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 Three

Scottie moaned in pain as he tried to slowly pick himself up off the floor.  A bolt of sudden agony in his right leg made him cry out and reach down to check his wound.  Scottie let out a sigh of relief when he realized that there were no broken bones, but he could tell that he had twisted his ankle.  As he sat on the cold, rubber mat covered cement floor rubbing his sore ankle, Scottie scanned his immediate surroundings to regain his bearings.  At first, Scottie could not see anything in the completely darkened area, and he had to push back the panic that filled his mind.  As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, Scottie could tell that he had fallen into what appeared to be a common basement, though he could not distinguish the details of the room.  Scottie reached for the phone in his pocket, turned it on to bring some light to his situation.

“Oh great,” Scottie sighed angrily, looking down at the cracked screen of his phone.  Scottie could only guess that the phone must have gotten damaged during his tumble down the stair.  Though the  screen was cracked, the phone still seemed to be functional, and Scottie was able to activate the flashlight app on the phone to provide a small, focused beam of light.

Scottie moved the light to his ankle, and was relieved to see that there was no blood or bone protruding from the skin, though the ankle did appear to be swelling.  Scottie then moved the light around the room, taking in the details of his surroundings.  Scottie was surprised to discover that, though he was indeed lying on the floor of a basement, it was more than just a common storage area or work room.

The basement walls were covered with strange looking machines and devices, each one wired to a bank of computers located in one corner of the basement.  In the center of the room was a large, metal table littered with what appeared to be equipment that might be found in some type of science lab, several rocks of different shapes and sizes, and an assortment of plants and leaves.  At the far side of the basement, Scottie could see a strange looking, square, metal platform with an unfamiliar piece of triangle shaped metal object at each corner.

“What is all this,” Scottie whispered, shaking his head in disbelief.

Scottie moved the light back to his ankle, let out a moan that was a mixture of pain, frustration, and utter confusion.  Scottie pushed his fear to the back of his mind, and slowly tried to pull his body toward the staircase he had fallen down.  Though he had no idea how he would get past the frightening things he had seen in the rooms above him, Scottie knew he had to somehow get out of the Mystery House and get his swelling ankle taken care of.

As he continued dragging himself towards the stairs, the lights, computers, and machinery in the basement roused to life suddenly, startling Scottie, who froze in place.  Scottie heard the sound of an electric hum, and he rolled around to see the origin of the sound, despite the fact that his mind screamed at him not to.  A chill ran down Scottie’s spine as he witnessed the platform on the far end of the basement suddenly spark to life.

The odd triangles at each of the corner of the platform began to glow with a blue light, then began spewing forth bolts of electricity.  After a few seconds, the bolts began to converge in the center of the platform, forming into an oval shaped pattern as they swirled through the air.  Scottie felt his heart beating in his throat as the the oval pattern began to glow with a bright, white light.  The light continued to intensify to the point that Scottie had to shield his eyes with his hand, then stopped abruptly.

The machinery in the basement went quiet as Scott continued covering his eyes.  Frightened at the thought of what might happen next, Scottie listened intently for any sound.  Scottie could feel himself shaking as the sound of strange, mechanical breathing filled the air.  Against his better judgement, Scottie uncovered his eyes to determine what horror might be waiting for him next.

A strange man, Scottie hoped it was just a man, stood on the platform, dressed in what appeared to be a type of space suit that an astronaut might wear.  The man’s face was covered by a helmet that had a darkened visor hiding his face.  Scottie realized immediately that the mechanical breathing he was hearing came from the helmet the man wore, that was connected to a pack on his back by a hose.

Scottie tried to remain as quiet as he could, watching as the spaceman moved towards the table in the center of the basement.  The man opened a messenger bag worn on his left side, pulled out a large rock, placed on the table beside the other rocks located there.  The spaceman picked up a piece of equipment from the table,  activated it, and slowly waved it over the rock.  The equipment whirred and beeped as the spaceman moved it over the surface of the rock, and Scottie could only guess what the purpose might be.

Scottie began to relax as he realized the spaceman had not noticed him, allowing himself to release the breath he had been holding.  A moment of panic set into Scottie’s mind as he tried to come up with an escape plane that would allow him to get out of the house unnoticed.  Scottie decided that his only course of action would be to continue his slow crawl up the stairs and hope that the spaceman would be too distracted with his rock to notice.  Scottie reached up to the wooden handrail on the left side of the staircase, and tried to pull himself up the stairs.

The one flaw that Scottie had not factored into his plan was the fact that the handrail on the staircase was quite old, and the wood of the railing was weak and could not support the full weight of a twelve year old boy.  The railing creaked as Scottie put his weight on it, until the old wood could take no more, and it cracked in Scottie’s grip with a loud snap.  Scottie lost his balance as the railing broke, and fell back down to the basement floor with a thud.  As soon as he landed, Scottie whipped his head up to see if the spaceman had noticed his fall, and was disappointed, though not surprised to see that he had indeed been discovered.

Scottie watched in terror as the spaceman looked towards him, turned off the gadget in his hand and placed it back on the table, and began to move towards Scottie.  Scottie scrambled to get up off the floor, and a spike of pain quickly reminded him of his twisted ankle.  Scottie looked towards the approaching spaceman, terrified at what the man might do to him.

“You shouldn’t be here,” the spaceman’s mechanical voice stated through his helmet.

“I know,” Scottie whispered, wishing he had listened the first time he had heard the words.

Scottie felt his heart pounding as the spaceman approached him, wanting desperately to scream yet too scared to utter a sound.  After what seemed an eternity to Scottie, the spaceman stood over him, looking down at the lad.  Scottie felt his teeth chattering in his head as the spaceman reached up and began taking his helmet off.  An infinite array of horrific images ran through Scotties mind as the helmet slid off of the spaceman’s head, but what he was not prepared for was the face that was hidden underneath.

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 One

cooltext1595959836Written by Derrick Nadeau

Part One

You Rise

The sound of wings beating on the wind ripped Ezkel’s mind from a deep meditation.  Opening his weary eyes, Ezkel tried to focus his vision on the sun soaked sky above him.  Excitement and relief filled Ezkel’s heart as he realized that it was finally time for him to go home.  Though Ezkel had lost track of how long he had actually been abandoned on the cliffs above his home, it had begun to seem like his entire life had been spent in exile.  Ezkel closed his eyes once more, took in a deep breath of the cool air, and slowly rose to his feet.  Ezkel moved clumsily on weak legs towards the landing area, keeping his eyes skyward as the sound of the wings grew closer.  Ezkel allowed himself a smile of true joy as the source of the sounds came into view.  As Ezkel approached the landing area, he waved at the three winged men flying down to meet him.

“Hello father,” Ezkel said as he walked up to the three winged men.

“Ezkel, my son,” one of the men replied, reaching out to embrace Ezkel.  “It is good to see you alive and well.”

“Thank you father,” Ezkel replied, circling his arms around his father’s muscular form.  As he embraced his father, Ezkel felt his skin brush up against his father’s wings, and he felt a pang of sadness.  “It has been a challenge, but I am proud to say that I have survived the ritual.”

“Unbind him,” Ezkel’s father said to the two other men at his side.  “You did well my son.  I am proud you have survived the ritual as well.  Now, it is time for you to go home and prepare for the hunt.”

“I am very much looking forward to that,” Ezkel beamed.

Ezkel let out a sigh of relief as the two men accompanying his father walked behind him and began to unbind his wings.  Ezkel winced as he stretched his wings, now stiff and weakened from the ritual binding.  Though his wings now felt broken and useless, his feathers almost completely fallen off, Ezkel accepted his pain as part of the ritual.  When a boy reaches the age of fifteen, he is then sent to the cliffs above his home, wings bound tightly so that they cannot be used, and forced to live on their own for one month.  Once the ritual is complete, the boy is allowed to return home as a man.  Now considered a man by his tribe, Ezkel would be allowed to join the annual hunt of the Devlin with the rest of the men in his tribe.

“Let’s go home then,” Ezkel’s father announced.

The two men then wrapped a harness around Ezkel’s waist, stood on either side of him, and prepared to launch back into the sky.  With his wings in their weakened state, Ezkel had no choice but to allow himself to be carried home by the two men.  Though it was the most degrading part of the ritual, being carried home after a month of wing binding was considered an important lesson in humility.  Ezkel placed his hands on the straps of the harness and held tightly as the two men began flapping their wings, slowly at first then increasing speed until they began to lift off.  Ezkel began to grow excited as he felt the ground fall away from his feet.  It had been too long since Ezkel felt the joy of soaring through the sky, and the wind on his face brought back pleasant memories of mock dogfights in the sky with his friends as a child.  Ezkel looked over at his father, flying by his side, and smiled brightly.  After a month of pain and loneliness, Ezkel allowed himself to revel in the bliss of gliding through the air.

Ezkel watched the ground below him as he soared past, not realizing how homesick he was until he actually saw his village growing larger as he approached.  Ezkel’s father smiled at his son before suddenly diving down to the village below.  The two men began to slowly lower Ezkel down to the ground below, circling the village as they lowered down.  As the men approached the village center, Ezkel was pleased to see it filled with his fellow villagers cheering for his return.  Once he reached the ground, Ezkel began to remove his harness as his mother appeared from the crowd and ran up to embrace her son.

“Hello Mother,” Ezkel whispered as he wrapped his arms tightly around his mother.

“My son is back,” Ezkel’s mother cried.  “I missed you so much.”

“I missed you too,” Ezkel whispered, choking back tears.

“Our son has done us proud Ada,” Ezkel’s father said as he approached his son and wife.

“Yes, Waryn,” Ada said, not letting go of her son.  “I am a very proud mother.”

“I can see that,” Waryn said with a chuckle.  “But I’m afraid you must let him go now.  It is time for him to finish the ritual.  If you are ready of course.”

“Yes father,” Ezkel replied calmly.  “I am ready.”

“Then come along,” Waryn commanded.  “Meet us at the lake.”

Though he craved a good night of rest, Ezkel knew that his ordeal was not over yet.  With an anguished sigh, Ezkel watched as his parents flew off without him.  The next part of the ritual would consist of Ezkel, his wings still unusable, making the journey by foot out of his village, through the forest of the ancients, until reaching the great lake of renewal deep in the forest.  The journey, normally just over an hour, would take a bit longer for Ezkel in his tired and weakened state, but Ezkel took a deep breath and pushed himself forward.

As night began to fall, Ezkel arrived at the lake of renewal to find his fellow villagers, including his parents, waiting for him.  Ezkel felt pride overtake his state of exhaustion, giving him the strength to finish his journey.  Ezkel walked to his parent’s side, and stood there gazing into the water of the lake of renewal.  Ezkel’s mind began to drift off when another man, the minister of the Lake of Renewal stood before him.

“Young Ezkel,” the minister said, projecting loudly enough for all to hear.  “I have watched you grow up from a young child into the man who stands before me now.  You have completed the binding ritual, and are now standing before the Lake of Renewal, ready to complete your transformation.  Now, your destiny is in your own hands young one.  You must walk into the lake and bathe in its rejuvinating waters.  Are you prepared?”

“I am prepared Minister,” Ezkel replied.

“Then take the journey,” the minister replied.

Ezkel straightened himself, gave both his parents a reassuring glance, then began slowly shuffling towards the lake.  Ezkel continued walking until he was waist deep in the cool water, then turned to look back at his parents.  Ezkel’s father smiled back at his son, then gave him a nod of approval.  Ezkel returned his father’s nod, then allowed himself to fall backwards into the lake.  As Ezkel felt the waters engulf his entire body, he felt tranquil and relaxed, but only for a moment.  Suddenly, pain overtook every nerve in Ezkel’s body, and he began to thrash around in the water, unable to lift himself out of the lake.  Panic set into Ezkel’s mind as felt water fill his mouth, and he felt that he would undoubtedly drown in the lake.  Ezkel then used skills of meditation he had learned during his time alone on the cliffs to calm his mind and push the pain out of his body.  Once calmed, Ezkel found his footing on the bottom of the lake, and raised himself out of the water.  Ezkel was amazed to find himself suddenly full of vitality as he rose from the lake, letting out a shout of exhilaration as he shook off the lake water.

At that moment, Ezkel realized that his wings felt fully functional once again, and he spread his wings out fully with pride.  Ezkel heard a gasp of shock, and he looked to the shore to see his parents staring back at him with their mouths hanging open.  Ezkel walked back to the shore, flapping his now rejuvenated wings to air them out.

“Son,” Ezkel’s father said as he ran up to Ezkel.  “Your wings.”

“I know father,” Ezkel said, his smile beaming.  “I feel like I could fly around the world now!”

“No son,” Ezkel’s father said.  “Your wings are black.”

Ezkel stopped suddenly, shocked by the words of his father.  Ezkel’s race, the Seraph, traditionally had white wings, even after bathing in the Lake of Renewal.  Once every few decades, Seraph would rise from the waters with black feathered wings instead of white.  It was believed by the Seraph that black wings were a gift bestowed upon the greatest of hunters by the gods themselves.  To rise from the waters with black wings was a sign that you were truly blessed by the gods as the supreme hunter.

“My son,” Ezkel’s father announced to the crowd of villagers, “has been blessed by the gods.  Ezkel has been given the wings of the supreme hunter.  As is our way, we shall bow to the decision of the gods.  My son will lead the hunt.”

Ezkel felt his heart swell with pride as the crowd of villagers cheered and began chanting his name.  Ezkel spread his wings as far as he could for the entire village to see as he smiled at his proud father.

“Let us celebrate,” Ezkel’s father shouted over the crowds cheers.  “In two days we hunt!”

The Sleeper: Part Four

cooltext1471861634Part Four

Written by Derrick Nadeau

As Greg knelt on the floor, doubled over in pain and spitting up blood, he ran through the events of the evening that led him to this moment in some desperate hope that he might be able to find a way out of his current predicament.  A pleasant dinner with his family interrupted by the knock at the door began Greg’s downward spiral when Sam, the man currently holding a gun to Greg’s head, handed him an envelope with information that would activate Greg’s status as a sleeper agent.  According to the orders contained in the envelope, Greg’s first task would be to eliminate his wife and son, thereby cutting all ties to his past life.  Greg had accomplished the murder of his wife, a task that had broken his heart, but could not bear the thought of killing his own son.  Greg had attempted to escape with his son Peter, but his escape was blocked by Sam and a squad of soldiers that had invaded his home.  To Greg’s horror, Sam brought Peter to the bedroom where his mother’s dead body lie bleeding out while informing Greg that everything he thought he knew was nothing more than a complete lie.

“What are you talking about,” Greg spat as he watched his crying son being dragged out of the bedroom.  “What is going on?”

“Let me explain this too you as succinctly as I can,” Sam said, grinning wickedly as he pushed Greg’s own gun into his temple harshly.  “You see, you think that you are a sleeper agent whose job was to settle into a certain area and settle down with a family until the day that you are finally needed to be activated for some stupid mission.  I believe your mission was supposed to be assassinating that geneticist you work for or some shit like that.”

“Why are you telling me this,” Greg cried out.  “Why are you doing this to me?  Why are you doing this to my son?  What is your game?”

“Don’t interrupt me,” Sam shouted, backhanding Greg with the gun in his hand.  “Let me finish and it will all make sense to you.  I promise.”

Greg coughed up more blood, looked up to his son who could not meet his gaze.  Greg’s heart broke again as he watched his son standing in front of him, staring at the floor with tears streaming down his face.

“Now then,” Sam continued as he moved towards Greg’s son.  “You thought this whole time that your life was leading up to the moment when you would be activated for your ‘true mission’.”

Sam paused a moment to let out a loud, obnoxious laugh.  Greg coughed up more blood and tried, unsuccessfully, to get to his feet.

“The truth is that you have already completed your mission,” Sam stated as he knelt down to look Peter directly in his tear-stained eyes.  “Your true mission was to raise us a new generation of agent.  And you have done that very well.”

“What,” Greg  shouted.  “What the fuck are you saying?”

“My but you really are dense,” Sam laughed.  “Do I really have to spell out every single word for you?  Fine, it will truly be my pleasure to break this to you.  You, my friend, are not the sleeper agent you have always thought you were.  You are, in fact, nothing more than a nanny agent.  Nanny agent, I love saying that.  The truth is that the sleeper agent here is actually this young man right here.”

“No,” Greg spat.  “No!  No! No!  What kind of fucking mind game are you playing now you sick, twisted fuck?”

“Oh, this is no game,” Sam replied with a diabolical chuckle.  “This is the sad truth.  Your son Peter here is the true sleeper agent.  You raised your son with our ideals, taught him to live by the same codes you were raised by.  Hell, you even taught him how to use a gun.  Of course, we taught him how to shoot with accuracy.  When you thought your son was going to a normal school every day, he was really being trained to be a perfect little agent.  Now, he has reached the age where he doesn’t need this little fantasy life you have provided for him, and we can take Peter into our fold and fully train him to be a proper agent.”

“No,” Greg shouted, letting his anger take control of him.  “You are lying!  You sick fuck!  You are lying!”

Greg’s rant was cut short as the three men pointing guns at him teamed up to beat Greg down.  Greg was unable to block the torrent of fists pummeling him, and soon found himself lying on the floor with blood pouring out of several open wounds on his face and body.

“I see you will require proof,” Sam said, throwing a pitiful glance in Greg’s direction.  “I will be happy to give you that proof.  I think it is time we finally end this game any way.”

Sam moved his hand down to Peter’s chin, lifted the child’s head, and gently rubbed the tears from Peter’s cheeks.  Sam smiled down at the sniffling child and gave him a pat on the head.

“Now, now,” Sam addressed Peter with a soothing voice.  “Agents don’t cry child.  It’s time for you to buck up and suck it up.  Now then, pay attention to what I am about to say to you.”

Peter sniffled again as he focused on Sam’s face.

“Good,” Sam said.  “Now then, wake up sleeping agent.  It’s time to activate.”

As Sam said these words, Greg watched in horror as his son’s face suddenly took on a stoic expression.  The tears Peter had been shedding stopped abruptly as his breathing immediately became calm and steady.  Peter looked to Sam with cold, staunch eyes, ignoring everything else around him, including his own father.

“Are you with us agent,” Sam asked.

“Yes Sir,” Peter replied coldly.  “I am here and ready for duty.  Do you have a mission for me Sir?”

“Yes,” Sam replied.  “As a matter of fact I do.  This man on the floor here is responsible for the death of your mother.  Your first mission will be to eliminate him using this gun.”

“It will be my pleasure to complete this mission,” Peter stated, taking Greg’s gun from Sam.

Greg watched in horror and disbelief as Peter walked up to him, pointing the gun directly at Greg’s head.  Greg looked up at his son, begging and pleading Peter to come to his senses and drop the weapon, but Peter ignored Greg’s cries.  With nothing but indifference in his eyes, Peter carefully aimed the gun at Greg’s forehead and coldly pulled the trigger twice.  As Greg’s lifeless body slumped to the floor, Peter turned to Sam and handed him the gun.  Sam walked over to Greg, and kicked his body a couple of times to ensure that he was, in fact, dead.  Satisfied that Greg’s life had been taken, Sam turned to Peter with a smile of approval.

“Well done agent,” Sam lauded.  “You have completed your first mission perfectly.”

“Thank you Sir,” Peter responded coldly.

“All right men,” Sam said, addressing his squad of soldiers, “let’s get this mess taken care of.  Take our new agent to the van so we can get him back to HQ and get him debriefed.  Then, call in the cleaners and have them scrub this place down.”

Sam watched Peter intently as the soldiers led him down the stairs and out the door.  Sam noticed with satisfaction that Peter paid no attention to the body of his dead father as he passed him.  Sam allowed a wry smile to cross his face, taking pride in the young man that he had played a part in sculpting into a perfect sleeper agent.  Once Peter had exited the house, Sam took in a deep breath and proudly began to leave himself, stopping briefly to address Greg’s deceased form.

“Goodbye Gregory,” Sam said, smiling down at Greg.  “Thank you so much for a truly lovely evening.  I  had a fantastic time.  You really know how to throw a party.”

Sam then turned and walked down the stairs and out the front door, laughing hysterically the entire time.

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

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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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