This week’s show is guest hosted by Norval Joe, and we have stories by:
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By: Jeff Hite
Matt heard the scream on every level, but as he stared into the blackness he was not sure if it had been in his head or if it was what had woken him. His heart pounded and he felt a bead of sweat trickle down to the small of his back. He had been exhausted when he lay down and that was dangerous. He did not remember where he was.
Had the scream been from the hallway out side of his room? Or had it been in his head. He tried to remember but his minds clutch would not engage. He tried to move slowly, not making any noise, but he knew that if someone was watching him that they would have the advantage. He could not see, but they undoubtedly could see him. He thought about trying to wait until his eyes adjusted to the lack of light, but he knew that the longer he waited, the less time he would have to do anything.
His hand had finally made it under the edge of his pillow, and he felt the familiar form of his weapon. Then he had a new thought. If he was being watched and the scream had been his head, if he pulled his weapon out, he would blow his cover. What was his cover? Was he undercover, or was he between jobs. He could not remember. What was worse, he could not remember where he was. Nothing in this rooms seemed familiar, but then he had spent so little time in his own apartment that his bedroom was just as unfamiliar as any hotel room. Then again he could be at home, and his cover could have been blown and the scream could have been the night security guard.
A second bead of sweat started to form at the base of his neck. He had to make a decision. Finally he opted to lay back down. If it had been a dream, nothing would happen. If someone was waiting for him to move, the would assume they were safe to make their move, and he would have hear them. If he was being observed from outside the room, they would think he went back to sleep, and his cover, for the time being, would be safe.
The alarm sounded, and he sat up in bed. This time his hand remained on his weapon. The room was bright enough that he he could tell his was alone in the room. It did not however, help him to remember where he was. The gray shadows were all hard angles and gutting shapes, that only told him that he was in a bedroom. If he was alone, he could be pretty well assured that he could get out of bed, and start the day like any other. As soon as he put his feet on the floor, he realized a new problem, was his cover a shower person?
It had been three days and no contact had been made. he did not know if he should have been watching from someone, or just pretending to be someone. He could not blow whatever cover he had to make contact. Even if he did he was not sure who to contact. It was getting worse. He could not remember where he was supposed to be if anywhere. They had not contacted him, he had not contacted them. Were they looking for him? Was he supposed to be looking for them? For that matter who were they? Either the good guys or the bad guys. Were their any of either. He had become increasingly unsure about any of it. What he did know was that he was sure about less and less, even the city he was in did not look familiar to him any more.
It was four in the morning and the dream was back. The scream had come, and in his head, and by knew that is where it had come from. It had come ever night for the last week. He woke with the scream still bouncing around in his head. Every night the scream woke him, he went back to sleep and woke in the morning and no one was there. Suddenly as if had not been able to open his eyes for the last few days it hit him. There was no one there. He had walked around an empty city, he had seen no one in the hotel lobby, no one in any of the shops.
He picked up the phone next to his bed.
“Hello, where are you?”
“This is the front desk.”
“Where are you.”
“Sir, I am at my front desk.”
“Thank you.” He put the phone back down and started to lay back down. Then he he had a better idea. He would walk down to the to the lobby and find the front desk person.
Three days ago he had realized there was no one anywhere. The phones seemed to be on some kind of automated system, that would answer him, but there wasn’t really at the other end. The radios all played with no DJ’s. The T.V. news kept playing but even when he when to the local studio there was no one there. The lack of people was a mystery that he could not answer, in the same way that the nightly dream was. There was always food, the stores never seemed to be out, nor did the food rot of the shelves without people to take care of it. It was as if everything was take care of while he slept.
thirty two days in, there was a change. The city that he had started to call home seemed to be getting smaller. He had take his rental car, the one whose keys he had found in his pocket, and drove to the edge of town on the second day that he could remember. when he got there he was greeted by a desert so expansive he could not see the edge in any direction. Today, he drove to a shop that he had found at the edge of town. They carried the freshest pasties that he had ever tasted. When he got to where it should have been, there was nothing but desert. Matt drove all the way around town and confirmed that the desert was encroaching in all directions. For the first time since the first week he began to panic. He drove back to his hotel room and got his weapon. Then he drove around town until he found what he was looking for.
When he found the large 4×4 in the parking lot of a local restaurant, he left his rental car, and took the big truck. There was a chance that in the morning it would not be outside his hotel room as the other things he had stolen where not, but at least he knew where to find it now.
It now became his morning ritual to walk to the parking lot where the 4×4 was and take it to the edge of town, which was becoming a shorter and shorter trip. It was no the fortieth day that he decided to find out what was out there.
He took three extra gas cans and drove the truck into the desert, but had found nothing. No life, nothing, only more sands and identical more dunes. He woke in the middle of the night as he always did, with the scream in his hotel room sweating and along.
The sands now lapped at the base of the hotel. The only place left to eat was the hotel restaurant, but he had stopped leaving the hotel over a week ago. He had decided that when this day came he would stop eating anyway and just let the desert consume him, as it had everything else.
The night was not punctuated by a scream, instead the slow stead hiss of the sand, first at the out side of the building and then slowly building up in walls of the hotel. Near dawn he could hear it’s scree against the door of his room. They he could hear it building up in his room. He did not open his eyes afraid that he would loose his nerve to stay and bed and let it take him. Finally he could feel it brushing against his face, cold and so fine it felt like a cool breeze across his face. It came at him faster now, so that the friction was beginning to warm his skin.
Finally he could no longer take it. He reached under his pillow and grabbed his weapon. Better to end it quickly then panic and fight it. He let the weapon rest at his side before he tired to move it. When he did he found that his arm was restrained by a human hand. The warmth of it’s touch started him so that he opened his eyes.
Staring back at him was a woman. Her hair was cropped in a military style, but she was definitely a woman. She smiled at him.
“Captain, I am sorry that we had to wake you.”
“Don’t try to speak yet, the meds are still doing their job warming your body. We have had an emergency and will be coming out of hyperspace soon. The ship needs her captain.
By: Guy David
Jerry folded his napkin neatly, then he got up. His wife didn’t even look up. He was a given to her, something that was there, not to be bothered with. Jerry showered, then put on his clothes and his tapper hat. He didn’t tell his wife about the layouts. Her world was a perfect one. He knew if he told her he lost his job, it would just go past her without hitting home, so he just left and walked into the street. He kept on walking for a long time, then he came into a bus station. A bus came. Jerry got on it, not bothering to ask where it was going. The bus drove for hours and arrived an unfamiliar city. Jerry got off and started walking, not knowing where he was or what he was doing there.
A few hours passed. It was getting dark, so Jerry found a hotel and checked in, paying in advanced as he always did. He paid for a week in advanced. Night was settling in. He knew the money would last him three more months. He knew what his monthly expense was. He was calculated, taking the hotel as well as his wife’s very predictable shopping pattern into his calculations. He spent the week having long walks and trying to think what he was going to do next. Nothing came. He usually got up, went to work, did his daily chores. His schedule was the same for the last twenty years. He had the comfort of knowing exactly where he was in his life, where he was going. He had no idea how to handle unemployment. It was a situation no one prepared him for.
As he walked, no particular thought came over to him. His mind was more or less a blank, then it wandered off to his home, his wife and the two separated beds. He wondered how he ended up in this situation. His job was always a constant, something that didn’t change. It has become his whole life. It was all he knew. He turned a corner and bumped into someone. He stopped and stared at an undetermined point in space. After some time he shook himself as if awakening from a dream and went back to the hotel, where he found out that his wallet was missing. This didn’t bother him though. It was the fake wallet that was missing, the one he kept there for the pickpockets and thieves. His real wallet stayed hidden in his secret place and was only pulled out when needed, which was rarely.
The week ended quickly. Jerry reached no conclusion, made no decisions. He took the bus back home. His wife, apparently, didn’t even notice he was gone. He continued with his regular routine, only, instead of going to work he just took long and pointless walks. His calculations where accurate and his money was gone after three months. That’s when his wife left him. The day after she left he got up, brushed his teeth and set down to eat. The dining table was empty. No one prepared his food for him. He just set there and waited, expecting his routine to return to normal. That’s how they found him when they broke into his house a few weeks later, sitting and waiting.
Waiting for Help
By: Ashley Redden
He sat upright, knees pulled up against his chest, arms wrapped tightly around his legs in a trough of two foot deep snow. He found himself listening to a strange repetitive tapping sound. The sound didn’t seem too far off, but maybe not too close either. He listened for what seemed like a long time. Finally, he decided the sound must be coming from his teeth chattering, but it could just as easily have been something else. His whole body was one big convulsion, one endless shiver that went on and on. The pain was beyond reason, but still he fought on.
He tried to decide what to do next. Trying to think was hard. His mind seemed to only be half working and that was just half of the time. Thinking had become like swimming in quicksand, tremendously hard work for little or no results. Despite the impediment, he considered his situation. As he concentrated, his name slowly came back to him. “Carl, yeah, Carl something or other, that’s who I am. I was with friends before I got here,” Carl thought still shaking uncontrollably.
He cut his eyes left then right, jerkily, and saw a deep furrow in the snow just in front of his knees. Beyond that was the beginning of a large opening in the tree line. Just beyond the edge of the trees, he could just make out a spot where the snow had been broken, no not snow, ice. Carl could see something shimmer within the ragged hole. He remembered then, not everything, but some of it.
He had been separated from his friends, he couldn’t remember how anymore. He had been struggling to find them, trying to get back but becoming more and more lost. Carl had walked far and was very, very cold, colder than he had ever been in his life. He remembered that vividly, being so very cold, that’s when he had fallen through the ice. Carl had fought mightily to get out of the ice and drag himself up and away from the brutal shock of the lake. Carl had been thinking that things couldn’t get much worse just before falling through the ice, but that turned out to be just a prelude to the main event. Carl now knew the true meaning of the word cold. His whole body felt as though it was on fire, nerve after enraged nerve screaming together to produce a cacophony of agony. Still Carl shivered, on and on and on.
He wanted to cry out so his friends would know where to look. Surely they were still looking. All he had to do was hang on just a while longer, just keep fighting. He could do that. So Carl sat and shivered and hurt and waited.
He came to realize that the tapping sound had gone away; the quiet now became almost absolute. The shivering also seemed to lessen and then slowly stop altogether. Carl noticed with some relief that the mountain of pain that had been his constant companion since falling through the lake ice had evaporated, gone but not easily forgotten. He actually found himself feeling warm. Maybe he wasn’t in such a bad place after all. His friends would find him, he could wait. Things seemed to be looking up. Carl thought of home and the feeling of warmth increased. Though he still couldn’t remember, he knew deep in his heart what a wonderful place it must be. Inwardly Carl smiled, relaxed and waited to be found, rescued and brought home.
The hole in the ice began to refreeze slowly, fractionally, layer upon layer. A light snow started, faltered then continued falling as the wind picked up just slightly, enough to make the leafless tree branches sway gently, caressing the frigid air. Voices could be heard floating, wraithlike, on the wind. The persistent voices were calling, searching and looking for a lost friend who had wandered from the path. Seeking a companion that had become hopelessly lost somewhere out in the harsh wilderness.
No Body but you
By: Norval Joe
He woke up to find that he was having a bad day. He could tell that it was, because his body was missing, again. Though it was usually difficult to think clearly when he was separate from his body, it didn’t take much mental processing to see that his body was, in fact, gone.
“It must be Wednesday”, he thought, “this kind of thing always seems to happen on Wednesdays.” He was pretty sure that it was mid-week though he couldn’t be sure or the exact day, separated from his body as he was.
He walked across the bedroom floor and ducked his head as he walked under the bed. He didn’t need to worry about hitting his head on the bed frame, since his his head was with his body, but of course, it wouldn’t occur to him in his current state. He ducked his head out of habit; this is the nice thing about habits, they don’t require thought, you just do them. He walked around under the bed, looking in an empty shoe box and behind neglected stuffed animals.
It was a pleasant spring morning in New Orleans; it was warm enough for short sleeves, but not at all like the sticky humid heat that would come with the summer. The young family was strolling casually down Bourbon Street. Traffic was light, being the middle of the week, early in the day, and not during The Mardi Gras. Still the young couple was vigilant in keeping their daughter close to them at all times.
As they crossed a small side street, she broke from her mothers hand and dashed up the alley shouting, “Dolly, Mommy, dolly!” The parents caught up to her as she reached a grimy shop window, and peered into the darkness, her nose pressed hard against the glass. The faded gold leaf name on the window identified the shop only as ‘Jezareel’.
Through the window they could see in the dimly lit shop, the homeliest excuse for a doll either of the parents had ever seen. Its bald ceramic head was expressionless with its black beans for eyes and a small flat horizontal cleft for a mouth. The body appeared to be made of random pieces of thread, yarn, twine and cloth, wrapped tightly around old popsicle sticks and twigs. Its only clothing was a simple cotton serape, held in place by a piece of yarn around its waist.
The father felt a chill run down his spine as he looked at the ugly doll, discomfort growing with each passing moment. The girl kept her face pressed against the window, trying to get the best view. Finally, he said to the girl, “No, honey, you have enough dolls at home, you don’t need any more. Come on, let’s go.”
Her tantrum was so sudden and violent that both parents stood, shocked, mouths open, staring at what they could not believe was their child. Eventually, they broke from their stasis. They knelt to console the girl and try to convince her to come along back to the hotel. They coaxed, bribed and threatened, but nothing would calm her.
When she stopped her screaming, it was as sudden and shocking as when it had started. With a great sob and sigh, it abruptly ceased. Relieved that the ordeal was over, her parents looked around to see who else had witnessed the embarrassing event.
A woman stood in the open doorway of the small shop. She was as old and dark and dusty as the store itself. So wrinkled and small it was impossible to determine her ethnicity. Was she French, Spanish, or African? They couldn’t tell.
“Madam Jezareel sees the dolls little girl,” she slurred mysteriously in a rich southern accent. “Come,” she commanded them, “The doll must be held.”
They followed Madam Jezareel into a shop so small that here was barely room enough for all to sit around a small table without bumping the walls or one another. On the table and on a bookshelf there were bits and pieces; scraps of cloth, snips of thread, beans and soft, grey, clay; to make more dolls, but there were no other dolls near completion.
The old woman placed the doll in the little girls lap, who immediately hugged it around the middle of its lumpy body. Jezareel closed her eyes and began repeating arcane words while moving her hands in circles in the air between herself and the doll. At times she would raise her voice in volume while raising her hands higher into the air. At other times she barely whispered the incomprehensible words. At one point, when she was getting fairly worked up, her hands making great circles, her voice a shrieking wail, she inhaled a bit of saliva, that caused her to pause her incantation. She sat, looking ahead, for a few, long seconds, and made a small cough; then another. At first, it appeared that her coughing was under control, but soon she was hacking and choking, spraying the family with spittle with each wheezing gasp. Eventually, she stood, beating herself on the chest, coughing and gasping for air. Just as the girls parents stood to see if they could help the old woman, the hacking subsided.
She sighed and sat back down, as if this was nothing out of the ordinary. With her chin raised and her eyes closed, she took several deep calming breaths.
She took up her chanting where she had left off, and while it was not as frenzied, she spoke much more rapidly. The now recognizable arcane words and phrases came to a sudden stop. Jezareel sat with her hands flat on the table, eyes closed and breathing steadily and deeply.
She opened her eyes and looked at the doll, still clutched tightly in the little girls arms. The surprise was evident on the old woman’s face. She stood again and reached for the doll. The girl was reluctant, but allowed the doll to be taken from her. The old woman held the doll close to her wrinkled face and squinted into its black bean eyes. She supported it by placing her hands under the dolls arms and shook it lightly. “Dear me,” she said, “dear, dear, dear, dear, me.” Then placing it face down, its stomach on one of her hands, she patted it on the back with her other hand, like she was burping a very small baby. She turned it onto its back, its lifeless stick and twine arms flailing behind it. “My, my, my, my, my”, she said, shaking her head.
“Well,” she said, an unmistakable note of finality in her voice as she handed the doll back to the little girl who quickly took it and clutched it again to her chest. “Well,” she said again, firmly and with a nod. The family understood that they were being dismissed. They left the shop in a daze and wandered back to their hotel as if the unusual evens of the morning had been a dream. All the while, the little girl held the mysterious gift tightly, but lovingly in her arms; evidence that the experience had been real.
He crept out from underneath the bed, careful, again, not to bump his head on the bed frame. He scanned the floor, the corners of the room, the furniture and bookshelves. There was no sign of his body.
He went to the door and looked up and down the hallway. To his horror; if he could have felt horror without his body; perhaps his body, where ever it was, was feeling the very horror, that his brain was having difficulty perceiving at that moment; in the hallway outside the bedroom door, was a piece of himself.
He bent to pick it up, but couldn’t, naturally, not having a body to pick it up with. But it felt good to be near it, and he did know that if felt good. He followed the bits of himself down the hall and around a corner until he found himself in an entirely foreign and wholly unfamiliar place. He knew the bedroom, the kitchen and dining rooms, the tv room, all places his girl had carried him. He had never been in this tiny room. There were two large white machines, boxes of soap powder on shelves, and brooms and mops hanging from hooks on the wall. Next to the white machines was a large plastic pan with sand in it, and an awful odor exuding from with in. He could smell the odors, hear the sounds, and began to understand what was happening.
With a rush, comprehension and realization he woke him to his dilemma. There, before him, between its litter box and its bowl of water, he found himself in the razor sharp claws of the family cat. With its wicked teeth it tore at his body of string, and yarn and pieces of cloth. Suddenly back in his body he could feel the burning pain of the cats teeth and claws as it chewed on his head, neck and chest.