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Long, hot, Summer

Well, hope everybody has survived the heat. I know I have been keeping the air turned up which keeps the electric bill high, lol. Not much to say this time around. I could get into politics, but then there would be a mass surge on my blog once people read it. I am not a republican. Some of their ideas are okay but the most are not. Nuff said.

As of late, I have been playing more music than writing. My first love is music since I have been playing since I was sixteen years old. Many bands have come and gone. A few good, some not so good. I am now trying to master the Mandolin which in itself is a job but sooner or later, I will get the hang of it.

Other things have kept me busy this summer. Mowing the grass once a week (which is about to end if we don’t get some rain) and other duties. I did got to the fair this year which I try to go every year. It has fallen off a lot since my younger days. Mostly rides now occupy the midway and games of  chance.

I can remember when there were a lot of sideshows there. Oddities one would pay to see if they were real or fake. Most were fake. There were others though that made a mind wonder. The most popular one around here was the sideshow where the bearded lady, the rubber band man and the snake charmer drew in the crowds. There was also one called  the missing link.

This one started off with a cage covered by a curtain. As the Barker (announcer of the show) talked, noises came from behind the curtain. He was good at building suspense, his talk revolving around the creatures capture and some who did not survive the hunt. You could tell it was getting near the end as the barker moved closer to the cage, gripped a rope and with is last words being loud and strong, yanked the cord and the curtain fell away.

In the cage was a dark figure. Brutish and glaring with eyes that burned bright. The creature rattled t he cage as the Barker spoke. Saying that if he ever escaped the cage, woe to the people in this tent. Suddenly, the creature howled loud and long, the cage rattling and shaking violently. Suddenly, the door broke free and, even in the dim light, the creature looked like something from the dim past.

It lunged from the cage, the people on the front row either turning and slamming through the crowd or screaming. Of course, all was fake. The beast was a man in an altered ape suit and the lights situated to give the beast an eerie appearance. All in all though, it was good fun.  Those days are gone but not forgotten.

Now, as promised, the second half of the story I posted a few weeks back. There will be more at a later date so just bear with me.

The Temple of Al-Amon; Part Two

As the night sky slowly turned gray with the dawn, Dixon and the group filled their canteens and water skins. He said he would take the first watch, while the others found places to sack out and get some rest. As the sun rose, the cold night began to heat up, Dixon shedding his coat and placing it under him to sit on, the rock was hard and not a good place to sit.
Soon the sun was rising high, a shimmer of heat rising from the desert floor. How the nomads withstood the heat he couldn’t fathom? They always dressed in heavy robes and wrapped their heads in layers of cloth, only their eyes sometimes showing. He would smother if he dressed like that.
A scorpion crawled across the sand below him. Suddenly the hard-packed sand opened and a spider darted out at it. The battle had begun, the two predators lashing in a circle, the spider rising and knocking the scorpion’s sting away.
Suddenly the spider lunged, the scorpion’s stinger missed and the spider delivered a fatal bite. Dixon grinned but that grin faded as the click of a rifle bolt sounded in the still air. Three horses stood in front of him. One man smiling at him while the two behind him aimed their rifles at his head. Dixon tensed, the gun at his side within reach, if he could draw and fire while bailing off the rock. He decided not to and smiled back at the man.
“Good morning,” the man said in flawless English, “my name is Joseph Hakeem. My father was English and my mother Tuareg. What is your name?”
“Conner Dixon,” Dixon replied.
“So, I must ask you, Conner Dixon, what are you doing in my desert?”
Dixon was about to reply when a squeal sounded behind him along with a couple of bellows. Looking over his shoulder, Dixon saw two men dragging Sara between them, Sara struggling, both men laughing. Following her were McFerrin and Sweet, rifles aimed at their heads.
Joseph frowned and slid from his saddle, walked toward the men and they stopped. He spoke to them in Arabic, the two men let Sara go and Hakeem slapped them both. He turned and walked over to Dixon, bowed, then said, “My apologies for my men. They rarely see a pale-skinned female and are brutish with them when they do.”
Hakeem looked at Dixon then at Sara, his eyes roving over her body, Sara getting closer to Dixon.
“Who does this one belong to? If none, maybe we can make a trade.”
Sara started to speak and Dixon cut her off.
“She belongs to me. She is my wife.” Sara started to speak again and Dixon dug an elbow into her side. She became quiet.
“Ah.” Hakeem nodded and grinned. “You are a lucky man Dixon. Very lucky. Now, as I asked, what is your purpose here?”
“We’re looking for Sara’s uncle.”
“I see, what is his name?”
“Carter,” Dixon answered.
Hakeem stood silent for a moment, his mind turning the name over in his head.
“This Carter, was he looking for the Temple of Al-Amon?”
His eyes watched Dixon for a moment. To say no would probably make them captives so Dixon told the truth.
“Yes, he and a man by the name of Jamar?”
Hakeem’s eyes narrowed and Dixon tensed. If there had been any trouble between Hakeem and Jamar, he would have to act fast to try to kill Hakeem which meant the end of them.
“I know this Jamar.” Hakeem spat on the sand. “He is a thief and a liar. He and this Carter had a map to the temple. I told them they best turn around and go back. The people there are very vicious, especially this time of the moon. They require a sacrifice to their blasted God. We were getting ready to meet them in the desert and drive them off to keep them from taking one of our young girls to sacrifice. Jamar slipped out of camp while we were gone and took my daughter with them, him and Carter. She is to be a bargaining tool for what they seek.”
“Allah’s Tears,” Sara whispered. Hakeem nodded.
“You say they took your daughter?” Dixon asked. Hakeem nodded, his face tense, softened.
“My only child. I had planned to take her to Cairo to see if I could get one of the missions to take her in, educate her so she could teach the young ones to read and write.”
Dixon nodded his mind racing, a plan forming.
“When is this ritual to take place?” Dixon asked.
“Three nights from now, when the moon is at its fullest.”
“Let’s talk Hakeem, I might be able to help you.” Dixon smiled and Hakeem gave him a puzzled look as they walked away from everyone to talk.
***
Richter had been right on with what he had seen. Dixon, Hakeem, McFerrin, and Sweet lay on a ridge above the small valley the temple sat in. In the dwindling light, a procession was gathering in the square before the temple. Only a few buildings sat around the temple. They were built of stone which had withered and crumbled over the years, the buildings looked as if they weren’t used.
The temple itself was showing its age. Carved out of the ridge, the front was set massive pillars that held the stone roof in place. Braziers sat on either side of the steps and burned with an orange, red light. Behind them stood two men, dressed in the garb of ancient Egyptian soldiers. Bronze shields and curved bronze blades reflecting the firelight.
Between them was an opening. Dark and forbidding. Dixon wondered how many young girls had passed through them to be slaughtered on whatever altar was inside. Hakeem spoke, his voice low and bringing Dixon out of his thoughts.
“They are evil people, some deformed from interbreeding. Their minds warped from the religion they practice,” Hakeem told Dixon as they looked down on the temple.
“I thought they worshiped Allah?” McFerrin asked.
“They did at one time. It is said that Allah came here before he ascended to his father. That he cried for his people and when he did, his tears fell to the ground and became stones. Red stones as he cried tears of blood, weeping for his children and the way they were headed. Over the years, they became corrupted. A priest told them Allah had abandoned them but a deity named Iblis, an arch-devil who refused to bow before Adam spoke to him, that he cared for them.
“All they had to do was fall down and worship him. That he cared more for them than Allah did. Some resisted and the priest,” Hakeem thought for a moment, shivered and said, “the priest forced them to bow down or die. The true believers were beheaded, those who feared death bowed. They only come out at night since Iblis is master of the night. It is said that they copulate with the Jinn at night, horrid beings born to the women to repopulate their numbers.”
“This priest,” McFerrin asked, “is he mortal?”
Dixon jerked his head around and McFerrin shrugged.
“Some say he is immortal, others say he dies and is reborn in the body of another. Who can say?” Hakeem answered.
Dixon looked down over the edge of the ridge at the buildings below them. He pointed and said, “If we can get down there, then we might be able to enter the temple once they are all inside.”
Hakeem shook his head. “As you can see, guards are posted at the entrance. To attack them would give a warning. There is a better way.”
He motioned for them to crawl down off the ridge and once on the ground, Hakeem told them what he had in mind. The moon had risen high above them and chased some the shadows from the path that led between the temple and the ridge. Hakeem suddenly stopped, muttered a prayer and pointed. Lashed to the wall of the ridge were two bodies. Dixon stepped closer and smiled.
“Jamar and Carter,” he said walking back, “I guess your daughter wasn’t enough to secure the Tears.”
Hakeem grunted and spit at the dead men. Then walked on and continued to tell them of his plan.
“Behind the temple is a passageway. Only the priests know of it. We can enter there. The rest of my men will stand by in case we run afoul of trouble. We will need more weapons, though.” Hakeem smiled and asked, “That box I saw on the camel, I suspect it is rifles you brought to bargain with?”
Dixon grinned and told Sweet to get the rifles. They went back. Once the box was open, Hakeem and his men grinned big. The rifles were German bolt actions, magazine fed. Dixon showed them how to load them and how they worked. Hakeem chuckled.
“Many will die tonight.” A wicked grin crossed his face as he aimed at the moon.
***
Dixon wanted to leave Sara with the camels but she wouldn’t have it.
“I can shoot just as good as any of these savages, even better. I’ll not be left behind!” Sara’s face was livid. The anger in her eyes flashed and Dixon grinned. She might not be much in the muscle department but she made up for it in spunk and nerve.
Dixon, Sara, Hakeem, McFerrin, and Sweet made their way toward the back of the temple again, the path, more visible in the moonlight than before. As they passed the two bodies lashed to the ridge, Dixon pointed.
“Your uncle and Jamar,” he said. Sara stared, shook her head and stepped closer, gasping and stepping back when she saw what had been done to them.
“That will be our fate if we are caught,” Hakeem whispered.
Hakeem pointed as they neared a small opening in the ridge.
“The door,” he said in a hiss, “there is a guard now. Usually, it is unguarded.”
Dixon drew his knife and started to move along the shadows. Hakeem stopped him, shook his head and drew a curved blade from under his robes and slipped into the darkness. As Dixon watched, he couldn’t see Hakeem until the flash of his blade showed in the moonlight. The guard gasped, blood, dark in the moonlight, jetted from his throat, the blade continuing until Hakeem held the man’s head in his hand.
Dixon moved forward, Sara beside him. She shivered and licked her lips as Hakeem set the head on the stone steps. The eyes glazed in terror. Dixon opened the door, the hinges creaking a little as it swung open. Torches lit the hallway every few feet, shadowed darkness between them. Hakeem darted forward, slipping from one pool of shadow to the other, his footsteps on the stone floor soft and silent.
Suddenly he stopped, his hand-held up in warning. All three pressed against the wall in the shadows. Dixon’s heart was thumping in his chest, the blood thundering in his head. Hakeem moved on, the sounds of a scuffle reaching Dixon’s ears. Everyone was silent for a few minutes then Hakeem appeared, his robe stained with blood and his blade dripping.
“This hallway leads to behind the main chamber. The infidels are massing in front of the altar. I can see my daughter. I will try to get close enough to snatch her from the altar before the infidel priest can kill her.”
“What about the jewels, do you see them?” Sweet hissed. Hakeem was in front of him in a heartbeat, his blade tickling the underside of his chin.
“They are behind the altar, thief. A warning, though. Many have tried to snatch the jewels from around the neck of the stone statue they hang around. None has lived to do it. Some say they die a hideous death. Consumed by fire. Their souls spending eternity in the hell they created for themselves.” Hakeem turned and started back toward the opening. Sweet growled and Dixon saw the glimmer of steel in his hand.
Dixon stepped in front of him, his knife out, Sweet skidding to a stop and giving him a leering smile.
“Cut me and I will yell. Then you and all the others will be at the mercy of the things in the temple.”
Dixon gritted his teeth. He might be able to slash Sweet’s throat before he could yell but the man was fast and Dixon needed to be closer to make the move work.
“McFerrin?” Sweet said over his shoulder.
“Down for the count.” It was Sara’s voice. She stepped up beside Sweet, her eyes flashing in the dim light.
“Cover him, I’ll get the jewels. Drop the knife,” Sweet growled, his growl accented with Sara jabbing the muzzle of her rifle in Dixon’s side. Dixon dropped the knife and Sara took her foot and kicked it behind her.
“So, tell me, was Carter really your uncle?” Sara chuckled and stepped back, the rifle pointed as Dixon’s middle.
“That old fool. No, he wasn’t my uncle. We just worked together for the university. We were here to find relics for the college museum. That was how he came upon the map. Some old, half-blind man who sold it to him for a pack of cigarettes. I told him it was a fake but Carter said he didn’t think so. He took it to another man he knew, Jamar. The scum took him to a curio shop and the owner told them that the map was not fake.
“So, Jamar was working for Carter?”
“He was. Jamar was the one who recommended he hire you to lead them through the desert. Jamar said you had been across the desert a few times and you would be perfect for the job.”
Dixon grunted a yes. Jamar was setting a trap. Assuring Carter that Dixon was the bad guy so Carter wouldn’t get too close.
“I should have killed Jamar the first time,” Dixon muttered and Sara laughed softly.
“As you can see, you don’t have to worry about Jamar anymore. He was with Richter when he went back to get his bearings on the temple the second time. He was wounded by one of the arrows these people shot at them. He had the original map on him and was guiding Richter to the spot. When they went down, he left Richter to die but, as we have seen, died himself.”
“So, the whole tale about Richter losing the map as he was flying was a lie.” Dixon let a small smile cross his face. Sara was about to say something when there was a scream outside the temple. Hakeem’s men were inside the temple, rifle shots echoing down the tunnel they stood in. Voices rose in the temple, shouts and screams then Hakeem bellowed out.
“Infidels, scum of the earth! Allah’s revenge is upon you!”
There were more screams, the sounds of a blade meeting blade and hacking flesh could be heard. The minute the screams were heard, Dixon tried to grab for Sara’s rifle. She was quick, stepping back and starting to pull the trigger. She didn’t. Her eyes went wide and she tried to speak, her voice froze in her throat. She fell forward, the rifle clattering to the floor. A knife was buried in the back of her neck. Behind her was McFerrin. Blood still oozing down the side of his head.
Dixon stepped forward and grabbed up the rifle, checked the load and looked at McFerrin.
“Go. Kill the bastard. I’ll be alright.” McFerrin leaned against the wall and touched his head. He winced and groaned. Dixon turned and started to run toward the main room of the temple. He came up short as a man came toward him, something moving on his body.
It was Sweet. Dark shapes withered and moved on him. As he passed through the light of a torch, Dixon saw what it was. Spiders. Hundreds of them crawled on his face and arms. He tried to scream and one darted into his mouth. Sweet snapped his mouth shut and there was a crunch, his eyes going wider. Dixon raised the rifle and fired twice. Once to his chest and once in his head. Sweet fell. Something in his hand skidded across the floor close to Dixon’s feet.
Red stones sparkled in the dim light. Dixon used the rifle barrel to hook them and drag them closer. He picked them up and stuffed them in his pocket, turned and ran back to McFerrin, grabbed his friend under the arm and sped back to the door to the outside. Behind him, the sounds of battle grew dim. Hakeem yelling, his yells mixing with the screams of the ones in the temple.
Once outside, he made sure McFerrin was alright then started to go back in. Hakeem suddenly appeared, his robes spattered with blood, his blade dripping.
“The temple guards fight like old women. All except two, they were a challenge but not much. I see the woman and the other man are dead.”
“All they were after were the jewels. McFerrin killed the woman, but Sweet died of spider bites.”
“Those black ones?”
Dixon nodded.
“I’ve seen those in the bazaar in Cairo. They say the bite of them shoots fire through your veins.”
“Sweet was covered in them.” Dixon shook his head.
“Then what they tell is true,” Hakeem said checking his robes, “Whoever tries to steal the jewels will die by fire.”
Hakeem grunted and flicked one of the spiders from his robes and stomped it, twice. The last stomp sounded with a crunch. Hakeem grabbed the door and slammed it shut, looking for something to block it with.
“Your daughter?” Dixon asked.
“I was too late, the priest had her on the altar and had plunged a knife in her. I gave him the same treatment.” Hakeem smiled as he darted past McFerrin and Dixon.
“We best get away quickly. Things are going to get very bad here in a few minutes.”
Hakeem darted past, Dixon and McFerrin following. They were almost to the top of the ridge when the ground rumbled, then the door they had come out of exploded from its hinges. Dixon stumbled and McFerrin caught him, Hakeem also grabbing his shirt.
“How….” Dixon started to say. Hakeem laughed.
“Your friend McFerrin, he gave me the means to destroy the evil that took my daughter.”
McFerrin grinned.
The ground shook again, this time a sound like thunder rolled across the sands and a flash of fire erupted into the night sky followed by thick, black smoke. Hakeem grinned and scrambled over the ridge to where the camels were shifting about. Grabbing the reins, they each mounted and took off in a lope, Hakeem’s men following, black smoke, and the shaking ground slowly fading away.
***
Dixon remembered the last time he was sitting here. No money, down to his last sip and not knowing where he was going to sleep that night. He smiled and finished off the bourbon in his glass then poured himself another from the bottle beside him. He was about to take another drink when a familiar hand dropped on his shoulder. He didn’t even look, just took a drink and motioned for the bartender to get him another glass.
McFerrin mounted the stool beside him, took the filled glass and drained it.
“How you doing Dixon, still in the chips?” McFerrin asked as he held out the glass. Dixon poured and stared at him.
“I’m doing good, how about you?”
“Doing okay. Listen…”
Here it comes Dixon thought as McFerrin drained the glass again.
“I met this fellow who says he knows where there is an unopened tomb out in the desert. He wants us to help him find it. He said he heard the story about the temple and….”
Dixon drained the glass and poured another. What the hell he thought, he might have sworn he would never go on a treasure hunt again but… He took his next to the last coin out of his pocket and flipped it on the bar then picked up the bottle and stood.
“Tell me about this tomb,” Dixon said waving McFerrin over to one of the back tables in the café.
End

 

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A promise kept

Well, as I said, I am posting another unpublished story from the many I have written. Selling shorts, as I call them, is a tedious business. I write in the old style. The pulp magazine style so to speak. Action and adventure with a little bit of mystery is my game. I like to write this way but a some publishers are not in vogue with this. Why? Well, they have to buy what will sell their magazines and if the story isn’t in the now, well…

Not all publishers are this way though. One I have sold too, Crimson Streets is one of them. They like the old time stories with villains an hero’s. Also some bad guys who make out in the end. Anyway, here is one for your reading enjoyment called the “Temple of Al-Amon.” It takes place in the 1930’s when archeologists were discovering the wealth of the pharoses. Hope you enjoy. Read more…

Things I consider important

It has been a long few months and to be honest, I haven’t done much in the writing department. I have been concentrating on other things, one being my first love, music. Now don’t get me wrong, I do love to write, but music has always been a part of my life since I was sixteen and it will remain so.

As of late, I have been dabbling in learning the mandolin. Mostly because I have been playing with a gospel group and though I have only played the mandolin a few times, I have found that I do love the sound and rhythm of bluegrass gospel. I like other bluegrass music also and do try to play it but these old fingers are not what they used to be and picking fast will take time if ever.

Other things have caused me to take a sabbatical from writing. one being the summer chores, you know the ones, yard mowing and cleaning up after the winter.I have also gotten into firearms. The constitutional carry giving me the chance to go armed in this changing world. Things are a lot different these days. Gone are the people who respect the lives of others and property but I do not strut around just because I am armed.

That is a good way to become a target. I carry on normally. As if it is just another day. But if needed, and only if needed, I am ready. To be honest, I would hate to shoot a man or woman for that matter. Life is a precious thing and not to be taken lightly although there are some who do not think so. Life or death is the only reason I would pull the trigger.

I do practice for I wish to be able to hit what I aim at. I care nothing about grouping or hitting the bullseye. All I care about is stopping the threat without injuring the innocent. But enough of that. I will sooner or later get back to pounding the keyboard. When, I can’t tell you but it will happen. I love telling stories, taking the reader to places where the bad guy falls and the hero comes out on top, if only in a dark sort of way.

I will post another story from my early writings soon and I hope you enjoyed the last one I posted. I have a few, they just need to be cleaned up before I post them. Maybe a two-part job. I have one and am considering posting it. One that takes the reader back to a time when treasure hunting still young and men, in the Indiana Jones fashion, hunted for relics that were still hidden either in the sands of the Egyptian desert or in mountainous caverns elsewhere.

That’s it for now. stay cool and until next time….

Smugglers, Thieves and the Dark Side of the Moon

Ok folks, here it is. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did writing it.

 

Smugglers, Thieves, and The Dark Side of the Moon
By
Ike Keen

 

The alarm went off four minutes before it should have. I mean, four minutes is four minutes no matter where you are at. Especially on this air less, dust covered planet a few thousand miles from Mother Earth.
I sat up in my sleep pod and rubbed my eyes, glanced at the clock and groaned. Another day at playing lawman. Another day of patrolling the west unit. The one where all the asteroid miners came to be checked out before they and their loads traveled home. Loads of metals no longer found on the mined-out surface of Earth. Minerals that had ran out when the world I had once called home decided to close the mines.
This happened right after a company sent a team to check out the asteroid belt located between Mars and Jupiter looking to see if there was any profit in mining the floating rocks. Twice the mission failed. The first one being the ship that was supposed to take the people to the belt malfunctioned and sent them past the belt and into deep space. Some say it was sabotage. The bible thumpers claimed it was God’s will. What it really was, was a glitch in the software.
The second time it was a micro-meteor shower. The shielding on the ship not heavy enough to stop the tiny rocks from penetrating the metal skin of the ship. Including the fuel tanks. Electric sparks set the fuel off and boom, another mission bit the dust.
Billions of dollars later they tried again, this time with luck and finding a treasure trove of what was needed back home. There were of course other troubles popped up. One being a microbe carried back to Mother Earth.
One that killed thousands before a cure was found. That’s why Delta Base One was built here on the moon. Now all ships coming from the belt dock here first. Medical teams going over the crew and the ship. Most passing muster but a few quarantined until whatever bug they found was eradicated.
Of course, there had to be law on the base so the company hired people to keep the peace. One space marshal and a deputy or two. Mostly just one deputy. Some of the regulars who lived on the base could be sworn in in case of an emergency.
I pushed the button on my console and the pod door hissed open, the air in my quarters a little stale. I stood and walked over to the condenser control panel, checked the gauges and adjusted a couple of controls. I turned and then stopped, Zee Parker, my deputy who shared quarters with me, was in the shower.
Zee is a looker. Average height, she is well endowed and curvy. She’s been here with me for over a year and in that year, we have become close. Closer than the Company would like but what the hell, a man has needs and so does she. She turned and looked at me, grinned and opened the door a little, sticking her head out.
“Morning,” she said in a sultry voice, “looks like someone is happy to see me.”
I smiled back and walked over to her, opened the shower door and stepped in. We’d be late but what the hell, the west unit could wait.
***
I sent Zee to check on the hydroponic farm down on the west end where the alarm had said there was trouble. The man in charge of the farm was Professor Burns. He had left a message that someone was stealing potatoes from the farm a few weeks back.
“It’s probably the bar owners in the Red Light District stealing his spuds again,” I said to Zee as she strapped on her stunner.
“Can’t blame em’,” Zee said walking to the door, “Booze shipments haven’t been coming in regular and old Burns charges a fortune for the spuds when they want to buy some to keep their customers happy.”
“Yeah, just go down and see the prof and take his complaint. Check it out then file a report.” I looked at Zee and she snapped to attention, saluted and left. I chuckled and went back to checking my email. I did send an email to the Company saying we were investigating the stolen spuds and if the prof had contacted them again, to tell him to not charge so much.
Like that is gonna happen. Burns is a tea teetotaler. He told me potatoes were for eating, not for making liquor. The rest of the emails were minor stuff. Rule changes, a note to remind the Red Light District about their annual checkups for the girls and notices of shipments coming in.
I was about to shut down when the comp screen flashed red then switched to a map of the hydroponic farm flashing in red which meant big trouble. I made tracks out the door and down the hall, calling to Zee on the radio and getting nothing but static. Halfway there I tried again, this time Zee’s voice came through the crackle of static.
“Mason, do you read me?”
“Yeah Zee, what the hell’s going on?” I yelled into the mic.
“Breach…. sealed off hydro…. unit…. Burns….”
I picked up the pace. Rounding the corner, I seen Zee at the airlock door. I skidded to a stop and she jerked her head around at me.
“Look,” she whispered and stepped back.
I looked. I saw something in the hydroponics. Something dark ripping Prof Burns apart. I reached for the button to open the door and Zee grabbed my hand.
“The dome, it’s been breached.” She pointed. I looked. A hole was in the dome top which meant no air. Least Burns was dead before the thing started on him.
“So, it came through the dome?” I asked.
“No, it tossed Burn’s assistant through the dome roof. I got here just as it done that. It grabbed Burns before he was sucked out. I hit the emergency shut down before the air was sucked all out of this section.”
“Where did it come from then?”
“Hell if I know…” Zee stopped, then snapped her fingers. “Isn’t there a tunnel entrance on the other side of the farm?”
I nodded. “We’ll have to go around and through the Red Light District to get to the tunnel. Just hope to hell the old door works.”
“Then lead on oh wise one.”
I grunted and took the lead. Back in the day, various tunnels were used to connect the unites together until the corridors were finished. Most of them were sealed off with steel doors. Maintained in case they needed to be used again.
Going through the Red Light District was always an experience. Most of the time we don’t go down there. Only when something bad happens. Looks like bad had come. In between times, Holly and her girls take care of the trouble. As we rounded the corner I slowed. Some of the girls were crowded around the door, the door shut.
“What’s going on?” I said. The girls jumped and one of them gasped.
“God, it was bad, really, really bad!” one of the girls said.
“What was bad?” I growled it and Zee stepped around me.
“Tell me what happened?” Zee’s voice was smooth and quiet. Holly, the one who kept law and order here started to talk.
“I was in the Moon Dog Club. I was makin’ a deal with this miner when one of the miners came slammin’ through the window, part of him anyway. After that it was crazy. People screamin’, body parts all over the place. We got out and closed the door. Other people were trying to get out but we…. we….”
She let out a sob and Zee put her arm around her and led her and the others away from the door. They were at the corner when Med-Assist showed up. They took the girls and Zee came back.
“We go in?” she asked.
“We go in.” I took in a deep breath and pushed the door button. There was a hiss and the door slid open, half of a dead body lying in front of it. I stepped over and Zee followed. The air was filled with the smell of coppery blood. Pieces of bodies were tossed around. The entrance door to the tunnel was open. One man was trying to crawl across the walkway by one arm. I nodded for Zee to check him and she went to him while I covered her.
“Celest,” he gasped out, “check the Celest.”
He groaned. His eyes rolled up in his head as he let out his last breath. Zee was about to stand when I dove toward her. A black shape streaked over us, hit the walkway and disappeared into the tunnel on the other side. I fired my stunner but all it did was hit the wall and crackle.
“What the hell was that?” Zee hissed.
“Whatever it was, we need to lock down this unit also.”
“But what if….”
I shook my head and we made our way back to the door, Zee watching forward; me watching our backs. Once through the door I hit the emergency close, the door closing fast. Something slamming into it as it closed and sealed, denting it but not breaking through.
“That tunnel leads to the farm. We need to close off units six and seven. Activate the general alarm,” I said running toward the control room, “then we check out that ship he told us about.”
Zee was right on my heels. We reached the control room and I noticed a few more red lights on. Emergency lights. All in units six and seven. I hit the emergency lockdown button then went back to the office pulling the key card around my neck loose.
I walked over to a cabinet on the east wall, slipped the key in the lock, then punched in a code. The door opened and I handed Zee one of the Laser rifles along with a laser pistol. She clipped the pistol’s holster clip on her belt and checked the laser rifle.
“Aim carefully, you know what will happen if you breach any of the domes.” I said.
“Whoosh, instant death.” She said this and smiled. I chuckled and we headed toward the docking bay.
***
You probably think her last statement was a little morbid to be laughed at. Not so here. I mean, all it would take is one screw up and we’d all be standing in front of St. Peter and the gates. We may be headed that way now.
The docking bay is located on the backside of Delta, close to the dark side. Close like in ten or fifteen Earth miles away. At the docking bay control room, I checked the air in the bay which said it was fine but we still took oxygen bottles with us. The controls might have malfunctioned giving a wrong reading.
We took the elevator down to the bay floor. When it stopped, I pushed the door open button and looked a Zee.
“Here goes,” I said and let off the button. There was no hiss of air being pulled out of the elevator so I slowly took the mask off. There was air, but it had the smell of scorched metal and flesh. As we stepped out, I let out a low whistle. There had been a battle here. Laser burns scarred the metal of the walls and ships. Someone had used the gun on one of the ships, a frigate which was illegally armed, and had split a passenger ship in two, the back half still smoking where it had exploded.
Lots of bodies lay around, ripped apart like the ones in the R.L. District. As I checked to see if anyone was still alive, I noticed that there was a dark smear on the center of the bay doors leading outside. I motioned to them and Zee nodded. We walked over and what I saw is hard to describe.
Something had tried to slip through the doors before they slammed shut. Well, half of them made it. To describe that half was what is hard. Its skin was black as midnight and scaly. The head was conical shaped with a beak for the mouth. I bet the thing had a dozen eyes sprouting out of its head on middle finger sized stalks and for arms, there were appendages which were hinged like a bug. Where the hands should have been was a mass of tentacles, the suckers on the ends having tiny mouths.
Zee started to kneel and one of the tentacles snapped out missing her by inches. I fired my rifle, the beam lancing across the things flesh and sliced it open. The stench from it was gagging. I motioned for Zee to follow me and we walked back to the elevator. We kept an eye out for maybe a live one hiding out. All we saw were dead, ripped apart bodies and blasted ones like at the dock doors.
We were midway of the bay when a clatter of metal sounded to my right and the thump of a proton gun split the air. I dove to the floor, the blast of the gun smacking one of the ships and melting the metal on it.
Zee lowered her rifle, chuckled then called out. “Harv, it’s us Harv. Zee and Mason.”
I came up on my knees and looked where Zee was watching. Peeking around a stack of metal boxes with a full head of white hair and blue eyes was Harvey Morris, He slowly stood and gave us a sheepish grin.
“Thought they told you to get rid of that ancient pop gun?” I said standing. Harv walked over to us and hefted the proton gun up in the air. They were developed during the boarder wars of 2116. The unit having a brace that fit around the arm, the proton gun itself a heavy piece of metal that was balanced with the other hand by a grip on the bottom. It had a hell of a recoil. A few of the men who handled them suffered from elbow and shoulder trouble.
“Only thing that was available. They confiscate all weapons once the ships are docked.” Harv gave the gun a shake. “I hid this baby a long while back.”
“What the hell happened Harv?” Zee asked.
Harv shook his head and sat down on a metal box, the proton gun resting muzzle down on the floor.
“The bastards came in on the Celest. They flew her in and docked as per regulation. Nothing out of the ordinary until the med crew came out.” Harv paused and sucked in a deep breath and let it out slow. “After a few minutes, the hatch cracked open and one of the med crew walked halfway up the ramp. One of them things reached out and grabbed him, ripped him up and tossed the pieces back out at the crew on the floor. They piled out then. Black as midnight and rippin’ up anyone they could get a hold of.
“Three of them headed toward the elevator while the rest did their damage. Them two at the bay doors, I vaporized their asses off with this baby, literally.” He patted the proton gun. “The three who were at the elevator were having a fit. The control room crew had shut it down and they couldn’t get it to work. After that, they went to the tunnel hatch. Opened it and disappeared down the tunnels.”
“Which is how they got into the hydro farm and the R.L. District.” I looked over at the Celest for a moment, Zee reading what I was going to do. “Keep an eye out. Maybe the captain’s logs can tell us something.”
I made tracks to the hatch of the ship, walked up to the opening and peeked inside. What was left of the crew wouldn’t fill a medium sized crate. I stepped around all the body parts and gore and headed to the cockpit. The captain’s body was still intact, well, the body was, the head had a hole in it and was sunk in.
I pulled him from his seat and sat down, activated the control console and brought up the logs. I brought up the last log, lots of noise and I could hear laser rifles firing. Then the captain was there, a cut on his head and his voice tight.
“Date; 2563. Time; 0500 hours. We came across the dark side of the moon because one of my men said he was getting life form readings from one of the craters. I told him he was nuts then he put it up on the screen. Something was moving down there so we dipped lower and opened the window screens to see.
“That was when the light hit us. Bright white, it blinded us both and our ship hit the ground. Next thing we knew those things were crawling all over the outside of the ship. Pounding on the hull trying to find a way in. Jeff and Sandy took over the helm while my eyes cleared and got us up and going, but not before they found a way inside from the engine compartment.
“We’ve sealed it off but they are strong. The door isn’t going to hold. I’m sending this to Delta Base. Whoever hears it, don’t let the ship in. Don’t let….”
Screams, laser fire, more screams and the captain reaching out to hit the send button. He never made it. A black tentacle hit him on top of the head and started to drill into it. A black head appeared on the screen then it went blank.
“Anything?” a voice said behind me. I jumped and whirled around. Zee held up both hands. “Whoa boss, me friendly.”
“Sorry.” I let the tension drain out a little. “Just that they were coming in from the dark side and they saw those things so they went down to investigate.”
“And got jumped.”
I nodded. “But why? Why jump a ship when they could have just crawled back in their holes and when the crew told what they saw, nobody would have believed them. It’s happened before. Remember when those two scientists went looking around on the dark side and came back claiming there were buildings there?”
“Yeah, they said they had moon fever from being out too long.”
“That wasn’t the term the doctors used,” I said.
“Well, the technical name for it is beyond my pronunciation skills. Means the same though.” Zee made a face and snarled her nose up. “We gotta do something Mason before we’re the only live ones left so far.”
I nodded and exited the ship, the three of us headed toward the elevator and the control room. I sat down at the computer and brought up all the cameras on the base. I knew the hydro farm and the R.L. District were gone so I switched to the last ten units on the base. Units ten through fifteen were a mess. The base military, the people who lived there, had taken a hit. The last five were locked down, the things milling around in the halls as one of them fiddled with the controls to the door. Unit twenty was filled with people.
“We need to get to those people in unit twenty and get them the hell to the docking bay,” Harv said.
“How, the only way in is through where those damned things are,” I said.
“Not the only way.” Harv grinned and motioned for us to follow.
***
We went down to one of the doors that sealed off the unit from the tunnels. Back before the units were built, the first arrivals bored tunnels in the mountain sides, installed airtight doors and set up oxygen machines. Harv flipped open a dusty box and pressed his thumb to the pad there. The door cycled then slid open. Musty air filtered out, dust fell from the door frame and lights every few feet came on.
“This is the first tunnel they bored after they landed. At the end is the living quarters. Unit twenty was built first then the others. They moved the living quarters out there once it was done and sealed the tunnel off with a door. It was to be an escape hatch in case something happened. Only a few men had access to the locks.” Harv looked over his shoulder and grinned.
“And you were one of them.” I answered.
He nodded and hustled on down the tunnel. In a few minutes, we stood in a twelve by twenty room carved out of the rock. Old cots and tables, layered with years of dust stood in the room. Harv walked over to another panel and opened it, pressed his thumb on the pad, leaned in and whispered a word. The door cycled, shivered them opened. A laser lanced through the opening.
“Marshal Mason,” I called out, “hold your fire.”
I peeked around the door jam and a rifle was pointed at my head. When the man saw my face, he let out a breath and the others did also.
“This way,” I said motioning to the people in the room, “we need to get you to the docking bay and on a ship.”
“Bout damned time,” the man with the rifle said. Harv was inside helping the people through, one eye on them, the other on the door out to the corridor.
“Best move faster,” he hissed at me. I glanced over at the door and it was moving.
“Quickly,” I snapped to the rest of the people. They were almost through when the door screeched and slid halfway open.
“Come on Harv,” I yelled. He grinned at me and shoved me out into the tunnel.
“Get em’ to the ship.” Harv said.
I started to reach in and grab him but he pressed his thumb on the pad and the door slid shut. The last sounds I heard was the proton gun firing, and Harv yelling.
***
The ship, a Company passenger ship left the dock in record time. All that was left were me and Zee. While we were getting the ship ready, I was thinking about why those things had attacked the Celest.
We’d been on the moon since 2188. In all that time, these beings had never bothered us, never showed themselves to us. Now, they were hell bent on ridding the planet of us. Why? Maybe the answer was on the ship. I told Zee this and she nodded.
“The captain, you know him?” she asked.
I shook my head.
“Well, while you were briefing that fellow on how the ship worked, I went into the Celest and viewed the log. The guy’s name is Preston Crabs. He a smuggler and thief when he isn’t hauling honest freight. I also found this.” Zee held a book out to me. “Bet this is what they’re after.”
I took the book, opened it and leafed through some of the pages. One caught my eye. It was one page and on it was a picture of a statue. Only this statue was of solid gold. It was an ugly looking thing, the face flat, the eyes big and bug like. A small mouth held needle sharp teeth and carved on the body were tentacles.
“No,” I said showing her the picture, “They were after this.”
Zee grunted and took the book. I checked back in the cargo bay, the metal boxes all ripped apart. I thumped on the walls and listened for a hollow space. There were none.
“Hey boss, we got company!”
I went back forward and looked out the hatch. They were coming toward us, twittering in some unknow language. I stepped back to close the hatch when my foot made a hollow thump on one of the plates in the floor. I pointed at the plates and Zee helped me move them.
Two plates came up and under the floor the statue lay. Zee and I hefted it out of the hole, placed the plates back and moved it toward the hatch.
“Be ready, they might want blood,” I whispered and drew my pistol. The twittering changed sound when they saw the statue. It was like a low hum. As we stood with our back against the other side of the ship, the hum grew louder, tentacles reaching out gently, caressing the statue then gently lifting it.
As soon as it was out, one of the beings came halfway into the hatch, one of his tentacles reaching out and pointing at the book. I stepped forward and held it out to him. The tentacle reached out and gently wrapped around the book and pulled it from my hands. His many eyes looked at me and he bowed slightly, then exited the ship.
Zee and I waited for a few minutes, then stepped over to the hatch button and pushed it. The docking doors opened just as the Celest’s hatch closed, the sound of oxygen escaping not hindering they’re exit. The beings were moving in double file, the statue in the middle of the group, the hum starting again as they exited the hanger and moved toward the dark side.
***
Delta base was closed and destroyed. What happened there was never mentioned to the public. The Company deemed it necessary. If word had gotten out that there were war-like beings on the moon, nobody would want to work or go there. Zee and I were given a long vacation, not permanent, just a good long rest to get the nightmare out of our minds. We couldn’t. I’d wake up nights sweating and seeing those beings coming for me and Zee, tentacles ripping her apart first then starting on me.
Seems the crew of the Celest did more than just get the ship going. When they crashed, they slammed into a building that looked like a mound of dust. While they were fixing the damage, a couple of the crew went exploring. They came across the statue and decided they had hit the mother lode.
What they hit were a pissed of bunch of aliens when they stole their God. This I got from a security chief who had investigated the incident. He told me the videos and tapes of the theft were sealed. So were mine and Zee’s mouths under penalty of death if this ever got out.
Back on earth, I searched for a copy of the book that I had given back to them. I really didn’t figure I’d find one but in a small, dusty, book shop in the old section of the city, I came across one. It had been translated and what I read made me decide that I didn’t want to go back.
Those beings were older than man, older than when the earth was forming new. They had come from the edge of space. Darkness their realm, their God a blasphemous deity who held sway over them. They, like the men who came from the asteroid belt, were miners. The material they mined was gold. Machines processed it from the dust, dirt and rocks of the moon.
I bought the book and then asked the man who sold it to me if there were any others.
“No, that’s the only copy. You have quite a rarity young man. I’d keep it under lock and key if I were you.”
I burned it.
Now I’m marshal on a mining colony on Mars. The only reason I took the job is because Zee is a deputy there and the last marshal went ape shit and killed half a dozen miners. Zee was asked if she wanted the job and she told them hell no, to ask me. They did and I said yes. I always did like waking up to a good hot shower in the morning with someone to scrub my back. Zee’s good at it.
End

Coming out of the sabbatical

First of all, I’d like to say I will be posting a few stories on my blog here. Some that other publishers don’t seem to want. Go figure, lol. They are shorts and even though I won’t get paid for them, I want you all to enjoy them.

Second, two new novellas have appeared from Mickey Spillane. One is an early story written in the late forties which is in the style of the Mike Hammer novels. Gritty and dark. The main character is ruthless and out to kill those who have wronged him. A good read in my opinion.

The second novella, (which is also in the book) is a later story. His last. I haven’t read it all yet but it is interesting. Taking place on an Indian reservation, it has the slight flow of Mr. Spillane’s writing and is a different detective novel all together. Not as much violence but still a good read. Barnes and Nobel has the book and for a little over twenty dollars, it is a good buy.

As of late I have been trying to pull a story out of my mind to get back in the flow. There have been attempts and most of them fall flat because of other things popping up. Right now I am trying to get all my bills paid off (and on a fixed income that is rough) but am slowly making strides toward more money in the bank.

Right at the moment, I am debating a story to publish here that I wrote last year. It is a Sci-fi  story, (which I writer very little of) about the moon. It has a Lovecraft touch to it and some of the things in the story are all made up. No hard science here! Just a lot of action. There are others I am thinking of putting on the blog but those will be saved for a later date.

As for my recent book, I have let it set on the back burner for a while. I’ll get back to submitting it sometime but right now, I just want to get things straight here before I venture out into the submitting field again. I have an idea for another novel which I am letting germinate in my mind before I start. I am looking for something different. A different twist so to speak and new characters to work with. I’ll let you all know when it starts.

Maybe with spring coming, if it ever does, I’ll be able to get out of this funk and proceed ahead. Anyway, that’s where thing are at the moment. Be safe and keep dreaming the dream.

How things have changed

Things have changed since I have grown up. The world has gotten a little more digital and a little less understanding. When I was younger, it was a time when people helped other people. Someone having trouble like a flat or trouble with their car, someone would stop and help. Today that is a risk. I read of someone being attacked and killed or abducted almost every day. What has happened?

Oh, there are still a few good people out there not to sound like a griper. But they have become far and in between. They talk about the me generation. It is still that way. I want it before you can get it and I ‘ll do everything in my power to get it. Such a waste. It’s simple greed I guess and we all have a degree of greed. Don’t say we don’t. I have encountered this in many a place in the past few years. Take for instance the so-called Black Friday.

People lining up in front of stores and then stampeding through the doors to get those one of a kind bargains. Sometimes fights breaking out. Better to go after the rush I think. If you miss out, too bad. Usually the store will have more brought in, but at a higher price because the demand is high. Talk about price gouging!

On a lighter note, I have started a new novel. This one called The house on Shadow Hill. Yes, it’s a supernatural novel with a twist of Lovecraft in it. If you don’t know who Lovecraft is, then shame on you. He wrote weird fiction back in the thirties and forties to sell to the pulp (cheap for the general public) magazines. I have read about all his stories and have marveled at the way the man can bring a chill to one’s spine without describing the horror the main character is experiencing.

He hints at it, causes the mind to imagine what it must look like and sometimes the mind can imagine better than the writer can describe. Some have told me he is a hard read. Yes, he is sometimes very wordy but if on can stick with it, one can be chilled to the bone without all the blood and guts some writers seem to write.

Mind you, sometimes blood and guts is the way to go. But only toward the end and very little of it. I have gone for the gorse out a few times. Mostly because it fit the story. When possible though, I creep up on the reader with the horror, creep up and then hint at what is coming. I find that sometimes, that makes the story. Chills the blood and makes a shiver crawl up the spine.

Tis my way with the supernatural gene. As for the detective stories, my main characters are always tough guys, shoot first and ask questions later. as for villains, they must be as nasty as possible. Ruthless, with no morals and no qualms about killing. A villain one must hate and want to see destroyed badly.

This is my writing style. One some authors say is haphazard and not right. I am a punster, a seat of the pants writer. My characters carrying the story as it is written. No notes, only names jotted down in case they are mentioned later in the story. This is how I write. This is me and no one can change that.

Rejections aren’t the end.

I have heard many writers say they don’t know why they even try. Why they keep producing and producing and nothing seems to sell. Some blame the publishers. Call them assholes and idiots. They wouldn’t know a good story if it stared them in the face. Well, yes they do.

I’ve been writing since 1984 and have suffered the rejection bit many times. It is frustrating to say the least. You work hard on a story that you enjoy and then submit. After a few weeks (most of the time it is months) and a rejection comes in the email saying thanks for submitting but the story is just not right for our magazine. Bummer? Yes. But not the end.

Back when I started pounding the keyboards, there were many small press magazines to submit to. My stories were mostly supernatural tales and there were a boat load of those magazines in existence. Some gave me the form reject and sent my story back, (that was in the mail the hardcopy days. SASE envelope sent with the hardcopy so they could send it back with a rejection).

In those early days, I acquired a whole desk drawer full of rejections. Some standard, some with a bit of help on what was wrong with the story. Especially one Supernatural magazine called The Horror Show. The editor publisher must have seen something in my writing and critiqued every story I sent him. He was a big help in making my writing stronger and easier to read.

I sold two in those days (both magazines out of print) and was very happy. One was a freebie, the other I got paid four dollars for which made me happy because, it might not have been much but it  made me a published-paid writer. Personal problems took me away from the keyboards for a while. Life can do that if you let it but it was my second wife who, after reading those two tales, asked my why I wasn’t still writing. I had no answer for her and she informed me that if I didn’t start again, she would kick my ass.

I did, and the first story I wrote, One for Black Pedals called Dust to Dust, was accepted. No pay but I was back on track again. After that, there were still rejections. I was still paying my dues so to speak. I had switched from supernatural to hard-boiled detective stories but still wrote the occasional supernatural tale from time to time.

By then, the small press magazine market was smaller. Not the usual mega listings that had been around when I first started. Especially in the detective field. So, I turned my detective short into a novel and published it myself. In fact, a small press company named Paperback Press published the book for me. It was self publishing, my book, three of them in a series, placed on Kindle and did fine.

I’m no salesman though, my marketing skills them not up to par. Nonexistent really. Still, the book did okay so I can’t complain except to myself for not marketing the book better. Such is the way things go. I have now realized (with advice from a friend) that I need to treat my writing as a business. Do social media more. Blog and keep in touch with my readers.

Which is what I am doing now. as to the rejection. Every writer will experience it. Even the best get shot down at some time or the other. My advice, put your ego on the back burner. Listen to what editors tell you is wrong with the story and fix it. Don’t think that your story is the best ever written. It isn’t. Rejection is what is called paying your dues and if you listen to those that call out your faults in the story, then your writing will grow and someday, a check will come in the mail. It might not be much but you can claim the honor of being a paid author.