Posted in writing

Shroud

I’ve never been a fan of my appearance.  For Halloween I decided to cover myself in a sheet.  I was a ghost.

Simple– said the first lady I came across, standing at her door of a house decorated in immaculate fashion– Yes, sometimes simple is better.

So spooky– mocked the group of children, bags still limp with only a few meager treats.  With a laugh or two, they ran to the other side of the street.

On a porch sat a man, dressed as a fiend.  He feigned immobility until the moment you reached for his candy.  Sadly for him, jumping out of reflex is not in my nature.

I heard the judging voices of the mothers waiting for their little monsters to return from doorways– Isn’t he a bit tall?  Perhaps I am old.

I began to think that this whole Halloween thing was not for me.  In the cold new November air, I felt the wind pulling at my sheet.  Then with a tug, it was pulled away.

It’s a skeleton!– I heard the scream, as the people finally took notice of me.

 

 

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Posted in writing

Adrift in the Darkness

Don’t mind me… just warming up for NaNoWriMo.

“If anything goes wrong…”  They said,  “You all know just as good as anyone what to do.  That’s why you were brought on, because you’re the best of the best.”

After the assured faces of mission control flickered off the screen, and the countdown reached its final tick, it was do or die, just as tentative as any other launch.  We all knew the risks- if something happens at this stage, there is little to do to fix things.  The purgatory zone between the Earth’s atmosphere and the outer reaches of space provide no guarantee.

When the rumbling finally died down, and the light reflecting off the surface of the Earth finally disappeared into our peripheral vision, we were allowed a chance to take a breath of the cold air of the shuttle cabin.  A quick peak outside the rear window revealed the tiny speck that was our final set of thrusts falling back into the vast expanse of the ocean below.

“In the case we lose contact…”  Mission control chimed in once again, “we wish you all the best of luck.”

After a point, that was the only thing they could readily provide us… no amount of advice would guide our hands in dealing with problems, and warnings from our systems would have long since ruined our voyage by the time results would have reached them.

Day 20, during a quintuple check of our headings, the signal went dead.  That first day in the silence, we were happy to be free of the drone of mission control.  I wasn’t sure who was going to end up more dispirited, mission control sitting in a big room full of computer screens, or us, sitting in a tiny tube filled with them.

After two days of silence, we began our attempts to tune back in to the signal to communicate with Earth.  The blue orb of our planet had long since faded to a tiny azure speck, only visible during one quarter spin of the ship turning on its axis.  It turns out, despite our many attempts, even our best could not fix the problem alone.  It was as if there was no longer a signal to be found, no fault in our system either.

We sat silently for weeks, the faint hum of radio static constantly in the background in hopes that a signal would reach us.  I wouldn’t say that worry was on our mind, but more we wished to keep those on Earth updated.  Reaching the planet would be no more than a rehashing of our times in the simulator, but missing out on the cheering people celebrating our touch down would seem like no more than a hollow victory.

Before we knew it, the red planet came into view.  The radio was still no more than static.  Saving our sanity, we finally turned it off.  In our excess of time, we double checked, triple checked the lander and the supplies.  The planet’s gravity grabbed a hold of us, and we finally decided to take the plunge.  The pilot directed us to the surface with little more than a bump, which is what it must have felt like to everyone- not one giant leap like in the old days.

The supply drop that had been sent down for us preemptively sat just where we expected it, albeit more weathered than we would have though.  Inside, we were hopeful of what we were to get our hands on-  a standing satellite dish, to better pick up and transfer the signal, and hopefully contact Earth once again.

The familiar static returned as we honed in on something that sounded human.  Finally, a voice called out to us.

“Who is this?”

We answered hastily-  The Jonah.  We replied that we had arrived safely, and ready to report on our travels.

“The Jonah…”  The strange voice at mission control uttered breathlessly.  “You all were lost almost a decade ago.  How could you be contacting us, after all this time… after we thought you all were simply just gone… forever.”

The glances between us showed signs of apprehension, knowing very well that we had been on our ship only 8 months, and no longer.  Drawers of pouches of food sat still ready to be eaten, the boxes on the calendar checked off religiously.

“I don’t know what happened but…”  The man said, still in disbelief.  “There are others there now.  A settlement.  Go, and meet them.  If it really is you all… they will find your visit quite peculiar.  I’ll let them know you’re on your way…”

Posted in writing

Those of the Planet

I remember waking up.  I think it was cold, but I wasn’t sure.  My mind was hazy.  I went to the big monitor screen on the wall, black and lifeless.  In the thick glass sat my blurry reflection, thought it was hard to make out.  Somehow, though, I subconsciously knew how to turn the device on.  It came to life– as did the others around me, too.

They all stumbled around similarly, listless.  Same as me, just like a newborn, unaware of the world we had just arrived in.  The monitor flickered.  Their eyes turned my way, gathered around the warm glow.  The flashing ellipses trailing after the text reading ‘Searching for Signal’ wavered for a moment before disappearing entirely.

A man’s face replaced the dark background, bearded, smiling weakly.  “Good, you’re awake.”

“We are but…”  I paused, looking down at my bare body for a moment.  “I don’t remember who I am exactly.”

The others peered around at each other, likely coming to the same conclusion.  The bearded man nodded knowingly, lips pursed.  “Yes, yes.  It’s a side effect of the long sleep you’ve been through.”  He explained slowly.  “It will all come back to you in time.  But… you should know where you are, how to operate things, no?”

“Mars…”  I mouthed, somehow as if my lips had been trained to produce the sound.  Behind me, a bright light flickered on from the ceiling, one of the others having found a switch.  Beyond the walls of the room, I could hear machinery starting to hum to life.

“Very good.”  The man nodded his head, voice slowly being eaten away by static.  “Your orders… directions will be held in the computers and terminals there.  You should know as well, that everything you need is provided for you.  It is a… long distance here to Earth, so communication will not always be possible, but… I think you all will get along fine.”

With a final crackle, the video feed stopped, returning the screen the black.

I remember when I first was able to recall my name.  Adam.  I can’t remember how it returned to me, but I was one of the first to regain my… identity, if you were to call it that.  I also felt at ease giving orders, and the others seemed to take them at stride.

Just like the bearded man on the screen had said, we found ourselves perfectly able to adapt to the surroundings, despite not having much idea of how to proceed, or even where to start. The station, sitting seemingly all alone out there in the middle of the vast reddish brown land, was our home.

Every free corner and hallway was a jumble of crates and boxes, packed away seemingly haphazardly.  Upon further inspection, we discovered that it was just the opposite.  Each container was labeled and coded very deliberately.  Slowly, the crates were unpacked; the contents finding their ways to parts of the station where they seemed appropriate.  A manifest we came across slowly had it’s lines and sections crossed off until every last item was accounted for.  Not each item had a use that seemed pertinent at the time, but we figured that their uses would be discovered with time.

Readings showed our water supplies sitting comfortably at 96%, but the documentation we were able to access reminded us that the reserves would slowly deplete over time, due to evaporation or unforeseeable leaks.  Another set of instructions referred to plans of expansion, calling for another 500 gallons for a project that had yet to become apparent.  The girl with dark blonde hair seemed comfortable taking over the role of assembling a team to start assembling the condensers to start pulling water vapor out of the thin Martian atmosphere.

As we discovered more systems either sitting idle or completely inactive, more and more people split off from the group to take upon the tasks of getting these systems and devices back running.  Once again, we found ourselves unsure of the use of certain things, but we all assumed at one point that everything would fit together as one.

I remember when the fire started.  It could have been a blown fuse or a frayed wire, but I don’t remember caring for the reason at the time.  The fire extinguisher that I had passed so many times seemed to call out to me to be used.  As soon as it was out, everyone who had been alerted to the presence returned to their work.

I started to feel distant from the others.  None of them had rediscovered their name like me.  I sat by the monitor in the main room, hoping that the man with the beard would return one day and give us more instruction.  I started to pour over the remainder of unread documentation in the station’s computers.  While there was extensive lists of supplies and tools, their locations, and their uses, there was not a shred of any sort of crew listing.

I remember the day when the tall man collapsed.  He had just completed the testing of one sort of device inside one of the rooms when he tumbled to the ground where he stood.  We dragged him to another room and propped him up, hoping to reawaken him.  After some time trying, we gave up, and the others returned to work.  Before I could decide what to do with him, another collapsed.  Then another.

The room started to fill with the lifeless bodies of the men and women of the crew.  I started to feel panic, and decided that I could not face the others in my state.  I went to the computer once again to try and diagnose if there was a problem with the station that I had missed.

One sensor had been reactivated- the one to measure the mixture of nitrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere of the station.  It snapped in my brain that it meant something of great importance, but I couldn’t decide why.  The readings I pulled up stated that there was danger in the current readings, but for what reason I could not find.  I decided to exit my seclusion and gather the others in the room, to alert them of the strange danger.

I tried my best to explain to them my fears, but none seemed to want to take heed.  Slowly, I saw some of them pass out just like the others, one by one, until I was the only one left.

I can’t remember how long I sat there, pondering when it might be over for me, when the speakers around the station started playing a voice.  “Adam.”

“Who’s there?”

“You know this voice, Adam.  Please come to the monitor.”

I stood up hesitantly, beginning to walk to the command station.  “Sir, I think the others are… dead.”

“Dead?”  The voice asked.  “Where did you learn that word?”

“I… don’t know.”  I bit at my lip, wondering the same question.  I arrived in front of the monitor past the large sliding doors, peering at the bearded face of the man who had contacted us so long ago.

“It simply means that you’ve completed your duties… They are… resting.”  He explained, eyes strangely seeming to lock with mine through the glossy glass of the screen.

“But for what…?”

“For the others to arrive.”  The man stroked his whiskered chin.  “You’ve properly prepared the station for them.”

“More humans?”  I pondered aloud.

“I want to tell you something Adam.”  The man shook his head sadly.  “You were the only to remember your name, no?”

“Yes.”  I looked back at him, then down at my hands, the skin rough, yet somehow seeming soft and springy under my own touch.

“You were the only one mean to.  The only one given one, in fact.”  His eyes drifted away for a short moment.

“Given?”  I reached up to feel the smooth, faintly warm surface of the screen.  “Then who gave us… or withheld from us, rather, names?”

“It does not matter, Adam.”  The man sighed.  “The point is that that sole fact- the idea of remembering your own name- distracted you for long enough to not worry about the rest of your memories.”

“Why won’t they come back, sir?”  I pleaded.

“There are none, Adam.”  The man seemed to hesitate.  “You’ve never made any memories of Earth because you were never here, at least, while awake.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Humans are social creatures, Adam.  We are social, we learn from each other.  You found nothing strange in the actions or habits of the others because you acted in the same way- the way you were programmed.  You believed that the others around you were human because you thought yourself to be a human as well, despite never actually meeting one.”

“Then I’m not…?”  I looked down at my hands again, suddenly unaware of whether or not I could feel the temperature of the room around me, or the feeling of the clothes upon my skin.

“Call yourself what you want but… human is not quite the term.  You may not know what humanity is actually like, but… I believe you soon will.  After all, you and the others have prepared everything well for their arrival.”

Posted in writing

BroBot

A loud, rapid knock at the door jarred Ryan out of his usual Friday after-school cartoon binge, the regular occasion lasting from the time he got home from school to the first click of keys in the door of his mother getting home.

Mom can’t be home yet, did they have a short day or something?

Running to the door, bare feet pattering against the hard-wood floor, Ryan rushed up to grasp the knob, swinging it open lightly just in time to see the big brown delivery truck pull away from his house.  Sitting by his feet upon the worn-down ‘welcome’ mat sat a thick-looking cardboard box, almost like a crate or coffin, taking up a large section of the porch.

The delivery man had slid it awkwardly, wide side towards the door, impossible to bring inside without turning it.  Who ordered this?  Mom?  Dad?  Ryan peered down at the box, looking at the crisp shipping label.  The ornate, modern label of whichever company sat up in the corner, noting his own address below, but only using the words “Current Resident” as the recipient.

Moving to the top of the long box, Ryan attempted to lift the end up, only to immediately be stopped the the thing’s massive weight.  Pushing his bare feet into the cold concrete, Ryan shunted the box against the ground, slamming into the jamb of the propped open door.  Something inside the box shifted uneasily.  With the short end of the crate now aligned to the door, Ryan found himself able to shove it forwards and into the entry way.  The cardboard grated against the hard floor, skating across the dust and dirt from countless shoes passing over.

The box was glued shut around the edges, and bound tightly with hard plastic straps.  Ryan’s feet eagerly took him to the kitchen and back, stopping to grab a steak knife from the jumble of silverware in the drawer.  The straps snapped off simply enough with a twist of the serrated blade, sending the ends to clack down on the floor.  Starting at the bottom corner, Ryan stabbed the blade through the layers of cardboard, straight down.  After much furious sawing and bits of cardboard starting to fray all over the floor and into the air, the side of the box toppled over.  Ripping what little remained from the top and the bottom of the box, Ryan folded the top of the cardboard over.  Inside sat a human-like figure, wrapped in a dainty layer of foam.  Behind the pale material, a pair of eyes looked back at him, though not entirely human-like.

With a quick swipe, his fingers dug into the material and pulled it aside, snapping and pulling the long strips of tape holding the material together.  The eyes of the thing suddenly shifted awake, turning slowly to Ryan.  Surprised, the your man toppled back, shoving the knife to the side.  With a snapping of more tape, the thing sat up; something the shape of the small human, fitted with strange mechanical joints and metallic skin.

“Greetings, young human.”  I spoke in a near emotionless voice.  “Are you my new owner?”

“Bro…”  Ryan muttered.  “Are you like… a robot?”

“Bro…”  The thing repeated.  “Is that what you wish for me to be called?”

“I don’t know if my mom will let me keep you…”  Ryan pondered, looking back to the door.

“I am fully prepared to be self-sustaining, if not more.”  The thing stood up quickly, turning around to asses the cardboard cocoon from which it had just exited.  Ryan sat in awe while the machine-like human quickly gathered up the mess, depositing the entirety of the box and its contents into a small ball.

“Bro…robot… BroBot.”

“And your name is?”  The bot quickly made eye contact with Ryan.


Ten Years Later

“This is way out there.”  Ryan exclaimed, leaned towards the TV intently as images of scantily-clad woman danced upon the backdrop of revving muscle cars.

“Ryan, my parental guidelines suggest this is not appropriate yet for your age.” BroBot warned.

“You’d get it if you had junk, BroBot.” Ryan continued staring at the screen.

“Junk?”  BroBot queried.  “Ah yes, a penis and testicles, like you had said, Ryan.”

“How long until mom comes home?”  Ryan glanced nervously at the window by the door, looking out at the empty street outside the house.

“According to trends, she could be home anywhere from 15 minutes from now to 2 and one half hours.”  The robot turned back to the TV, eyes studying the imagery.  Suggestive music of female vocalizations played through the speakers.

“Think I could ever get a girl that looked like that, BB?”  Ryan studied one of the dancers, now starting to fade from the screen.

“In Statistical, Physiological, or Sociological terms, Ryan?”

“Never mind.  That’d never happen.”  Ryan scooped up the remote and begun flipping through the channels.  “All I do is hang out with a robot.  If only you were a chick robot.”

“I technically have no sex, Ryan.  I am neither a chick nor a… dude.”  Brobot explained.  “I simply use a masculine voice to emulate yours, being the first one I came into contact with.”

“But… you could talk like a girl if you wanted to, right?”

“That’s correct, Ryan, sweetie.”  BroBot modulated, using the same voice as Ryan’s mother.”

“Maybe less like mom.”  The teen rolled his eyes.  “Try like Chrissi Jennings from the one TV show.”

“Like this?”  Brobot vocalized in the sweet, valley girl tone.

“That’s… kind of hot.”  Ryan leaned back, switching off the TV.  “Can… we head to my room for a bit?”

__

Using an intricate set of sheets, pillows, a clean sock, and a generous amount of tape, Ryan had constructed a device atop the robot, who laid, covered up, atop Ryan’s bed.

“This is kind of kinky.”

“What do you wish me to do, Ryan?”  Brobot asked, still in the young lady’s voice.

“Just, like… moan.”  Ryan pondered.  “Just like the song in that commercial.”

“Oh?”  The robot attempted, unsure.

“Thats’… good enough.”  Ryan unzipped his fly, picking up the comforter from the floor before jumping atop the bed.  “Maybe move a bit.”  Ryan suggested, before carefully aligning himself.  His body shook, but a wave of ecstasy washed over him, pushing out the feeling of shame.  The robot made awkward moans, hips jolting… robotically.  The scotch tape rustled and groaned as Ryan shook his wavering hips, zipper occasionally brushing against him harshly.

“I believe the tape is coming undone, Ryan.”  The femininely-voiced robot warned.

“Just… a little bit… more.”  The teen breathed heavily, the comforter threatening to fall on the ground.  Behind him, the door creaked suddenly.

“Ryan?”  His mother’s voice called out.  “What are you two doing?”   She asked judgmentally.  With a clunk, Ryan quickly panicked and fell from atop the small single bed, slapping the back of his head upon the ground, and quickly covering himself up with the bed cover.

“Hello, Sally.”  BroBot voiced, still in the modulated voice.  Playing a sound to simulating the clearing of his voice, the robot repeated the statement, in his regular voice.  “I mean, Hello, Sally.”

Posted in writing

At times like this.

At times like this, people who are disconnected have the luxury of picking how they want to feel.  One death is a tragedy, a million death is a statistic.  Joseph Stalin.  Except that statistic is happening in your back yard, like seeing individual tiny green seedlings begin to poke out of the ground at the first sight of spring.

Who benefits from statistics alone?  Nobody, probably.  But if you can do something that will push a statistic one percentage one way or the other, you can tell yourself that you make something of yourself.  But, like a tree falling in a forest, the simple act of it coming down to earth doesn’t mean that people will start caring about deforestation.  It’s only when people start counting that statistics matter.

When they see their own statistic, the numbers injured, sent to the hospital, the number of phone calls coming in to check up, the endless stream of sirens… that’s when they know they they won.  This is when people begin to process it all; whether to be sad, or to be mad.  But when the news pops up, telling of the man, his face, what he did, and how… people are provoked into madness– blinded– and that person has won.

That’s terrorism.  A terrorist is someone who wants to inflict terror, to make people fear going out because something similar could happen to them– without warning.  Should people be mad?  Yes.  Should people be sad?  Yes.  But should people allow this person, their acts to rule their consciousness?  No, because that’s the only way we can win against them.

Posted in writing

To Print

Check that one off the list- Above a Whisper has gone to print.  After much fiddling with page numbers and pixels on my cover, I uploaded it all to amazon so that I can buy it for myself, and probably no one else.  It’s even almost 100 pages more than the first book.

marsback.png

Speaking of which, in celebration, for the next five days, Mother of Mars, the first book of the series will be free for E-Book copies.

What’s that?  I third book in the works?  Who knows…?

Posted in real life

Adult Children

I’m finally starting to retrain myself for this current job after working so many years in retail.  When a customer would show up, they would get to be my boss for those few minutes at a time, usually regardless if they were nice or not.  Now, I’m the boss- for all of them- for tens of minutes at a time.  I can tell them no, and while they can get upset just the same, they suffer repercussions if they don’t listen, not me.  No, you can’t go on YouTube.  Because, you’ll most likely find something inappropriate rather than the alternative.

Posted in writing

Where it Lives

‘I hate airports,’ the thought kept running through my head.  I kept trying to push it out of my mind, knowing it would make the whole process even worse.  The line through security was long, same as any previous time I had gone thorough it.  One of the TSA agents, looking more like a bouncer at a bar, kept looking my way.  In turn, I could feel my mind trying to make my body move like natural, though it seems that somewhere between offering up my passport and taking off my shoes I had forgotten how.

Going through the metal detector, I attempted to hide my bandaged hand the best I could from the discriminating eyes of the agents.  I breathed a sigh of relief as I made it through the point without triggering any alarms, but my solace ended there.  The big bouncer looking fellow trotted my way, asking for my identification, looking me up and down before I could even have a chance to pull my passport back out of my coat pocket.

“Travelling internationally today, I see.”  He grumbled, looking at my boarding pass stuck in the pages of my booklet.

“Yes, sir.”

“That looks like a pretty nasty wound on your hand, being bandaged up like that.”  He looked down at the hand I had been holding part way behind my back.

“I got bit.”

“Bit by what?”  The big man continued to hold onto my Passport.

“A big, rare, type of lizard.”

“Godzilla?”

“A Karaqual.”  I rolled my eyes just quick enough so that he wouldn’t notice.  “I’m heading down to the Amazon to try and find another.”

“So you’re a poacher?  Or trader?”

“A zookeeper.”  I held out my good hand to hopefully trick him into giving my passport back.

“You know you have to clear animals before they come back past the border… especially on an exotic thing like your… quarrel.”

“Karaqual.”  I shoved my hand out more forcibly this time.  “If we get one… it’ll get shipped back on a boat back to our zoo.  Me on the other hand… well, perhaps we’ll meet again.”

“Be careful of any jungle fever down there.”  The big guy seemed to joke, still stone-faced, before shoving the passport back at me.  Before I could respond, he turned back to the checkpoint, most likely to harass another person.  I quickly checked the watch that I had shoved into my pocket, before collecting my stuff and waddling off to the gate in my socks.

The flight was calm and unexpectedly quiet, but my stomach felt like it hurt the entire time.  I managed to sleep through a good part of the 12 hour flight, and by the time we landed, my stomach had settled.

At the baggage claim, I ran into a man holding a signboard with my name sloppily scribbled on it.  The man introduced himself at Cézar, working with our sister zoo there in Rio, who would be working with me to head into the Jungle.  The second we stepped out of the terminal, it was muggy, the air heavy.  The same uneasy sickness I had felt on the plane returned, and I immediately regretted having my deodorant and a change of lighter clothing packed deep in my suitcase under all my research notes and equipment.

Cèzar and I rode in his little beat-up jeep down the tiny, packed roads just outside of the airport which I discovered was much smaller than it seemed from up in the air.  The rough streets jostled my stomach, but I was much relieved to see what looked like a motel.  Sadly, I learned that it was more like a dorm for the zookeepers there, and that we would not be staying there for more than an hour or two.  My body had yet to even remember what time it should have been at, but the day was still young here, and I knew there would be no rest for a while.

I popped a malaria pill, following it up with a nice caffeine pill just to make sure I would be able to make it at least until we made it out to the site in the jungle.  After taking a quick shower, changing, and applying a gratuitous layer of deodorant, we set out.  I managed to knock myself out sitting in the back seat, trying to go over the packet of information my boss had given me.  All the information about the thing’s preferred food sources and sleep cycle wouldn’t mean much if the thing hadn’t even been seen for quite some time in this area.

The indigenous people say they see them, but they’ve also been recorded killing Karaquals on site as well.  Even though the thing isn’t dangerous really to humans on their own, they are definitely big enough to kill livestock like the goats some of the peoples keep out here.  Unfortunate, but for the people living out here in the bush, they do what they must.

Cèzar finally awoke me when we arrived at the camp.  Some of the other guys had been there for a day or two, having set up tents and a campfire, roasting some tubers and an assortment of strange looking meats on a spit.  I saw a few cloudy plastic containers holding several strange looking species of spider, happily spinning webs among the twigs they had thrown in.  I kept my distance, content myself with reptiles rather than arachnids.

The heat of the day crept up on us quickly, and some of the men went and hid in their tents for a siesta.  Cèzar stuck around with me for a bit, explaining how they had staked out the area around the camp with several cage traps to possibly catch any smallish animal if they might happen to pass by.  So far, though, they had only succeeded in pissing off a raccoon mom and her cubs.  When the men got up, I managed to wander around with them for a bit to check said traps, but empty they remained.

I had Cèzar ask them if they had seen any signs of big reptiles; shredded skin, black and white scat, or burrows.  Nothing, it seems.  Exhausted from my day of travel, I quickly collapsed again after a quick dinner.  The following day produced similar findings of nothing.  My stomach continued to bother me, and I kept chugging water to counteract all the sweat I was producing.  A headache slowly grew, and when midday came by, I decided to simply call it a day with the others for their siesta.

I awoke with a shooting pain in my stomach, rumbling downwards towards my posterior.  The only light outside was the fire burning down in the embers.  I quickly grabbed my torch and a roll of bog paper and ran out into the darkness to find an appropriate tree.  I finished with the foul-smelling business and felt much better.  As I was finishing cleaning myself off, I heard a crinkling among the foliage.  Quickly shining my light upwards, I saw the scales glisten.  Eyes fixated on it, I quickly shoved the torch under my arm and pulled up my trousers.  The thing’s tongue flickered in the air, smelling my refuse, strangely enough.  It was, without a doubt, what I had come to find.  The air was cold this time of night, and I could see it moving slowly, tentatively.  I took my change to quickly jump upon it, torch still grasped awkwardly in my armpit.

Holding it behind it’s stubby flailing front legs, tail flapping back at me furiously, I ran back to the camp, trousers wanting to fall down the whole way.  I must have caused enough confusion, as a few of the men came out of their tents, sleepily eyed.  The creature still furious, we shoved it into one of the larger crates, narrowly avoiding another bite.

Posted in writing

The Last of It’s Kind

I ran down the hallway, clutching at the thick fabric of my uniform’s sleeve, hoping to catch all the blood that had begun trickling down my palm and fingers.  As I turned to push through the swinging door to the bathroom, I quickly looked behind me to make sure that none of the drops of crimson liquid had followed me in a trail down the hallway.

Hovering over the sink inside, I quickly pulled back my sleeve, now soaked.  With my opposite hand, I turned the sink on full blast to hot water.  Steam slowly began to rise and catch on the mirror in front of me.  With a quick breath, I shoved my torn-up hand under the stream of water, wincing as the liquid ran over it with searing heat.

The stall behind me opened up suddenly.  From my quick glance in the mirror, I could see my coworker, Marshall from the African exhibit pop out.  “Jackson?  You okay?”

“Just got a little scrape.”  I muttered through gritted teeth, the faintly red-stained water washing down the drain.

“Is… that a bite?”  I could see him from my peripheral vision, looking over my shoulder.

“It’s not that bad.”  I pulled my hand out of the stream, shaking it back and forth.  More blood began to pool up in the shallow, dark bite marks.  “He didn’t draw blood.”

“Care to reassess that statement?”  Marshall shifted around to my side, pulling out a fistful of paper towels from the holder to begin wiping up the stray drops of blood and splashed water from around the sink.  “Why did you come here, rather than the first aid station?”

“It was the Karaqual. He got a good chomp, probably wanting to play with me.”  I shoved the water off carefully with my wrist.  “Didn’t start bleeding right away.”

“Damn that thing.”  Marshall attempted to start patting my hands dry.

“Wash your own damn hands, first.”  I grumbled, snatching the wad of paper from him.  “Do you know what they would want to do if they thought it got a taste of blood?”

“It’s endangered.  They wouldn’t put it down but… they wouldn’t let anyone near it anymore.  Especially not you.”  He mumbled.

“The thing is just acting out because it doesn’t see enough activity.”  I sighed, wrapping up my hand in several layers of the paper towels.  “It won’t act nice with any other of the reptiles from the nearby exhibits.  What it needs is a mate.”

“Yeah right.”  Marshall shook his head, leaning back against the counter.  “And you’re just gonna head down there and find one out there, if there even are any?”

“We have that grant being divvied up right now.  I think I can convince them.”  I looked down once again at my hand, paper towels slowly taking on a reddish tinge.  “That big old lizard probably it reaching the end of it’s breeding cycle right now, don’t you think?”

“We don’t know that.”  Marshall shook his head.

“Then they’ll be less likely to risk it.”

__

The airport was bustling.  Nervously playing with the tied-off strips of gauze and bandages on my hand, I looked up at the gate listing, heading south to Brazil.

-To Be Continued.