he called down the open hatch. “We need to start thinking about Plan B.”

“If we run aground, we run aground,” replied a voice from below. “This ship is too expensive to abandon.”

“Yes, sir,” said Charlie, eyeing the dangerous rocks that lined the beach. Not only that, the island they were approaching was far from any established sea lanes. If “Salamander” wrecked here, it would be a long time before anybody found the survivors.

Out of the corner of his eye, Charlie spotted movement on the deck. He turned his attention from the rocks to the new activity.

What he saw frightened him severely.

“Hi, Charlie,” said another Charlie.

It was a straight-copy, right down to the miss-matched socks Charlie had thrown on when the engine alarm had sounded.

He regarded his doppelganger with great suspicion. “What is this?” he asked the apparition.

“I’m you, obviously,” said Other Charlie, casually. “Your mission here will be successful. But first, you’ll have to leave ‘Salamander’.” He nodded at the island. “Before we hit the beach.”

“What about them?” asked Charlie, pointing at the hatch. “The Captain has already ordered us to stay.”

Other Charlie shrugged. “They’ll live. Well, most of them, anyway.”

“How do you know?”

“I already told you,” said Other Charlie, now with an edge to his voice. “Your mission was successful. Come on. We need to get moving.”