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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.

 

 

 

 

Δ

 

 

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.

What Does Your Daddy Do?

 

 

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Just dumping this here. It’s an old one. 

 

What Does Your Daddy Do?

By Ronald Cypress

 

The house was unusually quiet when Tim woke up in the morning. After getting out of bed, Tim went straight to his window and looked outside. The snow was still coming down, just like it had been doing the night before. His mom had promised him that he wouldn’t have to go to school the next day. That was what the snow did, allowed him to stay home and play. Tim stood by the window and stared outside for several minutes.

The six-year-old wanted to rush out of the room and go see his mom. She would make breakfast for him, and then he would go play one of his games on the computer. Tim looked at his bedroom door. It has been slammed shut during the night. Tim assumed that his father had been the one who closed it. Tim had been awake when the door was closed. There had been other noises before the slamming of the door, noises that sound like arguing. Louds sounds continued to be heard in Tim’s room. There had been some thudding noises.

The six-year-old worried about what was going on outside of his room, but he was too scared to open the door and peek out. The last noises he heard before falling back to sleep where the sounds of bad words coming from his father. The morning came and all the noises were gone. Tim went to his door and tried to listen for any sounds. The house was completely quiet.

He was just a little bit afraid to do it, but Tim eventually decided to open the door and step out into the hallway. Looking down towards the living room, Tim noticed that everything appeared to be normal. The only thing not right was the quietness. Tim knew that there should have been noise. His little brother, Marcus, was usually up and running around. Marcus, a few years younger than Tim, was always full of energy. The house was never quiet when he was awake.

Tim made his way down to Marcus’ room and peeked inside. The room was dark and empty. It looked the same as the last time Tim had seen it except Marcus wasn’t there. Tim looked around the room before continuing down the hall towards the living room. He listened out for any noises coming from his parents’ room, which was behind him. Tim knew that he usually heard his baby sister, Vanessa, crying in the morning. She would either be crying or his mom would be talking to her. That morning none of those noises existed.

The house was silent.

Tim made his way into the living room. Everything appeared to be normal there, too. The room was a little bit darker than usual because some of the curtains were still closed. The TV was on, but the sound was muted. Tim found the remote and turned the sound on. On the television screen there was a man discussing effective kitchen knives. Tim was familiar with the man because his dad had been watching a lot of cooking shows recently.

Tim wondered about where his dad and mom could be. No longer fearful of the quietness and calm, Tim decided to walk around the house and look for the rest of his family. It didn’t take him long to see that they weren’t in the kitchen and they weren’t in their rooms. Tim checked in the garage, but they weren’t there either. His family was not in the house.

Tim considered that they had gone out, but that would be odd. His mom wouldn’t have just gone out and left him alone. Tim looked outside the living room window so that he could see the driveway. Both his mom’s car and father’s truck were still in the driveway. That meant they hadn’t left him. But if they hadn’t left there where were they, he wondered.

Tim decided to go back to his room and play one of his video games. He would just do that until a parent showed up and explained what was happening. Tim had a bad feeling about what was going on, but he knew that once one of his parents appeared everything would be all right. Back in his room, Tim sat on the floor and played with one of his handheld devices. He had been sitting there for twenty minutes when someone suddenly appeared in the doorway.

“Tim!” his father barked out his name causing Tim jump.

“Dad.” Tim placed his device on the ground and stood up.

There was a look of anger on his dad face when Tim first saw him. The look quickly went away, his father’s face suddenly showing a lethargic sorrow.

“Tim, I need you to come along with me.” Tim’s father held out his hand. “We have to go somewhere, son?”

Tim hesitated.

“Come on, son,” his father said. “We’ve got to go. It’s time now.”

Tim went over to his father. With his hand on Tim’s shoulder, his father began leading the young boy down the hall.

“Where are we going?” Tim looked up at his dad.

“Out,” his dad looked straightforward. “Out for a little walk.”

“If we’re going out I’ll need my shoes and coat.”

The two stopped walking, and Tim’s father looked down at him.

“I guess so,” Tim’s father said. “Go get them. Be quick. We have to go now.”

“Okay.”

Tim rushed back to his room. He found his snow boats and heaviest coat. While he was putting them on, Tim thought about his father. He could tell that his father was in one of his strange moods. The moods had been going on ever since his father had to go away to the hospital. His father had never been the same since going away.

Tim worried about the man. The way his father would stare off into the space was weird. There were times that Tim caught his father talking to himself and that was weird. His father didn’t work anymore. Instead he just stayed home and had to be avoided. The man rarely spoke to Tim anymore. Tim could remember being younger and his dad being more talkative and happy. Things weren’t like that anymore. His father was weird. Tim didn’t even really like talking about him. When a group of kids were talking about their dads at school, Tim was cautious about discussing his father. The other boys talked about what their dad’s did for a living. All of their fathers had job. Tim didn’t know what to say when it came time to discuss what his father did for a living.

“My dad used to work on homes,” Tim told the other kids. “But he got sick and doesn’t do that now.”

Those were short versions of the truth. Tim’s father had worked on homes and he had gotten sick.

Tim’s mom told him that his father was just going through something and that he was going to get better, but Tim didn’t really believe her. He just acted like he did.

“Come on, Tim.” his father rushed him

Wearing his coat, snow boots, gloves, and wool hat, Tim was ready to go outside with his father.

“Where are we going?” Tim asked as he and his father exited the house.

His father began to lead him over to the side of the house.

“Out into the trees,” Tim’s father said. “Not far from where we went squirrel hunting that one time. Remember that?

Tim nodded, remembering how his dad had forced him to go into the woods and watch as he used a handgun to shot at least four squirrels. His father had bragged about how great his marksmanship was and how he had gotten each squirrel in the head. Tim remembered wishing that the squirrels would just runaway and stop showing up for his father to kill.

Tim inquired about the rest of his family. “Where’s mom, Marcus, and Vanessa?”

“They’re all out here waiting for us,” Tim’s father told him. “I already brought them out here. Your mom and Vanessa came out first. Then Marcus came out. They’re all waiting for us.”

Tim noticed that his father was walking fast. The boy was having a hard time keeping up. The snow was deeper than he could remember it ever being. His foot kept getting stuck. He was also extremely cold and tired, but his dad kept dragging him along. The two made it into the woods that were behind the house. Tim wondered about what some of his friends were doing. He felt slightly embarrassed even though they weren’t around to see what his father was doing.

Tim’s father took him into the wood, and the two kept walking until the finally reached the rest of the family. Before Tim saw them on the ground, he realized that he was indeed right back to where he been when his father shot those innocent squirrels. The first person Tim saw was his mom. Then he saw Vanessa and Marcus.

“Daddy,” Tim tried to pull away from the grip his father had on his arm. He couldn’t get lose.

Tim looked at the rest of his family

“Daddy,” he pleaded as his father brought him closer.

Soon Tim would be right where his father wanted him, and the young boy knew what he was going to do.

 

The Things They Would Call It

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The Things They Would Call It

By Ronald Cypress

 

Wesley Beaufort was sitting in his lawn chair, just a few feet away from the pool in his backyard, when there was a bright lightening flash and a loud—but brief—buzzing sound above him. The light and the noise didn’t get Wesley’s attention. He had been sitting in the same spot for nearly two hours. There was a beer bottle that was almost empty resting by his right foot; another beer bottle was lying close to the edge of the pool and one was floating inside. Wesley had been gazing at the water when the flash of lightning and buzzing noise happened.

His eyes would stay on the water until part of a shadow appeared in it. Wesley looked up and saw a body falling. The body landed violently next to his pool. Wesley remained seated in the lawn chair, staring at what had just settled in his backyard. It appeared to be a man. Wesley slowly stood up to get a better look at who had just fallen from the sky.

He was certain that it was a man, a man whose skin was dark yellow. Wesley continued to stare, waiting for the man to do something more than just lie completely still. Wesley took a few steps towards the man to get a better look at the person who had just fallen from the sky. He noticed that the man was wearing a sleeveless, black shirt that appeared to be made out of leather. The shirt was a bit puffed up, and it reminded Wesley of a bulletproof vest. Around the man’s waist, going down to his knees, was what appeared to be a black, leather skirt.

What wasn’t covered by the two pieces of clothing was completely exposed. The man’s entire body was dark yellow. Wesley noticed that his arms and legs appeared to be fairly muscular. All four parts appeared to be normal for a human except that they were yellow. Looking over the man’s feet and hands, Wesley noticed that he had five toes on each foot and five fingers on each hand.

A loud gasp came from the man, and Wesley jumped back a few inches.

The dark yellow man from the sky continued to make loud gasping noises for a minute, and then the gasping turned into heavy breathing.

Wesley knew that the man was dying; it was obvious to him.

He took a few steps towards the strange man. Wesley noticed that there was something odd about the man’s head. Like the dark yellow skin, the man’s head indicated that he wasn’t a human. It almost appeared to be an acceptable human head, but it bulged out in several areas, mostly around the forehead and cheeks. Wesley considered that the head and skin could have been the result of an earthly disease or mutation, but more than likely the man wasn’t from Wesley’s planet.

The man from the sky continued to breath heavily as Wesley stared at him. He considered calling the police to inform them about the fallen man. He reached into his pocket and grabbed his cell phone. Wesley began to call the police, but he had a second thought. Wesley worried about what they were going to do to the fallen man. The man was an alien. They would probably want to call it that. Wesley imagined that the fallen man would eventually be put into the hands of the government, and there was no telling what they would do to him.

Another loud gasp came out.

Wesley jumped again.

The fallen man’s eyes were wide open, and he was staring directly at Wesley. The man took a few heavy breaths, and then his whole body turned blue.

“Jesus!” Wesley put his phone back in his pocket. “What are you?”

The fallen man was now dark blue, and Wesley began to have more questions and doubts about what was happening. He slowly backed away from the fallen man, returning to his lawn chair. Wesley suddenly had thoughts about the dead deer.

“The deer,” Wesley said.

He clasped his hands together as he continued to stare hard at the man from the sky.

“I can’t tell them about you,” Wesley told the fallen man. “I can’t mention this to anyone.”

Wesley observed the night sky. It appeared to be normal. He got up and quickly inspected what was around him. The neighborhood was completely quiet. No one else had noticed the fallen man landing in Wesley’s backyard. No one was around to look over the fence and see the strange man lying by Wesley’s pool. Completely alone, Wesley began to wonder about the existence of the fallen man.

“I’m doing it again,” Wesley said to the fallen man. “You’re just like the deer.”

The deer he was referring to was one he had seen several years ago. The dead deer had unexpectedly entered Wesley’s life at a time he was struggling with various personal problems. Wesley had been driving to work when he first saw the deer on the side of the road. There was nothing unique about the deer’s carcass. He was able to spot one at least once a week. Sometimes they were on the side of the road, and sometimes they were in the road. Wesley didn’t give the deer a second thought until he got to work and looked out of his office window. The dead deer was in the parking lot. He was certain that it was the same one he had seen in the road earlier that day. It had followed him to work. That wouldn’t be the only place it followed him. Later on, Wesley would see the deer lying in his front yard. For nearly a month, the dead deer continued to appear in his life. One time he even found it stuffed into his tub.

“And no one noticed it,” Wesley told the fallen man who had turned purple. “I was afraid to bring it up to anyone, because no one seemed to even notice the deer.”

It was true. The deer lay in the parking lot at work, and all of his coworkers completely ignored the dead deer. At home, his wife never discussed the fact that a dead deer was lying across their coffee table. No one paid attention to it, and eventually, after discussing it with his wife, Wesley was forced to see a therapist about the dead deer.

“I can’t let that happen again,” Wesley told the fallen man. “That woman wanted to put me away when I told her about the deer. I could see it in her face.”

Wesley had to learn how to lie and deal with the dead deer alone. Somehow, he was able to get the deer to go away. Wesley figured that it was a one-time thing, seeing something that other people didn’t.

“I’m not crazy,” Wesley told the fallen man.

The purple man was still breathing heavily and looking at Wesley.

“I’m not crazy,” Wesley said again. “Of course they won’t call it crazy. They call it other things. Try to put a name on it. But it will the same as calling me crazy and I’m not that.”

Wesley stared at the purple man, feeling sorry for the dying creature. He got up from his lawn chair and went over to the alien.

“They would call you an alien.” Wesley stood over the purple man. “If you’re real, that’s what they would call you. I bet you are real. You have to be real.”

Wesley wanted to kneel down and touch the dying alien, but fear kept him from doing so. Something bad would happen if he touched the purple man; Wesley was sure of it. He reconsidered calling someone for help. Perhaps the government would know how to keep the fallen man alive.

“Ooooooooh.” The purple man looked up at Wesley as he made the sound.

Wesley could see that the life was leaving the purple man’s eyes. He felt sympathy, but there wasn’t anything that he could do for the fallen man.

“It’s too bad you had to land here,” Wesley quietly said. “You should have landed in someone else’s backyard. They probably would have been able to help you. This coward can’t do anything for you. Either they’ll take me away, or they’ll take you away.”

Wesley went back over to his lawn chair and sat down. He picked up the beer bottle that was next to his feet and drank what was left in it.

“If you aren’t real,” Wesley said, pointing at the purple man. “I wonder why you…Why did you fall from the sky? Why not the deer again?”

Wesley placed the beer bottle down and thought about what his therapist had told him. She had something about symbols and what the dead deer could represent. Wesley knew that the deer wasn’t meant to represent anything. It was just showing up to bother him.

“She also talked about violence,” Wesley said. “Kept asking me if I wanted to harm anyone, including myself.”

Wesley smiled as he noticed all the stars in the sky.

“I don’t want to hurt anyone,” he said. “I’ve never wanted to hurt anyone. I just want to live in peace. Peace. Solidarity. Understanding. Quiet. Understanding. But no one understands.”

Wesley looked back at the fallen man.

If he were real, which Wesley still thought was very possible, then he had probably been cast out from a group or accidently lost. Wesley wondered if the fallen man’s kind was still up there in the sky, searching for their lost companion. Wesley turned his attention to the night sky again. There were a bunch of stars up there, but he didn’t spot anything that looked like a spacecraft.

“I really hope they do come get you,” Wesley said.

Wesley saw that the man was no longer purple but had quickly turned green.

“You keep changing,” Wesley whispered. “I wonder why you keep changing.”

His past therapist would have had some extensive explanation for why the fallen man was turning colors. It was all part of Wesley’s mindset. The colors would represent something to him. She would ask him more questions about his past and what kind of childhood he had. The therapist was a hack, and she didn’t know what she was talking about.

“No one knows what they’re talking about.” Wesley stood up and went back over to the green man. “You know, I don’t know why your people were even hanging around this planet. It’s a piece of crap, you know. And now you’re going to die here. That’s pathetic.”

Wesley looked down at the green man who was still fighting to breath.

“No one will ever believe you were here,” Wesley said. “I could take a picture, though.”

Wesley brought out his phone. He accessed the camera on his phone and held it up to take the picture. The fallen man didn’t appear on the screen. Wesley took the picture anyway, hoping that the green man would still appear in the image on his phone. The only thing in the picture was the grass and cement around the pool, part of the pool and the beer bottle that was floating in the pool.

Wesley was disappointed by the results of the picture, feeling like it almost verified that he was digressing back to the state he had been in when the dead deer plagued his life. He went back to the lawn chair and sat down.

“This isn’t good,” Wesley said as he set his phone down on his lap. “This really isn’t good.”

Wesley remembered how distressed he had been when the therapist talked about something possibly being wrong with him, even mentioning that what was wrong could land him in the hospital. She had given him the names of a few diseases, but Wesley didn’t want to hear them. He didn’t care about what they wanted to call it. The dead deer was very real to him. The green man was real to him.

Wesley pointed to the green man. “If I can see it, then who are they to tell me it’s not real?”

He returned to the dying man’s side and listened to the breaths that were fighting out of the green being.

“I bet people would love to see you,” Wesley said. He thought about gently touching the man with his foot but decided that could bring as much harm as touching the green man with his hands. “They would call you all kinds of things. Alien. Freak. Creature. Invader. Demon. But I know you’re just a man. You’re just a man who fell from his home.”

The green man gradually began to change colors, going from green to a light brownish color.

Wesley sighed. It was obvious that the fallen man was close to death. Wesley decided that he would keep the brown man company for as long as he was alive. He grabbed his lawn chair and brought it closer to the dying man. The brown man kept his eyes on Wesley as he sat down and began to talk about his life.

Wesley told him about how he was in his late thirties. He mentioned his wife, Kitty, and how they had been married for almost fifteen years. Wesley talked about where he had been born, brought up, and how he eventually came to live in his current residence. The brown man breathed heavily and listened, and Wesley hoped that his story would help put the fallen man’s mind at ease as he passed on.

“I used to be really nervous as a kid.” Wesley went back to this childhood. “If something like this happened to me as a child, I would have freaked out. I would have been running down the street screaming. Everything frightened me back then. I used to be afraid of the weirdest things, like planes crashing into our house, vicious animals escaping from the zoo and coming to our home or animals coming out of the sewers. I was always afraid. Now, I don’t feel that fear anymore. I feel fear, but it’s a different kind.”

Wesley and the brown man stared at each other, and Wesley realized that the fallen man had a look in his eyes that was similar to one that the dead deer had in the past. It was a look of sadness and pity. Wesley remembered how he sometimes felt like the dead deer was watching him even when his body wasn’t around. He considered that the dead deer could be some type of guardian angel, but that notion went away after speaking to the therapist.

“She would never let me keep something like you,” Wesley told the brown man. “They would want you to go away.”

Wesley had started telling the fallen man about his work in real estate when his phone buzzed and lit up. He had received a text message from his wife, one inquiring about how he was doing.

“That was Kitty,” Wesley said. “She’s visiting her mom right now. Actually, she went to her mom’s house to get away from me. She said she really just wanted to help with her sister, but I know she just wanted to get away from me. I haven’t been doing well lately. The economy around here has really screwed up my life. How’s the economy on your planet? Hope it’s better than down here.”

Wesley began to respond to his wife’s text.

“I’ll just tell her that I’m doing fine,” Wesley said. “I won’t tell her about you. She wouldn’t believe it. She would just worry more. Then she would make me go back to a therapist. They would call me things, but I’m not crazy.”

Wesley sent the text message and went back to talking to the fallen man.

“We’re not crazy.”

Wesley and the fallen man quietly kept each other company. The brown man’s breathing had slowed and was barely audible. Wesley was starting to feel tired and wanted to go inside to his bed, but he couldn’t let the fallen man die alone. Wesley began playing a game on his phone when the fallen man suddenly grunted and started to shake.

Wesley rose from his seat and backed away from the man.

The fallen man was changing colors again. His skin turned red, a dull red at first but he gradually became brighter. The red man continued to shake and twitch on the ground. Wesley understood what was happening. The fallen man was finally dying. It would be all over in a minute.

The fallen man suddenly made a gurgling sound, and a yellow liquid began to leak out of the creature’s mouth.

“Poor thing,” Wesley said.

He took a few more steps away from the dying man.

Wesley’s phone suddenly began to ring, and he answered it after seeing that his wife was calling.

“Hi, honey.” Wesley turned his back on the dying man.

Kitty just wanted to speak to him and make sure that he was truly okay. She also wanted to inform her husband about what was happening at her mom’s house. Kitty’s sister had left her husband again, taking their two children with her, and they were all staying at her mom’s house. Wesley listened carefully as Kitty went on about the chaos that was happening around her. The phone conversation lasted for several minutes, and after it was over Wesley turned around to look at the fallen man.

The man from space was no longer there. What was there was a deer’s head. With a grin on his face, the deer stared at Wesley. Shocked by what he saw, Wesley knew that it was time to go inside and head towards his bedroom. He kept his eyes on the deer’s head as he slowly moved toward the patio door.

“Someone is behind this,” Wesley said, continuing to move towards his house. “I never should have told you about him.”

Wesley stopped tiptoeing and pointed at the deer’s head.

“I did tell you about him!” Wesley yelled. “And I never should have told you a thing!”

Wesley opened the patio door, went inside his house and slammed the patio door shut. He rushed back to his bedroom, ready to lock himself away and forget about whatever it was he had encountered that night. The thing that came from the sky had meant to cause him more stress and personal harm. It was just as bad as the dead deer. Maybe it was the dead deer, back in a new form and ready to cause more torment.

Safe in his bedroom, Wesley wondered and worried about what he had come upon that night. He didn’t know what to call it but knew that other people would have names for it. They would want to call it certain things. He didn’t want to hear them.

“I’m not crazy.”

No. There was no need to hear them. Wesley would just go to sleep and forget about the fallen man and what he had turned out to be. It was a bad thing that had come to vex him. A bad and nameless thing that he hoped was really dead.

Mr. Livingston

An experimental piece I wrote for a college class 

 

Mr. Livingston

By Ronald Cypress

We come upon Mr. Livingston on a mundane evening, one where we can find him sitting at his desk in the room he turned into an office years ago and reading a book that he has already read several times. The room is not adequately lit for reading, but this does not seem to bother Mr. Livingston. His body sits completely still as his eyes go over the printed words, and there is a look on his face that suggest Mr. Livingston is thinking about more than what is on the page. This is how we find Mr. Livingston.

The phone began to ring just as Livingston was close to finishing a chapter. It usually only took a couple of rings for his wife, Minnie, to answer it. More than likely it was someone calling for her. This time the phone rang longer than usual, and it was during the fourth ring that Livingston hurled his book across the room and into the wall. He mumbled a few obscenities to himself after the act. The fifth ring came, and Livingston sat still, appearing to be baffled. Minnie answered the phone before the sixth ring came.

“Oh, Sue. Hi.” Minnie’s voice traveled from their bedroom. “I was waiting for your call. I just need to go over something with you real quick. It’s about your order.”

Livingston didn’t move. He stared at the book he had just thrown, still confused about what had caused him to do it. The outburst wasn’t him. He didn’t know what it was, but it wasn’t him.

“Great,” Minnie said. “I’ll talk to you about it more tomorrow.”

Livingston remained frozen until his wife appeared in the doorway.

“That was just Sue,” Minnie said. “She placed a pretty big order today. It was for her cousin’s wedding. Honey, are you all right?”

Livingston rotated his chair so that he was facing his wife. He didn’t know what to say about what he had just done. He couldn’t explain what he felt.

“I’m fine,” Livingston said. “I was just thinking about something.”

“Okay. You kind of look like you just saw a ghost.”

Minnie left it at that because there was nothing else to say. She moved down the hall and left her husband alone to ponder more about what he had just experienced. It was like Mr. Livingston to think extensively about the smallest things. When he was working as a high school teacher, Mr. Livingston had constantly worried and wondered about the people around him. Years of being a worrier had played a big role in Mr. Livingston retiring earlier than he planned. It was something that could have possibly been changed, but ultimately it was part of Mr. Livingston and would never go away.

Livingston got up from his chair and walked over to the book he had just thrown. He bent down to pick it up, and as soon as his hand touched it a strong feeling came over him. Something terrible had just happened; Livingston was certain. He dropped the book and walked out of the room. A call was about to come, and Livingston knew it. The phone began to ring just as he entered the kitchen. It rang once and that was all.

Livingston answered the phone in the kitchen. “Hello?”

“Mr. Livingston?” It was a female’s voice.

“Oh, God. What is it? What happened?”

Livingston began to weep.

There was no explanation for how he knew about his daughter’s accident.

He and Minnie rushed to the hospital after Grace’s friend informed them that Grace had been run off the road and her car had flipped over. Grace had managed to make it out of the car and had called the close friend after speaking with police. The friend had driven to the site of the accident to check on Grace, and when she arrived the friend discovered that Grace had suddenly lost consciousness and had been taken away in an ambulance. The car that had sideswiped Grace was gone, and the only person at the accident was a tow truck driver who had informed Grace’s friend about what happened and then refused to talk anymore. The whole thing was quite strange and obviously unfortunate.

By the time they got to the hospital, the Livingston’s were able to see their daughter who had been placed in a room where she was the only patient and plugged into what was needed to keep her alive. The doctor informed the Livingstons that Grace was in a coma and assured them that the hospital staff was going to do everything they could to save her. She spoke some about the possibility of brain damage and the chance that Grace would never wake up. It was just a matter of waiting and seeing what transpired. It was all they could do.

Livingston tried to explain the premonition he had to his wife as they were standing by Grace’s side.

“It’s the strangest thing,” Livingston said. “I just knew.”

“Those things happen,” Minnie said. She was too devastated to give much thought to what her husband was saying.

The couple remained at the hospital for a few hours before returning home. They were both tired, and Minnie went straight to bed, quietly sobbing as she went through her usual nighttime process. Livingston went back to his office and paced around. He kept thinking about what had happened earlier. Livingston was a very suspicious man, and if something didn’t seem right he couldn’t just let it go. Many would call this a drawback to Mr. Livingston’s character, but it was part of his nature.

Eventually he got too tired to stay up and continue thinking. Livingston quietly went to his bedroom, changed clothing and got into the bed. Minnie was already asleep by the time he lay down. His mind kept going over that day. Livingston had a feeling that something else was getting ready to come into his life, something he couldn’t explain. It stayed on his mind until he fell asleep. He was asleep for a few hours when the phone began to ring. It was the normal ring, but something was different. The phone in the bedroom was silent; only the phone in the kitchen was ringing.

Livingston checked on his wife and saw that she was still sleeping. He got out of the bed and began to make his way towards the kitchen. The phone had rung several times before Livingston got to it. And it kept ringing, going well beyond the amount of rings that were necessary before the answering machine took over. Livingston stood by the phone for a few minutes, listening to the ringing and contemplating whom it could be. He stood there until he no longer had an option and was forced to answer the phone.

We are here.

 

“Hello,” Mr. Livingston says.

“Hello,” I say.

“Who are you?”

“I am a friend. Just a friend.”

“Are you…” he starts and pauses. “You are him?”

“I am just a friend, Mr. Livingston.”

“What do you want?”

“I just wanted to let you know that.”

“You’re something else,” he says.

“I am just a friend,” I say. “That is all.”

“Are you going to kill Grace? Why did you put her in an accident?”

“Those sort of things happen, Mr. Livingston. It’s beyond my control.”

“You can make her better,” he says. “You don’t have to kill her.”

“I’m sorry,” I say. “I think you’re giving me a power I don’t have.”

“But you do, and you know it,” he says.

“I just called to tell you I am a friend, Mr. Livingston. That is all.”

“I’m going back to church,” he says. “I want you to know that my wife and I have talked about going back to church regularly again. We’re really good people. Hello? Hello?”

 

Mr. Livingston took the phone away from his ear and stared at it. The voice was gone, and Livingston knew that it wouldn’t call again that night. He returned to bed and quickly went to sleep. He and his wife got up early in the morning and began preparing to return to the hospital. It wasn’t until they had gotten in the car and were driving to the hospital that Livingston asked his wife about the possibility that she had heard the phone ring during the night.

“I didn’t hear it,” Minnie said. “Did it ring?”

“I thought I heard something, but it was just a dream. That’s all.”

The two arrived at the hospital and found Grace in the same condition that she had been in the previous night. The doctor working that morning gave the Livingstons an update on their daughter. They were still just waiting to see if Grace would come out of her coma. The Livingstons waited around the room, both believing that their daughter would wake up soon and recognize them. One of them was completely sure that Grace would be fine; the other one was filled with doubts and anxieties.

Mr. Livingston tried to sit still and wait for his daughter to awake, but something was nagging him again. The unknown thing was coming back to him. Suddenly, Livingston sprang from his chair as his wife was telling him about her job and how she had called her boss and explained why she wouldn’t be at work that day.

“I need to get something,” Livingston said. He rushed out of the room, leaving his wife alone and puzzled.

Livingston was frustrated as he unwillingly walked towards the elevators. He got on, and once he was on the ground level he continued walking without a purpose. Someone had control of him again. Livingston felt that it wasn’t fair, being forced to move against one’s will.

“For God sake.” he spoke out loud. “There’s nowhere to go.”

A thought came to Livingston, and he suddenly had a new purpose in his life. Livingston wanted a red bowler hat. It was just what he needed at that time. Where could he find one?

“No.” Livingston almost whined.

His walking pace began to slow as he moved away from the hospital. He wasn’t too familiar with the area around the hospital, but he believed that there had to be a clothing store nearby. The hard part would be finding a store that had a red bowler hat in stock. The hat was a necessity. Livingston thought about how he would acquire the hat and then go back to sit by his daughter’s bedside with the red glory on his head. He would smile and tell Minnie that everything was going to be just fine. Grace would slowly start to open her eyes. They would open, and she would look directly at him.

“Hello, my dear,” Livingston would say.

Grace would look at him for a few seconds, her eyes still adjusting. Then she would break out in laughter. Minnie would start laughing a few seconds after her daughter did, and then he would join them. They would all be laughing, and everything would work out for them.

“No.” Livingston wanted to fall to the ground and cry. He didn’t want to move anymore. There were two types of pains fighting within him. “You’re a monster.”

The red bowler hat would have to wait. Livingston needed to get back to the hospital to support his wife and daughter. He turned around and slowly walked back. The red bowler hat remained on his mind as he dragged his feet.

“Honey, are you okay?” Minnie asked as soon as Livingston entered Grace’s hospital room.

“I’m fine,” he mumbled.

“Where did you go?”

“Made sure we were parked legally.”

Minnie left him alone, understanding that her husband wasn’t in the mood to be bothered with answering questions about his odd behavior. The two sat quietly and watched Grace. After he became assured that no one else was going to take over him, Mr. Livingston asked his wife about his appearances.

“Do you think a red bowler hat would look good on me? One that’s all red?”

“A bowler hat?”

“A red one. Would that look good on me?”

“I don’t know. I guess it depends on what else you’re wearing.”

“My head is kind of big, so it might be hard to find on that fits me.”

“Your head isn’t big.”

“I feel like I have a pretty big head.”

“What? Your head is a perfectly normal size.”

“Well.” Livingston’s voice got lower. “Something is telling me that I’ve got a big head.”

The Livingstons remained at their daughter’s bedside until that evening.

Days would pass and Grace’s condition would remain the same. Friends and some extended family came to visit her. The Livingstons were usually there when visitors arrived. They would all say similar things; they were going to keep Grace in their prayers. Every time Livingston heard about prayers he nearly scoffed. There was something wrong with Livingston’s faith. It wasn’t as strong as it had been in the past, and he seemed to hold some resentment towards a higher power.

As the days went on, Mr. Livingston withdrew more from his wife. After returning home from the hospital, Livingston would often retreat into his office. He would sit alone at his desk. Sometimes he would quietly weep, trying to hide his face and tears. But he was crying. It was easy to see. Sometimes, after his wife had gone to sleep, Livingston would go into the kitchen and pick up the phone even though it hadn’t rung.

“Hello?” he said. “Are you there? Can you hear me?”

No one responded to Livingston, and he was left feeling disappointed.

He found it hard to sleep. Grace was on his mind. The red bowler hat was on his mind. Both of them caused worrying and doubts. Livingston began to wonder about his brain. He considered the possibility that he could be going insane. Livingston tried to rationalize his thoughts, but his mind was against him. The desire for the red bowler hat wouldn’t go away, and he couldn’t convince himself that Grace would survive.

Almost two weeks had passed when Livingston managed to finally get ahold of the hat he desired. After stopping by several stores that did not carry red bowler hats, Livingston realized what he needed to do. He would have to get on the computer and order the hat online. That was exactly what he did. A few days after placing the order the hat arrived in a box; it was waiting for him when he got home from the hospital.

“What is that?” Minnie asked when she saw the box.

“Just this thing I ordered.”

“What?”

“It’s a surprise.”

Livingston took the box into is office and opened it. The red bowler hat glowed from inside. He slowly removed it from the book and placed it on top of his head. The hat fit perfectly. He didn’t even need to make any adjustments; it just fell right into the proper place. Livingston smiled as he walked out of the room and towards his bedroom. Minnie was standing by bed when he entered. She immediately looked up at the hat.

“So,” Mr. Livingston said. “How do I look?”

Minnie remained silent for several seconds before bursting out into laughter. She laughed and laughed without saying anything else besides, “Oh, honey.”

The laughter went on even after Livingston exited the room. He returned to his office and sat down at his desk. He took the red bowler hat off of his head, set it in his lap and began to cry. It didn’t make sense to him. Livingston cried until he was ready to go to bed. He left his new hat sitting on his desk and exited the room.

The phone in the kitchen—only the one in the kitchen—would ring that night. Livingston woke up knowing who it was. He made his way to the phone and stood by, allowing it to ring and ring. He didn’t move until this: Livingston grabbed the phone and answered it.

We are here.

 

“Hello,” he says.

“You sound tired,” I say.

“I am tired,” he says. “You know that.”

“Well, I’m sorry to bother you.”

“What are you doing to me?”

“I want you to know that I feel for you,” I say. “I’ve come to really like you. I almost love you in a way, but it won’t be long. This has to end.”

“Are you going to let Grace live?”

“I’m really not a bad person, Mr. Livingston.”

“Why the hat?” he asks.

“Symbols, Mr. Livingston.”

“What?”

“Or maybe the subconscious. I saw this picture recently. Never mind, Mr. Livingston.”

“I love Grace,” he says. “You can’t take her away from me.”

“You could have been an absent father,” I say. “You were almost a drunk who didn’t know his daughter even existed until she was an adult.”

“No.”

“It’s fine, Mr. Livingston,” I say. “You are who you are now, and soon you will be indelible to a certain extent.”

“Let Grace live,” he says.

“Whatever happens, I do care.”

“Then let her live.”

“The story will go how the story goes. We should get back to it. Goodbye, Mr. Livingston.”

“So long,” he says.

 

Mr. Livingston hung up the phone and went into his office. He picked up the red bowler hat and carefully examined it, trying to figure out what it could mean. Livingston worried about the possibility that he was missing something. He considered the chance that the hat could be the key to Grace’s survival. Livingston lifted the hat into the air with both hands and placed it on his head. The hat no longer fit well. It was too small for his head. He tried to pull it down to squeeze more of his head inside, but the hat was too little. Livingston removed it from his head and examined it. The red bowler hat appeared to be almost half the size it was when he first took it out of the box.

“Damn fool,” Livingston said to no one in particular.

He dropped the hat on the ground and left the room.

Both landline phones rang the next morning. Mr. Livingston answered the phone in the kitchen. It was the doctor who had spent the most time with Grace in the hospital. She was calling to let the Livingstons know that Grace had woken up for a brief period and had responded to a few questions.

“She asked about you guys,” the doctor said. “I told her you would be over really soon.”

“Thank you,” Livingston said, tears coming from his eyes.

He would continue to say thank you after the phone conversation ended.

The Livingston went to their daughter’s side. She awoke again when they arrived, and they were able to speak for a few minutes before Grace went back to sleep. The doctor told them that Grace would need some time, but she was expected to make a full recovery. Livingston was suddenly filled with faith again. He believed that everything was going to work out. Later that morning, he stood by the window in his daughter’s hospital room and thought about all the things that could have happened and all the people he could have been. The concluding thought was that he was happy to be who he was, and the story wasn’t so bad. There were things he didn’t comprehend, but Livingston still felt as if he were in good hands.

 

We leave Mr. Livingston sitting at his desk on an average morning. The office is well lit, and he is reading a book that he has never read before. The entire house is quiet, and it provides a good atmosphere for reading. There is a look on Mr. Livingston’s face that suggests he is thinking about more than what is on the pages he is reading. The look indicates that the thoughts he is having are quite pleasing. Mr. Livingston is almost smiling, and this is how we depart from Mr. Livingston, a good man for these times.

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