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BOOK REVIEW: Code Lightfall and The Robot King  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Title: Code Lightfall and The Robot King

Author: Daniel H Wilson

Publisher: Bloomsbury

RRP: $15.99

ISBN: 9781408814192

Release Date: June 2011

Pages: 192



Description:



When Code Lightfall tumbles down a hole in pursuit of a mysterious robotic insect, he lands in a world that defies imagination. Everything in Mekhos is made from metal and circuitry, including the inhabitants. To find his way home Code must cross Mekhos's bizarre and dangerous landscape to reach the legendary Robonomicon - a guide to all robot wisdom. But the robots of Mekhos are also in peril, and Code must rescue them before he can save himself. With its dazzling array of robots and futuristic gadgets, this rollicking story will hold special appeal for budding techno-lovers everywhere.

Review:

The book is about a boy called Code whose grandfather goes missing. When Code and his school visit Mek Mounds he finds a little robot bird that leads him to a secret passage. Code follows the bird, called Peep, ending up in a robot land called Mekhos. It is here that Code finds his grandfather, who just happens to be an evil robot king! He is going to disassemble all the robots and it becomes Code’s job to stop this.

What unfurls within this title is a book of discovery, a story of adventure and a weird metallic symbiotic world of machinations where nature has taken a turn for the weird. It was cleverly written, the lead character is a ton of fun and I suppose that the best way to describe this is Alice in Wonderland/Never Ending Story with Robots. Add to this a whole host of vivid cast members, some loss as well as triumph and back it all up with an epic battle and you know its going to hit the spot.

This book is a great read for the YA male audience.

Crime Month at the Fringe  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Hello constant readers,

July is Crime Month at The Fringe Magazine. We are seeking short stories from authors with a crime theme to sit along side the reviews and author interviews we have lined up already.

Some publishers have kindly given us some Crime Fiction and True Crime books to give away to our readers as prizes, so stay tuned to entry details.

Hope you have a killer of a month with us here at The Fringe Magazine

Cheers

The Editor

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Nicole Murphy  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Scott: Thank you so much taking the time to chat with us here at The Fringe magazine. I’m eagerly awaiting my copy of the final book in your Trilogy, Rogue Gadda. How does it feel to finish the last book in the series?


Nicole: It was actually a sad moment. Every waking hour of my life for more than twelve months had been dedicated to this story and these people and it was hard to let them go. That was August last year, when the manuscript was handed in. I’ve had to do edits and so on since them, but it wasn’t the same. Luckily, I decided that my next project should be the sequel trilogy 

Scott: With the introduction of e-book readers, like Kindle and Sony Reader, there is a current debate about the piracy of e-books and the loss of the print media. How do you feel about e-books?

Nicole: As the proud owner of a Kindle – I loves them. I had my Kindle for my trip to the US earlier this year and that completely won me over. I downloaded and took with me a dozen books – something I couldn’t have done otherwise. And the best thing was, travelling alone, I could carry it with me and whenever I stopped for a meal, I could hold my Kindle in one hand to read while eating. Perfection!

I don’t think anyone knows what the final landscape of publishing will look like. At the moment, what’s happening is very uneven. Here in Australia, eBooks still haven’t really taken off whereas I’m hearing from some writing friends in America that they’re now hitting fifty percent of their sales being electronic. Also, the speed of the change is really throwing people off (there’s been a massive increase in eBook sales just this year) and large companies just aren’t being able to keep up with it all.

This is for me the perfect example of the Chinese curse – May You Live in Interesting Times.

Scott: A lot of new writers often ask about the amount of pages or words that a published author produces each day. How much time would you spend writing on a typical day, (if a typical day exists for a writer that is)?

Nicole: I’m lucky that I’m now writing full-time, so I do have a typical writing day. In the morning, I write 3000-5000 words a day, over a maximum of three hours. Sometimes, it takes the whole three hours to get to just 3000. Sometimes, I get to the 5000 easily. Sometimes, I get to the 3000 in 1 ½ hours and then decide that’s enough for the day. That gets me a minimum of 15,000 words a week, which means I can write something like the Dream of Asarlai books in seven weeks. I spend the afternoons doing admin and promotional work.

I write really fast, and tend to blurt the first draft out onto the page. Then I have to do several re-drafts in order to get it readable.

Scott: When you wrote Secret Ones, did you plan on continuing the story in Power Unbound and Rogue Gadda or did the story just grow as you wrote each book?

Nicole: Originally, they were a series of three romances. They had a shared world, shared characters but no shared storyline. I wrote all three books, one after the other, in quick time (one a month – they were just 60,000 words then) and then spent the rest of the year editing them. That was in 2003. In 2007, I started working on them again, and added the storyline of Asarlai and the Forbidden texts, taking them from a series of books into a trilogy.

Scott: Where did the inspiration for Asarlai and the Forbidden Texts come from?

Nicole: It started when I put Secret Ones through the first novel crit group run by the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild in 2007. We started with sharing the first chapter of our books, and at that point I’m quite sure it was Gillian Polack who suggested that I should add a storyline that joined all three books together. The idea intrigued me, so I took it away and started to work on it. I had a few months before I needed to present the entire manuscript to the book for critique. I quickly decided on a megalomaniac, who was going to try to reveal the gadda to the world. I just started writing the first scene and the Forbidden Texts appeared. After the critique of the entire manuscript, I developed the character further and realised it was a woman. I identified who she was and why she was doing it and then it all came together.

Scott: How do you approach your writing? Do you tend to develop a story in your mind and then proceed to conduct some research or is more of an organic method where you write the story first and research any technical aspects later?

Nicole: With each book I write, it changes a little. I used to be purely organic – I’d come up with an idea and just start writing. I might draw maps or cool things like that, but there was very little research involved. With the Dream of Asarlai series, I had to write a synopsis of the entire trilogy to sell to the publisher, and that guided the writing of the last two books. With the new trilogy that I’m currently showing to publishers, I did some work on planning it out, writing a synopsis and doing some character work. With the contemporary romance I’m just finishing, I did a brief outline of the entire plot, but I’ve not entirely followed it (as you get to know your characters better, you understanding of what should and shouldn’t happen in the book changes). I might do some research before I write (particularly if I’ve got no understanding whatsoever), but generally I’ll do all my research during the editing process.

Scott: As a writer it is interesting to hear what other writers read in their spare time. It is often surprising to hear the genres and variety of books other authors read. Can you tell us what are you reading at the moment and what you five favorite books are?

Nicole: Because I’m writing a contemporary romance for the first time, I’ve been reading a lot of it. Trialing a contemporary is a way of potentially expanding my repertoire, so that I have options for where income can come from and I’m not putting all my hopes into one genre or idea. As for my five favorite books – well, apart from my own  they would be: The Lord of the Rings; Warrior’s Woman by Johanna Lindsey; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; Anne of Green Gables and Pride and Prejudice.

Scott: There seems to be a lot more options available to authors to get published now compared to say a decade ago. What advice would you offer to unpublished writers in approaching publishers for the first time?

Nicole: Actually, this might well be contentious, but I would say – hold off approaching publishers. Things are changing at such an astronomical rate at the moment and as I said earlier, no one knows what’s going to be the final outcome. I do believe that print books will survive, but in what numbers? There’s already publishing houses making a business out of just publishing electronically, particularly in romance, and this is so prevalent that even major houses like HarperCollins and Harlequin Mills and Boon now have electronic only imprints. Amazon is establishing its own publishing imprints. Agents are becoming publishers. And then there’s the growth of self-publishing, which is slowly but surely losing the bad reputation it once had.

I think it’s worth waiting a couple of years until the dust settles, and everyone knows the direction it’s going. It’s not as though there’s a finite number of opportunities for authors and if you don’t act now, you’ll miss out forever.

Unless you’ve got a very clear idea of what you want, and you know exactly how to get it. Then go for it.

Scott: If you were stranded on a desert island, what five authors would you like to have as companions and why?

Nicole: Do I have to limit it to just five? Cause if I can take a few more, then I’d be there with all the members of my writing group. Fantasy Writers on Retreat (or FWOR, pronounced phroar!) started a few years ago. The main part of it is an annual two-week writing retreat, but we’ve also become great friends and support for each other. So that would be (in alphabetical order) Alan Baxter, Cat Sparks, Donna Hanson, Joanne Anderton, Kylie Seluka, Matthew Farrer, Russell Kirkpatrick and Trudi Canavan. Can I have them all? Pretty please?

Scott: Thank you very much for your time. I look forward to your next book.

Thanks Scott. I hope everyone has as much fun reading as I did writing.

NEWS: Social media campaign propels book to #1  

Posted by Scott Wilson



Rumours of the book store’s demise have been greatly exaggerated if sales of Lauren Kate’s new book Passion are anything to go by. With one copy selling every 23 seconds, Passion is flying off shelves.



Bookscan reports that more than 16,000 copies have been sold through Australian stores in the first full week of sales alone, making Passion the #1 selling book and proving that teenagers are still buying books in massive numbers. And it is social media and innovative marketing that has propelled fans through the book store doors.



The third book in the Fallen series, Passion is an intensely addictive story of fallen angels and forbidden love. With its biggest readers being teenage girls, the publisher Random House Australia has tapped into social networks to get teenagers into stores – the book trailers for the series have garnered over half a million views on YouTube and the Facebook page has 55,000 fans and counting, more than a lot of major companies. ‘We use Facebook and YouTube to build anticipation, feed information and let fans share their excitement,’ says Sales and Marketing Manager Justin Ractliffe.



The success of the Australian Fallen Books Facebook page has recently been bolstered by the launch of an innovative new app. Designed and developed by Sydney digital agency Webling Interactive in conjunction with the Random House marketing team, the app lets fans immerse themselves in the world of Fallen.



‘Fans can create their own Fallen book video trailer,’ says Ractliffe. ‘They can choose their favourite cover, storyline, soundtrack and most importantly, friends to feature in the video. Although the app is customisable and interactive, the branding is also deeply integrated with the content – so fans are always engaging with and sharing the Fallen brand and at the same time writing themselves and their friends into the narrative.’



Webling Interactive Managing Director Deniz Nalbantoglu adds, ‘The trailers on YouTube were wildly successful, so allowing users to customise their own and share via their social networks was the next logical step. The Fallen series is a match made in heaven – pardon the pun – for social media, given the connected nature of their Gen Z core audience.’



And it’s not just trailers that the fans are creating. ‘Anything we post that is related to Fallen they comment on and share – they have also already created masses of user generated content from illustrations and photographs uploaded to the Facebook page to their own trailers on YouTube using our collateral,’ says Ractliffe.



YouTube is another tool Random House has used. ‘We now have the top views of any book trailer produced by a publisher in Australia. The Fallen trailers account for around 60 per cent of the total views on our YouTube page,’ says Ractliffe. Fallen, the first book in the series, has had over 200,000 views and Passion has organically grown to have over 20,000 views in the space of a few weeks.



With Lauren Kate touring the eastern states of Australia from 30 July to 6 August, Ractliffe expects that the strong sales figures will continue. ‘The fans cannot wait to meet her and we are building the anticipation to a fever pitch.’

Title: The St Helena Story: An Illustrated History of Colonial Queensland’s Island Prison


Author: Jarvis Finger

Publisher: Boolarong Press

RRP: $39.95

ISBN: 9781921555442

Release Date: 2011

Pages: 296



Description:

An illustrated history of colonial Queensland’s island prison in Moreton Bay



Several kilometres from the mouth of the Brisbane River lies St Helena Island. For more than 60 years from 1867, St Helena was home to thousands of society’s outcasts, for here was located colonial Queensland’s foremost prison for men.

During those years, and in the decades following its closure in 1933, the lovely little island gained a fearful reputation as ‘the hell hole of the Pacific’ and ‘Queensland’s own Devil’s Island’, where men were reputedly ‘kept chained by day and night’, ‘flogged to death’ and ‘hurried under the sod while their oppressors turned on those still living’. It was a place to dread for the colony’s murderers, rapists, bushrangers, rebels, thieves and men of like violence and mayhem. They were subjected to the lash, the dreaded black hole, the gag and straight-jacket, and energy-sapping shot drill. Life could be tough on St Helena. It was a secure prison – but dozens of men were desperate enough to attempt escape. Few succeeded.

But St Helena also gained a reputation as a self-sufficient model prison, held in high regard by visiting interstate and overseas penologists, churchmen and journalists, for here men could be rehabilitated through learning such trades as tailoring, bootmaking, tinsmithing, saddlemaking, and farming pursuits. Indeed, it was claimed that the prison was for the inmates ‘a perfect paradise… In fact they often want to get back there’.

Where does the truth reside? Was the St Helena Island Penal Establishment ‘living hell’ for society’s miserable outcasts or was it ‘a remnant of old Eden’?



Of interest to historians, general readers, students and visitors to the island, this profusely illustrated and well-presented 300-page full-colour book, referenced and with index, has 18 chapters:



Off to St Helena!

“An island unworthy of notice”

From prison hulk to island prison

The first year

Rules and regulations

Men at work

Stockade walls and iron bars

A day in the life of a prison

The devil’s own brigade

The wild men of St Helena

Purgatory or paradise?

A unionist remembers

A warder’s unhappy lot

Escape!

“There’s gold in the trenches!”

The battle for St Helena

“What are we going to do with the darned place now that we’ve got it?”

After the storm

Review:

The St Helena Story by Jarvis Finger should be listed as a textbook for all Australian students to study as part of Australian history. I have to admit that before I read this book I knew bugger all about this Penal Island, just off the Queensland coast, close to the capital city of Brisbane. It is amazing that a similar establishment in the US, Alcatraz, would be known to more Aussies than this one so close to a major city.

The rich illustrations accompanying the text gives the reader a visual overview of many elements of the narrative, through copies of documents and photos. I did not realise how close to Brisbane this prison was until reading this book. Each chapter gives a vivid account of the history of the life and death of many hardened criminals unfortunate enough to be “guests” at this rough and harsh jail.

While only around the 300 page mark, the seventeen chapters cover anything you could possible want to know about St Helena.

The contents include;

Prologue: Off to St Helena

1. 'An Island Unworthy of Notice'
2. From Prison Hulk to Island Prison
3. The First Year
4. Rules and Regulations
5. Men at Work
6. Stockade Walls and Iron Bars
7. A Day in the Life of a Prison
8. The Devil's Own Brigade
9. The Wild Men of St Helena
10. Purgatory of Paradise?
11. A Unionist Remembers
12. A Warder's Unhappy Lot
13. Escape!
14. 'There's Gold in the Trenches!'
15. The Battle for St Helena
16. 'What Are we Going to do with the Darned Place now that We've Got It?
17. After the Storm
Maps
Timeline
References
Index

This book was exceptional in both the visual presentation and comprehensive research conducted in the content. Highly recommend reading it.

BOOK REVIEW: The Terror of Living  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Title: The Terror of Living


Author: Urban Waite

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

RRP: $32.99

ISBN: 9781847379726

Release Date: March 2011

Pages: 320



Description:



Hunt, an ex-convict, has spent the past twenty years on a small ranch with his wife, supplementing his income with the odd drug smuggling job. Drake, a deputy sheriff, is newly married and has almost escaped the shadow of his father, who was also a sheriff -- and no stranger to the drug trade himself...

Drake is on Hunt's trail when a big drug deal in the mountains goes awry and so begins a terrifying race against time. Although Hunt evades Drake's attempts at capture the traffickers soon unleash a merciless hired killer to reclaim what's theirs. As the chase closes in and loyalties are tested, Drake's quest for justice contends with a hitman's quest for blood, and Hunt must face a terrible choice...



Review:

Urban Waite's powerful debut novel "The Terror of Living" is a character-driven thriller set in the North Cascades. Two men on opposite sides of the law face off. Horse farmer Phil Hunt is a fundamentally descent man who's gotten up to his neck in drug smuggling. Deputy Bobby Drake is a straight arrow cop, his father a disgraced former sheriff imprisoned for misdeeds--or were they mistakes?

The events in this book are graphic, explicit and occasionally disturbing, but with a controlled restraint. There's also a choice twist on the Mexican standoff. For squeamish readers, this is a fair warning that the novel isn't for the faint of heart or for readers who abhor violence in literature. This was executed like a noir-western-opera-suspense-drama-slash-thriller fusion, with a harmonic equipoise of physical action and interior torment. The story is a hybrid brew of nihilism and romanticism, summoning a cauldron of terror and stirring it with an ache and longing for tranquility.

BOOK REVIEWS: Altar of Bones  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Title: Altar of Bones


Author: Philip Carter

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

RRP: $45.00

ISBN: 9780857202062

Release Date: April 2011

Pages: 640



Description:

Siberia, 1939. Pregnant with her first child, Lena Orlova plans a daring escape from a brutal Soviet prison camp to the one place she knows is safe: a cave containing the legendary Altar of Bones, hidden behind a frozen waterfall deep in the icy wilderness.

San Francisco, Present Day. Zoe Dmitroff discovers that she is the last in a line of women who have been entrusted with a secret so great many have died preserving it. Propelled into a dangerous quest to discover exactly what she was born to protect, Zoe is soon running for her life from a vicious assassin and an all powerful businessman with chilling plans. Only ex-Special Ops soldier, Ry O'Malley, can help her survive, but with time running out and the web closing in, Zoe will have to make a devastating decision that will transform her forever.

From the frozen wastelands of Russia, to the winding maze of Paris's backstreets, from Washington D.C, through America's mid-west all the way to San Francisco, THE ALTAR OF BONES is a gripping global thriller that spans the generations and unearths the dark secret behind one of the biggest conspiracies of all time.



Review:

Philip Carter is the admited pseudonym for an internationally renowned author.

THE ALTAR OF BONES starts with an ancient secret in Siberia where the actual altar is revealed and may indeed hold the key to the fountain of youth and immortality. As the novel jumps to present day we find a dying homeless woman representing the answer to unlocking the decades-buried secret of this altar and the magical elixir it produces.

The heroes of this tale are Zoe Dmitroff, the grand-daughter of the first Keeper of the Altar of the Bones. She is paired with Ry O'Malley --- an ex Special Ops officer whose father's past is the gateway to understanding the power of the altar. The back-story about Ry's father --- who is implicated in both the assassination of JFK as well as the murder of Marilyn Monroe --- takes the story on a speculative leap that is both fun and unbelievable.

KGB operative Nikolai Popov, Assassin Michael O'Malley and Billionaire Miles Davis are evil and powerful men and killers with secretly taped evidence to kill for. Davis and his employee, the ruthless, heartless, beautiful redhead CIA assassin Jasmine Poole ( a.k.a. Yakir) want the tapes, Popov wants the substance and O'Malley wants to keep his son's alive.

Nikolai and Keeper Lena Orlova have a history to unravel. Michael O'Malley and Lena's daughter Katya also have a relationship that will be exposed. Katya's estranged then deranged mobster daughter Anna and Nikolai have a connection. Well connected DEA agent Ryland O'Malley (Michael's son) and Zoe Dmitroff (Anna's daughter) and current Keeper of the Altar of Bones have an unfolding relationship and are on a mission to untwine its mystery and revenge the murder of their loved ones or die trying.

ALTAR OF BONES is an excellent example of it's genre, the characters are reasonably believable, the basic premise is imaginative, the plot is exciting. It is an enjoyable way to spend a few hours, not to be confused with great or serious literature, but a pleasant companion to take on a trip or to fill in some idle moments waiting for appointments or commuting.

BOOK REVIEW: I’ll Walk Alone  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Title: I’ll Walk Alone


Author: Mary Higgins Clark

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

RRP: $45.00

ISBN: 9780857202420

Release Date: April 2011

Pages: 352



Description:



Two years after the day that her son, Matthew, was kidnapped in broad daylight in Central Park, Alexandra Moreland still finds herself torn between hope and despair. As no trace of Matthew was ever found, she has never been able to give him up for dead. But now, on what would have been Matthew's fifth birthday, photos surface that seem to show Alexandra kidnapping her own child.

Then, as her bank accounts are suddenly drained, and her reputation as a successful architect comes under immense pressure, Alexandra begins to suspect that someone is using her credit cards to steal her identity. But who would want to ruin her so completely?

Hounded by the press, under investigation by the police, attacked by both her angry ex-husband and a vindictive business rival, Alexandra, sustained only by her belief that Matthew is still alive, sets out to discover who is behind this cruel hoax. Little does she realize that with every step she takes toward the truth, she is putting herself -and those she loves most - in mortal danger.



Review:

I’ve never read a Mary Higgins Clark book before, so did not quite know what to expect.

Clark managed to keep me guessing right up until the villain was revealed. I had smugly decided on another--an unlikely character--sure I had his motive all figured out. So it was quite out of the blue when the real culprit was revealed.

Alexander “Zan” Moreland has lived through every mother’s worst nightmare – the abduction of her child. When he was just three years old, young Matthew Moreland was nabbed from his stroller while his babysitter slept nearby. For years after his disappearance Zan, at the time an up and coming architect, believed her former boss and business rival was responsible for her son’s kidnapping.

I think what makes the spine-tingle and the goosebumps spread while reading this book is the ‘what if?’ aspect. A missing child is every parent’s worst nightmare, it’s the basis of every “don’t take candy from strangers!” teaching. And when coupled with the latest public paranoia of identity theft, Mary Higgins Clark has concocted a guaranteed thriller.

BOOK REVIEW: Cold Kiss  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Title: Cold Kiss


Author: John Rector

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

RRP: $19.99

ISBN: 9781849830683

Release Date: May 2011

Pages: 288



Description:



Nate and Sara are broke -- and on the run from the past.

When a shady hitchhiker offers them cold hard cash for a lift, they can't afford to say no.

But very soon they'll be wishing they had. Because picking him up is about to become the biggest mistake they ever made -- and the price they'll have to pay will be greater than they could ever have imagined...



Review:

"The Cold Kiss" is one of those very rare finds, a great novel that jumps off the shelf at you when your at the store to buy something else, the kind of novel that "finds" you. For me it's always nice to find out how great a new author is on my own, starting with their debut!

Nate and his pregnant girlfriend Sara are driving from Minnesota to Reno, seeking a new life for themselves and their baby. On a snowy night in Nebraska, they see a man in a cafe who is obviously very sick. Sara takes pity on the man and when the stranger offers them $500 for a ride into Omaha, the kids accept.

The three drive off into a major winter storm and are forced to seek refuge in a run-down motel out in the middle of nowhere. On getting out of the car, Nate and Sara discover to their horror that their passenger has died. They are further stunned to discover that the passenger, Syl, has over $2 million in cash in his suitcase.

This is the dilemma that the main characters Nate & Sara face at the beginning of this story. Most people would probably say no to giving a stranger a ride, but everyone's life situation is different. Life is all about choices and every choice has its consequences. As it's often said, one bad decision leads to another.

The amazing characters, nail biting plot and dark tone are just three reasons why I loved this book. Throw in a meth lab, a few betrayals, double crosses, a hitwoman and a great ending on top of that.

BOOK REVIEW: Waking Nightmares #5 The Shadow Saga  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Title: Waking Nightmares #5 The Shadow Saga


Author: Christopher Golden

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

RRP: $29.99

ISBN: 9781847377913

Release Date: May 2011

Pages: 400



Description:

When chaos erupts in the small coastal town of Hawthorne, Massachusetts, former vampire-turned-mage Peter Octavian and earthwitch Keomany Shaw arrive to investigate.

Years ago, Octavian helped expose the secret existence of vampires to the world, dismantling the Vatican's sorcery corps in order to save his fellow shadows from destruction. But without the Vatican sorcerers, the magical barriers they spent centuries constructing to keep the forces of darkness out of our world are beginning to fail, and things are slipping through.

Now an ancient god of chaos is awakening in Hawthorne, its influence spreading...and it's Octavian's fault. If he can't stop it, the blood of all human kind will be on his hands.



Review:

If you are like me and have been devouring the Shadow Saga series by Christopher Golden, then you will be just as excited about the fifth book in the series. Waking Nightmares continues the story of Peter Octavian, the tortured ex-vampire who spent a millennium in Hell.

There is something amiss in Hawthorne Massachusetts with yet more monsters and demons stirring up trouble. Angry Wood Gods play havoc and it is up to Octavian and a witch to save the day.

It is great to read a well written, vampire novel with magic and demons without any sparkling and tormented teens. The action and narrative flows along at a rapid pace, making the 400 pages a very quick read.

FICTION: This Time By Alan Zacher  

Posted by Scott Wilson

The Baby is born. It’s a boy, just like Michael had said it would be.

Eve is sleeping, and we are safe. I hold this Baby in my arms, and I don’t know if I should be happy about this, or if I should wish that it had never been born.

My muscles are sore, and my whole body aches from fighting and killing those two giants yesterday. I hate giants, the sons-of-bitches. When I was nine, they, along with The Nation’s secret police, raided our home and killed my parents; said that my parents were insurrectionists; against The Nation and against The True God. Not having any other relatives, if it hadn’t been for Eve’s parents taking me in to live with them, who had been our next-door neighbors, I would have been sent to one of The Nation’s orphanages until I turned eighteen, and I’m sure glad that that didn’t happen. Kids that get sent there really get brainwashed in The Word from The True Book. None of that shit is for me, man. They get the best jobs, though. They get all of the top government jobs.

Giants have the lowest of government jobs—that’s because they’re so butt-ass stupid. They’re no good for anything else but killing people: Giants are usually between seven to nine feet tall, and their husky. They’re so stupid that the government won’t even let them have firearms: they do all of their killing with long double-bladed swords. I think the reason that giants are so stupid is because their only half human. Giants are born when female humans have sex—rape, really—with angels of The True God. I don’t call them “angels,” though. I call them “shadows.” I call them this because up until yesterday, I never saw one. You can feel their presence when their around, and if you look around real fast, you can catch a glimpse of them, sometimes.

Yesterday wasn’t the first time that I had killed a giant, either. Three years ago, when I had turned thirteen,--I had just received my “Mark-of-Allegiance” on the back of my left hand: It’s required. If you refuse, you’re sent to a Re-education Center.—when a giant killed Eve’s parents.

At the hearing, he, the giant—Igaron was his name—stated that John, Eve’s dad, bumped into him on the sidewalk and then cursed him, and when he grabbed John by the shoulder and began shaking him, John spit on him. He then stated that John’s wife, Elisabeth, jumped him and began striking him on his chest with the inner palms of her hands. Then John began punching him hard to one of his kidneys. That was when he drew his sword and killed both of them. The court found him not guilty, saying it was “justifiable homicide.”

It was a scam, man. Giants get away with everything. It was murder, man.

Right then and there, I told myself that I was going to kill the son-of-a-bitch.

I waited months to do it, but I finally did.

But first things first.

Not having parents now, and not wanting either of us to be sent to one of those orphanages,--There was no way in the world, man, that I was going to let them send Eve to one of those places!—at their funerals, I told Eve to tell everyone that an aunt of mine from out of state was coming to live with us and take care of us. I knew that this would work with neighbors and such. What with giants, shadows and the secret police always on the lookout for any violation against “The Nation,” people mind their own business. My real problem would be with fooling the people from Social Services when they found out about us and came to get us—which would only be days away, too.

This is what I did. I went to the black-market.

John taught me good, man—just like he taught me how to use a sword, practicing in the backyard with sticks so that no one, or the shadows, would report us.

You can get anything you want on the black-market, like swords or weapons. Only giants, the secret police and the Army of The Nation are permitted to have weapons, but John bought swords and weapons from the black-market and hid them in the basement.

Using one of John’s contacts from the black-market, I hired a woman to act like Eve’s aunt from out of state, and when they came to the house for us, she was there. It had cost us a bundle, man,--almost all of the savings that John and Elisabeth had in their savings at the bank—but it worked like a charm, man. This gal had faked papers and everything; said she had moved here to take care of us, and they bought it all. We were safe.

From the black-market, I also got a fake birth certificate and driver license, which would show that I was eighteen, so that I could get a job. I stopped going to school, and I told Eve to tell everybody at school that an aunt of mine from out of state had come and got me and took me to live with her and her family.

Then, I started stalking that giant, that Igaron.

Most nights, he liked to end his day by getting stinking drunk at this sleazy bar in a sleazy neighborhood. I figured this would be the best place to kill him.

My plan was to strap on one of John’s swords,--hiding it under my full-length wind-breaker coat—and wait for the son-of-a-bitch to come out of that bar and run him through with the sword. But before I left the house that night to kill him, I got scared and didn’t do that. I mean, even if I had gotten away with killing him and got away, if I had gotten caught carry a weapon—well, I would have gone to prison.

John had taught me how to make slingshots—taking the V-shape of a small tree limb, two long strips of thick rubber, a pouch make from leather, and assembling it all together with strong string.

So that’s what I did. I placed one of those slingshots in the back of my pants, slipped on my coat, and headed out of the house for that bar with three white marbles in one of my coat pockets.

It was late fall, and I could feel the coldness of winter coming on as the wind brushed against my face as I waited for him to come out of that bar. I kept myself hidden from view by lurking in the deep doorway of an abandon building next to that bar.

I waited and waited.

To be honest with you, I didn’t really know if I would be able to kill him with that slingshot. I mean, I just didn’t have the physical strength in me to get the full power out of a slingshot. John could have, though. He could pull a slingshot back so far that it would send a marble smashing into a tree.

It was nearly midnight before that damn giant came stumbling out of that bar, drunker than a skunk. He started walking in the other direction from where I was.

I waited until he got beyond the other end of the building, passing under a streetlamp. Then, with my heart pounding away, and feeling light-headed, I removed that slingshot from my back-side, got a marble, and went after him.

When I got about four feet from him, I lowered myself, and with one knee touching the cracked sidewalk, I raised and aimed that slingshot high and shouted: “Hey, Igaron!”

He turned around.

With my right arm, I pulled the rubber strips of the slingshot back as far as my physical strength would let me. In my heart, I knew that it wouldn’t be enough to kill him. I panicked. I cried: “Oh, God. Give me the strength to kill him.” I think that was the first time in my life that I had ever prayed. Suddenly, I felt this wave of power take over my whole body. My right arm pulled those two rubber strips back farther than I ever had before—farther than even John ever had! When I knew that I had reached the breaking point of those two rubber strips, I let that marble fly.

It flew through the air in a straight line with the speed of a rocket, hitting and exploding in that giant’s big, hairy, ugly face right between the eyes.

He staggered for a moment. Then, like a tree being cut down, he fell straight forward. I shot out of his way, and I felt the sidewalk shake when his body hit the sidewalk, splitting it open.

I knew he was dead.

“Go straight to heaven, you son-of-a-bitch!” I cursed. And then I ran away.

When I got back home, Eve was waiting for me, sitting nervously in a chair in the living-room in her pajamas, robe and slippers.

“Where have you been?!” she shouted, shooting up out of the chair as I entered the house. “I’ve been calling you all night. Why didn’t you answer your cell?”

I told her what I had done. I had thought that she would be happy, but instead, she got angry and started crying.

Through tears of anger, she screamed: “Why did you do that?!”

“For you,” I replied. “I did this for you. You were so unhappy and sad. I killed him for—“

“You’ll get caught,” she stated. “They’ll send us away. They’ll execute—“

I held her by the shoulders, and said: “I won’t get caught, Eve. Trust me.”

“But the secret police … the angels … the—“she said.

I brought her into my arms, holding her, and said: “There was no one around, and I didn’t feel, or see, any angels. Trust me, Eve.”

Eve was too scared to sleep by herself that night, so she asked me if we could sleep together. We slept together for the first time in her bed, and as I held her in my arms, feeling the nipples of her budding breasts against my chest, I knew that I was in love with her. I had always been in love with Eve, but before it had been the love of a sister, or stepsister. Now, it was the love that a man has towards a woman. I wanted to-to have her all to my own. I wanted to have sex with her, and as time passed, she wanted to have sex with me. We didn’t, though. I mean, she was only twelve-years-old. We decided to wait until she was at least fifteen.

The next two years were the happiest years of my life. We lived like man and wife. During the day, Eve went to school, and I went to work: I didn’t like my job all that much, though; working in a hot, old factory all day, running a machine that placed caps on the tops of tubes of grease for motor vehicles. It was mindless work. But the nights and the weekends were for me and Eve. Eve would cook supper for us; we’d do homework together;--Eve demanded that I do homework with her, so that my education wouldn’t fall behind—we’d snuggle on the couch and watch shows and movies on The Nation-run TV; we would have belching matches—and Eve can really belch loud, too—and on and on. It was great. On her birthday, I showered her with gifts—and on Jesusmis, too.

Jesusmis is the most important holiday of The Nation. Jesusmis is the celebration of the day when the false prophet Jesus’ eyes were opened in the desert by Lucifer that He, Lucifer, was the True God and that Jehovah is the Evil One, and he, Jesus, bowed down to Lucifer and pledged allegiance to Him and began serving Him. Jesus married Our Lady Mary Magdalene and they had many children. Although the earth is of One Nation, their kids, and their kids’ kids, have ruled the different countries of The Nation for years, man. They are the only ones who are allowed to see and to speak directly with Lucifer, who lives in a big castle called The Dome of the Rock, in Jerusalem. It is from one of their kids that one day a True Savior will be born, a girl, who will die at the altar of Lucifer’s, rise in thirteen days, and man’s sins will be forgiven and man will finally be allowed to enter the Kingdom of God in Hell. Jesusmis is celebrated on the thirteenth of April: the number thirteen is a very important number to The Nation. It honors the church that Jesus and his twelve apostles—like St. Peter and St. Juke—started, Luciferism, or some such butt-ass goofiness.

Anyway, yeah, we were happy. We were falling deeper and deeper in love. We were having more and more trouble keeping our hands off of each other, you know. Then last year, almost nine months ago to the day, our world came crashing down on us.

It was late summer, and summers in St. Louis, Missouri, are hotter than heaven, and I was anxious to get home and tell Eve that all day long I had been seeing flashes of angels; that the sky seemed to be full of them. Well, I get home, and I find Eve hiding behind the couch in the living-room, crying and all hysterical. It took, like, a couple of hours before I was able to coax her from there and tell me what had happened.

After I had pushed the couch back, I sat Eve down on it and told her to tell me what had happened. She told me that Michael, an angel from the Lord Jehovah, had appeared before her and told her that she was with child. His name would be Susej, and he would be a great warrior and destroy the descendents of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Then, he would sacrifice himself on the Tree of Knowledge and accept all of man’s sins so that sins will be forgiven. On the third day, he shall rise from the dead; chain Lucifer into the fires of hell; ascend into heaven; sit at the right hand of God and rule the world. This he will all do so that man may finally enter The Kingdom of God, in heaven.

“Eve,” I said, “you fell asleep; you were dreaming.”

“No, I didn’t, David!” she screamed. “It wasn’t a dream. I saw him as plainly as I—“

“Eve, none of this makes sense,” I said. “Why would Jehovah, ‘The False One,’ want to free man of his sins—and why you?”

“He said that there is only one God, Jehovah, and that I was chosen because I am a direct descendent of Jesus’ brother James, who was the only one of Jesus’ followers who remained true to Jehovah … Oh, David,” she cried, clutching her stomach, “I’m so scared. What am I going to do?”

I knew she wasn’t pregnant, so I said: “All right, I’m ended this here and now. I’m going to the drugstore, buy a pregnancy test, and it will prove to you that you’re not pregnant.”

She didn’t want to be alone, so she went with me.

Those were the longest ten minutes of my life as I stood at the bathroom door and anxiously waited for Eve to come out.

I was stunned, man—stunned! She came out of the bathroom crying and totally freaked-out, shouting: “What am I going to do?!”

She handed me the stick, and then ran her small, slender fingers through her long black hair franticly.

I read the stick. It was positive.

“What am I going to do?!” she repeated.

Well, I lost it, man. I exploded. When I thought of the-the hundreds of times that I wanted to “take” her, but didn’t because of her age and because of my love for her—well, I exploded.

I threw that stick down and grabbed her by the throat, and waving my index-finger in front of her face, I shouted: “I’ll tell you what you’re going to do, you’re going to tell me who you’re fuckin’ … Is it that Bob guy from school? Huh? Is it?”

“No, no,” she said, crying even harder now, a look of total disbelief on that childlike face of hers. “I love you. You’re the only one I want to have sex with.”

“You’re a liar!” I shouted, and raised my right arm and hand to hit her.

Then, the hallway was filled with light. It was blinding, man.

Then this guy appeared before us to our right side. He had long, flowing light-brown hair, and was dressed in armor like a Roman soldier would have worn, with a sheaved, double-bladed sword strapped to his right hip.

“Do not strike her, David,” he said in the most calming, but strong, voice that I had ever heard. “She told you the truth. I am Michael, the Archangel of the Lord Jehovah.”

I released Eve, turned to the right, and then stepped back. It took me a couple of minutes, but I said: “Who are you? What do you want from us?”

“I’m a servant of the Lord Jehovah. The time in nigh for man’s sins to be forgiven. With the child, man will finally be permitted to enter the Kingdom of God in heaven.”

“We don’t want any part of this,” I said. And then I thought of something. “How do I know that you’re telling the truth? How do I know that you’re not one of Lucifer’s angels, or Lucifer himself?—testing our allegiance?”

“Only God is omniscient,” he said.

“What?” I said.

“Only God knows all and sees all,” he said.

“What does that have to do with anything,” I said.

“The Lord God Jehovah knows that it was you who killed the giant Igaron; Satan, Lucifer, doesn’t,” he said. “If he did, you would have been punished … We must leave here, tomorrow.”

“What?!” I said. “I’m not going anywhere with you.”

“It’s too dangerous for you to remain here,” he said. “Lucifer knows who you are and in what city you are living. He and his angels are researching for you as we speak—to kill you all, especially the child.”

“I thought you said that Lucifer wasn’t om-omniscient?” I said. “If he isn’t, how does he know who we are and where were at?”

“From the moment the child was conceived,” he said, “the heavens heralded his coming. A new chapter in the Book of Revelation has been written, foretelling of you, Eve, the child and what is to come.”

“Well, I don’t care,” I said. “We’re not going anywhere with you.”

I looked at Eve. Our eyes met—those eyes of hers; those beautiful, dark, comforting eyes of hers; I can read them so well. They said: Please, David. Please stop arguing with him. I’m scared. Let’s go with him. Please.

“All right,” I said. “We’ll go with you.”

He told us to start packing; to pack lightly, and to take what was most precious to us because we were never coming back. Eve packed the family photo album into one of her two suitcases, and I went downstairs to John’s hiding place and got one of John’s double-bladed swords.

The next morning, a white SUV pulled into the driveway, and a man and woman in their early thirties, I would say, got out of the car and came to the door. Michael let them into the house.

They were dressed in casual clothes. Michael introduced them as Raphael and Sarah.

After they had packed our suitcases into the back of that SUV and came back into the house and told us it was time to leave, I grabbed that sword of John’s, and that Raphael said: “Where are you going with that?”

“This is for protection,” I said.

“What do you think we’re here for?” he said, pointing to Sarah and then to himself. Then, their clothes changed. They were both wearing flowing white robes, with a double-bladed sword on both of their right hips. Then, their clothes changed back to those casual clothes.

“Well, I’m still taking it,” I said.

“You don’t need—“he began, but Michael interrupted him.

“Let him take it,” he said.

I wanted to see if these guys were omniscient, so just before we left, I touched my back pants pocket over my windbreaker and said: “Oh, I forget my wallet. It’s on the nightstand by my bed. I’ll be right back.”

“You won’t need it,” Raphael said.

“I’ll be right back,” I said, not listening to him.

I returned from my bedroom holding it up and showing it to them. They said not a word and we left the house. This told me that they were not omniscient: I had had it in one of the pockets of my windbreaker the whole time. I vowed right then and there that when Eve and I got the chance to escape, we would.

Michael didn’t go with us. With Raphael driving, and Sarah in the front seat beside him, and Eve and me in the back seat, we left.

They wouldn’t tell us where we were going, but I kept a watchful eye the whole time.

We drove south all that day and all that night, and the next day, about three o’clock, we arrived at our destination, which was an abandoned Holiday Inn twenty-two miles outside of Phoenix, Arizona: Once we had passed Phoenix, I had kept checking the odometer on the dashboard of the car because Raphael had told us that we would soon be there.

Except for that abandoned Holiday Inn, there was nothing all around there by desert, and mountains at the horizons. Angels stood guard over the place, both inside and outside. They were everywhere, man.

It was like being in prison—they wouldn’t even let us have our cell phones, and we were never permitted to step outside of the place. Our days were spent reading, watching TV, playing board games, exercising,--if we wanted to, which I did—and on and on; and always under the watchful eye of an angel: we were never permitted to be alone. And the whole time we were there, Michael told us stories—like of this guy named Moses, and Daniel, and of this place called the Tower of Babel: There was a time on earth when people spoke different languages,--not Werbeh—and that there was a time when there were people of different skin-color than white.

I have heard that it is written in The True Book that Lucifer had had giants kill whole races of people, like a people called Jews, because they were not created in His image and were an abomination.

Some of the stories Michael told us—like hell is not heaven: hell is the evil place of great suffering and wailing—I had heard before, from John.

From time to time, about every two months or so, John would leave the house in the evening and go somewhere. We just knew never to question where he was going, but many times, when he would return home, he would tell me many of the same stories that Michael had told us. When I would say to John: “But these are just stories, right, John?” he’d always reply with something like: “You’re a smart boy, David. Some day, you will know it all.”

Time passed, and I kept looking for a chance for Eve and me to escape. I had thought of several things to do to escape, but in the end, I never tried any of them. I kept telling myself that I was only going to get one chance at this, so it better be good. Then, I thought: If only we could be alone without these damn angels always being around us.

Six months passed, and I knew that I was running out of time. I mean, I wasn’t going to try and escape after she had had that kid. That would have been too hard, and although we never discussed it, I knew that there was no way that Eve would leave that kid behind. So one day I complained to Michael, telling him that humans needed private time together; that why couldn’t Eve and I just spend some time together without these angels watching our every movement.

He told Eve and me to follow him. He took us to the back of the building, to what I always called the Courtyard. There was a large pool there, with tables and chairs and lawn chairs by the pool. The whole area was enclosed by eight-foot-high walls of cedar blocks, painted white.

“From this day forward,” he said, “let’s say at ten o’clock in the morning, you may have one hour a day of privacy. Remember this,” he said, holding up his right arm and hand, “you are not to engage in sex of any nature.” Turning to Eve, he said: “You must remain clean until after the child is born. Is this understood?”

“Yes, sir,” Eve said, real quietly.

Her saying that to him like that really pissed me off. So, I said: “If I wanted to have sex with her, I sure wouldn’t need a whole hour.”

“That’s very humorous, David,” he said, but didn’t laugh. Turning and walking away, he said: “Enjoy your time together—and no sex.”

Well, this wasn’t any good. I had hoped that Michael would have given us free-run of the entire place. My plan had been that we would run out of one of the back doors and head for Phoenix and get lost in the crowd.

The Courtyard was about half the size of what a basketball court would be at a high school. I began looking around, and then I spotted something. It was weird. I had been in the Courtyard many times before, and had even swum in the pool many times before, and had never seen this there before. Against the north wall of the Courtyard, about mid-way, was a large—about four feet high and four feet wide—metal tool chest on rollers.

I walked over to it and began opening drawers. They were all empty, except for the bottom draw. In it were a hammer and a chisel. I rolled the tool chest away from the wall, and then I ran my hand over the surface of the wall. Bingo! I knew what I was going to do.

If I could just punch a hole in it large enough for Eve and me to get through, we could escape.

It was hard work. Every day, while we had our “private time,” I chipped away at that wall behind that tool chest.

For the first couple of days, I was on pins-and-needles. I kept thinking that that tool chest would be moved or taken away and I’d be found-out, or that Michael or one of the other angels would say to me: “I know what you’re doing. Stop it.” But none of that ever happened. So about a week later, I thought: Omniscient—my ass!

While I worked at that wall, Eve would sit quietly in one of the chairs at a table. Sometimes she would read a magazine or a book.

She was now wearing clothes that were way too big for her. I think she had asked the angels to give them to her because she knew how much I hated seeing her growing bigger by the day. Sometimes she would catch me looking at her, and she would start crying and beg me to still love her. I always told her that I still love her—and I still did, man. I-I just didn’t want her to be pregnant—especially not by something called The Holy Spirit.

Anyway, it took me three months, but I did it. I chipped a hole in that wall large enough for Eve and me to squeeze through. Once, when I had first pierced a small hole through that wall and looked through it, I saw nothing but desert, as far and as wide as the eye could see.

Before our hour was up that day, two days ago, it was, I told Eve that we were escaping the next day. She said not a word, but nodded yes.

The next day, I told Michael that I was coming down with the flu or something,--that I was just chilled-to-the-bone!—and that was why I was wearing my windbreaker coat. In both pockets of my windbreaker, I had a bottle of water, and underneath it, strapped to my right hip, was that double-bladed sword of John’s. When Michael left the Courtyard, Eve and I headed for that hole.

Although the sun was brutal, man, it was great being on the other side of that wall. We were free. Freedom is a great feeling, man. We headed south, for Phoenix.

The whole time that we walked, I kept checking the sky for angels and shadows, but I never saw, or felt, a single one.

We didn’t get very far. I bet we hadn’t walked farther than a mile or so when Eve cried: “David, I have to rest. My feet are swollen, and my stomach hurts.”

I helped her sit down on a boulder. She was out of breath, and she was sweating like crazy: her clothes and hair were all wet.

Taking those bottles of waters out of my pockets, I said: “Here, take a drink of water.”

After setting one of the bottles down on the boulder, I ripped the cap off of the other one and handed it to her.

“I’m so sorry, David,” she said between taking large gulps of water from the bottle. “I can’t go on, David. You go on without me. I’ll go back.”

“You can’t go back there!” I yelled.

“They wouldn’t hurt me, David,” she said. “I know they won’t.”

“You don’t know that,” I said. “All they want is that damn baby.”

I felt lost—trapped. I searched the area with my eyes for an answer—and there it was. Tied to a bush with a rope—no more than twenty feet from us—was a small mule.

I got the mule and brought it back to where Eve was sitting. I helped Eve get on the mule, and we began walking south again. I felt so relieved and happy.

Sadly, we didn’t get much farther. I bet we hadn’t walked even another mile when Eve cried again: “David, stop. Please stop. My stomach hurts so much.”

I helped her off the mule and helped her lie flat on the hard ground in the shadow of the mule. After removing my windbreaker, I rolled it into a ball of sorts, and then placed it behind her head for a pillow.

I stood up and searched the area again for another answer. It wasn’t an answer, but from the east it came.

In the air were swirls of dust. As it came closer, I heard the sound of an engine. Then, I saw him, riding on a huge ATV: It was a giant.

He was wearing a dark-colored shirt and a black leather jacket and matching pants, like a biker. His sword was on his left hip, and on his right hip he had a walkie-talkie. A long cord ran from the walkie-talkie to a microphone that was clipped to one of the lapels of the jacket, next to his mouth. Before he got off of the ATV, he spoke into that microphone.

Towering before us, and standing about six or seven feet away from us, he said: “Well, lookie at who we got here. I’m gonna get extra pay tonight.”

I drew my sword, and holding it in both hands, raised it high to my right shoulder.

Drawing his sword, he said: “It don’t matter none to me, boy. I get paid if you’re dead or alive.”

I moved quickly away from Eve and began circling around him.

Remember what John always said, I kept saying. You’ll never kill a giant with brute-force—they’re too strong for that. You’ll defeat them with agility and brains … Never attack … Always let him make the first moves … pay attention to his movements … wait for an opening—then strike!

I raised my sword over my head and took two quick steps forward and stopped, wanting him to believe that I was charging at him. He fell for it. With his sword also raised over his head, he came racing towards me. When he was almost of top of me, I pivoted to my right, and stepped passed him. As I did this, I brought my sword down and slit his left arm just above the elbow. I spun around and faced him.

After looking and touching his wound, he shouted: “You little shit! You cut me. I’m gonna enjoy killing you.” He charged at me again.

I faked pivoting to my right again. He fell for it. He turned to the right. I pivoted to my left and stepped pass him again, bringing the sword down again and slicing his right leg above the knee.

He turned and faced me.

“Stop moving around, you little prick,” he said, “and fight like a man.”

I was sweating rivers of sweat, and my heart was racing.

“What would you know about being a ‘man,’” I said, getting a bit out of breath. “I bet that your own mother didn’t even love you, you big, hairy ape.”

This made him furious. He came charging at me with the blade of his sword lowered straight out, wanting to run me through.

I slipped under the blade, and stepped to my right. I came back up and raised the sword above my head. I started to bring the sword down hard to the left side of his face, but he turned and met my sword. We crossed blades, and with all of his strength, he threw me backwards. I went sailing and fell to the ground on my back.

The fall knock the wind out of me, and my back hurt—my whole body hurt. I felt dazed.

Then I heard Eve cry: “David!”

When I looked up, the giant was standing over me, to my left side. He held the sword in both hands, high in the air, with the blade pointing down at my chest. He was going to run me through.

He brought the sword down hard. I raised my sword over my head and rolled to my right.

It missed me by only inches. As I rolled, I felt the vibrations of his sword being plunged deep into the ground.

I sprang to my feet and raced to him. He was bent over, and as he pulled at the sword to free it from the ground, I spread my legs, shifted all of my weight and strength into my hips and legs, raised the sword and brought it down hard to the back of his neck, slicing his head off.

With the elbow of my right arm, I wiped sweat from my face. I was happy. I thought that it was over, man, but it wasn’t.

From the east, again, I heard the sound of the engine of another ATV. I looked in that direction, and sure enough: here comes another giant.

With sword drawn, he jumps off of that ATV and comes straight for me.

I was exhausted. I was too tired to fight—I was even too tired, too exhausted, to even think.

Mindlessly, I stood there and crossed blades with him. He threw me to the ground. I shot back up and crossed blades with him again. He knocked me down again. I shot back up again and crossed blades with him again. This time, though, instead of pushing me back, he brought his blade down towards my face. He kept bringing it down closer and closer to my face, bending me backwards.

I had no strength left within me to resist him. I knew that I was losing, and I knew that he was going to kill me.

When his blade, body and face were towering just inches from my blade, body and face: pushing me down and down and down, I cried out: “Oh, God, if you do exist, save me. Save Eve.”

That’s when I heard the voice. It said: I brought you here, David, so that you shall know that I am who I say I am. I am God, and there is but one God. It was I who gave you the strength to kill the giant Igaron, and I give you the same strength now to kill this giant. Destroy him!

I then felt that same wave of power I had that day that I killed Igaron, bathing my whole body with strength, supernatural strength.

I pushed that giant back away from me, and then I kicked him in the lower part of his chest with the bottom of my right foot, sending him flying backwards.

He fell to the ground with a thunderous thud, and I waited for him to get back up.

I walked casually over to him, and after smiling at him, I began crossing swords with him. We crossed swords again and again: Strike, strike, strike—again and again. The final time that I crossed swords with him, I circled my sword around his and then gave a hard thrust with my wrists and hands, sending his sword flying out of his hands.

You should have seen the look of total disbelief on that big, ugly face of his when I said: “Go straight to hell, you son-of-a-bitch,” and ran him through with my sword.

I walked over to Eve. I knelt down beside her, and touch her face. I was about to speak, when she looked beyond me, into the air, and cried: “Oh, David!”

I stood up and looked up into the sky. It was filled with angels.

I knew that these angels were not God’s angels. It had nothing to do with their physical appearance, or how they were dressed. They looked and were dressed as I had seen God’s angels—in flowing white robes with swords strapped to a hip. No, it had nothing to do with any of that. It was the feeling I got from them—a feeling of pure evil.

Then, from the west, I heard a horn blow three times. Its sound was not that from a musical instrument. It had a tone to it of being of both earth and heaven.

When the third blow finished, I saw Michael descending from high in the sky, with sword in hand, and an army of angels behind him.

The battle lasted only seconds. When it was done, the bodies of angels, both good and bad, covered the very ground itself like a blanket. Rivers of blood flowed everywhere. It-it was horrible.

Michael came to us and said: “We must leave, now.”

“You don’t have to tell me twice, big boy,” I said.

“That’s very humorous, David,” he said to me, again, but didn’t laugh, again.



I can’t tell you where we’re at, but Michael told me that even Lucifer can’t come here. Except for one tree that looks like its dying, it’s beautiful here, so green and peaceful.

As I hold this baby in my arms, I think of John and Elizabeth. I wasn’t their child, and yet they both raised me and loved me … I just don’t know, and if this baby does what God wants him to do, wow, what a horrible life. I don’t know. I just don’t know … I guess it’s a good thing. I guess if he goes through with it, I guess it’s a good thing that man’s sins will finally be forgiven and that this time he will finally be permitted into the Kingdom of God and finally know peace. I guess that that’s a good thing … We’ll see. We’ll see. Right, kid? We’ll see.

FICTION: The Loch Ard By C. A. T. Torres V  

Posted by Scott Wilson

June 1, 1878, somewhere off Mutton Island, Victoria

Shrill screams pierced through Eva’s dreams and awoke her. Her mother rushed in to her cabin. “Quick, Eva, get up. Go with your brothers onto the deck at once.” She pulled a lifebelt around Eva’s waist. “Come now, while I tend to your sisters.”

Eva discerned only her mother’s silhouette in the darkness. A sharp tug on the sleeve of her nightgown made her turn. Her brother’s voice sounded low in her ear. “Quickly, Eva. We must get above.”

She still felt groggy from tasting her first glass of champagne the night before. “You are eighteen, Eva. Old enough to celebrate our new life with this golden liquid,” Eva’s father had said. The passengers of Loch Ard had celebrated with wine and revelry after seeing a butterfly. Though a thick fog concealed their promised destination, the colorful insect on the ship assured them their tiresome journey would soon be over and Melbourne was near.

“Eva, for heaven’s sake, get up to the deck at once,” her brother shouted as he ran ahead. She rushed after him but stumbled at the doorway. She shook her head to clear her mind, and swayed as the Loch Ard lurched in the darkness.

Sounds of screaming, weeping, timber creaking, and waves crashing assaulted her ears. Eva’s heart pounded, her pulse quickened.

Her brother yelled at her again. “Find Papa and get onto a lifeboat.”

Eva spotted her father in the dim light of dawn, helping young Tom Pearce, the shipping apprentice, untie a dinghy from the side of the ship. “Papa!”

Eva ran to Papa, slipping on the wet deck. She lay prone in her soaked nightgown as people rushed past. Papa had not heard her. She covered her head, hoping not to be trampled on.

A pair of strong arms lifted Eva to her feet. She looked up at Captain Gibb’s tense face. “If you get to land, tell my dear wife that I died like a sailor.”

Eva’s eyes filled with tears and she nodded. Captain Gibb released her and resumed giving orders to the crew. The lookout’s voice boomed from above. “Land ho! Fifty yards, Captain.”

Huge rocks towered before them. Eva clutched at the railing. The Loch Ard careened towards the cliffs. Oh, God, she prayed, please save us all.

It was then that she saw Tom Pearce’s eyes, before he disappeared into the ocean with her father and brothers.

“No!” Eva cried out, as the ship listed and waves crashed onto the deck. The frigid water slammed against her chest and threw her into the sea. Her heart stopped beating for a moment as the cold sucked all breath from her lungs.

She sank, her lifebelt useless. She couldn’t swim. Not in rivers, not in creeks, certainly not in the sea. But somehow her legs and arms found the strength and agility to keep her head afloat. Her hands clutched at debris bobbing past her, some sinking before she could grasp them. She grabbed a chicken coop and a wooden spar from the ship, and they supported her weight well.

She looked back at the ship. About a quarter of its port side was still above water. She thought she saw Captain Gibb holding onto the railing, fulfilling his promise of going down with his ship. She searched for her family. Where was everyone else?

A strong sucking force tugged at her legs, and she wrenched away just as the Loch Ard disappeared under the waves.

She shuddered. The ship was gone, her entire family pulled under.

The undertow from the sinking vessel threatened to bring Eva to the bottom with it. She focused all her energy on getting away, her arms entwined around her makeshift life preserver. The freezing water splashed against her face and stung her eyes. She closed them and simply paddled and flailed, uncaring where her efforts took her. Every inch of her body knew she had to get away from the death grip of the water that wanted to drag her to the ocean floor.

When the waters calmed, only waves, foam, and debris remained. She wept, shivered, and wailed. Time stretched and contracted, her mind filled with visions of what had just occurred, what was still happening.

Peace returned to the sea. Eva held onto the wooden spar, tired and hungry. The morning came, and Eva noticed a huge gorge before her. She squinted. Was that a man sitting on the rocky shore beneath the cliff?

“Help!” she shouted, waving her arm. Her head sank. She grasped the spar with both hand and kicked hard. “Please—help—me,” she gurgled, as more saltwater rushed into her mouth.

Darkness came, but did not stay. Powerful arms wrapped around her waist. She kept her eyes closed. Her feet touched sand, but she could not stand. She let herself be hauled onto the beach.

Eva bent down and coughed up salt water onto land. She raised her head. Tom’s blue eyes gazed down at her.

“Eva,” he said, breathless. “You and I are saved. All else are lost.” Then he held her in his arms as she collapsed under the weight of grief and exhaustion, guilt and relief.

#

Tom made a bed of shrubs and grasses in the cave for Eva to lie on. He went outside to see what might be salvaged from the wreck. He found a case of brandy on the beach. He broke one open and took out a bottle.

“Here, Eva, drink this.” She refused to move, refused to blink. “Eva, please. This will help warm you.”

Tom brought her into a sitting position then handed the bottle to her. She shook her head. He made her rest against him as he poured the liquid down her mouth. The brandy spilled down her nightgown, staining it as if she had bled.

“Eva, you must trust me.”

He put his finger between her lips and pried them open. She sighed. He poured the brandy and thanked God when she swallowed.

Despite his exhaustion, he felt his body responding to this young woman pressed against him. Both of them had barely any clothes on, and whatever they wore clung to them like skin.

He lay her on the grassy bed. Tom stayed close to keep her warm, but not too close, lest he forget himself. He rubbed her arms whenever she shivered, caressed her hair when she whimpered.

The night came without mercy. Eva slept while Tom remained wide-eyed and alert.

He nudged her awake at sunrise. “I’ll go find help, Eva. Stay here and I’ll be back.”

Eva stared outside dumbly, unseeing, unhearing. He bent down and gripped her shoulders. “I’ll return to you, I promise.”

Eva nodded then closed her eyes again.

#

Tom had been gone for several hours. The sun would set soon. Eva forced herself to sit up. She embraced herself, suddenly feeling naked. She trembled at the faint memory of last night, recalling Tom’s strong arms around her, his rough hands on her arms, his calloused fingers on her forehead.

Shadow filled the cave.

“Eva, I’m back.”

She looked up at Tom. He seemed years older than when they had been on the ship. A beard darkened his face, and his forehead was furrowed in concern. His tattered clothes made him seem bigger, fiercer.

“Did you find anyone?” Eva whispered.

Tom smiled. “I’m pleased you’re feeling better.” He sat beside her. “And yes, I found a man, says his name is Gibson. He sent his wife to the nearest town to raise the alarm. He will be here with horses to bring us to his home.”

Eva nodded, then glanced down at her bare legs. She tucked them underneath her, blushing.

She peeked at Tom through her matted hair. He gazed outside the cave, at the rocks and wreckage that dotted the shore. She could hear the ocean from her position, but could not see it.

“Tom, I … ” he turned to her, “I wish to thank you … for everything.”

Tom stroked her cheek, then drew back. He coughed. “You’re a fine lady, Miss Carmichael. And a brave and strong one, at that. But when the rescuers come, things shall be as they were before: you are the daughter of a gentleman and I am a humble ship apprentice.”

Her lips trembled. “Yes, I understand.”

“Keep this, Miss Carmichael. So as to remember me by.” Tom placed something around her neck. She looked down and saw it was a compass attached to a chain.

A voice called out from up the cliff. “Hullo there, Tom Pearce! Where are ye, laddie? It’s Gibson!”

Tom kissed Eva on her forehead, then sprang out of the cave to greet their rescuer.

#

1934, Bedford, England

Eva knelt by her bed, praying. Tomorrow she would be married to a fine and upstanding doctor. She had escaped death and had found love. She thanked the Lord for her deliverance.

She brought out a tiny canvas pouch from under her pillow. There were folded clippings from Melbourne newspapers: some grimly recounted the tragedy, others speculated on a romance between the two young survivors. She unwrapped the compass and kissed it, then placed it back into the pouch. She wrote on a card: To my daughter, May this lead you to a good man in your moment of greatest distress. May he be a true hero-- one who braves everything and demands nothing.

She put the compass and the card in her hope chest. Never to be opened again until her future daughter shall do so. Then Eva lay in bed. She stared at the full moon outside her window.

Tom was wrong. Things did not return to as they were before the tragedy. The Loch Ard survived in history, while Tom and Eva became legends.



###





Note from Author:



This story is a romanticized imagining of true events, though Captain Gibb’s words to Eva are as recorded in history.



The Loch Ard ran aground in the early morning of June 1st 1878 off Mutton Island, Victoria.

Tom Pearce and Eva Carmichael were the only survivors among fifty-two passengers.



Tom and Eva spent one night in a cave in what is now known as Loch Ard Gorge, followed by several weeks in Glenample Station to recuperate. They then parted ways and never saw each other again.

FICTION: Cellulose Face by Aden Pak  

Posted by Scott Wilson

On the Tatra street corner, there is a billboard posted. It is currently used by a footwear company. The poster put there, naturally, advertises one of the company’s latest product. It shows a shoe and a smiling young man wearing a pair of those new shoes. The poster is there for about three weeks now and is already starting to peel off probably due to some bad gluing problems or maybe is because of the frequent spring rains. What can you do about it?

What passers-by don’t know or realize, except for a small number of them who are terrified, is the fact that the young man, shall we call him Janis, is somehow able to change his facial expression and move his eyes. Now some might say this is some kind of commercial gimmick but that is not the case here, those movements, as surreal as they might appear, are genuine. His changed facial expressions are either one of marvel or curiosity, but the normal poise is that of a smiling satisfied person looking straight ahead somewhere far in the distance.

He would like very much to leave his current location, meaning the poster, how may you ask? Well, he would simply leap through the poster into the so called real world. He has this wish for about two weeks now from a passerby point of view, but from where he is standing that time is much more longer that. All he sees from his side is: a brand new shoe that just hangs in the air motionless and a grey background that seems to stretch on forever. Right about the center of his field of view there is a window, which in our world is the poster. He looks fixed and directly at it and through it. The poor thing cannot move, except when his desire to leave becomes unbearable and coincides with an apparent communication with the people who pass by the window or the poster in from their point of view. It is only then he can suddenly move some of his facial muscles and his eyes a little bit. He wonders how do they understand him, is curious and would like them to help him leave the place that he is in, but all is in vain because after a while every person, who he thought that would help, walks away from the window suddenly, as if he just disappeared. And when others go by, he moves his eyes in their direction again.

Sometimes he feels like crying but cannot cry. That's somewhat ironic and cruel for someone, or something, that should appear to smile all the time.

And then he screams in his mind again and again:

- Help me, please! Get me out of here, can’t you hear me? Anyone?

On a gloomy day, sometime after this continuous torment, a little boy with his parents walked by the poster which depicted Janis and the shoe.

All of a sudden, the boy stopped in front of the poster, analyzing it with circumspect eyes, especially Janis’s face, sensing something strange about him. His parents followed the boy near the poster, and as they looked at it too they didn’t notice anything beyond its commercial and maybe artistic value.

- Hey you, I know you can see me, says Janis to the boy changing his smiling facial expression into one of curiousness slightly moving his eyes to the right.

- Reach out your hand and tell your folks to pull me out of here.

Janis doesn’t actually speak. He can’t, what he’s communicating are his thoughts.

- Whoa, that’s strange, exclaims the kid.

Feeling extremely uncomfortable and uneasy by noticing Janis’s movements, the kid starts to pull both his parent hands, incessantly, asking them to leave. In contrast the kid’s parents did not see a thing but after some minutes of begging, they listen to his request, and they leave. And so Janis is left alone again.

This time Janis realizes that, in fact, if not surely, the only feeling that people who saw his movements was one of fear not amazement as he previously thought.

- I lost so much energy all this time and for nothing, for nothing.

Now he decides never to care if someone would notice him or to attract anyone’s attention because, it was pointless. He was feeling extremely upset and frustrated and, shortly became quite angry. The sky outside got even cloudier, clouds got even darker. The wind started intensifying thus blowing harder. Soon after this it started to rain, in the beginning slowly and in rare drops and then more quickly with lots of drops. It would seem that the storm inside Janis’s mind or soul became externalized and got even more amplified by each second. The billboard was beaten down by powerful winds and rain water was pouring down on it but from Janis’s point of view everything was calm, seemingly unchanged until a deafening roar, in a crescendo, was starting to make its presence from and in every direction. On the window’s corners water starts to seep in, infiltrating slowly at first then more quickly the entire space in which Janis and the suspended shoe are residing. In a short time span, the whole space was filled with water. Still strangely enough Janis and the suspended shoe were dry.

Suddenly, he felt a strong thud coming from his back pushing him forward through the window. There wasn’t, as normally it should have been, a pop and crack sound, he just went through the window like it was pellucid, transparent.

- I’m outside, finally outside and free, thought Janis meanwhile the rain water was pouring down on him, and while standing up after being slammed face down to the pavement.

Now he had complete control over all of his muscles. He could move as he pleased. He was soaking wet.

While surveying the surroundings and moving upside the street, streams of ink mixed with water were trickling down of him. In a short time, after his quick walk up the street, all that was left out of poor Janis was an oily puddle whose colors were mixed, giving it a brown nuance. Behind the puddle, there were small unequal stains of ink, whose starting point was just a few centimeters from the billboard. That was all for poor Janis.

Maybe some borders between worlds should not be crossed.

FICTION: THE TEACHER by Jackie Kingon  

Posted by Scott Wilson

Billy pushes Daisy.

“I saw that,” says Miss Plum whose face is turned to the board. She swivels around and gives Billy a stern disapproving look. She pats a seat next to her desk. “Move here so I can keep a closer eye on you.”

Billy gathers his books and pouts. “She started it.”

“Did not,” says Daisy making a monkey face and sticking out her tongue.

Miss Plum raises her eyebrows. “Daisy is telling the truth. I saw her sitting quietly doing her work and you reached over and gave her a shove.”

“But your back was turned, Miss Plum. How could you see that.”

Miss Plum turns and faces the board again. She reaches up and raises a handful of her long blond hair.

The class gasps.

“You see class, I really do have eyes in the back of my head.”

FICTION: Rewards By Philip Roberts  

Posted by Scott Wilson

The three of them stood before the old, decrepit building. The two-story house had long ago succumbed to the elements, and the once white paint was all but gone. The overhang above the front door was only partially still connected, half of the wooden structure hanging so low they’d strike their heads against it if they weren’t careful.

Most of the lawn was dry, cracked dirt, while the few tuffs of grass that remained were quickly overtaking what had once been a cement sidewalk leading up to the front door. There was no fence surrounding this structure anymore, though the remains of a once white picket fence was noticeable, the wooden planks discarded throughout the yard.

Broken windows stared at them like black eyes. This was a source of legend in their town, and a source of nightmares for nearly every youth who had dared to walk by it. In their younger days they made dares to see who could walk closest to the door before they let the fear take them and could go no further.

“I heard about it from Mr. Harris,” Adam stated, and his two companions nodded their heads in understanding. Mr. Harris was one of the oldest residents of their particular suburb, and was considered the keeper of most urban legends. “The people who lived here were rich but no one ever found out what happened to all that money when they died. Mr. Harris said he thinks it’s still in there.”

“That was a long time ago,” Nate retorted, trying to make it sound as if his argument had nothing to do with any fear of entering the old house. “A lot of money back in Mr. Harris’s day isn’t much of anything now.”

“Hey, I’d take even a thousand bucks if I could get my hands on it. All we have to do is find it.”

“If no one else could,” Rob piped in, just as apprehensive as Nate about any journey through the house, “then what makes you think we could?”

Adam turned to face his two friends. With only the moon and a streetlight up the block to provide them with light, he could barely see their faces. The glare of his flashlight made Nate cringe away, but the flicker of light was only brief, and Adam was quick to put the light out.

The property was off limits, and if anyone saw them there they’d certainly report them, as had happened in the past to other brave teens daring to enter the house of legend.

“If I didn’t know any better I’d say you two were trying to get out of this,” Adam sneered.

“Do you realize how un-sturdy that place probably is?” Rob said. “I don’t feel like having a house collapse in on me while I go searching for buried treasure.”

“Then stay out here and piss your pants while Nate and I go find us some cash.”

“Well,” Nate began, his eyes flickering between Adam and Rob.

“Fine,” Adam spit at the two of them, “just god damn fine, I’ll go myself.”

He turned and started towards the house before either of them could respond. Let the cowards lose their share. He would gladly take it all for himself when he found that cash, and he was going to find it.

Mr. Harris spread a lot of tall tales, but he never strayed too far from the truth. Besides, something about the story just felt right, and what did Adam really have to lose?

The front door was locked. He had to duck below the broken overhang to get to it. He glanced up at the jagged, splintered wood just above his head, and heard the low creak of the building.

He’d brought a hammer just for this, and all it took was two good whacks to break the door open.

Behind him he could still hear two chicken shits shuffling back and forth as they watched him push open the thick, wooden front door and move through it into the house.

The first floor windows were the only ones actually boarded up. He had to use his flashlight once he was inside the house.

A thick haze of dust hung in the air, tickled his nose, but Adam stopped himself from sneezing. The floor was cluttered with chunks of wood, plaster, and other things he couldn’t distinguish in the poor lighting.

To his right was the kitchen, a table still sitting in the middle of the room, the refrigerator and stove rusted over from age. On his right he glanced in the living room, the few pieces of furniture that remained covered in white sheets turned brown from the thick dust.

The wood beneath his feet was rough, the finish long worn away from so many winters with poorly boarded windows that let the worst of the elements into the house. On that summer night the air was thick and humid. Without the soft breeze from outside Adam found his skin already growing slick.

He shined his flashlight up the stairs in front of him and the upstairs balcony, but chose to ignore it. They wouldn’t have hid the money upstairs. Instead he moved forward, beyond the stairs, and towards another door built far back under the base of the steps.

This door opened up into darkness. His flashlight seemed to struggle to penetrate the deep black down the stairs in front of him. For the first time Adam felt his own flutter of fear, and glanced back at the front door, partially open, and wondered if Nate and Rob were still out there.

The money, he thought. He needed that money. All he needed to do was flex his shoulders in just the right way to feel the bruises flare up across his back. Somewhere across town his father slept soundly, his knuckles slightly bruised. There was no wife to share his bed with anymore.

Adam couldn’t stay in that home for much longer. The day would come when things got just a little too heated, and one of them was going to pay for it. But if Adam had the money to get away from it all he wouldn’t have to worry.

He descended stairs into the impenetrable darkness of the basement. After three steps he heard the crack and felt his foot falling out from under him. His upper body pitched forward even as his right leg fell straight through the hole in the step.

The end result jarred his hip and sent a jolt of pain through his groin. The flashlight slipped from his fingers and rolled down the stairs, thumping lightly on each step until it stopped on the dirt floor.

Painfully Adam pulled himself free and moved more cautiously down the stairs to pick back up his flashlight. The basement was larger than he had expected, and ran the full length of the home. The darkness was too deep for his flashlight to penetrate all of. It looked to him as if the darkness devoured the light.

The ground was nothing but dry dirt, and the air down in the basement was much thicker with dust. He could feel his eyes begin to water as he took a step deeper into the darkness. There were no windows to give him any additional light. It wasn’t long before the little light pouring down from the open basement door was too far behind him to even be seen.

He thought about his father’s face, his eyes red and bloodshot, his lips still wet with alcohol as he pulled his fist back. And ever so briefly, alone as Adam was within that complete black, he thought about his mother’s last moments on earth as she let the aspirin poison her, until her eyes had surely grown heavy and dropped her into a darkness even deeper than the one Adam walked through.

“It has to be here,” Adam whispered to himself. If he had told Rob and Nate about his reasons for braving this, would they have reconsidered? Adam found himself quickly losing his nerve as he just kept walking only to find nothing.

His flashlight never found another wall. All he had was the dirt floor and the wooden ceiling up above to keep him company. He turned back the way he’d come, but the staircase was too far away to see anymore.

And then his foot struck it.

He stumbled over the object suddenly in his path and went face first into the dirt. He felt pain spike through his groin from his earlier injury and felt his eyes burn from the puff of dirt that found its way into them.

He saw the small metal box through a haze. Adam absently wiped away the dirt and tears to stare at the rusted metal box, a padlock firmly secured on the outside.

Quickly his eyes swept over the darkness. Just fifteen feet away he stared at the stairs he had descended down. They hadn’t been there before, just as this metal box hadn’t been there either. There was no way people could’ve failed to find something so out in the open. Something, Adam briefly thought, that looked as if it had been waiting to be found.

He slowly reached out his hand to touch the metal. Flakes of rust came off. Reddish brown covered the tip of his finger.

Only then did another thought occur to him. Up above when he had first entered he hadn’t seen any disturbance in the dust. From all the stories he had heard about other teenagers venturing into the house, he didn’t believe there wouldn’t be any signs of their entrance.

Even the lock on the front door had been rusted yet intact, so how had the other teens entered? Was there a back door Adam wasn’t aware of, or had all of them simply lied to gain notoriety? He had assumed at least some of them had, but all of them?

With a rusty metal box under his arm Adam made his way back up the stairs, and then into the kitchen. The backdoor was firmly closed. He touched the deadbolt still in place. When he turned it the metal ground slowly against itself, only to catch halfway and deny him access to the backyard.

No one had come through this door in years. No one had entered the front door in years, either, and all of the windows were boarded over on the first floor. The wood nailed to them looked just as ancient as the house itself.

All of them had been lying.

Most of Adam’s fear was transformed into a deep pride in himself for having braved what apparently no one else really had.

He set the metal box down on the kitchen counter and pulled out his hammer. A single blow was enough to break away the flimsy lock on the front of it. He closed his eyes before opening the box, his stomach in a knot he was so nervous at what he’d find.

“Please,” he whispered, seeing in his mind his father screaming at him. For nearly a full minute he refused to see what the contents were, opening his eyes enough to stare at the dirty wall in front of him instead.

When he finally looked down he saw only a single sheet of folded white paper inside the box. Unlike everything else he’d seen since entering the house the paper showed no signs of decay.

He unfolded the slip of paper and read the two words written on it.

Thank You.

He read them again before setting the paper aside to peer into the now empty metal box. There was nothing else inside. This was the only thing that had been locked away, a piece of paper that had managed to be spared any signs of decay, as if this slip of paper had only be placed in the box a few days prior.

A loud, low creak ran through the house. Any jubilance Adam had felt at braving the home and finding what he had hoped would be its treasure descended back into the realm of fear.

Because he couldn’t help but feel that the piece of paper was recently placed into that box. The thing wasn’t air tight enough to spare the paper from years of decay.

Suddenly Adam wanted to be away from the house. Maybe he’d return for another search to find the money, but for that night, Adam wanted to be away from it all.

Rob and Nate were no longer waiting outside for him. He stopped on the sidewalk in front of the house and glanced back at the broken overhang and dark upper windows staring at him.

The glare of a flashlight blinded him, and made him turn towards the right and the figure standing just a few feet away. Just as quickly the light was gone and Adam saw through a bright haze the face of Mr. Harris coming into view, a large smile spread across it.

He almost didn’t recognize him at first, the once wrinkled face filled with youth. The eyes were what allowed Adam to recognize who he stared at.

“Did you get my message?” Mr. Harris asked him with a voice far deeper than the raspy wheeze he normally uttered. When Adam didn’t answer Harris continued, “I’ve already returned the favor for your kindness.” His eyes lowered to the hammer Adam still had clutched in his hand, and Harris motioned towards it. “Is that what you use to open it?”

Adam nodded slowly, unable to produce speech even if he had wanted to. When Harris reached out his hand, Adam placed the hammer into it.

“I think I’ll keep it as a souvenir.” He turned from Adam and started to walk away, but Adam called out to him before he could leave.

“This is your house, isn’t it?” Adam asked.

Harris glanced back at him. “It was in another lifetime. Thanks to you that part of my life is behind me. You know, it was the youth in this town that once placed me in that horrible little box. I thought it would only be fitting for the youth of another generation to free me. Appreciate your reward. I don’t show such kindness very often.”

Adam didn’t say anything else as Harris continued on his way, until vanishing from sight altogether around a corner. Instead he turned towards his home and walked the two miles to his house.

There were no lights on inside the one story building. Similar to the house he had just left, the paint had long ago begun to peel from the structure, and Adam didn’t see his father fixing that anytime soon.

Deep down he already knew what he would find awaiting him inside. He called out to his father, even though he knew the man would normally be asleep. The light thump of something banging into the wall answered him.

Adam didn’t turn on any lights as he journeyed through the small house to stand before his father’s open door.

A light breeze blew through his father’s open bedroom window and sent the corpse swaying lightly, his father’s bare feet striking the wall over and over again. There was no sign of death yet in his father’s features, his face still, the rope around his neck making his father’s face appear fatter than it normally was.

Soon the body would bloat with decay, and the man who had driven his own wife to suicide would be found, an apparent suicide victim himself.

There was a life insurance policy on the man. Adam had money coming his way.

What was Harris, Adam only briefly asked himself? He had heard other tales that permeated the area, tales dating back before those of the fortune hidden within the house.

He had heard tales of brutal slayings in the days before clear records were kept. He’d heard of the people who were dragged away in the night, and of the demon people would swear they saw moving through the dense woods that had once surrounded what had been a small town.

But of course, those were merely campfire stories to scare the youths. There wasn’t any demonic creature roaming the city, just like there wasn’t any fortune hidden deep within a dilapidated home.

Adam asked himself how many deaths he could carry on his conscious before he couldn’t take it anymore.

He didn’t know. Sitting alone on his father’s bed in the dark room, a corpse swaying gently in front of him, and the stink of a future decay already beginning to clog his nose, Adam found he had no answer to that question.