Visti El Bulron

Hi, all. It’s been over a month since my last post (a fact for which I am extremely sorry), so I figured I might as well give you something fun to read. Someone once was asked if they wrote short stories. They replied, “Well, long short stories.” That’s what I feel like sometimes. I started a project, thinking it’ll be maybe 10-15 pages, max? This story ended up being 28. It’s gone through the first rough draft – I like the plot, characters, etc. – there’s just some tweaking that needs to happen. This first bit is probably the most refined (thank you, Abe), and as I get to the rest of it, I’ll post that, too.

As the cart wheeled closer, the seven brigands ducked lower behind the thick wall of thorns. Their leader, a muscular, clean-shaven man, grinned slightly. A little closer, and the prize would be his for the taking. The two oxen pulling strained against the load, trying to keep it from pushing them down the mountain path.
There where two knights, one riding a bay, the other riding a pure white horse. The one on the bay said something to the other, who nodded. Lifting the visor, he revealed his face. “Daws,” the leader of the brigands growled softly to the others.
The knight, Daws Calloway, lifted a silver whistle to his lips, and several sharp blasts later, a score of bowmen, dressed in drab brown suits to blend in with the terrain, marched out the nearby treeline. The leader of the brigands smiled, knowing that Daws had just revealed his hand. The element of surprise had been lost.
“Ye called?” one said, Daws pulling his visor down and reigning in his horse.
“Aye, I did. Set fire to those bushes there. They’re the best place for robbers to hide.” Daws watched impassively as the archers slowly found their fire arrows, dipping them into the lantern on the back of the cart. As they flared up, they let fly, one after another. In the summer heat, the bushes had no defense. They ignited almost instantly, spreading until the it looked like it would soon be a forest fire.
Inside the thicket, the brigands pulled away. The fire was scorching their skin, sweat pouring out. “Get out!” their leader cried, shoving them towards the only exit. As they ran, he lay down once more, concealing himself behind the flames, watching the archers quickly fire after his men. Three of them were hit almost instantly, their bodies falling limp on the mountain path, while the rest stumbled down the mountain. The archers gave chase, as the men were already out of reach of their short, lightweight bows. The knight on the bay tried to follow, but Daws called to him, riding to where his companion sat.The two knights watched the chase, not moving. Knowing that it would be his only chance, the man leaped through the flames, his coat catching on fire as he did so. He shed it, running to the cart in three swift strides. There it lay, buried underneath several hundred pounds of gold coins. As his fingers closed around the iron object, the knight on the bay spotted him. His sword was out in an instant, and he was spurring the horse towards the brigand just as fast.
As the bright sword flashed downwards, the brigand dropped, rolling under the cart. He rolled the complete width, getting to his feet as the knight tried to circle around. Daws was chasing him as well, but the brigand was running, far faster than any normal human could.
“It’s Bartik!” Daws yelled, spurring his horse forward. “This is my fight.”
Bartik turned, pausing long enough to see Daws’ twisted face. “Have a nice chase,” he said, then stepped through the veil and onto the Path.

“We need your help, Kint. I’m cashing in my favor.” Daws sounded desperate. Pretty soon, the ex-con knew, he would break.
“First off, Daws,” Kint said, leaning forward and steepling his long, thin fingers, “You said I would owe you something. I never had anything to do with it. Plus, here in Crindallia, I’m as free as I can be. Back there, I have hundreds of creditors waiting to kill me.”
“I could bring you back. You could be found past the border, drunk senseless.” A weak threat, Kint knew.
“And I would explain to the authorities that I don’t have a border pass, so how could I have gotten across?”
“Kint. I’m not asking. I’m ordering you to help. Otherwise, I’ll just kill you. You know too much already.” The knight had begun pacing, hands shaking in fury.
The black-haired thief considered this for a while. “The only reason you say that is because we’re alike. If you weren’t like me, you would never threaten an innocent man.”
“We’re nothing alike. I’m a knight, sworn to uphold the laws and orders decreed by the king. You’re trash from the streets.”
Kint’s tone became soft, but still dangerous. “I was going to be a knight. I was taught by Jusha Vebolin. And you know what happened to him? He was killed by your precious little king. The king turned on him just like that. Bam, another knight dead. What was I to do except try to fight against him? He killed my master. The least I could do was destroy his kingdom.”
“And now I serve my king honestly? How is that like you?”
“You didn’t start out as a knight. You were trained by the man who I sought out. Grank. Remember him? You were taught the same things as me, but became a knight. We are just alike.”
“No, we’re-”
“Admit it!” Kint said, flipping the table he sat at, the food and drink spilling over the floor. He stood, kicking his chair to the ground and stepping over the wooden furniture. “You’ve done things just like me, but they were in the name of the kingdom. I saw you in Hollis, burning homes, killing innocent citizens. And then you have the gall to come in here and tell me that I’m different than you? You’re exactly the same as me!”
The knight merely stood there, silent and unable to give an answer to a statement he knew was true. But then he whispered something, causing Kint to pause.
“What was that?” he demanded. “What did you just say?”
Daws repeated himself, this time louder. “Bartik.”
This time, it was Kint who remained silent. Daws nodded, smiling. Kint had just lost the upper hand.

Argent spun over, dropping towards the ground like a stone. Below him, Buck and Hokar fought, the former encased in stone, the latter empowered with super strength. The fourth competitor, Magel, sped around them, trailing a long rope. Argent slowed to a stop, waiting for something to happen. Magel, his rope finally tightening around the two boys, jumped back as it unwound, cracking because of the speed the two ensnared boys had pulled back.
From his seat in the sky, Argent watched, laughing slightly. His trainer, Yellick, spoke into his mind, telling him to get a move on. “Yes, sir,” Argent said, pulling out his blowgun. He put a dart in, firing at the speeding Magel. It took several tries to finally get a range, but when he did, the speeder dropped almost instantly.
“That was a bit easy,” he muttered, his wings stopping waving, letting him drop towards the two boys still fighting. Buck, a tall thin boy, was an easy target, and Argent took him out first. Hokar, with his stone encased skin was nearly impenetrable. However, his elbows and knees had to be free, otherwise, he wouldn’t have full range of motion.
Argent flew low, hovering over the ground, and tried to hit the kneecap, but rock formed there just before the dart hit. He winged backwards, trying to stay out of reach of Hokar’s lashing arms. He flew farther back, loading another dart into his blowgun. As he inhaled, Hokar made a dive, grabbing Argent’s leg and smashing him into the ground. The rock-laced boy jumped up, grabbing the leg again and throwing Argent away.
“Enough!” Yellick roared. “You don’t need to kill him, Hokar. Merely knock him out.”
“No hard feelings, Argent?” Hokar asked, the stone melting off of him and sinking into the ground. He walked over, helping the other boy to his feet.
“Not at all. I would have done the same thing in your shoes.” Argent looked over to Yellick. “Do you have the antidote? If you don’t, they’re going to be asleep a long time.”
Yellick nodded, pulling a small canister from his pocket. He uncorked it, and waved it under the two unconcious boys’ noses. In a matter of seconds, the two boys were standing, and talking with Hokar and Argent.
“I would have gotten you, if bird-boy hadn’t hit me with that lucky shot,” Buck said, grabbing Argent and rubbing his head fondly.
“Sure you would have,” Hokar said, grinning back. Their friendly teasing continued for several more seconds, until a mind-blast from Yellick stopped them.
“Sir?” Argent asked, stopping what he was about to say, an insult about the rocks in Hokar’s brain.
“Daws Calloway is here to see you,” Yellick informed them, his soft voice echoing in their minds. “It’s time.”
“You mean,” Hokar said, his grin growing, “We’re heading out? We’ve trained long enough?”
“I mean you better get to the Council before I do,” Yellick said, already half-way to the meeting house.
“That’s it, I’m outta here,” Magel said, sprinting off. Argent flexed his wings, then soared into the sky. Below him, the final two began to run, Buck’s legs sending shivers through the earth.
Magel, of course, was the first to arrive, appearing in the center of the meeting hall without warning. The Council, although used to his sudden appearance, still flinched. Soon, the others filed in, Argent folding his wings behind his back. Yellick brought up the rear, his scruffy face in a slight smile. “I didn’t expect them to actually beat me,” he said to the Council, bowing. The other Council members nodded in return as he took his place among them.
The room, about thirty feet in diameter, was a perfect circle, with the fifteen membered Council sitting on one side and the trainees on the other. In the middle was Daws Calloway, the Rogue Knight, as he was known to many of Marik’s lower class.
“Greetings, Daws Calloway. We hope you bring good news?” asked Slybor, one of the senior members of the Council. His gift was, like Buck, enhanced strength, but his wisdom matched, and perhaps was even superior to, the gift.
“Members of the council, I bring you fearsome news,” Daws said, bowing slightly. The Council of Marik was the strongest team of Empowered to walked the kingdoms. They answered only to King Bray Huston himself, and often would take matters into their own hands. “Just a few days ago, on the other side of the country, the first part of the Visti was stolen.”
When the Council erupted into gasps of shock and horror, the trainees looked at each other, puzzled. Yellick noticed their confusion, providing relief into their minds. “The Visti is an object that was made by seven people, one for each power. Supposedly, it gives power to the wielder that is beyond belief. Each piece is coveted by the seven Orders. One being stolen is almost impossible to conceive. Fortunately for us, you need all the pieces for it to work.”
Daws continued. “I need a team to get it back. I would ask the Council of Marik itself, but I understand that the problems of the country are far to urgent, especially when all other six items of the Visti are safe, and the Corthack, those evil Empowered, have come knocking on our gates again. However, the danger is real. With the first, it will not be long until the entire Visti is uncovered.”
“Yellick,” Drodar, Chief Council member said, motioning with his hand. “Rise.” When the trainer had done so, Drondar began his interrogation. “Do you believe the members of your team to be suited for this mission?”
“I do, Chief,” Yellick replied, showing his yellowing teeth. His voice spoke in the trainee’s minds. “And you better not let me down, you hear?”
“Are they up to fighting against a villain like Bartik?” Drondar, a telepathic like Yellick, had already gleaned all information on the heist and shared it among the Council.
“Sir, I could think of no people better suited. Aside from the Council, of course.”
“Our services are required elsewhere, as you know, Yellick,” Drondar said.
Slybor spoke up now. “Let the trainees come forth. Announce yourself, with your full name.”
The troupe filed out, Argent sizing Daws up. The knight cut an imposing figure, but he still thought there was something missing. He passed it off, however, when the group began to introduce themselves.
“Buck Traithin,” the stronghand said, looking up at the Council, then turning and bowing to Daws. “A stronghand.”
“Argent, sir. No other name given. Not Empowered, just a Winged by birth.”
“Magel Havern. A fleetfoot.”
“Hokar Bin’soth. A rockbody.”
Daws Calloway nodded to each in turn, then lifted a whistle. As he began to blow, the secondary entrance, opposite the one the trainees had entered, opened, and a man walked in. He had short black hair that stuck up everywhere, and dark eyes. His fingers, long and thin, waved through the air, and the whistle stopped blowing.
“Kint Barken. I’m what I like to call a free-hand mover.”
“Telekinetic,” Daws said, giving Kint a look. “He’ll be helping us on this job.”
“I could probably do it without the brats, but they’ll make good shields anyway,” Kint said, drawling out the words.
Daws continued giving Kint the look, but the thief was already looking the members of his team up and down. “Right, Wingy, Rocky, Quicky and Strongy.” He turned away, shaking his head. “I don’t know if we can do it with them, Daws. I don’t think they know how to fight.”
“The real question,” Buck said, “Is whether or not you can fight, traitor.” The strongarm was suddenly pushed against the ground. Argent took to the air, but found himself trapped by a telekinetic barrier.
Magel became a blur, spinning around Kint and slamming repeated blows against his body. Hokar walked forward, his arm encasing in rock, slamming it forward. Kint went down, an ugly gash spreading blood across his forehead. “Stop it!” Yellick cried to them all, and they dropped their powers. As the teacher descended from the Council, his eyes flashed angrily. “You fools! Acting like that, I halfway believe you aren’t fit for trying to catch Bartik.”
“He attacked Buck,” Hokar said, but the words fell on empty ears.
“There’s no reason you can give for nearly killing a man, rockbody!” Yellick roared. “Your powers are dangerous. Get it together!”
Argent and Buck looked at each other. Both would have done the same to the thief in an instant, but they weren’t about to admit it. Yellick turned away, shaking his head. “Perhaps,” he said, looking at the man on the ground, “You’ll learn not to insult my team.”

 

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Sugar Sweet Clay Studio

Hi, all,

Today, I’m going to try and write a persuasive article. A promotional article. An advertisement. Today, I’m going to try and convince you to buy things.

But first, an introduction.

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This is Katie Otis. When it comes to having friends, she’s the kind of person who is rated as 100, but is nearly impossible to find. Don’t ask me what’s up with that sneer. Anyhow, I met Katie at my church 3 or 4 years ago. At first, we were not friends. But I was also a young guy, and girls weren’t my thing. You know, I had to hang with guys or no one. After she left the area, we remained in contact – and I’m very glad we did.

Recently, Katie told me she was planning to start a polymer clay shop, selling charms and other such items. When I heard, I offered to write a promo for her. Hence this article.

Right off the bat, I’m going to tell you that’s she’s really, really talented. She sent me a few of these charms – they are incredible.

First off, we have the good ole’ shamrock. I currently wear this around my neck at all times, and get compliments regularly.

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Second, an ILY sign, from ASL. For those of you who don’t know, this means “I love you” in ASL. Or airplane. Depends on how you hold it.

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Another ILY!

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A third ILY! But this one super realistic.

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Heart earrings – apparently from something that didn’t come out the way she wanted? But seriously, still looks good to me! Pity I don’t have my ears pierced.

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And finally, the link to the store. At first, you might think “Oh, my word, I’m going to go broke.” But seriously – this stuff is worth it.

Guys – handmade jewelry makes really good birthday gifts for mothers/sisters and girlfriends/wives.

Gals – Well, guys might not like it that much, but you can at least hint to them that you want it for your birthday/anniversary/whatever may apply.

Hopefully, I’ve succeeded in my mission of making you all new customers of Sugar Sweet Clay Studio. Now go and share on social media, email, and maybe a real letter or two!

Story – by Dialogue

As a fantasy buff, I love reading anything by Brandon Sanderson. For those of you who don’t know, he broke into the fantasy world with Elantris, which had a story arc beyond what some authors have in entire series. He then followed with the Mistborn series, and it’s several spin-off novels. He wrote a few teen books, and is currently working on the Stormlight Archive, which he’s planning to be a ten-book series, in two five-book arcs. All this to say, he’s an incredible author. I was recently browsing his site, and found a collection of short fiction. One of them was I Hate Dragons, a humorous short story told entirely in dialogue. There’s nothing but what people are saying. Not only is it hilarious, it’s a genius storytelling, and really makes you think how to use context in your dialogue. He wrote it in response to a challenge he put out many years ago. Well, back in 2010, I wasn’t writing as well as I am now, and I also didn’t have the blog. But I figured I might as well take up the challenge and see how it went. What follows might be completely bizarre, and perhaps a little stupid, but it also only took a few hours to do. Please enjoy the following story, which I like to call Wizard Lesson.

“Now, Doran, we will go over how to cast an illuminating spell.”
“You mean to light a room up, Master?”
“Yes, Doran. Now, the first step-”
“I could use this so much, Master. My youngest brother, Calden, he’s afraid of the dark. I could just light up his room for him, no problem, couldn’t I, Master.”
“Er, yes, I suppose so. But we really must be-”
“And when I’m in the basement, and I’m always walking into cobwebs. I could just light that up, too, right?”
“Yes, yes, of course. Now, the first-”
“How powerful is this spell? Could I light up the entire world with it?”
“Don’t be ridiculous, child. You could, at most, light up a large field. But the entire world? That’s going too far.”
“I was just curious, Master.”
“I understand that, Doran, but we need to go over how the spell works.”
“Yes. Of course. I’m listening, Master.”
“All right. The first step is-”

“Why did you pause, Master?”
“I expected an interruption. You were kind enough to disappoint me. Now, the first step is to say the words. Remember, all magic – Come, boy, say the rule.”
“All magic is taking the energy inside and putting it into something outside.”
“And an example of this?”
“Pff. Do I have to, Master?”
“Yes.”
“Fine. A classic example of this is the fireball spell. It channels your energy into a heat wave that then expands into a fireball.”
“Well, you’re not wrong. But next time, please put a little life into it. You sounded like you were reciting.”
“I was reciting. That’s exactly what it says in the book.”
“I don’t even want to know. Now, the words to channel your energy are corad vas terrabit.”
Card varse terrible!”
“Careful!”
“Wow! Look at that tower! Did I make it pink?”
“Yes. Card sol hassen.”
“Hey! It’s gray again! How’d you do that?”
“Magic, Doran. Magic.”
“Oh. Right.”
“Now, repeat after me. Corad.”
Corad.”
Vas.”
Vas.”
Terr– Don’t hold your wand like that! Do you want to light up that statue’s rump?”
“No! Of course not! Sorry, Master.”
“Get that out of my face! Now! Blasted child! Be careful. This isn’t some stick that you can wave around willy nilly.”
“It looks like a stick, Master.”
“It’s not just a stick. It’s a stick that has a function. Just like the energy inside you has a purpose. Now, copy me.”
“Yes, Master.”
“Exactly. Your wand should be a little straighter, but otherwise – why are you making that horrible face, boy?”
“You said to copy you, Master.”
“I do not make that face, boy!”
“Of course not, Master. It must just be that my face can’t copy your distress well enough.”
“Distress?”
“Yes, sir. You always look distressed when you’re about to perform magic.”
“Do not make fun of me, boy.”
“I’m not making fun of you, Master. It’s too sad to tease.”
“What? What do you even mean?”
“What I said, Master?”
“What do you mean that it’s too sad – no. No, I must not let this bother me. Doran, repeat the words. Corad.”
Corad.”
Vas.”
Vas.”

“You paused again, Master.”
“I’m attempting not to kill you, boy. Terrabit!”
Terrabit!”
“Wonderful. Now say them all together.”
Corad vast terra-”
“Not vast. Vas.”
Corad vas-”
“Wonderful.”
Terrabid.”
“No!”
“Wow! Is that a thundercloud? My brother, the one I told you about earlier, is afraid of thunderstorms. Boy! That’s a lot of rain from one tiny thundercloud.”
“Come, Doran! Run for the tower!”
“Woah! Did that statue just explode?”
Coffid hep soto!”
“Did you just open the door with your wand, Master? That’s pretty impressive. Not as much as that statue exploding, but still cool.”
“Just sit down, boy. And give me your wand.”
“Yes, sir. It’s awfully dark in here, sir. Maybe you could show me that illumination spell now?”
“I tried to show it to you, boy. And you created a thunderstorm that blew up an ancient statue of a powerful wizard.”
“I just got one thing wrong. How does magic even know what I said? I mean, suppose someone had a lisp. Would every spell they tried come out wrong?”
“Look, lad, those questions aren’t for right now. Did you miss the part where you blew up an ancient statue?”
“Nope. I saw it. It was incredible. I hope I can do that again, someday.”
“That’s it. I can’t take this anymore. I’m through with you.”
“Wait, Master, don’t go! I’m sorry. I’ll do my best. I’ll work hard. I’ll, I’ll be careful from now on. Please, Master, don’t go.”
“Hmph. Fine. I’ll give it one more go. But you need to promise to be careful of what you say.”
“Of course. Corad vas terrabit.”
“That’s exactly what you were supposed to say the first time, Doran. Now, take your wand and say it again. Carefully.”
Corad vast terrabit. Oh, I’m sorry, Master. Oh, your new cloak, too.”
“I – I am fine. You are fine. Look on the bright side. You did the spell correctly.”
“But I ruined your beautiful cloak!”
“Illumination ends, eventually. My cloak’s glow will fade. I’m proud of you, Doran.”
“Truly?”
“Truly.”
“Thank you, Master. Most people aren’t poud of me. They’re just angry.”
“You can be a bit much, sometimes, Doran. But you want to try hard. Come, I think your freak storm has ended. We can return to the great outdoors.”
“I love the smell of the earth after a rain.”
“It’s the simple pleasures of this life, Doran. Remember that.”
“It’s a reminder that the worms are out of their holes, so right now is the perfect time to get bait for fishing. Hey, there’s one right now!”
“Focus, Doran.”
“Sorry. What are we working on now?”
“Making the illumination larger or smaller. For example, corad vas terrabit von dulak. See, it creates a floating orb that gives off light. Meanwhile, corad vas terrabit von dulath. And now there’s a larger area that’s lit up. The second doesn’t last as long, however.”
“That’s cool! Can I try?”
“Show me that you know the clarifiers first.”
Von dulak, or von dulath.”
“Wonderful. Now, for the first, point to where you want the orb to gather.”
Corad vas terrabit vom dulak.”
“Not again, Doran!”
“What did it do? Why didn’t it make an orb like yours did?”
“You said vom, not von.”
“Master, you don’t look so good.”
“I – I don’t feel too well, I’m afraid. Vom causes sickn-”
“Ugh. I’m sorry, Master.”
“What’s wrong with him, Doran?”
“Oh, hey, Grindle. Oh, he was showing me an illumination spell, and happened to get sick.”
“Ick. That’s nasty.”
“I know. Hey, you want to see the spell?”
“Sure!”
“Okay. Card varse terrible!”
“Ah! My cloak!”

 

And that’s it. I wasn’t sure how to end it, so if seems abrupt, my apologies. But anything else I tried seemed like it would lead into another tangent, and then I’d never finish. Either way, Doran reminds me of Kyle, from Studio C (look it up on YouTube), and the whole story reminds me of the Pixar short Lifted (you can probably find this on YouTube as well). And I would also like to thank Mr. Sanderson (if he ever reads this) for the incredible writing exercise. It was a lot of fun.

 

The Stealth Seekers … And a Challenge

As you can tell from my “Retired Hero’s Home,” I love superhero stories. At one point, I even dabbled in drawing them. But I can’t draw, and my handwriting was even worse, so there was no way to tell what the story was about. Either way, I created these two characters, Reapon and Culemule. They fought against this creature called Mr. Alien. Then, as I continued, Mr. Alien ended up being on their side. Their team was called the Stealth Seekers, fighting evil without others knowing it was them. Then, one day, I wanted to get more in depth. Where did they come from? Why did they fight together? What was Mr. Alien? This story helped answer those questions. Enjoy.

 

It was a Tuesday night when the uprising happened. It wasn’t really all that sudden. One second, they weren’t there, then they next second, they still weren’t there, and give or take several hundred years, always infiltrating our world, slowly preparing to take it over.
The humans didn’t believe in extra-terrastial life. At least, not the majority. Others, called crackpots, conspiracy theorists, and worse names than those, believed that something was going to come. But even they were surprised when it happened. They looked to the sky, searching for the bright metal ships, probably circular in shape, which would come buzzing down and introduce them to the worlds beyond.
But on that fateful Tuesday, Taco Night at the Holme residence, everyone discovered what the aliens really were. All over the world, they appeared. Actually, appeared isn’t the correct term. They didn’t suddenly show up, they came out of hiding. Office workers, lawyers, drunks, prisoners, guards, every job you can think of, they weren’t humans. They dropped the facade, and it was over. The presidents, prime ministers, kings, queens, all the leaders had long been replaced by the Spids.
And then it was over. Just like that. And life continued. Just like that.
Now, however, when you went the grocery store, you saw a Spid watching you from Aisle five. The cashiers were mostly Spids. The children in the schools walked in to find their teachers with eight, long, pulsing, blue, rope-like arms.
The Spids were vaguely humanoid, with large, round heads, and a torso-like stump. But on the bottom of the torso, where human legs would exist, there was instead a large rocket, which allowed them to float above the ground. And where arms should have come where merely two pointed bulges. Off either side of this bulge protruded two, long, arms. Two to a side of the bulge, four to the side of a Spid, and eight total. Spids could control them far better than humans could their arms, and they were extendable and retractable.
For the most part, Spids spoke whatever language the country they occupied did, but when they got together, what they said sounded like a wet, kissing noise.
On Tuesday, the uprising happened. On Sunday, the taking happened. The Spids burst into houses, searching for prime candidates, as they called them. Later, the human race discovered that what they meant was guinea pigs. Jessica Holme was taken, the Spids dragging her and her two month year old son out of the house. Her father and husband both tried to fight, but were quickly sedated. The Spids frowned on killing.
Each country had one base where the Spids could experiment on the humans they gathered. Jessica and her boy were separated, Jessica finding herself in a cell awaiting treatments. The boy, however, was taken to Doctor Hoo, a Spid who had taken the name as a joke.
And so began the testing, the boy growing into a headstrong teen with powers beyond the ken of humans and Spid alike. He was no longer ‘human’, but was not Spid either. Instead, he was given the name Reapon. Perhaps it was a misspelling of ‘weapon,’ or perhaps they just wanted it to sound cooler. With a name like Doctor Hoo, who knows.
This time, however, Reapon was sick of knuckling down to the Spids. On a Tuesday night, seventeen years from the original uprising, he and several other guinea pigs broke out, running from the only place they had only known. There were five of them: Reapon, whose hands could turn into a sword, shield, dagger, and with monumental effort, a mace, Culemule, a sentient Rabbernose, much like a centaur, yet with more of a rabbit-like head, another boy who called himself Supernova, who had a way to control the energy around him, allowing him to fly and throw objects far to heavy for him to lift himself, as well as burst into flame. The other human, Terry, was normal, but had extensive training in the military. The fifth was a Spid, only twenty-five, who hated the rest of his race, as they had imprisoned and nearly killed him.
They were five miles from the Spid base when their pursuers caught up.
((((<>))))
Reapon stared at the red sky, his eyes the exact color of what he was seeing. “We’ve got to keep moving,” Terry ordered, his guns out and ready.
“Where are we?” Supernova asked, his face wrinkled in puzzlement. “I studied the maps before we left, but I don’t know any of this.”
“Life’s different out here,” the Spid said, his face bathed in the red light. “The geography got rearranged when your people fired nuclear missiles at my people.”
Culemule, who was watching the trackers, alerted them with a loud bray. “They’re almost here,” he said, his ears twitching in nervousness. He pulled out the two swords slung across his back, preparing for a fight.
The Spid turned to Terry. “You see anywhere we can hide?”
“I got nothing,” the big man replied, his face sagging in defeat. “We’re done for.”
“We keep running,” Supernova said, turning to them as well. “We keep running until we can’t run anymore, and then we fight until we’re dead.” His hands took the energy in the air and heated it until small flecks of flame appeared, growing to a small ball in his hand.
“Stop that,” Reapon ordered, slapping his hand down. “We’re going to use the last amount of time to prepare to fight. Got that? They’ll have been flying for a long time, as long as we’ve been running. They’ll be tired. We’ll be ready.”
“Best plan I’ve heard,” Terry agreed, checking the ammunition level in his guns. “Let’s give them a fight they won’t forget.”
Supernova grinned, taking to the air, the Spid directly behind. Reapon watched them fly off, letting his sword and shield burst from his hands. There was a slight pain, as there always was, but he managed to keep it hidden from the others as they prepared weapons as well. Culemule swung his swords, eager to put them against Spid flesh. Terry mimed shooting several of the Spids flying toward them, although they were still too far off.
“Here they come!” a yell came from above. The pursuing Spid collided with the two airborne fugitives, Supernova knocking several out of the sky.
On the ground, Terry let his guns fire, two Spids falling limply onto the earth. Reapon bounded forward, slashing in the air, blocking several whipping Spid arms with his shield. The Rabbernorse also attacked his swords, the bright blades becoming nothing more than blurs in the evening’s shadows.
More and more Spids joined the fight, the total coming to about twenty. But still the fugitives fought, as all around them the beings fell from the sky. In the air, Supernova fought desperately, his energy swirling around him, blocking the Spids’ lashing arms. It moved quickly from place to place, but still it was not fast enough. A long arm, whipping at a ferocious speed, knocked him down, his landing uncushioned.
Reapon saw his companion fall, but did nothing. He could do nothing except try and stop the swarm. A long arm caught him on the shoulder, but he reversed his shield, the metal coursing through his body and making the sword extend further. The Spid was caught on the end, then he ended the metal transfer, and his shield burst up once again.
The Rabbernorse beside him flashed his blades, the fiery arms falling to the earth as they met the gleaming edge. Darkness continued to fall- Night waited for no one – but still they fought.
The guns jerked Terry’s arms back, but he stood firm. Then he pulled the trigger and heard the click. He was done. The ammunition was gone. But still, on his own, he had accounted for seven of the trackers. As the rest closed in on him, he grinned. It had been a long life he had led, and he was ready for whatever came next. With a cry, he charged forwards, using his guns as clubs. Before the Spids took him down with their flailing arms, however, he had choked one of them to death.
The Spid who had run watched his brethren gather around him. But, he too had been tested upon, and this dark strength released itself, his rocket burning brighter, and his arms growing. He moved fast, faster than any Spid had ever gone. He spun around several trackers, his arms cracking at the back of their necks. He pulled two of them so they collided with each other, and then the rest, who before setting out on the mission had affirmed their courage, fled. They shot off into the darkness, trying to escape from the vengeful prisoner. As the others followed, the fugitives let out a great cry, cheering their victory.
It was Supernova, winded, but otherwise unhurt, who found Terry’s still body, covered with the blood of Spids and himself alike, the gun used to choke the Spid still clutched in his hands. He sat there, dry eyed, for a long time, until Reapon walked over. “You okay?” the leader asked.
“Yes,” Supernova said, standing. Then he lit a handful of energy. “I’m not going to leave him here for dissection. He was a good man, and deserves a decent burial. But we can’t give him that, can we?”
“No, unfortunately,” Reapon agreed.
“Then I’m going to burn him.” With that, Supernova exploded, his entire body becoming wreathed in flames. He made a motion with his hands, a blanket of flame spreading out over Terry. It descended, consuming everything in it’s path. Soon, the body was no more, nothing but ash on a charred earth.
“Come,” Reapon said. “We have to move.”
Supernova nodded, turning away from what remained of his father, Terry Blaithe. And the only other person, as far as he knew, who had known his real name.

 

And now the challenge. I have a list of writing prompts, opening lines to stories that sound really good. For example, I once wrote a story based off of ‘Daniel knew his father wasn’t human.’ This summer, the Glorious Mess wants to publish your stories. Please, write a story from one of the prompts, then post it in the comments below. I’ll retrieve it, and post it as a story, the same as I would one of mine. Rules: 1. It should be over 1,000 words, but under 2,000. Not too long, not too short. 2. After you finish your submission, write a short introduction to it, same as I do. If you would like to put any personal information in it, that’s your choice. We understand, however, if your privacy is important to you. 3. You should be able to easily tell which writing prompt you used. Whether you just put the prompt at the beginning of the story as your starting sentence or paragraph, or include it somewhere, or something along those lines, it must be clear which prompt you used.

That’s it. Three simple rules. Oh, and I guess also, submissions must be in by midnight, August 19th. So four simple rules. And without any further ado, the writing prompts.

#1: The first thing he heard was Beethoven. He couldn’t remember what it was called, but he knew it was a classic. “Ode to Joy,” he finally said.
“Hello, Mr. Burton,” another voice said. “We’re glad you’re finally awake.”
Cecil Axel Burton opened his eyes, blinking to get accustomed to the light. “Where am I?” It wasn’t home, he was sure of that.
“I’m going to tell you now, Mr. Burton, this is not the world you once knew.” 

#2: It was typical day. Warm, bright, the sun shining through the leaves of the trees. People walking through the burrough town, hailing each other, chatting about the most ridiculous things, as adults are apt to do. And, of course, the voice of Shen screaming at her younger brother, Shull. 

#3: Elias was the first. His name, of course, was not Elias, but the gift given deserved a name such as the one he took. All who saw him thought of the ancient prophet named such, who had also acquired the gift of fire.
But I knew him. Before the madness. Before Carlid. Before the world ended, I knew Elias, or, as we called him back them, Joseph. My father, a world-renowned scientist, had ‘Uncle Joe’ over for dinner several times a week. Then it happened. My father called it a breakthrough. Later, the world called it a disaster. 

#4: Falling. Always falling. It was the only thing that Anna knew. Darkness and the sensation of falling. It was as if she had been falling forever, though she had memory of before the fall. And then it was over. Light exploded around her, and she slammed into something. She looked around. 

#5: Sola glanced at her brother, then back at the cliff. Devin’s eyes were wide. But for good reason. It wasn’t every day that writing appeared before your eyes. The words stretched across the entire rock face. But Sola could hardly believe the message.

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!