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Random Fiction Stories & Other Writings

The Tenant by Roland Topor

This should have been posted a long time ago. It was initially going to be a review, but it is now more just a recommendation.

This is one of my favorite novels, and it is definitely a top ten for me.  A pretty surreal book by Roland Topor, who was also an artist, that follows a man who moves into an apartment building and experiences constant harassment from his neighbors. The book is pretty humorous–mostly in a dark way–and the overall circular narrative of the story provides a fairly thought-provoking conclusion.

Topor didn’t produce many novels, and I have only been able the find one more, Joko’s Anniversary, that is translated to English. I recently read that one, and while it shares the same surrealism as The Tenant the book just wasn’t as potent to me. That was my first impression, but I’ll probably have to read it again to form a more complete opinion on it.

Delicacies

1st or 2nd draft.

☺️

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Delicacies

By Ronald Cypress

 

Herman had started to take to the local cemetery at night, a small radio accompanying and supplying him with the music he needed to dance to between the tombstones. He was a lonely man, and it was the type of thing a lonely man would do, waltz in the darkness and scarce moonlight. Many times, towards the end of his time in the cemetery, tears would slowly start to roll down from Herman’s eyes. There wasn’t a particular thought on his mind as the tears were released; it was just life. He would cry every night until the night came that he was dancing and discovered that another human being was also in the cemetery with him, alive and also willing to dance around the graves. And the human being was a female. Any fool, audience or storyteller could see that the two were going to fall in love.

Her name was Blythe, and she quickly convinced Herman that she had been put on Earth for him, and he there for her. The two danced together, delicately and with perfect rhythm around the resting place of those who were beneath them. Soon their love was completely sealed, and it was time to start a life together. Herman, realizing it best to abandon his dilapidated apartment, moved into Blythe’s house. It was a small one, with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. The house was old and needed numerous repairs, but Herman would never see the damage that he lived underneath. All he could see was her.

It was just the two of them and Blythe’s only living relative, her older brother, Donny. Donny was an absurdly tall man, his height going far beyond what any one man needed. His face was an unpleasant sight, the eyes not aligned, the ears lopsided, teeth crooked and discolored, and a nose that was bent up and to the right. Donny stayed inside the house most of the time, only going out when Blythe desperately needed him with her. From the instant they met, it was clear that Donny was set on being the antagonist to Herman, the hero of this tale. Any other man, with the exception of Steve, Herman’s old chum from high school and personality match, would have fled the situation once they were introduced to Donny.

Herman had to stay because it was where Blythe was, and she was all he could see.

The three got along without much of an incident for five months and ten days. Then one night, Donny got Herman riled up by taunting him over his obedience to Blythe.

“Whipped boy, whipped boy,” Donny taunted Herman repeatedly until Herman spat at him.

Blythe had tolerated the arguing, but she was not going to put up with saliva purposely being discharged in the house. She picked up the sharpest knife in the kitchen and began to chase Herman around the house, occasionally swing and stabbing at him, missing each time. They finally settled in the kitchen, and he tried to calm her down, using tender, quiet words associated with love. Blythe appeared to be appeased by what he was saying, and Herman started to relax. His right hand was resting on the kitchen counter when Blythe suddenly brought the knife down with a quick and decisive blow.

Herman’s little finger on his right hand was severed.

He cried out in pain, and Donny mocked him for the noise.

“We need to call the police,” Herman finally said after several minutes of wailing.

Blythe, who had been quietly standing by with a satisfied smile, instantly voiced her disagreement with getting the police involved.

“They’ll arrest me,” she told Herman. “They’ll take me away, my love. You don’t want that, do you? I can take care of this.”

She began the process of bandaging Herman’s wound, and his whimpering and moaning slowly subsided. After his hand was bandaged up, Blythe picked up the little finger that had once belonged to Herman and looked it over. She licked her lips as she stared at it. Blythe knew exactly what to do with the finger. She instructed Donny to get out the frying pan and listed a couple of spices that needed to be retrieved from the cupboard.

The treat that night was small, being shared between Donny and Blythe. Herman sat and watched Blythe as she took in what had once been his, surprised but gratified by the pleasure and delight she seemed to be getting from it.

“It was delicious, my love,” Blythe said. “Wouldn’t you agree, Donny?”

Donny made noises frequently associated with monkeys before he let out several howls.

“There really is something about you, my love,” Blythe said. She went over to Herman and kissed him.

The following week, three more fingers were missing from Herman’s left hand. They had all been taken off at the same time, and they were part of the same meal. Herman sat quietly and smiled as he watched Blythe slowly consume what he had given up for her. She commented on the tenderness and flavor of what she was eating. Donny, eating a smaller portion, agreed with everything she said, though Herman didn’t care about his opinion. All he wanted was her approval.

A week later the whole hand was gone.

It was the biggest meal Herman had sacrificed for up to that point. And as he sat next to her at the kitchen table and watched his love take delight in devouring him, a few tears came to his eyes.

“I love you so much,” he said. “I would do anything for you.”

Steve, the old chum mentioned earlier in the story—you don’t introduce a Steve unless you plan to use him (Writing Shit 101)—randomly stopped by one evening, claiming that he had heard Herman had recently moved in with some woman and was in love. The last time the two had encountered each other, both he and Herman had been quite miserable and lonely. Steve was still in such a state, and the visit to Herman very well could have come from the fact that he was hoping to get tips on how he, too, could find the love of his life. When Herman came to the door after Steve had been knocking for one minute and sixteen seconds, his appearance provided a small shock. The right hand was gone. There were bandages over both of Herman’s ears, or where ears had once been, and an eye patch covered his left eye.

The two talked for a bit, and Herman expressed his desire to let Steve inside the house; however, Donny and Blythe had lay down the laws of the house, and one of the big no-nos was having guest over. The two could just speak out on the porch for a short period. Steve inquired about Herman’s well-being, and he was assured that everything was absolutely magnificent. Herman confessed to being deeply in love, so far gone with in its bliss that his mind was no longer capable of thinking the way it had in the past.

There was only one person he could see.

Steve and Herman shook hands at the end of their conversation, and Herman wished his old chum luck in finding a woman who sucked him in the way Blythe had done to him.

The next time anyone outside the house would see Herman, both of his arms were missing, he was wearing dark shades, apparently blind in both eyes, his right foot was gone as was his left leg beneath the knee. Blythe was pushing him around in an old wheelchair on one of their rare outings. The sight should have been a depressing and concerning one, but the only thing witnesses could truly focus on was the smile on Herman’s face. Despite the condition he was in, his whole face still appeared to light up with happiness.

It was the type of happiness that many longed for and would desperately seek throughout their lifetimes, only to receive cheap imitations and diluted version of it. What Herman had was hard to find, always remaining vexing and obscure. It was a treasure.

It was a rare and delicate thing.

Man

 

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  Man

                                                               By Ronald Cypress

The law had served its purpose, and it was to release Rhea Moros back into society, years away from the world that she had been accustomed to, the world that had condemned her. There was some protest. But her time had been served, and it was law. They had to abide by the law and respect that she had survived the sentence that had been given to her. Many people still didn’t believe it could be. For this particular group, it couldn’t be her and they would never believe it was anything other than a conspiracy, more lies from the government. Everyone else, the majority that was willing to accept the truth, just had to be awed by the facts. The woman had served her sentence, something that, when it was brought down, was meant to make sure that Rhea would never be part of the outside world again. They were going to keep her caged for the rest of her natural life. Just about everyone else in the world would have succumbed to some type of death during the time given; that’s how it had always been before. No one could explain why Rhea was still around, appearing to be just the same as the day she had first been arrested.

“Pity me.”

The crime was murder, and the guilty verdict had been passed down by the community nearly a year before one developed in court. Rhea herself had admitted to taking her man’s life, and the only thing to debate was whether or not it was justified. Nothing about the murder suggested that Rhea would be able to get away with it. The man had been killed in his sleep. The main question people had was how such a fragile, battered woman was able to hold a pillow down over the man’s face long enough to kill him. He was much bigger than her, and surely he must have put up some type of fight. But that was how he went, smothered and overpowered. Rhea had been the one to call the cops, and she had waited for them to arrive. When they got there, all that she asked was they move quietly because her two daughters were sleeping. Most people believed that she should have just plead guilty to something like manslaughter or second degree murder, but she chose to fight in court and claim that her man had been abusing her in every way possible. Her claims could have been very true and most people may have believed her, but back then they weren’t willing to condone a woman murdering her husband in his sleep no matter how awful he had been. So she was guilty. And they gave her life.

“Have pity.”

Not many people really thought much about Rhea once she was sent of to prison. The kids went to stay with one of Rhea’s friends since she didn’t have any known family and the dead man’s family wasn’t willing to take in a couple of children they had hardly known.  The arrangement was the best thing, and the kids would get to see their mom at least twice a year. The kids got older as the years went on, as did the friend, but none of them seemed to notice anything unusual about Rhea. No one seemed to notice it until the court granted her appeal, and the life sentence that had been given to her was converted to one hundred and twenty years. That came twenty years after Rhea had been found guilty. She only had a hundred years to go before she would be released. The times had changed. People were a bit kinder. A life sentence was just too much. It left no possibility that an inmate could be set free, reformed and ready to be a productive member of the civilized world. So they would give a hundred years. All the inmate had to do was survive. Strangely enough no one every survived. Rhea was still expected to die behind bars. But there was something unusual about her, one of her daughters pointed out after visiting her to celebrate the news that her release would be possible. She looked very much the same. She wasn’t aging. Did the others see? Some said that they were able to notice how she hadn’t age much since arriving to prison.

“I ask for mercy.”

The interest in Rhea began to gradually increase with each passing year. People wanted to know about the woman who wasn’t aging. They wanted to know everything about her. What they could get rarely sufficed. They refused to accept that no one knew who her parents had been or how she had even come to live in the area that she had been in when she committed the crime that sent her to prison. They wanted to know what the doctors had to say. Surely, she was being tested and given physicals. Was she at least close to death? On the inside, Rhea felt nothing but sorrow. Her friend passed, and her children aged, moving on well beyond the age she seemed to perpetually inhabit. Rhea watched as they got older and listened as they spoke about the lives they were able to have in the free world. Several grandchildren arrived, and Rhea was able to see a few of them. After her daughters passed, most of her surviving family would just forget about her or decide to stop seeing her. Some of them likely didn’t want to be associated with the woman whose fame continued to intensify. Some people called her a miracle, and some called her a curse. Some called for her freedom, and some wanted her put the death. The law decided that it was best to let her be and serve out the entire sentence. If she were able to survive the rest of the time, what would it mean? No one really had an answer. They had never seen anything like Rhea Moros before.

“Just want peace now.”

The end of her sentence came, and the state had no choice but to release Rhea. She was well over a hundred years old but still appeared no older than thirty-four. Her weight had remained the same. Her hair was still the same length and color. There didn’t appear to be a single wrinkle on her. She was still in good physical condition, able to walk out of the prison the same way she had when going into the place.  There were guards to escort her of out of the place she had been held in for so long, and a few guards stuck with her after she reached the home in which she would be staying for several months. The law assured her that she was a completely free woman. They weren’t going to put any restraints on her. She didn’t have to check in or answer to anyone. Things were different. She was completely free. The government set Rhea up to stay with a woman until she was able to adjust to being in the new world. There was work, and despite her true age there might even be love and a new family in the future. In a way, she was still young. The doctors confirmed that everything about her worked as it had when she was convicted. There was still so much she could do.

“It’s going to be hard. “

The woman Rhea went to stay with assured her that everything was going to work out. The two lived in a small, single-story home in the suburbs. The area had been very quiet before the media started to show up, chasing after Rhea, trying to get more words from her. A few of the neighbors complained. A few of them were just as curious. One moved away, and another refused to leave their home until the demons were gone.  The woman promised Rhea that she was going to take good care of her, and if she didn’t have too much confident in her Rhea had to at least feel somewhat secure by the fact that the government had assigned armed guards to watch over the house; they would follow Rhea around until society adjust to the fact that she was back among them, and not a single person had been able to figure her out. Crowds built around the house, and eventually the city had to force a barrier up on the street Rhea resided. Only people who lived in the area would be allowed through. Somehow certain people managed to keep making it through barricades and check points. They just wanted to see her. They wanted to talk to her. They wanted to touch her. The woman Rhea lived with tried to make life as normal as possibly. She began to introduce Rhea to new things, things she had never seen before because the prison didn’t allow inmates to have them. There was a bunch of new technology. There were some old things that Rhea recognized, but most of them had been improved since the last time she had seen them. Rhea seemed impressed by some of the things for a short period of time, but much of the technology didn’t seem to fit her no matter how much the woman explained it. She hadn’t aged, but Rhea still felt stuck in a certain time that the world had moved on from.

“I guess I just want things simple now.”

The woman got Rhea to speak a little about her past. Rhea admitted that she had never known her father, and she couldn’t be sure that the woman she had referred to as mother when she was young had actually been her biological mom. Rhea had been with that woman until she was fifteen, and then she was on her own until she met the man she murdered.  There wasn’t much else to tell. Many people had written books on Rhea’s life, being forced to speculate a good deal about what had happened and how she possibly could have come to be immortal. That’s what they had started calling her. Man simply couldn’t live so long without showing signs of aging. She had to fall into a different category. Rhea didn’t feel special, and she didn’t act the part either.  She mostly stayed in her bedroom, watching the big TV the woman had set up for her. The woman tried to get her to come out, offering to walk with her around the neighborhood and promising that there would be security there to protect her. It would take a while for Rhea to take to the idea of leaving the house. When she finally did start to venture outside Rhea made sure to stick close to the woman. They only went to nearby places. The locals would stare when they saw her out, keeping their eyes on Rhea until a few them slowly went back to their own business and the others followed. They were supposed to get used to being in neighborhood. Some felt that they were even supposed to protect her once they were introduced. Rhea was able to meet a few of the neighbors through the woman, and they all seemed nice. Most of them shook her hand too long and squeezed it too tight. Some of them even hugged her, and the hugs were too tight. It was as if they were trying to get something out of her. One man that Rhea had been introduced to started to cry while he was hugging her. His wife had to pull him away. The woman assured Rhea that the people who lived around them were generally very nice, and they weren’t going bother her. Rhea was going to be one of them. It would just take some time. Rhea didn’t appear to be in a rush to be accepted or integrated into the community. She knew she didn’t really belong there. Becoming one of them almost seemed like an impossible status.

“God bless all, it’s hard.”

It started to seem like the world was ready to let Rhea be. People still took photos, the media still followed her, and the stares continued to happen while she was in public, but everything started to dwindle.  They were gong to start letting her alone so she could live her life. All seemed well until the day Rhea walked out of a restaurant and a man approached her with a gun in his hand.  He screamed out words about God and abominations before opening fire. Only one guard was assigned to protect her, and he was rarely on his toes when it came to defending Rhea because there no longer seemed to be any visible threats. The man with the gun was able to get of four shots, one hitting the armed guard in the abdomen before he could draw his gun, one hitting the side of the restaurant, and two hitting Rhea. She took one to the chest and the last shot fired hit her directly in the middle of her forehead. She fell to the ground. People who happened to be outside the restaurant at the time began to scream. A few men sprung into action and tackled the shooter. They would detain him until the police arrived. Word that Rhea was dead got around before she had even made it to the hospital. She had appeared to be unconscious when the ambulance showed up, and she wasn’t moving as they took her away. The word was that she had to be dead. This belief would continue to spread until there was official word from the hospital where Rhea was being treated. The world got the news, and many hearts sunk. Rhea was still alive. Not only was she alive, but she continued to be in very good healthy.

“Just want some peace.”

The surgeons had been ready to perform but there was nothing to do by the time she got them. The entry and exit wounds had closed and nearly disappeared, and just little marks left on her chest and forehead. The bleeding had stopped. The X-rays that were done on her failed to show any internal damage or remnants of bullets, though there appeared to be a small crack on her forehead and one on a rib bone. No one could believe it. If they wanted to, the doctors could have released Rhea that same day. She appeared to be fine. She was very responsive, able to answer all their questions and give them the information that they needed to decide that she was mentally sound as well as physical well. The man who had shot her had also been taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure. The men who had detained him had roughed him up a bit. He, too, would be fine and would soon be charged with a couple of crimes, the main one being attempted murder. The first opportunity the man got to speak with the media present he raved about the madness the world was facing and how God had cursed the entire world. Most people decided to deem him a mad man. But, then again, many people reacted strangely to the news that Rhea had survived being shot. There was something in the way they spoke about their disbelief over her being able to not be damaged by the attack. There was something about how they expressed relief about her survival, but their faces seem to involuntary twist and tightened to show displeasure. The woman with whom Rhea was still living with knew that she would have to protect Rhea more once she came home. Rhea’s departure from the hospital wouldn’t be until two weeks after she had arrived. The doctors wanted to keep her there to run test on her and to make sure there weren’t any hidden effects from the shooting that might randomly materialize in the future. Rhea went along with what they wanted to do, but it was clear that she knew the real reason why they wanted to keep her at the hospital. She remained quiet and cooperative as the doctors did their test. Many of the tests she had gone through before. Rhea knew what the results would be. Her blood would appear to be normal. They could take it and do whatever every test possible with it; nothing spectacular was going to happen. It wasn’t just her blood. They even tested her urine and saliva. Towards the end of her stay, Rhea heard some talk about taking bone marrow from her but no one every approached her about the procedure. They finally told her it was okay to go home. The woman took her. Immediately, she talked brightly about the future and all the things they could do. The woman suggested that the two of them travel. What seemed like an endless amount of donations had been given to Rhea, and she had actually managed to acquire a good deal of money. They could go out and see the world. Mostly everyone knew about Rhea. People had come from all over to see her. She would be welcomed just about anywhere. It would be good for the two of them to travel. Rhea shook her head and expressed how tired she was. She went to her room. Fifteen minutes later, the woman followed her and found Rhea lying on her bed. The woman watched her, and for a moment she had a thought that it could finally be it for Rhea. The sleep would be forever. She moved closer to see if Rhea’s chest was moving or if Rhea could be heard breathing. Rhea was completely still. So the woman called out to her. Rhea’s eyes opened, and the woman apologized. She just wanted to make sure she was okay.

“A good rest. And some peace.”

The woman promised to give her want she wanted and to leave her alone. She left the room, feeling that Rhea could decide to just pass away quietly. The woman told herself that she couldn’t get upset. It had been a long life. It had been a long good life.

The Damnedest

   The Damnedest

   By Ronald Cypress

 

It was the damnedest thing, Darren Tomlinson would tell people with a constant baffled yet somewhat affable attitude that was only fitting for him. Anyone else in the town would have been enraged if someone had taken most of their right arm off. Anyone else would have been screaming for the guilty party’s blood. Darren didn’t even seem ready to fully admit that someone had in fact cut his arm off a few inches above the elbow. According to him, it was possible that an accident could have caused him to lose his arm three years ago.

He was one of the drunks. The town had a few of them. Times were hard, everyone said. But everyone had jobs if they really wanted them. Darren had work available to him, and everyone knew that he was reliable when it came to performing various odd jobs as long as they were spaced out with a couple of days between the jobs. The work he performed didn’t disappoint most of the time, but then again the people didn’t expect too much from Darren. He was a drunk and a screw-up. People were just happy that he wasn’t committing crimes and victimizing them. There was a time when he had been known as a thief. That had changed by the time someone took his right arm from him.

Let’s just get right into it.

Darren had lost his license years ago, so he rode around on an old silver bike. The bike was easily recognizable as his because it had of the bright, pink rubber handles that were on it. It was basically his only means of transportation unless he managed to get a ride somewhere. Darren seemed happy on his bike. All that’s not really relevant, but he was pretty upset when the bike was destroyed. At the time he almost seemed more upset about the bike than the fact that he had lost an arm.

It was the bike and the pink handles that someone noticed first when they found Darren lying in a grassy area about fifteen feet from the road that runs by the church that had burned down many years ago. Some homeless transient was killed in the fire, and people say that place is haunted. Darren was found not far from what remains of that church, right next to his bike. The person that found him said it took him a while to realize that something was wrong with Darren when he first saw him. It wasn’t until he went to shake Darren that the man realized the right arm was gone.

It had been cleanly cut off. And it wasn’t an accident. Doctors said that someone had done the job, and they had done it with admirable expertise. It was a sick thing to do, of course, but the cut had been very clean. And Darren had been bandaged enough to stop the bleeding and to prevent any serious infection from developing while he was lying there with his arm gone. Everyone agreed that Darren could have easily lost his life if it hadn’t been for the fact that whoever took his arm had decided to care for him after they did what they had done.

It couldn’t have been an accident.

Darren would still continue to insist that a car could have struck him while he was riding around drunk on his bike. The police and doctors tried to get information out of him about what had really happen, but the man couldn’t remember. It was believable coming from him. The guy was too inebriated to even remember someone taking his arm from him.

They kept Darren in the hospital for quite some time, holding him there even after what remained of his arm had completely healed. The police investigated the case, but to this day they still haven’t made an arrest and there are no prime suspects. All of the local doctors and prominent people in the medical field were questioned, the police figuring that it would have to be someone like them in order for the cut to be so well done and for Darren to still be alive after the arm was removed.

That didn’t lead anywhere.

No one had any reason to want a drunkard’s arm. They couldn’t find anyone who hated Darren enough to do such a thing to him. If anyone did hate him that much, why not just go ahead and kill him? Taking his arm was cruel, but with someone like Darren it wasn’t going to be the end of the world. It wasn’t even really going to slow him down. He could still hit up every local bar, and drunkenly go on about how his arm had been taken, how it was the damnedest thing that had ever happened to him. There were always people who were willing to listen.

Many of the people were pretty curious to hear from him. Many were concerned about his well-being. They felt bad about what had happened to him. The fact that no one had been arrested also made everyone feel at least a tinge of fear over possibly being the next victim, though no other such cases would occur within the years after Darren lost his arm. All in all, people were happy to see that he was taking it so well.

It was quite a bizarre thing that happened to him.

People probed him for answers, wanting to know about who he could have possibly upset so much that they decided to disfigure him. Darren insisted that he got along with all living creatures, and most people would agree. He was still a sad case. It was hard not to see the tragedy. His bike was destroyed, so he would just walk or stumble around town, the short-sleeve shirt he wore making it easy to see what had been done. Work hardly came his way, but Darren was taken care of by the government and charity so he always had money to drink. People would often smile when they saw him out, but the smiles would usually fade quickly.

They were always reminded.

The world was a strange place.

The craziest thing could be right around the corner.

It was a strange place.

Bingo

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Mmm Hmm

 

 

Bingo

By Ronald Cypress

 

It was a strange thing, Lily realized, to have absolute certainty that your life was about to end. The knowledge had hit her as soon as the hitchhiker sat down in her passenger seat. It had been raining earlier that day. The roads were still wet. The hitchhiker, dressed in what appeared to be an endless layer of rotten clothing, was completely dry. Lily knew her death was near. It was so clear to her the instant the hitchhiker’s butt touched the seat and they closed the door.

There was no explanation for why Lily had actually pulled over and stopped to let the person into her car. At first sight, she thought that the heavy built person sticking their thumb out was a man. Lily didn’t realize she was wrong until the person was in the car and spoke to her.

“Thanks for stopping,” the hitchhiker said. “Shit being stuck out in the rain.”

It was a woman. Her face nearly too big to be real. Dirty face too. Her eyes were bright. Every part of her that Lily could see was completely dry. Lily knew that she was going to die that night.

“Not that many cars coming through, you know.” The hitchhiker made a grunting sound along with several other odd noises. “Ones that did pass, shit, they just passed right by. Think some of them even sped up.”

Lily realized how slow she had been going since picking up the hitchhiker. She was going nearly twenty miles below the assigned speed limited. She put more pressure on the gas pedal. Death was so near. Lily realized it would come whenever the woman sitting next to her was ready to deliver.

“Where you headed anyway?” the hitchhiker asked. “Looks like you’re heading my way so far. Shit, I don’t have a particular destination. Just getting away, you know?”

Lily mentioned the name of her hometown, but she wasn’t headed there. At that moment she couldn’t remember where she had been going before picking up her demise. It wasn’t important to her anymore. Lily knew that she was never going to get there.

“I’m just trying to get away from someone,” the hitchhiker said. “Shit, trying to get far away. A rough life back there. You know?”

Lily felt the anger and then reflected on it. There were so many things she wanted to go say to her parents. There were also a few people that she wanted to go tell off. But they were all far away, and she would never get to them. She considered the situation. She looked at her life. It wasn’t flashing before her like she had been told it would. Perhaps that only happened when death came more swiftly.

“You see this bruise right here,” the hitchhiker asked. “Last bruise I’m going to have for a while. Shit. I’m telling you. Things are going to be different.”

Lily didn’t comprehend anything the other woman was saying. The fear was too strong. She had already made up her mind about what the hitchhiker intended to do to her. Lily was certain that the woman could spin numerous tales of grief and suffering, means to loosen up her prey.

“You know, you’re a real pretty girl. You married?”

Lily shook her head and grasped the staring wheeling tighter. She realized that her speed had once again fallen below what she was supposed to be doing.

“Shit. You ever been married? How old are you?”

Lily just shook her head.

“That’s for the best, you know? Don’t you worry about marriage and all the shit that comes with that type of stuff. You look like a smart girl. You in school?

Lily nodded.

She forced herself to exhale and loosen her grip on the staring wheel.

The anger she had felt had dissolved. She wanted to be with her parents.  She wanted to hug them.

“Marriage cost me a lot things. Cost me these.”

Lily didn’t look at her, but she knew that the woman was showing her where teeth were missing from her mouth.

“Those I don’t mind as much as I do some other things. Know how they went missing?”

“Someone hit you,” Lily said.

“Bingo!”

The hitchhikers yell caused Lily to jump. The car swerved a bit, but she quickly regained control.

“Shit. Sir hit me right in the mouth because I asked him to take me to my sister’s. Said I was talking back. Shit.”

Lily realized how dark everything was at that moment. There was no one else around. There were exits to go to and try to escape, but Lily realized that it was pointless. Death. It was strange how she had never felt so certain about something in her life. Lily’s body began to relax.

“Sir thinks he can just hit people whenever they don’t do want he wants. Well, shit, he hits weaker people. He never did that shit when my brother was around. Hell no. Sir would have gotten the shit beat right out of him.”

Lily could hear the emotion building up in the hitchhiker’s voice. She wanted to calm her down.

“What…”

Lily had started to ask the woman for her name, but everything made sense to her before the questioned got any further. She didn’t need a name. There was only one thing she needed to know. And she was certain of that thing.

“I think one of these days I’m going to go back and give that man a good beating myself. Get myself stronger. Go back there, you know? Beat the shit right out of him. Just pow pow. You know?”

The hitchhiker started to punch at the air.

“Get him real good. Shit. Teach him something all right. Wouldn’t put his hands on me again.”

The hitchhiker took a few more lite swipes at the air. Then she became quiet. Lily realized the radio had been turned off. She couldn’t remember when it had happened. All was quiet. It was almost as if sound had ceased to exist. Had the time come?

“Hey!” the hitchhiker called out suddenly. Without warning she put her hand on Lily’s shoulder. “Hey!”

The touch made her jump, much more than she had before. The car swerved, and there was no way to recover. The fall off the side of the road wasn’t deep, but the car flipped a few times and before it came to rest everything would be settled. One would walk away and one wouldn’t. That was the way it would be.

It was a strange thing.

 

 

Things Will Be Better

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Things Will Be Better

By Ronald Cypress

The body lying in the sandbox was the first one to be touched by the children. The first game they played with the young man’s corpse was to pour sand onto the body, covering mostly his face. Then they began to count the holes they could find.

“There’s four of them.”

“No, there’s five. Look at this one right here on his shoulder.”

“Man, someone really got this guy.”

A few of the kids began to stick their fingers into the holes, squealing as they touched whatever lay beneath the skin and the blood covered their hands. A few of the kids poured sand into the holes that were in the young man’s back and arm.

The next game they played was shoot him up.

The kids used their fingers to make guns. They pointed their newly developed weapons at the young man’s body.

“Bang!”

‘Bang!”

“Bang! You’re dead, fucker!”

When they got tired of played with their guns a few of the kids left the body and went elsewhere on the playground. The ones that stayed behind decided that the only thing left to do was kick the body as hard as they could. They kicked and kicked, not stopping until they heard a cracking sound.

The woman’s body lying several feet away from the seesaw hardly got any attention. A few of the children took note of the needle in her right arm. One of the kids thought she looked familiar and believed that it could possibly be the mom of a neighborhood boy. The children began to take turns at flicking the needle, barely touching it until one hard flick knocked the needle out of her arm.

“Do you think she was sick?”

“I’m sure she was. They usually are.”

One of the kids, the second biggest boy on the playground at that time, kicked the woman in the mouth. The kick forced the head to turn to the side.

“What you do that for?”

“Whore deserved it.”

He spit on her face.

And on the swing set hung another woman’s body. Several of the children who took the time to look at the body commented on how young the woman looked. They tried to guess her age.

“I think she’s about twenty.”

“Younger than that, man. Has to be about sixteen.”

“Dumbasses. She’s no older than my sister who’s twelve. I say thirteen at the oldest.”

“I’m surprised that belt hasn’t broken yet.”

One of the kids went to push at the body but was stopped by another child.

“Just leave it be for now. They’ll deal with it later.”

The hours went by and more kids began to show up on the playground. They spun around on the merry-go-round with the man who put a shotgun in his mouth. The children laughed at how slippery the blood and other bodily things made the merry-go-round. They laughed until the body became too burdensome. Once that happened. A few of the kids threw it to the side before jumping back on to spin around in what the man had left behind.

It was early in the evening when the authorities finally arrived. By that time, many of the children knew about the body of the boy who had been superficially buried beneath the monkey bars. The boy was their age, and many of them knew him. The familiarity was enough to hit home. Many of the children were sobbing as the authorities began to handle the bodies.

None of them spoke to the children; they simply focused on cleaning up. The children knew to move out of the way when the authorities began to work in their area. The body beneath the monkey bars was the second to last one to be removed. Just about all of the children cried out as the authorities began to place the body in a bag.

“It’s just not right!”

“It’s not fair!”

“How could you let this happen?”

The children never received an answer. The authorities took the body away and placed in the back of a van with the other bodies that were being removed.

A few inquired about what could have happened to the dead boy who had once been one of them.

“How did it happen?”

“No one knows. Some think strangulation. Someone said stabbed, but I didn’t see no blood on him. He looked all right to me. Just dead.”

The girl hanging from the swing set was the last one to be taken away by the authorities. Many of the children were starting to leave the playground by that time. They were too upset to play anymore. The sight and knowledge had been too much to take. It wasn’t supposed to happen to one of them.

The last body was thrown into the back of the van, and the playground and its inhabitants were absolved. About ten minutes after the authorities departed, a group of nicely dressed men showed up with smiles on their faces. The talked amongst themselves for a while before the kids overheard one of them urge another to speak up. All of the children left on the playground were anticipating what would be said.

A heavyset man stepped forward and began to speak.

“Hello all,” he said. “I am sure that you have all seen plenty of disturbing things today, and I also certain that you are all probably upset by the things you have seen. I would like to assure you all that we are working to make things better. We are working towards improving your future. And things will improve. We can guarantee you that. Things will improve. You mark my words. Now, I will leave all to resume your play. Please try to enjoy yourselves and continue to have fun. You are still children after all, and you have a great future to look forward to.”

The heavyset man waved to the kids before he turned and walked away from them, going back his group. A woman in the group also waved to the children just before she turned and joined the rest of her group. The children watched them go. Once they were gone, they resumed playing. They decided to play until it was late into the night

They would go on for as  long as they could.

Tony

I’m trying.

 

Tony

By Ronald  Cypress

 

There he would go, walking down Prince Street, his right hand gripping the fairly rusted tin box he always carried around, the arms attached to the hand swinging back and forth notably more than its counterpart; his whole right side always seemed to move more than the other side. When we saw him out and walking it would usually be on Prince Street, the second longest road that went through our community. His crippled stroll was a familiar sight for us all, and to a certain degree everyone must have just accepted the sight, the ugly limping and hobbling around down our beautiful street. We had put up with it for years until the community decided that a change had to be made.

This really a lovely place, and we’ve always had great pride in our town.

One generation had grown up and tolerated seeing his twisted and distorted face move about the community. We were told that it was something that just had to be accepted. Something had gone wrong, but no one had the answer. His parents had been one of us. The father was a very prominent member, the mother a gorgeous woman who could have had any man she chose. It was just a bit of bad luck, actually a good deal of bad luck that caused him to be produced. They had kept him hidden away when he as younger, but we don’t really like having secrets and eventually the demand that he be seen became too much for the parents to ignore. Once he was out, they never took him back and we had to accept what had been produced in such a heavenly place.

We all love this place.

Some people come and some people go, but the town always stays the same. We’re always the same. He never went and all of us knew that he never would. Even after both of his parents were respectfully placed in the ground, he would still be around. It was accepted with grace. There were caretakers to help him with his needs, and he would never cause any trouble. We all knew who he was. We all knew his name. If we saw him stopped in front of the Ma’s Ice Cream Shop, his face lightly pushed against the window to peer inside, we’d say hello and give him a nod. He was there frequently. It was that place and a few other ones on Prince Street. He rarely went inside the buildings, but would just softly put his face to the window and stare. If you happened to be inside while he was doing this, it could be quite a disturbing sight but none of us said or did anything. We just let him be. Inside, however, I think we were all wishing that what we wanted to happen would just occur. All we needed was for a few to speak up.

We are lovely people, and we all get along.

It was the latest generation that made us realize that a change had to be made. Things couldn’t go on as they had been. He couldn’t be allowed to go on, not in our town. The younger folks couldn’t take his disfigured, monstrous face. The sharp, crooked teeth scared them no matter how much we told them that he would do them no harm. A few of us arranged to have some children meet and shake hands with him, hoping it would calm some of their fears, but we were unsuccessful. Something had to change. It wasn’t just the children. Our town’s popularity increased and more people began to arrive. There were foreigners who loved everything about us until they became aware of his presence. Most of the time we couldn’t find kind or words convincing enough to make them agreeable with the fact that he was one of us. To them he was an unforgivable sin, an absolute blemish on such a wonderful place. The dream was shattered, the town cursed.

Everyone loves this place once they get to really know it.

An hour-long meeting was held, and we considered all of our options. The children were discussed frequently during the assembly, and numerous stories about how much distress was being brought upon them came up. A few parents claimed that they their children had to see therapists because they were so terrified of what he might do to them. A few of us chuckled. Everyone in that room had grown up in the town and knew his nature. The children were safe, but many of the parents insisted that it was a mental infliction he was bringing about simply with his existence in our town. So what did they want to do? We talked and talked, going beyond the designated hour. Finally, late into the night, a decision was made and we all agreed.

This is a lovely place, and we all want the best for our town.

The word was put out so that everyone would know what was going to happen. One night a few of us would go visit him at the home he had inherited from his parents. One of his caretakers, one of us, would be there to greet and allow us to go into the home. We would find him in the master bedroom on the second floor. After our meeting with him, the town would be completely different. He would be gone. No one spoke his name afterwards, not even the children. A few may have been able to honestly claim ignorance, but we all knew what had been done. A change had to be made, and that was something we all agreed upon. The town looks so much better now, and everyone is much happier. The children are free from the disgrace that haunted their parents. Everyone is happy. And we hope you’ll visit someday. Come on by and see the pride of our hearts.

You’ll see.

This is such a lovely place, and we’re just certain you will find at least little slice of bliss here.

Three Wise Ones

This is part of what I was working on a few months ago; I plan to go back to working on it. The story is a bit long  for a blog, so I appreciate everyone who actually sticks with it to the end. 

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Three Wise Ones

  By Ronald Cypress

 

We all watched as much of the news that we could, absorbing and trying to comprehend as much of the incredible event as possible. If the experts were lost and dumbfounded on what had taken place, then us simple folk could only feign understanding the whole picture or come up with wild theories about what had really happened and what it all meant. The world had pretty much stopped on the day that the ship came crashing down to the earth. The few filmed shots of the landing played over and over again as the speculation about what it was and where it had come from built up.

The talk began with mentioning that the aircraft was likely one of ours. When it became clear that no agency could claim that the thing from space was one of theirs, talks about it being from a foreign country started up. We could only speculate until given more information by the government. The story was able to sustain twenty-four seven coverage, and the day after the aircraft landed in our country the public was told that three people had been found inside of it. They were regular human beings. We all saw the footage of the two men and woman who had been recovered from the aircraft, and that seemed to settle the debate about whether or not actual aliens had finally came to our world.

The three people from the aircraft were taken to a hospital not far from where they landed, and things began to quiet down, or there weren’t as many updates on the story as there had been when it first happened. We all wanted to know what was going on, but the government clearly wanted to keep a good deal of information away from us. With the way things are and how information travels, they could only do so much to stop us from finding out about where the three people had come from.

The first word that got to us was the ship and the three found inside had been part of an experiment. The three people were talking and giving plenty of information to whoever was interrogating them. Reports mentioned that they all seemed to be in fair health; that was all they would say but we all got the sense that something was going on with them. Then we found out that the ship was called Zeno and it had been designed to travel at warp speed.

Most of us figured that cleared up the picture a little more, though we still continued to superficially bicker about what it meant. Our government had created the ship, and it had been a top secret until its crash landing. But no one wanted to take responsibility for it. We heard that no such ship had ever been created by us, or anyone else for that matter. We also found out that the technology found on Zeno was absolutely unknown to us.

But the three found aboard the ship were insisting that they were one of us, had come from our country and operated the flight for it.

The people found aboard Zeno began to come out in public

We found out their names.

There was Raf Castle, the command pilot. He was a hard looking man, and many us decided that we didn’t really like him. He appeared to be the leader, and he was probably the most vocal member of the crew. He kept insisting that we were all mad, and he talked about some experiment to send a ship into warp speed for the first time. Castle insisted that he had flown for our space program and that we had been the ones to send him. Supposedly, there was man named Philip Lem who had designed Zeno and he was supposed to have overseen the entire project. This was Castle’s explanation, and the other two appeared to agree with his story though we didn’t hear as much from them.

The two other pilots that were aboard Zeno were Ren Stockland and Alisha Roy. They were both several years younger than Castle, and both seemed more hesitant to speak whenever they had their moment in front of cameras and reporters. But we knew they were in solidarity with Castle. All three were claiming that they had been part of a test flight to achieve warp speed for the first time. That is what they wanted us to believe.

If someone had lost interest in the Zeno story and the three pilots, they probably started paying attention to it again once reports started to come out about the three pilots. They were from this country, and the origins they had given to investigators turned out to be true to a certain degree. There had been an Alisha Roy with the same parents as the pilot, but she been killed in a car accident when she was seventeen. Ren Stockland, again with the same background, had been stabbed to death during a bar fight at the age of twenty-two, almost thirteen years younger than the Ren Stockland who had shown up on Zeno. Raf Castle, the one confirmed by our government, hadn’t even made it as far as the other two, dying from an aggressive form of cancer at the age of eight.

As for Philip Lem, the man who had supposedly been behind the creation of Zeno, we were told that the man who best fit the description given by the pilots was a scientist and engineer who had committed suicide nearly twenty years ago.

We realized that the pilots’ backgrounds seemed to check out, but they couldn’t be who they said they were, not if they died years ago. It was a simple thing to clear up. All they had to do was test their DNA. After the results came back, there was a breaking news announcement. Some woman from our government confirmed that the three pilots did have matching DNA to those who had perished long ago.

We all wanted to know what it meant.

No one had absolute answers, not even our greatest minds. There was just constant speculation and fears. This new truth proved to be a massive devastation for many of us. What did it all mean? How could these three be here?

The news began to withdrawal from the story. It was never said, but we all assumed that it would probably be best to just start pushing Zeno and it’s crews to the back of our minds. The proper people would study the whole situation, and eventually we would receive a resolved explanation for what had happened.

Until that time came, we would just pray and continue holding on to the same believes that had kept us safe for years.

 

 

Δ

 

 

“Are you sure there’s nothing I can get you?”

The nurse had tried to accommodate Command Pilot Raf Castle several times that day, but she couldn’t give him what he really wanted. No one he had met up to that point had been able to give him answers. All they had done was add more questions about the situation. Most of the people he met treated him with obvious suspicion. Castle could see the mistrust and hear the doubts when they spoke to him.

They kept him at a hospital, though every physical examination had proven that he was in good health.

“He’s absolutely human,” Castle had heard one of the doctor’s tell someone.

Initially, they were giving him physical examinations every day after recovering him from Zeno, giving the impression that they couldn’t be completely sure that Castle was a human. The physical exams were guaranteed to happen, as were the interrogations. They all wanted to know where Castle and the woman came from.

“Alisha and I are from Earth,” Castle insisted.

They had kept him from seeing Alisha, and all they would tell him was that she was in some type of coma.

They continuously asked about how the two and the ship had come to Earth.

Castle told them about the last moments that he could clearly remember. Zeno had just initiated the jump to warp speed. They were heading away from earth. The ship had lunged forward, and an iridescent circle formed around them. The next thing that came to mind was the ship hurtling towards Earth. Castle had heard Alisha cry out just before they went through Earth’s atmosphere. They crashed into a grassy field, and when Castle came to after briefly passing out it was just Alisha and him.

But there had been another pilot on Zeno. Ren Stockland had also been aboard the ship when they first left Earth but hadn’t been recovered inside Zeno after the ship came back down. At least that was what Castle had been told.

Castle was compliant with all the demands that were given to him after he was first recovered. He was ready to answer all their questions and explain as much as he possibly could. But they couldn’t seem to comprehend what he was telling them. The government and the space program hadn’t heard of Zeno. When Castle told them about Philip Lem the people interrogating him promised that they would look into the person. They were going to look into everything and everyone surrounding Zeno.

They moved Castle from the hospital to a nearby hotel, promising to take care of him until everything was straightened out. With a lawyer present, they allowed Castle to speak at a press conference. He had no problem with explaining his truth. He and the other two pilots had been assigned to pilot Zeno on its first flight to achieve warp speed. A man named Philip Lem developed Zeno and most of its technical aspects.

The press didn’t seem to know what to make of him, and Castle assumed that they all believed him to be lying.

Away from the public eye, they were quickly investigating Castle’s claims.

The results were crushing for him.

He had been married to a woman named Eileen Franks. Castle gave enough information to them so that they could find her. The two had three children: Raf Jr., Margarita, and Mary. They found his Eileen, and she was no longer his. Though she refused to meet him, they were able to confirm that Eileen Franks was married to another man and only had one child. After being shown a picture of her, Castle confirmed that they woman they showed him was his wife.

He had parents.

They were found and did confirm that they had a son name Raf who had been killed in a boating accident when he was twenty-five. Castle was forty-six. Raf pleaded for them to bring his parents to him, but because the man he had believed to be his father had passed away years ago the only person they could bring to him was his mom.

Raf saw her and broke down. They held him back when he rushed to hug her. The woman recoiled as the doubt and confusion remained clear in her eyes.

“Mama,” he called out to her.

“He looks like him,” the woman said. “Doesn’t he look like him? But it can’t be.”

The woman and Castle stared at each other until they both resigned to what appeared to be the facts.

“We’ll work this all out ma’am,” they promised her.

Castle had no doubt that the woman was his mom.

They moved as fast as they could. Soon, they had the DNA test results to prove that he was indeed related to the woman. They also had the results to prove that Alisha Roy hadn’t perished in a house fire fifteen years ago as her parents believed. Instead, she was lying in a hospital, still comatose after being found on Zeno.

“No one understands how this can be,” they told Castle.

He advised them to find Philip Lem as soon as possible. There was no record of him ever existing. They couldn’t find a single person that fit the description or a possible family member.

As for Ren Stockland, he was found in a bar, about one hundred miles away from where they were keeping Castle.

“The man definitely isn’t an astronaut,” they told Castle. “Just a man with a long rap sheet.”

They managed to cajole an intoxicated Ren into going to visit Castle for verification.

It was him and it wasn’t.

Finally, they began to sit down with Castle and talk to him about what they could for him the future. There was no doubt that a good deal of his story had been verified, but there didn’t seem to be much that they could offer him. Nothing like Zeno had ever been created in their world, and no one could comprehend how the ship and its crew he had come to be with them.

“If we could just find Lem,” Castle quietly said. “We need to find Lem.”

He would repeat Lem’s name numerous times, but the man didn’t exist, not in that time and space.

 

 

Δ

 

 

“Are you guys going to get Lem down here, or not?” Ren Stockland asked.

He was starting to grow impatient with the government and how he was being treated since landing back on Earth. It had become clear to him that they were never going to find the other two who had been with him when Zeno left Earth. They had brought him stand-ins for Raf Castle and Alisha Roy, but neither one of them had been the real person.

“Those were frauds,” Ren had told them. “That guy said he was preacher. I’m not bashing the guy, he was nice in his own way, but Castle would never be preacher. I don’t even think the guy believed in any god.”

The Raf Castle who had been brought to him had offered to pray for his soul.

The Alisha Roy whom they had introduced him to was pregnant with her fifth child.

“You don’t have any children,” Stockland had told her. “I don’t even think you want any.”

They had let him meet the two who were supposed to be his co-pilots before giving him the news about the Ren Stockland that had existed in their world. No such person had ever existed. They allowed Stockland to meet the people who were supposed to be his family. There was his mom, dad, and older sister. It had always been the three them and only the three.

“Lorraine, you have to remember me,” Ren Stockland pleaded. “I was at your house shortly before I left.”

He began going through memories he had of them together. The Stockland family just stared at him. He began giving them more intimate and personal details that only a close family member would know.

“I don’t know how he knows these things,” Mrs. Stockland said. “But we’ve never had a son. I’m sorry.”

The family stuck around to find out that Ren Stockland’s DNA proved that he was related to them. But they wouldn’t accept him.

It became clear to him that the only hope he had for having things set right was to find Philip Lem.

“The man is a genius,” Stockland told them. “One of the brightest scientist around. He understands how Zeno works, and he’ll know exactly what to do.

They found Philip Lem.

He was a scientist.

“Great,” Stockland said. “Have him come down here and work this whole thing out.”

They said that Lem had never heard of him or Zeno, and he didn’t want any part of the whole ordeal that had become very public.

Stockland had no choice but to wait while they tried to convince Philip Lem to at least come and evaluate the situation.

Months passed before Lem agreed to come see Stockland. During that time, they had begun to limit the public’s access to Stockland. His movements were quietly restricted, and they kept him from speaking out too much about his dilemma. Not being allowed to talk to the press wasn’t a problem for Stockland, but he was growing frustrated with the fact that no one was able to help him.

They took Stockland to meet Lem at the hangar where Zeno was being housed. Lem instantly pronounced that he didn’t know Stockland and had never seen the man before in his life. He seemed to have very little interest in the fallen pilot but was very curious about Zeno. The all black, triangular ship didn’t look too special on the outside. They allowed Lem to go inside, hoping that he would be able to understand how the ship operated. Stockland had offered to give them a succinct tutorial on Zeno, but they had refused to let him touch anything inside.

“This is all very interesting,” Lem said. “But it’s nothing that I’ve seen before, and I have no idea how all this would work.”

Stockland offered to refresh Lem’s memory, but they hushed him.

Both men were escorted away from Zeno.

“I wish I could help you,” Lem said after they were all away from the aircraft. “But it’s beyond my comprehension. It is very interesting, though. And it is possible that this young man was part of an attempt to achieve navigating such an aircraft to move faster than the speed of light. Maybe they did do it, and things just didn’t turn out to be the way they expected.”

Stockland began to talk about how he could remember the jump forward, the variety of bright colors around them and then crashing back onto the planet. But Lem wasn’t interested in it. He was certain that there was nothing he could do for Stockland. No one could help him at that time.

They promised to take care of Stockland, and to find the best accommodation for him. Eventually he would find his home, they promised Stockland. In the meantime, they wanted him to get as comfortable as possible with his new life. It was a simple goal.

The land wasn’t completely foreign after all.

 

 

 

Δ

 

 

 

Alisha Roy was shaken by the press conference that had just taken place a few hours before. The question that had kept coming up over and over again was how she had made it back. How had she survived when everyone had been absolutely certain that all three members aboard Zeno had perished?

“I can’t tell you what happened,” Alisha said. “I don’t really have any recollection of the events you’re describing, and that’s not what happened to me.”

The public was certain that Alisha Roy, Raf Castle, and Ren Stockland had all been killed shortly after Zeno had left the Earth’s atmosphere. The public had seen the explosion on their TV screens. Just about everyone in the world knew about the grave news. Zeno’s first flight had been a tragic failure. And there wasn’t much they could do to get an answer about what went wrong. The decimated ship was out of their reach, and even if parts were pulled back to Earth it seemed highly unlikely that they would be able to diagnose the issue that had caused the explosion.

“It didn’t explode,” Alisha Roy told them.

The only person that they could turn to in order to figure out what had happened to the inspiring Zeno was Dr. Philip Lem, and he didn’t have any resolute answers for why the ship had exploded. He insisted that everything, ever little detail, had been absolutely perfect. They had run all the necessary tests beyond requirement. Everything appeared to be perfect. The launch had gone smoothly, and all was well until it came time for Zeno to speed forward.

Some assumed that too much was being asked of the spacecraft and of mankind. There were groups that believed it was beyond the call of human duty to do such things as achieve travelling faster than light. And of course some claimed that it simply couldn’t be done. It was people from this group that called for Lem to be arrested after they saw Zeno explode. Some people insisted that there was no way Lem could truly believe his ship was anything but a death machine.

“But it didn’t explode,” Alisha said.

She would keep insisting that Zeno had managed to start the jump to warp speed. She described everything going quiet before the whole spacecraft was suddenly jerked forward. Then there was a bunch of bright colors around them. Alisha told the public that was the last thing she remembered before she awoke and found Zeno speeding towards Earth.

People asked about Castle and Stockland, but Alisha couldn’t explain what had happened to them. The ship was still intact when it landed, and everything inside of it appeared to be normal but the two men were gone. A search team was sent to see if they could possibly still be floating around up in space somewhere, but the two were never found.

They wanted to know if Zeno had managed to travel at warp speed, and the people hoped that the suddenly resurrected Alisha would be able to answer the question. She told them and the public that she didn’t believe the ship had successfully completed its goal but something had happened.

“I don’t know what it could be,” Lem said when he and Alisha sat down in private. “We were all certain you were gone, but somehow you are here.”

Alisha opened up more than she had when questioned by the press. There was more that she could remember after Zeno had made the jump. Alisha told him about how all the colors had started to engulf them. She had felt the ship stop moving forward as they got sucked into the lights. Alisha recalled the feeling of her and all that was around her being slowly pulled apart.

“But it didn’t hurt,” Alisha said. “There was no pain. It just felt weird.”

After the strange sensation was done, Alisha had black out. A whole new world was waiting for her when she came back.

They held Alisha for a short period of time before allowing her to return to her family. There were some concerns that Alisha would have to slowly work herself back into their lives. Five years had passed with them believing that she was deceased. She would have to let her love ones gradually adjust to having her back.

People continued to have questions. It couldn’t be avoided. Some wanted to know why she had been the one to come back and not the others. A few rumors about sinister deeds and cover-ups began. The government was hiding something, some people said. There were people who had questions about what Lem and Alisha would do next. Was there going to be another Zeno? What was the real fate of the first one?

Alisha began to think about what she could do after returning to what she mostly believed to be the world she had left. What she had always known was still the same as far as she could see. The only thing that disagreed with her mind was what many had believed to be her death. She was certain that Zeno had never exploded, and she and the other two had survived in some fashion. They should have been there with her but it wasn’t to be. It didn’t completely feel right, but Alisha could only argue so much with the reality.

She tried to talk to Lem about it, but his mind seemed focused on designing the next Zeno.

“This one will work,” he said. “It has to. Everything is perfect, all of it. I just have to give it another try.”

Alisha was done with mission. They probably wouldn’t allow her to go on another flight. She knew that they still viewed her with suspicion. They probably weren’t convinced that she was supposed to be there. Their Alisha had died along with the other two. The one who reappeared was some alien being, an intruder who had mistakenly plummeted into their world.

 

 

 

 

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We all watched as much of the news reporting that we could, absorbing and trying to comprehend as much of the incredible event as possible. A strange ship from space had come crashing down to Earth, and no one seemed to have an explanation for it. The first images came, footage shot by a few witnesses, and we watched the ship slam into a grassy field. The news played the scene over and over again as conjecture began about what had happened.

The first guess that most of us had was that the ship had been one of ours and had happened to crash. The news began to move quickly. It didn’t belong to us, and it was soon revealed that no other country was claiming ownership of the aircraft. The news reported that officials were on the scene and the proper people were dealing with the thing from space. It looked like aircrafts that we had seen in the past, a triangular one that sort of looked like a jet.

But it wasn’t a jet.

And there wasn’t a pilot.

We found out that there was no one aboard the ship, and then we began to speculate that it was some type of weapon or spying device. People started to demand answers from our government. We wanted to know if we were under attack. They told us that we were going to be fine, assured us that we weren’t under attacked and encouraged us to go about our lives. It was hard. The circumstances were too bothersome and alluring.

Had we been visit by a real alien being?

The chatter about there being viable life out there beyond our planet became increasingly popular, and a good deal of the population seemed to start believing that we had made contact with something from another planet.

They told us that there was no proof that the thing came from anywhere other than Earth. In all likelihood, they said, the thing did come from another country, one that was too ashamed to admit it had failed at whatever it was trying to achieve with the spacecraft.

More of us began to demand answers. We wanted more details about the thing that had fallen from space.

Again, were we under attack?

They had a way with assuaging everyone’s fears and quieting the story.

The spacecraft was taken away by them and put somewhere that was probably highly classified. Very little information was given about it. Wherever it had come from, they were taking care of it. The best thing we could do was move on with our lives.

So we started to forget about the thing that had fallen from space. It occasionally appeared on TV, mostly on shows that dealt with conspiracies, particularly ones involving aliens, but the majority of us began to forget about what had happened. The threat that had been felt steadily dissipated. They had been right; there was nothing to worry about. We weren’t under attack. More than likely the ship had come from this planet. Many of us started to settle on the belief that it had come from us. They just didn’t want us to know about it. That was fine with us, just as long as we were safe and happy.

The thing from space became forgotten, mythicized and neglected. For most of us, it was too inconsequential to give much concern. The proper people who knew what to do with it would take care of whatever problem had occurred. They would eventually get it right and there would be no more crashes.

Overall, no real harm was done and we all ended up feeling safe.

It was the same world we had always known.

Tomorrow

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Tomorrow

By Ronald Cypress

 

The lime and indigo smog was thicker than usual, and Charlus couldn’t see the entrance to The XXII until he was right upon the tavern. The smoke didn’t really matter; it could have been pitch black and Charlus still would have been able to find the place. He struggled with the door, falling back as he tried pulled it open.

“Praise!” Charlus shouted after he got back to his feet and stumbled in The XXII.

The door screeched as it slowly closed behind him.

“I’m here, Thomas.” Charlus began to drag his feet towards the bar.

His regular seat was waiting for him. A few seats to the right was Saturday, the old man who was usually in that location. The three other people in the tavern were vaguely familiar to Charlus, but he couldn’t recall any of their names at that moment.

“Praise!” Charlus pulled his seat away from the bar and sat down. Thomas XXIII started to walk towards him. “It’s almost thirty degrees at my house, but nearly ninety over here.”

“That’s happening more often,” Thomas XXIII said. “Which one do you want?”

“Give me something light for the moment,” Charlus said. “I stopped by a few places and consumed some on the way. I just need something gentle at the moment. Don’t make it too hard, Thomas.”

“They say some spots are going to see snow soon.” Thomas began to prepare Charlus’ drink. “It will be able to snow in one spot, like just over a few house, and the sun can be shining brightly with clear skies a few houses down.”

“Madness,” Charlus said “Absolute madness.

Thomas XXIII brought Charlus a small glass with a thick orange substance in it.

The ground shook for several seconds. There were two far away explosions. No one in the tavern was alarmed by the events. Charlus took his glass and sipped from it.

“How’s Bayla?” Thomas XXIII asked.

Charlus grumbled something that the bartender couldn’t hear. He stared at his glass for a few seconds.

“She’s fine,” Charlus spoke up.

“And the kid.”

“That thing is the same.”

There was another explosion.

“Praise!” Charlus shouted. “What the hell could they be bombing now? It’s not like there’s anything left. It’s not like…”

Saturday leaned towards Charlus. “I saw a child the other day.”

“Praise,” Charlus whispered. “What are they going to do to us next?”

“The child lives a few blocks from me,” Saturday said. “It’s a boy, I was told. Thing has the top of its head and face is missing. There’s a body, the bottom part of a jaw, and a clump of skin with some bone underneath, but it doesn’t really have a face. The kid talked to me. Had the voice of a man, but the parents said it was a seven-year-old kid.”

“I know them,” Thomas XXIII said. “They’re good people. Sweet kid.”

“Sure,” Saturday said. “It’s just doesn’t look right.”

“Saturday, you need another drink?”

“Nah.” Saturday sat back in his seat and looked at the tall glass that was in front of him. “I wasn’t trying to be rude. I’m just saying.”

“I get what you were saying,” Charlus said. “And I agree with you. But there’s no telling what we’ll see next.

There was a loud thud on the front glass of the tavern. The men looked towards the noise and saw a familiar face and mouth pressed against the window. The enormous mouth had latched onto the glass. A pair of big, brown eyes stared back at the men. The face slowly slid across the glass. The men watched until it reached the end of the window and moved on.

“Thought you told him to stop doing that.” Saturday said.

“He doesn’t mean any harm,” Thomas XXIII said. “He can’t help it. And it actually cleans the windows.”

The ground shook.

“Wish we could get them to all go somewhere else,” Charlus said quietly.

“You don’t mean that,” Thomas XXIII said. “You know they’re part of our community now.”

There was a loud explosion, and a large flame appeared in the sky several feet away from the entrance to the tavern.

“I wonder what they’re trying to get,” Saturday said. “That must have been a stray.”

“Nothing probably,” Charlus said.

“There’s been some talk about a group of scalawags trying to get a coup going,” Thomas XXIII said. “They have to know it’s pointless.”

“With the way things are,” Charlus said.

He stopped and never finished the thought out loud.

“I saw a woman give birth on the streets not long ago,” Saturday said. “She just stopped walking, started grunting and making this howling noise with her legs open. Five, no six, little creatures dropped right out of her. Right there on the street. She was like us, but I don’t know what those things were that came out of her. Little gremlins if you ask me. Scared me to death.”

The entrance door swung open and a woman entered. She was holding something bundled in a blanket in her arms.

“Praise,” Charlus said when he saw the woman. “Bayla, what are you doing here?”

“It’s Morrow’s birthday.” Bayla began to walk towards her husband. “We were supposed to do something together for him. Did you forget what day it was?”

“Nah, I didn’t forget.”

“It’s your boy’s birthday?” Thomas XXIII asked. “Congratulations. How old is he now?”

“It’s two years old,” Charlus said. “That’s how old it is.”

A beeping noise came from the bundle in Bayla’s arms.

“I wanted you to stay home,” Bayla said. “I was hoping you could at least stay sober this one day.”

Charlus refused to look at his wife and child. He kept his eyes forward, focusing on an old liquor bottle. He recognized it as the first liquor he had drunk with his father years ago.

“I want you to come home right now,” Bayla said. “Thomas, no more drinks for him.”

“All right.”

“Do you even have money to pay?” Bayla asked her husband.

Charlus didn’t answer.

“Could I see the little guy,” Thomas XXIII asked. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen him.”

Bayla moved some of the blanket away from her child so that the bartender could get a better look. The head was long and shaped like an oval. The face was cover with a light amount of black fur. Six legs with pointed ends emerged from the child’s small and chubby body. The body was also covered with black fur.

The child beeped a few times.

Saturday glanced at the child and then made eye contact with Charlus. They both looked down at their glasses.

“He’s a cute one,” Thomas XXIII said.

“Thank you,” Bayla said. She covered her child up. “Let’s go, Charlus. I want to make a special meal for Morrow. And I’m sure he misses you. He was crying after you left him this morning.”

Charlus looked up at Thomas XXIII.

“Go ahead,” Thomas XXIII. “We’ll be here tomorrow.”

Charlus slowly rose from his seat. He moved to Bayla’s side and looked down at his child.

Morrow made quiet chirping noises.

“You coming back tomorrow?” Saturday asked Charlus.

“Maybe.”

The ground gently shook.

“I’ll have to see what happens,” Charlus said.

He put his hand on Bayla’s back and began walking with her towards the front door. Outside, the streets had started to fill with gray smog. The family left the tavern and disappeared into the haze.

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