Monday, February 26, 2018


“I WANT DIANA ON this with you,” Pat said.

We stood before a window surrounded by thick, wire mesh. At the bottom of the window was a counter top and Officer John Singer stood on the other side. Behind him were lockers of various sizes where the Eudora Police Department stored the belongings of anyone in lockup.

“Diana?” I asked.

“Officer King.”

“Come on, Pat,” I said, signing the paperwork required to get my stuff back. “This will all go much faster if I do it alone.”

“Look, I’m not above just standing back and letting you do your thing, especially when it comes with your kinds of cases. But this was a police matter first, and we’ll see it finished.”

“Fine,” I said. John took my paperwork and grabbed up a large ring of keys, taking them to a locker behind him. “How’s she gonna handle it?”

“She’s a professional.”

“You don’t think she’s gonna freak out a bit when she learns what we’re after? Maybe try and redirect the investigation here and there because she thinks I’m crazy or something?”

“I’ll talk to her,” Pat said. “You sure about this goblin thing?”

“It’s the only thing that makes sense.”

“You mentioned the red mist. He kept talking about a red mist.”

“Goblins can excrete a chemical through their skin and then blow it into the face of an opponent. It’s a powerful hallucinogen and has even been known to cause temporary blindness.”

“So that’s why Maggie’s fiancé seems crazy,” she said.

“Exactly, he’s not crazy, he’s just tripping.”

Pat and I go back a ways. It was in ‘82 and I’d been hunting a pack of werewolves. They’d been attacking and killing families out in the country for two weeks. It was a bad time.

Pat had been in her mid-twenties, a fresh face on the force, and she’d clued in right away that the attacks were more than a pack of stray dogs like the press had been making it out to be. In fact, I never would have discovered the pack leader had it not been for Pat. And when I say ‘never’ I just mean I would have figured it out eventually, Pat just got to it quicker than I did. Of course, she always did have a leg up on me when it comes to the brains department.

When someone discovers that the world they thought was one way turns out to be something entirely different, they usually don’t handle it well.

Some go through a period of adjustment. They freak out, which is expected, but then they gradually get used to the idea.

Some enter a state of denial so deep that they try and rationalize everything they see that’s not what they would consider normal. That’s not a vampire, they would say to themselves. That’s just some psycho with a blood fetish.

Unicorn? I don’t think so. That’s a horse with a skull deformity, probably caused by global warming.

That can’t be a mermaid. Must have been one of them manatees. I had the sun in my eyes after all.

Pat? She’s not like other people. She had no issue believing in a world outside of our own. She took to it like a battle-hardened professional. I could only hope that this Officer Diana King would be able to do the same.

John returned with a large cardboard box containing all of my belongings. My fedora lay on top of my trench coat which had been folded up to fit in the box.

Under the coat was my gun belt and guns. The Winchester was on one of the shelves behind John. He handed it over to me seperately.

Pat went off to have her talk with Officer King as I strapped on my gun belt. Then I pulled on the coat and placed the hat on my head.

I know I’ve mentioned it already, but I’ve often been told that I look like someone who would have run with Elliot Ness back in the day, what with the suit, the hat, and the coat. That is despite the guns. And I suppose that’s true. I mean, that was when I started dressing the way I dress. I only still do so because nothing new has come along that’s inspired me enough to want to make the change. Other than the shoes, that is.

They’ve come a long way in the tactical shoe area. What we wore back in the ‘30s was like standing on wood compared to what they can do with footwear today.

In the bottom of the box was a plastic bag containing my keys, cigarettes, lighter, and a dollar thirty in change. I dropped all this into a pocket, thanked John for the night’s rest, and headed outside.

I met Officer Diana King out front of the police station. She waited with her arms crossed, leaning back against the driver’s side door of a police cruiser.

Everything had been saturated with rain that must have fallen over night. Puddles threatened to take over the sidewalk at the end of the steps and I stood and looked down on them in disdain. I hated to get wet.

The Police Department in Eudora was located on the Northeast corner of Tenth and Main, and as I made my way down the front steps, cars passed by in both directions, turning left on to Tenth or right on to Main, the tires spraying water as they went. The sounds of the tires running through the thin layer of moisture on the pavement made a distinctive sound that made my eyes twitch.

“I’m Officer Di—” she started as I neared.

I cut her off. “I know who you are. You’re my babysitter on this little adventure.”

“And I know who you are. You’re the guy that believes in fairies and goblins and stuff,” she smiled that crooked smile I’d seen in the interrogation room.

“You’d best believe too, girl. Otherwise you’re just gonna slow me down. Maggie’s depending on the two of us to get her back.”

“If she’s not already dead.”

“She ain’t dead.”

“Sure about that, are ya?”

“Goblins don’t kill people unless they’re backed into a corner. There’s more than a fair chance that she’s alive.”


“That’s what I said.”

“Okay, so let’s say for the moment that there is such a thing as a goblin. Why would they abduct a woman?”

“They wouldn’t,” I said. “Not on their own, anyways. Someone or something must have put them up to it. Goblins are vile little creatures, sure, but they don’t care much for us humans. Except for those that own cats.”


“Goblins eat cats.”

“Nice,” she said. “Okay, so, you’re the expert here. Where do we start?”

“Where would you start?”

“At the scene.”

“You’re driving,” I said.

It took us five minutes to arrive. Officer King parked in the back just behind a row of yellow tape that cordoned the area off and told anyone who approached that this was a crime scene.

We stepped under the tape and I took a quick look around.

“This is where she was taken?” I asked.

The lot was like a horseshoe. Customers pulled into the Happy Hamburger from the south and exited from the north. A row of parking stalls with menu boards lined the south and north side. To get from the entrance to the exit, a customer would have to drive around the rear of the building.

At the rear of the Happy Hamburger, the curved end of the horseshoe, Sat four employee parking spaces, one was currently occupied. Also in the rear of the drive-in was the back entrance for employees, and a cement staircase leading down to the basement. The tape surrounded the area around the back entrance with just enough room for a single car to drive through.

It was dark, but the lights of the lot were still shinning and they drove away most of the early morning shadows.

A wind blew in from the west. It rolled over the expanse of the restaurant and brought the scent of stale grease to my nose. It wasn’t a pleasant smell, and I wrinkled my nose at it.

“This is where we found our naked John Doe,” King said.

“That Maggie’s car?” I said, pointing to the one car in the employee spaces.

“Registered to her,” Officer King said.

“Anything in it worth noting?”

“Unlocked,” she said. “Other than that, it’s clean.”

There was nothing in the immediate area that screamed out to me that anyone was taken against their will and that goblins were involved. So I did what any good investigator would do. I took a closer look at things.

I scanned the pavement within the taped off area and found nothing out of the ordinary. The rain would have complicated things a bit, but in the end I wasn’t looking for prints or DNA. I was looking for an entrance.

“So?” Officer King said. Like before, she leaned back against the police cruiser, her arms crossed over her chest, and that crooked smile perched on her face.

“We need to find the entry point,” I said.

“Which means?”

“Goblins are tunnelers. They live underground. They try not to come up to the surface unless they need to, and when they do, they don’t like to stay up too long.”


“Meaning that there will be a tunnel entrance close,” I said.

Further back behind the Happy Hamburger, beyond the employee parking spaces and on the other side of a tall privacy fence, sat a sprawling housing development still under construction.

“That’s the most likely place,” I said, pointing at the fence. “All the construction would provide the best cover.”

“So why didn’t we start there?”

“Because I prefer not to go walking about in pools of mud if I can help it. But,” I sighed, staring at the fence in dread, “I suppose that’s where we should go. If we can find a tunnel, then it’s possible that we can follow it to where they took her.”

“Let’s go then,” Officer King said. Then she flung that crooked smile at me in a manner so casual that there was no possible way that it could be.

The construction site turned out to be an even bigger mud pile than I’d imagined. Now I’m no duded up priss who worries over the state of his clothes, but that didn’t mean I wanted to spend the rest of the morning caked in mud either. But my comfort wasn’t the point.

It’s just, well, we had a lot of walking to do, and there was a lot of mud. Okay, not a lot of walking, but still, it was all mud out there. I just want to make sure that’s on record.

We drove through a forest of house frames and parked along the curb in a cul-de-sac near the western end. The house being built in the direct center of the cul-de-sac arch would share a property line with the Happy Hamburger, so that’s where we started.

The house, like the others around it, was nothing more than a poured foundation and a frame. No insulation, no wiring, no plumbing. Just wood, concrete, and a yard full of mud.

We slogged around back and made our way slowly to the fence that separated the drive-in from the construction site. I could still smell the greasy stench that blew off of the Happy Hamburger and suddenly found myself feeling a swift moment of pity for the people that would one day live in one of these houses.

By the time we reached the fence I must have brought the entire front yard with me on my feet. At least it wasn’t raining. Blessings can be found if one just takes the time to look.

We each carried a flashlight. The electricity hadn’t been turned on yet out this way, and while street lights had already been installed, the entire area was covered in darkness. By the beam of the light I found what appeared to be a mound of mud, sitting up a foot higher than the surrounding mud, near the fence.

“That’s it,” I said.

“What’s it?” King replied.

“That mud over there.”

“It’s all mud, Norman. I need you to be more specific.”

I sighed. “Just follow me.”

I stopped at the mound and let the light shine down on it.

“It’s a pile of mud,” King said.

“This is where they came out,” I said, ignoring her comment.

“It’s a pile of mud,” she repeated.

“It is now,” I let the light play across the ground around the mound until I found what I was looking for. “Crap." It wasn't good.

"What?" She said.

"You see that?”

“See what? More mud?”

“You see how the mud dips lower there leading from the mound for about ten yards or so?”

She was silent for a time as she shined her own light over the ground.

“Yeah,” she said finally. “I think I do.”

“They collapsed the tunnel behind them after they left so no one would follow. Clever, really. Which tells me that the goblins weren’t alone. Being clever isn’t something that goblins even know how to define.”

“Okay, so what does that mean for us? We can’t follow the trail.”

“No, we can’t,” I said. “Not unless you got a shovel.”

The wind switched direction and the smell of the burger joint vanished. But only to be replaced by something all the more vile. A scent so putrid that if it were human it would then be described as violent or sadistic, even homicidal.

“Oh crap,” I said, recognizing the stench. "This is bad."

“Ugh,” King said. “What is that smell?”

“We’re in trouble,” I said, and pulled one of my Peacemakers.

“Trouble?” she said. She could sense my sudden tenseness and reacted by pulling her own side arm. She held in out with the flashlight just below, the beam and the barrel both pointing in tandem.

“That smell,” I said.

“Yeah,” she said. “What is that? Did a sewer line break?”

“No,” I said, scanning back and forth with the light. “It’s much worse than that. We need to get out of here. Like now. Like right now.”

“Okay,” she said. “Calm down. Just tell me what’s going on.”

“There’s an ogre out here with us.”

That’s when it started to rain.

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Thursday, February 22, 2018


THOMAS HAD BEEN A vampire for nearly two centuries. Long enough now so that he no longer remembered what it had been like to be a human. Which suited him just fine. The human race, in his opinion, were nothing more that cattle.

To him, humans were unclean. His skin practically crawled any time he was required to feed from one of their kind. If it wasn’t for the thirst that came over him every three days, he would never so much as touch one of the filthy humans. But their blood was needed for his survival, so he would always choke back his revulsion, and do what needed to be done.

Though his hatred of the human race was absolute, there was one among them that he loathed above the rest.

Norman Oklahoma.

The man had made him, along with his brother, look like a fool. In front of another human, no less.

Thomas detested Abner Lemonzeo as well. Not just for the crime of being another stinking cow, but he had been the human who had borne witness to Thomas’s humiliation. For that alone, there could be no forgiveness.

Norman Oklahoma would need to die.

Abner Lemonzeo’s time would come as well. But for now the man would live.

It was bad enough that Brone had gone into business with this Lemonzeo, but Thomas had been forced to interact with the thug once already, and would be face to face with the man again later today once the sun was up.

It was during that first meeting yesterday when Norman Oklahoma brought him low. It was at the local drinking establishment the humans had named The Pub, showcasing their lack of imagination.

Despite what the stories say, vampires can go out in the daylight. Sunlight does not affect them any more than it does the vile human race. So the morning meeting was no big deal. It was supposed to be quite simple, actually. Lemonzeo had agreed to use his resources to kill Norman Oklahoma. In return the vampires would pay him an exorbitant amount of money. Yesterday’s meeting was scheduled simply for Thomas and his brother to deliver Lemonzeo’s payment.

But Lemonzeo had failed. Or at least the freak he’d hired had failed. Norman had walked right into The Pub, alive as ever. Thomas fumed at the memory. The way Oklahoma had strolled into The Pub in a cocky, self-sure manner. The way he had spoken to Thomas. And most demeaning of all, the way he had shot Thomas down with his six shooters, over and over.

He’d lived, Oklahoma had not had the forethought to load his guns with silver bullets, but his suit had been ruined, and his pride had been obliterated.

So now, in a small house across Main from the Eudora Police Station, he watched, and he waited.

The occupants of the home were away. For the night or longer, Thomas did not know. Nor did he care. If they were to come home while he remained in the house, he would take care of them. Quickly, so as to minimize the amount of time he would come into contact with them.

Thomas sat in a wooden chair taken from the table in the kitchen. He’d dragged it over to a window that faced east. The window looked out onto Main and provided him with a perfect view of the two front entrances to the police station. His brother, Alexander, would be somewhere in the back, watching the rear entrance.

They had both been in position since Oklahoma had been brought in earlier in the day. Thomas had gone out to where Oklahoma lived, to do what the Walrus could not. But he’d arrived to find the police in full force, and they had taken Oklahoma away.

So now he sat alone in the dark with nothing but his thirst for vengeance against Norman Oklahoma. He imagined the various ways in which he could kill the man. Regardless of his aversion to the human race, Thomas thought he might want to take his time with Oklahoma.

He held his hand up before his face and willed the fingernails there to grow. They snapped forth from his fingertips like the claws of a hunting cat. Razor sharp and tough as steel. He smiled as he pictured using those claws to skin the human alive. He almost laughed when he imagined the way the man would scream.

Then his phone vibrated in the inner breast pocket of his suit. He moved from the window before checking the display. It was Alexander.

“Do you have him?” Thomas said into the phone.

“No,” Alexander replied. “He has not left the building.”

“Then why are you bothering me?” Thomas said. “I should be watching.”

“Brone called,” Alexander said.


“Watch your tone, brother,” Alexander said. “You may not like him, but Brone is in charge. So says the Elder.”

The Elder. While Thomas detested Brone, he had nothing but respect for the Elder. Anyone who did not fear and respect the Elder was not long for this world. And though Thomas thought Brone a fool, the Elder must have had a reason for putting him in charge of this operation.

“What did he want?” Thomas said. His tone did not change.

“The girl you took this morning was the wrong age.”

“Yes, I know,” Thomas said. “I told you the same after I took her, if you would care to remember. But Brone wanted her and now he has her. If she is too old then that is a problem he will have to deal with.”

“He wants us to take another, and soon.”

“He will have to wait,” Thomas said. “Oklahoma comes first.”

“Yes,” Alexander said. “He has ordered us not to touch the human, Oklahoma.”

“What?” Thomas practically yelled. “He was the one who wanted the man dead in the first place. We can do what his human pet has failed to do.”

“Brone still wants Oklahoma dead, but he does not want the human’s attention on us. Should we fail—”

“Fail!?” Thomas interrupted him. “We will not fail. If he wants Oklahoma dead, we will see it done.”

“He has given his command,” Alexander said. “And we must obey.”

Thomas did not reply. Instead he moved back to the window, not caring that the light from the phone would make him stand out against the dark.

“Thomas,” Alexander said in his ear. “We have our orders.”

Again, Thomas did not reply. He studied the building across the street. At this hour there wouldn’t be many humans inside. He could cut the power, and then cut the humans down in the dark. Vampires could see just as well in complete dark as they could under the midday sun. Oklahoma could be dead within twenty minutes.

“Thomas,” Alexander said quietly. “Cross Brone if you choose. But know that by doing so, you cross the Elder as well.”

That brought Thomas up short. His desire to see Oklahoma dead was nothing compared to his desire to avoid upsetting the Elder. It had been the Elder who had turned Thomas and his brother. In many respects, the Elder was their father.

“Okay,” Thomas said finally. “I will obey. What does he want us to do?”

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Monday, February 19, 2018


MONSTERS ARE REAL. We’ve gone over this.

But aliens? Again, we’ve gone over this.

“Aliens?” I said.

Pat just smiled.

“Aliens.” I repeated.

“That’s what the guy said.”

There’s no such thing as aliens.

“I’ve told you before, Pat,” I said. “Aliens ain’t real.”

“What about vampires?”



“Of course.”


“Well, yeah. But aliens? Come on, Pat.”

She said nothing, just stared.

“No aliens,” I said. “I’m not wasting my time on it.”

She continued to stare.

I gestured to the door. “Just, you know, get the door open, gimme my stuff back, and I’ll be on my way.”

It was like talking to a stone.

“I have to see someone about replacing the window in my office, Pat.”

“I’ve already done that, Norman. And I put plastic over it in the meantime.”

“Who’d you call?”

She just stared.

“When will they be out? I should be there when they arrive. It ain’t good to leave an installer alo— ” That’s when it hit me. “What’s that?”

“What’s what?” She said, her smile growing larger.

“That... aroma? Smells like—” I took a long sniff. “Coffee.”

“Oh, yeah. We got a pot brewing up there,” she said, nodding to the ceiling. “Just got it started before I came down.”

“Coffee?” I looked up at the ceiling. The scent was almost heavenly. It marched straight down my nasal passages and set up camp. “What kind of coffee? Cop coffee?”

“My coffee.”

I felt weak in the knees and nearly swooned. Pat’s coffee was famous. She was a frugal woman; you had to be on a cop’s salary. But when it came to coffee, she splurged and bought only the best of the best. She sent away for a bag of beans once a month, beans that had passed through the digestive track of some kind of squirrel or raccoon in Southeast Asia. Which, of course, sounds disgusting on most every level, but damn if it doesn’t make one perfect cup o' joe.

I continued to look up at the ceiling as though I could see through the layers of wood, plaster, and insulation to the coffee maker upstairs. I thought I could taste the coffee, and maybe I could.

“Where’s this fella?” I said, my eyes still glued to the ceiling.

“We’ve had him cooling his heels in Interrogation Room One all morning.”

“Interrogation Room One?” I said, and laughed. I tore my eyes from the ceiling and gave her a look. “You’ve only got the one interrogation room.”

“Yes we do, Norman, that’s why it’s called Interrogation Room One.”

“Okay, let’s go see him.”

She led me upstairs, pausing for a few moments at the coffee maker so that I could pour myself a cup and seal it with a lid.

The coffee maker was at one end of a large room where all the action was. Two rows of four desks made up the center of the room. Only one desk was occupied.

Pat and I walked straight through to the interrogation room at the back of the building. We entered the adjacent observation room where we could see the fella through the one way mirror, just like them cop shows on television.

The guy sat cuffed to a table that had been bolted to the floor in the center of the room. He wore an orange jump suit and his hair looked as if he’d just finished kissing a light socket. He sat facing the window; though from his side it would look like a mirror. His eyes darted about like a frightened animal. They made me nervous. His left hand lay flat on the table, palm down. His right hand was clenched into a fist.

On the other side of the table, her back to us, sat a uniformed officer of the Eudora Police Department. She had black hair that had been pulled back into a tight bun on the back of her head. She had a file folder opened up on the table in front of her and though we couldn’t hear her, I could see that she was talking to the man.

“That the new officer?” I asked.

“That’s Officer King,” Pat sat. “Transferred in from out of state.”

Officer King sat up a bit straighter, as if she could hear Pat talking about her.

“Okay, so who is this guy?” I asked. “What’s he said?”

“He’s been babbling nonsense for almost an hour. He gave us a name,” she consulted the file, “Maggie Keaton. He referred to her as his fiancé and said she’d been taken by little green men.”

“Who is he?”

“We don’t know. Officer King found him behind the Happy Hamburger an hour ago. He was lying on the pavement trying to eat his own toes. Oh, and he was naked. No clothes anywhere.”

“Naked?” I said. “Fun.”

“We’re running his prints now, but with all the alien talk, I thought you might want to see him.”

I waved my hand dismissively. “There’s no such thing as aliens. Who’s Maggie Keaton?”

She flipped through the file in her hand.

“Maggie Keaton, twenty-three, night manager at the Happy Hamburger, and student currently attending KU. Lives on her own in Cedarwood. I checked her place out myself. Knocked on the door. No one home.”

“That doesn’t mean anything. She could be clubbing in Lawrence or Kansas City. Or visiting her parents. She could be in Florida for all we know. Good Lord, Pat, there’s all manner of places this girl could be, and ain’t nothing so far is pointing to anything nefarious other than Nature Boy in there knowing her name. He could be a drugged up stalker for all we know.”

“I know that, Norman,” Pat scowled at me. “But I try not to dismiss possible abductions in my town until I feel all bases are covered. There’s such a thing in my job called due diligence. Ever hear of it?”

“I just think you’re wasting your time.”

Just then Officer John Singer stepped into the room. He’d been on the force almost as long as Pat, though it didn’t show anywhere but for a few wrinkles under his eyes and the cap of pure white that was his hair.

“We may have found the girl’s phone,” he said, holding up a large smart phone in a plastic bag.

“Where?” Pat said, taking the bag from him.

“I made one last sweep of the Happy Hamburger and found it lying by the back fence. Well, under the back fence actually. I only found it because it had started vibrating. Made an awful racket against the wooden fence.”

“How do we know it’s hers?” Pat asked.

“We don’t,” John said. “Won’t know for sure without getting into it.”

Pat pulled the phone from the bag and pushed the power button. The screen glowed and showed an image of a smiling young girl with brown, shoulder length hair. She looked to be in her twenties and wore shorts and a t-shirt. Standing next to her, his arm around her shoulders and smiling with her at whoever had taken the picture, was the man currently sitting in Interrogation Room One. Granted, the version from the phone looked sane, but it was the same guy.

“It could be his phone,” I said, gesturing to the fella on the other side of the glass.

“The phone’s locked,” Pat said. Then she swiped her finger across the screen and a list of icons popped up over the background image. “Good, no password.”

“That’s not very secure,” I said.

“You can set up your phone so that it can be accessed without a password,” John said as Pat swiped and tapped at the screen. “People do it so that if there’s an accident, emergency responders can have access to your emergency contact info and such.”

“This is Maggie Keaton’s phone alright,” Pat said. “I found her information.” She powered the phone down and slipped it back into the plastic bag.

“So that means this guy is on the level?” John said. “Aliens took Maggie Keaton?”

I sighed. “There’s no such thing as aliens.”

“Regardless,” Pat said. “You have to admit now that there’s something strange going on.”

As if one, the three of us turned to the window and watched Officer King with Maggie Keaton’s apparent fiancé.

Though we couldn’t hear into the room—there was a speaker next to Pat, but the switch was currently resting in the off position—we could see that Officer King was speaking. The man, however, he just sat in the same way he’d been sitting since I walked in. Left hand flat on the table, right hand clenched into a fist.

“What’s in his hand?” I asked.

“His hand?” Pat said.

“His right hand. He has it wrapped around something. That’s not a threatening gesture.”

“We don’t know,” John said. “We tried to pry his fingers open earlier, but they wouldn’t budge.”

We watched again in silence until the man began to speak, pat flipped a switch under a small speaker to the right of the window and a raspy voice crackled through.

“...when the men in tights run the engineering program.”

He sounded like someone who hadn’t spoken for a while, someone who had forgotten how to speak, but could still do so due to muscle memory, someone who also seemed more than a bit surprised to hear the sound of their own voice.

“The moon weeps,” he said. “Did you see it? The moon cries for all the children who have gone to bed without brushing. But no one understands that the kids would brush if the hamburger stand would just simply stop screaming. But that’s how things are nowadays, right? That’s what people do, people see, people hear and say and think and paint. Did you know that just last Thursday a penguin tried to sell me a house on Mars? Can you believe that?”

“Sir,” Officer King tried to inject but the guy was on a roll.

“I mean, Mars? Come on, everyone who’s anyone knows that the only houses worth buying these days are on Venus. I mean, think of the women.”

“Sir,” Officer King tried again.

“Hercules is a homeless man, he roams the streets with little thought for anything above the intellectual realm, and no one knows he’s even there. Why would they? After all, the Nine Realms seek their champion still. They need not look far, however. They only need to look to the grease and fat. That is where heroes dwell. But I know the secret. Only me. Only I and only me. Me and I. I and me. A, E, I, O, U. What about you? Sometimes why? But why sometimes? STOP FLUSHING THE TOILET!”

Silence. I thought that maybe I could hear a cricket. No one breathed.


“Wow,” John said.

Pat and I could only nod.

“Well, I better get this phone dusted for prints,” John said. “Of course now yours will be all over it, Chief,” he smiled.

“Couldn’t be helped, John,” she said. “Thanks.”

And with that, John left.

Officer King stood, turned, and walked over to the mirror. She was tall, almost as tall as me at six feet. She had a crooked little smile plastered on her face like she knew the punch line to a joke that the rest of the world wasn’t aware of. She also had a streak of white, about an inch thick, in her black hair. It started just above her right eyebrow and swept back to be engulfed by her bun.

For a moment, as she was looking into the mirror, our eyes met. It lasted for just an instant, but in that moment I felt as if she could actually see me there through the mirror. I’m sure she was aware that someone was there, watching, but to think that she could see me was probably due to not being fully awake quite yet.

I took a sip of the coffee and nearly moaned with pleasure.

“Let’s start with your name again,” Officer King said. Then she turned back to the man.

The man did not respond.

“Your name?” Officer King said. “What is your name?”

“The snakes are everywhere,” he said. “Elephants wearing trousers and spinning records on the sun.”

“Tell me again about your girlfriend,” Officer King said, ignoring the man’s ramblings.

“Maggie?” The man said. “Maggie Keaton. They came from the earth and took her. Little green men. Red mist. They took her down with them!”

“Little green men?” I said.

Pat switched off the speaker.

“Aliens,” she said.

“No, he said ‘little green men’. Has he mentioned aliens at all, or has it always been little green men?”

Pat flipped through the file folder.

“From Officer King’s original statement it says: ‘They came from the earth and took her. Little green men. Red mist. They took her down with them’.”

“The same thing he just said. The exact words,” I said.

“Yeah,” Pat said. “Aliens.”

“No, not aliens, Pat. Not aliens at all.”

She turned to me, a quizzical look on her face.

“It makes sense,” I said. “His behavior, the red mist, little green men coming out of the earth.”


“But why?” I said. “Why take a woman?”

“What? What took her?”

“Oh no,” I said as it really fell atop me. I put my hands on my head. “I can’t go back down there. Not again.”

“What, Norman? What the hell are you talking about?”

“I know what took Maggie Keaton.”



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Thursday, February 15, 2018

#022: MAN IN A BOX

FOR AS FAR BACK as I can remember I’ve only ever had the one dream.

That is apart from the one of me fighting in jellied air. But we’ve talked about that one already. It was the other dream we didn’t talk about. Nightmare, really. And it was always the same.

Well, that ain’t quite true, there’s always a bit of difference from time to time, but there’s a definite theme going on.

I’m always bound to some sort of object, that never changes. The differences come in what I’m bound with, and what I’m bound to. I could be strapped to a chair, handcuffed to a radiator, even chained to a mountain top. Regardless, I’m stuck for good, and despite my best efforts, I can never manage to get loose.

What also doesn’t change is that sooner or later, as I’m struggling to break myself free, someone, or some thing, comes along, opens up my belly, and then casually begins to pull my insides out. I usually wake screaming at that point. Then it’s off to the kitchen for a warm glass of milk.

Eventually I’ll fall back asleep, but sometimes, like last night, it starts all over again.

Fortunately I don’t have the dream all that often.

Unfortunately, I was having the dream now.

I was strapped to a hospital bed, my arms and legs bound by thick, leather manacles. Above me are lights that burn and stab at my eyes. They blind me so that I see nothing else. That is until two figures step into the light, standing over me. They’re some sort of doctors. But like none I’ve ever seen before. They’re dressed in surgical scrubs, but over the top of them these fellas wore long, leather aprons, stained with the blood of countless patients... or victims, I suppose. I couldn’t see their faces neither due to the gas masks that covered their heads, which, in a clinical situation, could be found to be somewhat off putting.

They spoke to each other as they gazed down on me, poking at me with fingers like steel rods. I couldn’t understand a word they were saying. It was alien, like the chattering of birds mixed with the backward masking of an old record. One of them pulled a syringe of pale liquid from somewhere out of my line of sight. He attached a needle to it, screwing in on in a casual manner as the two continued to converse.

I tried to speak but nothing came out. I struggled against my bonds but it was no good. I was held fast and would have to endure whatever it was the doctors had in store for me.

Once the doctor had the needle on the syringe, he pressed the plunger and a thin jet of the pale liquid arched out to land on my chest where it popped and fizzed, eating through the gown they’d put me in.

Then the liquid came into contact with my skin.

The pain was almost unbearable and I thrashed about on the bed, straining against the straps and screaming a noiseless scream.

The two doctors began to argue at that point, and though I couldn’t understand what they said, the meaning was quite clear. The one with the needle wanted to stick me, the other—who’d produced a foot long blade with a wicked looking hook at the tip—clearly wanted me awake when he cut into me.

I continued to struggle, hoping that with enough pressure the straps would snap and I’d be free to deal with these monsters in my own way. But it was clear that my strength would give out before the straps did. Didn’t stop me from trying, however.

In the end the doc with the knife won out and he bent over me, lifting the gown to expose the skin of my belly. He sliced into me and I found that I couldn’t move, I was frozen in place as the doctor made his incision.

To make matters worse, a surgical mirror appeared above me so that I could see every little thing that they did. I tried to close my eyes, but they wouldn’t respond. So I had to watch it all.

The incision reached from one hip, curved up to sail just under my belly button, then ended at my other hip. The other doctor dropped the needle and reached into the incision, using both hands to grab onto, and then pull out what I preferred to keep inside me. There was no medical reason for what the doctor was doing, he just simply reached in and came out with my guts, holding him out to his partner who used the knife to separate them from my body and then place them on a little tray next to me.

Satisfied that they’d gotten what they needed the doc with the knife placed the blade on the tray next to my innards. He reached up and lifted the gas mask away from his face. What was underneath wasn’t at all human.

His face was that of a vulture, its red eyes staring into me.

I woke with a start and rolled off the bunk, my breath whooshing out of me as I hit the cold, painted concrete floor. I lay there and let my breathing relax before grasping hold of the bars of the cell to pull myself to my feet.

The cell they’d put me in shared a large room with five others that were identical to mine. Apart from the stainless steel toilet and the dull gray blankets that sat rumpled on the cot, everything in the big room was white. White floors, white ceiling, even the bared walls of the cages were white. It was like waking up in a dang mayonnaise jar.

I quickly scanned the other five cages and found that I was the only occupant. The cells ran the length of the room, three on one side and three on the other, with a walkway set between. The walkway was wide enough that two average sized people could walk along between the cells without worry of an inmate being able to reach out and take hold of them.

At one end of the two rows of cells, the end furthest from me, was a door that lead to a guard station, beyond which were stairs. At my end of the room was another door. I had no idea where that led.

The back wall of each cell was concrete and painted white, leaving the other three walls made up of bars.

We were underground and there were no windows to the outside world. They’d confiscated my pocket watch when I was brought in, so I had no idea how long I’d been out, though I’d guess I’d been sleeping for a few hours based on my physical state. Every injury I’d suffered before I’d been locked up were now fully healed and despite the nightmare, I felt refreshed and whole.

I leaned against the bars and rubbed my eyes, clearing the sleep so that I could make out the clock at the end of the hall. It was coming up on One. But whether it was One in the afternoon or One in the morning, I hadn’t the slightest.

“Hello?” I called out. “Anyone out there?”

There was no answer.

Six cameras, also in white, hung from the ceiling and looked into the cells, one per cage. I looked up at mine and waved, not knowing if anyone was watching.

There was nothing more to do at that point than wait. I turned my back on the camera and eye-balled the toilet. The sight of the thing sticking out from the back wall stirred something in my bladder and I sighed. I’m not one to make water in front of an audience, but I was alone among the holding cells, so I did my business. There was no sink in the cell so my hands remained unwashed.

A buzzer sounded and the door at the far end of the room swung open. Eudora Police Chief Patricia McCrea strode in, a smile on her face.

“Morning,” she said as she approached my cell.

“Morning?” I said.

“It’s One in the AM, you’ve been asleep nearly ten hours. Open six,” she called out.

Another buzzer sounded and the door to my cell clanked and then swung open about two inches. Pat pulled it open the rest of the way.

“You fell asleep almost immediately,” she said.

“You couldn’t let me finish out the night?”

“Well, you don’t look like you need it, and I need you more. Besides, you’re technically free to go.”

“Abner’s not pressing charges then?”

“Nope,” she said. “Didn’t think he would.”

“So I can go?” I said.

“Of course,” she said “But...”

“But what?”

“Well,” she looked back at the exit, stepped closer to me, and spoke so that no one in the room beyond might hear. “One of my officers brought in a guy about twenty minutes ago, and frankly, I’m not sure what to do with him.”

She paused, throwing another glance back at the door.


“Well, I was hoping you might want to come have a look at him.”

“Why would I want to look at him?”

“Because you deal with all this weird crap.”


“He says his fiancé was abducted earlier tonight.”

“Another one? Sweet Mary Jane Parker, Pat. What’s happening to our town?”

“Yeah, well, we may have a lead this time. If you want to call it that.”

“That’s good,” I said.

“Maybe,” she said. “This guy says she was taken by aliens.”

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Monday, February 12, 2018


ANTHONY HAD GROWN TO detest small town life. Unfortunately, he found himself living in Eudora, Kansas, where they wrote the book on the subject.

What he disliked the most about living in Eudora was the total lack of anything to do. Well, anything other than watching corn grow. If you wanted to do something even remotely fun you’d have to drive into Lawrence, or maybe even Kansas City. But, to do that, you’d need money. And a car. Anthony had neither.

What he did have was a fiancé who adored small towns, most especially the one she grew up in. Which, you guessed it, was Eudora, Kansas.

Anthony was from New York City. That’s where he and Maggie had met.

He’d been sitting alone in one of those out of the way coffee houses. They type of place that was cool simply because no one knew it was there. No one other than those that mattered.

Maggie had come to New York for the first time to visit an old friend. The old friend, as old friends do, had taken her out to do a little sightseeing.

The sightseeing had taken Maggie past the coffee shop in which Anthony had been sitting. He’d been gazing out the window, people watching, when Maggie had walked by. He’d sat in awe as she had walked along the sidewalk and then right into the coffee house.

Until that moment Anthony had never believed in love at first sight, he’d thought of it as a myth that people made up just to romanticize their own relationships. But then Maggie had come along and shattered all of that.

He could still picture her out there on the sidewalk. And yes, though it had been over two years ago, he could still remember what she’d been wearing. She’d looked every inch the tourist in her I HEART NY t-shirt and her tote bag with the Statue of Liberty silk screened on the side. But what really made her stand out, at least in his mind, what really threw up that neon sign proclaiming this unique beauty as a visitor to the city that never sleeps was the fact that as she walked along the sidewalk, she had been doing what most native New Yorkers never did. She had been looking up in wide-eyed wonder.

Anthony smiled as he thought about it now, sitting in Eudora’s only coffee shop—The Coffee Bean, and wasn’t that just the most clever name ever—and sipping at what passed for coffee in middle America. He checked his watch, the second time he’d done so in the last two minutes. The shop would be closing soon and Maggie was late.

He shook his head, still smiling. Maggie was forever late, it was her one basic modus operandi, and it did nothing but endear her to him more, if that was even possible. Regardless, he found himself worrying. He glanced at his watch again and then looked out at Main Street through the glass that made up The Coffee Bean’s storefront. Darkness had fallen and the street lights had come on.

Anthony recalled the blackout that had taken out the entire town the month after he’d followed Maggie to Kansas. He’d never been in such darkness in an urban environment before, if you could call downtown Eudora an urban environment. Still, it had unnerved him like nothing ever had and he still shuddered to think about it. The bright lights of New York had always seemed to shine, they were eternal. Sure, the city had had its share of rolling black outs in the twenty years he’d lived there, but even when one area went out, you could still see the lights from other neighborhoods out in the distance.

When Eudora went dark it had been absolute.

He checked his watch for the third time.

“Sir,” a voice said at his shoulder. “We’ll be closing in two minutes.”

It was the waitress, some high school kid looking forward to getting out there and taking a few Mains before going home for the night.

“Yes, I’m sorry,” he said, looking up at her. “I’m just waiting on someone, she should be along in a minute.”

“Well, it’s going to take me at least twenty minutes to clean everything up,” she said, looking back toward the counter. “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to let you wait.”

“Thanks,” he said, “It shouldn’t take that long, but I appreciate it.”

“No problem,” she said, glancing out at Main.

He followed her gaze as a carload of boys drove by, bass pumping from the car stereo, and he smiled. She wanted to be out there.

Maggie had once explained to him what it meant to take a Main, a favorite past time for local high-schoolers. It meant driving up Main, north, pulling a U-turn on Seventh, heading back down Main, south, turning left on Tenth, turning right onto Church, then use the horseshoe lot of the Happy Hamburger Drive In to turn around and head back up Church, north. Then left on Tenth and right back onto Main where you do it all over again.

Once in a while the kids would park in the lot at the top of Seventh and Main and sit to socialize with the kids in other cars. Or they would stop in at a stall at the Happy Hamburger and order soda or food. But mostly they just drove. It had all sounded more than dull to Anthony, but he couldn’t see what else a teenager with nothing but a tank of gas was supposed to do in a place like this.

He finished his coffee, took a last look at his watch, and decided that he could wait no more. Maggie was now officially thirty-two minutes late, which, regardless of her M.O., was unusual for her.

So, he left a twenty on the table—more than enough to pay for the coffee—and left the shop heading south.

Maggie worked evenings at the aforementioned Happy Hamburger Drive In. It was three minutes away by car. By foot it was almost three miles. The Happy Hamburger had closed almost an hour ago and as Anthony arrived he could see that most of the interior lights were out.

Her car still sat in the one of the four employee parking spaces behind the Happy Hamburger and he breathed a little easier. Maggie’s car was alone, meaning she’d closed down the restaurant by herself. That made him angry. Sure, she was the Manager, but she shouldn’t be left alone out here like this.

Anthony checked the front door and found it locked, which wasn’t unusual. Maggie was required to lock up the moment the restaurant closed so that no one could come in while she was counting the register. He couldn’t see anyone inside through the glass of the door, which would only mean that Maggie was in the back. Maybe she was going to the bathroom. He rapped lightly on the glass and waited.

Nothing. No movement inside.

He knocked again, only louder this time.

Again, nothing.

Anthony turned as a carload of teenagers drove through the lot. They were laughing as they sped by and he could hear the distinct sound of 80’s hair metal coming from within the vehicle.

He pulled his phone from a pocket and dialed in Maggie’s number. As the electronic ring sounded in his ear, he thought he could hear the muffled sound of her actual phone ringing. Her ring tone was rather distinct, it was the sound of R2D2 screaming. A sound he heard now, but distant. It wasn’t coming from within the restaurant, but from around back.

As he moved around to the rear of the building Anthony could hear that it was coming from her car.

He tried her car door. Unlocked. Only in a small town would someone think it’s okay to leave their door open to thieves and malcontents. He sat in Maggie’s car and looked around, finding her phone in the console between the front seats. He sighed.

Then he heard her scream.


It was faint, but it was her. His heart turned cold and he scrambled from the car.

The scream had come from the restaurant.

He was at the back door in five quick strides.

“Maggie!” He shouted, banging on the door.

The back door to the Happy Hamburger was solid and metal. No window. So he couldn’t see inside. He was about to run to the front and look in through the glass when she screamed again.

It had definitely come from inside. In fact it sounded like it had come from the other side of the back door.

“Maggie!” He pounded on the door then grasped the handle in both hands, shaking it so violently that it might fall off of its hinges. But it did not.

Then he remembered the key. Maggie had broken the rules by giving him a spare key to the restaurant, but she’d felt he’d need one in case of emergency, and this certainly qualified.

He fumbled for the ring of keys in his pocket and nearly dropped them. Cars continued to pull through the lot, music blaring through open windows: rap, country, and rock-n-roll. He paid them no mind as he slid the key into the lock and twisted.

The lock didn’t move.

Anthony cursed and ran a hand over his face, pulling it away dripping with sweat. He beat on the door in frustration. Why didn’t the key work?

He twisted the key again and felt more resistance.

“No! Work dammit!” He twisted and twisted, but nothing happened.

He heard a thump from within the restaurant, like something falling against a wall. Following the thump was a sound he couldn’t quite place. It was like a lion’s roar, but more high pitched. It was an animal noise, but not. It was uncomfortable and alien to his ears.

Maggie screamed again.

“Maggie! God, Maggie, I’ll get to you!” He kicked and pounded on the door, twisting the key as his heart raced.

“You okay, man?”

Anthony turned to find another carload of teenagers. A blond kid that was more acne than face looked at him through the open driver’s side window.

“I need help,” Anthony said, shaking. “My fiancé is in there, something—” he wasn’t quite sure how to say it. “I heard her scream.”

He ran to the car and gripped the window sill, crouching to make eye contact with the kid.

“I have a key, but it won’t work. It won’t work!”

“Okay, man, chill,” the kid said. He was alone in the car. “I’ll call the cops, okay, just back up a little, alright?”

“Yeah,” Anthony said, standing. “Thanks. The police, yeah.” He ran his hand over his face again, the other hanging at his side, shaking like an addict looking for a fix. “The key won’t work. It won’t work.”

“Okay, man, okay,” the kid said, tapping at the screen of his phone. “They key won’t work, I get it.”

Anthony turned back to the store. The key wouldn’t work. It never worked, that’s what Maggie had told him. It didn’t just work when you twisted it, you had to—he ran to the door, lifted up on the handle, lifting the door itself a fraction of an inch, and twisted the key. There was a scrape of metal and the lock slid open.

Anthony laughed, threw open the door, and stepped into the restaurant.

Nothing seemed amiss; the restaurant looked as it should after the closers had finished sweeping, mopping, and completing the other various closing activities. He stepped fully inside and let the door close behind him. He stood in a short hallway. A few feet up to his right was a storage area. To his left were the doors to the bathrooms. Ahead was the cook aisle and more storage.

Now that he was in, he stepped cautiously. All he could hear was the pounding of his own heart. He stepped up to the opening to the right and gazed into the darkness of the store room. Maggie had shown him around once. Here was where they kept the vegetables that didn’t require refrigeration, along with cleaners and the boxes of solid grease that went into the fryers. He couldn’t see much but darkness at the moment. So he pulled his phone from his pocket, thinking to shine its light into the room.

But before he could, something stumbled out from the dark of the cook aisle and ran into him, knocking him off of his feet.

“Anthony?” the thing said from atop him.


“Anthony, oh my God, Anthony,” she said, standing. “What are you doing here? You shouldn’t be here.”

She sounded panicked, scared out of her mind. Her clothes were torn and there was blood on her face, oozing from her nose and from scratches on her forehead.

“My God, Maggie. You okay?”

“You have to get out of here,” she said, pulling him to his feet. “We have to get out of here, before it comes back.”

“It?” he said. “What happened to you?”

“I can’t explain, we have to go.”

He rose and helped her to her feet. Then they scrambled out the back door. Once in the lot Maggie froze.

“Maggie,” Anthony said, pulling on her arm. “Let’s go.”

“Wait,” she said. Then she turned.

Anthony turned as well.

Standing in the back doorway of the Happy Hamburger was a creature that was short and green. Anthony gaped. Had it not been for the color, he might have mistaken it for a chimpanzee. But only due to the size and the way it stood, leaning on the knuckles of its hands. It was hairless and had long ears that ended it points an inch or so above its head. The creature opened its mouth and gave a hissing cry. Anthony couldn’t help but notice the teeth, they reminded him of a shark.

It stepped out from under the doorway, walking like an ape, using both feet and hands that each ended in long, black claws that clicked against the pavement.

Anthony couldn’t move. Maggie, on the other hand, exploded. She ripped her arm from Anthony’s grip and ran to the creature, screaming. Whatever the thing was, it hadn’t expected to be charged. It froze as if undecided, its black eyes shifting left and right like it couldn’t quite understand what was going on.

At the last moment Maggie slowed and kicked the thing like it was a soccer ball. The creature flew back from the blow and hammered into the wall of the restaurant. It slid to the ground and did not move.

“What the hell was that?” Anthony said.

“I don’t know,” Maggie said. Then she dropped to her knees in the lot.

“The cops should be here soon,” Anthony said, joining her on the ground. “Everything is going to be alright.”

At least he hoped so. The teenager in the car was gone. Did he actually call the cops? Anthony remained hopeful.

Then he heard a sound from behind. Anthony and Maggie turned in unison, seeking the origin of the sound.

He spotted it almost at once. There was a privacy fence at the back of the lot. It separated the drive-in from the housing development currently under construction. Just under the fence the ground was moving. Something was digging its way out from the ground. The earth underneath the fence exploded and dozens of those short, green chimpanzee creatures burst forth. They sped across the pavement like demon monkeys, their claws clicking and scraping.

Maggie was on her feet first.

Anthony tried to rise, but he was too slow, the creatures were on them.

One of them knocked Anthony onto his back. It stood on his chest and hissed at him. He could see Maggie being dragged toward the hole by the remaining creatures.

“Maggie!” He shouted.

He swatted at the thing atop him but missed. It hissed and suddenly he was enveloped by a red mist. It coated the insides of his lungs and burned his skin.

The weight lifted from his chest and he realized that the creature was no longer there. He rose. His eyes lost focus for a moment as the world around him spun and jumped. He rubbed at them with his fists. He regained focus long enough to see Maggie being pulled into the gaping hole under the fence.

Anthony ran to her, but found that his legs didn’t work quite right. He stumbled and at the last moment, fell. Maggie was right there, screaming. Her eyes caught his.


They were pleading, her eyes. He reached out as his vision blurred once again. All he could see now where colorless blobs. His ears shut down as well. He could still hear, but it was as if he was under water. He clawed at the shapes before him, knowing that one of them had to be Maggie. He caught hold of something soft, silky. He took hold of it in his right hand, squeezing for all it was worth, vowing to never let go. He felt resistance. Then it was gone.

He tried to stand, but nothing worked anymore.

He crawled across the lot as his vision returned for only a brief moment and for an instant all he could see were thousands of tiny bugs and worms, centipedes, scorpions, and hairy spiders. They covered him from head to toe.

He wanted to scream but feared that opening his mouth would only invite them in.

Instead he clawed at himself with his left hand, pulling them from his body in bits and pieces, throwing them over the fence until finally, they were gone.

He heard what sounded like a siren in the distance, but it was hard to tell. He couldn’t keep him mind focused on it. His thoughts seemed to leap from idea to idea, his brain playing itself in a game of Twister inside his head.

And then suddenly, Anthony was no longer alone. A woman was standing above him. An amazon warrior, her black hair blowing all about her in the cool night breeze. In one hand she held a long spear.

“Maggie Keaton,” he said to her. “They came from the earth and took her.”

She responded, but not in any language that Anthony recognized.

“They took her,” he repeated. “Little green men. Red mist. They took her down with them!”

The amazon rattled off something in her strange language. He didn’t know what to do. He reached out to her with his left hand, open, palm up. His right hand he had clenched tightly in a fist. He found that curious. He didn’t want to hit this woman.

But the amazon did not see it that way. One glance at his fist and she made to defend herself. Before Anthony could even process what was going on, she had his hands tied behind his back.

“They took her down with them,” he pleaded. “They came from the earth!”

She ignored him. Instead she shoved him into a cage on wheels.

“Little green men,” he said. He was weeping now. Openly crying. He could feel the tears as they rolled lazily down his cheeks. They burned his skin which hissed and popped.

He screamed. He couldn’t stop screaming. He thrashed about in the small cage. It was an odd shape, this cage. He couldn’t stand.

Soon he was moving.

No, he realized, he was not moving.

The cage was moving him.

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Thursday, February 8, 2018


THE SILENCE DIDN’T LAST long. It was soon replaced by the sound of sirens in the distance as Eudora’s finest raced to my rescue. I figured it was only a matter of time before Pat and her boys showed up. You can’t make a spectacle in town like the Walrus did without attracting the eyes of the law. I’m sure that in some part of his mind he knew that the police would eventually make their presence known. I had no idea what he had had in mind for the police once that happened. Maybe his rage just wouldn’t allow him to plan for such an eventuality. I don’t know.

I took a seat on the hill next to the Walrus. My spine was still healing, so I lay flat on my back and let my body do its thing.

I couldn’t see the driveway from behind the house, but it wasn’t long before I heard no less than four squad cars roar in. After that I heard the slamming of car doors, and then there was nothing.

I imagined Pat and her boys standing on the porch looking at the space where my front door used to be.

“This is the Eudora Police Department,” Pat’s amplified voice sounded from over the top of the house. She must’ve brought a bullhorn with her. “Come out with your hands in the air!”

I sighed and shook my head. I wanted to shout out to them, but I just couldn’t find it in me. After the morning I’d had, I was exhausted and yearned for sleep. I thought about my bed and sighed again.

Eventually, after hearing no response from within the house, Pat and the boys would have to enter. They would go in, guns drawn, and search room to room. Someone would shout “Clear” each time a room was checked and found empty. They would move methodically through the house, and as my room was in the back, they would reach it last. But, sooner or later, they would get to my room and find what I can only assume would be a hole in the wall where the window used to be, and surmise by the fact that since all the glass and drywall lay scattered about on the grass and not in the room, that we’d taken our fight outside.

I started to drift off there among the leaves, the breeze blowing over me like a cool blanket. Then something landed lightly on my chest. I opened my eyes and raised my head just enough to find a squirrel—yeah, that squirrel—watching me.

“Hey there, little guy,” I said. I had begun to feel like I’d just swallowed an entire bottle of whiskey in one go. The healing will do that to me.

The squirrel cocked its head.

“Look, I’m sorry about earlier,” I said. “I was frustrated and I’m afraid I took it out on you, and that’s not fair.”

The squirrel just continued to sit on my chest and look at me, its nose twitching so rapidly that it was practically vibrating.

“So what do you say, pal?” I held my hand out. “Forgiven?”

It approached my proffered hand with a caution one often sees in small animals. It took a quick sniff at my fingers, looked up at me one last time, and then sank its teeth into the flesh of my hand; breaking skin and drawing blood.

I shouted a curse—I mean, why wouldn’t I—and swung a fist at the dirty rodent. I missed, of course, and it hopped away unharmed into the woods.

“Next time I see you I’m just gonna start shooting!” I called out after the thing. “You hear my you son of a—”

“Norman?” a voice interrupted.

I turned and found Pat standing over me, a perplexed look upon her face.

She looked beautiful.

“Oh, hey, Pat.” I rose up on an elbow, shielding my eyes at the sun which had made another appearance.

“You okay, Norman? Your house—” she glanced over at the Walrus who lay in a lump beside me. “He alive?

“He is,” I said as I sat up.

“Tell me what happened?”

I did. Of course I left the part out about my chat just now with the squirrel. I figured that was best left between me, myself, and I.

“You’ve had quite the taxing day, my friend,” Pat said, offering me a hand up.

“That I have,” I said, brushing the leaves off of my rear end. “How’d he get loose in the first place?” I said, nodding toward the Walrus.

“Well,” Pat said, her face going flush. “He kinda snapped his cuffs and tore the doors off the back of the van we had him in. Then he just sorta jumped.”

“I tried to warn you, Pat. The Walrus ain’t someone you want to play around with.”

We stood in silence for a bit. I noticed the squirrel in the tree above me. I gave it a hard glare.

“I guess you know I’m gonna have to take you in,” Pat said in her typical casual style.

“I wasn’t talking to no squirrel, he was bothering me—wait,” I blinked. “What?”

“You shot up the Pub, Norman,” Pat said. “There were seven witnesses.”

“I didn’t shoot up no pub,” I said. “And there certainly weren’t no seven witnesses. Abner’s lying.”

Pat gave me that look. The one that tells me she knows I ain’t telling the whole truth.

“Okay, yeah, I shot a couple of vampires a few times, but that’s it.”

“Vampires, Norman? In Kansas? Who in the world is gonna believe that?”

“You,” I said.

“Of course I believe you, Norman. But I’m about it.”

“Ask Lemonzeo,” I said.

“We did, Norman. He tells us you stormed into the Pub and started shouting and shooting up the place. I’ve seen the damage.”

“Well he’s a dern liar,” I said. “He musta done all that after I left. You check the ballistics on them bullet holes? They .45 caliber? What about the slugs? Were there any slugs? Not all of them will match my guns.”

“Come on, Norman. What do you think this is? CSI Miami? We’re just one small town in the middle of Kansas. We’d have to send off to Topeka or Kansas City for a crime scene investigator and frankly, I just don’t think this case warrants such expenditure,” she smiled.

“All I did was shoot a vampire, Patty. I didn’t even kill it cuz I ain’t packing silver.”

“I still gotta take you in, Norman. It’s just a formality. Just answer our questions and we can let you go. I don’t think Lemonzeo wants to officially press charges.”

“Okay, fine. I’ll come quietly,” I said, raising my hands in the air.

“Put your hands down, Norman. It’s not like that. Just go get in the car and I’ll drive you down to the station.”

“You gonna bring me back home too?”

“Your Scout’s still at the office, right?”

“It is.”

“Then you have a ride home. Let’s go.” She took me by the arm and we walked around the house.

Pat took the Winchester and bundled me up in the back of her car as the rest of her boys loaded the Walrus into a paddy wagon. I’d noticed that they had no less than four pairs of cuffs on him—they weren’t taking any chances this time. That was good.

As I sat in the back of Pat’s car, watching the lights of the other squad cars rotate and bounce off the house, I thought back on my day. Nearly killed by a walrus, gnawed on by a troglodyte, lost in a goblin warren, nearly killed by a walrus once again, bitten by a squirrel, and then arrested for shooting a vampire.

Some days it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed.

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Monday, February 5, 2018


I DON’T MUCH LIKE running from a fight. It burns in my craw something fierce. But though I would never be mistaken for a learned man, I ain’t stupid. I know that I would be no match against the Walrus using just my fists and wits.

It’s why I grabbed the rifle.

Yet, once I had the rifle and ammunition, I still ran. I ran like the wind—well, like the wind if it had been healing from a broken spine. I ain’t no coward, but if you’re gonna fight someone, try to be the one who picks the field of battle.

About fifty or so yards from the back of my house is a large, wooded, hill. Once I was out of the window and onto the front lawn, I hobbled around to the back of the house, running as quickly as I could across the back yard, up the hill, and into the dense clump of woods that stretched back for a few miles out behind the house. Under the cover of the trees I fell to the ground, lying on my back and breathing heavily as I loaded the Winchester.

I slid the last cartridge into the rifle when I heard the unmistakable sound of a walrus crashing through a bedroom window—my bedroom window. So far, everything had gone according to plan, but success hinged on the hope that the Walrus would follow me. The plan was to hide here among the trees on the hill and wait for the Walrus to peek his ugly face around the back of the house. Then I’d shoot him. Not actually in the face, mind you. I wasn’t out to kill him—I wanted to—but I figured it’d be best to let the law handle this one. If he forced the issue, then I’d have no other choice. Otherwise I figured on winging him a bit. Maybe I’d go for the knee and put him down long enough to get the boys in khaki out here to lock the thing up—for good this time.

It all depended on the Walrus doing what I wanted him to do, which was follow me west behind the house.

As I’ve said, I live in the country a few miles north of town. Based on what was around the house, geographically speaking, the plan put a lot of dependence on the landscape itself guiding the Walrus in my direction.

I mean, when you think about it, I could have jumped out the window and continued east across the front yard and away from the house, but my front yard looked out toward a few hundred acres of cornfield, which at the moment sat unplanted, empty, and flat. Had I gone that way I’d have stood out among the nothingness like a lone figure streaking through an open field fleeing from a walrus a in a suit, so east was out.

To the south was the Kansas River, and beyond that, Eudora. I wouldn’t get too far fleeing in that direction before I was up to my neck in brown water. There was a bridge, but I’d need to walk a few miles to the east to get there so it should be obvious that south wasn’t the best option either.

The north was also out. Like the east, there was nothing for miles but more unplanted pastureland and no adequate cover.

That left west, a half a dozen miles of trees broken only by the occasional gravel road. The Walrus wasn’t stupid, he’d see that west was the best option and so I only had to wait.

The itching along my spine decreased, meaning that the healing was near to complete. So I rolled over onto my stomach, rose, and knelt at the edge of the woods, the Winchester ready at my shoulder. I took a few deep breaths and waited for the Walrus to show himself. I moved the barrel left, then right, scanning the back of the house for any sign of an angry walrus.

Soon enough he came into view, running as quick as a walrus around the exact corner of the house I had hoped he would. I could see that he was so full of rage that he plodded on without any notion that crippling pain was only a rifle-shot away. I smiled, brought his left kneecap into my sights, breathed out, and slowly squeezed the trigger of the old Winchester.

At that exact moment, the clouds parted and the sun shown down upon me with such ferocity that I found myself blinded and it caused me to flinch as I fired the rifle.

The shot rang out its cracking roar that echoed off the hill and trees.

“You missed!” the Walrus called.

I never miss. I cursed. Later I’d swear that the sun had actually giggled at my dilemma.

I squeezed off another shot but I was shooting blind. I couldn’t see crap anymore as the sun continued to blaze.

“Oklahoma!” the Walrus roared with such vehemence that the casual observer would be forced to seriously rethink musical theater.

I cursed and squeezed off another shot as the Walrus sprinted toward me. I couldn’t see much but white light, but I could hear the creature’s grunting and the thunderous plod of his mighty feet drawing closer and closer.

He continued screaming my name in such frenzy that any birds brave enough to still be hanging out following the gunshots were now winging their way to a safer location—like Alaska. I fired a fourth time, and then a fifth, shooting erratically now in hopes that one of the bullets would find its target.

They didn’t.

I stopped shooting and tried to calm myself, which wasn’t easy as the Walrus pounded up the hill. I still couldn’t see a thing but sunlight so I closed my eyes. I took three big breaths.

In through the nose.

Out through the mouth.

In and out.

In and out.

I cleared my head and took myself out of the world. Nothing mattered anymore. The wind, the sunlight, the music of nature—it didn’t exist. There was just me and the unseen presence of a walrus running through the Kansas grassland.

I raised the Winchester. The wheeze and puff of the Walrus’s labored breath, the ponderous thud of his massive feet, and the groan of agony coming from the earth were getting louder by the second. He was right on top of me.

I smiled.

I fired.

The rifle cracked followed almost at once by a slight “Ooof!” from the Walrus, and the sound of his considerable body hitting the ground and sliding through the fallen leaves toward me.

A cloud passed over the Sun and I looked down to find the Walrus just inches from where I knelt. He writhed around in the dead leaves, clutching his left knee with both hands. Blood bubbled through his fingers.

He looked up at me.

“You shot me!” he cried.

“What’d you expect?” I said, pointing the rifle at him.

The Walrus lumbered to his feet, well—foot. He hopped about for a moment, almost like a cartoon, still clutching his left knee.

“I’m going to kill you!” He screamed, and hopped toward me.

I sighed and squeezed the trigger for the last time and blew out his other knee. He passed out on his short journey to the ground. He lay still, almost peaceful, as the shot echoed off into the distance, followed by the silence of a cool autumn day.

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Thursday, February 1, 2018


HAVE YOU EVER BEEN thrown out a window? It ain’t the street fair one might imagine.

There’s pain involved; lots of it and from almost everywhere at once. There are more sensations of pain from just this one act then there are flavors of ice cream at a rich man’s sundae bar.

Let me try and describe it to you.

First, you feel a crushing blow and your body impacts in upon itself, your bones bruising and grinding together as you come into contact with the window. This lasts but nary a moment as the glass gives way and shatters around you. Then comes the biting shards that tear at your clothes and slice up your skin as you soar through the window and out into the open air.

You ever see them cartoons where the coyote is chasing the road runner and the road runner takes a quick left turn, but the coyote can’t turn as fast and winds up running right off the edge of a cliff? But here’s the the thing, being that it’s a cartoon, the coyote doesn’t notice right away that there ain’t no ground beneath him. So he hangs there in midair until he finally decides to look down. Once he realizes that there’s nothing holding him up, he falls.

You feel almost that exact sensation when you’re thrown out a window.

You hang there for a split second that feels more like an eternity. Then you fall, leaving your stomach behind. The ground rushes up to meet you, and it ain’t as forgiving as the glass, it doesn’t yield beneath you. Sure, if you ain’t too high and if you’re dropping into a field of lush grass it may not be that bad when you and the ground reunite. But I was two stories up and had nothing beneath me but concrete.

Once you’re down, the fun ain’t over. You have a shower of glass to look forward to. More razor sharp shards to rip at your skin and make you bleed.

If you’re lucky, you survive, and unless you’ve fallen into a busy street, you have nothing left to worry about. Just lie still and wait for the good folks in the ambulance to come along and scoop you up.

Me? I wasn’t so lucky.

I hit the sidewalk face first and felt bones snap and teeth crack as glass fell on me, slicing through my clothing and biting into my skin. I heard the screech of tires as cars skidded to a stop at the sight of a man falling from a second story window. I tried to rise, but my body wouldn’t cooperate. I knew that I’d heal soon enough and would eventually be able to get up and walk away, but I couldn’t count on the Walrus waiting around and allowing that to happen.

Sure enough, I felt the impact of three hundred and fifty pounds of mutated muscle land near me on the sidewalk. He must have forgone the stairs and decided instead to jump. How efficient of him.

I felt an intense itch course through me, which meant that the healing had begun. I could feel the blackout coming as the rest of my body tried to shut down. I fought against it. If I passed out, it was over for me. The Walrus grabbed me by the hair on the back of my head and pulled my face from the cement. Blood ran from my nose and mouth like a faucet and I could see pieces of my teeth lying there among the dark crimson pools.

“I know all about you, Norman,” the thing whispered into my ear. “I’ve researched you, studied you. I’ve learned all I could.”

“Stop it,” I said as best I could with a mouth full of blood and broken teeth. “You’re embarrassing me.”

“Don’t feel special. It’s something I do for all of my targets. It’s much easier to kill someone when you know their strengths and weaknesses. For example,” he said as he slammed my face into the concrete. “I know all about your healing ability.”

I wanted to say something clever, something quick and witty, but my mind was a bit busy dealing with the pain and fighting to stay conscious.

“The one thing I don’t know about you, Norman, is just how powerful this healing ability of yours is. I mean, it’s obvious that you can break, bleed, and feel pain.”

He emphasized this by slamming my face into the sidewalk once again. I didn’t scream though. I mean, I wanted to, but it ain’t an easy thing to do with your face full of concrete.

“Can you die, Norman Oklahoma? Can you be shuffled off this mortal coil? I must know.”

He stepped on my back and pulled my head toward him until I both heard and felt my spine snap.

That time I did scream.

The Walrus just laughed and flung me back against the wall of my building. I heard more bones snap, but I couldn’t feel much of anything anymore.

As I lay there, bleeding, I could see the Walrus take in the faces of the gathering crowd. The surrounding area filled with onlookers and gawkers who’d come out to see the show. He smiled and scratched at his chin. It appeared he was thinking things over.

“Don’t hurt yourself,” I tried to say. I can’t be certain what actually came out of my mouth, but I know it wasn’t intelligible.

“Look, Norman,” the Walrus said. “Everyone has come to watch.”

He smiled and bent over me to whisper into my ear.

“As much as I enjoy the eyes of all your friends and neighbors watching me break you, I think it might be best if we take this somewhere a little more private. What do you say?”

With that he lifted me into the air and threw me over a shoulder like a sack of potatoes.

“How about it, Norman? Your place or mine?”

The Walrus carried me up and around the block. A few of the bystanders justified my never-ending hope in humanity’s inherent selflessness by attempting to intercede on my behalf, but they were no match for the monster. He pushed them aside like stalks of corn and loaded me into the trunk of a large black sedan as the rest of the onlookers ran.

“How about your place?” he said and smiled once more before slamming the lid closed, leaving me in darkness.

The ride out to my home was fairly uneventful. It did however; give me time to do two things. Think, and heal.

The healing itch burrowed into me and I felt fear for the first time in a long time. I didn’t want to die, never really thought it was possible, but now... well, all bets were off.

As I said before, I ain’t up there with the great thinkers of the world, but I needed a plan or I would learn if Death had made a place for me at his dinner table. Luckily, though I may not be a great thinker, I’m a fast one and a plan formulated in my mind. It wasn’t gonna be pretty, but it was sure gonna be simple. I was good at simple. Heck, I was the Einstein of simple.

Most of the plan depended on a couple of variables.

First, I had to pretend to be passed out, and I really had to sell it. Regardless of what the Walrus might do once we arrived at my home, I couldn’t cry out, I couldn’t open my eyes, I had to remain as still as the dead.

Next, I had to gamble on a gut feeling that the Walrus would want to take his time with me. I figured that he might want to torture me a bit before he helped me, as he put it, shuffle off this mortal coil. I also had to count on the hope that he wouldn’t enjoy torturing me if I wasn’t awake to suffer through it. My hope was that as long as I was passed out, or as long as he thought I was passed out, he would wait to start in on me.

Maybe he’d want to tie me up some and get everything ready for his big number while I remained void to the world. I had a lot to pin my hopes on, but I didn’t have much of a choice either way.

So yeah, that was my plan. I needed to buy enough time to heal so that I could run and fight another day.

Again, it wasn’t up there with some of history’s all-time great plans, but it didn’t need to be perfect. It just needed to work.

The sound of the tires changed from pavement to gravel and I knew we were close, so I got my mind right. I closed my eyes and concentrated on breathing... in through the nose, out through the mouth. Steady, calming breaths. I did my best to relax. It wasn’t easy.

The vehicle slowed and then stopped. The engine died and the lid to the trunk popped open slightly. I had begun to gain some feeling back in my legs. I heard the steps of the Walrus as he made his way to the back of the vehicle and soon felt the cool autumn air on my face as he lifted the lid to the trunk.

“We’re here, Norman,” he said. “Ah, are you sleeping? How nice.”

He slapped me. Hard.

By that point I’d gone to my happy place. I imagined my bed; the memory foam mattress and the thick comforter. Furthermore, I imagined myself in that bed, the comforter pulled up to my nose, snuggled deep within the folds of cotton and down, a look of bliss on my face. Then I added that final puzzle piece that made it possible for me to lie still as the Walrus slapped me around–I imagined a sky outside my bedroom window, a sky so filled with clouds that the sun could find no way through and pull me from my slumber. As matter of fact, I’d done such a good job creating my happy place that the one thing I had to struggle with was to keep from smiling.

“Wake up, Norman. We’ve arrived at the end of your life.” He slapped me again, but harder than before.

My teeth clacked together and my head rocked to the side by the force of the slap, but I had remained in my trance.

For a moment or two nothing happened. I could only imagine that the Walrus was standing there at the open trunk, looking in at me in thought. I figured he was thinking it all through. Then I felt some pressure on my right trigger finger. The Walrus held it gingerly in his hands.

It would happen quickly. I had to be ready.

With a sharp stab of pain, the Walrus snapped my finger like a chicken bone. I didn’t move, didn’t cry out, didn’t even flutter an eyelash. It took every ounce of strength I had, but I did it.

Again, nothing happened for a time. I could hear the sound of the Walrus breathing mixing with the birdsong and the wind. He was thinking long and hard on this one. He wanted me awake, wanted me lucid while he rained pain down on me. But on the other hand, he knew that I was healing. Yet, if he held on to me long enough to heal, he could break me all over again. I kinda figured he would like that thought once it reached his brain.

Soon enough he scooped me up and carried me into the house where he dropped me to the floor. I kept my eyes closed but I could hear him rummaging around in the kitchen, opening drawers and going through their contents. I assumed he was looking for something to secure me, like duct tape or rope. Well, the joke was on him, I was all out of duct tape.

But let him look. The more he looked, the less likely he was to pay me any mind. Folks tend to dismiss someone who’s passed out. See, if he knew I was awake, he may take a moment to break my legs and keep me immobile while he searched. But asleep as I was–or as I was pretending to be–his subconscious self would continue to tell him that I was harmless. In the meantime, the itch of healing continued like the legs of a thousand beetles crawling all over my face, spine, and now my finger.

I wanted to try my legs again, give them a stretch, maybe even wiggle my toes a bit, but I didn’t dare with the Walrus in the room. I couldn’t risk him seeing. So I remained as I was, face down on the carpet of my living room.

Face down was ideal at this point. Once the Walrus could see my face had all healed up, he might feel more inclined to spend a bit more time with me instead of looking for tape.

The Walrus gave up his search with a grunt of frustration. The sound of his heavy footsteps moved toward me. I tried not to tense as I waited for the pain that was surely to come. But the Walrus just stepped over me and did the one thing I honestly did not figure he would do.

He left the house.

The moment the door closed behind him, I tried my legs. They bent, but it took some effort. I figured that the Walrus must have had some rope or tape or something in his car and that was why he had left. That meant he’d be back soon. I’d never have an opportunity like this again.

So I put everything I had into it and eventually pulled myself into what would normally be for me a sleeping position. But I didn’t stop. I continued to struggle against myself. It was slow going, but it was going.

It’s like a dream I’ve had fairly often. Not the nightmare that kept me up most of last night. No, this one wasn’t as terrifying, more of a psychological dream that speaks volumes about my feelings of self-doubt… if you believe in that sort of thing.

In the dream I’m fighting something dark and shadowy with nothing but my bare hands. But every punch I give is slow, like trying to force my hand through air made of jelly. I can move about as normal in this dream, but when I try to fight, I go all slow-mo. That’s how I felt now and it made me want to cry.

I heard from outside the sound of a car door slamming shut and knew that I had just seconds to make something happen. I pulled myself to my feet by sheer force of will. The Walrus had dropped me just inside the front door, so the deadbolt was within reach. I engaged the bolt with a quick flick and staggered toward the hallway. The lock wouldn’t stop the Walrus, I knew that, but it may slow him down for a moment or two. I imagined that it would take at least twenty to thirty seconds for that brain of his to process the confusion that would slide over him when he found the door locked.

I moved haltingly down the hallway with a lot of starts and stops, like a zombie two years into the apocalypse. But with each step, I moved a little faster. My Peacemakers had still been sitting on the desk back at my office, I have to assume that they were still there, along with the Winchester, but they weren’t the only shooters I owned. I had a second Winchester, resting comfortably in the trunk at the foot of my bed. Yes, I had a second Winchester. In fact, I own three of them, and a Henry rifle, six other pistols, and a Sharps buffalo gun. Ain’t nothing wrong with being prepared.

The Winchester, however, was going to be the easiest to get to as the rest were all locked in my gun room and my keys were in my coat.

I’d neared the end of the hall when I heard my front door being ripped from its hinges.

“Oklahoma!” the Walrus roared from the front room.

But he was too late. I’d made it. I could feel, more than hear, the Walrus thundering down the hall to me, but by the time he got to my room, I’d snatched up my rifle, a belt of cartridges, and had slid out my bedroom window.

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