Friday, July 23, 2010


Rand stepped out of the house on his way to the hospital; he was in a bit of a hurry. He’d had quite a row with his fiancĂ© last evening and had spent the night alone; he hadn’t slept well. By the time he had fallen asleep, the morning was already close and he’d overslept. To make up a little of the lost time, he had skipped breakfast but he was still going to be late starting his rounds. He knew that his mother would come to see him sometime today. She always did after he and Brenda argued. She liked to play mediator between them.

He was running late but he stepped onto the lawn to retrieve the newspaper anyway. He was going to toss it up onto the porch but when he reached it, what was lying at his feet was no newspaper.

His senses were assailed by the sight, sound and smell of death and destruction the like of which he had never imagined nor wanted to. All around him, men and horses were screaming in pain and moaning in death and he could see that there were many more that were far beyond that ability. Even as an emergency room doctor, he had never been faced with such a display. The worst highway pile-up imaginable would have been a quiet garden party compared to this. It wasn’t until a hand grasped his ankle that he saw that he stood directly over one such display.

“One person at a time,” he said to himself. “You can’t help them all at once, but you can help them one person at a time.” He knelt down beside the man at his feet, blocking out the cries from the others around him.

The man was dressed in full metal armor and he had a sword protruding out of his chest. His visor was closed but that didn’t stop him from hearing the wet cough and then the hand went limp. He pushed the visor up and saw the closed eyes and the trickle of blood on the man’s lips.

He began to pull away the armor as fast as he could work the buckles. He carefully slid the chest plate out from under the hilt of the sword, amazed at the force that had been required to slice the blade so far through the armor and into the man inside.

Leaving the man cradled in his back plate, he began to remove the rest of the armor and discovered that his left leg was broken in two places, one above and one below the knee. The one above the knee was a compound fracture and the bone had lacerated the skin; the pant leg was drenched with blood.

He shook his head, “Why are you still alive?” he asked softly not expecting an answer.

He returned his attention to the sword. Moving it would likely kill the man but if he left it, there was no way he could move him. He could see that a good deal of the blade was embedded in the ground beneath the man so drawing it straight out was out of the question. The only choice he had was to pull the man away from the sword just as he had done with his chest plate. It would do less additional damage leaving the way it came than by his pulling the contaminated blade straight out.

He grabbed the lower edges of the back plate and gave a sharp pull down.

The inarticulate cry of pain wrung from the man’s lips reminded Rand of the other cries that echoed across the field but he continued to work quickly. With nothing close at hand that was suitable, Rand ripped his shirt off and wrapped it around the man’s upper arm and under his other arm tying it tightly then with a brief thought to the broken leg, he began to pick the man up.

The movement woke the man further but he didn’t thrash about. He did what he could to help despite the pain. The man used what strength he had in his good arm to help Rand support his upper body. He grabbed Rand’s shoulder and hung on. The pain of moving caused him to curl and forced a groan from his lips but that was all he was allowing himself.

Rand was a strong man but the man he was lifting was no stripling. He had been trained on how to lift without hurting himself so he succeeded - barely.

Standing, he had a moment to despair as he looked across the field of destruction with no place to go in sight. He turned and took a step and a fresh breeze brushed his face. The smell of blood was suddenly gone. The yard was suddenly so silent. The sidewalk was a step away and his car was in front of him parked innocently in the street.

Friday, July 16, 2010

MEC FARMER - an idea

For the most part, commerce had collapsed. No one traded with anyone they didn't know - no one had enough to risk it. In their little valley, one might trade a cow for a hog or two, but it was a balance of meat for meat, not money. The vast farmlands spoke of by the grandfathers no longer existed, though most everyone had a farm. Instead of fields of corn or wheat as far as the eye could see, now each farmer grew enough to feed his stock and his family, and to see him with another crop next year. If he grew enough to trade, he was either wealthy or foolish.

There were things to trade for besides food in their valley. There was the man who cut firewood and hauled it to town in his big wagon. There was the woman who turned their wool into fine material, both heavy for winter use and light for year-round use. She even made yarn for those who wanted to knit sweaters or crochet scarves. She was paralyzed from the waist down so her husband managed the dying vats, giving everyone as much color as there was to be had. One bolt of material could bring in a whole side of beef and a bushel basket of yarn might bring in a hind leg of hog.

The creek that ran through the middle of town kept the mill running during the summer months, and for every ten fifty-pound sacks of flour the mill turned out, the miller kept one, and if the customer didn't bring in that much, well he got a share of what was brought in.

There was also the man who kept their wagons repaired and their horses shod. His brother tanned hides and turned them into harnesses and parts thereof while their uncle, now too old to manage the heavy task of tanning, made shoes and boots to order.

And like in all gatherings of people, there was even the bar, and like in the rest of the small community, the bartender traded for his wares. He turned out an acceptable brew with corn and sugarcane, but he too needed to eat. A full wagonload of corn and cane could earn your name on an entire barrel of brew exclusively. Few people could part with that much for such a reason, so it wasn't uncommon for several people to share a barrel, and hash marks were used to keep track of the shares.

If a family didn't have enough meat or crops to trade, there was always labor. It was considered the height of bad manners to turn down someone offering help for fair pay.

There were those who traded long distance. Who knows where they came from or where they went, but there was a couple caravans that came through every year. Their arrival was cause for a celebration as they brought such things as salt and fine pottery and needles. There were other things too; they traded most anything for most anything. These traders were well known and had been making this journey for as long as most of them could remember.

The grandfathers of course remembered different days and different ways, but those were long gone. It was the occasional stranger that was watched closely. If he stayed around, he was generally required to show the color of his blood, one way or another. After all, he might be a mec scouting them out. Everyone knows that it was the mecs who destroyed everything. And those that remained were still trying.

The last president had thought it was the height of intelligence to make robots that could fight their wars for them. And when that seemed to work so well, they made some to be police. It was supposed to be so simple; the soldiers were programmed to fight a certain battle, and when it was over, they got new programming. Same with the police, only something went wrong. Pretty soon it was the mecs against the humans and they had been well built.

Those built for police work were the hardest to detect; they looked and acted very human. It was this that made them so dangerous. They couldn't, however, bleed.

Though it had been nearly fifty years since the last of the open battles were fought, the farmers guarded what they had furiously, and it wasn't uncommon for those gathered in town to approach a stranger and ask to see his blood. The traveler, if he was human, usually offered his hand to be sliced. A small cut across the palm was sufficient. Course if he needed his hands, a cut across the back of his arm worked too. If he resisted, his punishment was rather more severe, as he was fought to the ground and pummeled until blood showed from one or another of his wounds - fists didn't always draw blood soon.

One hot summer day, many of the farmers were lounging in front of the bar, when a solitary stranger rode in. His horse was well cared for, but dusty from the road, as was the stranger himself. He dismounted and tied his horse next to the others at the rail. "I'm looking to settle. Is there room around here?"

Saturday, July 10, 2010

DEATH - an idea

What is death?

I've heard it said that death is merely the next step ... a new beginning, not an end. But what if it's something else? What if it's only a step in some kind of evolution? You can't tell ... you can't know, because no one ever comes back to tell of what they found there.

I have reason to wonder about this because, you see, I've died ...

... but I'm not dead.

How does one defeat the Grim Reaper, you ask? Let me tell you how I did it; perhaps then you can pity me. You see, I walk - I talk - I even breathe, but the only reason I do that is because it facilitates speech. My heart does not beat, my body is not warm, I feel hot and cold temperatures, but neither one affects me; I do not shiver from the cold or sweat in the heat. You might think that these things are trivial; perhaps they are, but they take so much with them when they are gone. With life goes emotions, love, hate, fear, joy, wonder. I know them, I remember them, but I don’t feel them anymore, and I cannot even miss them.

You see, I have always been a fighter. I fought to survive when I was born, because my mother had died. I fought to survive on the streets as a boy after my father was killed by a horse. I fought in the king’s army until he was defeated - he was a rather small king in the grand scheme of things. After his army was scattered, I became a mercenary. After a lifetime of fighting, it wasn’t all that surprising that I earned the moniker of ‘the Grim Reaper’ though not to my face. I suppose it was understandable that those who hired my sword started paying for single kills - making me an assassin. What can I say; killing was my life. I was good at it.

All this makes me look like a cold, evil man, but I don’t think I was that at all. I was just very good with a blade - most any blade, in fact. I loved good food and good drink. I didn’t care what it was as long as it was good. I’d try most anything at least once. I also loved the ladies. It didn’t matter if they were tall or short, thin or fat, light or dark; they were all fascinating and a joy to watch, touch or even just talk to. I love women, which is probably why I never settled for just one. Therein lies my weakness, and therein was my downfall.

She had shiny dark curls that waved and coiled down below her waist. She had luscious full curves for all her five-foot height and she had glittering dark eyes that hid such a dark secret. I couldn’t keep my hands off her and her voice was honey and spice, like her mouth. Her secret? I discovered that at the same time I discovered a knife sticking out of my chest and my life’s blood pouring down my front. That brought about my next fight - my fight with the Grim Reaper himself - a fight I won, much to my dismay.

She wasn’t there when I opened my eyes again, but she wasn’t very far away, and she was already working on her next mark. My walking into the room saved the poor man’s life. She took one look at me and screamed the most demented and terrified scream, I hope never to hear again. Course, I can understand why she screamed. Her knife was still protruding from my chest and its location was unmistakable.

I cornered the women, which wasn’t all that hard since she was backing away from me, suddenly utterly devoid of the customary grace women always have. I pulled the knife from my chest and used it to silence her screams. That was my first kill in my new … existence.

The man had fled with her first manic syllable, though I’m sure my blood-soaked appearance helped motivate him. I left the inn after I retrieved my sword from my room. After that, my existence has been just that - an existence.

Friday, July 2, 2010

June Writing Contest Winner - Ambitious Writers Group from

Title: The lie
Genre: Drama/Tragedy
Word count: 996
Rating: Teen or K, just a little sad
Summary: A girl breaks up with her boyfriend to set him free.

“But, I just don't understand,” Cliff was holding his head in his hands, his already messy brown hair sliding between his fingers. Tears ran down his face as he looked at Violet pleading. “Vi, you can't leave me. I love you. Ever since the second we both reached for that book in the library and our hands touched. God, it was like electricity. You're my other half, the girl version of me. You always said it was the same for you.”

“Well, it isn't anymore,” Violet said angrily, steeling herself against Cliff's emotions. Hating herself for doing this to him.

It had been magic for her too, that day two years ago in the library. She had seen him before that day, looking hot and aloof, the intellectual rebel always at the library or reading in the independent bookstore/coffee shop downtown. He showed up in her small seaside town in June before her Sophmore year. She had been watching him for weeks before that fateful day when they both reached for A Winter's Tale. From that moment on, they had been inseparable.

“I love you, Violet,” he cried, tearing her heart in two, “so I guess I have to go now. If it's what you want. Remember, twenty years from now, if you decide you want me back, I'm there.”

“It's over, Cliff. You have to move on,” Violet said with calmness that belied all the pain raging inside her.

“Okay,” he sniffed, working at composure, “I'm gone. I still love you, that's all I'm going to say.”

“Have a good life,” she said as he walked out of the Coffee Clash.

Once he was gone, and she was safely in her car, Violet allowed herself to wallow in the misery she had just caused them both. She cried like there was no tomorrow, because, really, there wasn't. Not for her. Pressing play on her ipod, she indulged in their song one last time. Tears poured as she remembered the walks on the beach, the first time she let him read her writing, and he let her read his, the feel of his stubble when they kissed, his strong arms around her. She was a mess by the time the song ended. She wouldn't listen to it again.

The next day, Violet woke early to take one last walk on the beach. It was an amazing sunrise, purples giving way to pink, orange, and gold. The waves sparkled in the morning light as the tide came in. She undid the clasp on her necklace, the silver and turquoise one Cliff had given her for their two year anniversary. He said the next piece of jewelery he bought for her would be a wedding ring, if she was interested. She had laughed uncontrollably; of course she was interested. Now, she threw the necklace into the waves, letting it go.

It was only a week after he proposed to her when the test results had come back. The doctor himself had called to schedule a consultation. Her mom was impressed, thinking they were getting good service. Seated in his leather and mahogany office, they both knew it wasn't just good service. His news was a death blow, literally. She was dying. Six months at the most to live. Stage III ovarian cancer, at seventeen, even the doctor looked shaken as he apologized for having to deliver such news.

That was last Friday, today was Monday, and school would start again on Wednesday. Violet knew that a lot of girls at school had their eyes on Cliff. He was smart, sexy, sensitive, and fun. Even though he did his own thing, and wasn't into sports or organized activities, he got along with everyone. She had to set him free. Soon enough, he would forget all about her.

Violet trudged back up the hill to her house, where her mom was waiting. She was scheduled for surgery at nine a.m. in the city, a two hour drive away. After that, it would be chemo and radiation. She didn't want any of it, but her family had insisted. She had a one in two-hundred chance of surviving, and they were willing to take that chance. Rather than fight them, Violet succumbed to her family's wishes. At least it gave them a shred of hope.

“Goodbye Cliff,” she whispered through the lump in her throat as they passed the small shack he lived in with his dad by the pier. “I love you.”

* * *
(Six months later)

Cliff walked down the beach, with tears running down his cheeks. He had just left Violet's funeral, sprinting as fast as he could away from the sight of his true love in a box being lowered into the cold ground. Why didn't she tell him? That stupid story about a sudden opening in a travel abroad program in France, he was a fool to have believed it for a second. He knew she was sick, in pain, but he wanted to believe that she was better. So much better that she didn't need him anymore and was ready to rock France without him. She was so strong that day.

Nobody told him until it was too late. She died in the hospital only two hours away. He would've been there every day after school, holding her hand, giving her his energy, loving her, if only he had known.

Cliff fell onto the rocks, sobs racking his body, not even caring if the waves hit him. A sudden high wave came rushing past him, stirring the sands and smaller stones, revealing something shining. Cliff noticed it, then began scratching away at the stones to unearth a turquoise necklace, the one he had given Violet. Just at that moment the sun came out from behind the clouds and a seagull screeched in the wind.

“Goodbye, Vi,” he cried, “I'll love you forever.”