The Gods Wager-Part One

The Proposition

Ozmos took a deep breath, steeling his nerves as he soared towards the temple of the First Gods on the back of his colossal falcon.  Though it was Ozmos himself that had demanded an audience with the First Gods, he was mindful of the fact that the pantheon greatly outnumbered him.  Ozmos was also painfully aware that he, having no other gods in his pantheon to rely on, could only ask his faithful to give him the strength needed to confront the First Gods.  As his falcon swooped down towards the ancient temple, Ozmos leapt off the great bird, flipped through the air three times, then landed at the foot of the temple in a crouching position.  Ozmos turned his fierce gaze to the entrance of the temple before slowly rising into a strong, warrior stance.  As he stood there, staring defiantly at the temple, a small figure scuttled out of the shadows of the entrance-way.  As the figure entered the sunlight, Ozmos could see that the figure was nothing more than a short, thin, elderly man that seemed to be in danger of being swallowed up by the thick cloak he wore.

“Ozmos,” the man wheezed loudly, “Son of the Holy Father, Protector of the Unwashed, Defier of the First Gods-“

“I think you’ve covered enough of my titles,” Ozmos barked.  Let’s just get on with it.

“Very well,” the old man said, smiling wryly.  “If you would follow me then.”

Ozmos let out a frustrated sigh before following the old man into the darkened entrance of the Temple of the First Gods.  As his eyes adjusted to the interior light provided by several flaming torches along the wall of a barren hallway he was being led down, Ozmos found his nerves settling by his surging fortitude.  Moments later, the old man led Ozmos through a doorway into a large antechamber.  In the center of the chamber, a large pit of fire burned, sending dancing shadows across the walls and ceiling.  On the opposite side of the  chamber, a robust, middle-aged man with long hair and a strong beard sat on a throne atop a large dais glaring down at Ozmos.  Seated next to the man was a woman of great beauty, her face an expression of soothing calmness that eased the remaining nerves of Ozmos.  Before the dais, a young man in full armor stood, his arms crossed in an expression of defiance as he to glared at Ozmos.

“Dekus,” Ozmos said, bowing his head to show respect to the gods before him.  “I am honored that you would agree to meet with me.”

“Honored,” The bearded god Dekus barked angrily.  “The only reason I agreed to this meeting is to see with my own eyes the petulant child that would dare to request an audience with the father of all the gods.”

“You are the father of all the First Gods,” Ozmos stated bluntly.  “But, you are not my father.  I am not one of your god children.  You would be wise to remember that.”

“You would dare,” Dekus roared.  “You are nothing to me, the First of the First Gods!  You are but a juvenile to me!  A false god trying to claim what belongs to me and my First!”

“I may be a new god,” Ozmos declared calmly, “But I am a god, make no mistake.  My followers give me just as much power as your followers give you, and my the size of my flock increases constantly.  Even as I speak to you now, I gain more followers.  Soon, my congregation might even outnumber yours.  A new dawn is rising, Dekus.  The faiths of man are ever-changing, and you of the First Gods cannot hope to remain relevant in the face of such evolution.  I represent the progress of man from the darkness of the First Gods to the light of the one, true god.  You cannot hope to halt such progress forever.”

“We do not have to stand for such disrespectful boasting father,” the young man in armor shouted.  “Let me face this heathen usurper in combat and I will prove who is the better god.”

“Calm yourself son,” the woman in the throne beside Dekus chided.  “There will be no combat in this sacred temple.  And husband, you let your temper get the better of you again.  Please, allow me to handle this situation.”

Dekus glared at his wife briefly before finding his anger melt before her soothing eyes.  “You are right my love, as always.  Please, speak for me.  I trust your judgement in this matter.”

“Thank you my husband,” the woman said, smiling and placing her hand on the cheek of Dekus.  After a moment, the woman turned her attention to Ozmos, who stood tall and defiant before the First Gods.  “Do you know who I am?”

“Of course my lady,” Ozmos replied, bowing his head slightly.  “You are Ielis, wife to Dekus and mother of the First Gods.  I am honored to speak with you.”

“You come before us speaking of honor,” Ielis affirmed, “but then you proceed to inform us that we are antiquated and obsolete.  It seems you are the god of contradictions, if not the god of good judgement.”

Ozmos let out a long sigh, then lowered his head before speaking again.  “I must beg your forgiveness I’m afraid.  It was not my intention to insult you, your husband, or any of the First Gods.  Nor was it my desire to be the cause of confrontation.  I am not a warrior like your son, Atul, the God of War.  I am a god who spreads the tenets of peace, the words of love, the code of brotherhood.  I have not come to your temple, your home, to attack or threaten you.  I have come only to show you the truth of the world outside this temple.”

“And what truth might that be,” Ielis inquired dubiously.

“A simple truth,” Ozmos replied.  “One that should be obvious to those not blinded by pride or arrogance.  As I have stated, I am new to the role of god.  Once, I was but a mere mortal man elevated to the position of god by those who believed in me and placed their faith in me.  Being that I was once mortal, my followers see me as one of their own.  A god who cares more about the people of the world than about his own power.  I am here to warn you that my followers are growing at an exponential level, converting even those who once followed the First Gods.  As I said, this is the path of progress, and I fear that the First Gods are in danger of being wiped from existence by such progress.”

“And so, you have come to our domain out of concern for our existence?  You are telling us that you are acutally concerned about those that you are usurping?”

“I am not trying to usurp the First Gods, my Lady.  If I had my choice, I would gladly share my faithful with the First Gods.  I am afraid,  however, that such a thing is not possible.  It is the will of the people that the order of the First Gods fade from existence, leaving only myself as the one true God of the people.”

“This is preposterous,” Dekus bellowed, springing up from his throne and waving an angry fist at Ozmos.  “You claim that you are no warrior, yet you are clearly here to challenge us!  And yet, you are but a single, solitary god, challenging a pantheon of many.  Why should we care what you have to say to us?  What could you possibly have to challenge us with?”

“Again Old Father,” Ozmos replied calmly, “I am not here to attack you.  I am here to inform you.  Your days of godhood are waning.  Soon, you will fade away as your faithful are all converted to following me.  Your existence will be forgotten, and you will be nothing more than stories parents tell their children to bore them to sleep at night.”

Dekus glared at Ozmos for a long moment before finally letting out a loud, boisterous laugh.  “I have to admire your fearlessness Ozmos.  I question whether it is courage or foolhardiness that motivates you to challenge we the First Gods, who have ruled the heavens for thousands of years.  You say you are here to warn us of our impending demise, so tell me then, what do you propose.  What is the true reason for your visit here?”

“Despite what you might think,” Ozmos replied, “I do not actually wish to see you or your pantheon destroyed or eliminated.  That is not my way.  I am actually here to make you an offer.  Your reign as gods will be over soon, but your legacy can live on if you choose to join me and my gospel.  I will canonized as the first of my saints.  It is an honor I bestow on only the holiest of my flock.  You will be remembered always as my disciples, immortilzed in scripture for all time.”

Dekus stared coldly at Ozmos, his eyes narrowing thoughtfully as he rubbed his bearded chin.  Dekus then took a deep breath, exhaling it slowly.

“I have an alternate offer,” Dekus said at last.  “A true test of the validity of your statements.  If you are so certain that your flock is stronger than mine, then I propose a wager.  A true test of the faith of our followers.  I propose that we each choose a champion among our faithful to represent us.  These champions will face each other with their faith in their hearts and we shall see whose is stronger.  We each give our champion a set of weapons and armor that is strengthened by their faith and see who’s faith prevails.”

“An interesting proposition,” Ozmos responded, nodding his head thoughtfully.  “And what will be the stakes to such a wager?”

“If you win,” Dekus answered, “then I, and all the First Gods, will agree to your offer.  We will relinquish our godhood and agree to become these saints that you speak of without any further resistance or complaint.”

“And if you should somehow happen to defeat me?”

“Then you will give up your godhood, tell your followers that you are a fraud, and return to your existence as a mere mortal.  I will even allow you to become a legend among our followers.  I will create a parable about you, the man who challenged the First Gods and lost.  Your story will forever be a moral for all to learn from.  How do you respond to my proposition Ozmos?”

Ozmos turned his glance towards the fire pit in the center of the room as he pondered the offer presented by the Old Father.  Weighing his confidence in his faithful against the risk of losing such a wager, Ozmos came to the conclusion that there could only be one possible outcome for his beloved flock of followers.

“Yes Old Father,” Ozmos answered slowly.  “I have as much faith in my followers as they have in me.  The terms you have put forth are acceptable.  I agree to your wager.”

“Excellent,” Dekus replied with a laugh.  “Then let it be so.  Let us now go and find our champions and make our preparations.”

“As you wish,” Ozmos said, bowing respectfully towards the First Gods.  “Shall we reconvene once all is ready to witness the challenge?”

“Indeed we shall,” Dekus replied cheerfully.  “I look forward to the contest.  I must thank you Ozmos.”

“Thank me for what?”

“Existence has been a bit mundane for me of late,” Ozmos stated.  “You have brought a touch of excitement into my life.  No matter the inevitable outcome of our game here, I am at least grateful for this experience.”

“I am happy to breathe some new life in your ancient existence,” Ozmos said casually as he walked out of the antechamber.

Boys Will Be, Part Four

Scottie held his breath as the spaceman standing over him slowly slid his helmet off to reveal his face.  Since the moment he entered the neighborhood Mystery House, on a dare from a bully, Scottie had been  chased by the ghost of a woman, ran into a man cut in half who could still speak to him, fallen down a flight of stairs into a strange basement/laboratory, and was approached by an odd, hopefully human, man in a spacesuit that had appeared in a flash of light.  Now, sitting on the stairs he had fallen down, scared and in pain, Scottie could only imagine what the spaceman would do to him.  The slight hiss of air escaping the spaceman’s suit grabbed Scottie’s attention, and the boy looked up to see the worn face of an older man looking down at him.  Scottie felt a small sense of relief when he noticed that the man did not look to be angry or upset, but rather concerned, perhaps about Scottie’s injury.

“You really shouldn’t be here,” the man said, his tone curiously missing the anger Scottie was expecting.  “Especially not by yourself.  You could get hurt.”

“I know, I did get hurt,” Scottie answered back.  “I fell down the stairs and twisted my ankle.  I’m really sorry.  I thought this house was abandoned, and I was dared to come in here by a bully.  I didn’t mean to do anything other than explore and look around a little.  I wanted to prove it wasn’t haunted.  But, I was wrong.  It is haunted.  Are you a ghost too?”

“A ghost,” the man scoffed.  “There is no such thing as ghosts kid.  Kid.  What’s your name kid?”

“Scottie.  My name is Scottie.  How can you say there is no such things as ghosts?  You have one in your front hallway.  The thing attacked me!”

“That’s not,” the man began, pausing to let out a laugh, “that’s not a ghost kid.  There is no such thing as ghosts.”

“Then what the hell was that thing?”

“That’s some language for someone your age,” the man said, shaking his head.  “How old are you anyway?”

“I’m twelve,” Scottie replied.  “That’s how I talk when I’m freaked out.”

“I don’t remember swearing like that when I was your age,” the man stated, pausing to reach back into his memories.  “Anyway, I think I need to take a look at that ankle of yours.

Scottie gasped as the man bent down, reached out his hands, and picked the boy up.  The man then carried Scottie over to the metal table in the center of the basement, and sat Scottie down on an empty area.  The man then pulled out something that looked like a smartphone, and began slowly moving it over Scottie’s ankle.

“W-what is that,” Scottie asked, almost afraid of the answer.

“This is something that will magically heal you,” the man answered, flashing Scottie a wide smile.

“Magic,” Scottie repeated in a confused whisper.

The man let out a single, boisterous laugh, silenced it abruptly, then cleared his throat.  “Oh, to be so young again.  In most cases, I have found that what people think is magic is either nothing more than mere illusion, or advanced science that people do not understand yet.  This is a scanner.  I usually use it to scan things I bring back from my trips, but it will work just as well to scan your ankle and make sure that nothing is broken.  As long as it isn’t broken, I will wrap that up for you with some cooling gel, and you should heal nicely.  Then, we can get you home.”

“Yeah, but, what about the ghost?  Or the dead guy up there who is somehow not dead?”

“Dead guy,” the man asked with a quizzical expression.  “What dead guy?”

“Upstairs,” Scottie replied.  “There is a guy lying on the table in the room next to the kitchen that is cut in half.  I thought he was dead, but then he talked to me.”

“And what did he say,” the man asked with deep interest.

Scottie paused briefly, forcing himself to relive the memory in his mind though he was afraid to.  “He pretty much said the same thing the ghost did.  He told me that I shouldn’t be here.”

“Well, he’s right.  You shouldn’t be here.”

“I know,” Scottie shouted in frustrated.  “I found that out the hard way when I saw the ghost and the dead guy.”

The man laughed again, a loud uproarious laugh that shocked Scottie.  “That’s not a man you poor, confused boy.  That is my sidekick Johhny.  He’s an automaton.”

“An atomaton?  What’s that?”

“An automaton,” the man replied, chuckling.  “He’s an android.  an artificial being.”

“Like a robot,” Scottie asked, his interest piqued.

“Well,” the man replied, pondering the question.  “I guess, in layman terms, you could say he is like a robot.  Just don’t say that to his face.  He was damaged recently on one of our journeys, and I am in the process of repairing him.”

“Where did he come from?”

“I built him,” the man replied, beaming with pride.  “Put him together myself.  Well, I did have some help to be honest.  I’m good, but I’m not a robotics expert.”

“You built him,” Scottie repeated, his voice full of awe.  “Are you a scientist or something?”

“Yes Scottie, that is exactly what I am.  I am a scientist who specializes in inter-dimensional exploration.”

Scottie’s mouth dropped at this last statement.  “You do what?”

“I travel to other dimensions, explore them, and study them.  I even take back samples like the rocks on my table here.”

“Other dimension,” Scottie stated.  “Like in my comic books?  Like alternate universes and stuff.”

“Yes,” the man replied.  “Just like that.  I discovered a way to travel to other dimensions, and I built a device to open doorways to those dimensions.”

“No way,” Scottie whispered.

“Yes way,” the man answered back with a laugh.  “It is what I have dedicated my life’s work to.”

“That is so cool,” Scottie shouted.

“Yeah, I think it is pretty cool.” the man said, smiling widely.  “Good news Scottie, your ankle is not broken.  So, I’m going to put some medical gel on it, which will act like ice on your ankle to ease the swelling.  It’s going to be cold, but it won’t hurt.  Then, we can wrap your ankle and take you home.”

“Medical gel?  I’ve never heard of that.”

“That’s because it’s still a prototype.” the man stated as he rubbed the cool gel on Scottie’s ankle.  “It’s not quite ready for the mass market yet.  But, hopefully someday soon.  Anyway, you will be fine, rest your ankle for a few days, and you should be back to running around in no time.”

“That’s good news,” Scottie said, breathing a sigh of relief.  “I still have one question though.  What about the ghost upstairs that chased me around.  You say there are no ghosts, but, I know what I saw.”

Scottie noticed at that moment that the man’s face took on a look of sadness.  “What you saw, was the psychic impression of a woman who used to be,” the man paused, took a deep breath, “a friend of mine.  She passed away a few years ago, and I was able to use a device I had invented to capture a bit of her psychic residue.  It is not really her in any substantial way, more of an echo of who she used to be, but it is all I have left of her.”

“I’m not really sure what that means,” Scottie admitted.  “But it sounds sad, and I am sorry for your loss.”

“Thank you Scottie.”

“Maybe you could teach me more about it,” Scottie said, smiling hopefully.

“Oh, I’m afraid that would take more time than we have at this moment.  You no doubt need to get home now.  I’m sure you have parents that are worried about you.”

“Well, then,” Scottie pushed on.  “Maybe I could come back later.  Like, on another day, and you could teach me about the stuff you have going on here.  It’s all really cool and interesting, and I would love to know more about what you do.”

“You would,” the man inquired, his demeanor lighting up.  “Really?”

“Yeah,” Scottie replied.  “I love  science, it’s my favorite subject in school.  I bet you could teach me a lot more than I could learn in class.  Maybe I could be like your assistant or something.  I could help you out.”

“That’s an interesting idea,” the man said, rubbing his chin in thought.  “But, you are just a kid, so it would be too dangerous to take you out on my dimensional expeditions.  But, you could work with me here in the lab studying the things I bring back from other dimensions.  Would you be up for that?”

“Definitely,” Scottie replied, smiling with excitement.  “I want to learn as much as I can.”

The man studied Scottie for a few moments, rubbing his chin as he pondered the boys offer, then nodded his head slowly.  “Okay, your on.  You can be my assistant.  I’ll even give you a bit of pay for your work, like an after school job.  But, there are a few conditions.  First, we must get an OK from your parents.  Second, you need to keep up your grades in school.  If your grades start slipping at all, then the deal is off.  Of course, you will have me to help you with your schoolwork, so that shouldn’t be a problem.  What do you think?”

“I think we have ourselves a deal,” Scottie beamed.  “When do we start?”

“Well, that will be the third condition.  Before we can start, you need to get that ankle healed.  So, I suggest you rest it as much as you can so it will heal quicker.”

“All right,”Scottie sighed.  “I will let my ankle heal.  But, try not to discover anything too cool while I am waiting, okay?”

“We have a deal,” the man agreed with a smile.  When he had finished wrapping Scottie’s ankle, the man asked him for his address.  Though initially reluctant, Scottie felt he and the spaceman had begun to build a trust with each other, which made Scottie feel better about revealing where he lived.  Armed with this information, the man walked over to the platform in the basement, and began entering keystrokes into the computer attached to it.  A moment later, a bright, oval shaped light appeared in the center of the platform.

“All right then,” the man turned to address Scottie.  “Let’s get you home, shall we?”

“W-What’s that,” Scottie asked nervously.

“This my boy,” the man replied proudly, “is my portal generator.  My own invention, of course.  It is the device I use to travel back and forth to other dimensions.  I have entered your address into the navigation computer, and you can use it to go home.”

“Really,” Scottie asked excitedly.  “You’re going to teleport me home?”

“Really,” the man replied  “It’s perfectly safe.  Just walk through the portal, and it will drop you off right in front of your house.  Now, come along.  You’ve got some healing to do so that we can get you started working with me.”

“This is so cool,” Scottie shouted, hobbling over to the teleporter.  When he reached the edge of the platform, Scottie looked into the light, and was surprised to discover that he could indeed see his home in the center as though he were looking through a window.  Scottie looked back at the man, who was smiling at him and gesturing for him to enter the portal.  “Wait a minute.  Before I go, you never told me your name.”

“Oh,” the man responded, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.  “You are absolutely right.  I am Professor Kevin Newton at your service.  It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance Scottie.”

“It’s nice to meet you too Professor.  I will see you again soon.”

“Yes, you will.  I will come by your house tomorrow to talk to your parents about your new job in my employ.  Now, run along Scottie.  It’s time for you to head home.”

Scottie turned to face the portal to his house, took a deep breath, and held it as he stepped into the light.  Though he had taken only a single step, Scottie instantly found himself on his street, facing his house as the light he had walked through shrunk until it could be seen no more.  For a brief moment, Scottie wondered if what he had just experienced had been a strange dream, but a shock of pain in his wrapped ankle quickly reminded him that everything had been real.  Scottie smiled to himself as he began limping to his house, excited for what his future with Professor Newton would bring.

Boys Will Be, Part Two

The plan was simple enough, what could possibly go wrong?  Bert, the bully who spent his days picking on and tormenting Scottie, had put forth a dare for Scottie to sneak into the Mystery House in their neighborhood to get proof that the house was haunted.  Scottie, skeptical that the house was actually as haunted as people said, was trying to find a way into the house when the front door mysteriously opened for him.  With Bert goading him on from the safety of the sidewalk, Scottie cautiously entered the front door.  Initially, Scottie was unimpressed by the stark hallway before him, which contained no decorations at all.  Scottie saw two doors in the hallway, one at the end of the hall, and one to his left side with a staircase leading to the second floor of the house on his right side.  As he moved down the hallway, Scottie was shocked to see what appeared to be the ghost of a woman appear at the top of the stairs.  When the ghostly woman charge towards him, screaming that he did not belong in the house, Scottie found himself frozen with fear.

With his eyes shut as tight as humanly possible, Scottie felt a sudden urge to flee overtake his mind.  Scottie took two step backwards, then tripped on a rug in the hallway, falling backwards onto the floor.  As he hit the floor, Scotties eyes opened, and he watched the ghostly woman float over him, passing the spot he had been standing.  Scottie scrambled to his feet, and looked back towards the front door he had entered to see the ghostly woman floating there, directly blocking his path out of the Mystery House.

“You should not be here,” the woman hissed, pointing her bony finger at Scottie once again.

“Please,” Scottie whispered, his dry mouth preventing him from speaking fully.

“You should not be here,” the woman screeched again before charging towards Scottie once again.  Scottie let out another hoarse scream before turning around and running towards the closed door at the end of the hallway.  Once he reached the door, Scottie frantically reached for the doorknob, turned it, and felt a microscopic moment of relief as the door opened.  Scottie rushed into the room on the other side of the hallway, slamming the door behind him and falling to the floor with his arms covering his head.

When his pounding heartbeat at last settled to a dull throb in his ears, Scottie realized that several minutes had passed in silence with no sign of the ghostly woman.  Scottie slowly moved his arms away from his head, slowly scanning the area around him for immediate danger.  Scottie was surprised, yet relieved to discover that he had landed on the floor of a rather conventional kitchen.  As Scottie looked around the kitchen, he saw an old, if otherwise unremarkable, refrigerator on the wall opposite the door he had entered. To the left of the refrigerator, a sink with a small countertop attached to it had a small pile of dirty dishes peeking over the rim.  Scottie noticed immediately that the dishes appeared to be recently used, which he found extremely odd.  Scottie found himself wondering if the ghost woman that had attacked him was responsible for the dirty dishes, but he quickly dismissed the absurd notion with a chuckle.  A small window above the sink gave Scottie a view of a sparse and empty back yard.

On the other side of the refrigerator, Scottie saw another closed door that appeared unexceptional.  On the wall directly to the right of the closed door, Scottie saw an old style gas stove  with a couple of dirty pans resting on top.  Behind the stove, another window look out onto the driveway on the side of the house To Scottie’s left, another closed door rested on hinges that would allow the it to swing open and spring back to close once again.

Scottie slowly ran his eyes back and forth between the three doors leading out of the kitchen, including the door he had been chased through, trying to decide what his best course of action would be.  Scottie quickly decided that he did not want to face the ghost woman again, which made the decision to eliminate that particular egress an easy one.  Scottie took a deep breath, looked towards the ceiling of the kitchen, then decided to enter the swinging door to his left.

Scottie stepped towards the door, trying his best to be as quiet as humanly possible, placed his hand on the door, took another deep breath, then carefully pushed the door open.  Another small room occupied the space on the other side of the door as Scottie entered, though he could not focus on the details of the room as he could only focus on what lay in the center.  Scottie let out a gasp of horror as his attention was pulled to a large, wooden table directly in the middle of the room.  The table itself was completely unremarkable, but the man laying on the table shocked Scottie to the very core of his being.

Scottie’s first instinct was to flee in terror when he saw the man lying in two pieces on the table, but he forced himself instead to investigate closer.  The unfortunate man, who was clearly dead, was separated at the waist, cut in half by some unknown blade perhaps, with his legs resting at least a foot away from his upper torso.  What struck Scottie as odd, other than the fact that there was a dead man cut in half lying before him, was the fact that there did not appear to be a single drop of blood anywhere on the table, or on the man himself.  Letting his curiosity guide him, Scottie reached out his hand to touch the man, if only to see if what he saw was real.  As he cautiously moved his hand towards the halved man, the man’s eyes sprung open abruptly, causing Scottie to stumble backwards with a scream.

“You,” the halved man hissed, his voice barely above a whisper.

“No,” Scottie cried, continuing to step backwards.  “Oh no!”

“You s-should,” the man stuttered, struggling to get the words out.

“Don’t,” Scottie whispered.  “Please don’t.”

“You should not be here,” the man stated at last.

“I know,” Scottie whispered.

“You should not be here,” the man said again, louder this time.

“I know,”Scottie whispered, his voice shaking.  “I know.”

“You should not be here,” the man bellowed, loud enough to startle Scottie.

“I know,” Scottie shouted, turning and bursting through the swinging door back into the kitchen.  “I know!  I know!  I know!”

Scottie continued shouting as he ran through the kitchen to the one door he had not yet been through.  Scottie opened the door and was greeted by a darkness that he could not see through.  With fear pushing him, Scottie stepped through the doorway into the darkness, and immediately felt himself fall and tumble down a flight of stairs he could not see.

Boys Will Be, Part One

Scottie stood frozen on the sidewalk, staring nervously at the disturbingly quiet house that everyone in the neighborhood commonly referred to as the Mystery House.  For all of his life, that life being only twelve short years, Scottie had heard various unsettling stories about how the house was haunted, how it was surely made of pure evil, and how people would enter the house and never leave.  Scottie new that there were houses with similar stories in neighborhoods around the world, so he initially did not take any stock in the stories told about the Mystery House.  It was this disbelief in such rumors that led to Scottie being taunted by his nemesis, a bully by the name of Bert.  Bert had scoffed at Scottie’s lack of belief in the stories of the Mystery House, convinced that Scottie was lying and just pretending to be brave in front of his friends.  When Scottie attempted to protest, Bert challenged him to enter the Mystery House and find out for himself what was inside.

“Well,” Bert said, his voice laced with impatience, “you goin’ in, or what?”

“This is really lame,” Scottie replied angrily.  “What, you get this idea out of cartoon, or movie, or something?  What are you going to do, sneak in after me and try to scare me while I’m in there?”

“Are you nuts,” Bert exclaimed, shaking his head.  “I ain’t goin’ in there! You might not believe it’s haunted, but I sure do.”

“Fine,” Scottie said, letting out a derisive sigh.  “I’ll go in there and prove that there is nothing weird going on in that house.  But, when I come out, you have to stop picking on me.  If you don’t, then I’m going to spread the word at school that you were too scared to go in there with me.”

“Yeah, fine, whatever.” Bert said, raising his hands in a gesture of capitulation.  “You survive the ghosts in there, and you gain my full respect.  No more picking on you, ever again.  But, you gotta survive first.”

Scottie shook his head in annoyance, and headed up the walkway towards the  Mystery House.  As he neared the front door, Scottie studied the exterior of the house cautiously.  Though the house was obviously old, it was by no means decrepit or dilapidated.  The house was dark brown, with a dark roof.  Scottie tried to peer into each window of the house, the two windows on the first floor, and the three windows on the second floor, but all of the windows of the house were covered in what Scottie could only guess were thick curtains that blocked, or perhaps swallowed up, every possible speck of light that might enter or leave the house.Scottie slowly walked up the three wooden steps leading to the front door, wincing as the planks of each step creaked, protesting each step he took.  Once he reached the top step, Scottie paused, stared at the solid wooden front door, took a deep breath, and raised his hand to knock.

“Yo, Scottie,” Bert called out from the sidewalk in front of the Mystery House.  “What are you doing?  You think you can just knock on the front door, and the ghosts are just going to open up and let you in?  Com on dumb-ass!”

“What am I supposed to do,” Scottie called back turning to face his bully.  “You got any brilliant ideas?”

“Use a window or something, genius,” Bert yelled.  “Duh!”

“Ok, I got it,” Scottie shouted, turning to face Bert.  Scottie opened his mouth to speak again, but was cut short by the sound of a doorknob clicking followed by the creaking of a door.  Scottie slowly turned back towards the front door of the Mystery House to discover that the door had somehow opened slightly.

“Oh shit,” Bert exclaimed in a loud whisper.  “Looks like someone’s expecting you.”

Scottie leaned to his left slightly to peer into the breach of the house left by the slightly open front door.  All Scottie could see on the other side of the door was a dark hallway that gave no indication as to what lie beyond the doorway to the Mystery House.  Scottie took several deep breaths before placing his and on the door, and slowly pushing it open further.

“Hey dingus,” Bert called out, startling Scottie as he took a step towards the door.

“What,” Scottie hissed, turning just enough to see Bert out of the corner of his eye.

“Don’t forget to take out your phone.  Get as many pictures as you can.  Maybe some video too.”

“Fine,” Scottie called back, sighing in frustration and rolling his eyes.  Scottie pulled his cellphone out of his pocket and checked the battery strength to see that the phone was at a ninety percent charge.  Scottie activated the camera function on his phone, raised the phone up to his eye level, and began recording a video of what he saw.  Scottie then pushed the front door of the Mystery House fully open, and cautiously entered the dark hallway before him.

As he walked down the hallway, Scotties eyes began to adjust to the darkness, and he began to see details of the area surrounding him.  The hallway Scottie found himself in stretched out about ten feet before him, with a stair case on his right side, halfway down the hall leading to the second floor of the building.  The hallway itself was rather plain, lacking any sort of decoration or picture on the walls.  At the end of the hallway, a closed door faced Scottie, with another closed door located directly to his left.  Scottie studied both doors, trying to decide which door to investigate first, when he was startled by a flash of light from the top of the staircase.  Scottie looked up towards the flash to see the disembodied figure of pale woman staring back at him.  The woman appeared to be floating in the air, with a faint white glow surrounding her.

“You should not be here,” the woman shrieked, raising a skeletal looking hand towards Scottie and pointing directly at him.

Scottie opened his mouth to speak to the ghostly woman, but found that the words stalled in the back of his throat, choking him.

“You should not be here,” the woman shrieked again, here voice bone-chillingly cold with a pitch that would have dogs cringing.

“I, I’m sorry,” Scottie whispered through dried out lips.

“You should not be here,” another deathly screech.

“I know,” Scottie cried out.  “I’m sorry.  I’ll leave.  I’m sorry.”

“You should not be here,” the ghostly woman screeched again as she began floating down the stairs towards Scottie.  Scottie watched in terror as the woman approached him, her feet never touching the stairs below her.  Frozen with fear, Scottie could only manage to let out a scream, unable to convince his feet to function even though he desperately wanted to run as far away as possible.  A short moment later, the ghost woman was floating right in front of Scottie, reaching out her gaunt hands towards him as she screamed out angrily.  Scottie could only match the woman’s screams as he closed his eyes and prepared for what would come next.

On Blackened Wings: Part Three

cooltext1595959836Written by Derrick Nadeau

Part Three

You Suffer

Rand studied the damage done to his village as he walked back to his farm from the town square.  Looking at all the destruction and pain caused by the Seraph attack, Rand found it difficult to agree with the sentence the village elders had decided on.  Rand had argued his point that the Seraph he had captured should be put to death immediately, but the elders would not allow such violence in their village.  Instead, the elders decided that the captured Seraph would be stripped of his wings and released outside the village to find his own way home, or die trying.  Rand found himself hoping for the death of the Seraph, a fitting end to the monster that took his son’s life, but also prayed to the gods that the death would be long and painful.  Rand took a deep breath, attempting to push down his anger and hatred to think with a clear mind, but the attempt was made futile the moment he once again saw the captured Seraph pinned to the side of his farmhouse.  Rand walked up to the Seraph, ignoring the questions from his wife and youngest son regarding the decision of the elders.

“I want to kill you,” Rand spat at the Seraph.  “Right here, right now, I want to kill you to avenge the son that you took from me.”

The Seraph, weakened by loss of blood and dehydration, began to cough violently until flecks of blood began to form on his lips.  Rand grabbed a nearby bucket of cold water and dumped it on the head of the Seraph.  The Seraph then began to struggle violently, attempting to pull his wings free from the crossbow bolts that held them firm to the farmhouse wall, while also attempting to break the rope that Rand had used to tie his hands together.

“You are too weak to break free now monster,” Rand shouted.

“Then kill me,” the Seraph hissed, barely able to speak.  “Kill me and take your revenge!”

Rand grabbed an ax that had been leaning against the wall nearby, charged towards the Seraph, lifted the ax to strike a fatal blow, then paused.

“I cannot,” Rand said, his arm shaking as he held the ax up.  “I am not allowed to kill you.  The elders have decided that you shall live.”

The Seraph began to laugh at that moment.  A weak, raspy laugh that could only be heard by Rand.

“Weak,” the Seraph hissed as he laughed.

“Say that again,” Rand said through gritted teeth.

“I will say it again, and again,” the Seraph continued, his voice becoming louder though still hoarse.  “You are weak!  Weak little animals!  That is why we hunt you.  The gods made you for the sole purpose of being prey for the mighty Seraph.  You are fooling yourselves if you think otherwise.”

“We are not animals,” Rand shouted,  “Look around you!  We have built ourselves a civilization here.  We are peaceful farming community.  We have never harmed your people.  We have given you no cause to slaughter us year after year.”

“The gods give us cause,” the Seraph said.  “You can pretend you are civilized all you like, but you always have been, and always will be animals put here for the Seraph to hunt and kill.  That is all you will ever be.”

“How can you say such things,” Rand asked.  “How can you look me in the eye and say such things to me.”

“Look you in the eye,” the Seraph asked in return.  “I look you in the eye and it only confirms my beliefs.  Look at yourself animal.  See yourself as we see you.  With your yellow eyes that glow red at night.  The horns that protrude out of the tops of your beastly heads.  Horns that point to the sky as if you are constantly praying to the gods.  It is my people that have been given the blessing of the gods.  My people who have been given wings so that we may soar in the heavens with the gods while you filthy animals work in the dirt where you belong.”

“Stop calling us animals,” Rand shouted, finding it harder to hold back his urge to kill the Seraph.

“Why would I,” the Seraph asked smugly.  “You are proving my point.  Look at how angry you are.  I can see your pathetic, animal emotions fighting to take control of you.  I can see it in your beastly face.  The faces of my people are beautiful, hand carved by the gods themselves.  While your faces are ugly and hairy.  Your noses are flat like the swine you tend to in your pens there.  Even your feet bear hooves, just like the feet of your pigs.”

“Stop now,” Rand shouted.  “Or I swear I will kill you no matter what the elder’s decision!”

“Then do it animal,” the Seraph shouted.  “Prove me right!  Show this world what an animal you still are.  Through aside your facade of civility and give in to your true nature.  Become the sad little beast I know you to be!”

Rand lifted the ax as high as he could, let out a blood-curdling scream, and sent the ax down with all the strength he had into the flesh of the Seraph.  As the Seraph let out his own agonized scream, Rand’s wife let out a gasp of shock as she grabbed her young son and turned his innocent eyes away from the brutal scene.  A spatter of blood smacked Rand in the face, and he felt a twinge of satisfaction as he again bit into the Seraph’s flesh with his ax.  Rand’s wife tried to cover her son’s ears with her hands to protect the child from the screams of agony mixed with the aggressive growl of her husband.  Rand’s wife closed her own eyes and listened to the sickening thud of the ax finding its target again and again until finally, the screaming died down to moaning.  Rand’s wife took a deep breath, slowly opened her eyes, then turned to see what her husband had done.

“It is done,” Rand said, spitting on the broken, wingless Seraph lying on the ground before him.  Rand looked up at his wife and son, who were staring back at him with expressions of pure shock, then quickly moved his gaze to the black wings still bolted to the farmhouse.  the wings twitched slightly, and Rand was pleased to see blood dripping down from the areas that  he had chopped away from the back of the Seraph.  As he stared at the wings, Rand heard the sounds of his fellow villagers approaching behind him.

“You have kept your word,” Delphon, one of the village elders announced as he approached Rand and the broken Seraph lying before him.

“I have,” Rand said back.  “I would not defy the wishes of the elders.  I thank you for at least allowing me the honor of carrying out the monster’s sentence.”

“I know you do not agree with our decision Rand,” Rigus, another elder spoke up.  “But, I hope in time you will come to understand it.  We cannot allow ourselves to become like them.  We cannot allow violence to become our way.”

“I do understand,” Rand said.  “Deep down, I know that we must be the animals these monsters think we are.  It is just hard to deal with the murder of my son.”

“We do hope this has brought some sort of closure for you,” Rigus said.  “Perhaps you will see that justice has been done for your son’s death.”

“Perhaps,” Rand whispered to himself, then cleared his throat before addressing the villager.  “Let’s get these wounds cauterized so we can get this monster out of our village for good then.”

“I brought a nice, hot iron for just that purpose,” Hark, the village blacksmith announced as he approached the broken Seraph.

Rand felt another twinge of satisfaction as he watched the blacksmith use his hot iron to cauterize the open wounds left in the Seraph’s back by the removal of his wings.  Rand allowed himself to find pleasure in the pain filled screams of the monster that had taken his son from him.  Though the elder’s had not allowed Rand to seek his vengeance in the death of the monster, taking the wings of the Seraph proved to be a favorable alternative.  Rand closed his eyes and pictured his son’s face, then let out a long sigh that helped him release some of his pain into the heavens.

“You are with the gods now my son,” Rand whispered as he looked to the sky with tears in his eyes.  “Though my heart is heavy, I take comfort knowing you are looking down on us.  You will always be loved here.”

The Sleeper: Part Three

cooltext1471861634

Part Three

Written by Derrick Nadeau

Greg’s mind frantically searched for a way out of his predicament, but was unable to find any solution.  Closing his eyes, Greg ran through the events that had led him to this point in his mind.  Greg had enjoyed his life as a sleeper agent, married to a wonderful wife and raising a good son, but his life had been ruined earlier in the evening when a man arrived at his door handing him an envelope and informing him that he had been activated.  Being activated meant that, in addition  to completing an assignment given to him by his superiors, Greg would also have to kill both his wife and his son to tie up any loose ends from his life as a sleeper.  Though it broke his heart, Greg had completed the first step of his assignment, killing his wife by shooting her in her bed.  The murder of his own wife had left him so distraught that Greg could not bear to kill his son.  Instead, Greg had woken his son up from his slumber and attempted to escape with him.  As Greg and his son attempted to run, his house had been invaded by a squad of men, each carrying a weapon.

Greg stared at the three men pointing guns at he and his son when he was suddenly distracted by the sound of footsteps climbing the stairs.  Greg focused his gaze to the stairs in time to see the man who had activated him earlier in the evening approaching.  Greg’s heart sank as the man walked up to him, paused briefly to look Greg in the eyes, then continued on to the bedroom where Greg’s dead wife lay.  Greg looked down at his son and felt the urge to cry as he witnessed the pure terror in his young son’s eyes.  A moment later, the man who destroyed Greg’s wife walked out of the bedroom, pausing once again to look in Greg’s eyes and shake his head in what Greg could only guess was disappointment, then continued on to the room of Greg’s son.  Greg felt a sudden pain in his chest as the man then walked out of the bedroom carrying the gun that Greg had used to murder his wife.  The man walked up to Greg and his son and pointed the gun at Greg’s head.

“What is your name son,” the man asked Greg’s son.

Greg’s son was too frightened to answer and could only stare up at the man with tear filled eyes.

“Too scared to answer,” the man continued.  “I understand.  It doesn’t matter any way, I know your name is Peter. “

“Please,” Greg pleaded.  “Don’t hurt my son.”

“Shut up,” the man growled, jabbing Greg’s own gun into his forehead.  “Shut up and do not say a word or I will make sure you and your son die a very slow, very painful death.  Now then, Peter, my name is Samuel.  But, you can just call me Sam.”

Sam bent down on one knee, looking Peter directly in the eyes, and let Peter get a look at Greg’s gun in his hands.

“Do you know what this is Peter,” Sam asked.

Peter’s lips trembled as he stammered out his response, “a g-gun.”

“Well, Yes,” Sam agreed.  “But it is more than just any gun.  This is the gun that your father used to kill your mother.”

Peter began to shake his head furiously as tears streamed down his face.

“It’s true,” Sam said, his face taking on an expression of mock sadness.  “I’m sorry to have to tell you that.”

“You are lying,” Peter shouted.

“I know it must be hard for you to believe,” Sam said in a soothing voice.  “But it’s true.  You mom is dead, and your father is the one who killed her with this very gun.”

“Shut up,” Peter screamed.  “You are lying!  I don’t believe you.”

Sam let out a long sigh before standing back up and turning to one of the three men pointing guns at Greg.  “Take him in and show him.”

“No, please,” Greg said, resulting in one of the men to jab the butt of his gun into Greg’s ribs.

As one of the other men grabbed Peter and dragged the screaming boy into his parents bedroom, Sam turned to face Greg, who was doubled over in pain from the shot to his ribs.  Greg coughed as he clutched his sore ribs, and a few specks of blood found their way to the corner of his mouth.

“Why would you do that to him,” Greg asked between coughs.

“You surprised me tonight Gregory,” Sam said, examining Greg’s gun in his hands.  “I am always surprised by you sleeper agents.  No matter how many times I do this, I can never figure out what you fools will do.  I can never anticipate how you will react.  I guess, ultimately, that’s what makes my job so much fun.”

“What the fuck are you talking about,” Greg asked, spitting blood towards Sam.

“Oh, this is my absolute favorite part,” Sam replied with a hint of glee in his voice.  “It might be a bit of a cliché, but I absolutely love this part where I get to explain everything to you right before I kill you.  I completely understand why villains in movies do this.”

Before Sam could continue, he was interrupted by the cries of Peter in the bedroom.

“Ah, I see your son has seen your handiwork,” Sam said.  “That’s certainly going to scar him for life.  That will make him easier to keep in line.”

“What do you mean,” Greg asked, suddenly horrified.

“This is my favorite part,” Sam said, leaning in close to Gregory and speaking softly.  “The truth is that you aren’t what you think you are.  You were never what you thought you were.  Everything you thought you knew was a complete lie.”

“What are you talking about,” Greg asked, spitting blood again.

Sam straightened up, flashed a wicked grin at Greg, then turned to face Greg’s bedroom.

“Bring the kid back out here,” Sam called out.  “Let’s show Gregory here who the real sleeper agent is.”

The Sleeper: Part Two

cooltext1471861634Part Two

Written by Derrick Nadeau

Greg stood next to his bed and stared down through tear soaked eyes at his dead wife bleeding out in front of him.  The last few hours of the day ran through his mind like an unstoppable train of horror and sorrow.  Greg’s entire life began to fall apart the moment a strange man arrived at his door during dinner and informed Greg that he was no longer a sleeper agent living a quiet life in the suburbs, but had at that moment been activated to complete an assignment.  To Greg’s horror, being activated meant that he had to destroy all evidence of the life he had built as a sleeper agent, including killing his wife and son.  Greg had struggled with his task for hours afterwards, drinking scotch and rereading the assignment notes until he had at last built up the courage to begin his assignment.  Even as his heart was breaking, Greg somehow found the nerve to shoot his wife as she lay asleep in their bed.  The act of murdering the woman he loved nearly tore Greg’s soul apart, but he managed to hold himself together in order to complete his assignment.  Greg wondered at that moment how other sleeper agents dealt with such pain, but then thought that perhaps they did not allow themselves to become attached to anyone the way Greg had.  Greg’s mind began to wander down the path of what it actually meant to be a sleeper agent when he suddenly snapped himself back to reality.  There was still one more task for Greg to complete in order to separate himself from his past life, and Greg was left with no other choice.  Killing his wife had pushed Greg past the point of backing out, the only option left was to murder his own son.

With tears still streaming down his face, Greg turned and slowly walked out his bedroom, into the hallway, and continued to his son’s room.  Greg placed his hand on the door of his son’s room, thankful that it had been closed and had hopefully kept his son from waking up, and paused long enough to compose himself.  Greg took a deep breath, held it for a moment, then slowly opened the door to his son’s room.  Once his eyes had adjusted to the darkness of the room, lit only by the wash from the hallway light, Greg took a quick scan and saw that his son remained in his bed, undisturbed and sleeping peacefully.  Greg fought back the urge to cry again as he quietly walked over to his son’s bed.

Greg stared down at his sleeping son as a surge of memories flooded his mind, causing such sorrow that he began to feel actual physical pain in his heart.  The birth of his son had been the single greatest joy in Greg’s life, and that joy now lay shattered at the bottom of his heart as he prepared to murder his own son.  Greg could feel his hands shaking, almost losing his grip on the gun he had just used to kill his wife.  Greg sucked in a quick gasp of air, tightened his grip on the gun, and forced his nerves to calm down.  Greg closed his tear soaked eyes and raised his gun towards his son.

Greg took several more deep breaths to calm himself, opened his eyes,  and lowered his gun.

“I can’t do this,” Greg whispered to himself.  “I can’t kill my own son.  I can’t.”

As Greg stood there, staring at the gun in his hand, he began to hear the sound of music playing.  Greg quickly realized that the music was coming from his son’s cellphone lying on the nightstand beside his son’s bed.  In a panic, Greg grabbed the phone, tried unsuccessfully to shut the phone off, then threw it out into the hallway.  Greg’s first instinct was to run out of the room and keep running, but the sound of his son’s voice caused Greg’s mind to suddenly go blank.

“Dad,” Greg’s son croaked in a sleepy voice.  “What’s going on?  What are you doing in my room?”

“I-” Greg began to answer his son, but quickly found that no words came to his mind.

“Dad, are you okay?”

“I’m so sorry,” Greg finally whispered.

“What did you say,” Greg’s son asked, sitting up to face his father.

Gregory could not answer his son, but instead dropped to his knees, allowing the gun to slip from his hands and slide down to the floor.  As Greg dropped, some unknown object struck the wall behind him exactly where his head had been a moment before.  Greg realized instantly from the sound of the impact that the object that had hit the wall was a bullet.  At that moment, Greg let his survival instincts take control, grabbing his son and pulling him out of his bed onto the floor.  Greg pulled his son close to him as he crouched down near the bed and tried to quickly plan his next move.  Greg looked over to the door of his son’s room, made a quick distance judgment, then focused his attention on his panicked son.

“Listen to me now,” Greg shouted, trying to hold his son’s attention.

“What is going on dad,” Greg’s son cried out.

“Listen to me,” Greg barked again.   “Just focus on me.  Don’t worry about anything else.  Just focus on me.”

“I’m confused dad.”

“Don’t worry, I will explain everything after.  Right now I just need to get you out of here.  To do that, we need to make a quick run out the door of your bedroom.  But you need to stay low and get out as quickly as you can.  Do you understand?”

“What is this?  What-“

“Don’t worry about that now,” Greg replied, grabbing his son by the shoulders and forcing him to focus.  “You need to do what I tell you.  Do you understand me son?”

“Okay,” Greg’s son replied, staring at his father’s face.  “I understand Dad.”

“Good.  Now, when I tell you too, you need to run out to the hallway as quickly as you can.  But, you also need to stay as low to the floor as you can.  Understand?”

“Yes Dad,” Greg’s son replied.  “I got it.  Run to the hallway.  Stay low.”

“Good.  Now get ready.”

Greg and his son moved to the edge of the bed and prepared themselves for the quick run out the bedroom door.  Greg paused for a moment, signaled his son to be quiet, then listened closely to the surrounding area.  Greg’s eyes widened as he heard the sound of whispered voices coming from somewhere outside his house.  At that moment, Greg realized that his handlers had been watching him since the moment he had been activated.  Having failed to kill his own son, Greg knew that his superiors would send in a team of specialists to clean up the mess he had caused.  At that moment, Greg decided he would do all he could to save the life of his son.

“Are you ready.” Greg asked.

“Yes Dad,” his son replied as he crouched down like a cat about to pounce on its prey.

Greg took one more deep breath and stared at the doorway that now represented his son’s salvation.

“Go!  Now,” Greg shouted as he instantly ran towards the door.  Though they tried to stay as low as the could, Greg and his son were forced to expose themselves as they left the safety of the bed and ran to the doorway.  Several more gunshots ruptured the wall near them, and Greg realized that there must be a shooter in the house of their neighbor across the street.  Greg wondered briefly if that meant that his neighbors had been killed as well, but quickly pushed that though out of his mind.  Though it seemed like an eternity, Greg and his son reached the doorway in seconds, stopping only once they had made it safely into the hallway.  Greg grabbed his son once again and quickly scanned him for any injuries.  Greg let out a sigh of relief when he saw that his son had made it out of the bedroom unscathed.

“Are you okay,” Greg asked his son.  “Are you hurt?”

“I’m fine Dad.  I’m just confused.”

Greg embraced his son and let his tears flow freely.  The only thing on Greg’s mind at that moment was the love he felt for his son.  Nothing else in the world seemed to matter as Greg and his son stood in the upstairs hallway hugging each other.  The moment was soon ruined by the sound of loud pounding on the front door of the house.  Greg let go of his son, moved to the top of the stairs to look down.  Suddenly, the front door burst open and several men burst through, pointing guns in front of them as then entered.  The men spotted Greg instantly and ran up the stairs towards him.  Greg tried to grab his son and flee to one of the bedrooms, but the men were upon him before he could run.  Greg held his son close to him as three men surrounded him and pointed their guns at him.

The Sleeper: Part One

cooltext1471861634

Part One

Written by Derrick Nadeau

Greg had just sat down to dinner with his wife and son when the doorbell rang.  Greg frowned in the direction of the door,  then looked back at his wife who returned his look of disdain. Greg let out a sigh, stood up, moved to answer the door in the front hallway.  On the other side of the door stood a man in a grey suit and black trench coat. his face stern and joyless.

“Good evening,” Greg said calmly.  “Can I help you?”

“Are you Gregory Sanders,” The man asked.

“I am,” Greg replied cautiously.

“You have been activated,” the man stated, he handed Greg a sealed envelope.  “This is your assignment.”

“I see,” Greg said, feeling despair grip his heart as he stared down at the envelope.

“You have until the morning to prepare for the assignment,” the man continued.   “You must be ready to begin your assignment by dawn tomorrow.  All information regarding your assignment can be found in that folder.”

“Understood,” Greg said again, looking back up at the man before him.

“That is all I have for you,” the man said as he turned and began walking away.  “Good evening.”

“Yeah,” Greg answered back realizing that his mouth had gone completely dry.  “Goodbye.”

Greg closed the door, walked to his study adjacent to the front hallway, and placed the envelope in the top drawer of his desk.  Greg stared down at the desk and took several deep breaths in an attempt to calm himself down.  Though he knew the day of his activation would eventually come, it had been twenty-two years since Greg had been placed in his small community as a sleeper agent, and he had foolishly allowed himself to believe that he would never be activated at all.  No matter what happened, Greg’s life would be permanently changed once dawn arrived.  Greg took one last, long, deep breath to steady his nerves, and let it out slowly before returning to the dinner table.

“Who was that,” Greg’s wife asked.

“Oh,” Greg replied pausing briefly to decide on a convincing lie.  “It was just some religious people trying to get me to join their church or something like that.”

“Those people are so annoying,” Greg’s wife spouted off.  “Not bad enough they come and bug you, but to do it at dinnertime?  That is just completely rude!  I hope you gave them a piece of your mind.”

“Not really,” Greg said, smiling at his wife’s  indignation.  “I wanted to get back to our lovely dinner as quickly as possible, so I just got rid of them as fast as I could.”

“Well then, I can’t blame you for that,” Greg’s wife laughed.

Greg pushed the thoughts of his assignment to the back of his mind and tried his best to enjoy his final dinner and conversation with his family.  After dinner,Greg helped his wife clear off the dining room table and then excused himself telling her that he had a big assignment for work the next day that he needed to go over in his study.  Once he was in his study, Greg closed the door, poured himself a scotch, and sat down to read through his assignment.  Greg took a sip of his scotch, opened the envelope, and removed the contents.  The envelope  contained several pages of typed information accompanied by a handful of pictures.  Greg quickly read through the typed pages, instructions and pertinent information on a target Greg was to assassinate, searching for one single piece of information that he hoped he would not find.  Greg’s heart sank quickly when he finally stumbled across the one sentence he had been dreading.

Before you begin your assignment, your wife and son must be eliminated.  

Greg took another long swig of his scotch and read the line again.

Before you begin your assignment, your wife and son must be eliminated.

When Greg had first been planted as a sleeper agent, he had known that he could be activated at any given moment of any day, but he never expected it would take twenty-two years.  In that time, Greg had slowly allowed himself to grow comfortable in his role as a common man.  Five years later, Greg met and fell in love with his wife, leading to the birth of their son five years after that.  Greg’s handlers had been very supportive of his decision to take on a family, which led Greg to eventually believe that he might never be fully activated.  Greg had taken employment as an assistant to a scientist in the genetics field, and he believed that as long as he continued leaking the scientist’s research to his handlers, Greg might never need to be activated and he could enjoy the life he had built for himself.    Greg felt a sadness wash over him as he read through the assignment given to him.  Greg’s main objective was to assassinate the scientist he had been working for, and had become friends with, for several years.  The assignment would be difficult enough without the fact that Greg would also have to destroy his family and erase the life that had made him truly happy.

Greg poured himself another scotch, pulled a set of keys out of his pocket, and unlocked the bottom drawer of his desk.  Greg reached into the drawer, pulled out a black case, and placed it on the desk before him.  Greg took another long drink of scotch, and stared at the case for a long, sorrowful moment before finally opening it to reveal a nine millimeter pistol and silencer.  Greg pulled the gun out of the case and  attached the silencer hesitantly.  Once the silencer was attached, Greg took another drink of scotch and stared at the gun with an expression of repugnance.  Greg had often enjoyed going to the local gun club to practice his shooting, even taking his son with him on several occasions, but now the gun in his hand was the tool he would use to destroy what he loved the most.

Greg finished the scotch in his glass, took one more deep breath, and headed out of his study to begin his assignment.  As Greg slowly walked up the stairs to his bedroom where his wife had already gone to bed, his mind began to flood with memories.  Thoughts of Greg and his wife moving into their new home when they were still newlyweds bled into memories of the day they brought home their newborn son, which then turned into memories of dinners with his family, parties with friends, and all of the wonderful times Greg shared with his wife and son.  Once Greg reached the top of the stairs, he moved as silently as he could to the bedroom where his wife lay sound asleep.

Once in the bedroom, Greg walked up to his wife’s side of the bed and looked down at her.  In the faint light flooding in from the hallway, Greg’s wife looked serene as she slept.  Greg wanted nothing more than to grab his wife, embrace her, and hold her tightly in his arms, but he knew that he would never be able to complete his assignment if he allowed her to wake up.  Greg grabbed a pillow from his side of the bed, placed it over his wife’s head, and aimed his gun down at her.  Greg could feel his hand shaking from the emotions welling up inside him, and tears began to stream down his face.  Greg tried to steel his nerves, but was too distraught to find any sort of calmness.  Closing his eyes for a moment, Greg tried to imagine that the woman he was about to kill was not his wife, but rather some stranger he had never met before that he had not emotional attachment to.

As Greg tried to calm himself, his wife suddenly stirred and let out a muffled moan.  Greg panicked suddenly, fearing that his wife was about to waken, and instinctively pulled the trigger of his gun, firing a bullet through the pillow.  Greg’s heart began to race as his wife’s body went suddenly limp, and he fired two more quick rounds into the pillow.  Greg, now a mess of nerves and adrenaline, held his breath and quickly scanned the area around him, listening for any indication that his son had been woken up.  When he was satisfied that all was quiet, Greg moved the pillow from his wife’s head and angrily threw it across the room.  Even in the dim light provided by the hallway, Greg could tell that his bullets had found their marks.

“Oh God,” Greg whispered as he watched his wife’s blood pool out onto the bed.  “What the fuck have I done?  I just killed my wife!  What have I done?”

Greg fell to his knees and let the tears flow from his eyes for a few brief moments.  Greg then closed his eyes and took several deep breaths to calm himself.  With the murder of his wife now completed, Greg knew that everything he built was now destroyed.  The life he had led was over, and Greg had no choice but to continue on with his assignment.  Accepting the fact that it was now too late to turn back, Greg stood up, his shaking knees threatening to send him crashing back down to the floor, and prepared himself for the next step of his assignment.  Greg’s wife had been eliminated, next, he would have to kill his son.

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