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.

The Natural Order, Part One

Written by Derrick Nadeau

“At ease soldiers,” Staff Sargent Riley said, addressing the squad of soldiers standing at attention in the briefing room before him.  “Take your seats and pay attention.”  As the squad quickly and quietly sat down, Staff Sargent Riley activated the computer terminal in front of him, bringing up an image of an earth-like planet on the large view-screen behind him.  Riley cleared his throat, and continued speaking to the squad.  “This planet is called Paxterra.  It is a newly discovered Earth-type planet that is approximately thirty light-years from Earth.  A small, scientific outpost has been built on this planet for the purposes of studying it for possible future colonization.  As you no doubt are aware, every scientific outpost is also populated with an army unit that is tasked with the protection of the scientists inhabiting the outpost.

Staff Sargent Riley paused briefly as he changed the image on the large view-screen to show an aerial view of a science outpost.  “This is an image of the outpost shorty after it was constructed taking by a satellite orbiting the planet.

Riley paused again as he changed the screen image to show another aerial view of the outpost.  In this picture, the outpost was  heavily damaged, with large plumes of smoke pouring out of several of the buildings.  “This is an image of the outpost taken by that same satellite approximately three weeks ago.  Though we are unsure the exact cause of the destruction seen here, we believe that the outpost was attacked.  Two days before this satellite image was taken, we intercepted this communication from the outpost.

Staff Sargent Riley turned to face the view-screen as the video image of a woman dressed in a white lab-coat appeared.  The woman appeared to be in her thirties, with short, black hair, and glasses.  A moment later, the  video activated, and the woman began to speak in a frantic tone.  “This is Doctor Eileen Stone at science outpost 12 on the planet Paxterra.  If there is any military unit out ther that can hear this message, we are currently under attack and need assistance!  I repeat we are under attack and need assistance!  Please!  We need-“

The video ended abruptly, cutting Doctor Stone off in mid-sentence as the video froze, then switched to a message that read, “signal lost”. Staff Sargent Riley turned off the view-screen, then turned back to address his soldiers, many of whom were whispering to each other quietly.

“This abbreviated message,” Riley stated, “along with the accompanying satellite image of the damaged outpost, is all of the information we have for this mission.  We have no intel on the nature of the attack on Outpost Twelve, nor do we have any intel on the identity of the attacker or the motive behind the attack.  Immediately after intercepting this message approximately sixty hours ago, a report was sent to Earth command, and the order was given for this unit to investigate the outpost on Paxterra, determine what occurred there, and, if necessary, eliminate any threat that is discovered there.  Upon reaching Paxterra and entering orbit around the planet, you will shuttle down to the planet surface.  The mission will be begin with a recon of the outpost and its surrounding area to determine the condition of the outpost.  Once the shuttle crew determines it is safe, you will land on the shuttle pad constructed adjacent to the outpost.  Once you land, Brawn team will deploy first to secure the outpost, and reactivate the generators if they have been damaged.  Once secured, Brain team will deploy and begin their investigation.  Learn everything you can about the outpost and the incident that damaged said outpost and report back to me for debriefing.  Are there any questions about this mission?”

“I have one question, Sir,” Private Richards said, standing up to address the Staff Sargent.  “What do we know about this Doctor Stone who sent out the distress call?”

“Doctor Stone is a member of the Xeno-biologist team on Outpost Twelve.  She and her team work directly under their team leader, Doctor Melissa Nichols.  It is unclear the current status of Doctor Nichols, or the rest of her team.  Are there any other questions?” Riley paused and took a quick glance around the room, giving each soldier a chance to speak up.  When no other question had been asked, Riley dismissed the squad, telling them to be ready to depart in five hours.

“That was a good question you asked there, Dave,” Private Dwyer said with a wry smile.  “Leave it to you to focus on the hot scientist there.  We all know where your priorities are, don’t we?”

“Funny Erick,” Private Richards replied, jabbing his elbow into Erick’s arm.  “I thought it was a good question that might yeild some important information about our mission.”

“Listen to you talking like an egghead,” Dwyer laughed.  “yield important information?  Right!  Admit it, you’re hoping to go down there and rescue that scientist and hope that she falls madly in love with you.”

“You are such and ass,” Richards exclaimed, shaking his head in disgust.  “You truly have the mind of a savage.  All you can think about is killing and sex.”

“Hey, that’s not fair,” Dwyer shouted, feigning indignation.  “I think about food a lot too!”

“Whatever man,” Richards said, turning away from Dwyer.  “Why don’t you just go get ready for the mission.  We don’t have time for your ballbusting.”

“Fine,” Dwyer said, throwing his hands up in a gesture of frustration.  “You eggheads on the ‘Brain’ team have no sense of humor.  You know that man, no sense of humor at all.  Maybe I’ll be the one to rescue Doc Stone there, and maybe I’ll be the one she falls for.  How does that sound to you?”

“Is there a problem here Private,” Staff Sargent Riley asked as he approached Dwyer.

“No Sir,” Dwyer replied, snapping to attention and saluting his commanding officer.  “No problem at all.  Private Richards and I were just having conversation regarding the mission, Sir.”

“Good to hear,” Riley stated.  “Then you should be well prepared for the coming mission.  You had better go and gather up your gear then, and prepare for departure in five hours.”

“Yes Sir,” Dwyer said, saluting again before turning away from Staff Sargent Riley and exiting the briefing room.

Stranger: Part Four

Written by Derrick Nadeau

Recap:  Scott awoke from a horrible nightmare about a woman with a slit throat dying in his arms in time to begin day.  Despite feeling exhausted, Scott went to work where he began hearing a strange, disembodied voice saying horrible things to him.  Scott ran to the bathroom to regain his composure, and was shocked to see a strangers face looking back at him in the mirror.  Moments later, Scott’s boss entered the bathroom and began to berate him for being late.  The stranger in the mirror threatened to dispose of Scott’s boss, as they argued, and Scott attempted to stop the stranger only to find that his boss had been stabbed in the stomach.  With the voice of the stranger shouting evil words in his ears, Scott grabbed the knife off of the bathroom floor, still covered in his bosses blood, and fled work.  Scott headed home, and after a few moments of mental torture from the stranger, called his girlfriend Melissa to help him.  After speaking with his girlfriend, Scott passed out on his bed with the laughter of the stranger ringing in his ears.

“Scott, are you here?”

Scott awoke to the sound of his girlfriend’s voice as she entered the front door of his apartment.  A wave of relief swept over Scott’s distraught mind as he rose from his bed and called out to his girlfriend.

“I’m in my room Melissa,” Scott called out.

“Are you ok,” Melissa called back, her footsteps echoing off the floor as she headed down the hallway to meet him.  “You scared me with that phone call.”

“I’m ok,” Scott called back, walking over to the bedroom door.  “No, that’s a lie.  I’m not ok.  I think I’m losing my mind.”

“What are you talking about,” Melissa said, her voice coming from the other side of Scott’s bedroom door.  “What is going on?”

“I don’t know how to explain it,” Scott replied, opening his bedroom door.  Once he opened the door, Scott was horrified to find that it was not his girlfriend that stood on the other side of the door, but another woman.  The woman stood naked before him, a look of anger and confusion on her face, with her throat cut wide open and pouring out blood.  Scott let out a terrified gasp and began to stumble backwards towards his bed.

“What’s wrong Scott,” the naked woman asked.  “Are you hurt?  Do you need me to take you to the hospital?”

Scott opened his mouth to respond, but could not find the words he needed.  Shaking his head furiously, Scott stumbled back further until he fell back onto his bed.

“Scott,” the bleeding woman said, cautiously approaching him, “you’re scaring me.  What’s wrong with you?”

“No,” Scott whispered at last, his throat feeling as dry as a desert.

“No what,” the woman said standing above Scott and reaching down towards him.  “No, you’re not hurt?  What is wrong with you?”

“No,” Scott again a little louder, pushing the woman’s hand away from him.

“Scott,” the naked woman said, her tone one of confusion.  “Honey?  You need to calm down.  You need to tell me what’s wrong.”

“No,” Scott repeated, this time louder and angrier as he scrambled to get up off of his bed.

“Scott,” the bleeding woman said, reaching out towards Scott again.  “Please stop this.  Come here and let me help you.”

“No,” Scott shouted angrily, pulling the bloody pocket knife out of his pocket.  “Leave me alone!”

“Scott,” the woman said, blood continuing to pour out of her throat.  “Honey, what are you doing?”

“No,” Scott screamed charging the woman and knocking her down to the floor.  “Leave me alone!”

Scott let out a guttural scream as he began to stab at the naked, bleeding woman repeatedly.  Scott felt hot tears begin to sting his eyes, and he pulled back from the naked woman to wipe the tears away.  Scott then opened his eyes and was surprised to see his hands covered in blood.  Shocked by his own actions, Scott looked past his hands to the woman underneath him.  Scott’s blood went cold when he saw that the woman lying on his floor was not the naked woman he had attacked, but was instead his girlfriend Melissa drenched in her own blood.  Scott choked back a bit of vomit as he fell backwards off of his girlfriend and onto the floor.  Finding it difficult to breathe, Scott reached over to his nearby dresser, and dragged himself to his feet.  Taking a moment to steady his weakened legs, Scott began to sob uncontrollably.  Scott looked over to his girlfriend dying on the floor near him and felt a sharp pain in his chest.

“Oh no,” Scott whispered, turning to face Melissa.  “No!  I’m so sorry baby.  You were-  You weren’t you.  You weren’t you.”

“Keep telling yourself that,” the voice of the stranger snarled in Scott’s ear.  “Maybe you’ll even believe it some day.”

“No,” Scott shouted, covering his ears with his blood stained hands.  “Why won’t you leave me alone?”

“You ain’t getting rid of me bitch,” the stranger’s voice shouted.  “They tried that already, but I’m still here!”

Scott began sobbing again as the laughter of the stranger tore into his mind, and ran out of the bedroom.  Scott continued running down the hallway to the front door, and swung the door open violently.  Scott screamed when he saw another naked woman with a slit throat standing in the doorway.

“Oh no,” Scott screamed, falling backwards onto the floor of the hallway.  “No!  No!  No!”

Scott continued screaming as the naked woman entered his house, followed by several more women of various appearances, all naked with slit throats.  The women surrounded Scott, grabbing his limbs and holding his limbs so he could not move.  Scott found himself too horrified and confused to struggle as one of the woman stood above him and reached down towards him.  Scott then felt a sharp pinch in his neck, followed by a feeling of calm.  As the calmness filled his mind, Scott felt himself slipping into darkness until finally slipping away into unconsciousness.

On Blackened Wings: Part Four

cooltext1595959836

Written by Derrick Nadeau

Part Four

You Are Reborn

 Rand stared at the black wings bolted to the side of his farmhouse as his mind swarmed with mixed emotions.  From the moment his son had been murdered by the monster once attached to the black wings, Rand’s life had become a whirlwind of anger, hatred, and sadness.  Rand picked up the ax he had used to remove the wings of his Seraph captive, and his mind swelled with the memory of what it felt like to chop the wings off of the monster that had attacked his family.  Each swing of the ax allowing Rand to expel his anger while the sound of the monster’s flesh tearing recharged his hatred for the next swing of the ax.  Rand stared down at the blood covered ax and found himself wishing he had been allowed to kill the Seraph instead of being forced to watch the monster that had destroyed his family crawl out of his village, wingless, with two huge, cauterised wounds on his back.  Though it seemed unlikely that the Seraph would survive the long journey back to his people, the small possibility that the monster could make it home filled Rand’s heart with bitterness.

Rand tossed the ax back on the ground, disgusted with the weakness of his village elders for letting the Seraph just leave.  Rand walked up to one of the wings, grabbed a hold of the crossbow bolt anchoring it to the wall of the farmhouse, and attempted to wrench it free.  Rand pulled on the bolt with all his strength while attempting to wiggle the bolt free, but could not get it to move at all.  As he tried to force the bolt out, Rand’s hands became sweaty, eventually slipping off the bolt and sending Rand reeling backwards.  As he slipped back, Rand tripped on the ax he had tossed on the ground, altering his fall so that he bumped into the wall of his farmhouse, landing between the two black wings.  Rand leaned against the wall for a moment, regaining his composure from the fall, when he suddenly began to feel a burning sensation on his back.  Rand attempted to push himself off the wall as the burning intensified, but found himself inexplicably paralyzed.  Panic began to overtake Rand’s mind, and he let out a scream filled with fear and agony.

Rand’s wife, Meleda, was preparing dinner when she was startled by the sound of her husband’s screaming.  Grabbing a nearby kitchen knife, Meleda ran outside to discover her husband writhing on the ground, covered by the black wings of the Seraph, and screaming as though he were being torn apart.  Meleda attempted to run to her husband’s side, but was blocked by the flailing wings.  Meleda lifted the knife in her hand, and stabbed at the closest wing, which seemed to only cause her husband to let out another agonized scream.

“Rand,” Meleda shouted, hoping her husband would hear her over his own screams.  “What is happening?  What can I do?”

Rand did not respond, continuing his chorus of pain, and Meleda began to feel panic set into her mind.  Desperate to help her husband, Meleda began to stab at the black wings again and again, ignoring her husband’s frantic cries after each stab.  After several hacks, one of the wings swung up and hit Meleda square in the chest, knocking her to the ground brutally.  Meleda placed her hand on her chest, sore from the impact of the wing, and felt for broken ribs as she tried to catch the breath that had been knocked out of her.  Meleda pulled her shirt open slightly, and examined her chest.  Meleda was not surprised to see a large, deep black bruise on her chest, but was relieved to see that no bones appeared broken.  As she watched a large welt begin to form on he skin, Meleda realized that the screams of her husband had abruptly stopped.  Meleda looked up to see rand lying still on the ground, covered by the black wings, his body slowly undulating as his breathing became deep and heavy.

“Rand,” Meleda cried, her voice barely able to produce more than a harsh whisper.  “My love, are you hurt?  What happened?”

Meleda paused, staring at her husband and praying for his response.

“Rand,” Meleda shouted, “Husband, please answer me!  Are you all right?”

Meleda struggled to get to her feet and move to her husband when suddenly, she saw the wings of the Seraph begin to stir.  Meleda watched in shock as the wings spread wide and her husband slowly rose to his feet.  Horror began to fill Meleda’s heart as she witnessed the sight of her husband standing before her with the black wings of the Seraph somehow attached to Rand’s back.

“Rand,” Meleda whispered, choking as she did.  “What has happened to you?”

Rand began to slowly move each wing, testing the strength and flexibility of his new appendages before turning his gaze to his wife.  Meleda was startled by the look in her husband’s eyes, a combination of awe and elation.

“My wife,” Rand said, smiling at Meleda.  “My love.  Look at me.  Look at what the gods have given me.  Look upon your husband as he has been reborn!”

“Reborn,” Melada whispered.  “I-I don’t understand.”

“Neither do I,” Rand laughed.  “Not fully.  It seems the will of the gods that I should be given this gift of our enemy’s wings.  Though the pain was exquisite, I am now truly blessed by the gods.”

“But why,” Meleda asked.  “For what purpose?”

“Who am I to guess at the whims of the gods,” Rand replied.  “Blessed though I be, I have not been given a glimpse into the will of the gods.”

“This is no small matter,” Meleda stated.  “We need to seek the counsel of the elders.”

“Yes, perhaps you are right my love,” Rand responded.  “Very well, let us seek the advice of our village elders.  I will meet you there my wife.  But first, my heart is aching to test out these wings.”

Before Meleda could answer, Rand began to flutter his wings, causing a wind to blow the dirt around.  Meleda covered her eyes to block the wind and dirt as her husband began to lift into the air.  With a cry of pure joy, Rand launched himself into the sky, leaving his wife behind.  Meleda watched her husband fly away, but instead of feeling awe or amazement, found only fear and concern filling her heart.

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.”

On Blackened Wings: Part Two

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Written by Derrick Nadeau

Part Two

You Hunt

Rand wiped sweat off his brow as he stared up towards the sun standing high in the noon time sky.  Taking a swig of water from his flask, Rand stared at the field around him.  The year had been good for farming, and the crops had yielded a bountiful harvest.  Rand looked over to his eldest son, Emrik, harvesting tomatoes nearby and smiled proudly.  Rand looked back to his farmhouse and saw his youngest son, Donno, tending to the pigs in their pen with his mother, and his smile grew prouder.  Rand’s favorite time of year was quickly approaching, the end of harvest when the air would start becoming cooler and the leaves would change, and he was anxious to spend that time taking his sons out to the forest to hunt for wild game.  Though his people had been farmers for generations, planting crops and raising livestock, Rand had decided to rekindle the old traditions of hunting game in the fall and winter to sustain his family during the harder periods of cold and snow.  Rand had even used his skills as a tinkerer to upgrade his hunting weapons, such as turning a simple bow and arrow into a crossbow to improve his chances.  Rand had tried to share his inventions with his entire village, but was denied by his village elders.  The elders had decided that farming provided all the food needed by the village, and the old traditions of hunting wild animals for food no longer needed to be used for sustenance.  Rand shook his head and let out a chuckle as he thought about the arguments he had tried to use to convince the elders that hunting would add to the food supply in the harsh winters, and help everyone survive.  The elders quickly dismissed Rand’s claims, telling him that the farmlands yielded plenty of food for the entire village.  Though they had determined that hunting did not need to be used as an alternate food source, they would not deny anyone that chose to hunt on their own.  Rand had taught his sons to hunt, building crossbows for both, as well as a few of his closest friends.

Rand’s thoughts were interrupted suddenly by the sound of a bell ringing loudly at the edge of the village.  The bell was an alarm warning the village of an approaching attack by the mortal enemy of Rand’s village, the Seraph.  The Seraph, a race of winged hunters and warriors, believed themselves superior to Rand’s race, the Devlin.  With their horned heads and hoofed feet, the Devlin were treated as nothing more than mere animals by the Seraph  to be hunted and killed in a yearly ritual dedicated to the Gods.  The fact that the Devlin were merely farmers also led to the Seraph seeing them as weak pacifists that deserved to be hunted.

“Emrik,” Rand shouted to his son, “That’s the alarm!  The Seraph are coming!  Get to the house, now!”

Emrik responded immediately, dropping his basket of tomatoes and running full speed towards the farmhouse.  Rand followed closely behind, but could not match his son’s speed.  Emrik reached the farmhouse, paused, and turned to make sure his father was not too far behind.  Emrik was relieved to see that his father was only a couple of steps behind him, and he turned his gaze up to the sky.  Emrik could see the silhouettes of several Seraph hunters in the sunlight, and his heart filled with dread.

“They’re coming father,” Emrik shouted, pointing to the sky.  “Hurry!”

Rand reached the doorway of his house, breathing heavily, and turned to look in the direction his son was pointing in time to see the Seraph diving towards Rand’s village, their spears hungry for blood.

“Get in the house,” Rand hissed through heavy breaths.

“But father,” Emrik protested.

“Go,” Rand shouted.  “Make sure your mother and brother are safe!”

As Emrik ran to find his mother and brother, Rand looked to his tool shed several yards away from the house and calculated his chances of making it to the shed safely. The crossbows Rand and his sons used to hunt were stored in that shed, and he knew that he would need the weapons to keep his family safe from the sky hunters.  Rand took a deep breath, cursed his fortune, and ran at full speed towards the shed.  With his focus centered on the shed in front of him, Rand did not see the Seraph bearing down on him.  Rand let out an agonized shout as the Seraph swooped down and knocked Rand to the ground.  Rand rolled over, holding his now aching ribs, to see the Seraph, a young hunter with black wings, circling back to attack again.

“Father,” Rand heard Emrik shout as he ran out to help his father.

“No son,” Rand shouted back.  “Stay in the house!  Don’t worry about me!”

Rand watched in horror as the black winged Seraph swooped down again, this time aiming for his son.  Rand struggled to get to his feet as his son was knocked to the ground by the Seraph.  Rand fought the urge to run to his son’s side, knowing that he would not be able to protect his son without a weapon.  As tears filled his eyes, Rand turned and ran to the shed, the sound of Seraph wings taunting him from the air.  As Rand approached the shed, he put his head down and ran into the door of the shed.  Using his momentum coupled with the hard bone of the horns on his head, Ran was able to easily break through the locked door of the shed in one single attempt.  Once inside the shed, Rand grabbed his crossbow and a quiver of bolts,  and quickly loaded a bolt into the crossbow.  Rand rushed out of the shed to see his son lying on the ground with the black winged Seraph standing over him.  Before Rand could react, the Seraph stabbed his spear into Emrik’s chest, piercing the young Devlin’s heart.

Rand let out a blood curdling scream as he watched the spear pierce his son’s chest several more times.  Acting on pure impulse, Rand lifted his crossbow, aimed it at the black winged Seraph, and released a bolt.  The bolt soared through the air and found its mark, piercing through the right arm of the Seraph.  The Seraph let out a cry of pain as he grabbed on to the bolt protruding from his arm.  The Seraph turned to face Rand, raising his wings to take flight.  Rand had quickly loaded another bolt into his crossbow, and he rushed to fire it at the Seraph.  The second bolt found its way to the Seraph’s wing, boring into the thin, feather covered flesh, and sending the Seraph careening backwards towards Rand’s nearby farmhouse.  The Seraph screamed as the bolt found purchase in the wall of the farmhouse, trapping him against the wall.  Rand, having once again loaded his crossbow, fired another bolt into the Seraph’s other wing, preventing the creature from escaping.

Once Rand had determined that the Seraph was securely trapped against the wall of his farmhouse, he ran to his son’s side and cradled the boy in his arms.  With the sounds of the Seraph struggling to free himself echoing through the air, Rand stared down at his son with tear filled eyes.  Rand watched helplessly as the god of death stole his son’s life away, offering a prayer for the safe travel of his son’s soul to the heavens.  Once the life had fully slipped away from Emrik, Rand closed his son’s eyes and kissed him on the forehead.

Rand grabbed his crossbow, then focused his hate filled gaze on the captured Seraph.

“You took my son from me you bastard,” Rand shouted as he loaded another bolt into his crossbow.

The Seraph did not reply, but instead focused solely on the bolts holding his wings to the wall of the farmhouse.

“My son,” Rand shouted, aiming the crossbow at the Seraph’s head and walking towards the hunter.  “My eldest son!  You took his life!  You stole my son from me!”

The Seraph turned his focus to the crossbow aimed at his head, his eyes growing wide, but still did not respond.

“Do you not feel a bit of remorse,” Rand asked, still shouting.  “What kind of horrible creature are you?  You murdered my son!  For what purpose?  To appease your cruel gods?  How many sons of my people have been taken by your hunters?  And now look at you.  Trapped here by my bolts.  Your wings useless to you now.  I should just put another bolt in your head and finish you!  Or perhaps through your heart as you did to my son!”

“Please,” the Seraph cried out at last.  “Please don’t kill me!”

“So you can speak,” Rand said.  “And those are the words you choose to say to me?  To beg for your life?  You did not even give my son time to beg for his.”

“Please,” The Seraph said again as Rand pushed the head of the crossbow bolt into the his chest.

“Beg all you want monster,” Rand spat.  “You killed my son.  There is no reason for me to spare your life.”

“Perhaps there is,” A voice said from behind Rand.

Rand turned to see several of his fellow villagers approaching his farmhouse, including the elders.  Rand turned back to the Seraph and once again pointed his crossbow at his head.

“He killed my son,” Rand said, addressing the approaching villagers.  “He deserves nothing less than death.”

“Our village has lost many sons this day,” One elder said.  “And we will lose many more when the hunters return in the next few days.  And yet, you have done something that has never been done before Rand.  You have captured one of the hunter’s own sons.  We understand your need for justice in your son’s death Rand.  But, perhaps there is a better way.  A way that will show the Seraph that we will no longer sit by and allow them to take our people from us.”

Rand took a deep breath, glared back at the captured Seraph, then lowered his crossbow reluctantly.

“Tell me your plan,” Rand finally said after a long pause.  “Convince me why I should not just kill him outright.”

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