The fifth story from Sean McBride’s published short story collection, A View of the Edge of the World. This episode is produced by Ed Robinson and read by Frederick Snyder.
First of all, sorry for the late post.
This story was my effort to enter into the Science Fiction Genre and it digs down into my inner geekdom. I love the idea of space and I love everything that goes along with it and this was an effort to explore that medium. Now, whereas most of the material in the story is real and factually accurate, some of it is just plain wrong (there is no technology available to reach another star system in our lifetime, let alone developing and executing one in less than twenty years) , However the “Twilight Zone” aspect of the story is prevalent and forefront which is what I was going for and what I love. I hope you all enjoy this one as much as I enjoyed writing it!
“When you look up into the sky, what do you see?” Hercule Lambert asked the panel as he gestured to the screen displaying the famous Eagle nebula. “I see opportunity. I see beauty. I see mystery. Ladies and Gentlemen, many of you may have heard of the comet fragments which hit earth recently. They show a consistency which we have never seen from space, forming three layers of remarkable material.” Hercule pressed the button on the clicker clutched in his hand and the image on the screen changed to a crushed ball of metal.
“This, my fellow sentient beings, is the first incontrovertible fact that we are not alone in this universe…or at least…in this multi-verse. What you see on the screen is ball of aluminum alloy. For those of you who don’t know, aluminum allow is not a natural substance. It has to be created in a lab by an intelligent creature who understands basic chemistry.”
Hercule paused for a moment trying to rein in his excitement as the crowd began to murmur. He slowly let a smile cross his face knowing he’d captured his audience and continued on.
“Shocking isn’t it? Now I know many of you may be thinking I’m pulling your leg, or that the alloy must have been jettisoned from some satellite we already had floating out in space. Well I can tell you for a certainty, it does not belong to theUnited States and I can also assure you it doesn’t hail from any other country on Earth, but we’ll get to that in a moment,” He clicked the button once again and the image changed to a twisted cage of metal with bubbles emerging sporadically throughout. “What you are now seeing is our mystery comet with the top layer of aluminum alloy peeled back to reveal a most unusual skeleton. It looks like this skeleton was crushed as well as the aluminum which served as this comets skin. This skeleton is made of a new material scientists are just now trying to get instituted into space shuttle production. It’s an amorphous steel which is ostensibly a bulk metallic glass. Think of it as a space age pyrite. It has amazing magnetic, radiation and thermal durability. This material is just in its infancy; the theorem originally published in 2004, but never fully developed.
“While you ruminate on the possibilities of what that means, turn your attention to the pustules on this remarkable material.” Hercule clicked again and a close up of the bubbled metal appeared on the screen.
“These pustles are filled with a familiar byproduct of the Earth’s unique atmosphere. Hydrogen Dioxide. Or in lay-mans terms…water. At this point we don’t know how water has formed in these pustules, there is speculation that it’s merely condensation from its vast journey, and there is also a hypothesis that it was created that way to further its thermal qualities. In either case the research for that particular answer is still ongoing.”
The room explodes into questions and conversations which echo through the room as reporters press for information. Hercule mentally pats himself on the back knowing he inspired this conundrum, but before he can truly enjoy it a man from the back shouts out.
“You said you had proof this didn’t come from another country! How can you prove that?” Panic weaved delicately in his voice.
Hercule smiles and raises his hands indicating the audience to quiet down. “If another Cold War is what you’re worried about, there is nothing to fear. I could never be more certain; this meteor did not come from another country.” He looks about the room, letting the forcefulness and power of his statement sink in. “You see, once we uncovered this pustule laden glass steel we decided to take an extra precaution. We asked ourselves, where could this have come from? Deciding that the possibilities were too endless, we set the sphere into a vacuum chamber for extra precaution. It was during this process which we found the most interesting component of the comet.” Hercule pauses for dramatic effect with his hands crossed in front of his belt, smiling at the collective who are eager waiting his response.
When he is satisfied with the drama created he turns toward the screen, lifts the arm with the clicker and theatrically switches to the next image. Inwardly Hercule knew it would be anticlimactic, but he couldn’t hold in his glee. He was about to uncover the means to understanding the universe, the means to unravel the fabric of space-time.
“What is it?” A confused journalist responds.
“This little ball you see is a container. The contents are a most remarkable revelation.” He takes two steps forward, covering the light from the projector and fully faces his captive audience. “We calculated the trajectory of the comet and found it came from just outside of M 51, otherwise known as The Whirlpool Galaxy. Using these calculations we focused the Chandra X-Ray Observatory to the area and found yet another astonishing revelation. Chandra was able to take pictures of a phenomenon only hypothesized…a Naked Singularity. These enigmas are basically a black hole with no event horizon, just an exposed singularity.
“A black hole is created when a massive star uses all its radioactive gasses and collapses on itself. This creates an incredible gravitational field, called an event horizon, surrounding a pinpoint of matter with infinite density, called a singularity. A Naked Singularity is that pinpoint of incredible density, but without the event horizon.
“What makes these monsters of the universe so terrifying is if you approach a black hole the intense gravitational pull will slowly pull your molecules apart like taffy, stretching them beyond their molecular bond capacities. Then once you reach the Singularity the density of matter would crush your molecules in through a passage way no larger than a pinhole. One prevailing theory is a Black Hole is a portal, thus the Singularity is the doorway. If that description is to esoteric, imagine every molecule in your body being pulled apart then reapplied at the speed of light, and oh by the way, they wont necessarily be put back in the same molecular structure it started in. Have you ever seen “The Fly?”
Hercule smiles at his own cleverness as the journalists gasp and wretch.
“But you still haven’t explained why it can’t be from another country!” A pugnacious journalist offers.
“We are truly living in amazing times my friends.” Hercule presses the clicker again and the picture changes to a large laboratory. “This is CERN, the foremost particle physics center in the world, where less than one month ago they got their Large Hadron Accelerator started. The result was far greater than anyone could have predicted and completely disavows the Big Bang Theory. They created what is known as Dark Matter. Dark Matter is previously thought of as matter which releases no radiation and can only be detected by its gravitational pull, but I want you to think of Dark Matter as the parameters of our universe, or to simplify things, Dark matter is a water balloon and the Universe as the water contained within the balloon. Dark Matter expands to accommodate any form of galactic expansion and creates an environment where particles can create actual matter. Dark Matter is a galactic Petri dish. CERN, with the help of their Large Hadron Collider has created a new universe.”
Hercule stepped back to let the information sink in. “Imagine cell division on Methamphetamines. That’s what Dark Matter is capable of. It has endless growth and is a perfect bubble. The universe, in all its diversity of life, is created inside this bubble and when it needs to get bigger the Dark Matter accommodates it and expands to an appropriate size. The universe doesn’t expand at any static rate, that’s why we had so many problems understanding its expansion; it expands at whatever pace it needs to go.”
“What’s the point Lambert?” cried one anxious journalist.
“The point is that inside of that circular container, beneath the contorted amorphous steel, and inside this little golden ball which is a miniature version of CERN’s collider, was globule of Dark Matter. There is no other place on Earth, except for CERN, that has access to this incredible substance. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a calling card from our intergalactic neighbors!”
One Week Later…
Colonel Harp Connors, CERN director Farrokh Dahr and NASA director Clark Traffers looked at each other in rapt excitement at the physicist’s remarks. The four men walked the gangplank overseeingAmesResearchCenter’s new project headed by Hercule. It was the most ambitious and thus dangerous project anyone had ever undertaken and Hercule, with his small stature and squeaky voice, was nothing but confidence.
“Gentlemen. As you well know, the leading theory of the meteorite which struck earth approximately three weeks ago is that it is a message to us from an Alien intelligence.” Hercule failed to mention the fact that it was his theory; He didn’t want his arrogance get in the way from further grants or the possibility of using Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center to bring his idea’s to fruition.
Hercule left his statement hang in the air, letting the information sink in and stew in the three men. He needed to impress them with the progress of his project and with his ability to produce. He especially needed Dhar’s approval, to utilize the Large Hadron Collider and CERN’s superior research facilities. Without CERN his project couldn’t lift off the ground, but then NASA’s support and further grants from the government couldn’t hurt.
“We all know the theory Lambert. What did ya bring us here for? The Government doesn’t have endless pockets you know.” Colonel Conner’s southern twang tended to make people look past his intelligent eyes. Hercule made a mental note not to disgruntle the man in the future.
“Yes, um, well, anyway,” Hercule stammered and looked to Farrokh who nodded his head in approval, giving Hercule the steam he needed.
“Well, as you gentlemen know, our planet is unique in our perceivable Universe. The chances of life growing on a planet relies on a number of variables, a theorem we call the Goldilocks principle. The composition of elements, distance from a star, rotation of the planet, lifespan of the star and plain luck are all components that make up life and must be formed ‘Just Right’ to make life occur.” He flexed both index and middle fingers emphasizing the quotes. “Now, with that being said, do any of you gentlemen have any idea how we could have received a message from a hypothetical life source?”
“No,” Colonel Conners said with stony composure, “but you do, so why don’t ya stop bein’ coy and get to the damn point.” Hercule sneered in disappointment deciding to forego the games.
“Yes. I’m sorry for wasting your time Colonel. Despite what many people believe, we don’t live in a Universe, but a Multi-Verse. Imagine a deck of playing cards stacked on one another. Each card is another Universe and each is contained within each other, they never commingle; unless there is an event which makes them.” He looks at the men and ignores Conner’s consternation. He wants to make sure they understand, but is afraid to ask.
“A Star collapses on itself creating such duress that it rips the fabric of space-time connecting the two Universes with a portal, otherwise known as a Black Hole. Think of this phenomena as a needle pushing through two of our playing cards, connecting them.”
“Are you saying that this meteorite was not only sent by an Alien Intelligence, but from another Universe?” Traffer’s choked on the thought and Hercule could tell he was onboard. The American’s could now be the first into the next Universe. Imagine the funds a president would deliver under such a guarantee.
“Yes.” Hercule said raising his chin a bit. “The exit point of this galactic tunnel would be through what is now called a Naked Singularity. This is created much the same way as a Black Hole, except without the gravitational force of the Event Horizon. Just a Singularity exposed. Using the card analogy, where the pin pushes through the cards is creates an indenture, but on the other side it creates a volcano. The gravity of the Black Hole forces mass through the indenture and then though the singularity into the other universe. My theory is, in the space between Universes you exit your Universe through a Black Hole and enter another through the Naked Singularity. The key is just finding a way to keep matter protected and in one piece as it passes through.”
“You mean string theory.” Farrokh managed looking concerned. “This could be the experiment to prove string theory?”
“Precisely. We have tested the sphere and found that it creates a large magnetic field, forming a gravitational field of such magnitude as to bypass the intense pressure of the Singularity. The sphere survives, but the transport doesn’t. But what’s more important, gentlemen, is that this meteorite came from a Naked Singularity near the galaxy M 51. It came from another Universe, traveling through a Black Hole on their end and exiting the Naked Singularity in our Universe.”
The determination in Hercule’s face and the weight of his words left even Colonel Conner’s speechless.
“CERN just created a globule of Dark Matter, the DNA of the universe, in their Large Hadron Collider. Obviously this alien life is as intelligent as us, because they were able to build a particle accelerator as well; as evidenced by the Dark Matter they sent us.
“My point gentlemen, is that they showed us their advancement. Let’s show them ours.”
“Twenty months ago I had a conversation with three men that forever changed my life and the ideas of physics. I have since become somewhat of a celebrity in the scientific community as the man who proved string theory. I now stand on the cusp of a much greater journey. The culmination of my forty-four years.” Hercule squinted slightly trying to cut glare of the camera lights. It had been five years since his discovery of the meteorite which contained the Dark Matter. In that span of time one voyage, the “Expedition I” had taken place.
Expedition I was a reconnaissance mission to take information from the Black Hole which Hercule believed to be the entrance to the alternate Universe. They took measurements of the gravity pull, size of the Black Hole and time it would take to get there. They also included a globule of Dark Matter from CERN’s laboratories and sent it in a sphere, similarly designed to CERN’s particle accelerator walls. It entered the Black Hole and it was lost on all tracking systems. The voyage was considered a success.
“As some of you may know, just as Expedition I entered the Black Hole another meteorite came crashing down towards earth. This again came from the Naked Singularity by galaxy M 51. This again was another calling card from our neighbors from the next universe. The Sphere was much larger, but with cracks interspersed through it. The contained material seems to be lost to the vastness of space. This as tragic as it may seem, gives our human race much hope. A civilization as advanced as theirs can still make mistakes.” Flashes of cameras briefly blinded Hercule and he raised his hand blocking the bright flashes. He smiles, reveling in satisfaction, before beginning again.
“The sphere held some interesting compounds. The most provocative was carbon, the building block of our existence. Our intergalactic neighbors are trying to speak to us in the inter-universal language of science. Our interpretation of their message is that they, as life forms, are composed of carbon just as we are. We may be dealing with an alternate universe full of humans. They may actually be having this same press conference as we are. The possibilities are endless. Could you imagine another world filled with human beings on a third planet from some foreign sun, built of carbon and able to send advanced space expeditions to another universe.” The gentle murmuring in the crowd grew to a cacophony of animated conversation as the people in the audience argued amongst themselves if what Hercule said could possibly be true.
“My mother named me Hercule because of her love for Agatha Christie’s famous detective Hercule Poirot. I’d like to think I have inherited some of his deduction and reason and I hope to put all my knowledge forward as I become our first Inter-Universal Ambassador! I will be a primary scientist on Expedition II which will send a man through an extra-dimensional space to another universe.” When he finished his speech Hercule took a step back from the podium, smiled and waved at the cameras and the crowd. His boyish grin and flamboyant wave belied his forty-four years. He walked off stage and was greeted by security guards who ushered him out of the building as various people tried to get his autograph and ask him questions. The paparazzi snapped photos of him as he entered the black limousine. Finally the respect I deserve. He thought as he rode toLBJSpaceCenter.
“This is Puma two from Expedition II, all systems go. Ready to pass the point of no return,” Hercule sat strapped in the Universal Excursion Module and thought of the heroic journey he had in front of him. He could see the Black Hole swirling in darkness ahead of him and he felt a twinge of fear. He was sure of his calculations and his ability to solve physics mysteries, but he felt doubt scratching at the back of his mind like a cat trying to be let in.
“Puma two this is capcom, we roger. You are go.” Jack Denning answered from Huston. He had never lost a man on a mission and he didn’t want to start now. He looked about the room in appraisal of his hardworking staff, making sure Hercule’s trip was a success. He was interrupted from his ruminations by one of the team’s scientists.
“Jack they found some abnormalities in the most recent sphere!” Paul Stevens, one of the scientists studying the sphere, ran in the room out of breath and terrified.
“Thank you capcom. Main thrusters on.” Hercule transmitted.
“What’re you doing here Paul? We’re in the middle of a mission!” Jack slid his headphones down to his neck barely hearing Hercule’s transmission. His stomach dropped when he looked into Paul’s face.
“It wasn’t just carbon in the sphere. It was broken strands of DNA and RNA. Little broken strands of it. At first we were excited. We thought maybe the aliens sent us forms of their building blocks so we could understand them, but then we started to cross reference it to figure out what it was and what we could get from it. It was human DNA.” Paul stared up at the screen as videos of Expedition II speeding up towards the Black Hole.
“So Hercule was right after all. They’re are humans in an alternate universe trying to contact us.” He proudly looked back up to the screen and crossed his arms.
“No sir…” Paul was interrupted from Hercule’s transmission.
“I look out into the void of space and I see a bevy of stars, a universe of possibilities. We stand on the brink of a new life. A life where we are not alone in the cosmos. We can have new neighbors and extend our knowledge of this space we live in. I proudly go where no man has gone before, but with any luck many will follow. May God be with you all.” Hercule finished his aired speech and turned to speak to Jack one more time. “Jack I’m opening the Sphere now. I’ll set the timer to sixty seconds and let you know when I’m entering. Over.”
“No! Hercule wait!” Paul yelled at the screens.
“He can’t hear you Paul, you’d need to be on mic. What is it?” Jack stared at Paul in annoyance. This hardly seemed time to interrupt, especially since Hercule had passed the point of no return.
“It wasn’t just human DNA. When it was put into our formatting computers we found a genetic match for the sample. It was Hercule’s DNA.” Paul gulped and looked to the screen as the image started to flicker.
“Timer set, entering sphere.”
“I don’t understand…” Jack looked in confusion at Paul, who stared at the screen.
“Thirty seconds, closing sphere capsule door.”
“Paul, what does it mean? He’s entering a universe of people who’re exactly us?” Jack reached a hand out and touched Paul’s shoulder. Paul didn’t respond.
“um…capcom, door has a slight malfunction. It’s moving slightly slower than it should, please advise.”
Jack looked up to the flickering screen and saw the massiveness of the Black Hole. He looked to Paul and back at the screen and gently picked up the mic. “Roger Puma two. Try manual override.” He dropped his hand and let the mic go.
“Negative…pcom, sys…not…ponding. We…re at negative ten…ds, already in the…k Hole’s gravitati…ull. Please advise…ver.” Panic entered his voice.
“oh, my god…” Paul said softly beside Jack.
“Again try manual override, Puma two. Do you copy?” Jack lifted his headphones from his neck and put them back on his ears. He sat down in front of his monitor.
“Nothi..! Oh, go…ressure is…owering, sphere…ost close…ygen leaking!”
“Heart rate speeding up! Temperature cooling!” The biometric monitor yelled across the room.
“System’s failing! Oxygen leaking!” Cried the system’s analyst.
Jack put his hand over his mouth expecting the worst. The video feed had gone, blinking from a static view of the Black Hole to nothing. Then Hercule came back on.
“I…understand.” His voice came in gasps of breath. “I…as…wrong. It…isn’t…a…portal. It’s…a…time…machine!”
The fourth story from Sean McBride’s published short story collection, A View of the Edge of the World. This episode is produced by Ed Robinson and read by R. Martin Klein.
This story has gone through more revisions than any other story in the collection. Originally called Atonement, I changed the name because I thought that might be too overt, but the basis of the theme remains. This is about a man who led a less than honest life and is paying the consequences for that.
People speak of redemption as if it were reserved for good deeds; as if the only way to be redeemed is to save someone or sacrifice yourself.Clark, however, knew of another way to reach Heaven, through a place in between Heaven and Hell; a place where redemption is not achieved by apologizing for transgressions, but by suffering for them.
Clarkapproached the house and thought of old clichés; the house looked like a face. The upper windows looked like eyes, a smaller grill a nose, and the large double doors a gaping mouth. Old films like The Amityville Horror where dread fills you as you walk to the house.Clark had to go in though. It was his job.
Clarkwas a real estate agent who got flaked on by his renovation crew. They never showed and they never called, they wouldn’t even answer when he called them.
“Some renovation company”Clarkmuttered as he clutched his car keys tightly in his hand, wrapping the key ring around his middle finger. He felt loathing and dread seep into his bones as he crept towards the house.
It was a pristine location; the woods were back just enough to give this Victorian a foundation and they fit snugly around the sides. A beautiful brick pathway lead from the back door to the guest house a few hundred feet away. The pathway had arched trees covering the delicately laid stones of the path. It was like something out of a fairy tale. The lawn and the pathway down to the guest house were groomed to precision. It seemed as if the vegetation only grew to a certain point and then stopped. It was supposed to be dilapidated and un-sellable, vacant for twenty years, but it looked as if someone had been here very recently.
Clarklooked back at the road, back to his car which was perched so nicely on the stone cut driveway, to the gazebo in the front yard, to the gothic statues displayed so delicately in the yard. He just had to wonder, what was wrong with the house? Why had the other company not sold it?
He walked to the front door and twisted the handle. He expected to hear creaking joints, a weathered metal on metal sound indicative of old hinges, but no sound came. The door slowly and smoothly swung open revealing how lazy the other real estate company had been.
He knew they recommended a renovation crew and this was obviously the reason why, the house was a shambles. There was graffiti covering the interior of the foyer, the floorboards were rotten, the walls moldy and everything just looked old. Wooden furniture was devastated by termites, white cloths were stained yellow by sunlight, dust and time covered what was not already falling apart.Clarkgaped in horror at the decrepit nature of the place.
He slowly shook his head in disgust, then turned to swing the door shut when he heard a guttural growl from outside.
Clarkfroze, imagining animals roaming in from the forest, in the night. Yet another reason why this place could’ve laid dormant for so long.
Clarktook a hesitant step towards the door craning his neck in an effort to see where the noise came from, all the while holding a firm grip on the front door so he could swing it shut in the face of anything that may come loping after him. He peered out but saw nothing. Then the growl came again, this time more urgent and closer.
Clarkslammed shut the door, picked up a nearby chair and propped it against the door handle. He backed through the room and looked around the room to see if he could find a window that would show the beast as it made its way through the foliage. There was no beast. It was a man running through the woods to the front of the house.Clarkfelt his first wave of terror as he whipped around to try and find a weapon and as he did so a figure passed through a hallway into another room.
“Hello?”Clarksoftly called out; his throat closing. “This is private property, you can’t be here.” It wasn’t an order.
Clarktook a step forward looking around the foyer trying to find some kind of weapon; he was in the middle of a robbery! He was sure of it! He needed to hide and hope that they’d hadn’t seen him.
He also needed a weapon. He looked around the room and at first saw nothing. He reached up to lean on the mantle to rest and come up with a plan, but when he did so he felt something in his hand poke him. His car keys. He had forgotten they were there; he slipped them off, put them on the mantle and rubbed his hand. Then, from the corner of his eye a bright glint of light caught his attention. He turned to look at it and saw the only thing that may pass for a weapon in this room.
He picked up an umbrella; a slight smile threatened his face then went away. The umbrella did have a sharp metal tip, but it wasn’t a suitable weapon andClarkknew it.
He pointed it like a talisman to the spot where the figure walked and went to the far wall while keeping an eye on the empty corridor.
When he got to the wall, someone started pounding on the front door, roaring in rage and frustration.Clarknearly screamed himself, but instead ran straight for the hallway that the figure had come from, hoping he wouldn’t come back.
The pounding on the front door stopped asClarkmade it to the bathroom.
He could hear his heart pounding. He shut his eyes and leaned back against the door wishing whomever it was would go away. He for several minutes, eyes closed and breathing lightly trying to keep a hold on his fear. He focused, listening intently for any movement outside the door, but he heard nothing.
He slowly opened his eyes and took a look around the bathroom. It was a Spartan normal bathroom. The walls were painted in a pale Seventies yellow with flower wall paper on the lower half. There was a small sink in front of him and a toilet next to that, with a standing shower in the corner. And a small elevated window behind him.
Clarkstood on his tip-toes, excited, thinking he may have finally found his way out. He flung the window open, threw out the umbrella and pulled himself up to the opening trying to pull himself out, but froze in horror.
Outside in the woods he saw another man walking through the shadows stop and looked over at Clark. Clarktried to scream, but instead he dropped back down to the ground whimpering. He felt isolated, surrounded. Clarkcould feel a cold sweat breaking out on his brow. Jesus, everything was so normal a minute ago! He thought. He looked around the room and made his decision. He would make a break for it. He slowly stood up trying to stay away from the window and went to the sink. He looked at himself in the mirror and was shocked. His face had taken a major deterioration, he looked like he hadn’t slept in days, his eyes were red and watery and his skin was pale.
He looked down to turn on the water, but stopped when he saw something moving in the drain. He bent down closer trying to determine what it was, hoping it wasn’t a rat. It wasn’t. The drain held a human eye. It moved as if it were looking about the room, then looked straight at him; then laughter echoed resonating in the pipes of the drain. It was steeped in madness.
Clarklunged backward and landed on his ass. He gazed about the room hoping for an exit to appear so he could leave this nightmare, but the only option was the bathroom door. He got up and slowly turned the handle inching the door open. He looked down at the empty hallway and let out a small breath. He was trying to be as quiet as he could, no sense in alerting anyone who might be in the house.
Clarktook a small step forward into the hallway dreading having to leave his sanctuary, but he couldn’t just wait for someone to root him out.
On his second step the doorknob to the front door turned.Clarkfroze. They were everywhere. He had to make a break for it.Clarkquickly walked down the hallway, keeping his head down and moving as silently as possible. He passed the room without any incident he felt good, now since the front door wasn’t an option he needed a back door or another window. Except there was someone in the woods and there was at least one more person in the house. With a second at the front door.
The hallway went another ten feet past the living room archway, with view of the front door, and turned to the right, leading deeper into the house. No windows in the hallway.
Clarkwalked forward and turned the corner and saw what he desperately needed; a window at the end of the hallway. An open window.
Clarkmade his way, same as before, and walked on to the window. Excited he swung a leg over the window sill, but paused when the door directly to his right opened. It was a kitchen bare and clean with a thin door that lead to the backyard. The door opened in and he could see a figure coming in through a blinded window. The man from outside.
Clarkthrew himself out the window as he heard someone walking to the window from the hallway behind him. He hit the ground outside and ran for the guest house behind. His heart was pounding and his lungs burned from the cold air, but he thought if he could get away and hide he could be safe; and what better place than the guest house, there wouldn’t be anything valuable in there for these thieves to steal. It would be empty. It had to be.
He got to the guest house and opened the door and saw the empty room. Then a terrible truth hit him. It was empty, but so was the house. These weren’t thieves; they weren’t here to steal from the house. There was nothing in the house. They were here for something else. He parked his car out front. They knew he was here. They would know he was out here and come after him. He needed a weapon.
He let go of the door handle and went stalking into the woods, hunched over. He was trying to be as quiet as possible, but he could hear someone back at the guest house. He turned to look behind him when he saw someone climbing out of the bathroom window of the house, looking at him. He only saw them for a moment, but he could tell they saw him; they ducked down as soon as he looked over.
These people were sadists. They knew he was here, but they weren’t doing anything to him. They were playing with him. He had to get to his car and get out of here.
He took a few running steps and he heard a car door shut. His car door. You’ve gotta be kidding me!Clark thought and sprinted at the car growling in anger. He heard the front door of the house slam shut and he stopped growling.Clark wasn’t fooled, he knew they were probably trying to set a trap for him in the house; which meant there was something wrong with the car. When he reached his destination he reached into his pocket to get the keys and froze. The keys weren’t in his pocket! He looked up at the house and the house looked back at him. The keys were on the mantle.
Clarkneeded a plan and fast. He needed to find a way in and get those keys back; he didn’t have any chance out here in the woods.
He circled the house on the opposite side of the sadists, hoping there wouldn’t be any more than he already encountered. He thought about the umbrella lying underneath the bathroom window, but knew they would be waiting there for him. Why were they waiting? Why don’t they come and get me? He had to do something they wouldn’t be expecting, he needed to go around to the kitchen and go in the back entrance.
When he reached the back corner of the house he took a deep breath in an effort to buffer his courage, and then made a crouched run for the door. When he got there he took another deep breath, mustering every ounce of strength and tenacity. Then opened the door. The kitchen was empty. It almost madeClarkcry. He slowly closed the kitchen door and got on his hands and knees. His breath was hitching in fear.
He had only traveled five minutes when a loud pound echoed in the room; almost as if someone hit the house.Clarkpanicked and opened the first doorway to hide from the assailant. It took him a good few seconds before he looked around to see where he was. He found himself standing on a staircase leading down into the basement. Dark and gothic with lit torches against the walls leading down, lightly illuminating the staircase.
He felt his mind slip a bit when he laid eyes on the staircase. This wasn’t part of the house description. There was no dark pathway leading to a gothic dungeon. But what was even stranger, a figure was walking down the staircase and when he looked closer his fear completely left him and his heart jumped. Something wasn’t right.
The figure was him.
He watched as his doppelganger exited the staircase and walked into the basement landing.
Before he realized what he was doing,Clarkwalked down after his doppelganger to the basement. It was dingy and poorly lit. Torches flickered in the room licking the walls with their dim luminescence. His doppelganger walked through the wavering light and into the shadows. It crossed the room and reached a ladder at the far side of the room and slowly started ascending. He almost reached the landing when he heard the door open behind him. His brain broke trying to come up with a reason for what was happening. Could this be it? Could this be the end of his fabulous career in swindling people into houses they couldn’t afford? He let his legs take him to the ladder and his eyes closed in terror. Whatever was going on it had to almost be over. He reached out and felt the harsh reality of the ladder, the coarse splintered wood, and started climbing.
When he looked up he found he was headed into a crawl space. There was a cylinder of light coming from a pipe above him. Purgatory is retribution, Clark thought as he placed his eye to the pipe; only to see himself in the house’s bathroom looking down at him through the sink, and repetition is hell.
Oh how he laughed…
The third story from Sean McBride’s published short story collection, A View of the Edge of the World. This episode is produced by Ed Robinson and read by Justin Waggle.
I was listening to the Toadies “Possum Kingdom” one day and I was trying to write, but nothing was coming. Then my cat came in the room and started meowing at me… incessantly. Before I knew it I was on YouTube trying to distract him with annoying cat videos, (He eventually left the room, disturbed that he could hear other cats in the room with me, I laughed then felt bad.) when I had an idea. I wanted to write a ghost story and I wanted it to be original, and I had YouTube in front of me; ghost in the machine…literally. The song made the story blossom (I even incorporated it in the story) and once I got going I couldn’t stop until it was done. The cover of the book is supposed to be the boathouse and the lake from the story, just for a little bit of insight. I’d also like to hear what people think of the ending, because I had a specific idea in mind, but it doesn’t seem to come across. Let me know…
Dan flips through the videos while the computer projects it’s blue-white light through the dark room. He’s been at it for hours, but then again that’s the beauty of the job. He can do it any time, anywhere, and best of all he can work at home.
Dan has been a moderator for youtube.com for about a year. His entire job entails surfing videos, then when he finds one of unsatisfactory content(That’s the word his boss uses, unsatisfactory, with a pedantic little lisp)he deletes it and blocks the user from posting again. Some might think this a boring job, a pointless job, but Dan loves it.
He decides tonight he’ll concentrate on porn, mostly because he’s feeling horny himself, but also because he hasn’t surfed the “sexuality videos” for at least three days. He spent those on animal abuse and violence.
He types “Asian Sex” into the search bar and cracks his knuckles by weaving his finger together and dramatically swooping them out towards the computer. He holds back a little smile then lets his right hand rest on the mouse, slowly scrolling down through his options.
There’re a surprising amount of trick videos, like “two lesbians having SeX!” and “Penetration! Asian SLut!” Dan hates these tricky ones. He always clicks on them ready to cancel the account, but when the video comes up, six times out of eight it’s some douche bag who has too much time on his hands with a note saying “pervert!” and pictures of little animals and babies. To Dan these are a waste of time. Why would someone go through all that effort just to berate another?
This time, thought, it’s different. He logs on and the first video that comes up says “Sexy asian girl dancing.” Most times Dan passes by something like this because invariably it’ll only be a girl dancing on a webcam feed, nothing you couldn’t see out on the street, but there are occasions when he finds an older man forcing a pre-teen to do a strip tease. He forwards those on to the police and bans the user from the site. But, this time it’s different.
He clicks on the link and she comes on. It is as he expects, probably a self taping on a webcam of a co-ed doing a booty dance. He has a brief second of sorrow for the girl, trying to imagine what happens to girls like this in an Asian culture. Don’t women get disowned for this kind of thing, he thinks. He shakes his head in ignorance and clicks the play button.
It starts with her face covering the screen, giving him a distinct and startling view of her expressionless face. An intermittent guitar riff blares over his speakers. She slowly backs up and briefly gives Dan a view of a few hastily scrawled words written in a red liquid on the blue wall behind her. “dead now.” He thinks they say, and he immediately feels cold. What if it’s in blood, he thinks, but before he can tell she deftly dances in front of it. The music continues:
“Make up your mind/Decide to walk with me/Around the lake tonight…”
She’s wearing a little tight white tee shirt and underneath she’s wearing a pink bra. Her bottoms are a white pair of short shorts giving full view of her great legs. She begins to slowly wave her hips back and forth, out of tempo with the music, while looking directly at the camera. Her eyes are intense and he finds he can’t tear his from hers. Those deep hazel spotlights.
“…I’ll not be a gentleman/behind the boathouse/I’ll show you my dark secret…”
Suddenly, she snaps her head to the side, breaking eye contact and slowly weaves her body, as smooth as a snake, until her back is facing the camera. Dan’s eyes are drawn to her ass, where written on her little white short shorts in red block lettering is the word “Lifeguard.” As if to emphasize this, she brings both arms up, sensuously dancing and weaving them in the air then brings them down and points both her index fingers at the word, framing it. Actually points at it. When she turns back again her face looks intent and her hazel eyes burn into the camera.
“…Don’t be afraid/I don’t mean to scare you/so help me Jesus…”
She crosses her arms and grabs the bottom of her shirt beginning to pull it up, then turns again. Dan can see little bits of the scrawling behind her as she sways her body and is sure he’s right. They say “Dead now” in red dripping letters.
My god, is that blood? He thinks.
“…I can promise you/you’ll stay as beautiful…”
Her back’s to him again and she takes the shirt off cascading her long brown hair across her deltoids, then turns again and looks deep into the camera. She looks almost nervous.
On her stomach there’s an arrow pointing at her left breast. It’s a decal that almost looks like wood. When he follows the arrow he sees something that further disturbs him. The pink bra is actually a white bra, stained red. The left side is darker than the right.
“…With dark hair/and soft skin/Forever…”
Unnerved he looks back down to the time bar, hoping the video nearing completion, but it isn’t moving. The ball tracker is still on the left and the counter says 0.00. He looks back at the screen and she’s staring at him, barely moving with an imploring stare.
She turns again; reaching up for her bra with both hands and begins to unlock it. “…Forever…” Then the screen goes black. Dan sits back and takes a deep breath, realizing how close he was to the screen. “Holy shit.” He says. He flags the video but doesn’t erase it.
There are dreams where you can tell it’s a dream; where reality is thin and you can feel it. Dan’s having one of those now of his little Asian girl.
She’s doing the same dance, but this time he’s in the room with her. It’s the same room as in the video with few exceptions. The substance which comprises “Dead now” is gone from the wall behind her and he’s sitting in a chair where the camera must have been.
She backs from him and takes position a few feet away, her movements have a jerky halting progress as if she’s a projection. She does her little shimmy the same as before, but there are little details Dan notices which he didn’t notice watching the Mpeg. When she points at “Lifeguard” written on her shorts, she flexes a bit. Not much but enough for Dan to see veins straining in her wrists. She spends longer than he remembers; jerking her fingers and flexing even more, accentuating the word. It’s like she’s saying pay attention.
Then she turns and takes off her shirt while mouthing words to him over the cotton as it crests her mouth.
“Find me.” Of course it could have been a multitude of other phrases, but he’s sure she sneers. A tiny raise of her upper lip and she spits out the letter F with a breathy fuh.
Desire for her invades his mind, overtaking his soul. He wants to stand and put his arms around her. To kiss her. But in that special reality dreams create, he’s stuck to his chair no matter how much effort he puts into it.
He looks up at her and sees her nodding at him, ever so slightly, but never taking her eyes from his. She moves forward and puts her arms out beckoning him to embrace her and blood starts to pour from of her left C cup. Pouring over the seam where fabric meets flesh and staining the white bra a deeper shade of burgundy. Then she mouths it again. “Find me.”
Dan wakes the next morning both disturbed and inquisitive. He knows it was only a creepy dream, but he can’t shake how real it felt; as if he could watch the video and all the changes from the dream would be there. Regardless what he finds, he just has to watch that video. Just one more time.
Dan gets up from his sweat soaked bed and lights a cigarette on the way to the computer. “Well, lets just see here.” He croaks through a lung full of smoke.
He turns his computer on producing a bright blue light that shines into the room, illuminating the smoke and its seductive wave as it sways to the ceiling. It makes him think of her.
He shakes his head and goes back to the computer, clicking the link to bring her up. He has a brief reminiscence of her hair and the way it draped over her shoulders. He thinks in the dream it may have touched his chest when she began to dance, but then again it was only a dream. A phantom of sensation.
The phone rings in an alarmed repetitive bleating and he looks back at it in distain, angry at its audacity, that it may intrude on his viewing, but then he hears the soft hitching electric guitar coming from the computer and he whips his head around to see the show begin. He knows it’s probably his boss on the phone trying to document his progress through the “Unsatisfactory” videos. He knows he could be in trouble if he doesn’t answer, but he just has to see the video. Just one more time.
Everything from the dream is there. She pumps her hands twice at lifeguard. She does say “find me” just before the shirt covers her face. She does bleed a bit at the end and those arms do rise.
“She’s telling me something.” Dan says through the smoke as the phone blares in the background. “She’s in trouble.”
He gets up long enough to grab a pad and a pen, and then he sits down and scrawls an inventory of every detail he thinks could be important.
- Find me
- Dead now
- Arrow to bloody bra
Dan puts his hand to his left breast as a reflex to the image of her bloody breast and recognition lights his face. It was something he did everyday as a child in elementary school. He put his right hand over his heart. Pledging.
He clicks the play button and the dead lifeguard comes back on the screen, swaying and shaking. He peers into the video and tries to find more clues, but finding none, he peruses his list. She’s a lifeguard, so she must be by a body of water. A lake? A pool? A beach? But then lifeguards are usually only out during peak hours. Too many people. Then the song lyrics strike him. “…decide to walk with me/around the lake tonight…” She was telling him something!
While he’s contemplating, Pocket his tabby cat, saunters into the room. He’s made it a rule for the cat to stay out of the room whenever he’s working, because for some unknown reason known only to troublemaking cats she loves to bat the power cord until it’s pulled from the wall. It wasn’t a big deal, but when he’s lost in his videos it infuriates him.
Dan clicks the play button again desperately searching for any hint that might tell him something. When she moves back and “dead now” becomes visible he finds what he’s looking for.
He’s not sure why he didn’t notice it before, but those two cryptic words are actually written on something; not directly on the wall. They’re written on a map. A map which has a lake on it. A map of his town.
He pauses the video, grasps his flat screen monitor with both hands and leans in straining his eyes in an attempt to decipher where she could possibly be when he feels the familiar brush of fur against his leg. His eyes widen and he reaches under the table grabbing for Pocket. But he’s too late. The cat bats the cord and a small little popping sound comes from the computer as it goes blank. Pocket coos as she runs from the room.
Dan quickly plugs the computer back in and depresses the power button. The computer’s fan issues a high whine and the monitor flickers with a blue flash then a faded black glow. He thinks for a moment he can see her body shake on the screen, a shadow in the dark, but then his wallpaper pops up. He quickly opens the video files on his desktop, searching for his china girl…but she’s not there.
Dan clicks around in anger, “What the fuck!” he screams at the monitor waving his left hand in disgust, “Come on you stupid piece of shit!” He slams his fist on the desk in anger and sits back. “where the hell?” He takes a deep breath and relaxes. So what? So what if when Pocket knocked out the cord the video got erased? Maybe he didn’t even save it on his desktop in the first place. There’s still that beautiful network which served billions. She would still be on the internet!
He navigates to youtube and types in his password which redirects him into his moderator screen. It should be in the recently viewed column. Even the memory of it would be there, a name at least. But when he searches he finds nothing. The username of the person who downloaded it isn’t even there. The last video it says he’s watched is of a cat getting hit by a car.
Scared, Dan stands. He gazes into the screen perplexed and more than just a little bit worried. Was he delusional? Could none of this have happened? That dance though. Sexual and sensual, torrid and disturbing. He couldn’t forget her hazel eyes. The way her breath felt…
“wait…” He snaps out of his reverie. Did I imagine her breath? It was a video. He knows none of it was real, and yet he can feel the memory of her breath on his face, smell the sweet staleness as she leaned down and began her dance with her breasts sagging ever so slightly and her hair brushing his chest.
He stops thinking and blinks twice. Hard.
“You need to get to sleep, that’s all.” He says and is scared by his own voice. He realizes just how quiet it’s been in the room and he feels constant eyes in every corner. He looks about quickly securing all shadows and promptly turns on the lights. He flips the TV on, thankful for the resounding echo it creates in the small room and lets its soft waves lull him into complacency. Then he dreams.
Here she is again, swaying in front of him, although this time she looks wet. Her white shirt is clinging even tighter to her youthful stomach and he can easily see the blood stained bra beneath. She moves in stop action jerks and mouths over and over again. “Find me. Find me. Find me.”
She looks deep into his eyes and he’s lost in her sea of hazel. Mystified. Compelled. He sits up and shudders as the absolute coldness of the room embraces him. Then he remembers something. Something from his childhood. Its reflected in her eyes. He finds himself putting his hand over his heart as he did so many times as a child, recalling the Pledge of Allegiance and that other time he used to put his hand over his heart, when his uncle took him fishing out on Lake Meneloua. He remembers promising he would never tell…cross his heart…as they would pass a big red arrow pointing at an angle up to the heart of the lake. His uncle saying This place is dangerous. Never come alone and always let someone know you’re here. No one really comes around here anymore. He remembers the boathouse where they stored their supplies. He remembers the sign on the door to that shed. It said “Danger, heavy pollution” in hazel letters. He knows where she is. He has to find her.
The red arrow is still as shiny and glossy as he remembers it being. Almost as if the paint were still wet. The arrow zips by as his Tercel glides down the road and Dan fidgets in anticipation as the lake gets ever closer.
He thinks back to his time on the lake with his uncle. The depth and murkiness of the water like a primordial soup, thick and teeming with small unfamiliar creatures. He remembers feeling both distinctly disgusted and slightly exhilarated when his Uncle caught a big fish and rocked the boat, nearly sending little Danny into the lake. To sink in there is to never be found again.
He drives past the boathouse where they kept their fishing equipment and he smiles despite his anxiousness. If old Uncle Walt weren’t dead he’d probably love to be here with me, he thinks.
There’s a beach on the lake about a quarter mile more down the road. It’s a deserted beach now, but twenty years ago it was bustling with activity. Children played in the soft surf as their parents lounged and tanned by the afternoon sun while a lone lifeguard would watch over the lake waters from their sole tower. The lake has since been deemed too polluted to be a place of recreation, so gradually over the years people stopped going. This is where he’s headed. To find the lifeguard.
He’s able to get most of the way to the beach before the road becomes too overgrown and he has to ditch the Tercel. He’s taken aback at the beauty of the place. There are rays of sunlight beaming through the tree tops and casting an almost holy glow about the overgrown road lending the shade an almost picturesque totality. He can feel the onslaught of a sneeze coming as the pollen from the unmolested flowering buds slowly falls on him. He lets it go with remarkable furiousness making his head feel like it’s going to explode.
He covers his nose and mouth with his hand trying to block pollen from entering his system when he comes to the clearing of the beach. The white sand goes on for a hundred yards and is cradled by the tree line, making it feel like a secluded oasis. The lone lifeguard tower stands halfway through the white dunes and is painted red just like the arrow on the road.
Another sneeze rocks Dan and he groans as he stands on the precipice of the beach. Terrified to move forward, he hopes he’ll find the girl, but he also feels deep instilled dread of what he might find. He feels his knees shaking and tells himself it’s from sneezing, but he knows it’s his fear. He can smell it. Dank and bitter.
He takes a shaky step forward and his shoe sinks into the warm white sand. He imagines for a moment he’s on a deserted island, trying to dissolve his fear, but then he looks out onto the lake and sees the familiar bowling pin shaped buoy floating in the water. He used to try and cast his reel at the buoy, practicing his fly fishing while his uncle looked on smirking.
The memory brings him back to reality and he closes his eyes as he takes deep breath; then sneezes again, bellowing echoes around the small enclosure.
Shaking his head he moves forward and takes out his phone. If there is even a chance of seeing a dead body he wants to be on the phone with the police immediately. He’s not sure how he’s going to explain it, but it’s better than being out here alone with a corpse.
He’s half the way down the beach when he sees her. She’s lying face down in the wet sand half in the water and half out. He can see her hair splayed about her head in a halo and flashes back to her dance. That beautiful hair brushing up against his chest. He immediately knows it’s her. He dials 911 on his phone and takes a few steps forward trying, against his better judgment, to get a better look at her.
He gives the dispatcher the location and explains that he found a body on a walk. He gives his name and phone number and hangs up, despite the dispatchers protests and looks back to the body.
She’s wearing corduroy pants and a jean jacket. Dan almost snickers despite himself, imagining her walking around in some early nineties move like “Singles,” but is brought back home when he gets a whiff of her smell.
She must’ve been out here for days; the smell attacks his nose, like a forgotten steak on a counter. He can hear a soft buzzing sound and knows it’s flies convening for their feast. Her legs are lost in the soft surf and he can only imagine what two days in contaminated water would do to a decomposing body. Bloated and white, slowly sloughing off to the bone.
Dan reaches down and taps the back of her head; a playful tap, as if he’s tagging her IT. He’s not sure why he does it, he knows she’s dead and yet he has a morbid curiosity to feel what it would be like to touch her. It’s almost as if he’s testing himself for what he has to do next.
He’s found her, but he doesn’t feel she’s done with him quite yet. He’s not sure what it is, but he gets the nagging suspicion he’s being watched. As if her ghost followed him here, out through the computer screen and into this world. He whirls around in an effort to see her, to figure out where she’s hiding, but there’s nothing; just him and the shining white sand with the lone red aerie of safety.
He turns back to her and grabs one shoulder without really thinking about it, turning her to her back. He’s surprised at how stiff she is, rigor mortis freezing her body into shape.
The first thing he sees is her eyes. He’s surprised to see that they’re brown and only shells, merely reflectors in the afternoon sun. They show no resplendence of their own. Then he sees her chest. There is a thin hole with something shiny protruding through the red stained blouse she wears. When he leans in closer he finds it’s a butter knife. Damn near buried to the hilt. Right through her heart.
Dan covers his mouth in disgust and feels another sneeze coming on. He can feel bile rising in his throat and he turns away from her lifeless eyes.
The sneeze builds in his nose and he fights it, fearing that if he does sneeze, vomit will come with it. So he stands there for a moment pinching the arch of his nose until the sneeze subsides and he slowly turns back to the girl.
Her body undulates with the soft surf and he stands transfixed until he hears something from the woods behind him. A powerful sneeze and a rattle of leaves.
Dan whips around peering out into the woods and there, by the clearing is a small Asian man pointing a gun at him.
“Whoa, man whoa!” Dan wants to say something evocative and powerful, but the sight of the gun takes the breath from his lungs.
“What you do here!” The man says with an almost rodent like squeal. “You not supposed to be here!”
“I’m sorry! I know, I’m sorry! Please!” Terror grips Dan and he looks down at the dead girl next to him. At that moment he’s sure he’s not going to get out of here alive.
“No sorry! No please! That what she said! Fucking cheating slut!” He points to the corpse on the ground for the briefest of moments with the gun and Dan’s heart flutters with hope.
“I’ll just go. I didn’t mean anything…” He tries to make his voice soothing, but when he hears it, it’s slow and hitching like he’s going to start crying.
“No. Go!” The man actually takes a deep breath in between the two words and screams “GO!” like a child throwing a temper tantrum.
The gun trains back on Dan.
“Ok, ok, I’m sorry.” Dan takes a step back and feels the cool polluted waters ofLakeMenelouasurrounding his feet. For the first time the shit like smell of the lake hits his nostrils as it mixes with the rot of the lifeguard’s corpse, gagging him.
The man moves a few steps toward him and Dan notices he’s filthy. He has leaves in his hair, his clothes are covered with a fine layer of pollen and his shins are inundated with wet sand and mud. His outfit matches hers. “You lay down with her! You fuck her?”
The question catches Dan off guard.
“No!” is all he can say, as he moves knee deep into the poison waters ofLakeMeneloua. He feels the water rush around him and he swallows bile as the water bubbles with pollution.
“You fuck her I know you do!” The man takes a few steps forward bobbing the gun at Dan. Dan inches backward farther into the water. He thinks back to a time in his childhood when he used to swim here and remembers a shelf in the sand just a few feet away from the shore. Maybe five. After that shelf the sand drops. If he could get to that point maybe he could swim away…
“Don’t you move you…” The man stops in mid sentence and sneers, shaking his head rapidly, then sneezes fiercely snapping his head and rocking his body. Great, sneeze your brains out you crazy bastard! Dan thinks, then inches himself further backward into the water. He feels something slide along his leg in the shallow surf and retches, projecting vomit into the water. While he’s doubled over he looks at the girl, stares into her brown eyes and swears he can see concern in her death mask.
The man recovers and moves forward a few steps cocking the gun, apparently done with cordialities.
“Wait, when I saw the body I called the police! You should leave!” Dan yells when he hears hammer click back.
The man pauses for a moment, looks confused, then sneezes again. Dan takes a few inches back into the water praying the ledge isn’t too far away. The man raises the gun to him again, contorts his face and screams “You lie!” Then sneezes one more time.
Dan takes the opportunity and jumps backward, using every bit of agility he has and lands on his back in the water. He can feel the ledge with his hand, but he didn’t quite make it.
“You fuck!” The man yells and shoots the gun three times in rapid succession. The first shot buries in the water to the left of Dan, the second in front of him and the third to the right.
Without thinking Dan throws himself back again and slides over the ridge sinking into the putrid lake. He hears more gun fire, he thinks three more shots, and swims away from the edge. His skin burns as he strokes through the murky water and he imagines the smell permeating his skin.
Finally Dan can go no further and preferring to be shot rather than swallow the lake water he surfaces and is disappointed to realize he’s only gone twenty feet. The man is at the edge of the lake, actually standing over the girl, and he raises the gun to Dan’s face. Dan takes a deep breath of the rancid air and goes below again, hearing the report of the gun fire three more times. That was nine wasn’t it? Dan thinks and desperately swims toward shore hoping the man would have to reload before he could fire again.
Dan gets to the shelf in the water and springs up, pushing with all his might from the bottom of the lake and re-surfacing directly in front of the man. Everything smells so bad that Dan imagines little cartoon wisps of stink floating off of him.
The man jumps back and sneezes in surprise as Dan jumps on him. The man screams, though Dan imagines it’s more from the stink than from anything else, as Dan grapples him.
It’s a short match, Dan wrenching the gun away from the man and sitting on his chest, giving him one great punch to the nose, relishing the snap he feels beneath his knuckles. He’s about to do it again when he hears someone shout at them.
They both look up and see two policemen with their weapons drawn and trained on the two of them. Dan sits back and gradually stands with his arms raised. Ever so slowly he steps away from the man on the ground.
“You, on the ground! Stand with your arms raised!” The alpha cop says, while the other slowly circles around to the right.
The man on the ground sneezes again, and then looks at the girl lying next to him. Suddenly the air seems to get thicker and everything slows down. The man on the ground lunges for the gun, and Dan can hear the alpha cop yelling something, but he’s so amazed at this little man’s audacity that he doesn’t understand. Dan falls to the ground as the little man pops up and points the gun. Dan can hears three distinct resounding explosions in the little oasis, then hears a thud as the man hits the ground next to him. Dan looks at him, into his brown eyes, and watches as the light fades.
Dan thinks back to what his uncle said as he stares into the dead man’s eyes. This is a dangerous place. Never come alone and always let someone know you’re here. “Thanks for looking after me Uncle Walt.” Dan says under his breath.
The cops walk over to Dan, still training their guns at him. “Who are you and why’re you here?”
Dan turns over and looks up at the policeman, puts his hands above his head and says “My names Dan. I just thought I’d go out for some fishing.”
The second story from Sean McBride’s published short story collection, A View of the Edge of the World. This episode is produced by Ed Robinson and read by Rick Robinson and Valerie Rachelle.
I’m bringing you a poem this week, since the podcast will follow along the lines with the book and I preempted the podcast by posting Carol-Ann and the Nothing Man first. So enjoy listening with Carol-Ann this week and enjoy the poem.
This was the second poem I wrote during my “Bowling Alley” period. It’s simple enough, my friends went through a bowling phase, of which I’m not much a fan so my imagination ran wild while. In between rolls, I looked around at others through the beer haze of the alley. I saw old men gathering, I saw teenagers trying to steal drinks, I saw homeless looking for a place to stay, and women, old and young trying to seduce others. These images and personalities clashed in my mind and brought forth some of the most brash (If not outright ranty) poetry and prose I’ve ever done. Hope you like it!
The Melancholy Malaise of Last nights Memories
Your pedantic search for truth
through unsuspecting lives,
leaves girls wondering
faith and cosmopolitan sexuality.
Leaves men pondering God
in tumultuous copulation.
The vulturous squalor
of your predatory eyes.
The death you feel in
the uncouth joy you find in
I see the innocence,
the pure unkempt
in your smile.
The only vestige of
the life you desire.
You perspire and
extrapolate the need and desire of
men and boys.
The purpose your life has
With grasping limbs
and intertwining extremities,
the pulse of distinctive
and purely diabolic
hearts pound in unison.
The power and force of
your vapid conjointedness
You ask for faith.
You ask for belief.
You ask for hope.
Why dont you realize
these are pronouncements
only for the holy?
What you really crave,
what you really hunger
That lust in a young man’s eye.
The postulation behind the
The type that doesn’t exist!
What you love is lust,
but what lust could love?
When is a letch good?
When is lasciviousness absolute?
With your talk of luxurious tapestries
and proportions of men,
The vivaciousness of women
complimenting your overwhelming
Your false Hubris.
Do you know?
How useless it is?