• Category Archives short fiction
  • Deadroll

    Chapter 1: The First Day

    20161026_141438_film1“And this is our main studio control room…..” A short, chinese woman with a hollow voice said as we walked into a room. On one wall….monitors everywhere over a counter full of controls.
    “This is like something out of Star Trek,” I said with a snort.
    “Close….this console was actually used in Star Wars. You know that lever they pull on the Death star?”
    “Ohmygosh! Yes! Oh Wow!” I marveled at the controls – the lights, the buttons. Here was a piece of cinematic history in front of me.
    “Let’s look over here” We turn to see a large studio through the windows- maybe 75 by 100 feet. The walls were grey, and lit with a blue light. Cameras arranged in front of a stage, lights dangling from the rafters.
    “What the hell!?!?!” I noticed a horrific doll right at the window. It was female….it had curly brown pigtails….It looked vaguely realistic, but the paint was chipped…..like it was quite old. Maybe from the 50s or earlier.
    “Oh….that….that’s just Jill. We use her for training purposes. Her tone is fairly realistic, so she’s good at teaching how to color correct cameras.”
    “I swear….she moved her head”
    “Hah! A lot of people say that….it’s just your imagination though.”

    Later that day, in the same studio, I sit at the monitor wall. Over the intercom, someone says “10 minutes to dead roll”.
    “Dead roll?”
    “Oh, this is a live show. We have to end at a certain time. Dead roll is just a long ending. It has a countdown beforehand, so we know if it’s safe to cut to the ending or if we need to keep stretching the guests and host.”
    “Oh….makes sense.”
    “Camera one….you do realize you’re live. Stop moving around like you’re on a roller coaster!” the director, a plump, middle aged hispanic man yells.”

    Chapter 2: One Month Later

    The clock seems dead. Not literally. I can hear the ticking of the second hands, but it seems so slow. The minutes feel like they’ve been caught in a time warp. Ahhh. Bordem. I sit at my desk and fight the urge to space out.
    Just then, a rumble. My coworker rolls by my door – a cart with Jill and her “brother” Jack” on it. Covered with a blanket, almost as the equipment cart was a gurney. Almost as he was taking Jack and Jill into surgery. I think nothing of it…..I’m used to creepy Jill by now. I’ve convinced myself the incident on my first day was nothing more than my imagination. Jitters from starting a new job. But for some reason….Jill caught my eye. I stare at her. She’s facing the ceiling with her plastic half smile.
    And then she turns her head towards me…..
    And then she smiles….. a toothy….smile.
    I scream and lock my door.

    The next day I ask my coworker if he had been playing a trick on me. If perhaps he had rigged some remote control to her or something.
    “Nope, besides, her neck is fixed. No moving, come look for yourself.”
    We go to the storage equipment…..but Jill isn’t there.
    “Huh…I thought she was right here, someone must have moved her.”
    I look at the empty space, then I look over at Jack. Still at his spot. I pick him up and examine his neck. Solid. Nothing that can move. I know the dolls are a set….made exactly alike aside from one being male and one being female.
    “Hmm, must have been my imagination again. Mid day day dream fooling my brain”
    I shake it off, and go about my day.

    Chapter 3: Deadroll

    Another live show. On cue, over the intercom, a female voice monosyllabically announces” five minutes to dead roll.”
    I sit at my station, dialing knobs, dials, levers mindlessly. I hear someone behind me cue up the deadroll at the VTR station. Backwards chipmunks, forwards, backwards, backwards, forwards, backwards….they finally get it right.
    Three minutes later, on cue…..another deadroll announcement….”two minutes to deadroll”.
    At the minute mark however…..the voice changes to an excited little girl, hyped up on sugar.
    “One minute to deaaadrollllll! HAHAHAHAHA.”
    The plump, middle aged director snaps “that’s not funny! We’re professionals!”
    But thirty seconds later….the same voice. The same “little girl.”
    30……20…….15……10….9….8….7…6…..
    We’re looking around, frightened, wonder what’s going on…..
    5….4……3…..2…..1…….TIME FOR DEADROLL!!!!!!!!!!
    Every monitor turns a bright red. The windows into the studio turn black. All we hear in the studio is screaming! Terror. We run to the door….but the door is locked! Someone tries the landline – but no answer. We yell over the intercom…..no one seems to hear. Our cell phones have no signal. This better just be a prank!
    A couple minutes later, the windows clear up..
    “Ohmygod! Ohmygod!” the audio engineer screeches. Everyone that was in the studio is now dead. Their bodies, all thrown into a bloody pile in the center of the set. 20 or so bodies….lifeless. And no clue of what happened. Just dead bodies….
    Just then, the door opens. in the door….it’s…..I must be hallucinating. It’s Jill!. She’s got no arms….no legs, and yet she’s standing there. Her chipped face, smiling psychotic. Teeth showing that couldn’t exist.
    She spins her head clockwise…..screeching. Then mumbling – like twenty, thirty, maybe 50 voices are coming out of her mouth.
    Out of apparent thin air, she holds up a knife – with her lack of arms. It’s almost like the knife is attached to her dress. She floats to the audio engineer and cuts her throat. Her blood spills from her neck and she drops to the floor.
    Jill moves to the director. He’s whimpering in the corner, mumbling “”Hail Mary full of Grace”
    Jill “asks…..is this professional?” and then slits his throat. His dead body makes a hard thud as it crashes onto a counter.
    And now Jill turns to me…….
    “You…..I’ve been waiting for you…..”
    “Why….why me”
    “No reason…..boredom.”
    “Ummm…..ok?”
    I decide to reach for a knife in my back pocket and quickly present it.
    “What the Hell do you think you’re going to do with that? My body is made out of plastic.”
    “Uhhhh,”
    She quickly slashes towards my throat, but I block it with my hand. I grab her dress and pull her around….throwing her against the console. She drops her knife, but somehow bites me. With all my might, I throw her against the door. Her body is in pieces, her head, still intact. I reach for a book on the counter. It’s a heavy Bible…..appropriate.
    I yell, “I’ve heard of Bible bashing, but this is ridiculous.” and plummeted her head with the Bible until it was nothing but rubble.

    Epilogue.

    “How can we recover from this?” I ask the remaining coworkers.
    “We can’t….we just move on.”
    “I think we better burn the remains of Jill…..throw her into a furnace or something. Just in case.”
    “Probably not necessary…..but if it makes you feel better, feel free to do it.”

    Back in the equipment closet, next to Jill’s now vacant spot….an unexplained light shines on Jack. He awakens, and maniacally laughs as he circles his head…..

    The End?

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  • Larry the Happy, Homicidal Squirrel

    As with the tradition of the last few years, I’ve once more written a story in the spirit of Halloween. So, without further adiue, I bring you the adventures of Larry the Happy Squirrel in Happyville. Happy Halloween, and enjoy.

    ——————————–

    It was a peaceful day in Happyville. The sun was shining, the flowers were singing, the trees were swaying, and everyone was happy. After all, this was Happyville. Wait, wait, there is no such place as Happyville! Well, there isn’t now…for on that very day Happyville ceased to exist.
    Like I was saying, Happyville was a happy place for happy people with happy lives and happy jobs, happy families,….even the cows they slaughtered for their evening meals were happy! To be unhappy in Happyville was just impossibility until that day. A couple weeks before, Larry the happy squirrel ventured back from his happy journey from the lands south of Happyville. No one is sure what happened, but Larry the happy squirrel somehow lost his happiness on the happy journey. Larry decided to fake happiness for awhile, thinking no one would notice. For the most part, no one did. The residents of Happyville were rather simple and a little dumb. Besides, they had no concept of unhappiness – it was almost like gibberish to their brains.
    Larry, feigning happiness, walked to the diner like he always did, and ordered happy eggs with happy toast and happy coffee. As the waitress, Lisa the gazelle, poured the happy coffee into Larry’s happy cup, she accidently poured scolding happy coffee on Larry’s unhappy hand. Those two weeks of feigning happiness were taking their toll on Larry – faking it usually does. This, unfortunately for Lisa and everyone else in the diner, was the last straw. Larry couldn’t hold his happiness in. In his cute, cartoony squirrel voice, Larry wailed…
    YOU BITCH! YOU STUPID MORON! YOU GOOD FOR NOTHING IDIOT OF A STUPID….
    Larry stopped and realizing everyone else was staring at him. No doubt, their small brains could not figure out exactly what was happening. No doubt they felt something terrible had happened, but couldn’t decipher what….but they knew Larry was no longer something Happyville could have in its happy borders. Farrah the Earthworm squirmed towards the door. She had to inform the happy mayor that Happyville needed to do something about Larry. But Farrah, poor Farrah, she couldn’t move too fast. Larry saw her slithering to, so he took his happy boot and smashed her. Farrah’s happy guts squished out of her, all over the happy floor. Some of the happy diner patrons let out a happy gasp, some even let out a happy vomit. Larry, on the other hand, felt a rush of euphoria…Larry liked it. Larry belted out, almost in celebration….
    Farrah is in a happier place!
    As he laughed psychotically, he grabbed a happy knife from behind the happy counter, and happily sliced and diced the rest of the diner patrons and staff. There was Ester the Moose, Eli, the Emu, Roger the Mouse, Bella the Cow…Larry carved all of them up and threw their guts into the middle of the happy room.
    When everyone was dead, Larry screamed in pleasure….I am no longer Larry the Happy Squirrel, I am now Larry the Homicidal squirrel!
    Of course no one else in Happyville knew what had happened in the Happyville Diner, so when Larry emerged from the Happyville diner, no one expected him to bring a happy Automatic rifle to the town.
    Larry didn’t just start shooting the happy people of Happyville though – nooooo, that would be too obvious, and not enough collateral damage. Larry decided to start with the happy town square. But as he started walking towards the happy town s quare, the happy flowers saw the happy rifle behind Larry’s back.
    What’s that strange, but happy, tree behind your back Larry?
    Larry, silently looked at the flowers with a murderous grin. The flowers, innocent of murder, thought Larry was just extra happy with his odd, big, and in retrospect, creepy grin. After a few seconds, Larry replied — It’s a flower pal generator. Let me show you…
    Larry open fired on the happy flowers as they’re once happy songs turned into unhappy screams of terror.
    Of course, with the unhappy screams, and what was left of the once happy flowers, the citizens of Happyville were not quite sure what to do. The happy constable of Happyville, Marvin the Happy Basset Hound, strolled up to Larry and casually said….
    Larry, you’re not making us happy. What’s wrong big fella?
    Larry did not say a word. Larry just took his happy cleaver and stabbed Marvin repeatedly.
    With that, Larry happily hopped down Happy Avenue, killing the citizens of Happyville one by one. Linda the happy skunk got a shotgun to the gut, while Henry the happy leopard got ripped to shreds with a chainsaw. Wayne the happy Elephant got force fed a trunkful of night shade. And Sarah the happy lemur, well she just got thrown off a happy cliff. The streets of Happyville were bathed in happy blood. The happy survivors decided it was time to take action.
    Rachel, the happy centipede drove a happy tank down Happy Avenue, looking to bring happy justice to Larry. Meanwhile, Annie the happy gorilla started handing out happy AK-47s to the happy townspeople. The happy Militia searched high and low for Larry – but Larry was good. Larry was the Happyville hide and seek champion. Larry ran behind a happy building and then into a happy alley, where he squatted behind a happy trashcan. Larry took a happy bazooka and made both Rachel and her tank blow up into a happy explosion of happy fire and happy smoke. A happy tree saw the whole thing, and yelled to the happy militia…..he’s over there, tear his happy limbs apart!
    What happened next is not important, and much too gruesome to mention. Needless to say, Larry paid for his happy crimes with his unhappy life. A couple days later, at a happy town meeting, the survivors of the happy massacre decided that the victims died because of blind happiness. They vowed to rid Happyville of its happiness plague once and for all. From that point on, Happyville would be a happy free zone. Or should I say the town once called Happyville. For that day, as I mentioned before, Happyville ceased to exist. That day, the residents of Happyville renamed their city to the unhappy thing they could think of. And that, that is how we got the city of Houston.

    Not a happy place
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  • American (Voting) Horror Story

    Note: This is a fictional account of voting in North Carolina. The state was chosen as a state that is far away from Oregon and does not have the vote by mail system we have in Oregon. The author has not, nor does he ever, have plans on moving to North Carolina. I also want to add, if anyone from North Carolina reads this and finds my portrayal of your state offensive, perhaps we can open a dialogue about it. Really, I played a lot of stereotypes here, and I don’t know how many are actually true. So yeah – let’s chat!

    electionmailIt was a foggy October morning. I had just moved to North Carolina a few months ago and was excited about voting in my first election in my new home state. I made sure to register on time, with my correct address and my political party of choice. All my t’s were crossed, all my I’s were dotted. I just needed to sit back, relax, and wait for the postal carrier to bring my ballot, along with the junk mail and bills they usually bring. I waited for a few weeks. By October 25th, I started to worry. What if I filled out my voter registration wrong? What if my address was wrong? What if the post office accidentally sent it to my previous residence in Oregon? My hands began to sweat, my body began to shake. I decided I needed to call someone.
    After I got home from work, I called the county voting office, which gave me a polite message saying they were only open from 10-3, Tuesday through Friday. Stupid government agencies! Oh well, I’ll call tomorrow during my lunch break. The next morning, sandwich in one hand, and phone in another I called again, only to be put on hold. I consumed my lunch and listened to the Muzak – patiently waiting for someone to answer my call. I waited 30 minutes and my lunch break was over. I decided to wait for a few minutes more, when finally someone answered.
    “Eeeyello, Mecklenburg County votin’, ow might I elp ya’ll?” – a male voice with a distinct, southern accent rang out.
    “Umm,” I said sheepishly, “I never received my ballot. What do I do?”
    “Son, what r ya’ll talkin’ bout?”
    “In the mail, I never got my ballot in the mail. Shouldn’t I have gotten it by now?”
    “Yer not from these parts, are you?”
    “No – I’m from Oregon. Why?”
    “Oreeegone? Shoot. Well I don’t know what they do up there, but ‘round here we don’t send no ballots in the mail.”
    “Umm….how do you vote then?”
    “Boy – you don’t even know how to vote? You gotta go to a polin’ place from 9 AM to 5 PM.”
    “Umm…that’s odd, but when in Rome I guess. Where are the poling places?”
    After a short interchange of information, he directed me to a school near my house. I vaguely, back in the 80s, remember standing in line with my mom at a school. Maybe this is what she was doing.
    I made arrangements with my boss to vote before work. He insisted I be in by 11, I figured that would be plenty of time. I figured wrong. When I arrived on Election Day at 8:45, there was a massive line. It was like the lines I saw in Portland, waiting to get into concerts. Strike that – these were not concertgoers. These were people from all walks of life, different ages, different ethnicities, different politics – way more diverse than a crowd waiting for a New Pornographers show.
    At 9 AM sharp, the doors opened. They let a few people in at a time. There was probably around 150 people in front of me…I had no idea how long my wait was going to be. I sat on the ground, but an officer came up to me and barked “NO SITTING!” So I rolled my eyes and got up to my feet once more. Meanwhile a slow drizzle of people walked into the school. Finally after an hour and a half, it was my turn. Voting Booths
    I walked into the door and to a table. A lady asked a few questions, glanced at my ID, and handed me my ballot. I was instructed to silently walk into a nearby booth. I felt more like I was taking a driver’s test at the DMV, and less like I was exercising my constitutional right to vote.
    As I reached my booth, I got my cheat sheet out and realized there were things on this ballot that I hadn’t even thought about! Geez, how do they expect you to know every little item, every little race, and every little measure on the ballot? I wanted to say to the next booth – hey, what did you get for number 8? I mean, I was in a school, and I felt like I was taking a test after all! Then I looked over my shoulder – the officer who barked at me earlier was staring straight at me, almost wanting an excuse to throw me out. I decided I better play by their rules for the time being.
    After I turned in my ballot, it was nearly 10:50, and I was supposed to be into work by 11. I was not going to make it. I raced to work and arrived ten minutes late. My boss, angry at my tardiness walks in and says “This is why I don’t vote – my time is too precious.”
    I miss a lot of things about Oregon. I miss the coast, I miss sunsets over the Pacific, I miss the weather, I miss the people, and I miss recycling. Today, I learned of one more thing I miss – I miss voting by mail. I miss the convenience of filling out my ballot at my leisure, and dropping it off whenever I had a moment to do so. I miss not having to stand in line like it was the 80s and we were voting for Regan. I miss not being barked at by officers who were overly stimulated on equal parts power and, I’m guessing caffeine. I miss not getting ridiculed or hassled, all because I want to cast my voice. All the pain and horror experienced casting my vote in North Carolina, could have been easily avoided by implementing a vote by mail system. This truly was an American Voting Horror Story.

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  • Characters in Ancient Vandal Literature

    bookofthehoursRecently, I’ve gained a fascination with Eastern European history. Of course, being of a literary mind, I’ve naturally read about literature of Eastern Europe, as literature always shows an interesting perception of the culture. While I’ve found many interesting styles, genres, and what have you, perhaps the most interesting of all I’ve found was a concept in Vandal literature.
    If you’re historically inclined, you’ll know the Vandals were the group that sacked Rome in 455 AD. They were the very epitome of barbarian, as they were unkempt, uncivilized, and generally unruly. If one googles Vandal literature, it’s hard to find anything about them….however….in my digging I did find one tasty tidbit. In Vandal literature, the characters fictional age had to match the year of their creation. For example, if a vandal had written an epic of King Gerogis the III in the year 432, King Gerogis had to be in his late 60s (for as we all know that King Gerogis was in fact born in the 360s or so). Likewise, if a fictional character were to be thought up today, but the stories of said character were to take place when said character was 28, the writer would have to wait 28 years after inventing the character to write about said character.
    This custom of age was not just a matter of social taboo, but a matter of law. Violating this law could actually carry a death sentence. For, it was not just an arbitrary law, this was about keeping the Hoi Polloi grounded in reality. I used the example of King Gerogis the III earlier, and this was no accident – for it was highly encouraged by the monarchs of the Vandals to write about their lives. King Wisimar (the first known Vandal King of the tribe of Hasdingi) put this law into place. Remnants of this law might have inspired early tales of Vlad the Impaler, which then of course inspired Bram Stroker’s Dracula…but I digress. The law was about celebrating the monarchs of the Vandals, as it is much simpler to write about a character who was about the same age as the hero in one’s story, than to invent the character 28 years earlier, and then wait to write about said character. Oh – but writers are complex people – and simplicity is often their enemy.
    In the beginning of the law, writers did in fact write about their “beloved” monarchs, however it wasn’t all that long until a few loopholes in the laws were found. As there was no log of invented characters, the writers would suddenly “remember” characters they invented as a child. Furthermore, as there was not a stipulation of who invented the character, writers would simply ask friends, family, etcetera for older characters as 33-year-old writer could not have invented say, a 55-year-old character. In some cases, older Vandals would sell characters of any age. This actually became a decent source of income to those whose physical bodies could not earn them a living any longer.
    And then the Monarchs closed the loophole. Sometime in the early 390s, a new law, stating that all characters shall be documented at the date of creation and registered by the magistrate was enacted, closing the loophole for ten or so years. However, art always finds a way. Savvy quasi-entrepreneurs saw a way to make money. The return wasn’t immediate, but to register a character for a nominal fee and sell the character at a later day could only bring about profit. It wasn’t long until everyone who could afford to do so, would register as many characters as they could. Characters would be sold at auction, used for personal investments, given away as a form of charity, and even written in as part of a will. Older characters were, of course, worth more than younger characters. Stories themselves became a group effort.
    The Monarchy admitted defeat. There were no shortage of characters to write about, and therefore the monarchy gave up on making writers write about monarchs. A great experiment of egotism was deemed a failure. However, greed was not so easily quelled. These were, of course, the same Vandals who sacked Rome. They were cunning, and never passed up an opportunity for gain. The monarchs saw how much income the character registrations were bringing in and they were pleased. But pleased or not, they also saw how much income the character market was bringing to the common people and it was far more than the character registration fees. The Monarchy decided that profit should, instead, be theirs and theirs alone. Once again, laws were scribed. Gone was the original law; a character’s fictional age vs its age of creation was no longer an issue. romeburningAlso gone were the registration of characters; writers no longer had to register characters at their inception. In place of the registration fees, a general character tax was issued. All characters in any piece of literature would be taxed, depending on its age. Just as it had once been easier to write about younger characters in the past, it was now economical to do so. The Monarchs had once again found a way to influence literature. Egotism of the original law bowed to the greed of the new law.
    Of course, there were always bribes to the local magistrates if one wanted an older character and could not afford one. This led to yet another chapter of Vandal characters. There was revolt amongst writers to bribe officials. Yes, it began as a matter of economics, but also became a matter of principle – a way to make sure the monarchs didn’t see the profits they so desired. Eventually – the monarchs gave up on the whole pursuit, and life went on. Stories were once again free to be written with characters of any age. And then the Vandals sacked Rome, and really that was the end of Vandal literature.
    In the end, did art win? Did greed? Were any of the Vandal writings really art? Very few of the Vandal writings have survived, so is it even possible to judge? Granted, it is theorized that Borges thought about characters in Vandal literature when he wrote The Lottery in Babylon. Of course, this is just a theory, and perhaps there is no evidence to support any of these claims.

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  • The Cave

    Today’s entry will be a little different. It’s a short story I wrote about a year ago, and figured it would be a great piece to publish for Halloween. I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.


    caveOne cold, autumn evening, I stumbled across a cave. Usually I’m not brave enough to explore dark and damp places, but there was something about this place – something almost audible whispering….“enter.” No, not in a haunting, creepy way. It was more of an inviting call – it spoke to my soul’s deepest yearnings, as if the thing I’ve been searching for my entire life was down in the cave. How could I resist exploring? How could I do anything but to explore this cave?

    I walked a few feet inside and found an unlit torch. I took my lighter out, lit the torch, and to my surprise, I found a trail of gold coins leading further into the cave. I followed the trail, picking up two out of the three, but leaving the third just in case I couldn’t find my way out. I followed the cave for what seemed like a mile, but may have only been a few hundred feet. My only way of measuring was the amount of coins in my side pouch, and I wasn’t about to count them in the middle of the cave. No, it really didn’t matter. Almost as soon as I decided against counting the coins, the trail stopped. Still, something told me to keep going. Keep going. My very satisfaction, nay, my guarantee of any further happiness for the rest of my life depended on my trek forward.

    As I walked further down, I began to realize I was hungry. When was the last time I had eaten? I really didn’t know – I just wanted to eat. I would eat anything at that point. Just my luck, I found a box of Twinkies. Here, in this ancient cave – I found a most delicious, yet most innutritious food. I scarfed the box down, Twinkie after twinkie, leaving a trail of wrappers as I walked further down the path. I wanted more! I needed more! As luck would have it, I found another box of Twinkies. Again, I ate, and wanted more, leaving a trail of wrappers behind. A third box appeared at my path, and I realized I should save some in case I got lost. I left myself half the box. I still wanted more, but survival over desire….
    Just then, I could have sworn I saw someone. I ran towards what appeared to be a beautiful woman. She ran off, and as I ran after her, she suddenly appeared nude. And perfect. I had to find her and gaze upon her beauty. I huffed my chest to make myself look more muscular to her – maybe she’d like that. I ran after her, for awhile, and then – and then I remembered I was in a deep and dark cave. If I kept pursuing her, I might get lost and never find my way out. I quickly looked behind me and noticed my own foot prints in the dirt, but the dirt was ending. I would have to stop before long, or else find another way out.

    I sat on a nearby rock, and I realized how tired I was. Wanting to do nothing but sleep. No, not even sleep. Wanting to do nothing. Just sit there until I fossilize. Just…..wait. I need to keep moving. If I don’t keep moving, I’m going to die down here. Maybe I should just close my eyes a bit…maybe a quick nap in this cave. No…I must get up. It was evening already, and I’ve miles to go before I sleep. It took every ounce of strength I had to drag my body from that rock. But I finally got up. Perhaps I should head back to the cave entrance and come back another day. No…I must explore further….I can’t explain it logically, but my gut says go deeper inside the cave.

    But as soon as I got up, a rat ran up my foot and bit my leg. I was wearing shorts, and my leg started bleeding. I chased the little bastard. He’s gonna pay with his life! I’m going to catch him, skin him alive, and then use his skull as an ashtray. I don’t smoke, but I’m taking it up just to make sure his ass gets burned time and time again by my cigarette butt! Ooo, it’s gonna be rat stew for dinner tonight! It’s going to be chicken ala rat! It’s going to be rat sushi! It’s going to be…my mind froze, as I realized how much idiotic dribble was coming from my lips. It was just a rat. Sure, I want to ring it’s stupid neck, but my quest is more important. I must find what lies in this cave. I must figure out how to find the secrets of this cave. I must go onwards.
    I found myself in a big, open expanse. In the center of the expanse was a man in an expensive suit. Next to him was the woman I had seen earlier. He had bags of gold coins, and even a box of Twinkies. The hunger pains in my stomach returned as I saw them. And my desire for the woman as I saw her. The rat that bit me ran up to the man. The man in the suit held open his hand for the rat to climb up, and padded it’s nose.
    There you are, you little beast.

    With that, the man snapped the rat’s neck and turned to me…

    Oh, sorry, you wanted to do that, didn’t you?

    I did, I really did – and not just out of banal revenge – not just because that same rat bastard bit me earlier. I wanted to snap that rat’s neck because the man in the suit did it. I wanted everything the man in the suit had. I wanted the money, the woman, the suit, even the Twinkies. I don’t even like Twinkies, but I wanted the Twinkies. But that same feeling of survival I had experienced earlier came over me….knowing I had to get out of the cave at some point. My body was shaking as I fought my envy, but I had to get out. I burst into tears and ran for the path out of the cave, but just before I got to the expanse’s entrance, an iron gate slammed in front of me. I turned around to see the man was no longer a suave, debonair playboy, but rather a cold, withered man – a skeleton covered in skin.

    Plead for your life….what’s so special about you….. the skeleton hissed at me.

    I gulped, and noticed he was sitting on a throne of bones. In fact, the entire expanse was littered with bones. All human. I needed out. Maybe he would think I was special…..maybe that’s why he asked. Maybe I am more special than his previous victims.

    I’m a very important man, sir! I….I’m more important than anyone’s who’s ever come here! I’m more confident, more savvy, and I’m even clever enough to see through all your little traps. Every single one. I’ve given into common sense over my every temptation in this cave. Six temptations, and I’m so great I…..

    Six temptations. Six. My Biblical upbringing came screaming into my mind – There’s supposed to be seven temptations! Seven deadly sins! Quickly, I processed, what is the seventh. The man sat there glaring while stroking a previous victim’s skull like it was a cat. Gently, he sat there and glared…..

    Go on, tell me why you’re more special than all my other victims. My hundreds of other victims. Each one of them, I’ve killed. Each one of them I’ve lead here. Some of them were easier than others, but they’ve all found their way here and that is where they stay. You, you are no different. I shall cast your bones to the nearest pile to be jumbled with dozens of others – all laying there – dead. Even if someone found you, they would know nothing of you….all you’ll be is a skeleton in a mass grave. No name, nothing more than an archeological curio.

    That’s not true! I’m special! I’m special! I’m better then…

    Yes….

    No, I’m not special, I began to sob.

    Ooooo, but you are. No one has ever made it past the six challenges. No one has ever come face to face with the real me. Why, I’m not going to put your bones in a random pile – I’m going to place your skull on top of my throne – the most prominent place in my cave.

    I’m no more special than any of these. Just kill me and get it over with. Let me die in peace. Let me….

    The man’s eyes filled with rage.
    NOOOOOO!!!!!! You HAVE to be special!

    I realized I was in the seventh trap. It all made sense. There might be a way to survive….

    I’m not special…

    The man’s head nearly exploded. His pale skin becoming red with more blood than could possibly be in his skeleton like body. His breath, panting. Like a dog on a hot day – or even like a dragon…The moaned, grunted, and screamed “You – you have to be special!”

    I’m not….

    The man clutched his chest and fell over. He was dead and I had won. I walked up to the throne to examine the body – just dust in a black cloak. I saw a lever made of bones – it was the switch to open the gate. I threw the lever and left the expanse.

    I realized my rage for the rat might had saved me, as I had left a trail of blood from the bite as I chased the beast. Then I reached my footprints in the dirt, and then the Twinkie wrappers. Finally I found the trail of gold coins – in five minutes time, I walked out of the cave, into daylight. I was free. I was…..

    And yet, I heard that same audible voice, summoning back into the cave. I, I had to see what else the cave held. What wondered I might have missed the first time. I wandered back inside, and found every coin I had taken was replaced….I began to follow the trail of coins once more, this time taking three out of four coins.

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