Great Hites # 42

This week we had stories from six people:
Daniel Machal Winner with 7 Votes
Ashley Redden 3 Votes
Guy David 3 Votes
Norval Joe 3 Votes
Justin Lowmaster 1 vote
Jeff Hite 5 votes

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Harold the Ardently Knight of Battynannas: Part 1
By: Daniel Machal
Copyright © 2009 by Daniel Machal.
Published in electronic form in 2009 by DannyMachal.com.

“Stop him!” The shouting of the Guard was barely audible over the iron shoes of Harold’s horse clapping on the tile floor. The tassets of his cuirass clinked in rhythm with the oscillation of the white steads trained trot. There was no mistaking the sound of a fully armored knight on your path.

“Call the police, this lunatic is tearing the place apart.” The Manger shouted the command to his subordinate as he went to confront Harold. The Manager was not sure if confronting the Knight was bravery or stupidity, but as a loyal employee to The Chamber Book and News he would be damned if this tin can was going to go unchallenged by anyone. Books were hitting the floor in waves as Harold rode down the aisles, the flanks of his horse knocked down displays with every turn as he navigated through the maze. The broadsword he wielded swiftly cut the air around any customer within range. The Manager headed Harold off at the end of New Age and Religion, half of New Age was already on the floor.

One of the Guards stood in front of him blocking his path. No doubt the Captain of this outfit. He was no match for a knight trained to a mastery skill level in hand to hand combat. However Harold thought it best to hear what the Captain of the Guard had to say, least it help him in his quest.

“Sir, get off the horse please and put down the sword, you are scaring everyone in my store. I have called the police and no one needs to get hurt here. I don’t know what your intention is, but if it is money, than we can accommodate you at the front registers. Whatever you are going through, this is not the way to handle it.” The Manager of the store stood fast in front of Harold, and waited for a reaction.

“Money? I have not come for your useless currency. Tell me where your Master is, and you go home to your wife tonight, your head still affixed to your shoulders.” Harold threw a heavy iron leg over his saddle and dropped to the floor. Towering over the Captain he flipped up the visor of his helmet revealing a rough face with a thick black mustache. Harold’s blue eyes glared into the expanding pupils of the solider before him. With a heavy leather gloved finger he poked the middle of the man’s chest, nearly knocking him off balance. The Guard turned in a panic to run away but the strength and speed of Harold prevented the escape. He was pulled back abruptly by the neck of his tunic. Harold threw him to the ground with such force, that he slid face first into a kiosk of books, and blood began trickle from his nostrils.

“Now, knave, tell me what I need to know or I will bleed you out into the very earth upon which you now sit.” Harold was threatening, and anger swelled in his eyes. He feared the uncharted course his task was taking. His sources mentioned nothing of guards, just that his prize would simply be here, juxtaposed next to another, he was to choose which suited him best. They must not have known the place was already over run. He needed to see the man in charge – surely a leader of distinguished honor would grant him a fair audience.

“Look man, I don’t know what you are talking about. Please don’t kill me. I don’t want to die. I have a wife, and two beautiful daughters. Melinda she is eight, and Dezy she is ten. Please let me go.” The Captain of the Guard began to weep at Harold’s feet. He took pity on the poor soul and spared him. Bright torches of blue and red flickered from the front entrance of the Fort. A mob did approach on him, the Master’s Knights hath no doubt been called to arms. Harold would finally able to prove his worth, in a battle that would echo in every tale of victory ever told. The Captain of the Guard scurried away while Harold was distracted by the assembling army outside.

“Drop your weapon and come out with your hands up.” The source of the voice boomed from the mob, amplified by some manifest of demon magic. He had not expected a Mage encounter, he hadn’t really expected any fight at all for that matter. Harold had no intention of dropping anything but the visor of his helmet, to shield his face. Harold sheathed his broadsword and went back to his horse. The massive claymore would require all his strength to wield, but it enabled him to devastate his enemies. He gripped the leather wrapped handle and pulled it from the sleeve tethered to his horses back. Crouching behind one of the heavy wooden bookshelves he knelt, closed his eyes, and prayed.

“My lord, protect me in this battle, but if I should die, watch over my lady, my king, and my land, with your righteous hand,” his eyes flashed open behind the steel grate of his helmet. He got to his feet, his heart and soul filled with renewed courage and strength. Gentling patting his horse, he removed the reigns.
“Just in case old friend. You make for the homeland if I should fall.” The white stallion scraped the floor with its front hoof and nudged Harold in affection. Harold turned to face the gathering mass. He hoisted the mighty sword in the air as he charged the combatant Mage Knights outside.

“Here he comes. If he gets past that police tape, take him out.” The order was direct and by the book. Harold was a threat to the city and needed to be subdued. It was amazing he hadn’t killed anyone yet, just destroyed a book store. He obviously had to be on drugs, but it was strange that he had the ability to put on a full suit of armor, ride a horse, and actually wield these weapons with considerable skill. Chief James Worth had never seen anything like it in his thirty years on the force.

Harold raised a knee and braced himself as he leaped through the large front window of the store. He hit the pavement with a clink, and an equally audible thud. It sounded like a tank had been dropped from the sky. Bits of the shatter proof glass littered the ground and found there way into the open spaces of Harold’s armor. His thick canvas padding protected his skin from evisceration.

Officer Danison stood at the left side of Harold at the end of a semi circle of Police Officers, that intended to stop him from advancing any further. Danison’s hands trembled and his palms were moist under the weight of his taser. His finger impulsively reacted, pulling the trigger. Two darts shot out and struck Harold behind his unprotected knee, piercing the canvas pants. Danison kept hold on the trigger sending fifty thousand volts of electric current into the suspect.

Harold felt the fangs of a conjured serpent strike the back of his leg. The venom was powerful, and bolts of lighting shot through his body impairing his ability to move. The tight grip upon his Claymore loosened, and he fell to the ground. So much pain, and then nothing. His eyes grew dark as he drifted off to a deep sleep. He made one last silent prayer and heard shouts as loud as whispers.

“Get him cuffed and into the van, he has a lot of explaining to do.”

Asset Management
By: Ashley Redden

Opening the door, the plainclothes officer known only as Simmons invited the gentleman to enter and be seated. The man entered the room and accepting the proffered chair, sat. Two other officers entered the room, one male the other female, both dressed in slacks and shirt much like Simmons. All three of the officers seated themselves across from the gentleman.
“So,” began Simmons, “as you know my name is Simmons. This is officers Gentry and Eddings.”

“Do any of you people have first names,” asked the gentleman casually rolling one of several bejeweled rings on his right hand?

Said Simmons, “for the purposes of this meeting the answer is no. As I was saying, this is Gentry and Eddings. The reason that we asked you back today, uh, Mr. Thomas Johnson,” said Simmons opening and referring to a manila folder she had brought with her into the room. “We would like to go over one more time your part in the incident at the Hanscom Book Club.”

“Why,” answered Thomas Johnson, “I’ve been talking about it till I’m blue in the face. It’s not like anything’s changed. Oh, and call me Tom.”

“We would just like to get a few facts straight before closing the case,” offered Gentry her deep voice not quite matching the image of the female officer’s somewhat petit build. Eddings sat arms crossed eyes fixed on Tom across the table.

“Like what,” asked Tom?

“Like the fact that neither you nor anyone else is going to turn the largest bookstore in the city into a brothel. Not now, not ever,” said Simmons carefully controlling her voice as she unconsciously moved an unruly sprig of blond hair behind her ear. “We’re going to get a few things straight or we, most especially you, will not be moving on. Don’t forget that you waived council in lieu of prosecution for a litany of crimes that at this point I will not repeat.”

“It’s okay,” said Tom, “I like hearing my accomplishments.”

“Don’t push it,” warned Simmons, “And don’t try me. I’ve had quite enough of you already.”

“Okay, shoot,”

“Just why exactly did you move your, uhm, business into the bookstore in the first place,” asked Gentry?

“After all the hookers started getting tagged,” began Tom.

“You mean killed,” added Simmons.

“Yeah, that’s what I said, tagged. You know, tagged and bagged then shipped to the morgue.”

“Continue.”

“So these hookers are getting tagged all over the place, right. So I figure the safest place for my investment to ply the trade as it where is that big bookstore the HBC downtown,” said Tom looking from one officer to the other.
“With all this craziness going on I got to take care of me, you know. It’s bad enough during normal times, but with me being a minority and all that only makes it worse when things are going bad,” said Tom with both hands open as if looking for support.

“Excuse me,” said Gentry somewhat taken aback. “Did you say that you are a minority?”

“That’s right.”

“But…but you’re a white male.

“Yeah,” responded Tom, “a white male pimp. Just look around out on the street lady, pimpin is a dark man’s trade, at least in this city anyway.”

Gentry sat back from the table and sighed disgustedly.

As something of an afterthought, Tom looked at Eddings and said, “No offense.”

“None taken,” replied Eddings deepening his scowl but never looking away from Tom Johnson. Both of Eddings parents were obviously from African descent.

“So, you moved you’re operation into the bookstore for safety,” asked Simmons?

“That’s right; I figured with all the light and activity the girls would be safe. I also figured that all those nerdy people reading books could probably use a little companionship. Nothing like killing two birds with one stone, eh,” said Tom. “I was thinking that we might open up a whole new market.”

“And then what,” prompted Simmons finding it harder to hide the look of distaste.

“Then that stupid murder showed up and the girls took him down. Seems he does better work in the back alleys than out in the open. They said something looked fishy about him. So the girls decided not to take any chances. They maced and beat him pretty good,” smiled Tom. “That scum had it coming, killing healthy girls like that. I’m just glad they got the right guy. It’s bad for business to go beating up decent customers,” said Tom with a smile. “How many did he kill anyway?”

“At last count, twenty-three.”

“What a waste,” said Thomas Johnson, but the three officers didn’t immediately agree with him. They were each pretty sure that his meaning of the turn of phrase was quite different than theirs.

“Then you moved your, operation out of the library?”

“Yeah, we moved out,” answered Tom. “With a little help of the local police department,” he added with a toothy grin.

“Okay,” said Simmons, “the DA has agreed to not press charges against you or your ladies in thanks for helping with the apprehension of this killer and with the express promise that you will no longer operate in or near any bookstore within the city.”

Tom said, “No problem.”

“Well, we’re done here then,” concluded Simmons. “Mr. Johnson, you’re free to go.” Simmons walked to the door and opening it, stood to one side. Both Gentry and Eddings stood waiting for Thomas Johnson.

“If you don’t mind me asking,” began Gentry, “where will you move your operation? Surely someone else has moved into your old territory by now.”

“Oh, probably, but they can have it. I’m making other plans. I’ve just recently found a backer to begin building bookstores in the suburbs.”

“What,” asked Gentry visibly shocked? Simmons just grunted. Eddings recrossed his arms and continued to stare at Thomas Johnson.

Eddings added,” I suppose that there will be a motel attached?”

Tom smiled his biggest smile yet, “you know it.”

“And,” continued Eddings, “I also suppose the rates will be by the hour?”

Tom blinked as if shocked by such a stupid question, “of course.” He got up to leave, but hesitated then turned back to Eddings and added,” we’re going to call the franchise the reading companion.” Then paused in introspection for another moment and added, “You know, if this thing works out like I hope, I may even break down and learn how to read myself.” And with that he left the room.

“God, I think I may need a drink,” sighed Gentry running both hands through her hair.

“Make mine a double,” agreed Eddings.

Simmons only grunted and with a slight shake of her head, followed the other officers out and closed the door behind her.

The One Book
By Guy David

The store was almost empty. Lines of books where neatly stacked around the walls as if in a hurry to fill up the place, compensating for the emptiness. Behind the desk stood a young woman, reading some book or another. She had short black hair, pale skin and she wore round glasses. She looked as if she haven’t seen daylight in a long time. She looked as if she belonged there, as if she came with this place, was a part of it. I walked passed her. She glanced up at me for a second then went back to her book. I walked passed several shelves of books and entered the second room. It was a small book store, but I knew there was more to it. The man that guided me here said it would be bigger on the inside, and I knew by inside he meant through the secret door. I found the cupboard, just like he said I would. It was full of books and I had to take them off their shelves first, then I could see the little door hidden behind them. I quickly and quietly took out the shelves. It looked almost as if they where barricading the door. I opened it and went inside. I closed the door behind me.

Inside, everything was different. I was in a large chamber full of book shelves and indeed, many books. The books where somehow alive and they where watching me with menacing eyes. I could swear I heard an owl in the distance and a few bats cast shadows on the walls. “It’s not real” I mattered to myself, “they are only books, not the one book”. The shadows stretched and they now resembled tree brunches. In the dark I noticed a pair of bright yellow eyes looking at me. A wolf howled in the distance. I suddenly realized what it was. I was in the chamber of horror fiction. I moved on, looking for the door to the next room. I knew what I was looking for wasn’t there. I found the next door and moved on.

The next room was painted in bright colors and the books where much thinner and bigger there. There was the sound of child laughter and a short giggle, though I couldn’t discern where the sound was coming from. A book rolled off his shelve. It grow wheels and started driving around in circles, honking merrily. Another one slid off the shelve and started spinning around it’s axis, growing into a carousel and playing carnival music. It was clearly the children books chamber. A part of me felt like staying there, becoming a child again and riding the marry go round, but I had to move on. What I was looking for wasn’t there.

As I stepped into the next room I was seized by a sudden vertigo. It looked like I walked right into space. Various books where flouting about seemingly in zero gravity. The Science Fiction chamber. I felt myself lifted off the ground and flouting in the air. Little green aliens where flying around in ridiculous tacky UFOs. I could see a space station up ahead, made entirely out of books. I realized everything in the chambers I was visiting was made of books. This did not surprise me. It was what I expected. This was clearly not the main Science Fiction chamber though, but the second rate one, the one with books by people that considered Ed Wood and obscure comics with half naked nymphs on the cover to be their guide. I found the next door and moved into the next room.

At first, I thought the room was empty and dark, then I noticed the single beam of light, shining on a small chair in the middle of the room. On the chair there was a single book. I knew immediately that was what I came here for. I walked over, took the book, set in the chair and started reading. It was my book, the book of my life. The girl at the counter barely glanced up as she passed the book through the electronic reader. I left the store with the one book. I knew now I could write anything in this book. It had many empty pages.

The Basement Room
By: Norval Joe

At the largest book store in the city there is a basement where nothing is stored. The books go right onto the shelves, if it is stored away, no one can buy it. There is dust on the basement floor, no one goes there to clean, why clean a room that is never used?
There is a trail through the dust where many feet have walked from the bottom of the stairs to a room at the far end; there is a little window in it, that slides open when you knock and wait long enough.
I went there once, that room in the basement. I knocked at the door and waited. Ancient eyes with deep crows feet peered through the and asked the questions that I couldn’t answer. He just closed the little window and I walked away, back along the path through the dust.
Someone called out to me as I reached the stairs. He invited me back to enter the room.
The room was filled with the smell of decay and old men in strange hats. Some wore robes and one man, apparently, wore nothing but long hair and beard. His eyes twinkled.
Cackling, the man at the head of the table stood, thrusting his finger at another, coughing, spittle sprayed from his lips. “Roll the dice,” he shouted, his laughter raising in fervor and pitch. “You’re dead”, he shrieked gleefully, even before the dice tumbled to a stop, “You’re all dead!”
All the men at the table screamed; some jumping to their feet to lean hunchbacked over the table, others too week to stand just swayed and howled from their seats, the intensity of the argument increasing by the moment.
My escort turned to me and winked, “Twenty five years we’ve been in here. Longest game of D&D in history.”
I nodded and left the room as he turned back to the assemblage, “Order some more pizza, and roll new characters, it’s my turn to be Dungeon Master.”

Ice and Death
By Justin Lowmaster

When the weather had turned to ice and death, they found shelter inside the biggest bookstore in the city.

They needed to stay warm. They started a fire inside a fireplace inside of one of the reading rooms.

It hadn’t been easy, burning all those books. Some fought, but in the end the threat of cold won. They did their best to not burn anything that looked too old or important, but in the end, they burned piles of books.

At their rescue, the leader of the rescue squad asked how they survived. When they told him, he looked around, confused.

“I can see using some books for kindling, but, why didn’t you burn the chairs and bookcases before burning more books?”

Relocation
By Jeff Hite

When I was younger, and was just starting to understand why we went to church on Sundays, I remember hearing the term bible thumper. As I got a bit older I found out that the origin of this term was a less than polite way to describe some of the more evangelical Christian religions. The term was kind of like hitting someone over the head with their religion or in this case their bible. We have all met people like that.

As I grew even older I got the chance to visit Europe. For those of you who have never been there, I suggest you find some way to go, and visit. See some of the castles, hike around some of the small towns, and this one is important, sample the local cuisine. Ask for the specialty, and try it.

Back to my point. While I was there I got to visit a number of places, but one of them was a museum that had one of the original Gutenberg bibles alongside one of the presses that was used to create this masterpiece. For those of you who don’t know, these things were huge. Each Gutenberg was massive, one volume was the size of a small coffee table. They were not, in any sense of the word, portable. The instant that I saw this thing a new image of bible thumper popped into my head and has stayed there ever since.

Up to the moment I saw this, the mid-western preacher in the cheap suit had dominated my view of the term and I now saw something a bit different. The drawn pictures at the museum near the bible and press were of monks in robes working the press to create the bible, placing each block letter, rolling the ink on, placing the pages one at a time and then pressing it down. I now saw one of those monks, with a finished copy of the bible held over his head, hiding behind the monastery door, waiting to thump the next person to walk through. While this person was out cold they would, in true comic fashion, shave their head, put them in a robe and when they woke up convince them they had been a monk all along and that it was their turn to work the press.

This was the image that I held in my head every time I walk through the stacks at a college library and I see the over sized books. I carefully look around the corners to make sure I will not get thumped. That was until a few weeks ago.

I was in the local mega-coffee-book and movie place when I saw him the first time. At first I thought I had imagined him, because you don’t see many Franciscans walking around in public in their robes these days. But a few minutes later I saw him again. He was in the personal growth section. This particular mega store didn’t have a religion section so all the bibles and other books of that nature had been put into the personal growth section.

Being a curious person and a Catholic to boot I thought I would go over and say hi to him. As I walked over I noticed that he had a rather large hard bound copy of the King James Bible in his hands. This was rather odd since that is not the one most Catholics use.

“Good afternoon Father.” I have learned that it is always better to refer to them as father, they will correct you if they are a brother.

Rather startled he turned around a looked at me quizzically. “Good afternoon.” he said finally.

“I saw you walking around in here and I just thought I would come over and say hi. It is not every day you see a Franciscan in his robes.”

“Quite right, most of us have shed our robes, but I still like to wear them.”

“Ah I see. I noticed you had a copy of the King James bible, doing some research about the other side of the fence?” He looked down at the volume in his hands as if seeing it for the first time.

“Ah well yes, but mostly I like the feel of it. The bible should have some heft to it, pretty weighty words in there don’t you think?” I nodded my agreement, and since he seemed to be rather distracted excused myself and headed back to the coffee bar.

That was when it happened. A solid knock to the back of my head that was not quite enough to knock me senseless, but was enough to drive me to my knees. That is I think what saved me because a second blow glanced off my back as I rolled to the floor. I looked up to see the Priest standing over me with the book held over his head. He had a sad expression on his face. I quickly got to my feet and scrambled a few feet away.

“Father?”

“I am sorry my son.”

“You hit me.”

“Yes, I am afraid it was not as effective as I would have hoped.”

“What?”

“You see they would not let me bring my book in so I had to substitute and it does not have the weight necessary.”

“What?” I repeated in total disbelief.

“No one visits the monasteries any more, so getting new recruits is very hard. So I have had to relocate my efforts to the bookstores. It is not the ideal way you understand and I am very torn by my vocation, but this had worked in the past.”

“Knocking people over the head?”

“Yes, but we used larger copies that were more effective.”

“And then what?” This was too surreal

“Then we take them back to the monastery.”

“Let me guess, you shave their head and tell them they have been there a long time.”

“We don’t shave out heads any more,” he said pointing to his own crop of thinning but not shaved hair. “But, mostly yes.” I carefully took the King James bible from him and then we walked out together, me making sure to keep him in plain sight, and talked about other possible recruitment methods.

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Great Hites Prompt number 43

This weeks Prompt:


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This prompt comes from the 1987 Speech given by Ronald Regan at the Berlin wall, and was prompted by a discussion I had with someone about how the generation that is high school right now does not seem to understand the fear that can come from a closed or totalitarian society.

“General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Please feel free to take that quote any way you would like it. This does not have to be a political piece. I promise I will have a lighter Topic next week. I already have a prompt picked out.

All Stories for this prompt are due by Midnight Tuesday March 3rd. Email the text of the story and a recording if you would like me to include it in the podcast to jeffrey dot hite at gmail dot com.

good luck. And don’t forget to come out to the site and vote for your Favorite stories this week.

If you would like to read the whole speech or watch it got to http://talkinghites.blogspot.com I have a link and the video posted there.

Don’t forget to go out to iTunes or podcast pickle or both and leave a review. It is a great way to let people know about great hites and what you think of it.

Great Hites # 41

This week we have four Stories, One from
Ashley Redden
Peter S.
Norval Joe
And Jeff Hite

Last week we had a three way Tie, between Justin Lowmaster Lawrence Simon and Norval Joe

Great Hites 41
Theres no Place like Home By: Ashley Redden
Don’t Take my Sun for Granted By: Peter S.
The Daily Eclipse By: Norval Joe
Night Fall By: Jeff Hite
  
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There’s no Place like Home
Ashley Redden

The metallic blobs flew through the upper atmosphere of the world as if shot from a weapon. They bumped and jostled, rolled over and changed position constantly appearing so much like an ancient shiny circular school of fish. The group settled suddenly, though they did not slow, as they were bathed with a signal. All of the blobs returned the signal immediately and shot even faster toward a single habitat below.

A larger blob was nestled into a small niche at the edge of the dwelling. The group arrived suddenly, and still bobbing and weaving, sent a formal greeting of the beings known as the custodians that was returned warmly.

“Now settle down little ones,” sent the large blob. “No pushing and shoving. I wouldn’t want anyone to be injured.”

Though the group found great humor in this, they all settled down in a small semi-circle surrounding the larger custodian. Harming a custodian through physical means alone was a tall order indeed.

“Honored Gran,” began one of the smaller ones, “tell us a story please.”

“What would you like to hear? You have heard them all so many times. What would you like to hear my precious little ones?”

“Please, honored Gran, tell us of the old ones, the ones that named Sol. Tell us of the first ones. Tell us, honored Gran, of the humans.”

“Yes, yes, yes,” came a chorus from the smaller custodians.

“What specifically would you like to hear?”

“Tell us why,” said a small one. “Yes, honored Gran, tell us of the ones who stayed and why they stayed. Why they did not flee with the rest.”

“Yes, yes, yes,” again came the chorus. “Please, please tell us honored Gran,” sent a small bobbing custodian as others joined in.

“Okay,” answered Gran. “Calm yourselves and I will tell what is known.” The large metallic blob that carried the moniker Gran settled herself and accessed the habitat’s not insignificant data net. The younger caretakers observed in awe. One day, they knew, they would be allowed access to the net. But for the present, they could only obtain the knowledge second hand in tellings.

Gran sent, “about 6 billion years ago, there was a planet that was about the size that Sol is now.” All of the custodians observed the white dwarf Sol in momentary silent contemplation. “On this planet,” began Gran.

“Earth,” blurted out a young custodian. “The planet was called Earth, right Gran.”
At this, the other young custodians shushed the one that spoke.

Gran said, “That’s right my little one, the planet was know as Earth. At first, all humans were the same. They called themselves Homo sapiens at this time.”

“When were they not the same honored Gran?”

“Sometime in the first 2 billion years humanity began to change. Some of it was for the better, but some was for the worse also. That is how change works my little ones; you have to learn to take the good with the bad. It is at this time that humanity began to leave.”

“Where did they go, honored Gran?”

“Everywhere,” answered Gran. Humanity changed and changed through the eons hence. Many continued to leave, very few came back, but always some stayed on the home planet Earth watching our star, Sol, slowly grow old.”

“What happened to Earth honored Gran?”

“About 5 billion years ago, Sol began to expand and became a red giant. Had the remaining humans not intervened, Earth would have been destroyed. But they moved it and changed it as well, for change my little ones is the way of things. When Sol grew, almost all of the humans had departed. Many had changed so much that they no longer thought of themselves nor called themselves human anymore. But always, Sol system was home. None of Earth’s far flung children wished to come home anymore, for as the universe expands the price to be paid for travel home grows and grows. But always, they remember and wish to speak with those that remained, to check in from time to time. So that is why a small group stayed. Some stayed because of duty, but most stayed because they were homebodies and liked it right where they were. All stayed because they loved their home. But they knew that things could not remain the same. So they changed themselves again as Sol grew and the sky turned bright. Do any of you know what they became,” asked Gran?

“Did they become starseeds?”

“Yes, my precious little one,” answered Gran. They changed themselves so much that they no longer considered themselves human. They no longer lived out beyond the reach of fiery Sol, but within its outer atmosphere as it swelled to its red giant phase. The starseeds learned to live in the terribly hot. This is also when the mostly organic humans became the totally metallic starseeds.”

“How long did it last honored Gran?”

“Oh, not so very long, just a couple of hundred million years is all,” said Gran

“What happened then?”

“Then,” continued Gran, “the starseeds changed again. They became custodians. As the humans then starseeds had watched the sky grow bright and red as Sol swelled outward, so it was that the starseeds then custodians watched as the sky grew dark as Sol shrank to the white dwarf that it is today. But change on a scale such as this is very dangerous and not all of the humans or the starseeds that attempted the great change survived.”

“But honored Gran, why did they risk so much to change? They could have left and then come back after Sol grew dim. They simply would have had to live further out in the solar system.”

Gran sent a signal of love to all the young custodians eliciting coos from the gathered throng. “They stayed and changed and then changed again so that we may live as we do so close to our life giver Sol. They risked so much because they knew; back when their hearts were organic and even when they were changed to molten metal that no matter where you go, there is no place like home.”

The young custodians sat in awed silence as they honored the memory of those that had come before.

“When will we need to make a decision to change again, honored Gran? Sol will not remain a white dwarf forever.”

“No, young one, nothing stays the same forever. But Sol will stay as it is for a very long time. And if Sol does change, we will simply make a decision at that time,” answered Gran.

“But that is then and this is now. How about some nice soup to put a bit of lost metal back into your young bones and a glossy luster into your coatings,” suggested Gran?

Cheers erupted from the throng of young custodians jostling, bobbing and weaving as they floated into the habitat after Gran.

Don’t take My Sun For Granted
By: Peter S.

“Members of the board, Global warming will be the least of our worries!” Dr. Schileren blurted out, before any one else had a chance to finish.

Dr. Schadenfreude responded, “Again, Schileren, we all agree something is going on, just not to the degree that you do”.

When Dr. Shadenfreude spoke, it was with a powerfully quiet reservation that could calm all but the most fevered scientist or world leaders. “It is my, and the boards continued belief,that these Solar anomalies are nothing more than an unprecedented…”

“Yes…but…”

“…But not a totally unprecedented swing back to Solar Minimum years, not some Extinction Level Event.”

Almost turning blue, Dr. Schileren exhaled powerfully “Minimum? Minimum?! You call a 120 month running count of Solar Flares of 70 Minimum year? That is a yearly average of one half of one flare per year! And I sincerely hope we all have not forgotten that in the last 36 months we have seen NONE. Naught point Naught”.

Dr. Schileren finished and gasped for more air to continue but Dr. Schadenfreude beat him to the punch, “It is the finding of this board and is only logical that our local star is so massive that it can do only one thing and that is to continue to burn Hydrogen, convert that into Helium, which in turn will turn to Lithium and then to Beryllium and so on and so forth and to keep doing this for the next 4 or 5 Billion years; as it has been doing for the past 4 and a half billion years.”

Mustering as much reserve as he could, Dr. Schileren responded “As I have already said to nearly each and every one of you separately,” He said pointing to each of them, “and now all of you in this meeting, the solar energy output is down now, by most calculations by 10%, when the Sun’s output should be incrementally increasing every year. While this is something to be slightly celebrated as it will help with our rising surface temperature, when this information is more closely examined; the Coronal Mass Ejection dissipation, Solar Flare elimination and Energy output reductions, this cannot be good for the planet, and we must get to the bottom of this quickly! We are in the dark here and no one is shining a light on this issue!”

“My Dear friend, “Dr. Shadenfreude started, “I will grant you that this might need some more concentration on the overall issue, but can we pick this up again later? It looks like a beautiful day outside. I would be remiss if I did not attempt to repair any animosity this discussion has caused before the day was over…”

The Sun, that massive and magnificent star, the one that provides for the growth of all life on earth, flickered, and in less than 15 seconds from the first noticeable dimming, was no longer visible in the sky.

As he finished speaking, the whole of the earth that was normally bathed in daylight, that part of the Earth that also included the members of this Scientific review board, watched as day turned to night.

The Daily Eclipse
By: Norval Joe

They sat in angry silence, under the protection of the glass filter dome, and watched as day turned to night. At least, as much of a night as you get on the planet side of the moon. It was the mid day solar eclipse which would last several hours before the sum re-emerged on the opposite side of the big planet. “I don’t even like this side; it never gets dark. We have the sun shining on us all day, and at night, the planet glows so much it might as well be day.”

The last edge of the sun was slipping behind the giant orange planet. The moon where they lived was tidally locked with its planet and therefore, the same side always faced toward the planet, the side where Julie and her family now lived. “I want to go back to our old home, on the back side. At least there we had complete darkness at night. I wouldn’t mind if I never saw that big red eye staring at me ever again.” She stood to stomp around the room to emphasize her anger, but the atrium was so filled with plants that she would soon be lost to her parents vision, and the effect would be wasted. She was a year old now, and had a typical pre-adolescent flair for the melodramatic.

She sat back down, her mother was lecturing her, “I expect you to show a little more gratitude to your father. You have quickly forgotten how long and cold the nights were, and how long and hot the days were, on the backside. And your father has worked, and sacrificed, to get us this place up on top, where we can have a dome, and plants, and see the planet. It wouldn’t take much to lose everything and be down at the dirt level with the indigents and general laborers.” She sighed inwardly and rolled her eyes, ‘What did her mother know? There was nobody down that low.’

She thought she knew what would be coming next, and she wasn’t off by much. “Your father has sacrificed so much to make all this possible for you!” Her mother was even working up some tears. ‘Hypocrite,’ Julie thought to herself, ‘Where will you be as soon as Dad is gone’? What did she call it, ‘Social networking’? She wondered if her mother had ever really loved her father, or had she just loved his potential. He was nearly twice her age; she had just turned 2 and he was nearly four when they were married.
It was true that in the last solar circuit her father had been gone much of the time traveling between their moon, the planet and the two major moons in between. He had made most of his fortune on shiploads of fresh water from the watery moon that orbited the planet twice for every time theirs did just once. She wondered what days and nights were like on those other moons; they were both tidally locked, as was this one, but to have a day and night pass so quickly was incomprehensible to her. The closest of the larger moons, to the planet, would have four days and nights for each of hers. ‘Wouldn’t that just make you dizzy?’
Her mother was still harping about her lack of consideration, but she had heard it all before. Each time her father was preparing to leave, her mother would start to get edgy and irritable, then like clockwork, she would break into a tirade, unleashing her frustration on her daughter.
Space travel had only been developed in the last 10 years. Her father had taken the existing knowledge about space travel and applied what he knew of material science and designed space barges that could harness the magnetic charges that were generated between the various moons and the planet and slingshot the barges back and forth, making the the transportation of heavy items profitable; minerals harvested from moons, heavy gases gathered from the atmosphere of the planet, and in his case, water from the next moon in toward the planet. Her father had built his empire on the transportation of fresh water. There was salt water deep in the crust of this moon and it could be pumped and desalinated, as it had been for millennia, but with the advent of space travel, fresh water was an available luxury.
But was it for Julie, that her father worked so hard and was away so often? She didn’t think so. With his rise in wealth there also came a rise in prestige and political power.
Outside the dome, with the sun fully hidden behind the planet, it was as dark as it was going to get, only the planets own light showed right now. Their day was divided into 100 hours, and each hour, 100 minutes. The eclipse lasted between thirteen and fourteen hours. Julie liked it dark.
As soon as her father was away and her mother found her ‘other occupations’, Julie would work her way down the elevators, stairwells, and passages to get to the ground level. Over the millennia new dwellings were built atop the old, reusing the existing radiation filters and magnetic shields. With the current imports, new structures, with more efficient shields were being built at the highest levels. It would take a long time to get to the ground, she would have to pack several meals. She had only been there a few times since their move to the planet side and only stayed a few minutes, but she had stood in the open air, on natural soil, unaffected by the waves of radiation that the domes, and shields at the top of the city were designed to reflect.
“Julie”, her father was saying, “my travels have produced another benefit, that I would like to share with you.” He caught her attention, instantly. Though she did her best to act indifferent to his work, and the ‘benefits’ that the family enjoyed, the allure of this relatively new space exploration intrigued her. “What the scientist had theorized; that our people had come from a different planet hundreds of millions of years ago, may actually be correct. We have found, ‘people’, for lack of a better word, similar to us on another moon. Some are theorizing that we, and they, came from a common ancestor. These creatures are not as intelligent as us, and are probably more suited to manual labor, but they show a willingness to work, and, in fact, appear to thrive under our direction.” He looked closely at her face to gage her reaction. “I have acquired on of these beings to be your companion. She appears to be about your same age, and has already begun to
understand our language. Would you please make it your project, over the next few weeks, to teach her more of our language, and help her to understand some of the basic menial tasks around the home?”
She began to reply but looking at her fathers face she could see that he had already assumed that she would be compliant with his wishes and had begun to gather his things to leave.
Her own thoughts were racing. She had heard talk among her acquaintances at school that slaves were being brought in from one of the other moons, and now she would be the first in her class to get one. The day was looking up.

Night Fall
By: Jeffrey Hite

This planet had provided them with a great number of surprises. The short day night period, only eight hours, was only the first of them. Despite its relatively small size the gravitational pull created by the planet was incredibly strong. That was why the survey ship had come down so hard that it had damaged its systems enough that it needed the rescue team in the first place. The rescue team despite the warnings had almost made the same mistake. They had come down so hard it was only luck that saved them same fate of the survey ship.
Not for the first time they watch as day turned into night. But, for the first time they would be without lights during this night. The planets rotation was such that their small solar panels had not been enough to collect the power necessary to run the big flood lights, or really any of the exterior lights on the ship. All they would have were the small hand held flashlights and the low level lighting of the ships interior. This was more than a little disturbing to Alice, and she was not sure why.
As she stood outside the main hatch of the ship, watching the sun go down so fast that you could track the suns moment across the sky over only a few minutes. It was almost like being in orbit, but it seemed like more than this that was disturbing her. As the sun set below the horizon the blackness that surrounded them was nearly complete. The planet had no moon, not completely unusual, but the large amount of dust and debris in this system made all but the brightest stars invisible. All of this meant that once the sun set there was no natural light, and the side of the planet facing away from the sun was in total darkness.
The small hand held lights seemed woefully inadequate. That was why when Raymond, the search team lead, walked out of the foliage no one noticed him until he was nearly on top of them.
“Alright folks.” His voice boomed from the darkness.
“Raymond,” Alice shrieked. “It is eerie enough out here without you sneaking up on us like that.”
“I’m sorry Alice, but I really didn’t sneak up on you. I was right over there before the sun went down,” he said gesturing with his flashlight. “I know you saw me.”
“Yes, I did I am just a little jumpy. This dark is just very eerie.”
“Agree, so lets find the survey team and get back to the ship so we can all get off this rock.” There were grunts of approval and the all started for the rovers.
There were going to be three teams each would head in the general direction of the crash site and then fan out to find the survey ship. The Normally the plan would have been to land within a mile of the crash site, but their rapid decent and near crash had caused them to be several miles from the crash site, and to not be able to pin point it’s location. This meant that they would actually have to search for the other ship in total darkness.
The rovers had lights and that did cut down on the nervousness that she was feeling but, there was something more than the darkness that was bothering her, but she could not put her finger on it. Maybe it was that they had not been able to raise the other ship, when they knew there had been survivors. The Captain of the Arkon, though a little banged up, seemed to be in good spirits when he had called for the rescue ship less than a week ago. He had reported that the entire crew had survived the crash with only minor injuries. But since they had landed they had heard nothing from them. Even as they approached the planet they were not able to make contact. But even this could not explain her uneasiness. There was something more.
When the Radio squawked she nearly veered the rover into the outcropping that she had been following.
“Alice, from the sensors you are the closest one to the crash site.”
“Roger.”
“You should come on the ship in two or three hundred yards. You might want to slow down a bit in case someone is wondering around over there.”
“Acknowledged,” She said as she slowed the rover. Within a few seconds the lights of the rover reflected off the shiney hull of the Arkon. Alice stopped the rover and dismounted with the rest of her team. As they spread out around the ship the feeling of dread grew.
“Alice, over here.” Redmond yelled from the other side of the ship. “I found the crew hatch, but it looks like the controls have been damaged. I can’t get the hatch open.”
“That is odd.” She shone her light at the control panel as Redmond fiddled with it trying to get it to work again.
“Commander,” She turned to find Louis standing near the emergency access. He was the only one in the crew that was still new enough to call everyone by their rank. “I think you should see this.”
“What is it Louis?” She asked as she directed Marget to continue assisting Redmond, and headed to where Louis was standing.
“Commander, this hatch looks like some one of something tried to force it open from the outside.”
“That is odd.”
“You can say that again. The only way to get these open is from the inside. Whoever tried to get it open was pretty desperate, look at these marks along the seal. Ever seen anything like that?”
“Do you suppose it could have been pushed out like that during the crash?”
“No way, it is too far up the side of the ship. See there is no crush damage to the hull at all, just to the landing struts and launch engines.” He indicated the crushed parts of the ship.
“Right. Well keep looking around, and see if you can figure out what might have caused this.”
Just then, the other two rovers came out of the surrounding foliage. As they did this side of the ship was bathed in light for the first time, and Alice noticed the strange markings around each of the hatches.
“Alice, what is going on here? Have you guys found the crew? I want to get back to the Weston, this place is creeping me out.” Raymond said as he dismounted.
“So I am not the only one.”
“Twice on the way over here I could have sworn we were being followed, but the other team was in the lead and when we looked back we couldn’t see anything. So what is the deal here?”
“Well the main hatch controls seem to have been damaged, Redmond is working getting them working again. Louis is looking at some weird markings around the escape hatch aft, and as you came up I noticed that there are some weird markings around all the hatches.”
“Weird marks?”
“Yeah look at these,” She said shining her light at the area around the main hatch.
“What the…”
“Alice, I think I got the controls working.” They all made their way to main hatch.
“About time, get it open so we can get the heck outta here.”
“The weird part,” Redmond said as he worked the controls, “is that this thing was all but ripped from the hull, it was like someone didn’t want it to work.” The door hissed open then and there was a scream from the interior of the ship that piercied the air. When it finally died all that was left was a quiet sobbing. They slowly entered the ship, which was completely dark.
“Hello, Captain Martin? This is commander Raymond Mathews of the Weston. We are here…” He was cut just off as the last of them stepped through the door. A crazed looking woman bolted from shadows toward the door screaming. “Grab her!” Raymond said as he was nearly knocked from his feet.
“Got her sir.”
“Let me go. Shut the door, shut the door. Please shut the door.”
“It’s alright we are from the rescue corp.” Raymond tried to sooth her.
“The Door. Get it shut. You have got to get it shut you don’t understand.”
“What, is it? Why do we need to shut the door?” Alice asked.
The Woman tried desperately to pull free from Louis, all the while insisting that they close the door. Raymond walked back down the corridor and pushed the button to close the door. Only when the door had closed completely did she stop trying to pull away from Louis and just collapse to the floor.
“What is going on here?” Alice asked the sobbing woman. “Where is the rest of the crew?” Alice pulled her to her feet so she could check her for injuries and looked at her name tag. “Alright Ensign Wilson, you need to calm down and let us know what happened her.” Wilson only shook her head insistently
“No you won’t tell us?” Raymond asked “Or no you don’t know?” It was obvious that his patients was wearing thin.
“I don’t know,” she managed between sobs.
“Alright, Alice, you get her something to eat and get her calmed down. The rest of us will explore the ship. Don’t open the exterior doors, but look for anything that would give us some kind of a clue about what is going on here.” Raymond broke the rest of the team into groups and they spread across the ship.
“It came once the sun went down,” Wilson said. “The first night we still had battery power, They second night the lights went out about half way though the night. soon after that we heard them. We never saw them, but we could hear them on the hull.”
“What came out, We didn’t detect any life other than the plants.”
“The Captain sent several people out to go see what was going on. They never came back. One by one people outside after night fall disappeared. They all left me.” She said breaking down into sobs again.
“Are you saying that there is something out there that took the rest of the crew?”
“We never saw them. We never saw anything. People just went out and didn’t come back.” When she stopped talking they could hear the quiet scraping against the hull.
“What is that?”
“They are back.” She sobbed uncontrollably again.
Alice stood and walked toward the hatch. She was about to open it when Wilson tackled her slamming her painfully against the bulkhead.
“You can’t open the door. They will come in. They will take us away too.”
“What is out there?”
Raymond came back at that point. “What is going on here?”
“Wilson says that something outside carried the rest of the crew off.” Alice said getting to her feet and rubbing her head where it had been knocked into the bulkhead.
“It was the dark, you can hear it now, it is trying to get in.”
“What are you talking about?” In the silence that followed the scraping that they had heard before was back and this time there was more of it. The longer they listened the louder it got.
“What is that?”
“The dark.” Wilson whispered.
The rest of the search crew came back then. “Sir we didn’t find any signs of the crew, but as we were looking around, we could hear something scratching at the hull. Jonston and I were going to go out and figure out what it was.”
“No!” Wilson screamed “It will take you too. The Dark will take you too.”
“She says the rest of the crew was carried off by whatever is making that noise.” Alice said.
“Alright, then we sit here until sun up, and then we get what we can, and get back to the Weston. Is it safe to go out during the day light?” Wilson nodded, “Alight then we go out as soon as the sun comes up and we can search for the rest of the crew from orbit if we have to.”
They stayed in the main hatch as a group for the next two hours as they waited for the sun to raise. All the while the scraping got louder and more insistent. Then just before dawn it stopped.
“Are they gone?” Alice asked
“Not until the sun is up. But it has retreated to the bush.”
“Good we can get out of here.” Raymond.
“No, don’t it is still out there.”
“I want to get a look at this thing.” Raymond headed toward the hatch and before Wilson could move had it open. He stood in the opening for a moment then he was gone into the darkness. He hadn’t stepped out of the ship, he was just gone.
“Close the door or it will get us all.”
“But Raymond, we.”
“He is gone. There is nothing we can do. The captain thought we could go looking for people too and everyone disappeared.” She slammed her hand against the emergency close and the hatch slammed shut.
The sun came up five minutes later, moving quickly up the sky. They went outside and looked for signs of Raymond, but found nothing.
“Alright,” Alice said “I am taking charge, any one have a problem with that?” No one answered. “Contact the Weston and let them know we have one survivor and that we are coming back.” She said to Louis, “Redmond you go with the other rover and get it back to the Weston, take Wilson with you. The rest of us will get the black boxes and the camera feeds from the Arokn and meet you back Weston. If we do not come back before night fall, do not come looking for us. Is that clear.”

******

“This Planet is quarantined, Be afraid of the dark.”

Great Hites Prompt # 42


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This weeks Prompt comes from Justin (the Space Turtle) Lowmaster and is:

“in the largest bookstore in the city. “

All Stories for this prompt are due by Midnight Tuesday February 24th. Email the text of the story and a recording if you would like me to include it in the podcast to jeffrey dot hite at gmail dot com.

good luck. And don’t forget to come out to the site and vote for your Favorite stories this week.

Great Hites # 40

This week we have stories By Justin Lowmaster, Lawrence Simon and Norval Joe

This week ended in a three Way tie. Congratulations Everyone!

Last week Norval Joe won the voting. Congratulations!


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Inside Joke
By Norval Joe

The death row prisoner, Harvey Banks, sat inside his cell and smiled. He had an inside joke. His execution was scheduled for December of this year, 2012, but he wasn’t worried. He had been counting down the days for years, now, and the big day, the day of the big joke, was only three days away.
The elements of his plan were coming together this Friday, everything was set.
He had been working on this plan since 2004. To make it all happen, he knew it, even back then, he would need a big bank roll, and nothing traded in this prison like cigarettes. Cancer stick currency, the insiders called it. He quit smoking and started saving. It took him a whole year to actually quit. It’s hard to not smoke in prison, where everyone does, the smoke is always around you, inviting you back into the habit. He couldn’t let anyone know that he had stopped smoking, so that he could get even more ‘cash’. “Hey buddy, can I bum a cig from you?” He would ask around after every meal, and stash away a few extra each day. “Got a light?” he would ask, but then not light it, just let it hang in his mouth. Occasionally, someone would catch him at it, “You gonna smoke that thing?” They would ask, and he would reply with, “I’m trying to quit, I wanna be healthy when I go to the chair,” and they would laugh together, but he would laugh all the better at his inside joke.
Eight years earlier, almost to the day, he had received the first message. He hadn’t believed it at first; thought it was his imagination. He heard it in the static from his fm radio. He knew about static. You get plenty of free time in prison, if you call sitting in your cell free. It gives you a chance to catch up on all the reading you didn’t get to do, as busy as you were, on the outside.
Banks had always been fascinated by the stars that you couldn’t see really well in the city where he lived. But in the prison library, they had a whole shelf of astronomy books, with pictures of the stars that he never gotten to see. He took the books back to his cell and started to read about the universe, and was fascinated. He talked so much about the things that he read that the inmates gave him a nickname, which doesn’t bear repeating in polite company, but alluded to his astronomical interests.
Messages were encoded in the static caused by the cosmic microwave background radiation. He listened to the static each night, at the same time, for a week. He wasn’t crazy, or imagining this, he was receiving instructions from extraterrestrial life. Their message was this; They were coming back on the winter solstice of 2012, when the Mayan calendar comes to its end, and they are going to vaporize the earth. They would do it, too, because they weren’t pleased with how the earth was doing. These beings had interacted with the Maya, centuries ago, and had given them instructions regarding the proper preparation of the earth for their arrival of their own descendents, centuries into the future. They warned the Maya that if they, the aliens, were displeased, they would vaporize the earth and start over. They even gave the Maya a date; winter solstice, 2012.
The static encoded message gave directions to all who could understand, how they could be rescued from the doomed planet. All who would be saved must be ready, atop a building or mountain, four weeks before the day of annihilation; just three days away.
“It’s only Tuesday,” he said to the guard, passing outside his cell. The guard didn’t miss a beat as he paced by the cell, he had heard worse comments than that all day, and Banks sat is his cell and laughed.
A guy in laundry owed him a favor and agreed to leave him in the facility at the close of business. He could gain access to the roof through an air vent, and since it was six floor up, with no possible way down, the spot lights would never cross it to find him there.
He had carefully selected the proper guard for collusion, and had to offer him his entire stash of cigarettes. Guards were limited to one pack of cigarettes that they could bring into the prison each day, to prevent them from trading with the prisoners; keeping them honest. Five years worth of cigarettes was enough to turn any small time guard into a major player, who then could get cooperation from the bosses of the even largest gangs in the prison. He had promised the guard that he only wanted this one chance to view his beloved night sky, before his execution, and would return to his cell, or more likely. solitary, in the morning when apprehended on the rooftop; but, of course, he would be gone. He kept a straight face during these negotiations, there was no one in the prison who was worthy to share his inside information; let them be vaporized with the rest of the world.
Friday night everything went exactly as planned. He was left, hiding in a bin or clean towels, at 8:00 pm, when the laundry was locked for the night. He waited quietly in the dark room until all sound had died away in building before opening the vent in the ceiling and working his way to the roof. At the 9:00 pm and midnight cell checks, his empty bunk was carefully overlooked.
He had checked the lunar tables and knew that at midnight the waxing moon would be directly overhead. As the moon approached its zenith Banks boldly stood in the center of the rooftop with arms out stretched, head back, looking up into the night sky, expectantly. Waiting, his neck began to get stiff, and at times he had to bend over and stretch out the muscle cramps. Other times, he began to get dizzy, the stars over head spinning around him as he lost balance and tried to catch himself before falling to the rooftop.
Eventually, reality settled in. The moon was descending toward 3:00 am and his alien rescuers had not come for him. The guards would be changing shift and the prison would soon be on alert to a missing prisoner. He sat on a ventilation conduit, his face in his hands, dejected.
The fresh guard quickly reported the missing prisoner and the search began. The investigation rapidly revealed the escape route through the laundry room ceiling to the roof above. Guards stormed up the stairway and through the access to the roof. Spot lights crossed and searched every inch of the roof.
They found Harvey Banks right shoe on the roof under the ventilation conduit, but a thorough search of the entire prison and the country side for miles around yielded nothing more.

Tuesday Morning
By Lawrence Simon

Monday night, Tuesday morning.

Depends on when your day is, I guess.

I don’t have days. I just have a job to do.

My job is to kill. I kill people for a living.

Do this job long enough, nights and mornings, and it’ll mess up your thinking.

Focus. I need focus.

Alice’s Diner is where I pick up my kills for the week.

And coffee. Good coffee.

“The usual?” she says.

I nod.
We used to talk. Flirt, too.

Strictly business now. Stay focused.

She slides a folded sheet of paper across the counter.

“Just one this week,” I say, opening the paper.

Alice.

She knows her name is on there.

Of course she does. It’s her handwriting.

“I’m sick of this shit,” she says. “Do it quick.”

I pull my gun out of my briefcase.

“No,” I say, shooting her in the legs. “You laughed when that paper had my son’s name on it.”

“YOU TOOK THE MONEY ANYWAY!” She shouts.

I did. And I know why, too.

It was for my son’s college fund.

As I said, the job messes with your thinking. Easy to lose focus.

She’s screaming in pain, bleeding on the floor.

I throw her a rag and leave the diner.

I go back in and leave a tip for the coffee.

The bomb in the briefcase will go off in a few minutes.

Then, I’ll need a new job. And a new briefcase.

My son gave me that briefcase.

I check my watch. Not enough time to go back in.

At least I remembered my smokes.

Margo
By Justin Lowmaster

Margo walked onto the movie set. Rays of morning sunlight cast an orange glow on the tops of the faux storefronts, illuminating words like General Store and Jail. She passed a cowboy that tipped his hat at her.

“Ma’am.”

She smiled politely and continued walking briskly to her small office trailer. She took out her ring of key rings keys. They jangled cheerily as the myriad of keys on one ring danced with the keys on the other rings. She picked one ring, then picked out the blue key.She unlocked the door and entered her trailer. She sat down her notebook on a filing cabinet. A single paper slid and stuck out. She lifted the notebook’s cover and slid the sheet back in place and took a deep breath through her nose.

The luxuriant scent of fresh coffee filler her senses. She pulled a mug from among the plate and bowl in the dish drainer that sat beside a small sink. She waited a few seconds for the last drops of coffee to drip into the carafe. As she poured the coffee into the white mug, her phone rang from her pocket. She sat down the empty carafe and answered.

“Margo.”

She opened up the small refrigerator.

“Yes, have them deliver the doughnuts to the … don’t interrupt please … to the Town Hall set. That is where today’s meeting will be.”

She took a small metal dipping bowl from the refrigerator and poured it’s creamy contents into the coffee mug.

“Yes, I’m sure. Be hasty about it, the meeting is in fifteen minutes.”

She closed the refrigerator door with her foot and set the little bowl in the sink then hung up the phone. Taking the single spoon from the dish drainer, she stirred the coffee. It went from black with a spot of white to a warm, creamy color. She put the phone back into her pocket.

With a push of the lever, warm water poured into the sink. She put a few drops on blue soap from the bottle by the sink into the carafe and filled it half-way with water, swirling it around. Pressing the lever turned off the water. She soaked the small cup and spoon in the soapy water, then rinsed them off with sink water, putting them in the dish drainer. After draining the carafe, she rinsed it the same way, placing it upside down in the drainer. From the top of the coffee maker she removed the filter and spent coffee grounds and dumped them in a trash can under the sink.

Mug in hand, she sat at a small desk beside the filing cabinet. She opened the a drawer and fingered through the tabs and pulled out a file titled Wednesday. She sat in on the desk and closed the drawer. Today was going to be a busy day. In the file were a few papers. Referencing a sheet from her notebook, she made a few marks on the papers from the file, noting schedule changes and the like. When done, the sheet and file were placed in her notebook. She closed her eyes for three minutes and prayed again for the day. Coffee and notebook in hand, she headed to the town hall.

She waited patiently at the table at the Town Hall set as everyone arrived, going over her notes. Everyone arrived, no one was late. She was happy with the group on this film. Chairs scrapped the wooden floor as various crew members took seats around the table. They were timely, responded well to authority, and had a firm grasp on their jobs. The morning meeting was short and quick because she only had to cover new items or changes, with no need to rehash things that had already been said. Pulling an agenda sheet from the file, she stood up.

“Good morning everyone, today is going to be a busy day. You will all have to be hasty. Is everyone ready?”

Various nods and comments of affirmatives animated the room. The cowboy that had passed her earlier said “Yeehaw!”

“Ok, I will give everyone their agenda. As always, take notes and ask any questions at the end.”

A young man with a short, black flattop took a sip from his paper coffee cup.

“Mike P, get on the phone with the caterers and up the persons by three.”

He set down his coffee next to his notepad and gave a thumbs up, then attacked one of the doughnuts.

“Mike S., check the inventory for the light bulbs for the Find and Dandy Corral set. You might need to order more, the shipment yesterday was damaged.”

A middle aged gentleman stifled a yawn and nodded.

“Annie, meet with the make-up team before they start today. Make sure they know about the updated doctor scene.”

Annie furrowed her eyebrows and looked up at Margo.

“They are co …”

Margo looked up from her notes at Annie. Annie closed her mouth and wrote something down on her notepad.

“Simon, meet with the horse handler. He is new and needs shown around.”

The cowboy raised an eyebrow and looked at the bearded man next to him, who just shrugged.

“Tom, I need you to calculate the electricity usage numbers on the sets after today. The last project overused power, and we want to try and minimize use this time.”

A balding man with glasses twisted his lips into a confused expression. He wrote a footnote on his own agenda sheet that he had before him.

“Caleb, I need you to …”

A man wearing a black tie coughed obnoxiously loud. Margo looked up from her notes at him. He had a ‘what are you doing?’ look on his face. An uncomfortable silence hung over the set. She glanced at everyone sitting around the table. Several had confused looked on their faces as they looked back at her.

“Does anyone want to tell me what is going on?”

The man in the tie, Caleb, scratched his head.

“It is only Tuesday. No one else is showing except us until tomorrow. We are still getting the sets ready.”

Margo stared at him blankly for a long, quiet moment. She sat down the paper and took the phone from her pocket. Sure enough, it said Tuesday. She somehow had gotten her days mixed up and had thought today was Wednesday. She sat down and stared at her mug. Most everyone fidgeted in the stillness. After some time, she looked up.

“Does anyone have any questions about prepping the sets?”

After everyone had a moment to think and glance around, no one said anything. Margo looked at her paper.

“It looks like I covered everything for today that anyone needs to know about. Lets get to work!”

At the end of the day, Margo returned to her trailer. She posted a calender next to the coffee maker. The days passed for the current month were already crossed off. She crossed off today with a marker which she clipped sideways onto the calender pages. She set up the coffee maker to brew one cup tomorrow, then mixed some sugar and cream into the small metal dipping bowl which she placed in the refrigerator. On her way out, she picked up her notebook and headed to her car, ready to rest.

Great Hites Prompt number 41

This week’s Prompt is:

“they watched as day turned to night “

All Stories for this prompt are due by Midnight Tuesday February 10th. Email the text of the story and a recording if you would like me to include it in the podcast to jeffrey dot hite at gmail dot com.

good luck. And don’t forget to come out to the site and vote for your Favorite stories this week.


Download Prompt 41

Great Hites 39

This week we welcome Michael S.
Welcome back Norval Joe.
And You get a story and a recording from me. (Jeff)

Great Hites # 39
Through the Underbrush By Michael S.
The spirit of the forest By Noval Joe
All in a Day’s Work by Jeff Hite
  
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Trudging through the underbrush
By Michael S.

Trudging through the underbrush all three boys were breathing heavily as they pushed onward.

“Whose great idea was it to get off the path?” David quizzed knowing full well it was his own.

Close to an hour now since leaving the well worn trails they had been driving eastward as their compasses pointed them forward. The thickness of the vines, tree limbs and thorny tendrils reaching out from the floor of the woods was seemingly endless.

“Hey, it looks like a clearing up ahead,” Rod puffed.

All three picked up the pace lifting their knees higher with each step in an effort to push through the tangled web of undergrowth.

The sunlight was breaking through the upper branches of the oaks and splashing warmly in patches upon their faces and backs. Between the trunks of two trees they could clearly see an open field stretching ahead for several acres. They popped out onto the clearing in unison and rolled in the grass, laughing and shouting a youthful, victorious cry of accomplishment.

The wind was blowing gently over the tops of the grass stalks across the clearing in a rhythm much like rolling waves on an ocean surface. Although a light brown color from the dryness of the summer heat the grass still possessed the grassy fragrance of Mother Nature and her earthy richness.

“Let’s make camp right in the middle of this field before it gets too late,” came the voice of the youngest, Paul.

“Yeah, I’m starved. I’ll gather some wood for the fire and we can warm up some grub,” the pack leader, David offered.

They all walked to the center of the open field near the remains of a solitary fallen tree. The grass had not yet recovered from years of shade and was only now beginning to creep within the area that was once under the umbrella of the tree.

They nodded in agreement and collectively understood this was the perfect spot. Without a word spoken they dropped their backpacks, unshouldered their BB guns and started to unload their treasures. Cans of beans, sardines, candy bars, canteens, a small cooking pan, sun lotion (courtesy of two of the mothers), a bag of jellybeans and other assorted necessities were soon deposited on the ground. They all stared at their lot as if it were a prize kill taken from the very jaws of danger.

David walked away to gather the broken branches and bits of kindling while Rod and Paul searched for rocks for the edge of the campfire. Within minutes they were busy using the rocks to form a small circle to contain the gathered wood. David piled the smaller kindling in the middle and stood to search his pockets for the matches he had brought along just for this purpose.

His father had taught him the fundamentals of starting a fire and he looked the part of an expert as he knelt beside the wood and struck the first match against the cover. The smaller wood pieces were dry enough to catch quickly and David covered the spot with his hands shielding the wind long enough to allow flames to catch some of the surrounding branches.

The boys were drawn to the sight of the fire watching as it grew in intensity. The flames were soon undulating from within the circle of stone. David continued to throw the branches he had gathered into the center of the fire finishing with a large piece he had wrestled from the base of the fallen tree. With the impact of the larger piece the flames leapt higher than they would have thought possible as fiery embers floated skyward above the peak of the flames.

David was the first to react, running toward the fire gnats swatting them with his hands in a futile attempt to suppress their journey toward the grass that surrounded them. Paul reached for the canteen and fumbled for control of the canister until he was finally able to twist the lid off and pour the contents on the fire.

“Throw dirt on it,” Rod shouted awakening from his stupor.

They dropped to their knees and clawed at the topsoil hoping to loosen enough to throw on the fire and stifle its growth. David grabbed the pan turning it over to use as a shovel. Minutes of concentrated labor brought about the slow death of the flames until all that remained in its place was a smoldering pile of soil and ashes.

Starting to relax Rod looked up from his digging and noticed the white smoke drifting skyward from behind Paul. At the same moment his olfactory senses matched the scent wafted by the breeze with the scent he associated with helping his father each year burning the fallen leaves in the yard. Terror struck Rod as he stammered to say something to warn the others until he was finally able to push back enough to speak.

“Look you guys,” he screamed as he pointed behind Paul.

Both the other boys stopped their moment of relaxation long enough to search in the direction Rod was pointing. The smoke they observed was beginning to thicken as the wind carried it downrange of where they stood. The quiet ensued by the work stoppage opened the airwaves to the sound of the grass popping and crackling as it caught fire. They were now all standing, looking down at the dark patches of grass already consumed by the fire. As if on cue the wind took this opportunity to remind them of its presence by offering a short gust that further fueled the flames.

“Is there a stream anywhere near here?” yelled David, breaking the silence.

“What are we gonna carry the water back in even if we found a stream?” Paul replied.

“What are we gonna do?” Rod said with a slight tremor in his words.

“You two run back towards the main park area. I’ll stay here to help.” David ordered.

“Help with what. It’s at least an hour back to the main park. This whole place will be dust by the time we get back,” Rod spoke, “Let’s all go for help.”

While their short discussion was taking place the fire had spread another 20 feet and showed no signs of relenting. Within minutes they would be witnessing the flames licking at the base of the trees seeking the fuel provided by the undergrowth just beyond the border they provided.

They quickly grabbed their backpacks after stuffing as much as possible back inside. Their hearts sank in a feeling of hopelessness looking back over their shoulders as they walked toward the opening where they had earlier celebrated a moment of joy and happiness as they reentered the darkness and undergrowth of the woods.

‘The spirit of the forest.’
By: Norval Joe

“Henry, lean in here, closer with that lantern.”
“Yes, Lord John.” Henry said, lowering the lantern toward the ground where the younger man knelt on the ground, arranging an assortment of sticks. The sticks were all of similar lengths, though cut from different thicknesses. “Are you sure that it is vital that they be arranged in such an order?”
Lord John stopped what he was doing and looked up, into the grey eyes of his long time servant. He was feeling frustration welling up in him, and his first response was to unleash it on this faithful older man, but caught himself before saying something that he would regret. “Yes, my friend, it is vital that each stick be placed in its’ proper position, or this entire exercise will be pointless,” he said instead.
“Here are 77 sticks, cut from the straightest willows growing along the most curved parts of the Forest River. 28 of the thicker sticks are arrange as you see here, 2, then 3, then 5 then 7, and at last 11. You see? They are the first five prime numbers, their sum being 28. Then atop that structure, the thinner sticks, 13, then 17, then 19. The next three prime number, the sum of them all being 77. The numbers are vital.”
“Yes my lord,” Henry said, the scepticism clearly apparent in his voice.
“Look around you. We have found the deepest part of the forest, where the pines grow so straight and tall that the moonlight will only light this small glade, directly, for a few minutes at midnight. That time approaches, look up. The legend says that a flame started at midnight, from the willow wood of the Forest River, arranged as we are doing so, here, will summon the spirit of the forest, and it will be bound to do our will until the next full moon. That is all the time we need to be able to exact our revenge and re-establish our prominence throughout this country side, for the rest of our lives.”
Henry looked up to see that the light of the full moon was, in fact, working its’ way down the trees on the western side of the small glade. In minutes the moon would be directly over head.
“We must work quickly,” Lord John said, now feeling the pressure to complete the structure with sufficient time.
He placed the final stick as the moonlight touched the ground at the base of the giant tree just feet away. “Henry,” he gasped, the light is upon us, bring the flame, now!” He was almost in a panic to begin the ritual. Henry stumbled, the lantern swinging wildly on its’ chain, but was able to right himself and offer the flame to his master.
Lord John opened the lantern door and quickly lit a small willow twig from a coal with in. He eased the burning twig under the stacked pyre the moment the light from the full moon rested atop the structure. Though the willow boughs were green and wet the flame caught instantly. With blinding intensity the pyre was engulfed in the fire. The flames leapt higher than they would have thought possible and Henry wondered if escape would even be possible if the flames jumped to the surrounding forest.
Then, as quickly as it had begun, the flames faded and were gone, the wooden structure was intact and uncharred.
Upon the wooden structure sat a small girl, her iridescent gown flowing down the sides of the alter, covering her legs, except for the tips of her bare toes.
She sat, immobile, with her head down, and tilted to the side, her unfocused gaze directed at the forest floor. The expression on her face seemed ,at once, passive and immobile, yet changing at each instant; at once disinterested, then distraught, offended, sad, impatient, and contemptuous.
“It’s just a little girl,” Henry exclaimed. For the smallest fraction of a second she glanced in Henry’s directions. A short sigh and small sob escaped her lips, ruby red against milk white skin.
She was small, true enough, and though her gown was in no way revealing, she was a woman of obvious maturity. “Henry, this in no girl, this is…” Lord Johns words were lost in a sudden roar of winds that burst around the two men, who crouched near the small woman. The air was still in the vortex of the storm, but only yards away trees were shattered and blown down; branches, dirt and other debris were pick up by the whirl wind and spun around the small clearing. Just as the two men began to despair that the winds would change and draw them in to a terrible death, the wind abated and the flying debris settled to the ground. The destruction was immense and spread for almost a quarter mile in all directions.
Henry knelt next to the placid diminutive woman, his mouth hanging open, disbelief in his eyes.
“Henry, Fortune has smiled upon us,” Lord John said, a grin slowly spreading across his face, “This is no little girl! This is a woman scorned. Hell hath no fury…..”.

All in a Day’s Work
Jeff Hite

“There you go, all in a days work.” Linda said as she turned and walked away.
“Wait a minute.” Mark’s voice sounded strained is if he might break any moment. “Your ad said you could remove hexes and curses.”
“Yeah?”
“And I paid you to do that.”
“And I removed the hex.”
“Look I was a little leery when a thirteen year old girl showed up on my doorstep but you said that you had study the craft and knew what you were doing.”
“I did and I do, so what is the problem here? You my brother was right. No one takes me seriously. The boys always go around asking me where my broom is. My used-to-be friends all asked that I not turn them into frog, before they ran away. Even my mother things that all my candles are some sort of a fire hazard.”
“Stop right there. Your mother thinks you are a fire hazard?”
“Yeah that is what she says when I light the candles in my room.”
“And you didn’t think that maybe should have told me that?” He croaked.
“Well maybe. I guess. The flames did go higher than I would have expected them to.”
“You, think?”
“Look mister, if you are not happy I will give you your money back. But, I have held up my part of the bargain. The hex is totally gone. But fine, he is your money back.”
“Linda,” He said pleadingly “My house is in flames and you say the hex is gone.”
“Well my ad does say Y.M.M.V.”
“What the heck does that mean anyway?”
“Your mileage may vary.”

Great Hites Prompt number 40

This weeks Prompt is:

“It is only Tuesday. “

All Stories for this prompt are due by Midnight Tuesday February 10th. Email the text of the story and a recording if you would like me to include it in the podcast to jeffrey dot hite at gmail dot com.

good luck. And don’t forget to come out to the site and vote for your Favorite stories this week.


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