Monday, December 12, 2016

For I Have Loved You Since the Beginning of Time

As far back as Hannah could remember she had always been different.  While her high school classmates were exploring each other’s bodies in the backseats of cars, Hannah was always looking up, gazing at the stars. Her father who was a well-known architect built her an “observatory” nestled in the bosom of their gigantic oak tree. For her sixteenth birthday when most teenagers wanted a car, she begged her parents for a telescope.  Not just any telescope, mind you. Hannah wanted the brand-new Meade LX200 model. She had done all the research and presented her parents with a cost analysis sheet that would make any accountant proud. It was an investment in her future and she was hoping her parents understood.  They did. Hannah was gifted with her LX200 with a big bow wrapped around it and waiting for her in the observatory. She was beyond ecstatic. With tears of joy streaming down her face, she hugged her parents and proclaimed that this was the best birthday ever.

Fourteen years later, Hannah stood in front of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module in her cathedral of inspiration, The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Although she had been there many times it was still thrilling for her to be among the legends. The LM2 was especially meaningful to her because it was the first time we walked among the stars. How she had wished she would have been alive to see Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon!

“Penny for your thoughts.”

Hannah immediately came back to reality. She smiled at her father. “Sorry. I know I have been here tons of times but it so spiritual, you know?”

Ben Davis studied his only daughter’s face. She had grown into a beautiful woman. Although for him, she would forever be that tomboy in jeans with her nose buried in a book. He smiled back at Hannah.

“I knew you would appreciate this on your birthday. How does it feel to be thirty?”

“Weird. I guess I am officially no longer a kid.”

“Hannah, darling, you were an adult from the day you were born.”

Hannah linked her arm with her father as they began to stroll around the museum. “How have you been doing, Dad? Managing okay?”

“Yes. Sometimes I think she is still there and then I remember.” Ben’s voice trailed off. It had been three months since Hannah’s mother had passed away. He scanned his daughter’s face. “How are you?”

“I’m fine. I mean, I’m coping.” It was a shock for both of them. One day, her mom had been healthy and then what they thought was a little cough turned into something decidedly more serious.  Within four months, she was gone.

“I am so glad you could spend the day with me, Dad. It’s just like old times.”

“Yes, it is. Unfortunately, I am going to have to get back to the office sooner than expected.”
They walked a little bit further. “How is the job going?”

“I love it. It’s demanding but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It will pay off once we get to Mars. I’d love to go but I’m afraid I might be too old by then.”

“How are other things?” By other things, her Dad meant Jack.

Jack had been Hannah’s long-suffering boyfriend of five years until last month. Sighing, she decided to break the news. “Jack and I are no longer seeing one another.”

Ben looked shocked. Before he could comment, Hannah waved him off. “I know you two were close but it was over. We both knew it.”

Ben stopped and wrapped his daughter’s hands in his. “I’m sorry, sweetie. I didn’t mean to stir anything up.”

“You haven’t. I’m fine. Really.”

Ben looked at his watch. “I have got to go. Happy Birthday, baby.” He tenderly kissed Hannah on the cheek.

“Thank you, Dad.” Hannah watched as her father left the museum.  Turning her attention back to the LEM, she hoped she sounded convincing.

That night Hannah had a hard time getting to sleep. Everything was weighing heavily on her mind. She had thought she was fine with the decision to finally end her relationship with Jack but for some reason, she felt lost. Maybe it was the full moon or maybe she was just lonely. Funny how you could think someone was your soulmate and then wake up one day to discover that the two of you had drifted apart.

Since slumbering was not in the cards, Hannah decided to get up and take a look at the stars. Throwing her robe on, she walked out to her deck and sat down in her favorite chair. It was a clear, crisp night. Fortunately, she lived far enough away from the light pollution that she could actually see the stars in all their splendor. How glorious! Nothing made Hannah happier than being surrounded by the cosmos. It was the only world that she actually understood.

She picked up her phone to check her constellation app when she saw a call come through from a private number. That’s funny. It’s one a.m. Who would be calling at this hour? Tentatively, she answered.

“Hello?” At first, she heard a little static but then a deep male voice came through.


Puzzled, Hannah stared at her phone. She began to wonder if it was one of her colleagues drunk dialing her from a bar. “Okay, James. Time to go home. We have that presentation tomorrow.”

“This isn’t James.”

“Who is this?”

“It’s me, Hannah.”

The voice sounded so familiar. She couldn’t quite place who it belonged to but she was certain she knew the person on the other end of the line.

“I miss you.”

“Look, whoever you are...” before Hannah could get the next part of her sentence out, she was interrupted by the mystery voice.

“It’s Andrew.”

“Andrew? I don’t know an…” suddenly her phone went dead. Of course, since the call came through on a private line, she had no way of ringing the person back. She had to get some rest. Tomorrow was fast approaching and it was a big day.

The presentation went well, despite her lack of sleep. Which her colleague and best friend James didn’t miss pointing out.

“Someone looks as if she had way too much fun last night.” Hannah rolled her eyes.  

“Not quite. The weirdest thing happened. Did you call me around one in the morning?”

“No. Believe it or not, I was actually sleeping. Why?”

“Some guy named Andrew called me. I can’t remember him. Apparently, he knows me.”

“You’re certain you didn’t go to school with him or maybe he’s a friend of Jack’s?”


“Probably a wrong number. Maybe he got you confused with another Hannah. It’s not like it’s an uncommon name.” Hannah agreed with James but inwardly she knew the call was intended for her.

That evening, Hannah planned to relax.  She poured herself a glass of wine and settled down on the couch with her headphones. Nothing was more soothing to her than the music of Chopin. It had been a rough year. As she closed her eyes, she allowed the music to take hold of her. Before she knew it, she was sleeping peacefully.

She didn’t know if she was dreaming when she heard the voice. “Hannah? Wake up. This is important.” Still groggy, Hannah forced herself awake. She found herself staring into the familiar face of a stranger sitting next to her. Before she could react, the stranger calmly reached over and grabbed her hand. Something about him was so compelling. She tried to scream but nothing would come out.

“It’s okay. I’m not here to hurt you.” His voice was soothing and reassuring but Hannah wasn’t about to trust this person. What was he doing here? Who was he? Then he smiled. 

Hannah immediately felt her fears shrinking away. “Who are you? How did you get in here?”

Sighing the stranger shook his head. “If I told you. You would never believe me.”

“Try me. How do I know you aren’t a complete psychopath?”

“You know I’m not.” His face haunted her. Why couldn’t she remember him?

“I know I shouldn’t be here but I had to see you.”

“Andrew?” The name suddenly tumbled off of Hannah’s lips.


His eyes. They were so warm. “How…….”

“I don’t have much time. I need you to come back.”

“Back? Back to where?”

Andrew touched her hand. Electricity shot through Hannah’s body. She felt as if she was rushing through time and space. When she opened her eyes, Andrew had disappeared.  His touch still lingering on her skin.

The next day Hannah tried to concentrate at work. The complex equations were eluding her and her attention span was null. Every time she tried to manipulate the theorems, Andrew’s face appeared in her head.

“Damn it!”

It was at that moment, James entered the room.  “Are you okay?”

“Oh, uh, yeah. I’m just frustrated I guess. This formula isn’t working.”

James immediately recognized the look on his friend’s face. “What’s going on?”

“What do you mean?”

“You never get distracted.”

“I know. I guess there is always a first time for everything.”

“Maybe you need to walk away for a bit. Want to go grab a bite?”

“No, I’m fine. I appreciate you asking me, James. I just need to fine tune this equation.”

“Okay. Look Hannah, I don’t want to pry but if you need to talk to someone...”

Hannah nodded and turned her attention back to her whiteboard. James lingered for a bit and then left.

That night Hannah found herself pacing around her living room like a caged animal. No matter how hard she tried, she could not get Andrew out of her head.

“This is ridiculous! You are a scientist. Not a 12-year-old schoolgirl with a crush. What is going on?”

The question echoed and reverberated in the room.  He told her she had to come back. That phrase bothered her. She couldn’t let it go. Finally, accepting that she would not be able to solve this particular problem, Hannah gave up and went to bed.

She opened her eyes and tried to focus in the dark. There was a little sliver of moonlight peeking out from the curtain. Yawning, her attention was caught by a figure emerging from the corner. Even though his face was hidden, she knew who was with her.

“I don’t know how you keep doing this, but I’m going to call the police!” Hannah grabbed her cell phone but before she could do anything, the phone flew out of her hands and landed on the floor.

“That won’t be necessary, Hannah.”

Dumbfounded, all she could do was stare.

“I won’t hurt you.” In the blink of an eye, Andrew was standing right in front of her.

What power did this man have over her? Why couldn’t she do anything?

“What do you want from me?”

Sighing, Andrew took her hand. No electricity this time from his touch. His dark eyes scanned her face. “I was hoping you would remember me.”

Hannah had to fight the urge to brush the forlorn lock of wavy brown hair from his forehead.

Andrew smiled sadly. “I probably shouldn’t have come here.”

“Why do you keep doing this?”

“You are going to do something very important, Hannah. You are on the verge of a great discovery. We’re not supposed to interfere but I had to see you again.”

“This is crazy! Why am I even listening to you?” Hannah attempted to walk away but Andrew was too quick for her and before she could do anything, she was in his arms.

“You saw me once. When you were a little girl. That summer by the lake?”

Suddenly Hannah was walking on the beach in front of her parent’s cottage. She was gathering various rocks for her collection. When she looked down, she saw an odd shaped green stone laying in front of her. It was glistening in the sun like a piece of glass. A man handed her the little rock. They stared at one another with smiles on their faces. In the distance, Hannah could hear her mother calling her. She turned around to thank the stranger but he was gone. Opening her eyes, she found herself alone in her bedroom but this time, she had a gift. Inside her hand was the bright green stone.

The next morning, Hannah awoke feeling refreshed. The green stone was still laying on her nightstand where she had left it. She picked it up. Turning it over in her hand, she thought back to last night’s events. Had she dreamed everything? That wasn’t possible because she had physical proof. The memory of the lake and that long-ago summer seemed like it had happened yesterday. Was it possible that she had somehow traveled back in time? Andrew told her she was on the verge of a great discovery. How would he know? What was it?

Hannah stood in front of her whiteboard, staring at the mass of equations. She found herself absentmindedly touching the green stone in her pocket. Sighing, she closed her eyes. The committee meeting was next week. She needed to show them that Mars was only one step, if she could solve this equation, the universe would be an open door.

It was a clear and beautiful night. Hannah was sitting on her deck with her face buried in her laptop. She had been working for over thirteen hours only pausing briefly to gaze up at the stars and take a sip or two of wine. Her thoughts started shifting to Andrew. He was so familiar. She found herself wondering what it would be like to be kissed by him.

“I have really got to stop drinking wine.” Shaking her head, she turned her attention back to her work.

“They aren’t crazy thoughts, you know.”  Andrew emerged from the shadows and into the moonlight. He walked over and sat down in the chair next to Hannah. “There is so much possibility out there. I am still in awe of it.”

“You didn’t read my mind, did you?” Hannah was blushing with embarrassment.



Andrew laughed.

“I don’t understand any of this and it’s driving me crazy! I feel like I know you but yet I don’t know how we met.” Sensing her turmoil, Andrew’s eyes met hers. “I feel like you are some figment of my imagination like I have lost my mind. I can’t stop thinking about you. I just can’t stop!”

Holding her gaze, Andrew stood up and walked to the railing. His back toward her.

“I have been watching you for a long time, Hannah.”


“Did you ever wonder why you were fascinated with the stars?”

Hannah got up from her chair to join him. “Yes.”

He turned to face her. “That is your home.”
“What are you talking about?”

Andrew moved closer. Leaning into her, he pointed toward Alpha Centauri.  
“You will remember. When the time is right.” He reached out to touch her face but Hannah was nearing her breaking point.

She stepped away from him. All of the anger and frustration of the past week was bubbling beneath the surface. “What you are saying to me is impossible! I was born here on this planet. I can’t even begin to contemplate how you keep showing up! I must be going crazy. That can be the only explanation and you are some sort of hallucination.”

Andrew reflected on this for a moment. “You aren’t hallucinating, Hannah. This is very real.” He moved toward her. Gently, Andrew raised her chin so that they were looking into one another’s eyes. He bent down and kissed her softly on the lips. Too startled to do anything, Hannah kissed him back. Andrew embraced her and pulled her close. Feeling as if every part of her body were set on fire, Hannah stepped away. For a moment, they lingered and then taking his hand, Hannah lead him into the house.

The sleepy strands of morning pushed their way into the bedroom. Andrew woke first. He laid in bed for a moment to collect his thoughts. What had he done? He was told not to interfere. There was no use dwelling on his actions. Hannah stirred against him. Andrew let his lips brush against the top of her head. Pulling her close to him, he began to whisper in her ear.

Hannah awoke several hours later to sunlight streaming through the window. She turned over to find that Andrew was no longer lying beside her. Somehow, she knew that would be the case. Pulling the covers tightly against her body, Hannah sat up in bed. Nothing had changed but yet, everything had changed. She closed her eyes remembering last night. If only she could see his face again. With a heavy heart, Hannah decided to start her day.

Weeks passed and each night, Hannah would sit on her deck staring up at the nighttime sky. Invariably she knew the result would be the same. Longingly, she gazed at the stars and with all her might wished that she could see him again. In her heart, she knew that he wouldn’t return to her.

Those weeks turned into months, the months turned into years and Andrew’s memory remained in a small corner of her mind. His face was etched on her heart.  Work occupied most of her waking hours and she was consumed by it. The equations and calculations soothed her spirit. Then one day, while looking at her whiteboard, she was struck with an idea. Once she started writing, she could not stop. She was merely the instrument.

On July 4, 2026, the United States launched the first manned mission to Mars. As Hannah watched from the control room, she smiled. Her work enabled this to happen. Although she was happy, a sense of melancholy filled her soul.  While everyone was celebrating, Hannah managed to slip out of the festivities.

Wrapped in the warmth of a blanket, she sat in the solitude of the night on her deck staring up at the stars. She felt tears form in her eyes. Through the haze, she saw Andrew stepping out of the shadows and into the moonlight. Was this really happening?  Finally, she found her voice. “I thought I would never see you again.”

Andrew reached out his hand for her. “I have come back for you.” Without saying a word, she immediately placed her hand in his.  He pulled her close.  Brushing away her tears he softly told her, “I love you. I’ve loved you since the beginning of time.” 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Angel in the Snow

I had told myself that returning to the cabin was a good idea. Solitude, fresh air and no distractions was precisely what the doctor had ordered.  It was time for me to heal. I couldn’t carry this burden any longer.

When we first got married, Eve thought it was wonderful to be the wife of a writer. She reveled in it. “Your beautiful mind is what attracted me to you,” she often told me. I wanted to keep pleasing her so I poured my heart and soul into every page that I wrote. The hard work and her belief paid off. It wasn’t easy.  My first two books sold a total of 100 copies.  I couldn’t get arrested. The third time was the charm. After that, there was no looking back. I started to establish myself. It was a good feeling.

Around this time, Eve found out she was pregnant. We couldn’t have been more ecstatic. Both of us had always wanted a family. It didn’t matter if it was a boy or a girl.  On my thirty fifth birthday, Sophie was born. I couldn’t get enough of her. She was a carbon copy of Eve. A little piece of heaven wrapped in a blue blanket. Every time her sparkling green eyes looked at me, I fell in love even harder.

We traveled the world together, all three of us. Sophie had seen more countries before the age of ten then most adults do in their lifetime. Before too long, Sophie had a little sister named Abigail. Abby was a fearless child. She was more like me. Where Sophie was easy, Abby was challenging. She was always full of questions and I was all too willing to answer them.

As the years passed, my adoring girls started growing up and I will admit I left most of the child rearing to Eve. Since they were in school, the opportunities to go on the road with me were limited to just summer. It seemed as if we were never in the same place at the same time.

In 2008, I decided to take an extended winter break. The kids were out of school until January. We all decided that spending the holidays at the cabin would be a great idea. This was our special retreat. Every outing was an adventure. So many memories were tied up in that house.

Abby and I would go hiking in the woods while Eve and Sophie preferred to stay behind where it was warm and play board games. It was perfect. Everything was the way it used to be with all of us a tight knit clan again. It started snowing on Christmas Eve. Abby was beyond ecstatic because she wanted to try out the cross-country skis that we had been saving for when she got older.

Before the weather got too bad, I had to make a run into town for Eve so that she could make the girls their favorite Christmas cookies. Ever the faithful navigator, Abby jumped at the chance to go with me.

“Don’t stay out too late you guys! I want to make these cookies before dinner.” Throwing my arms around Eve’s waist, I drew her close and planted a huge kiss on her lips. Sophie rolled her eyes. “Can you guys not do that when I’m around?”

“Someday you are going to meet a guy…” “Ugh, I know. Don’t you have to go to the store?” Laughing, I threw my arm around my eldest daughter’s shoulder. “So cynical at such a tender age.” Without missing a beat, Sophie replied, “I learned from the best, Dad.”

“Okay co-pilot Abigail. Ready for an adventure?” “Yes!”  In my best Shakespearean accent, I intoned, “We shall return with my Lady’s royal cookie ingredients forthwith!”

The snow was steadily falling. Abby immediately laid down on the ground and started flailing her arms up and down to make an angel. Giggling, she jumped up and headed for the car. We piled into the SUV and took off. I turned on the radio just in time to hear Bing Crosby crooning, “White Christmas.”  Glancing at Abby, I smiled as I watched her take in every part of this marshmallow world.

“It’s so beautiful, Daddy!” Even though I agreed with her, the roads were concerning me. I could feel the tires slipping a bit so I threw the car into another gear. We passed by the Wilkinson farm with all the horses that were an endless source of fascination for Abby.

As we turned the corner, out of nowhere, a deer shot in front of us. I swerved and tried to maneuver the car back on track but we hit an icy patch. The car kept skidding, Abby started screaming. I wrestled with the steering wheel as best I could but it was useless. We were heading toward the ravine and the next sound I heard was the roof of our car hitting the frozen ground.

My head bounced hard against the windshield.  The force of the impact threatening to throw me out of my seatbelt. Then as quickly as our descent began, it ended. The world went black.

I heard muffled sounds. What was happening? Abby? I couldn’t see her. It felt like a hot white light was shining on my face. Through a red haze, I saw someone smash the side window in with what looked like a crowbar. I tried to move. “Don’t move, Sam.” I nodded. “Please try and find Abby.”
After that, everything was a blur. I was in and out of consciousness. Even in the darkness I could still hear Abby screaming.

A week later, I watched as they lowered the coffin into the ground. Eve was sobbing next to me. Sophie was doing her best to comfort her. I wanted to reach out but I didn’t have the strength. All I could think was my little girl is gone and there is nothing I can do about it.

The months went by and little by little my memory of that horrible day started returning. I began sleeping in my writer’s cottage because I would wake up screaming in the middle of the night. My dreams were filled with blood on virgin white snow.

I continued going through the motions of writing every day. My deadline looming in front of me like a beacon.  My routine kept me going, kept the demons at bay.  Eve attempted to talk with me. She made overtures but all I wanted was to be left alone. Sophie no longer acknowledged my presence. I was like a phantom, a shadow figure to her.

Finally, my book was finished.  After a particularly long tour, I came home to find an empty house and a note. Eve had found a new love and she had no interest in continuing the “sham” as she called it. There were many nights when full of Jameson courage, I pleaded with her to take me back. The fights became so intense that she ended up getting a restraining order. Suddenly, I had turned into one of those horrible men that you find in a Lifetime Channel movie. So, on a bleak day in December Eve and I left the courthouse. All I had were memories and photographs. Twenty-five years, gone, dissolved by a few lawyers in suits.

My agent always concerned for my welfare, suggested I get counseling. It was agreed that I would go into therapy. The book was doing well and I could afford to take some time to get better.  The only way I could do that was to return to the cabin.

Don Davis a family friend bought “supplies” from the local store in town and delivered them prior to my arrival. It was good to have people watching out for me. Lord knows I couldn’t do it myself. I stood looking out the window. I didn’t know what I was expecting to see. I stared down at the forgotten cup of coffee now cold in my hands. 

Turning around, I noticed the clock on the wall. Seven o’clock in the evening. I could already feel the chill in the air. According to the Weather Channel a nor’easter was on its way and by daybreak there would be more than a foot or two of snow on the ground.

The wind started to howl and kick up a fuss. It was soothing in an odd sort of way. I grabbed a book from the coffee table and settled down on the couch to read. After a while, I found my head bobbing and my eyes growing heavy. A nap could be precisely what I needed. After all it was a five-hour trip. Grabbing the bulky afghan from the back of the couch, I closed my eyes and stretched out.

I awoke the next morning to pale, wispy fingers of sunlight caressing my face.  Blinking, I sat up and rubbed my eyes. The clock on the wall told me it was six a.m. I had slept for almost twelve hours. I could see snow falling. Stretching I stood up and went to the window.

When I looked down, something captured my attention. In the middle of the yard, was a perfect shape of a snow angel. I closed my eyes and shook my head. I knew when I opened them, it would be gone. It wasn’t. At that moment, I saw my little girl, giggling and smiling, flailing her arms about on the ground.  “I love you, Daddy.”  “I love you too, Abby.”

Friday, November 18, 2016

When I Sleep, I Dream of Orion

Every morning I wake up in the armpit of this alien world.  For years, all our leaders told us, “Sutaria is the future.” Some future this turned out to be.  Maybe in order to understand it, I would have to go back into the past.

When I was a child in school, I remembered reading about the wars, the depression, the diseases of Old Earth. That is why my ancestors went to Mars. For centuries, there was peace but then the Tharsis conflict occurred. My parents were the first to leave.

Fearing for their lives, they booked passage to the newly formed Orion colony on Gilese. That is where I was born. I remember being happy. There was a time when I was carefree and not so riddled with anxiety. Life was idyllic. Our society was thriving; peace was the norm. It was as if for one moment in time, everything in the universe stood still.  It was glorious!

When I turned 21, it was time for my mandatory service with the Gilesean Faction. I was excited. This was my chance to do something, to make a name for myself. I had been floundering but I felt that I now had a sense of purpose.   My service was uneventful for several months but then a coup occurred. Emissary Davis was overthrown by the power mad Chancellor Warner. This was the beginning of the end.

The government was at war; our once peaceful existence was plagued with demonstrations and violence. Our economy which was booming suddenly went bust. The staples of life became harder and harder to obtain. I had been assigned to patrol the inner quadrants of the Capital where the impact was devastating.  Crime was rampant so a mandatory curfew was imposed. For the most part, the citizens complied with the ruling and enforcement wasn’t necessary.

Chancellor Warner had the people believing that he would lead them to utopia. He claimed that he was the voice of reason in the sea of unrest. His plan was to create a unified federation. The idea was for Emissary Davis to build a colony on the shores of a new planet, Sutaria. Sutaria was several million miles away and the journey would be arduous. This was his vision of greatness that we would expand beyond Gilese and Sutaria was the first step. Manifest destiny in space.

After numerous meetings and negotiations, Warner and Davis emerged looking more like partners in love than bitter rivals. Next came the barrages of Sutaria is the future campaign slogans. With this newly tentative peace forged, it seemed as if we were poised for greatness.  Plans were being made, our finest scientific minds were designing the colony and the ships that would take us there.  

I was assigned to Sutarian detail.  As much as I didn’t want to leave home, it was my duty and I understood the oath that I had taken. My parents were understandably upset to see me go but they supported the government.  My deployment was set. I said my goodbyes and boarded a ship bound for the new frontier.  As Gilease grew smaller and smaller, I could feel my heart breaking. Another life chapter closed, another to be opened. 

Months later, I found myself on Sutarian soil.  As I unpacked in my habitat pod, I glanced out at a bright star in the distance. Tears formed in my eyes.  I didn’t know what the future would hold but I did know the future would be here for now.

It is many years later and I am still here. I have retired from my service in the Faction. It wasn’t easy trying to maintain order. There were some uprisings, some threats from outsiders but we managed to resolve matters with few casualties.

At night, when the world is quiet, I lie awake and think of Gilese. I remember how it felt to be young and full of promise and hope instead of being old and jaded.  Every night I say a silent prayer to whomever might be listening for I know when I sleep, I dream of Orion. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What Ever Happened to Mad Rants?

Max sat in the dark typing away on his laptop.  His ever-present cup of coffee by his side and Nine Inch Nails blasting away set the tone for his latest blog. Mad Rants was his heart and soul split open for everyone’s consumption.  When he started this venture over eight years ago, he had no idea it would take off. He assumed that he might get a few followers here or there but never in his wildest imaginings did he ever think he would acquire half a million subscribers.

He knew he wasn’t in the big leagues but this little side project sold to The City Paper resulted in a neat and steady cash flow. Max no longer had to detail cars for a living.  He moved out of the cramped studio apartment and upgraded to a two bedroom. Life was good.  Bills were getting paid.  Food was on the table. Most importantly, his thoughts were out there and people seemed to care.

There was a contingency of those staid conservative types that used to love to engage in sparring matches with him.  He lived for those interactions! Majority of his followers understood what he was saying and enjoyed his sarcastic, dark humor.

After he published the last installment of his posts on the psychology of serial killers, he started receiving some oddly unsettling emails. He just shrugged it off and didn’t allow them to interfere with his day. Then, they started coming to his private email address. He knew no one at the Paper would give out his personal information. His friend Blaine worked in the IT division of a worldwide conglomerate, so he knew his home network and identity were foolproof.

He had showed the strange missives to Blaine who attempted to trace the IP where the emails were originating from with no luck. He had also asked his editor if anyone had been asking how to get in touch with him. David laughed and said, “All the time!” But quickly pointed out that everyone was referred to the work email he kept with the Paper.

After about two weeks of graphic threats to his life, the emails stopped coming. Max didn’t know whether to be concerned or not. That was until he received the manila parcel in his mailbox. Obviously, it had made it through the security machines at the post office so it wasn’t anything to be afraid of he reckoned. He stared at it for a bit before deciding to open it.  Inside the parcel was an unmarked VHS tape. Max cocked his head.  Who even deals with these anymore in this digital world?

Luckily for Max, he still had a video tape player. This was a relic from the 90’s when technologically speaking things were way less complicated. He popped the VHS in the player and sat back in his chair. The image on the tape seemed to be deliberately out of focus.  Max could make out a form, possibly a male sitting in a basement or maybe a garage.  Upon further examination, the male appeared to be bound to a chair and gagged.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Max felt as if he had seen this before.  Sitting forward, he studied the television screen intently.  The male appeared to be waking up.  The worse part about this tape was the lack of audio.  The man in the chair was soaking wet.  He looked beyond the camera with his eyes widening in horror.  He began to move around violently in the chair.

Out of the corner, there was a flash of light and a small line of flames began to quickly move toward the figure in the chair. At that moment, Max understood how truly horrific this video was and what the end result was going to be for this unlucky fellow. Before that outcome could be realized, the video shut off.  Max was left staring at the screen with the images of flames in his eyes.

“Jesus Christ!” He scrambled over to his desk and looked at the parcel. There was no return address, no indication of where it had been before reaching him. What the fuck was this about? Did this have anything to do with the emails that he had been receiving? Max debated on whether or not to take the video to the police. “They will probably think I had something to do with it.”

After all, it could be publicity for one of his reader’s indie films. He had gotten crazier shit in the past from fans. This tape felt like something more and it terrified him.  Sleep was definitely going to be elusive tonight. Max stared at the screensaver on his computer. The proverbial beacon in the night beckoning him to finish his post.  The cheerful deserted island scene with the azure water seemed ominous to him now.

As Max wrestled with his unique dilemma, he could feel his eyes getting heavier and heavier. The rational part of him knew that he needed to take that tape to the authorities. Someone was murdered or at least appeared to be murdered.  The sensational side of Max knew that another tape might show up and it could be a future story for his blog.  With no immediate answer in sight, Max went to sleep.

Detective Trask was in no mood to be trifled with this morning. At least, he thought it was morning. He pulled his car up to the abandoned garage. This side of town was not for the faint of heart. Before he could exit his vehicle, one of the uniforms knocked on his window. “Yeah?”

“Detective Trask, they sent me over to tell you it’s pretty bad in there. You might want to grab a mask or something.” Trask nodded. He exited his car and pulled a worn handkerchief out of his pocket. When the call came through about this 187, he was barely functioning and didn’t know that he would have to grab a kit.

Of course, as with every tragic scene, you had to have your lookie loos.  This wasn’t any different.  Trask made his way past the yellow crime scene tape and into the garage.  Immediately, the smell of burnt flesh crept into his nostrils. He pulled his handkerchief tight over his nose. The smoldering charred mess still bound to the chair assaulted his eyes.

“Do we have any idea who this unfortunate soul is?” One of the numerous crime scene workers milling about handed Trask an evidence bag. He could clearly see the name on the driver’s license. “Max Draper?”  “Yeah. The former Max Draper.” Trask nodded as he proceeded over to a video camera set up in the corner. 

“Whoever the sick fuck was that did this guy in left us a present.”  Trask looked into the videocam viewer just in time to see Max go up in flames. “I guess yesterday was his last blog entry.” “Huh?” asked Trask. “Yeah, he’s Mad Rants. You know, the City Paper?” Trask stared blankly at the young patrolman. “Guess he’s the story now.”  

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Mezzanine

Jamie always hated meetings. She had a real aversion to them. Most of the time they were pointless and resulted in a nonstop bitching session. The problem with this “huddle” and God how she HATED that corporate bullshit term was that it was taking place on the old, abandoned Mezzanine floor.

Two years ago, when she was new to the company, she recalled a conversation in the elevator with one of her colleagues.  She couldn’t figure out if he was kidding at the time or if he was serious. “No one ever presses the M button unless they are invited on to that floor.” “Really? What’s there? All of the corporate secrets?” Her colleague locked eyes with her. “It’s a regular floor. Just a couple of offices that no one uses and a conference room.” Curiosity piqued, Jamie couldn’t help but press the subject further.

“That doesn’t make sense. Why would you not use the space?” “I don’t know. I’ve never been on the level myself but I hear there is quite a bit of construction going on.  I guess it’s closed off for safety reasons.” Still finding this explanation peculiar, Jamie decided to let it go. Maybe one day she would be able to investigate the mysterious Mezzanine floor on a lunch break. No one would know and what would be the harm in it?  If anyone caught her, she could say she was lost.

The Mezzanine area had slipped her mind until today when she got the invitation in her email. She put the finishing touches on her latest project, printed it out, grabbed her coffee mug and headed for the elevator. As she walked toward the lobby, she couldn’t help but notice that no one else was leaving their cubicles. There were other people on the invite, at least she thought she saw other names.  Perhaps they were already waiting in the conference room.

She pressed the elevator button and as if by magic, the doors opened immediately. This was a rare occurrence.   Elevators were a tough commodity to come by when you were late for work. She stepped inside, pressed the large M and watched as the doors closed.

Jamie’s office, well her cubicle (she wasn’t important enough to have four walls and a door), was located on the 15th floor.  The Mezzanine level was actually the 13th floor but in order to not frighten people the owners of the building decided to give it a fancy name.  Her thoughts interrupted by the doors opening, Jamie stepped out into the dimly lit hallway.  Taking a deep breath, she looked around.

The first thing she noticed was the uncommon quiet. She had been to many floors within this building and all of them had a buzz. Not this one. Shrugging it off, she proceeded down the hall. Finally, she reached Conference Room 1301. She opened the door.

In the middle of the area was a huge mahogany table with chairs for twenty people. It looked like a typical conference room. Nothing seemed amiss. Jamie wondered why no one else was here yet.  Did she have the right location?  According to her watch, the meeting was going to start in five minutes.  She could feel a sense of panic building in the pit of her stomach.

To quell her nerves, she opened her presentation folder and began to go over her bullet points. Her focus drawn to her notes, she didn’t notice that she wasn’t alone in the room anymore.
“Ms. Davis?” Startled, Jamie raised her head and found herself looking straight into the eyes of an incredibly attractive man. Flustered, she almost knocked over her coffee mug. “Hello. I didn’t see you come in.” The man nodded. 

“I saw you were engrossed in your presentation so I thought I wouldn’t disturb you.” “Thank you for that.” “My pleasure. I am Ian Rogers.”
“Uh, Mr. Rogers? As in CEO, Mr. Rogers?” “That is my father who is the CEO.  When he is away attending to certain interests, I deal with his meetings.” “Oh.” Jamie scans the vacant room.  “I am sure you are wondering why you are the only attendee?”  “You could say that, Mr. Rogers.”

“Well, I…. that is my father and I decided that you were the only person necessary for this particular tête–à–tête.” Ian’s soft voice was rather soothing. He’s obviously English, Jamie thought. “In answer to your question, Ms. Davis, I grew up in London.”   “Oh, I couldn’t quite place your accent.” Did she ask him where he was from? At this point, she was so uncomfortable she couldn’t remember.

Ian stood up and begin to walk around the room. “You have been with this company for two years, correct?” “Yes.” “Do you like it here?  Is your work satisfying?” He turned around, his preternaturally blue eyes scanned Jamie’s face. Taking a deep breath, Jamie replied, “I do enjoy being here.” “Good.  It is always nice to know what your employees think.” Ian smiled. Jamie began to feel light headed. Something about his smile….

“Did you want to hear my presentation?” “No, that won’t be necessary. I know all about it.” Now Jamie knew that was impossible because she had finished it late last night and hadn’t shown it to any of her co-workers. “How?” She was finding it increasingly hard to speak let alone form coherent thoughts in her fog induced brain.

The last thing that Jamie remembered was Ian’s deep glowing red eyes. Weren’t they blue? She felt someone gently tapping her on the shoulder. Turning around, she saw her co-worker Derek standing next to her. “Late night?”  Disoriented, Jamie shook her head. “Was I sleeping?” “You dozed off.” Jamie looked around and noticed most of the cubicles were vacant. “Where is everyone?”

Derek smiled. “At the meeting.” “Meeting? We have a meeting?” “Yes. We better hurry or we’ll be late.” “I don’t remember getting a planner for that, Derek.” Her colleague was already on the move. Scrambling to keep up with him, Jamie tried to remember what had happened. She boarded the elevator with Derek. “What floor are we going to?” Derek turned around and Jamie found herself face to face with Ian Rogers. “Why Jamie, you already know that answer.” 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Happy Anniversary, Baby!

Janet absolutely hated holidays of any kind. She always had ever since she was a little girl. I suppose if you wanted to get all psychoanalytical about it, it probably started when her parents forgot her birthday. After that, she never gave it much thought. She would watch in amusement as people went crazy at Christmas time trying to find that last minute gift. What idiots! Don’t they have anything better to do?

Her husband Harry, on the other hand, insisted on going overboard for each and every special occasion. He even celebrated Flag Day for Christ sake! Who does that? They had only been together for five years. Tonight, was their anniversary. Of course, he wanted to make a big to do about it.

“Maybe we could get a corner table at Portofino and then catch a movie. We haven’t been on a date in ages.” “I don’t know, Harry.  I would much rather prefer to stay in. I’ll cook something wonderful for us.” It took some persuading but eventually, she wore him down and he agreed to her idea.

She was cooking his favorite meal, veal piccata. As she boiled the water for the pasta, she sipped some white wine. Smiling, she couldn’t help but imagine his face when he saw all of her creations. The piece de resistance was going to be her limoncello cake. Whenever she made it, Harry always remarked that it reminded him of their honeymoon in Italy.  Oh, yes!  This was going to be a very special night.

Like clockwork, Harry was home at 6:00 p.m. sharp. Upon entering the apartment, he could see the candlelight on the table flickering in the darkness. “Janet?” “I’m in the bedroom, darling.” Smiling, Harry removed his coat. Loosening his tie, he walked down the hall. It was then that he caught sight of Janet’s naked silhouette framing the doorway.

“This is a surprise.”  He encircled his wife around her waist and drew her to him. Her naked body moved easily against his as her voluptuous mouth engulfed him. Hastily, he removed his pants while Janet unbuttoned his shirt. They made their way steadily toward the bed. Before he could do anything, Janet knelt before him and took his hard cock in her mouth. “Uh, this is …….” “Shut up and enjoy it.”

Closing his eyes, Harry allowed himself to feel his wife’s tongue licking up and down his shaft. Her mouth eagerly lapping at his head. Before the sensation ran away from him, Harry lifted her up off the floor and placed her on the bed. He slid inside her easily. Both of them were lost in the taste and the smell of each other. Harry released. Smiling, Janet rolled away from him.  “You better get dressed.  It’s time for dinner.”

An hour later, his stomach full of the wonderful piccata, Harry leaned back in his chair and sipped his wine. “This meal was incredible, Janet.” “Thank you. I made it with you in mind.” She got up and took their plates into the kitchen. Immediately she returned bearing a golden sponge cake.

Harry’s eyes lit up when he recognized what it was. “This night couldn’t get any better!” Nodding slightly, Janet cut him a slice of cake. She watched as he began eating her masterpiece. Without missing a beat, she plunged the knife deep into her husband’s chest. Removing it, she deftly cut his throat. Blood spurted out drenching the half-eaten piece of cake. At that moment, Janet realized she would never, ever have to celebrate a holiday again!

We Are All Made of Stars

Callie sat at her desk, the glow of her laptop permeating the darkness of her room.  This was her ritual. Her thing. Every night before bed, she would write an entry in her online diary. Normally, the words would flow. She would recount the day in it all its glories or mishaps. Today, however, was exceedingly difficult. What normally was effortless had now turned laborious.

“No one is ever going to believe me, Ezra.” Ezra happened to be her Orange Calico who at the moment, was too busy cleaning his paws to care about his mistress’ dilemma. “It’s like I’m in the X-Files or something.” Growing bored with his self-hygiene routine, Ezra looks at Callie and lazily flips his tail back and forth.

Absentmindedly, she begins to play with her high school ring. Funny how we revert to past habits when under duress. If only she could remember what had happened. Callie turns her computer off and sits down on her bed.  Ezra looks at her with passing interest and finally stretches out for a nap. Before long, Callie lays down, closes her eyes and drifts into a fitful sleep.

The landscape changes into the pleasant blue of an Autumn afternoon in the desert. Callie is hiking a path armed with her trusty old Nikon. She pauses and takes a breathtaking shot of a butte backlit by the sun. Pleased with her photo, she continues on her way, scouting for anything of interest. Off in the distance, she notices a blinding white light streaking across the horizon. Her mind begins turning in a thousand directions. Could it be a meteor? Is it a rogue comet? Is it a crashing plane?

In an instance, her thoughts are obliterated by a resounding crash and a reverberation that nearly knocks her off her feet.  She turns in the direction of the noise and sees a smoldering wreckage. Without pausing to think, she immediately begins to run toward the debris.  When she gets there, she stops dead in her tracks.  This is not like any aircraft that she had ever seen. This is something different. It almost looked like a large boomerang had landed in the sand on its side.

The wing portion, or what Callie assumed to be the wing of this odd machine was almost as large as the wing of the F117’s her father flew. Tentatively, she reached out to touch it. The moment her hand met the soft metallic surface, a slight shock went up her arm. Startled, she jumped back almost losing her balance. It was then that she saw what appeared to be a small, chalk colored body about the size of a 5-year-old, lying on its side.

“Oh my God!  This cannot be real!” Callie closed her eyes several times but every time she opened them she still saw the same things. Her heart beating like she was running a marathon; Callie knew she should run away. Somehow, she could not leave the spot where she was standing. Hesitantly, she begins to approach the life form.

What she sees next defies everything she had been taught in her science classes at school. The shape that was lying not far from the wreckage was like a child but yet not a child. The entity’s head was rather large for its thin frame and the only thing that popped into her mind was the American Dad cartoon. What the fuck? Why would she be thinking of that show? Get it together, Callie!

Moving forward, she reached out her hand to touch the being. Suddenly, Callie sits bolt upright in her bed but yet it isn’t her bed.  Her head feels fuzzy and she feels as if she is coming down with the flu. She attempts to stand up but before she can do so, her eyes meet the pitch-black stare of a small figure standing in her doorway. Frightened, she starts to scream but it catches in her throat. The figure seems to float toward her.  Before Callie can do anything, her world immediately fades to black.