Category Archives: Elijah

The Alternate Dimensional Response Team (ADRT)

This is the final product of my second year participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I did several interesting things with it. First, I asked a simple question: We know what happens when we go into their world (e.g. Narnia or Beyonders), but what happens when they come into our world? Second, I didn’t plan what was going to happen. I wanted to write short stories, so I made a list of titles for them, without knowing their plots at all. Thirdly was already mentioned, that I made it a grouping of short stories, each mostly complete within themselves, which then tied into a larger plot (one that surprised even me) near the end of the book.

All that to say, I’d like to introduce you to the Alternate Dimensional Response Team, AKA ADRT.

 

The Dwarves of Syaird-Fet
William Jennison, or Lancelot, as he was known to his friends, pulled open the door. His best friend, Daniel Sherman, was leaning against the outside wall, idly picking under his fingernails with a short, thin knife. He stopped when he saw Lancelot, putting the knife back in its sheath on his belt.
“They want us back at the nest,” he said, and Lancelot groaned.
“I had a date planned for tonight,” he mumbled as he followed Daniel down the front steps. “I better be home for that. Otherwise,”
“She’s gonna kill you, we know,” Daniel laughed, breaking into a run. It wasn’t a jogging pace either. It was a long, loping strides that he could keep up for days. One that he had kept up for days, at one point. Lancelot wasn’t as good as Daniel at running, but give him a horse, any horse, and he could ride like the wind.
They arrived at the nest, a large, brick warehouse that had long since been renovated to accommodate the A.D.R.T., with Daniel in the lead, and Lancelot following close behind. Lancelot almost fell through the door, breathing hard, hands on his knees. Lillian Brown, their portal finder, chuckled at his red face.
“I told you, Lance. You have to work on the treadmill way more than you do.”
Lancelot tried to reply, but it was lost in his gasps and wheezes.
Byron Tullaney walked in, and immediately, it got quiet. “We’ve got trouble,” he said, pulling down a map from the ceiling. He pointed to a spot on the map, in the middle of Grime’s Woods.
“Oh, no,” Daniel said, shaking his head. “I’m not going into Old Man Grime’s woods. That’s suicide.”
“In that case,” came another voice, “It’d probably suicide for me to come here.” A short, blocky man walked out of the other room, his hands holding a large, double-bladed ax.
“As you know, Mr. Grimes is a former member of the A.D.R.T.,” Byron said, stepping forward. Daniel’s face turned bright red, and Lillian grinned slightly. Byron continued. “He noticed something strange in his woods a few days back. Elliot, do you mind explaining?”
“Mr. Grimes found a large colony of dwarves living in his woods,” the stockily built Elliot Gerald McGuffin said, spinning his seat away from his computer. “They’re the dwarves of Syaird-Fet. You can tell by the emblem on their breastplates, a-”
“Anyway, I’m assuming you want us to go in and send them back where they came from? What was it, Seared Fat?” Lancelot asked, and though he really couldn’t remember, Lillian and Daniel took it as a joke and began to snicker.
“Sie-eared-fet,” Elliot said slowly and seriously. Again, Lillian and Daniel began laughing, this time even harder. But a stern voice stopped them.
“Stop. This isn’t a nursery, and if you’re going to treat it as such, I suggest you leave.” Grayling walked out of the training pit, his hands full of weapons. He tossed a sword to Lancelot, who slung it over his shoulder, the sheath running down his back, the strap across his chest. Byron caught his and held it firmly.
“I have my knives,” Daniel said, trying to make up for his childish behavior. Grayling nodded, tossing a sword to Lillian. He turned to Elliot, who paled.
“I don’t fight. I’m statistician.”
“You’re a member of the A.D.R.T.,” Archibald Grimes growled, grabbing an ax from the wall. “You fight.”
Elliot accepted the weapon and the rebuke with a subservient attitude. Byron nodded. “Right. Like usual, Lance and I will scout it out. Grayling, if we need back up, come on in, but otherwise, try to find the portal with Lil.” The large, cloaked figure nodded.
“Do I get to drive this time, Grayling?” Lillian asked, cocking her head and sending her brown hair cascading over her shoulder.
Grayling looked at her, his face obscured as always by the hood. “No.” he said, and Lancelot laughed at the disappointed expression on Lillian’s face.
“Right, let’s go,” Byron said, pulling a key ring out of his pocket and tossing it to Lancelot. He tossed them back, shaking his head.
“I’ll take Larry,” he said, smiling. Larry was an addeck, which was how they pronounced A.D.C. (Alternate Dimensional Creature). He resembled a horse, but his head was more wolf-like, and his tail was shorter. Also, he was much, much faster than a horse. Grayling had told him that the proper name for the creature was a Bonston, but Lancelot liked the name Larry much more.
“You sure?” Byron asked, and Lancelot nodded.
“I’ll beat you there, too. If I cut across the fields, and you follow the roads, I’ll be there way before you.” He grinned, pulling his cowboy hat lower over his face. “Catch you later.” He walked past the others, into the training pit. He walked past the equipment, pausing at the weapon rack. There were three places to find weapons in the nest: by the door as you came in, in the training pit, and in the attic.
Lancelot bit his lip, studying the wall. He grabbed a spear that was just a little taller than he was, then moved on to the door leading to the stable. The Bonston made a soft whooping noise, and Lancelot laughed. “Okay, wait a second, Larry.” He pulled open the refrigerator and pulled out a coke. He lobbed it softly at the addeck, who caught it with his wolfish mouth. The sharp teeth made a sharp crunching noise, then the can was gone in to its stomach.
“That’s it for today,” Lancelot said, throwing a custom designed saddle over Larry’s back. Instead of a large piece of leather, it consisted of four lengths: Two that wrapped around his wide girth, and two more that connected them. On the front line around Larry’s belly, there were several straps. Once Lancelot had tightened the girth underneath Larry, he swung on, tightening the shorter straps around his legs. Then he tapped his boots on the back of Larry’s flanks, sending him flying forward, out of the stall. They shot into the open, and Lancelot studied the road. The two Suburbans had already left, flying down the road.
Lancelot pulled down his visor, as he called it. It was a faceplate, fitting easily under his hat. Around the eyes, like tiny eyebrows, were small window-wipers for bad weather. Then he tapped Larry again, feeling the creature tense under him. “Go ahead. Cut footloose.”
Larry was very smart. He had several codewords drilled into him through training with Grayling. ‘Waltz’ meant to walk, ‘jazz’ was a slow run, or slow for him, anyway, and ‘footloose’, which was as fast as he could. ‘Dubstep’ was the worst command to give. It mean to start bucking, spinning, rolling, and anything he could to get a rider off his back. But Lancelot knew better than to tell Larry to dubstep. Instead, they shot across the ground like bullets.
There wasn’t the regular rocking motion of a horse. However, there was a wind that would have flipped Lancelot off had he not had the straps around his legs. As it was, though, he had to lean down low behind his horse, trying to get out of the worst of it. His hat’s string, tied around his chin, pulled, but couldn’t break loose.
Lancelot remembered the words to an old television show: ‘A fiery horse with the speed of light/a cloud of dust and a hearty hi-yo, Silver.’ “Silver’s got nothing on you, Larry,” Lancelot whispered. A whooping noise was issued, as if in agreement. “Want to show off?” With a sharp pull at the reigns, Lancelot headed for Callsboro, the small town that he had been raised in. The streets were deserted except for two Suburbans speeding through. And a Bonston.
Larry drew behind the first car, then sped up so he was even with them. “Parody,” Lancelot said, his voice barely heard above the wind. Larry’s back end began swinging, his head tossing into the air. Then, in a fit of agility astounding for his four legged form, he raised up on his back legs and did a little shuffling dance.
)~(
In the Suburban, Lillian shook her head. “That should be impossible.”
“No, just outlawed. Those moves are very, how to say it, obscene,” Daniel said, grinning at the figure in the middle of the street, dancing like a clown.
)~(
“Enough fun,” Lancelot said, and Larry dropped to the ground. “Footloose.” The muscles under Lancelot’s legs rippled, and they were speeding along again. Without even trying, Lancelot knew he wouldn’t be able to catch up. Instead, he pulled the reign to the side again, drawing him off the road. They cut at an angle across a field, meeting the road at Old Man Grime’s woods. A few seconds later, the rest of the team arrived. As they climbed out, Lancelot slid down Larry’s side.
“Where’ve you been?” he asked cheerfully.
“Nice moves,” Daniel said, grinning.
“I thought you said they were obscene,” Lillian said, looking down at the red haired boy.
“Well, for the company at the time, I thought they were.”
“So glad you thought of me,” Byron said, pulling his sword over his head so he wore it like Lancelot. He nodded towards the woods. “Shall we?”
“Lillian, with me,” Grayling commanded. Daniel leaned against a tree.
“And I’m baggage,” he complained.
“I am, too,” Elliot said.
“But you’re always baggage,” Daniel said, raising his hands. “I’m used to actually doing stuff, not just sitting around looking at stats.”
“Those stats could save your life. For example, if I asked you how you would fight a Syaird-Fet dwarf, what would you say?”
“I would run up with a knife, duck around it’s first blow, then either hamstring it, or stab it in the back.”
“And I would tell you that because the dwarves are shorter than you, you wouldn’t be able to duck the first blow.”
“Then I’d go over it.”
“Wouldn’t work,” Byron said, about to disappear into the woods. “They fight in tight groups. You’d have to be the best long jumper in the world to get behind them.”
“So how do you defeat them?” Daniel asked.
“Frontal assault with shields,” Grimes said. “They only have one ax the each of them, and no shields. So, if you can open up the front you’ll be fine.”
“The other option is a gas grenade, which, although effective against most addecks, isn’t so great against dwarves, because their beards act like a gas mask, and keeps most of the poison out of their systems,” Elliot said. Daniel look impressed.
“You know all that from stats?”
“And personal experience,” Grimes added, his face turning dark “Look up your history, kid. A lot of good people die in this line of work.” He turned away, his hands tightening around his ax.
Elliot’s voice was a whisper as he explained to Daniel. “His brother died fighting Call-Ru, a goblin warlord. The worst part is the fact that Call-Ru escaped. He’s become the most hated enemy of the A.D.R.T. Some even say that he’s not the same one every time. They say that he trains a successor after several years. But that’s just rumors.”
“Well, there’s a grain of truth behind every legend. That’s what makes them so believable.” Daniel’s tone was contemplative. He looked around, surprised at how empty the air seemed to be without Grayling’s imposing presence.
The three were silent for a long time. A few birds whistled their songs, but otherwise, it was completely silent. Suddenly, a crashing noise made them turn to the woods again, their weapons ready. Lillian came tumbling out, her head in her hands. “Big one. Other side of Callsboro.” Her voice rose in volume. “It hurts, it hurts!”
Grimes snapped into action, rushing over and grabbing her arms. “Lillian, can you hear me?”
Lillian’s eyes were closed, but she nodded, her face contorting into pain.
“I’m going to give you something. It’s going to knock you out, okay? You’ll wake up in a few hours. And by then, you should be able to work properly without pain.”
“Do it, please,” Lillian said, and Grimes nodded to Daniel.
He shook his head fiercely. “I’m not sticking a knife into her.” He backed away, finally bumping into Elliot.
Elliot, for his large looks, was extremely quick, and pulled out a knife from Daniel’s belt. He tossed it to Grimes, who allowed it to sink into the ground before picking it up. He sliced into Lillian’s skin, the sharp blade cutting with ease.
Daniel’s face contorted, and he moved as if he was going to kill Grimes. “Daniel, stop it,” Elliot said, grabbing his shoulder. As the younger boy’s face cleared, his mind began to work.
“Right, so there’s a large portal opening on the other side of Callsboro. Elliot, we need to go find out what’s going on.”
“I don’t drive very well, and we have to leave Mr. Grimes here to wait for the others, and I’m not letting you drive,” Elliot said in one breath.
Daniel raised both eyebrows. “Doesn’t matter. We’re going to take Larry.”
Elliot’s eyes went wider. “I’m not getting on-”
Daniel rounded on the older boy, his anger about Lillian coming forward quickly. “You are getting on Larry, and I am, too. I don’t care that you’re scared, because if you dare try to tell me no again, I will knock you out and put you on Larry and take you to the portal sight. Also, if you dare puke on me, I will go even faster and make you let go.”
Everyone knew that when Daniel got this angry, he didn’t make idle threats. “Right, no puking,” Elliot said, climbing on the Bonston. Daniel got in front of him, strapping himself in.
“Wait, I don’t have straps,” Elliot said.
Daniel turned slightly. “Then you better be good at hanging on. Footloose!”
Larry surged off, the two boys clinging tightly to his back. This time, there wasn’t any time to stop and dance. They merely charged through town, allowing Larry to leap over the slow moving vehicles. They weaved in and out of traffic, coming out of the city and shooting past the nest. They pulled up as Larry started to become skittish.
“Come on,” Daniel said as he slid off. He ran towards the large glowing ring in the air. He had seen three portals, but this one was by far the largest. He pulled out two knives, his nine inch bowie style and a short, two edge blade, made out of heavy metal. These were the ones he used when fighting, unless he needed something different and pulled out his foot and a half dirk.
Elliot landed with a thud and came staggering after, leaning on his ax. The two boys crept up until they could see into the portal’s landing area. Elliot said something under his breath when he saw what it was they were fighting against.
“What is it?” Daniel asked as they slid backwards from the sight.
“Their banner. It’s a golden staff. They’re the Dwarves of Donar-Kith. The sworn enemies of Syeard-Fet. And Callsboro is in between them.”
“But that means,” Daniel said, beginning to understand, “Callsboro is going to be a war zone.”
“We have to close that portal,” Elliot said. “But I can’t reach it.”
“I could,” Daniel said, and Elliot looked at him doubtfully. At 5’5″, Daniel was the shortest of the A.D.R.T. Even Lillian was taller than him.
“You’re not much taller than the dwarves, Dan,” he said, and Daniel nodded.
“But I have Larry. I might not be as good as Lance is, but I’m a fair horseman. Plus, I’m the scrabbler, right? This is in my job description.” The scrabbler of the team was usually the smallest of them all, with a lot of agility and muscle. He was the one who would have to climb the rock wall, then toss a rope down to the others, or climb into the small crevices to get the portal when it fell. In other words, this should have been right up his alley.
“I don’t like it,” Elliot said.
“You don’t have to like it, just deal with it.” Daniel paused. “Also, if I don’t make it out alive, can you tell-” he turned away, his face turning red. “Never mind. I’m going to come back.”
He climbed on Larry, disregarding the straps, but pulling on gloves that would allow him to handle the portal. “Okay, Larry. Let’s go stop the end of the world and all that jazz.” At the word, Larry began moving forward at the easy canter of a horse. “Little faster,” Daniel said, and Larry picked up the pace. As they rode over the hill again, Daniel felt like cursing. There were hundreds of dwarves, sprawled out as if sleeping. But he could tell, like all good A.D.R.T. members, that they were just loosening up from the portal’s way of spitting them out onto the ground, as dwarves got sore extremely easily.
Slowly, Daniel pushed himself up, so that he was standing on Larry’s back. He didn’t fear falling at the height he was at, but he knew he was going to have to balance perfectly so that he wouldn’t topple off. They came closer to the portal, and Daniel knew it was time. “Catapult,” he roared, tensing up. Larry stopped and threw his back legs up. Daniel was propelled through the air, grabbing ahold of the portals edge. It held him up, and he dangled several feet above the ground.
With the increased weight, the portal gradually tipped, until it was perpendicular to the ground. Working quickly, Daniel rolled it into a ball, whistling for Larry. He pulled himself on, attaching the straps as fast as he could. Elliot, in an amazing feat of hand-eye coordination, grabbed the vertical straps and swung himself on, wrapping his arms around Daniel for support. Daniel leaned down, close to Larry. “Footloose,” he said. Larry’s head tipped forward and he went faster, their clothes whipping in the wind.
Behind them, a yell went up. They turned their heads, and watched as the dwarves came over the hill, like ants when their mound has been destroyed. Daniel worked at the straps again, handing the portal over to Elliot as he did so.
“You can’t drop at this speed, you’ll die!” Elliot yelled.
“I’m the scrabbler. It’s in my job description!” Daniel returned, grabbing the spear from where Lancelot had left it. “Get Grayling. He can get back here much faster, and he knows how to blanket a portal. Good bye, old fella.’ With that, he rolled into a ball, and dropped. He bounced and rolled along, his back running into a thistle patch. He had no control over his body as it flew along. He finally came to a stop, but couldn’t bring himself to stand. Everything was spinning.
As Daniel got to his feet, he realized what a bad idea it had been. Though at the time, it seemed genius. He could escape, but lead the dwarves on the wrong trail. That way, they wouldn’t destroy Callsboro, and Grayling could just blanket them. But, as a great dwarf once said, dwarves are great sprinters. They surrounded him in seconds, talking in Donar-Kithian, or so he assumed.
By the time he could stand, he had been tied up like a yearling calf and carried back to the portal sight. Daniel couldn’t see any way out. And that scared him, more than anything in the world.
)~(
Lancelot eyes nearly burst out of his head, he was so livid. “You let him jump? Elliot, he could have been killed!”
Elliot stared at the heavens. “William Jennison,” he finally said, turning his gaze on horseman, “I couldn’t do anything about it. Even if I wanted to. Do you understand that? I told him not to, but he did it anyway. He said it was his duty.”
“He is the scrabbler,” Grimes said, grinning slightly. Byron raised his hands.
“Look, it doesn’t matter why he did it, what matters is that he did do it. So where does that leave us?”
“Trying to find a way to get him back,” Lillian said, looking up from where she was sitting, her back to a tree. “I don’t know about you, but I would miss him if he got taken back through.
“We don’t know if he’s captured though,” Grimes said. “The stat boy said it looked like it, but he was going who knows how fast, and probably didn’t get a good view.”
“He got caught,” Elliot said. “I know what I saw.”
The voices grew louder, each one just as angry as the other. Only Lancelot kept quiet, watching the A.D.R.T. through half closed eyes. Then, unable to take it any longer, he sprang into action. He walked over to Byron, reached down, and grabbed the keys from his pocket. Then he was twisting out of his leader’s reach, running for the cars. He pulled the door open, sliding into the passenger seat. He hit the automatic lock, but just heard them unlock. Grinding his teeth in frustration, he pressed it the other way, the locks engaging just as Byron grabbed the door handle. Lancelot waved, sliding into driver’s seat. He pressed the key into the ignition, the truck thrumming to life.
Lancelot hit the gas, speeding forward. Byron tried to run with him, but was forced to let go. His right hand gripped the wheel, while his left pulled his wallet out of his pocket. He flipped it open, staring at Isabelle’s face. The long blond hair framing that pixie-like face. “I’m going to come back, just like I always do,” he said, flipping it closed and pressing harder on the gas.
He approached Callsboro, and apologized in advance for what was going to happen. He pulled the wheel, guiding the Suburban around several cars, through an intersection, then back into the other lane. It took several minutes of deft driving, but soon, he was speeding along the road again. A wailing siren alerted him to a police car behind him. Instead of pulling to the side of the road calmly, however, he ran the truck off the road, landing grill first in a ditch. He slid out the door, running several hundred feet up the ditch to a large culvert. He ran in, under the road, then ducked into another tunnel. He ran for a minute, then came out on the other side of the road, a few hundred meters away. He started across a large field, heading for the hill that Elliot had told him about. All he had was his sword, but he was angry, and he was going to use that anger to save his friend.
He was nearly to the hill when something hit him from the side. At first, he thought it was the policeman, but as his vision cleared, he saw Grayling’s dark cowl looming over him. “You’re an idiot. One person can’t take on this many dwarves. It would take at least two. So let me help you.”
“Let me go! I’m going to-” He stopped when he realized what was being said. “Oh, sure, I’ll take your help, Grayling.”
Good. I’d hate to force it on you.” The cloaked being half stood, but remained in a crouch to keep from being seen. “You charge straight in like you were doing, but this time, I’ll be right behind you. Once they charge, come back, behind me. I’ll catch as many as I can in the portal.” Lancelot nodded, getting ready to run. Grayling nodded, and he charged, screaming his war cry, a loud howl that echoed through the hills. As he crested the mound, charging towards the dwarves, he realized the fault in Grayling’s plan: the dwarves weren’t charging. They were standing in a circle, axes at the ready.
Lancelot put his feet in reverse, falling on the ground. He stared at the space above the dwarves heads, at the large, glowing circle that was slowly descending. He heard himself yelling at Grayling, screaming for him to stop, but still it descended, dropping onto the largest of the dwarves. Instantly, they were gone, then the next size down, and so on. Finally, it got to Daniel, and then began to disappear.
As he struggled to get up, Lancelot saw the fluttering cloak of Grayling, dropping into the portal. Then it vanished as well, and Lancelot was alone. It was in that position that the rest of the group found him, shocked in silence.
)~(
Daniel found the portal to be a strange sensation. It was prickly, but more like walking through a row of feathers than pine trees. It was also very hard to breath. Then it was over, and he was on the ground, gasping for breath. His knife belt was three feet away, but a dwarf was between him and it.
With immense effort, he rolled over the dwarf, who, lucky for him, had been knocked out by the fall. He worked one of the knives out of the sheath, slowly cutting his bonds. Once he was free, he stood, stretching his sore muscles. Several dwarves saw him, but couldn’t do anything about it; they too were far to sore to move.
Daniel put the belt around his waist, walking through the rows of fallen dwarves. They were in a large forest, the trees with large, purple leaves. Although he didn’t know what to do, Daniel knew he had to get out before the dwarves could do anything to him. He was about to run into the woods when Grayling landed, a cloud of dust raising from by his boots.
“Daniel, come here, now,” Grayling ordered, running to him. Daniel did as he commanded, and they grabbed each others’ forearms. Grayling’s hands grew hot through the gloves, and Daniel tried to let go. “Peace, child. It will be over soon.”
They were suddenly standing in the middle of the attic of the nest, where Grayling lived. The cloaked figure collapsed onto the bed, gasping in pain.
“Grayling?” Daniel asked, but Grayling waved the boy off.
“I just need to rest. Go call Byron.” Daniel nodded, running downstairs to the phone. He grabbed off the hook and dialed Byron’s cell.
“Hello?” Byron said, after the third ring.
“It’s Daniel. I’m safe, Grayling got me. We’re at the nest. Grayling’s resting.”
“Oh, thank heavens,” Byron said, then passed the news on. “We’ll be back soon,” he said once he got on the phone again.
“What about the Seared Fat dwarves?”
“Syaird-Fet,” Byron corrected. “We’ll figure something out. But half the battle’s been won, thanks to Grayling. And, in a way, to you. They would have chased you to the ends of the earth if you hadn’t fallen off Larry.”
“I jumped.”
“Right, right. Keep telling yourself that.” Byron let out a sigh of relief. “I’m just glad you’re okay. See you soon, okay?”
“Sure thing,” Daniel responded. He hung up the phone, sinking onto the stool that Byron used when he was on the phone. The days events had seemed rushed, and he was worn out, physically, emotionally, mentally.
Five minutes later, the door burst open, and Lancelot rushed through, followed by the rest of the team. “I am so glad you’re okay,” Lancelot said, pulling Daniel into a tight hug. Daniel stiffened, not used to this kind of affection from his friend.
“That was stupid of you,” Elliot said, joining the two in a group hug. Lillian finished the circle, as Byron opted to watch with an amused look on his face. He remembered his first near death experience, and how emotionally shot he was after it. But it was always a good bonding experience, especially for a group like this. The party broke up when Mr. Grimes walked through the door, cursing under his breath.
“Those dwarves are still in my woods, Tullaney,” he said, acting like the grouch he was. “What are we going to do about it?”
“The dwarves of Donar-Kith set us back a while, but we’ll stick with the original plan. We just need tonight to recuperate, that’s all.”
“Recuperate? When I was in the A.D.R.T.-”
“You were much older when you were on the team, I’ll remind you. These kids don’t have your stamina. And frankly, you don’t have it either.”
“You calling me old, boy?” Grimes asked, getting in Byron’s face.
“In a word, yes,” Byron said defiantly. Grimes’ face turned red as he tried to contain his anger.
“I prefer experienced,” Daniel said, pushing his way between the two. “Mr. Grimes, you know you’re not as young as you used to be. But we’re not as experienced in this line of work as you are. We need to rest, at least for a few hours, but a night would be better.” The tension was diffused, and Byron let out a long breath.
“Sorry, Mr. Grimes,” he apologized. “My mouth gets away from me sometimes.”
“Just make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Grimes said, nodding briskly.
)~(
They ended up spending the night at the nest, sprawling out in the various rooms. They had eaten dinner together, except Lancelot, who had rushed away to Isabelle’s house. Before he left, he had whispered to Daniel, “I’d rather faced Seared Fat dwarves than an angry girlfriend.”
Daniel had laughed. “Hell has no fury like a woman scorned, eh?”
“It’s beyond that, man. Way beyond.”
An hour later, Daniel found himself in the training room, a plaster dummy in front of him. His hands were flashing, the knives spinning erratically. He had just completed his third form when Lillian walked in.
“Want to spar?” she asked, picking up a wooden sword that would bruise, but not kill.
“Might as well,” Daniel replied, leaving his knives in the plaster and picking up perfect wooden replicas. They had exactly the same weight as his real weapons, so he didn’t need to accustom himself with them.
“Let it begin,” Lillian said, drawing back and preparing for an attack, her defense up. Daniel circled her, jabbing every so often, the blows flicked away with ease. “That was some smooth talking, between Mr. Grimes and Byron.”
“Thanks, I-” instead of finishing, he shot forward, one knife outstretched. Lillian easily sent it to the side, but it had been a feint, and he ducked around behind her, his arms encircling her, wooden knives at her throat. She attempted to swing her sword backwards, but was thwarted by his arms tightening, forcing her keep her arm still.
“If I wanted you dead, you would be,” Daniel said, his voice low, the breath from his words sending her hair rippling.
“But I’m not,” she said, throwing herself forward. Daniel flipped over her, landing on the floor. Lillian brought the sword straight down, but Daniel formed a deterrent with his knives, sending it to the ground. He grabbed her hand and pulled her down as well, putting his hand on the sword to stop it from moving. Lillian grabbed his other hand, stopping the attack that was to come. They rolled over, Daniel on top, trying to hold both her hands on the ground.
“You win,” she said finally, after fruitlessly struggling to get free. Daniel stood, pulling her to her feet.
“Took me longer than last time,” he said, shrugging.
“Not by much. And you could have killed me right off the bat.”
“Bravo, both of you,” Another voice said, and they turned to see Grayling. In his hands was a large staff, heavy on one end, creating a half club sort of thing. “Care to try me?”
“With pleasure,” Daniel replied, switching weapons. Now he had his nine inch replica as well as his foot and a half dirk. He rolled his neck, bringing the blades to a ready position, one in front and the other by his head. Lillian grabbed a shield, and chose a slightly smaller, but just as battleworthy, sword. Grayling attacked first, his staff whistling over his head.
Lillian bounded forward, catching it on her shield. Grayling reversed his swing, the lighter end coming up under Lillian’s shield. But as it came up, it was met by Daniel’s blades, in an ‘X’. He caught the staff and didn’t let it go, struggling to keep a hold of it.
Using his defense as an opportunity, Lillian attacked, forcing her sword into Grayling’s robes. Except he wasn’t there. Grayling had retreated, pulling the staff with him. Daniel ran after, throwing his nine inch in an arc dead for Grayling’s heart. But with a wild swing, the staff deflected the knife. By that time, however, Daniel was there, sliding under the arc of Grayling’s staff. His dirk smacked into Grayling’s shin, and Grayling reacted as though he had been cut. He reeled back, but used his motion to get in a better position to attack Daniel’s now weakened defense. Daniel moved to get to his feet, but was forced down by Grayling’s staff.
Again, it was Lillian who caught the staff on her shield, far above her head. Then she forced the sword forward, stabbing Grayling in the stomach. “Fatal,” she said, and Grayling nodded, dropping as if in extreme pain from a mortal wound.
“You were holding back,” Daniel said, finally standing. Grayling nodded, as much as he could through the voluminous robe.
“There’s not much reason to kill you in the first three seconds of a fight.”
“You let us win. That doesn’t make me feel very good.”
“No, but you fought well. That counts for something.”
Daniel’s face grew slightly annoyed. “If I don’t win fairly, there’s not much reason to win, is there?”
“You’re wise for your years,” Grayling said. “But sometimes the end justifies the means.”
“Sometimes, but I can’t think that it always does.”
“When did you get so smart?” Lillian asked, laughing slightly.
“‘Bout the same time-” Daniel broke off, shaking his head. “I don’t know, actually.”
They stood in silence, then Grayling cleared his throat. “I’m going to find something to eat. A cola would be nice.”
“You don’t eat colas,” Lillian said, and the two saw something flash in Grayling’s hood.
“I do,” he said, then turned away.
“I think he just smiled,” Daniel said, his eyes wide. “And that seriously freaked me out.”
)~(
It was early in the morning, and the A.D.R.T. was getting ready to move out. They loaded the gear in into the Suburbans, and then climbed in themselves. This time, Larry was left behind, and Lancelot drove, following Byron. They drove the entire way in silence, finally feeling the nervousness that comes with a mission.
Once they arrived, they climbed out, the butterflies becoming a raging troll horde. The portal, as usual, was right by camp, and they knew they would have to exercise extreme caution in getting it over the dwarves. Their plan: Charge in, get Grayling to the portal, thread it out so that it would cover all the dwarves, then run.
Lancelot led the charge, his sword swinging free of the sheath with a noise that made Byron sentimental. Then he joined the charge as well, pulling out his sword, screaming like a banshee. The A.D.R.T. met the dwarves of Syaird-Fet blow for blow, creating a large circle for Grayling to work. His presence was sorely missed on the battlefield, as the members of the team struggled to hold the dwarves off.
Daniel found himself fighting against an ax, a weapons that his knives couldn’t hold up against. Fortunately, he had grabbed a shield, blocking the blows while trying to put his dirk through the dwarf’s leg or arm. “Almost done!” Grayling yelled, his hands blurring with the speed they were moving. He tossed the finished portal into the air, turning to run. The others followed, Lillian tripping and falling.
By the time anyone saw her, it was almost to late, the portal sinking lower. Daniel ran back, his legs burning, arms pumping. He slammed his fist into the dwarves that got in his way, pushing them to the side. He pulled his friend up, and together, they ran. Daniel looked up, then around. The portal was getting closer, and they stood several inches, if not feet, above the dwarves. He pushed Lillian, making her fall to the ground, then stood over her, crouched below the dwarves’ height. “When I say go, we’re going to run, but like you’re crawling, okay?” Lillian nodded, preparing herself. As the portal sank, Daniel fought tooth and claw, blocking both of them from the blows. “Now!” he yelled as he saw dwarves being sucked into the portal. Together, they scrambled towards the edge, ducking out with milliseconds to spare. Then, as the portal disappeared, they lay on the ground, too tired for words. At least for a little while.
“That was way too hard,” Daniel said, groaning as he tried to sit up.
“Thanks,” Lillian said, not even trying to sit up. She just lay there, staring at the sky. The other members came running towards them, helping them to their feet and supporting them.
“That went better than I thought it would, actually,” Byron said. “There weren’t any major casualties or anything.”
Daniel looked at him, incredulous. “Byron, now is not the time. I mean, I’m glad as anyone else no one was hurt, but seriously?”
“Oh, yes, he’s serious,” Elliot said, cleaning the ax blade off. “Deadly serious.”

(Note: Other titles for this select mission included “Bacon bit dwarves, or the dwarves of Seared-Fat”, which was put out by William ‘Lancelot’ Jennison, “How I Saved the world, Twice” put forth by Daniel Sherman. The actual title was put forward by the illustrious Elliot McGuffin, esteemed historian for the Alternate Dimensional Response Team.)

(Note for the Note: Elliot isn’t that illustrious, and I did save the world. Or, at least, Callsboro. Which is pretty important. And I did it twice. What did Elliot do? Sat around hoping no one would call on him to save the world. ~Daniel Sherman)

The Retired Hero’s Home

Life is full of mysteries. Such as where do your socks go when you put them in the dryer? Or why is the sky blue? But the one no one has answered is where do Super Heroes go after they retire?
A lot of them don’t retire. That’s the sad truth. Many die fighting their sworn enemies. Though they usually take said enemy with them. However, those that do decide to retire either return to their mansion, or the go to the RHH (Retired Heroes Home).
Boasting over 50 rooms to choose from, the RHH is here to fit your needs. Just give us a call, or visit us, either online or in person. Get a tour of our luxury suites, or if that’s a bit dramatic, the shared rooming with old pals. If you wish, you can still practice your skills in our gym/training facility. A nearby lake provides both swimming and canoing/kyacking/other boating fun. Come and visit today, or call us on our toll free number 1-800-(Number hidden)-34
Everyone here has agreed, the RHH is Super!

Retired Heroes Home #001: New Arrival

Nathaniel Jacobs, aka ‘The Crimson Flame’, dropped his suitcase. Right on the busboy’s foot. “Sorry about that,” he said, though the words and voice didn’t quite match up. The busboy smiled.
“Not a problem, Mr. Flame. Not a problem at all.” The boy picked up the case and followed Nathaniel inside. “Name’s Cameron Cook, sir. We’re pleased to have you here, with us, at the RHH.”
“Yeah, and  I’m so glad to be here,” Nathaniel replied, his voice as sarcastic as he could make it.
“Can I show you to your room?” Cameron asked.
“Been there, done that. I’m bunking with Mr. Marvelous, or Phil as they call him now.” Phil had been one of his best friends, back in the day. Nathaniel’s mind wandered back to it, but he quickly snapped back to the present. He was 69 years old, and everyone believed that the old fire was dying out.
Cameron followed the new RH through the halls. He was glad that the Crimson Flame wasn’t one of the huge heroes like Gravitator, or El Zorro. With those heroes, entire trucks had been brought in with all their junk. Old trophies, keys to cities, et cetera. Personally, Cameron didn’t care for the glory. He just had wanted to be a  Super Hero so badly.
When he had found out his power, three years ago, at the age of seventeen, he had been elated. But then he found the extent of his power. Cameron could make flowers grow. That simple. He couldn’t make them grow anywhere, and couldn’t grow them so large that they could wrap around a person. He could just make them grow at an accelerated pace. That was what brought him to this place, the RHH. He had hoped that if he couldn’t be a Hero, he could at least help them out a bit.
Nathaniel wanted to curse. But the boy behind him seemed hardly old enough to watch a PG-13 movie, so he restrained himself. The place was nothing like his hideout in the Andes, where he had watched over the world with the Last Defense. But that team had broken up a long time ago, and for the last decade or so, he had been working out of a penthouse in Seattle. Quite a change from what he was used to.
But this is how he was going to live for the rest of his life. In a smelly old hotel filled to the brim with senile old Super Heroes. It could be worse, he supposed. He could have died in his last battle, the one with the Judge and Jury. He had barely made it out of there alive, and when he had recovered, the quacks at the SHH (Super Hero Hospital) said that he shouldn’t do any more hero work again. Shows what they knew, he thought.
He stopped off at his room, #25. He pulled open his door, and loud music blasted out. Clamping his hands over his ears, he pushed into the room. Instantly the music stopped. “Crimson Flame!” came a voice from the bed across the room.
“Mr. Marvelous,” Nathaniel said, grinning. It began to feel a little bit more comfortable. The busboy, Cameron, put the suitcase on the ground. “How’ve you been, Phil?”
“I’ve felt better, but right now, I’m Maaarvelous!” Phil said, using his old catchphrase. He jumped out of the bed. His legs didn’t work so well anymore, but that wasn’t a problem with Ole’ Marvelous. He could just float above the floor. “And what about you, Nate?”
“Still burning as bright as ever.”
“I’ll leave you two to catch up,’ Cameron said, turning to leave.
“Wait a second boy,” Phil said, his face lighting up with a huge grin. “Do you mind bringing the rest of the Last Defense up here? They ought to see that Nate is comin’ home!” Cameron smiled and nodded, leaving the room at last.
“How many of them are there here?” Nathaniel asked, sitting on his bed.
“With you here, there’s eight of us. Verity passed on last year, as you remember.”
“Yes, I was going to come for the funeral, but-” he was cut off by Phil.
“I didn’t mean dead, Nate. I mean she went home to her family in whatever star galaxy quadrant thing she lived in before.”
“Oh,” was Nathaniel’s reply. A loud pounding on the wall began, followed by a person’s shouts of anger.
“You keep it down in there. Some of us like the peace and quiet you know!”
“Is that…?” Nathaniel didn’t want to say who he thought it was, for fear of getting it wrong.
“Striker, yessir. And yes, we’re talking about the first Striker. The one who-”
“Would blast music out of his Strikermobile whenever he was going to apprehend criminals. Oh, the irony.”
They were quiet for a few seconds, then Phil spoke again. “Don’t worry, Crimson. You’ll get used to it here. It’s nice, and every so often, especially on Halloween, we get to catch all these nasty little boys who want to use our home as a target for eggs. Not quite Captain Infamy, but good fun nonetheless.”
“I wish I could believe that, Phil .I really do.” Suddenly, the door burst open.
“Crimson!” a voice boomed.
“Electrician! Wonder! Stardust! Namer! Sea Prince! Light Lord!” Nathaniel’s voice burst out as he recognized all his old teammates.
Electrician: Secret identity (SI) Scott Boyle. Powers: Ability to control anything electric.
Wonder: SI: Charles Briggs. Powers: Ability to fly, breath under water; enhanced strength.
Stardust: SI: Silvana Young. Powers: Flight, X-Ray vision, enhanced strength/speed under night sky.
Namer: SI: Alexander West. Powers: A command preceded by a person’s name must be obeyed.
Sea Prince: SI: Brian Silver. Powers: Breath under water, control any water/sea animals.
Light Lord: SI: John Evans. Powers: Able to warp light around him, making him invisible, direct light into opponents eyes, anything else that has to do with light.
“Great to see all of you!” Nathaniel said, hugging each one of them.
“And you,” Alexander said. The others echoed their agreement. the banging on the wall started again.
“Silence, you blasted young people!”
“I’m older than you, Striker!” Brian yelled, which quieted the old man for a few more seconds. The Last Defense looked around at each other.
“We’re all older than him,” Scott said, laughing. “He’s only 67. A mere baby compared to the rest of us.”
“Especially me,” the white haired Silvana said. “It took me 130 years before I finally quit. You all are just wimps, I guess.”
“We’re not aliens, that’s why,” John shot back, grinning.
“Better an alien then a man,” Silvana retorted, and everyone smiled, remembering the old days when John and Silvana would go at it for hours, if not days.
Charles smiled, leaning on his cane. “I’ve got be off. I’m on lunch today.” He hobbled off, his cane tapping all the while.
“Good old fashioned Charles cooking,” Nathaniel said dreaming of days when all the people gathered here would gather around the Last Defense breakfast bar, eating ‘Cook Chuck’s’ food.
“I have to admit, it’ll be nice to eat, then relax, maybe take a nap,”
“I was trying to take a nap, but then you all woke me up!” shouted the Striker.
“Oh, grow up!” was the reply by the all the Last  Defense.

Lunch was delicious. It always was when Charlie cooked. Once again, Nathaniel was filled with good food, and surrounded by friends. Life felt very good.
Cameron always hung around him, which he felt was a bit strange, but at the same time, he understood. Back when he had just gained his power, the ability to control fire, he had followed the Unicorn around wherever he went.
“How many people are there here?” Nathaniel asked as they ate. It was Stardust who replied.
“Over fifty. But twenty-ish people are in their own area. They’re the ones that have all the money. El Zorro, the Hopper, even Grandman.”
Unable to help himself, John snickered. “Why would anyone give themselves a name like that? Grandman, it sounds like grand band, or grand stand, or grandma.”
“He’s old enough to be your grandpa, actually,” Brian drawled, leaning back in his chair. His energy was starting to deplete, and he was looking forward to the nap they had talked about earlier.
“What is he now? Like ninety something, right?”
“Yeah, I think he’s still in his nineties.”
The conversation continued on that train of though for several minutes, until Scott changed the subject. “What do you think of the kids who took our jobs?”
“Silversmith’s okay,” John said, referencing the man who could control metal. “But that other one, Google, isn’t it? He gives me the creeps.”
“Millionaire playboys do the stupidest things. Even if their I Q’s are high,” Silvana said.
Alex spoke up. “I trained Triton, so I totally agree with him. And Pyre’s okay as well.”
“You think they’ll be able to deal with the villains we had to? I mean the ones of that caliber,” Brian asked.
“I’m not sure,” Silvana replied. “They’re tough, but trying to fight someone like Captain Infamy, or the Destroyer. Even Night King was tough, and that was all about dreams.”
“Cameron, what are you muttering?” Nathaniel asked, staring at the twenty year old.
“Just the stats. Of the Villains, and Heroes.”
“What are my stats?” he asked.
“In your prime, the would be, let’s see, 50, 50, 20, 70. So a total of 190. Which is pretty good. Most people get somewhere around a hundred.”
“My stats?” John asked.
“40, 10, 90, 30. 170. As a team, you guys had above a thousand points in stats. Which is insane, even for the Justice League. And they had, like, fifteen members!”
“We’re the Last Defense. The just in case. But we were good at what we did.” That was Alexander for you. “Now, Cameron Miles Cook, get me a Coke.”
The boy got up and walked towards the kitchen.
“You’re not supposed to have soda,” Silvana chided, but Alexander just laughed.
“Please remain quiet for the next ten minutes, Silvana Alice Young.”
“Doesn’t work, buster,” Silvana said. “You can’t make me do that. Not in a million-” she fell silent.
“Seconds? Milliseconds? No, I suppose I can’t. But a million and one, now you’ll be quiet.”
“Alexander, you’re my new best friend,” John said, grinning. Silvana punched him in the shoulder, and he fell off his chair. “Now, make her stop moving,” John continued, getting up off the floor.
“Nothing doing,” Alexander replied, as Silvana pushed John down again. Everyone else at the table laughed, drawing the attention of all the other RHs.
“Come on,” Phil said, lifting off his chair. “We should get back to the room.” Smiling, Nathaniel followed his floating friend. A few Super Heroes met them as they walked out.
“Phil! How you been?” a tall man with a few specks of gray in his otherwise white hair asked.
“Been worse. Right now, I’m Maaarvelous! What about you, Theo?”
“Not bad, not bad. Who’s your friend?”
“Oh, right, Theo, meet Nathaniel Jacobson, otherwise known as-”
“The Crimson Flame! Yeah, I remember you! Man, I did not see that you were actually a school teacher! I though the Flame was Burnson Parks, that millionaire playboy.”
“I think he’s Google, actually,” Nathaniel replied, smiling.
“Right, anyway, we’re the Fearsome Foursome. If that means anything to you.”
“Of course it does!” Nathaniel replied. “You beat Scorpio, and the Grecians, right?”
“Right on both counts! And may I add, your work with the Last Defense was incredible. Absolutely. Almost better than Marvelous himself.”
“But you’re like me,” Phil said. “I’m Maaarvelous.”
“We know,” everyone chorused.
“Anyway, this is Jimmy,” gray hair, blue eyes, 5’ 9”, “Bart,” hair still silvery, slight goatee, brown eyes, 6’ 1” “And me own brother, Thad.” Same as Theo, white hair, taller than Bart, about 6’ 4”, blue eyes.
“Have a nice days, Foursome,” Phil said, continuing on.
Nathaniel followed closely. No one seemed to want to talk to them, which was fine by him. They made it back to the room and collapsed on the beds.
“It’s not home,” Nathaniel said, shaking his head. “But it will be. One day. I’m sure of it.”

Many of my stories come to me when I’m bored. This is no exception. I hope that it reminded you of the old days of comic books, when the heroes were actually heroic, when the villains could be redeemed, and when the plots were just plain fun.

Easter Retold: Part Three

Without any more delay, the third part in the saga of Dustin McCabe

 

Part three
Dustin’s followers, except Michael Morris, who had shot himself upon realizing what he had done, were in their room in the Bluebird in. A chair was pushed beneath the door, and they had hardly slept in the past two days. All of them had slowly trickled into the room after Dustin’s execution and the events that followed.
First, there had been a huge earthquake. More violent than anyone had ever felt. The ground itself split apart, farmhouses disappearing into the abyss. No lives had been lost, and some even claimed to have seen the dead raised to life.
Second, within the First Peacebrook Church, all of the tables that contained the various cleansing rituals one had to perform to be right before God splintered. One eyewitness said it was like they just got tired of staying together, and just fell apart.
Third, a deputy named Joseph Arim had gone to Judge Travers and requested the body of Dustin. He and another man had wrapped it and taken it out to the local cemetary. Joseph bought one of the mausoleums, which was still unused, and had put the cadaver inside it. Aaron Hendrickson had followed him out. Having been raised in a family of undertakers, Aaron was disgusted in how the two other men had tended to the body. But the Holy Day had been approaching, so he made plans to come back and fix it up later.
At the same time, Gabriel Rodgers was plotting with his deputies. “You realize what this means, of course? Those followers will come and take the body, and then claim that he returned to life, just as he predicted. We can’t let that happen. We must stand guard. Shoot them on sight, do you understand me?”
So, together, they had set up a guard. There were always eight of them on duty, alternating all through the Holy Day. The sun was still below the horizon when it happened. Gabriel Roders himself was on guard, ready for the followers of Dustin McCabe to burst out of the woods. Suddenly, the ground began to shake. It was just as violent as the one that had happened the day of Dustin’s death. Gabriel looked around, and saw a servant of the Most High. His clothes were a white as snow, glowing like lightning. All of the guards, including Gabriel, felt themselves go stiff with terror. Tremors shook Gabriel’s body, and his eyes rolled into the back of his head. He dropped, almost as if it he were dead, not the person he was guarding.
The servant of God walked to the door of the mausoleum, which was barred and fortified so that it would take hours to break through. Instead, only raising a hand and knocking, the servant knocked down the wall. It became nothing more than a pile of rubble.
A little while later, Aaron came to the cemetery. He stopped when he saw the gaping hole in the mausoleum. By now, the guards had all woken up and ran off, afraid that the servant might come back and kill them.
Aaron walked to the mausoleum, not daring to give in to hope. He stepped over the pile of dust that was once a thick stone wall. In the coffin that would have held Dustin’s body was only a pile of wrapping. Then he saw the servant of the Most High on the other side of the coffin.
“Don’t be afraid,” the servant said. His voice was resonant, richer than a human’s ever could be. “I know you are looking for Dustin. But he is not here. He has gone to Gainseville, just as he said he would. Go and tell the rest of the followers.”
Aaron stumbled out of the mausoleum, then ran to the Bluebird Inn. He knocked on the door. Lukas answered it. “A servant!” Aaron said, “He’s not dead, he’s alive. He’s in Gainseville, like he said he was going to.”
“You’re talking nonsense,” Homer said. “I realize that seeing the body probably did you in, but please, be realistic. We saw Dustin die. Our dreams died with him.”
“I’m not crazy,” Aaron said adamantly. “I swear to you, it’s true.”
Lukas pushed past him, running down the stairs. Shame still gripped his heart, but he couldn’t believe that Dustin was actually alive again. He reached the cemetery, and saw the destroyed mausoleum. Awe filled him. The power that it would take to destroy that was incredible. He stepped inside. He saw no servant, but also saw no body. Only the wrapping, neatly folded and laid in the bottom of the coffin, as if they were covers for a bed. Confusion set in, and Lukas walked back to the Inn in a daze. He snapped out of when he noticed the looks he was getting. He looked at the hate laden glances, then hurried up to the room.
“It’s true,” he said once the others had let him in. “The body is gone.”
“It means nothing,” Homer declared. “Unless I see the living, breathing Dustin McCabe,  I have to believe that he died.”
Nigel shook his head. “I don’t know anymore.” They all fell silent again.
“Why would he let himself get killed?” Lukas murmured. “What would it accomplish? If he was the Marshal, he could have legions of warriors come from out of the sky and rescue him. Maybe we were just following a vain hope. A wild goose chase.”
“No,” Jonathan said loudly. Everyone looked at him. “I can’t believe you’re already forgetting everything he did while he was with us! Remember when he healed the cripple? The man had been lame since birth, and Dustin just talked to him, and he got up! Or how he cured your mother-in-law, Lukas, when the doctor said she was going to die? And his teachings! Not even those who had been educated in all of the law could refute anything he said, nor find anyway that he had broken it! Is your faith so small? I don’t know if Dustin’s come back to life, or if his body was taken, but I do know that he was who he said he was. Remember when you confessed your belief that he was sent from God, Lukas? Your claim was strong! And now you’re doubting him?”
“I’m not doubting him,” Lukas said meekly. “Not anymore, at least. Thank you, my friend.” Jonathan said nothing, just nodded, then looked away, tears glinting in his eyes.
The day wore on. As evening set, Homer pushed the door open. “I think the crowds are mostly gone. I’m going to get food. I’ll be back later.” He slipped out, closing the door behind him.
He has hardly gone for five minutes when another voice startled them. “Peace to you.” Everyone spun, then dropped to their knees when they saw Dustin McCabe. Smiling, Dustin raised them up. “It’s me,” he said. “Come, feel the rope burns on my neck, and the hole where they shot me to make sure I was dead.”
Each follower ran their fingers over the ragged skin. “My Lord,” Lukas said, dropping to his knees again. Dustin raised him up once more.
“You call me Lord, and rightfully so. The Father has sent me. And I am sending you. You will be my emissaries into the land. But now I must go. I will return again. I am sorry, but I cannot stay longer.” With that, he disappeared once again.
Suddenly, there was banging at the door. “I have food, let me in!” came Homer’s voice. They let him in, then exploded all at once, telling of how they had seen Dustin risen.
Homer waved his hands. “No. No, not until I see him for myself, not until I feel the burns and holes. I won’t believe.”
Lukas grew angry. “How can you say that? We all saw him!”
“And I didn’t,” Homer said. “For all I know, you all were hallucinating from lack of food or something.”
“Peace, Lukas,” Jonathan said, putting a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “We were not quick to believe either, when Aaron presented proof to us.”
Lukas resisted, then nodded. “You’re right.”
A week went by, all of them still living in fear. They slowly began to go out more, but were still afraid of Gabriel Rodgers and his men. In the evening of one of the days, Dustin appeared again. “Peace to you,” he said once again. “Homer, come here.” Homer stepped in front of him, and Dustin took his hands. “Feel the burns on my neck,” he said, the moved the hand up to the bullet hole in his head. “It is me. Stop doubting; believe.”
“My Lord and my God,” Homer whispered in awe.
“You have seen, and so you believe. But even more blessed are those who have not seen, but still believe,” Dustin replied.
Many people believe that was it, that Dustin McCabe then ascended into heaven to take his rightful place at the right hand of God. But that’s not quite right. He actually did quite a bit more on Earth before returning to the Father, but those acts aren’t recorded here.

This entire trilogy has been a relook at Jesus Christ’s life. This last bit was basically copied from the book of John. His next verse, though, I think ties back to what Jesus (Dustin) told Thomas (Homer). “But these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31)
    The message that the New Testament writers were trying to get across is that you can only be saved by Jesus. His death was the only thing that could fully compensate for all our sin (see Editorial 1), and now that he’s done it, our fear of judgement is gone. Through Christ, we can stand before God blamelessly. Not on our own works, as they are dirty rags compared to Christ, but Christ’s redeeming work on the cross. That’s the message. That’s the beauty of what Christians celebrate on Good Friday and Easter. Apart from Christ, we are nothing, we deserve nothing. But in Christ, we are children of the King.
    I don’t know where you’re coming from in reading this. But whatever and wherever it might be, I urge you to take a moment and consider: Are you right before God? Do you have an assurance that you will be with him upon your death?
    I have put forward what I can, and I can do no more. I only hope you will take a moment to consider what I’ve said.

Easter Retold: Part Two

This continues my imagining of the Easter story.

The mountain was only a mile from the city. Upon its slopes were forests, thick with vegetation. Some parts of the land were used for logging, but here, where Dustin McCabe would often go, was the apple orchards. The fall harvest had yet to happen, and the trees were laden with their fruit.
As they walked, Dustin spoke plainly about what was going to come. “Soon, you’re not going to see me anymore. I’m going to leave. But it will only be for a little while.”
“What does he mean?” Aaron asked Homer. “Only for a little while?”
Dustin turned around, facing all of them. “It’s like a mother, going into labor. Although there’s pain while the baby his being born, once it’s arrived, she forgets all that because of the joy of bringing a child into this world. I’m going to leave, but your sadness will not be forever. I’ll come back, and then, no one will ever be able to take that joy from you.
“I’ve been talking figuratively, but here it is plainly. I have come from the Father, and I am now going back to the Father.”
“Now we understand!” Homer said. “Now that you’ve stopped talking in riddles. And yes, we believe that you were sent from God.”
“You believe,” Dustin said, “But I’ll tell you now, there will be a time when all of you will scatter, and leave me alone. But I won’t be alone. My Father is always with me. I’m telling you this because I want you to be peaceful. You know that I’ve told you, you’ll have trouble in this world. But take heart: I have overcome the world.” With that, he began walking again, into the apple orchard.
Dustin stopped a little ways into the orchard, turning back to the others. “Stay here. And pray for me, because I’m going to face-” he trailed off. “I’m going to face many hard things in the days to come.” He motioned for Lukas, Jonathan and Nigel to follow him. Together, the four walked deeper into the woods. Dustin looked at the trees. “Again, look at the harvest. It’s ready. We just need workers to do the job.”
“The farmers will pick them tomorrow, I’m sure,” Lukas assured him, following his gaze to the apple nearly falling off the tree. Some had already, and lay scattered on the ground.
“You three are some of my closest friends,” Dustin said. “Please, pray for me. Pray with all your might that I will stay strong.” He pointed. “I’m going over there to pray. Stay here, and uplift me in prayer, please. And pray for yourselves as well, that you will remain strong as well. Because what is coming is going to be ”
Dustin stepped away, and the three men knelt, uplifting their leader to God. They prayed so long that they lost track of time. They had realized what Dustin was talking about now, though they didn’t want to admit it. Their sorrow at his eventual departure wore them out, and one by one, they inwardly cried themselves to sleep.
Meanwhile, on the other side of a thicket, Dustin was praying. His knees squirmed into the dirt, his hands squeezing furiously, both going completely white. “Father,” he gasped, knowing what was to come, yet not wanting to believe it, “Father, I don’t want this. I don’t want to go through with this. Please, Father, take this from me, if you are willing. But I know your will comes first. So, Father, let what you want be done.”
Although his eyes were closed, he could feel the touch of one of his Father’s servants. The touch strengthened him, and he began to pray even more earnestly. His brow became wet with sweat. The sweat became tinged red, blood breaking into the sweat glands and beginning to run down his face.
Dustin finally arose, and returned to his friends, who were softly snoring on the ground. “Wake up!” he said, his voice breaking. “Couldn’t you even stay awake? Pray again, for yourselves that you will not give into temptation in these following days.”
As he was speaking, a distant thunder was heard. The group who had been left behind ran up. “Dustin!” Charlie said, “There’s a mob running this way!”
It was true. A huge crowd of people, some of them those who had welcomed him only days before, ran up to confront Dustin. In their lead was Michael Morris, who walked up to Dustin and stuck out his hand.
“You’re going to betray me with a handshake?” Dustin asked, taking the hand.
The others realized what was happening. Their pistols were out in a second. “Should we shoot them?” someone asked.
“Yes!” Lukas yelled, firing. His shot whistled through the air, embedding itself into the arm of John Malachus, the butler of Gabriel Rodgers. The crowd erupted, all of them ready for a battle.
“Put it down!” Dustin yelled, grabbing the gun and throwing it. “Those who live by the gun will just as easily die by it,” he told Lukas, then walked up to John. He squeezed the wound, and the bullet popped out. The entrance hole disappeared.
“What is this?” Dustin asked, looking at all the angry faces, men holding swords and makeshift clubs, several with guns outstretched. “Am I leading a rebellion? When I was here last, I was preaching in the First Church every day, and yet you never took me then. But that’s right, this is your our. This is when darkness reigns.”
“Oh, shut up!” one of the deputies yelled, marching forward and grabbing him. Another man grabbed his other arm and they began to march back to the city. Dustin’s followers were at a loss. They scrambled into the woods, afraid that they would be hauled off as well. Only Lukas followed the mob, and even then, it was at a great distance.
The crowd dragged Dustin to Gabriel Rodger’s house. As many men as could fit into the house went in, while the others lit a fire in the street. The night air was growing cold fast, and finally, Lukas crept up to the fire, staying away from the light, but near enough to feel the warmth.
Inside, Dustin was seated before Judge Travers, the leading authority in the judicial world. “Now look here,” he drawled, “Are you the one who was prophesied about, the Marshal?”
“You say it is so,” Dustin replied.
“I don’t want any lip, boy,” Judge Travers said. “If you claim to be the Marshal, that could be a reason to kill you. It’s blasphemy to claim that.”
Dustin remained silent, and Gabriel Rodgers exploded. “We should hang him now!”
“I have not found a solid reason for killing him,” Judge Travers said. “In any case, I am not sure this case is my authority. You should take him to Governor Chalmers. He’s the highest authority in the district, and if this is a case of blasphemy, then it is he who should examine it.”
“Then let’s get this over with,” Gabriel said, pulling Dustin from the chair and out of the room. The crowd followed, some shouting that they should just kill him then. Lukas left his place by the fire and went as well, keeping to the shadows.  They walked to the Governor’s house, rapping on the door loudly.
“What is it?” one of the soldiers on duty asked.
“We have brought a man named Dustin McCabe here. He is accused of blasphemy of the highest degree.”
“Give him to us, and we will find out for you,” the soldier demanded.
The mob did as he requested, then all lounged around outside. Dustin was hauled through hallways, eventually being thrown down a flight of stairs in to a cellar. On the one side was a fireplace, which dimly lit the whole thing.
“You’re the Marshal, eh?” asked one soldier, who had stayed by the door a little longer, and so had found out what Dustin had been charged with. “In that case, we should give you a star!” Laughing, the men fashioned a crude metal star, then pierced it with a pin. “Tell us, are you the Marshal?”
“It is as you say,” Dustin replied.
“Then take the symbol of your office!” the soldier crowed, stabbing it into his chest. It wasn’t fatal.
“They say he’s a prophet,” someone else said. “Let’s see him prophesy!” A blindfold was pulled over Dustin’s eyes, and the soldiers took turns punching him, asking, “Tell us, prophet, who was it that hit you?”
When they finally stopped, and the blindfold was removed, Dustin saw that the governor himself was standing in the room watching. Dustin’s one eye was swollen shut, and the other wasn’t much better.
“Send him back to Judge Travers,” Governor Chalmers said. “This man is of no concern to me.”
By now, it was early morning. As Dustin was dragged back to Gabriel Rodger’s house, Lukas returned to his place by the fire. One of the maids who had been forced out of the house peered closer at him. “Well, I’ll be. You’re one of those men who followed that crazy Dustin McCabe, aren’t you?”
“Not me,” Lukas lied. “Get away from me.”
But the maid wouldn’t let up. “No, I can tell from your accent. You’re from up north!”
“I promise you, I was not with Dustin McCabe,” Lukas asserted.
Another man came over, looking at him as well. “No, I recognize you from the parade. You were with him.”
“By all that is holy!” Lukas roared. “I swear to you, I never knew the man! Let fire from heaven consume me if I tell a lie.”
As soon as the words left his mouth, Lukas caught a glimpse of Dustin through the window. Although only one eye was opened, it was trained on Lukas. Lukas felt his heart stop, then heard the distant bells calling for morning prayer.
“No,” he gasped, quietly, to himself. “Oh, dear Lord, no. Don’t let it be this way, don’t let it be this way!” His shame burning inside of him, he ran off, tears beginning to stream down his face.
Dustin turned away from the window, listening to the words around him. “We must hang him, he is claiming to be the Marshal!”
“If you must hang him,” Judge Travers said, “Then I want no part in it. Take him, but let it be on your own head.”
“That is fine,” Gabriel growled, enunciating each word clearly. Two of his cronies grabbed the seated man and dragged him outside, throwing him to the ground. Another man threw a rope down in front of him.
“Let this be your final shame,” Gabriel said, standing on the step, “You will carry the very object of your death.”
Dustin touched the rope, lifting it as best as he could. His hands were numb, and could hardly grip the thick rope. But finally, he managed to get a hold on it and began to stumble towards the gallows.
All of his followers, except Lukas, were in the crowd. All of them wanted to try and lead an uprising to save him, but fear trapped them. Instead, they watched mutely as the man they thought was going to save them dragged a noose meant for his own neck.
“Get a move on!” one of the men yelled, kicking Dustin forward. Already badly balanced, Dustin toppled to the ground. The man who had kicked him grabbed someone else. “Get the rope, or he’ll die on the way to the gallows.”
The man did as he was requested, lifting the heavy rope over a shoulder and dragging it along. The crowd pressed in behind them, eager to see the show.
After ten long minutes, they arrived at the place. It was called Blackbird’s Hollow, where the crows and other carrion would gather. Gabriel took the rope from the man, and stepped onto the platform. He grabbed a stool and reached up, tying the rope over the main wooden post, then weaving it through a series of pulleys, finally attaching it to a large metal weight. Dustin was pushed onto the platform as well, Gabriel grabbing the noose and fixing it over the condemned man’s neck.
“Have you any last words?” he asked, grabbing the wooden bar that would allow the weight to fall, applying pressure to Dustin’s neck until he asphyxiated.
“Father, forgive these men. They do not know what they are doing,” Dustin said, his prayer earnest, but it only made the men angrier.
“We know what we are doing,” Gabriel said, pulling the bar out from under the weight. It began to drop, Dustin’s toes leaving the ground.
Dustin’s eyes went wide. “No! Oh, dear Father, don’t turn your back on me now! My God, why do you turn away!”
The early morning light was suddenly blotted out. There were no clouds, it was as if the sun itself was producing darkness. Dustin screamed out again, “Why! Why do you hide your face! Do not leave me alone!” The words were garbled, Dustin’s air pipe slowly being closed off.
Dustin’s face suddenly became the picture of peace, and in a shout that everyone heard, he yelled, “It is finished!” then, softer, though everyone still heard him, he murmured, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
As he said this, he took his last breath. His body spasmed, arms and legs thrashing, then grew still. Dustin McCabe, the Marshal sent from God, was dead.

For the third and final part of the saga, click here

Easter Retold

As Easter began to approach, I started thinking about how we view the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So, I decided I would try to paint a little bit of a different picture, maybe to help you see it differently.

 

He rode in on a burro. His beard was matted, his hat, checkered shirt and jeans dusty from the ride. The crowd that had gathered cheered wildly, pulling the handkerchiefs from their necks and waving them in the air. “Glory be!” one of  them, the banker of the town, whooped. “Never though I’d live to see the day. Imagine that. Seeing the Marshal come in our day and age.”
The Marshal. Every boy and girl in the country knew the legend, that the Marshal would come, and free them from bondage and captivity. So when Dustin McCabe had first started preaching and doing wonders, everyone wondered if it was him. And when he rode into Peacebrook, capital of the country, everyone knew that this was the one who would lead them into the shining new age.
It was, everyone thought, very odd that he was on a burro. That animal was nothing more than a packhorse. Perhaps, they thought, he had borrowed it from one of the gold miners in the mountains. But the thought was soon lost in the confusion of the celebration.
Several men stood to the side, watching. They were the lawmen of the city, sheriff and deputies. No one claimed the title of Marshal, though. That was reserved. One of them, a man named Gabriel Rodgers stopped Dustin in the street, angry. “Tell this mob to making such a racket,” he demanded. “You’ll bring a riot on our heads.”
“I’m afraid that I can’t do that,” Dustin said. “Because if they’re quiet, then let me tell you, the rocks are going to start singing.”
Gabriel stood back, discontent. Dustin turned back. His face was not that of one who loved the exultation, but rather that of a man who knew he deserved it. There was no vanity, though, nor any trace of superiority. Behind him walked those who, before, had only a name, but now had a face to go with the stories. Lukas Rodale, the homesteader who had left his claim, Charles Merrill, the tax collector, Martin Long, a wealthy trader, and seven others. All of them had left everything they had ever known, just to follow Dustin McCabe.
Dustin led his friends through the city, until they reached the First Peacebrook Church. The group walked in, and Dustin stopped. Instead of a place where worship to God happened freely, they found a quagmire of people, bartering and bickering over the price of incense candles, prayer necklaces and the like. People from out of town were trying to exchange their money for the local currency, and Charles noticed the weights on the scales, tipping them in the moneylender’s favor. Dustin’s face twisted, but he led the group back out the church. They left the town, returning once again to Gainesville, their usual sanctuary from the chaos of the city.
“What’s wrong, Dustin?” Lukas asked, others echoing his sentiment. All of them had expected him to take charge of the city, have himself instated as Marshal and lead a glorious revolution to freedom.
“My  Father’s house is not to be treated like that,” Dustin said quietly, and no one pressed him any further.
Early the next morning, Dustin led the way back into Peacebrook. There was no celebration this time. Most people noticed him, but went on with their business. All were disappointed that he had not let them make him Marshal the day before.
When Dustin threw open the doors of the church, the boom shocked everyone inside. It fell quiet, far quieter than it had been the previous day. Dustin walked into the sanctuary, his eyes burning. One vendor leaned across the table. “Can I sell you an incense candle?” he asked, hoping to win business. Dustin strode over and stood before the man. Then, with a quick motion, he lifted one half of the table and overturned it. Money and incense candles went sprawling. Breathing heavily, not from exertion, but from anger, Dustin broke the silence that followed. “If you do not want what happened here happen to you, leave now. For it is written in the ancient books of our law and our religion that ‘My house will be a house of prayer,’ and yet here you are, filling it with your kind, you thieves and robbers!” Dustin’s voice rose in volume until he was shouting. “So get out!”
Everyone left, and Dustin collect everything, dragging it outside and throwing it into a huge pile. Then he lit fire to the pile and walked away. All of the men who had set up shop in the First Peacebrook Church watched as all their profits went up in smoke, then turned their angry eyes to the one who started the conflagration.
The sheriffs and deputies also watched with angry eyes. Gabriel voiced what they all were thinking. “We must kill him,” he said. He did not say this because he feared that the fire would burn down the town, he said it because he was afraid that Dustin was the Marshal. For if the Marshal came, Gabriel, and all the others, would likely lose their power.
As evening approached, Dustin led the others to the Bluebird Inn. Before the group had arrived, Dustin had sent Jonathan and Nigel Carter, two brothers who left a thriving blacksmith business, to reserve several rooms for the group. They were well known there, having passed through several times before.
The group made their way to their rooms, the crowd outside still cheering. After several hours, it died away, and Dustin called everyone into his room. They perched on whatever surface they could find, all ten of them. Lukas, Charles, Martin, Jonathan, Nigel, Edmund and Charlie Halladay, Michael Morris, Aaron Hendrickson and Homer Lewis. Dustin stood in the middle of the room. He smiled, sadly. “I have told you before, and now tell you again. I will be handed over to the sheriffs and the deputies, and they will kill me. But on the third day, I will rise again.”
“I’ll never let them take you,” Lukas said for the group, patting the holster at his side. Although he was a homesteader, Lukas wasn’t used to the gun yet.
“No, Lukas. That is not the way,” Dustin gently chided. There was a knock at the door, and a maid stepped in with a loaf of bread and a jar of wine. The group had already eaten before, so everyone was surprised. Dustin accepted the food, then handed the maid a silver dollar as a tip. Then, crossing his legs, he sat down on the ground. Pulling out the knife from his belt, he cut the bread into thirteen pieces. He handed each one out, saying, “This is my body, broken for you.” Although confused, the men ate as they were told.
Dustin then uncorked the wine. He took a sip, then passed it on. “And this is my blood, poured out for you.” Even more confused, the men passed around the bottle. When it was handed back to Dustin, he smiled sadly. “Now,” he said, “I am going to cut your hair.”
“Sir,” Homer said, “We ain’t shaved in a couple a years. Our hair is barely even combed. I ain’t sure you want to try cutting that.”
Dustin shook his head, then took a pair of scissors off of the bureau. He started with Edmund, then worked his way down the room. Each man was actually quite glad to have it done. While they all still had beards, they were much smaller, and much more manageable. But when Dustin came to Lukas, the thin man shook his head. “No, sir. You’re not cutting my hair. I should cut yours. This is a servant’s job, not that of a Marshal.”
“If I do not clean you up, then you don’t belong with me,” Dustin said.
“Then, sir, don’t just trim my hair, shave it all off!” Lukas said, sticking out his chin.
“Anyone who takes care of their hair doesn’t need to lose it all,” Dustin laughed. He finished trimming, then returned to the middle of the room. “I’m going to tell you something. Someone here is going to betray me.”
“Not me!” Lukas declared. Others agreed, telling Dustin that they would never leave him.
“It couldn’t be me, could it?” Michael asked. He was a former banker, and as such, was in charge of the money.
“Yes.” Dustin said. “It is you. Now, go ahead and do what you must, and quickly.” A tear leaked out of his eye and ran into his tangled mustache. Michael ran out of the room.
“Is he going to buy food?” Aaron asked, as that was one of Michael’s usual jobs. Dustin merely shook his head. No one could believe that Michael would betray Dustin. He was one of their best friends, they had lived with him for several years now.
“I am going to leave you soon,” Dustin said. “But you can’t come to where I am going.”
“No matter where you go, I will go, too. I would die for you!” Lukas said, sticking out his chest.
“Would you really?” Dustin asked, shaking his head. “Believe me, before the bells ring for morning prayers, you will have denied me three times.” Before he could protest, Dustin motioned for everyone to stand up. “Come. Let us go out to the mountain. It will be quiet out there.”

 

 

Hopefully, you see it in a different light now. To see what happens on the Good Friday segment, check here.

Natural Remedies: Laughter!

‘A good laugh and a long sleep are two of the best cures.’ It’s an Irish proverb, so you know it’s good. For those of you who don’t know, I love the Irish. And their advice usually doesn’t fail (except in the case of ‘Kiss me, I’m Irish’; that is such a bad idea, people). I wrote this up for a friend a while back, out a book called ‘2005: A Year of Miracles.’ The first half of the book is talking about a missionary’s life, and the second is interesting ‘tidbits’ gleaned from the internet, all clean (Imagine that!). So, if you’re feeling low, and want to laugh a little, read on. 

#1. Proof of Stupid People
    In case you needed further proof that the human race is doomed through stupidity, here are some actual label instructions on consumer goods.

On a Sears hairdryer: “Do not use while sleeping.” (That’s the only time I have to work on my hair!)

On a bag of Fritos: “You could be a winner! No purchase necessary. Details inside.” (The shoplifter special?)

On a bar of Dial soap: “Directions: use like regular soap.” (And that would be?)

On some Swanson frozen dinners: “Serving suggestion: Defrost.” (But, that’s just a suggestion.)

On Tesco’s Tiramisu dessert (printed on the bottom): Do not turn upside down.” (Well, duh, a bit late, huh!)

On Marks & Spencer Bread Pudding: “Product will be hot after heating.” (And you thought?)

On packaging for Rowenta iron: “Do not iron clothes on body.” (But wouldn’t save me time?)

On Boot’s Children Cough Medicine: “Do not drive a car or operate machinery after taking this medicine.” (We could do a lot to reduce the rate of construction accidents if we could just get those 5 year olds in head-colds off those bulldozers!)

On Nytol Sleep Aid: “Warning: May cause drowsiness. (And I’m taking the because????)

On most brands of Christmas lights: “For indoor and outdoor use only.” (As a opposed to what?)

On a Japanese food processor: “Not to be used for the other use.” (Now, somebody help me out here, I’m a bit curious.)

On Sainsbury’s peanuts: “Warning: Contains nuts.” (Talk about a news flash!)

On an American Airlines packet of nuts: “Instructions: Open packet, eat nuts.” (Step 3: say what?)

On a child’s Superman costume: “Wearing of this garment does enable you to fly.” (I don’t blame the company. I blame the parents for this one.)

On a Swedish chainsaw: Do not attempt to stop chain with your hands.” (Oh, was there a lot of this happening somewhere?)

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#2. Noah’s Ark
    Just to keep you giggling, here a little something entitled: Everything I needed to learn about life, I learned from Noah’s Ark:

1: Don’t miss the boat
2: Remember we are all on the same boat
3: Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark.
4: Stay with it. When you’re 600 years old, someone may ask you to something really big.
5: Don’t listen to critics; just get on with the job that needs to be done.
6: Build your future on high ground.
7: For safety’s sake, always travel in pairs.
8: Speed isn’t always an advantage. The snails were on the Ark with the cheetahs.
9: When your stressed, float a while.
10: Remember, the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals.
11: No matter the storm, when you are God, there’s always a rainbow waiting.

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#3. Mixed-Up Proverbs
    A First grade teacher collected well known proverbs. She gave each child in her class the first half of a proverb, then asked them to come up with the remainder. Their insight may surprise you.

No news is….Impossible.

A penny saved is….Not much.

The pen is mightier that the….D- (Grade)

Don’t bite the hand that…..Looks dirty

You can’t teach on old dog new….Math

Where there’s smoke, there’s…..Pollution.

Two’s company, three’s….the Musketeers.

Happy the bride who…Gets all the presents.

Never underestimate the power of…..Detention.

If at first you don’t succeed….Get new batteries.

When the blind leads the blind….Get out of the way.

If you lie down with dogs you’ll…stink in the morning

You get out of something what you…..see pictured on the box.

Laugh, and the world laughs with you. Cry…..And you have to blow your nose.

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#4. How Strange!
     Here are a few things to think about, that I can almost guarantee you have never thought about.

Can you cry underwater?

How important does a person have to be before they are considered assassinated instead of murdered?

Once you’re in heaven, do you get stuck wearing the clothes you get buried in forever?

Why do you have to “Put your two cents in,” but it’s only “a penny for your thoughts? Where does that extra cent go?

Why does a round pizza come in a square box?

What disease did cured ham have originally?

How is it that we put man on the moon before we figured out it would be a good idea to put wheels on luggage?

Why is it that people say that they “slept like a baby” when babies wake up like every two hours?

Why are you IN a movie, but ON TV?

Why do people pay to go up tall buildings, then put money in binoculars to look at things on the ground?

Why do toasters have a setting that burns the toast to a horrible crisp that no one would ever eat?

If Jimmy cracks corn and no one cares, why is there a song about it?

Can a hearse carrying a corpse drive in the carpool lane?

If the professor from Gilligan’s Island can make a radio out of a coconut, why can’t he fix the hole in the boat?

If Wyle E. Coyote had enough money to buy all that ACME stuff, why didn’t he just buy dinner?

If corn oil is made from corn, and vegetable oil is made from vegetable, what is baby oil made of?

Do the Alphabet song and Twinkle, twinkle little star have the same tune?

Why did you just try singing the two songs above?

Did you ever notice that when you blow in a dog’s face, he gets mad, but when you take him for a ride, he sticks his head out the window?

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#5. 101 of the Funniest One Liners
    Can’t think of anything to say? Gotcha covered.

Ninety-nine percent of lawyers give the rest a bad name.
Borrow money from a pessimist: they don’t expect it back.
Time is what keeps things from happening all at once.
Lottery: A tax on people who are bad at math.
I didn’t fight my way to the top of the food chain to be vegetarian!
Never answer an anonymous letter.
It’s lonely at the top, but you do eat better.
I don’t suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it.
Always go to other people’s funerals, or they won’t come to yours.
Few women admit their age; few men act it.
If we weren’t supposed to eat animals, then why were they made with meat?
No one is listening until you make a mistake.
Give me ambiguity or give me something else.
We have enough youth. How about a fountain of ‘Smart’?
He who laughs last thinks slowest.
Campers: Nature’s way of feeding mosquitoes.
Always remember you are unique, just like everyone else.
Consciousness: That annoying time between naps.
There are three kinds of people: Those who can count and those who can’t.
Why is ‘abbreviation’ such a long word?
Nuke the whales.
I started out with nothing and I still have it.
Change in inevitable, except from a vending machine.
Out of my mind. Back in five minutes.
A clear conscience is a usually a sign of bad memory.
As long as there are tests, there will be prayer in public schools.
Laugh alone and the world thinks you’re an idiot.
Sometimes I wake up grumpy; other times I let her sleep in.
The severity of an itch is inversely proportional to the ability to reach it.
You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?
I took an IQ test and the results came back negative.
Okay, who stopped the payment on my reality check?
We are born naked, wet and hungry. Then things get worse.
42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.
Be nice to your kids. They’ll choose your nursing home.
If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence you ever tried.
I wonder how much deeper the ocean would be without sponges.
Eat right. Stay fit. Die anyway.
My mind is a steel trap, rusty and illegal in 37 states.
Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.
On the other hand, you have different fingers.
I’ve only been wrong once, and that’s when I thought I was wrong.
God made mankind. Sin made him evil.
I don’t find it hard to meet expenses. They’re everywhere.
I just let my mind wander, and it didn’t come back.
Don’t steal. The government hates competition.
Humpty Dumpty was pushed.
National Atheists Day: April 1st.
All generalizations are false.
The more people I meet, the more I like my dog.
Work is for people who don’t know how to fish.
If you don’t like the news, go out and make some.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism.
IRS: We’ve got what it takes to take what you’ve got.
I’m out of bed and dressed. What more do you want?
I used to think I was indecisive. Now I’m not to sure.
I can handle pain until it hurts.
No matter were you go, you’re there.
If everything is coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.
It’s been Monday all week.
Gravity always gets me down.
This statement is false.
Eschew obfuscation.
They told me I was gullible…… and I believed them.
It’s bad luck to be superstitious.
According to my best recollection, I don’t remember.
The word ‘gullible’ isn’t in the dictionary.
Honk if you like peace and quiet.
The Big Bang Theory: God spoke and BANG! it happened.
Atheism is a non-prophet organization.
Despite the cost of living, have you noticed how popular it is?
Save the whales. Collect the whole set.
A day without sunshine is like night.
The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
Corduroy pillows: They’re making headlines!
Gravity: It’s not just a good idea, it’s the LAW!
Life is too complicated in the morning.
We are all part of the ultimate statistic: ten out of ten die.
Nobody’s perfect. I’m a nobody.
Ask me about my vow of silence.
The hardness of the butter is directly proportional to the softness of the bread.
The last thing on earth you want to do will be the last thing you do.
Diplomacy is the art of letting someone else get your way.
If ignorance is bliss, then tourists are in a constant state of euphoria.
If at first you don’t succeed, don’t try skydiving.
If Barbie is so popular, then why do you have to buy her friends?
Stop repeat offenders. Don’t re-elect them!
I intend to live forever. So far, so good!
Who is General Failure, and why is he reading my hard drive?
What happens if you get scared half to death twice?
I used to have an open mind, but my brains kept falling out.
Energizer Bunny arrested, charged with battery.
I didn’t use to finish my sentences, but now I
I’ve had amnesia for as long as I can remember.
Bills travel through the mail at twice the speed of checks.
Vacation begins when Dad says, “I know a short cut.’
Evolution: True science fiction.
What’s another word for thesaurus?
Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.
A flashlight is a case for holding dead batteries.
I went to the fights, and a hockey game broke out.
Well, I hope this has been as enjoyable for as it has been for me! Also, just so you know, that final segment wasn’t from the book, it was a pamphlet that I picked up somewhere. But it fits right in with the rest of the insanity in this post. And remember: Laugh long and prosper!

Majors and Minors: Short Story 1

Now that I’ve whetted your appetite (hopefully) with Majors and Minors, I’m going stop posting the original story. You’ll have to wait for the published version for the full story, whenever that happens. However, do not fear! After writing Majors and Minors, I realized how much there was that I could do with it. So, I created a new character. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy meeting him as much as I did.

The world explodes in a bright red flash. The tree that I just hit topples forward. “Ah, snap!” I yell, reaching out and grabbing someone. Lucy Cummings, I realize as the smoke clears. “Everyone grab on!” I call out, and the group gathers around me. Instantly, we’re rushing through time. Then, we’re sitting on the floor of the prison.
    My body is tired, but I pull myself to my feet. “Alfred, check for the guards. We need to do this like we did last time.”
    “Last time got Caleb killed,” Lucy, a short brunette, complains.
    “We can change that. You know that.” I keep my voice level, uneasy with the amount of stress I’m feeling.
    “I died?” Caleb asked. He’s shorter that the rest of us, with brown eyes framed by large glasses. Not that he needs them anymore. Not since the Shrinkage. I brought him along in the group this time because his eyes are so good.
    “Don’t worry about it,” I say, flashing a grin. I pull my hat on, a western style, kind of like what the cowboys used to wear. I looked around the group, fifteen in all. Lucy (Telekinesis), Caleb (Super good eyesight/lasers out of said eyes), Calligan (Speed/Sticky feet), Alfred (Ungifted but extremely smart), Bruce (Strength), Thad (Fire), Sloan (mechanics), Daniel (Also Strength), Constance (Smart ungifted), Ronald (Just a normal ungifted), Mary (Flight), Alicia (Control of plants), Ralph (Mind reader), Isaac (Ungifted), and myself.
    “Doctor, three coming this way.” Alfred the first’s comment is for me. That’s my nickname after all. The Doctor.
    After the Shrinkage, some of the people in the world got powers. I’m different than those people. I’m what you would call a Double Gifted. The ability to travel through time? Check. The ability to control any weapon around me? Also check.
    My real name is Evan Bell. But after people learned about my time traveling power, they dubbed me the Doctor. After some old TV show, from what I understand. I am not, however, an alien.
    The three guards walk past the door. I reach out my hand, more as a dramatic gesture than anything. The first man’s gun jerks out of his hand and slams into another’s jaw. The second man collapses in a heap.
    Lucy springs into action. With a quick motion,  the third man slams into the far wall. He slumps to the ground, unmoving. The first man is taken down by Caleb, blinded.
    “I’m never going to try and win a stare down with you,” Isaac says. No one laughs.
    Sloan runs up and unlocks the door. Bruce and Daniel pull it open and we run out into the hall. “Grab a weapon and let’s go,” I whisper, running forward.
    Suddenly, I hit an invisible wall. “What the..?” I mutter, reaching out with my mind. However, it’s just a plain glass wall, nothing fancy. “Why wasn’t this here last time?” I ask, but Bruce pushes me to the side. Doesn’t matter. We’ve got to get past it. With a single blow, the glass shatters, the shards landing on the other side of the glass.
    We all make our way as carefully as we can. As I go through, I look back. The second guard is starting to move, but that can’t be helped.
    We were being held in a ramshackle convenience store, and most of the shelves still have food and other supplies on them. I look around, but there’s nothing we need. Not today.
    Five feet from the door, Brutus steps out from behind a shelving unit. Shadow, as always, is by his side. “I’ll take Shadow!” I yell, and the others go after Brutus, a strength Gifted.
    Shadow is definitely tricky, as he can move as silently as a mouse, yet with the speed of an athlete. His gift, however, is not speed, but being able to turn invisible. Unfortunately for him, he choices to fight with a knife, which puts him at my mercy. Also unfortunate for him is the fact that I don’t have much right now.
    The knife sails from his hand, and speeds into my outstretched palm. My fingers close around it and I attack. Even with his speed and invisibility, there’s no way he can get out of the way. In a few seconds, his body drops to the ground, visible now that he’s dead.
    That had just gone quicker than the last time, which was most definitely a good thing. I run towards Brutus, who’s having a hard time holding off my friends. The knife hovers behind me, and I attack with it, not even holding it in my hand. Brutus falls as well, the knife buried in his brain.
    I dislike killing, and having to do more than one is enough to make me sick. However, until I can get to Card, the boss of Houston, I’m stuck with doing it.
    “Doctor, we’ve got to go. Now.” It’s Lucy. She knows what’s going to happen, when I get to Card, but she follows me anyway. That’s real dedication to a cause.
    “Lucy, if you want, I could take you back with…” I trail off when I see her expression.
    “Look, Doc, I like you, but no that much. If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather be clueless.”
    “I would take them all back,” I say at her retreating form as she moves up through the group. The excuse doesn’t even fool me. Shaking my head, I walk up the road to where we found the tank last time.
    Then there it is, with the same two guards sitting on top. Calligan speeds off, up the side, fists flying. The fury knocks one out immediately, but it’s up to Lucy to drop the other.
    The group clamber in, except for Thad and Mary, and the ones they give rides to, as we don’t have powers that allow us to move without being on the ground.
    As the tanks is technically a weapon, I’m able to control it. Sloan also helps, as it’s also mostly mechanical. We start moving forwards, and Lucy gives me a warning look. I nod; that last time, we barely made it out of the drive way before crashing into the tree. This time, however, I both have more experience, as well as Sloan. We turn onto the main road, heading away from the convenience store.
    “Follow this road, then take a right. First left, and Card’s at the end, in a mansion.” Caleb’s voice is squeakier than usual. His eyes are screwed tightly shut, as he finds it easier to focus his gift of sight that way.
    “Thanks,” I say, turning back to the road. The road is bumpy, and it takes both of the drivers to keep it steady. Not that we’re in danger of tipping over. Not in a tank.
    About fifteen minutes later, we pull up to Richard card’s mansion. I look at the group. “Well, it was great the days we had together, wasn’t it?”
    “We won’t miss you, Doc,” Constance says. “We won’t remember you at all.”
    “I’m going to remember each and every one of you,” I say, pulling her into a hug. Then I hug the rest of the group, one at a time. Some of the other boys start joke hugging, pretending to cry as if they were actually going to miss each other.
    I open the top and pull myself over the edge. Ten guards stand at the front door, and their guns are pointed at me in a second. “I need to see Card,” I say.
    Richard Card is a mystery. No one, aside from me, knows whether he’s Gifted or not, but he’s definitely the most powerful man since the man who called himself the Neph Master.
    The guards still don’t let me pass, and I frown. I drop the ground. “Please, let me see Card.” They remain stolid in their silence. I take a step forward.
    “Don’t take another step,” they order, but I keep going. Instantly, the bullets rip through my body. I’m fading, quickly, and with my last bit of strength, I push myself back through time a few seconds. I’m now standing, with no bullet holes.
    “Don’t take another step,” they order, and I put my hands up. I know they’re not bluffing.
    “Not trying that again,” I mutter. “Once again, let me see Card,” I order.
    “Why?” one of the guards, the one with the big bushy mustache, asks.
    “To show him the light,” I reply cryptically.
    “The one at the end of the tunnel? Many people have tried to do that.”
    It takes me a second to realize what he was talking about. “No!” I exclaim. “I don’t want to kill him! I just want to talk to him.”
    One of the guards heaves a giant notebook in front of me. “Then make an appointment,” he say.
    “No.” My voice is quiet, but forceful. “Let me see him now.”
    “Not a-” Moustache gets out, just before his gun explodes in his face. The distraction is just enough time to slip past the rest of the guards.  The guns sound behind me, but I skid around a corner just before I get hit.
    A large staircase lies in front of me. The easiest defense against anyone who suffered the Shrinkage. Unless, of course, they’re Gifted.
    Time slows, and I start up the stairs. I can’t, however, hold it to slow for too long, and by the time I’m halfway up, the guards are coming along the hall behind me. I reach out and blow up another gun. My muscles burn, but I press on. Within a few seconds for everyone else, I’m to the top. I rest for a second, then I look down. A flight Gifted is floating up the stairs.
    Instead of waiting for him to catch up, I dash down the hall. I head for the most heavily guarded room. Which is also the only guarded room. Card is most likely there.
    The guards prove no problem, as a single gun blowing up stuns them long enough for me to slip past. A conference table is set up, with about thirty men sitting around it, delegates from other cities. Card is on the far end, but I recognize another face. “Derek Hastings?”
    “Doctor?” Derek exclaims, jumping up. “I’ve kept my promise, I swear!”
    “I know Derek. I can see all of time, remember? I’m here for Card this trip.”
    Richard Card leans forward, interested. His dark skin seems out of place in a room filled with white. Not that I’m any different, as my skin is darker than most. “And who might you be?” he asks, his tone light, as if I’m a child to be humored.
    I hop on the table and strut across, kicking different notebooks and writing utensils out of the way. Up close, you can see the scar on Card’s right cheek, the one given to him by Scorpion, the self named super villain who tried to take Houston from him.
    “You could call me the Doctor, like everyone else. Or you could call me by my title. Which, Mr. Card, would be son.” I lock eyes with him, my brown eyes perfect replicas of his. “I’ve done my research. You thought that you and your wife couldn’t keep the baby, so you put me up for adoption. Wise decision, by the way.”
    I look at all the others. “You all will call me the Doctor.”
    “Evan?” Card says, half whispering. He’s on his feet now, and I turn to him.
    “That’s me, yes,” I reply. Suddenly, the guards burst through the door. I know I have to act fast, which for me is a relative term. I grab my father’s arm and slow time, with us being the only two not affected.
    “Listen, Dad,” I say, the word feeling strange on my tongue. “I’m going to take you back through time, to a point just after the Shrinkage. You’re going to keep the knowledge you already have now, but we won’t be together.”
    “Why can’t you just let me live my life from this point on?” Card asks, and I smile sadly.
    “I’ve killed to many people today, I can’t just go back a few days, either. If I do, I won’t be able to help anyone before that time.”
    My father gives me a blank look, and I smile indulgently. “Okay, think of it this way. My life is a line, right?” I drew a line. ______ Card nods. “My power allows me to move freely along that line. I can’t, however, go to a point before the Shrinkage, nor to any point after my age of seventy. The latter part of that is only because I haven’t lived past the age of seventy yet.” My father raises an eyebrow.
    “Wait, how old are you?”
    “I don’t know how many years I’ve lived. I’ve gone around a lot, back and forth, changing different things here and there. Suffice it to say, I’m older than I look.
    “Anyway, back to explaining. When I go back and change something, then that’s a point on the line.” _.________ “The other part of that is the fact that if I go back and change something before the dot on that line, then that dot is erases, and I have another dot to go by.” .________ “So, if I go back just a few days, I get less time to change things. Do you understand?”
    My father raises an eyebrow. “Kind of. But it’s still confusing.”
    “Imagine trying to living it,” I deadpan, then tighten my grip. Instantly, we’re going through time. My gift allows me to see time as cities, and me being on the highway. Dates and exact times for events speed past me, and I close my eyes. When I open them, I’m sitting in my room. My old room, the one I had when I was younger, before the Shrinkage. This is the place I stayed after the Shrinkage, for weeks afterwards.
    My internal clock tells me that it’s only been three hours since the Shrinkage, which is perfect. The four other people I brought back through time were before this point.
    I flash through time five years, to the point in time at which I had helped Card. The new memories fill my head, ones of Richard Card, peacemaker between the warring cities, the kind ruler of Houston, then spreading all the way to all of Texas.
    I’m standing in the middle of a deserted street. I pull my hat tighter on my head, and start walking forward. After all, with all of time at my disposal, there’s no telling what could happen.

 

Majors and Minors: Chapters Three and Four

As a first post of the year treat (and seeing as I missed last month’s chapter), I am posting the next two chapters as one.

Chapter Three: Exiled

Soon after the initial madness settled down, small groups of people began to band together, forming communities. Some called themselves ‘Clans’, others ‘Bands’, still others called them ‘Gangs’. Other names included Groups, Hives, Colonies, Communes.
One of the largest growing clans in the early weeks was Thorsclan. -Encyclopedia Britannica.

We had heard of Thorsclan, how they had started to rise in power in Central New York.Originally from New York City, Thor had begun what he called ‘protecting’ cities. For a small price, of course.

Thor was a Flight Major, with an added bonus of electrical power thrown in. He looked like the Norse god slightly, with long golden hair and a face that screamed ‘former teenage heartthrob’. The only thing that didn’t look right was his eyes, which weren’t white, but rather a strange murky gray.

The Mayor of Syracuse didn’t have much control anymore, but he still made an effort to ‘hand’ the city over to Thor. Thor took it, with thanks. One of his first rules, however, was that all other clans must be disbanded.

Phillipsclan said no. Thorsclan got angry.

It came down between me and Thor, standing in the middle of South Salina Street, just like in the old westerns. Behind me stood Phillipsclan, or what was left of it, anyway. Behind him stood the entire city of Syracuse, and more beside. Even Mrs. Taylor stood behind him.

“Judith, go to Mrs. Taylor,”  I ordered, and my sister looked at me with fear-filled eyes. But she did as she was told, running across the space to her pseudo mother.  “Everyone else, do you understand what it means to stand next to me?”

The eight around me nodded. Two of our number had just followed Judith, and now it was down to Drew, Gwen, Weston (Strength Major), Arthur (Minor), Gabe (A flight Major) Pyro (Fire Major) Samantha (Minor)  and Kincaid (Unsure on this, either Martial Arts Major, or maybe a super cool Minor)

“Melchizedek Phillips!” yelled Thor.

“Yep, that’s my name,” I called back. Thor’s voice boomed back.

“I hereby exile you and anyone belonging to the clan named Phillipsclan, from any land under the authority of myself, Thor. We will kill you on sight.”

“Okay, thanks, bro, we’ll be out of your hair in a second, don’t worry.” I turned to the others. “We ready?”

“As ready as we ever will be,” Gwen said.

“I’m not asking any of you to be here, you know. You can leave anytime.”

“Dude, you saved us,” Gabe said. “I’m not just going to throw that away. Plus, who wants to be stuck under that jerk?” he hooked his thumb at Thor, who bristled obviously.  “Come one, let’s go,” he said, turning towards the car waiting for us.

Drew started the car as the rest of us turned, slowly climbing the rope suspended from the door frame. From behind Thor, the voices of Liam and Sarah could be heard, crying out for their brother. Someone held them back, I couldn’t tell who.

“Arthur, why are you leaving them?” I asked, and he shook his head.

“I can’t give you all the reasons, but I know Thor from before. He’s not exactly fond of me. I think that he won’t hurt Liam or Sarah, but he would kill me, without hesitation.”

I nodded, letting him climb the rope. The last person, besides me, was Kincaid. “I better not be making the wrong decision here,” he said, grinning at me, his crooked teeth matching his messed up face. He was older than me, by about a year, and I had nothing but respect for him. With ease, the dark-skinned boy climbed up the rope into the car. I followed close behind.

As the door closed, I moved towards the front. “Drew, take us out of here,” I said, and he grinned, albeit a bit sadly.

“As you wish,” he replied, switching the car into drive. I climbed onto the seat so as to stand next to him. He looked at me, a sarcastic jab on his lips.

“If you dare say anything about how old I look, don’t,” I said, referencing a joke he and Kincaid had made several days earlier.

“Actually, I was going to ask if you had shaved today? Your chin looks as smooth as a baby’s.”

I pushed him off the seat, to which came the cry from Gabe, “Don’t harass the driver!”

Everyone laughed. Which is kind of stupid to say, because it would have been hard not to laugh at such a statement

<^>

The first day was the hardest. It always is, getting used to a new routine. We had twenty-four hours to get through the Pennsylvania border. Which was pretty easy, considering that it takes less than two hours to do so.

Instead, however, we had decided to try and make it to the Adirondacks, where we had heard others were making their own clans, fighting against Thor. But to do that  we had to drive several hours.

It was strange, being the only ones on the highway. It was like one of the scenes from apocalyptic movies, where the heroes are the only ones left on the entire planet, and are just cruising, hoping to meet someone.

I always found those movies stupid. Why would you waste valuable resources driving around the country when what you really needed to was hunker down, gathering different supplies, and thriving.

Suffice it to say, I wasn’t a huge fan of those movies. And I had taken the idea of the story by George Wesely Rawls Survivors to heart: Find a group of friends, then get ready for whatever comes. You will have a much better chance of survival that way. Guns also were a huge part of it, but after we all shrunk, we couldn’t exactly use them.

Like I said in the beginning, the first day was the hardest: reaching our destination. We had driven into a small resort near Cranberry Lake, parking our car near the entrance. I walked in first, leaving the others ready to help me if need be. I knocked on the glass, but no one answered. So, instead, I kicked the glass. It shattered inward, but my foot hurt like crazy. I slipped through the crack, hoping not to cut myself on the edges of the glass.

The register counter was empty,  and so were the halls that I could see. I walked towards the counter, my hands balling into fists. Suddenly, a shot rang out, and I dove, rolling behind the counter. A voice called out, “Who’s there?”

“My name’s Melchizedek Phillips!” I yelled back. “If I come out, do you promise not to  shoot me?”

“Nothing doing!” the man, whoever he was, shouted. “Only if you answer this question correctly. Are you for Thor or against him?”

“Considering I just got kicked out of where I used to live by him, I’m against him.”

“Wrong answer,” the man said, and the gun fired again, blasting a hole through the wood. “Thor’s my brother, and he doesn’t like to be called stupid.”

“I never called him stupid!” I said, taking a look at my attacker. His arm had become a gun. The entire freaking arm. Talk about firearms.

Puns aside, he was a huge threat. Just as he fired again, I started out, running for the door. A spray of bullets followed me, as, apparently, the man could switch between regular shotgun and machine gun.

I dove through the hole, the glass slashing into me. Well, my left leg, anyway. I hobbled towards the car, yelling for them to get it started. But no one was watching outside. My leg was cut deeply, and I struggled to walk properly. I grabbed the rope, and started climbing.

The man had come to the door now, and was firing at me. I banged on the car door, hoping that if they hadn’t heard the gunshots, they would hear me. They didn’t.

I dropped to the ground, running behind a tire. Then I saw why no one had responded. They had all been taken out of the car and tied up with (can you believe it?) rubber bands. Everyone except Weston, that is. He had a hair twisty.

I pulled out my knife, stumbling forward. The guards saw me, but not before I had thrown my knife. Inexplicably, Kincaid had been able to catch it with his hand, and slash his band bonds. They didn’t fall, they whipped off of him, and whacked the two beside him, Samantha and Pyro.

Speaking of Pyro, he began the next act, letting his hands flare up. (Does anyone mind if I make another firearm joke?) The two then proceeded to let the others loose. I turned, climbing the rope again. This time, the door opened and I rolled in. The hail of bullets still raged, but  I was safer now. I ran to where we kept our ‘swords’, various knives we had shaped handles for so they could be handled by the now-tiny human race.

I threw them out the door, where they were picked up by my clan. Then, grinning, I collapsed on the edge of the floor, watching the action. My leg wouldn’t support my weight anymore, unfortunately.

Everyone turned, making their way for the rope. Pyro lit the area around on fire, keeping everyone away as Phillipsclan climbed. Everyone worked as fast as they could, and I did my best to help pull them in. After the last member pulled their ragged body in, Drew started the car. We sped off, hoping that they wouldn’t chase us.

“A bit close,” I said, sitting up. My leg still hurt like the dickens, but Pyro and Gwen were working on it. Now, I’m going to explain that phrase for a moment: The dickens hurt because they are boring! This doesn’t mean that my leg was boring, however, it simply meant that I was in a great deal of pain. Almost as bad as  trying to read Bleak House for school. Ugh.

As they worked, I gave them the same talk I just gave you, They seemed only mildly interested. Drew turned on the radio, probably to block out my monologue. “Today,” the newscaster said, “President John Smith made the announcement  that they would be fighting against the invaders.”

“I might not be into politics, but isn’t our president. Vincent Paltroni?” Pyro asked. I shrugged.

“You haven’t been paying attention,” Arthur explained. “Paltroni died when the toxin hit, as did his Vice-President. John Smith is just a man Congress put into power.”

“There’s no way his name could be John Smith,” I said, then winced as Gwen cleaned my wound.

“It’s probably just a stooge so Congress can pull the strings. The House wanted to make the decision, but Senate got to it first,” Arthur said, sitting as well.

John Smith’s voice came on over the radio. “These men, whoever they are, will not get the advantage over us. We are the United States of America. I will fight to the best of my ability to repel these invaders. Our shores will be protected.”

“As you can hear, President Smith is declaring war on whoever has attacked Boston.”

“Turn it up!” I exclaimed, as this was the first thing I had heard of it. Drew did so, and the sound nearly blasted out my eardrums. “Turn it down!” I shouted, and rolling his eyes, Drew complied

“You said-” Drew was going to make a joke that I wasn’t in the mood to hear, so I cut him off.

“I know what I said, and I’m sorry. Just let me listen.”

“Thirty people were killed, countless other injured in the attack on Thursday,” the newscaster said. “It was led by people who appeared approximately two feet high.”

“Not regular humans,” I said, and Arthur nodded.

“Maybe a group of supersized Gifted?” he said, using a super old term for Majors. After I introduced that phrase, everyone loved it. Gifted? Pfff. That word was lame. However, this was before I had started calling anyone that, so, we were limited to Gifted.

“Maybe. But there’s an awful lot of them. We didn’t have that many of any kind of Gifted back in Syracuse.” Gabriel’s reasoning was sound, but something didn’t add up for me.

“So the toxin didn’t affect these people like it did us? And if that’s the case, why didn’t we have anyone like that in Syracuse?”

“Maybe they’re not human,” Samantha said, grinning.

“Yeah, like that’s the answer, Sam,” Arthur said, smiling. Samantha smiled back, and suddenly, everyone else were interested in the ceiling or the floor. We all knew that they had a thing for each other. In fact, the only people oblivious to that fact were Arthur and Samantha themselves. It sounds wrong, but what I mean is that they didn’t know they were doing things like this.

Anyway, enough about the romance. Onto something more interesting.

We drove half an hour, pulling into a small town. We parked outside of Tony’s Convenience Store, and got out. We didn’t know how long we were going to be driving, so I had decided to stock up on supplies as soon as we could. Several cars sat nearby, and I ordered Weston and Gabe to siphon the gas. They looked at me like ‘What the heck, Dek?’ but did it nonetheless.

Meanwhile, the rest of us went into Tony’s Convenience Store. I could move easier now, apparently quick healing was part of the MiniTox’s effects.

We strolled down the aisles, picking out the things we were going to want. Without Weston to pick push our shopping cart, or Gabe to lift us to where we could walk on the shelves, it presented more of a problem than we had thought it would. So, we were limited to window-shopping.

A can of baked beans was on the bottom shelf, and Pyro, trying to be funny, pulled it off and got on, walking slowly down the row. We all chuckled, but then, something came whizzing along the ground, knocking the can out from underneath him. We all turned, and saw our enemy. Three men, dressed in black, stood at the end of the aisle, one with fire in his hands, another, tearing up the dirt, and the third floating.

From the other end of the aisle came the shouts of victory, so we turned. A man with rocks floating above his head, a woman with what looked like glue dripping from her hands, a man who looked like a Minor (as in, he didn’t have any powers, not that he was really young) and another who kept shifting between a rabbit with fangs, (Bunnicula?) a hawk, and his human form.

“We’re in trouble,” I murmured.

“You said it, Dek,” Gwen whispered back. We formed a circle, preparing to fight, but knowing that if it came down to it, we were at the disadvantage. I could hear more people coming, joined the men on one side, and the others at the, well, other side.

In the middle of two halves of an army. And everyone knows that two halves always want to make one whole.

Chapter Four: Self Preservation; or, the Art of Canning Oneself

While the main powerhouse was Thorsclan,other, smaller, clans began appearing, mostly in the Adirondacks,where they could easily repel Thor’s attacks. The strongest was one calling itself ‘Black River Clan’, but they fell apart in winter, as they could not keep warm. The next strongest was the ‘Shifters’, full of Majors who could shapeshift. They did last out Thorsclan, later joining the Adirondack clan, during the-” -Encyclopedia Britannica

Sorry about cutting it off there, but, well, there are spoilers in the next sentence. And you don’t want me to spoil the entire story for you, do you? If so, then skip to the end of the book and read the epilogue. I’ll do a recap there. Entirely in rhyme.  Beat that!

Anyway, back to the story.  Remember, we’re in Tony’s Convenience Store, surrounded by the enemy.

We stood in the circle, not sure what to do. I knew I had to take charge, to make sure I came forth as the leader. “Pyro, grab another can,” I ordered, grabbing one myself. The others did it also, putting cans of baked beans around them.

Soon, we had a small barricade around us, with us in the middle. “Okay, Dek, now what do we do?” Drew asked, and I smiled.

“Ever heard of a pincer movement?” I asked, and I saw a few nods, but mostly puzzled expression. “It’s what they’re doing to us right now. Get on either side of the group, so they have nowhere to go, then move in for the kill. It’s based off of what crabs and lobsters do. But there’s one thing: If you get really close to the crab or lobster’s face, they can’t reach with their arms.”

“Where’s the head?” Arthur asked, catching on.

“I have no idea, so that was actually a bad illustration,” I confessed. “But, we can buy more time if we go straight through that shelf there,” I pointed to the one that, if we went through it, would lead us to the next aisle. “When I give the signal, move your cans so we have a straight pathway to it.”

I poked my head up, looked at both sides of the opposing force. They had grown in number, with about twenty-five people in all around. And more still coming.

I nodded, and everyone pushed, pulled, teleported, or somethinged their can. I ran to the shelf, grabbing the first thing I could (toilet paper, actually) and pulling it off the shelf. The others ran to help me, tearing off disinfectant wipes, more toilet paper, and other things you would find in bathrooms. When a bar of soap passed, I slashed off a good sized chunk with my knife and stuck it in my pocket.

“My mother told me that cleanliness was next to Godliness,” I said in explanation to no one.

Our worries, however, weren’t over when we cleared out the shelf. On the back, separating the two shelves, was a thin sheet of metal. “Pyro,” I sang, and he grinned. Lighting his hand, he slowly cut a piece large enough to let us through. As we slipped to the other side, Kincaid stopped me.

“Dek, if we don’t make it out of this alive, I need to tell you something,” he said, looking at the ground. “I feel that following you is going to get me killed someday.” His voice was serious, and I shook my head.

“I’m going to make sure that doesn’t happen,” I said, my head changing directions and nodding.

“Don’t say that,” Kincaid said. “Just promise me that if I die, you won’t feel like it’s your fault. Please.”

I nodded, then followed the older boy through the hole. He knew more than he was telling, I could tell. But I didn’t press the matter.

We pushed through the next shelf with ease. It was a cooking supplies shelf, so we mostly were pushing spices out of the way. Gwen was the first one on the ground, and looking both ways before crossing, she dashed to the other side. Drew followed, then Pyro, Samantha, Arthur, I was the last one, speeding across the gap so fast that I suspected they didn’t even see me.

We huddled there, waiting. Then, cautiously, I dashed up to the edge of the aisle. The people on the side had started to advance on where we had been. I motioned for the others to join me, and they did so. We sprinted around the corner to the next aisle away from the clan.

We needed a place to hide, and quickly. The ‘Tony’s-Convenience-Store-Clan’ would soon find that we were gone, and come looking. And with the numbers they had, it was easy to imagine the result. (If you don’t understand what I’m trying to say, then please close the browser and read Dick and Jane)

Then I spotted it: the perfect hiding place. They were like Mason Jars, except that they were smoke colored, so that you couldn’t see inside. “Get in,” I ordered, and my crew obeyed.

“I’m going to have to put a lid on, so it looks like there’s something in here,” I said.

“There is something in here,” Drew complained.

“I’m going to need you to hold your breath. I’ll try and leave a crack, but I don’t know how I can do that.”

“Uh, Dek, I had a solution,” Pyro said. “I’ll just make a tiny hole in some letter, so they can’t see it.” He picked up one of the lids, inscribed with the label Mason.

“Or we could do that,” I said, getting to one of the jars. A holed lid was put over me, and I hunkered down, trying to fit. My head bumped the lid, and I struggled to stop it from doing so.

I peered out my smoky den. I couldn’t see anything, besides the jars beside me. Faintly, I heard the noise of people finding out that their quarry is gone. In other words, the sound of complete and utter anger.

The ‘Tony’s-Convenience-Store-Clan’ came into the aisle, hounding for our blood. My pulse skyrocketed as they came up and tried to see into the jars. But trying to see in was harder than trying to see out, so they moved on. We continued sitting there until, finally, Pyro tipped his jar over and crawled out. We all proceeded to follow his example, not caring if the ‘Tony’s-Convenience-Store-Clan’ was going to find us or not.

I studied the other side of the aisle, the one we had not touched yet. Smiling, I said one word. “Condiments.”

The ‘Tony’s-Convenience-Store-Clan’ heard us banging around and came back, as quick as they could. But this time, we were ready. From the bottom shelf, we had gotten a ‘Family Size’ container of vegetable oil, a stick of butter, and as many bottles of Maple Syrup as we could find. The latter we had poured out around us, so that they couldn’t get close, unless they were flying. Maple Syrup is, after all, the stickiest thing you can put onto pancakes.

The oil we added to the maple syrup, let the two mix. The butter we also melted and spread around. Then, we grabbed some pots and sticks and formed a convenience store band. Granted, our music was some of the worst you could ever hear, and the lyrics (created by the magician himself, Drew Taylor) were horrendous. They went something like this:

“Oh, we’re trapped in a convenience store!” (Bang on the pot, bang on the pot) “Not exactly convenient, if you ask me. Which no one did, so nevermind” (See former parentheses, see former parentheses) “Why couldn’t we have gotten stuck in a Walmart?”

By this time, the ‘Tony’s-Convenience-Store-Clan’ had reached us. They stared at the mixture with something akin to disgust, which is what I would feel if I saw it. Then, shaking their heads, they charged in….and got stuck on the maple syrup.

“Fire light, fire bright,” Pyro said, igniting his hand.

“Don’t, you fool!” one of the people yelled.

“Let us go in peace,” I said, and they shrugged.

“Okay. But only if you beat the turtles.”

Turtles? After Thor, Mr. Firearm and, come to think of it, the shrinky thing, turtles sounded easy.

“Why not?” I said. Ha ha, let’s all laugh at the little cute idiot. Because that’s what we were dealing with here. Well, what they were dealing with. (Just so you know, I’m the cute little idiot)

Everyone grinned, and, laughing (which should have tipped us off to begin with), led us out of the store and into their backyard. It turns out that Tony’s Convenience Store was right next to a golf park, which in turn, was right next to a river. The group that had taken us belonged to the golf park, and had been stuck there ever since the shrinking happened.

This in and of itself wasn’t surprising, but what they had done with the place, now that was surprising. Instead of hunkering down in Tony’s Convenience Store, as we would have done, they had camped out on the golf course. The most interesting feature of said golf course was the turtle pit.

Unfortunately, I’m not joking here. The ‘Tony’s-Convenience-Store-Clan’ had rounded up seven turtles from the river, and trapped them in a pit about two feet deep. The pit they had dug using an Earth Major. (Just for future reference, Arthur’s kid brother Liam turned out to be an Earth Major. Pretty cool, all the different things he could do)

Our group was shown the pit, then, smiling and laughing, they pushed us in. Gabe and Weston weren’t with us, and we were alone with seven turtles, some snapping, some not. I looked at Pyro. “You think you could fry of of these for supper?”

He laughed, thinking I had made a joke. “Nah, this would be to much for us.”

“Pyro, seriously. I need to know. Can we get out of this alive?”

“Come on, Dek,” Kincaid said. “It’s a good day to die.”

I remember his words from earlier, about how he expected to die if he followed me. I shook my head. “Not today, it’s not. Now, let’s show these idiots how Phillipsclan fights!” With those brave words, we waited for the turtles to attack. You would think they would move slowly, but that wasn’t the case.

They sped across the expanse between us in seconds, their beaks snapping. I jumped, flipping over one of the ugly heads, and landing on the shell. The beast tried to turn, and catch me in its jaw, but I was too quick, leaping out of the way. The others did their various things, except for Arthur and Samantha, who were both Minors, and thus, couldn’t really do anything, well, major. Or Major. Not sure about how that should be done.

Kincaid’s hands flickered. Literally. Pyro’s hands flickered. Figuratively. The flames on his hands, however, did flicker. Together, they attacked the turtles, one roundhouse kicking them, the other cooking them.

As I danced with my seven partners, I called out to Gwen, who was busy keeping herself, her brother and our two Minor friends alive. “Take them to the water!” I called, and instantly, the four disappeared. I slapped my forehead, or to be more precise, I face-planted on the nearest turtle shell. I had meant for her to take the turtles, but I guessed the humans would do as well.

Our odds had gone from seven against seven to three against seven, and let me tell you, the majority was not on our side. As I flipped over another bone-crushing beak, I contemplated the meaning of life. Mostly about why it would ever end in so short a time.

I thought that I was invincible, spinning and jumping around the (insert-your-own-fancy-word-for-turtle-because-if-you-don’t-I’ll-end-up-cursing). Unfortunately, I wasn’t, and landed in the open mouth  of a (censored) turtle.

See? I told you I was going to curse. People these days, they just don’t listen.

I could feel the beak begin to close around me. I fought with it, pushed, kicked, did anything I could, but all the while, felt my bones began to crack. Suddenly, it stopped. I looked up, out of the pit, and saw someone leaning over us. He had a youthful face, and a small golf club was clutched in one hand.

“Stop this, Guntar,” he said, standing upright. I felt myself moving, being drawn to the top of the pit. I landed softly on the dirt and looked at the kid again. He was probably around eleven or twelve, most likely there with his family when the shrinky thing happened. .

The other two in the pit rose as well, landing next to me. “Is that how Gabe feels?” asked Pyro, and I shrugged.

“Probably it’s a little bit different, as he can control it.”

“Yeah, hadn’t considered that,” Pyro acquiesced, turning his gaze onto our savior. “Who’s the kid?”

“The name’s David,” the ‘kid’, replied, turning back to us. “I have what people call telkintic powers.”

“You mean telekinetic,” I corrected, and he raised his club threateningly.

“I can put you back there,” he said, pointing to the turtle pit. “Or you can accept my telkintic powers.”

“Phillipsclan, let’s go,” I whispered, and Kincaid nodded.

“Right, because we can so outrun who knows how many Majors, as well as a telkintic one who can just grab us anytime.”

A big burly man came up. “What is it, Davey?” he asked, his lips forming a sneer. “Don’t like to see bad things? Maybe you should go back to your dolls.”

David’s voice grew cold. His bravery was astounding. I got the feeling that he wasn’t all he seemed. “Guntar, how about I make you into a life-sized puppet? I could, you know. I could just make your arm, oh, I don’t know, whack into your own face,” Guntar’s arm sprung up and slapped himself across the face. “Or, what if I made you trip?” Guntar fell, face first, into the ground.

“David, stop,” I said, walking to him.

“Get away!” he cried, slamming into me with his ‘telkintic’ powers. I rolled along the ground, rising to my feet. Gritting my teeth, I moved back to him, wincing as the wound in my leg started to flame with pain.

“David, stop,” I repeated, and he turned to me. What I saw creeped me out more than a man with gun barrels for arms, or even the giant rat that I had to fight. (Long story, but suffice it to say, rat traps don’t always kill the rats) I saw pure and utter hatred. Nothing could stand against such loathing.

I shook my head. “David, I’m sorry,” I said, turning away. “Come on, Pyro, Kincaid. Let’s go.” I left the golf course, heading for the water. I turned back when I heard a sniffling noise. David was kneeling before Guntar, crying.

And Guntar was laughing.

 

Looking for the next Majors and Minors story? Find it here

The Obligatory End of Year Post

~Change comes, and change goes/Faster than the seasons flow.~

That couplet is from a book that I was writing. There’s a lot of those, I know, but this one pertained to a series that my sister was writing. Basically, she took the characters of a whole bunch of her friends, and wrote a story where they were all in one big family. And when I say big, I mean big. There are about fifteen kids, or some other grandiose number. All that to explain that I was writing the final book in the series, about the twin boys. The title was going to be Change of the Seasons, which is where the idea for the rhyme comes from. I like to think that it sums up what 2016 was for me, and for my family.

I’ve flown for the first time, traveled as far West as I’ve ever been in my life, received three beautiful sister-in-laws, graduated high school, completed a semester of college, and, weirdest of all, became an ASL (American Sign Language) Major.

This last listing adds proof of the existence of God to me. I took the course to get my language credit out of the way, but my teacher realized that I have a hidden and innate talent for signing. Through a series of hints, bribes and outright declarations that I should become an ASL Major, she convinced me. And now, looking back, I find it hard to imagine a time when I didn’t sign. Mostly because I don’t want to imagine something like that.

An end of year look at your life usually turns into something that can be summed up like this: ‘Sure, it can be difficult, but God is good.’ That’s true, but I don’t want my last post this year to be something as cliche as that. Sure, God’s good, there’s no denying that. But we can’t lie to ourselves and to everyone else that our lives are fine. We know the truth, but we don’t want to admit it.

To paraphrase Andy Mineo (a Christian rapper), when someone asks how we’re doing, we say we’re fine, even though we’re hurting inside. But tell me, who’s really lying? They don’t want to know how you’re doing.

This year, God explained who I was supposed to be. I’m called to minister to the broken. Sometimes I imagine myself as this giant ear, just listening to people as they come. Sure, I have a tiny mouth for giving advice, but that’s not really what people want. If you want advice, you go to self-help books. But a self-help book won’t listen to your problems, won’t care about what you’re going through. I have to believe that the world would be a better place if we meant what we said when we ask ‘How are you?’

Yes, God is good, but people aren’t. There are times when you need a physical shoulder to cry on, as well as time when you need to offer your shoulder to others in that kind of situation. And I would propose that in doing so, we would be Christ-sent to those people. But far too often, we brush them aside. ‘I have my own problems,’ we say, as we rush to work, or school or whatever it is that we think we can’t put off.

When change strikes, people need someone to fall on. So, in the words of an inspired songwriter, ‘Lean on me, when you’re not strong/ And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on.‘ The body of Christ is joined and held together by every supporting ligament and sinew. Without that support, it’s a pile of tissue, unable to function. Why do you think so many people are depressed, without anyone to lend them aid?

To finish off my ramblings, I’m reminded what John Stumbo, the Alliance President, said at LIFE. In talking about all the horrors he’s been through, he explained that he had to believe that you could hold onto someone else’s faith when your faith wasn’t strong enough. But how, I have to ask, can you use another’s faith unless it is offered, and how will others be encouraged if you refuse to hold out your faith to them?

I’m not a firm believer in New Year’s resolutions, mostly because no one holds to them. But I challenge you to love people in a way that they will see the goodness of God, and eventually glorify the One who sent you.

To all my loyal readers (and the unloyal ones, too), Happy New Year! And may the Lord bless and protect you throughout 2017. 

Majors and Minors: Chapter Two

I was planning to submit this several days before NaNoWriMo, with the challenge to our readers to participate. However, I realized on Wednesday, ‘Hey, it’s the second day of November, and I haven’t posted anything!’

Oh, well.  Anyway, here is the second installment of Majors and Minors.

Chapter Two: So Begins Phillipsclan

The MiniTox affected many different people many different ways. However, along with shrinking people, it also gave a many powers as well. These empowered people were later called Majors by the leader of the Adirondack Clan, Melchizedek Phillips (see page 342)
The non powered people were renamed ‘Minors.’ The gifts were various, some could fly, others could run extremely fast, and there are reports that some could manipulate time. (For all Major powers ever recorded, see page 285)

So, in case you didn’t notice, my name was in there. It’s true, I did lead the Adirondack Clan for a while, but that wasn’t until much later. So we’ll deal with that fact later.

I left Mrs. Taylor at the house with Judy, while Gwen, Drew and I set out. I didn’t even know what we were going to do, but I knew we had to get supplies. I also knew that we should check on our friends. After I told my companions my ideas, they decided that friends should come first. So off we went, to the Jacobsons. They lived the closest, right down the street.

Drew pulled us into the driveway, then opened the door for me. I leaped out, running up to the door. Then I turned, as the door wasn’t opened. “Drew!” I yelled, and as if summoned, he fell out of the car.

“Yes?”

“The door,” I replied, as he pulled himself to his feet. He stretched out a hand, and the door clicked. I ran up the steps and pulled it open, getting my hands into the crack underneath. “Weston? Mrs. Jacobson!” I called as I walked through their mudroom. “Hello?”

A faint whimper brought me to their living room. There I found Weston, bent over the prone form of his mother. I ran over to him, and he looked at me through grief filled eyes. “Melchizedek, she’s gone,” he said, his voice breaking.

“Weston, I need you to come with me. I know you don’t want to, but right now, I need you, okay, man?“ Weston nodded, but he obviously didn’t care. “Wait here one second,” I ordered, then ran out to the car.

“Mrs. Jacobson didn’t make it,” I said, shaking my head. Gwen put a hand to her mouth, and Drew looked grim. We had all known her really well. She invited us over for supper, made these amazing chocolate chip cookies, but at the same time, she wasn’t our mother. There was no way we could feel what Weston was right now.

In a flash, Gwen was gone, into the house. Drew and I stood there. “It’s just wrong, man,” Drew said, shaking his head. “She didn’t need to die. None of this needed to happen.”

I shook my head as well. “That’s just it. We spend so much time thinking about the way things should have been that we don’t focus on what really happened. Mrs. Jacobson is dead, Drew, and there’s nothing we can do about it. All we can do is help Weston get over it.”

“It’s just that, well, it seems like you don’t care.”

I took a deep breath. “As tragic as it is, at least Weston knows how she died. My mother, my father even, could be anywhere, lying dead from this. All I know is that I don’t want that to happen. And the uncertainty is killing me.”

Drew looked at me with sympathy, then started walking towards the house. His dad had died when he was little, and he didn’t have many memories of him. But he had his mom, and she was stilll alive. He could never feel the fear that I did at the moment.

I stood there, by the tire, for a few more minutes, then sagged against the rubber. My words were coming back to haunt me. ‘We spend so much time thinking about the way things should be, that we don’t thinking about they way the are.’ All I could do was wish that I could go back to my normal life, with normal friends, but the wish was futile. Useless.

I walked to the house, faster than Drew had done earlier, but slower than if I had ran. I entered the living room, and saw once again the pain on Weston’s face. This time, I couldn’t stop myself. I turned and ran out. As fast as I could.

My mind couldn’t believe, not for a second, that it could happen to my family. Never to my family. My parents weren’t old, they wouldn’t die from the toxin, would they? I ran down the road, not pausing even when I came to the cross roads. It was there that I saw the first crash.An SUV had driven off the road and crumpled its front end around a tree. I think it was a willow, but I’m not really sure. Trees aren’t my specialty, and plus, it’s been how many years now? (And no, I’m not telling you. I never give my age out)

I ran up and jumped onto the back. I peered through the window, but couldn’t see anyone. I tried to lift the back door, but I could hardly even push on the button. Then I slapped my forehead. I ran to the front, and looked for any holes in the windows.

There it was. I had to be very careful, but I though that maybe, just maybe, I could squeeze through the hole. I inched along the crushed hood, trying not to slip and fall to my doom. Then I grabbed the rear-view mirror on the passenger side door and swung myself around.

The window had been let down just barely enough to allow me to squeeze through. I thanked the Lord for it, then did exactly that: squeezed through. I dropped onto the cushion of the seat, which for me was a pretty long drop. I looked around the interior of the car. Two kids, and one adult. The adult had been thrown forward, and was unconscious. The kids looked shaken, but okay.

I jumped down to where they were. “Hey, hey, it’s okay, look, I’m here to help, okay?”They looked at me with frightened eyes. I looked at the doors. It was one of the ‘pull the handle and push,’ kind, unlike the automatic doors that most people had in those days.

“My name’s Melchizedek, okay? What’s your name?” There was a boy and a girl, both about the same age. The girl spoke first. “I’m Sarah. This is Liam. We were with our brother, Arthur. He’s hurt.” I looked at Arthur. He didn’t look good. He needed someone who knew how to help him, and fast. But with my entering the window gig, I had prevented myself from getting out again.

“Right then. We’re going to get out of here. Right now, in fact.” With those brave and daring words, I walked over the seat belt. I pulled on it, then started climbing. Now, a thing to remember: seat belts are not ropes. They are, in fact, long pieces of cloth that have really sharp edges that dig into your palms when you try to climb them. And, as an added bonus of pain, they’re not exactly the thinnest thing to climb. So you’re kind of wrapping your body around it, and climbing, and scratching your legs and hands and hoping, that somehow you’ll make it to the top.

I did, although it was one of the worst experiences of my life. I held onto the bar  that it wrapped around, then swung onto  the car door. I missed what I was aiming for (the handle) and instead hit something else (the window). It didn’t work like the movies, where the actor slides down the glass. Instead, I kind of crumpled off, and fell backwards. Instead of waiting to slam into the car floor, I grabbed the door ledge. My fingers felt like they were going to fall off, but I held on. Then, slowly, I pulled myself onto the handle.

“Okay, I’m going to pull, and you’re going to push, okay?” The two kids nodded at me. I pulled the handle, and they pushed. They pushed with all their might. But it was no use. The door wouldn’t budge. But, then again, most doors don’t when they’re locked.

I skittered along to where the lock jutted from the door. I got as good of a grip as I could, the strained upwards. With a ‘click’, the lock, well, unlocked. I moved back to the handle. “Okay, try this again,” I said, and pulled. This time, with the kids pushing as hard as they could, the door swung open. I dropped, my legs absorbing most of the impact.

“Okay, I’m going to get help, but I need you to stay here, okay?” The kids nodded, and I ran off. My legs pushed me to another limit, to a point that I could hardly even see anything, it was moving so fast. I stopped off at the Taylors, as Mrs. Taylor was a former nurse. I explained the situation, then told her to set up an emergency hospital, as we wouldn’t be able to get anyone to the real one. Then I ran back to the Jacobsons.

Drew and I left Gwen comforting Weston, who was still distraught. And who could blame him? We didn’t have anyone to take the body, so they had gotten him to go into the kitchen. “This is stupid,” Drew said again, as we drove to where the crash had happened. I got out and started helping Sarah and Liam in. Drew took a look at Arthur.

“It looks like it’s just a hit to the head, which might lead to a concussion, but he should recover all right.” I nodded in deference to his opinion. His mother was the nurse, not mine. Together, we carried him to the  other car, then Drew started off again. We made it back his mother in short order, and left Arthur in her care.

“We’ve got to get more nurses, and doctors,” Drew said, echoing my thoughts.

“Some medical supplies would be nice, too,” I replied, looking at their first aid kit. It was good, but it wouldn’t be able to do everything we needed. “We’re going to need batteries, in case the electricity gets shut off, canned food, as that’ll keep longer, and whatever else we can find.”

We left once again, and drove down to the Dollar General on Route 11. Drew opened the doors for us, and we began our shopping trip. I ran into the back and found the employees cart, then took Drew back to start it. With a grin, we moved around the store, at a snail’s pace.

“I could belly crawl faster than this thing,” I moaned, and Drew laughed. We started loading everything we could into the cart. I found other racks that were on wheels, and started moving them. A man, who I had usually seen behind the desk, asked me what I was doing.

“I’m taking what I need,” I replied, smiling. “Would you like to help?” The man raised an eyebrow, then shrugged. Apparently, he was extremely strong, for as soon as he pushed it, the cart flew across the store and against the other wall. I smiled, and ran over to it. From there, I pushed it out to the car, and unloaded it. Soon, the employees, Rick, Andrea, and Sam according to their name tags, were helping.I did my best to keep up with them, but it was harder than you would have imagined.

I moved mechanically, my mind racing with different ideas. I hated the thought that we were raiding the store, but at the same time, we did need it, and we could distribute it as necessary.  Soon, other people who had been in the store when the MiniTox hit started to help us. It took us several hours, and even then, we hadn’t emptied the entire store.

Sam, who had discovered he  had control over fire, volunteered to stay and guard the store while we delivered the goods to the Taylors. Thanking him profusely, we drove off.

“We just robbed a store,” Drew said,  and I nodded.

“I wish I could say that I didn’t want to do that, but at the same time, I don’t want a gang to get it.”

“We are a gang,” Alex, one of the people in the store, said. “We’re like Melchizidek’s Gang.”

“I prefer the term ‘Clan,’ “ I said, and Drew laughed.

“Fine. In that case, I dub this Phillipsclan.  After all, you are our leader.”

And strangely, the name stuck. So that’s the story of how Phillipsclan started.