Short Stories

Fallen Angels

I am the Alchemist. This is why they call me. This is who I am.

I was in the midst a waking dream navigating the dream of another, when the siren brought me back to the present consciousness. I heard my cousin, Darnell over the loudspeakers, “We have a level one incursion. I repeat, we have a level one incursion. All Jump team members please report to the launch room immediately!” I was dressed and out of my room in less than a minute.

In the midst of our latter day cloud sitting, our world wide system had detected an incursion. A powerful being on our off world watch list had just arrived on Earth. While others like us typically battled demons who sought life in this realm of flesh and blood, my family, known as “The Willing” also had responsibility providing protection from hostile aliens, many of whom had in past propped themselves up as gods to the ancients. I arrived in launch room first and asked Darnell, “What’s up?”

“Take a look.” Darnell replied as he began gathering items for the flight.  “Akina just teleported there to do some recon. I’m going out to the ship to prep it. Bring the others when they arrive. ”

Just as Darnell exited, my daughter Rachel entered the room. “Who?” Rachel asked quickly as she continued to fasten her garb.

“Nemesis and an unidentified companion.” I replied.

“So, the chickens have come home to roost, eh?” Rachel sighed.

“Yes, they have.” I answered.

Present that day were, Rachel (ageless warrior with a special suit of armor), my cousin Darnell (all around hero), cousin Reggie (indestructible strong man), Akina the Time Walker, Kim (electromagnetic powers), Nick my oldest (Can transmute the state of any molecule) and Elizabeth (fire starter) Nick’s childhood friend from the academy.

Nemesis was the Greek goddess of vengeance. She existed not to protect the Olympians, but rather to avenge them should they ever fall. It was her sole reason for being. Her presence was concerning, but not totally unexpected since the aunties were off planet.  My mother Sarah, and her sisters Cil, Deborah and Ruth had destroyed her home world, Olympus and killed the remaining old gods there nearly a hundred years ago. However, many of the children and other descendants from these gods were not present and escaped that Armageddon. Thus whenever the Elders sent the sisters across the universe to eliminate some threat, they’d call some of us home to take up residence in Aunt Ruth’s place, Vigilance, to watch over the Earth in their stead.

A negotiated peace between starfaring civilizations had largely protected the Earth from the time the old gods were forced from the Earth by our ancestors, until Poseidon returned in 1981, when he and his cohorts attempted to build an Omni Portal on Earth. Breaking this truce cost the sea god his life. As a matter of protocol for the death of a god, Olympus launched a full scale attack against the Earth.  The Aunties repelled them and then at the direction of the Elders retaliated by traveling to Olympus and leaving only once it was dust beneath their feet. The Olympians were not the last civilization to suffer such a penalty, as the Elders decided that a message needed to be sent that would last across the ages. One after another the enemies of Earth toppled across the heavens.

The remainder of the team arrived at the control room one by one.  Reggie who was lodging separately down at the lagoon rode his motorcycle into the control room. When he entered Nick and Rachel were hovering over my shoulder as I scrolled through data on my monitor.  “Ah, I see that the Wonder Twins are indeed here.” This is what he called them, even though they had no reference for the moniker. Still it seemed to amuse Reggie every time he said it, so he did. Upon his arrival a week before, he’d not ventured from his station at the beach. If you wanted to see him, you had to go see him.  I did.  My kids did not. Long story.

Nick and Rachel mumbled almost in unison, “Hi cousin Reggie.”

As Reggie was dismounting his bike, in walked Kim and Elizabeth. One of the two roomies seemed to have gussied up just a bit more than the rest of us.  Reggie gave a quick glance towards to the red headed Elizabeth and then back Nick, before shaking his head in disbelief. It was obvious to all that they over the years had a thing for one another, but circumstances and commitments had prevented them from ever following through. Reggie liked to tease Nick about this fact.  Rachel, who had simply affixed a baseball cap atop her head, and I exchanged glances as well. But our glance was in regards to the fact that the world could be ending, but this child took a minute fix herself up a bit before joining us. Elizabeth was in a relationship at the time, but as Chris Rock used to say back in the day, “You never know.”

While boarding our low orbit transport it was decided that Darnell would pilot and play center field for this mission. Besides the fact that most of Darnell’s powers wouldn’t kick in until after sunset, it was our way to leave at least one resource just off the battlefield to watch everyone’s back. If things happened to go south, Darnell would join the conflict using weapontary built into our craft, or if the battle raged into the night, he could swoop in himself. It was odd for us to engage pretty much every alpha level resource in the compound for this mission, but Nemesis was a level one threat, and she had backup with her.  We hoped that they were acting alone and that this wasn’t part of some larger invasion. Once in the air it would only take us twenty minutes to arrive. Akina, who can walk across time and space as easily as one would walk across an empty room, went ahead of us to access the situation. Once in the air, Darnell called back to the others from the cockpit, “Akina has eyes on the second threat, you’ll see her visual in a second.”

Elizabeth gasped, “That’s Magni, isn’t it?”

Nick confirmed, “Yes, that’s him and he has his father’s hammer.” At his father’s death, the Norse godling had inherited Mjollnir as his birthright. With it, he was just as big a threat as Nemesis. Our hands would be full. Two scions of realms long since dispatched by our aunts at the direction of the Elders.

Kim shouted back over the din of our thrusters, “I hope Akina can keep them entertained until we arrive.”

I noted that both aliens were from star systems lacking in the element iron, and thus Oxygen was no more to them, than Nitrogen is to us humans. So, I started figuring, “Hmm…”

My daughter Rachel tilted her head and asked, “What?”

“Just thinking on something.”

Once we’d completed discussing our plan, Reggie leaned in and asked, “Hey, Black Jesus,” that was what Reggie sometimes called me. He had nicknames for pretty much everyone. “You still doing that manna from heaven thing?” His reference was to the fact that in my outreach work, I did indeed convert commonly found matter into foodstuff, that the locals could eat.

“Black Santa, you know that I do.” Black Santa was Reggie’s nickname within the team. I asked, “Sure you don’t want to try some?”

“Naw, cuz I’m good. I wonder how anyone eats that stuff.” Reggie said.

“You get hungry enough, and there will be little wonder about it.” I replied.

Reggie nodded and then shifted gears asking, “Y’all heard who the new Elder in waiting is, right?”

Kim lifted her head from her tablet, “Another Immortal, right?” Immortal within our community referenced those of us who did not age. No one on our teamed used that term, but that is what many of these individuals referenced themselves as.

“Yep,” Reggie replied.

Elizabeth shook her head, “So, that will mean that eleven out of twelve Elders will be ageless. I’m so not cool with that.” It wasn’t a rule, but historically of the twelve elders seldom contained more than four members who were ageless.

Nick chimed in, “The reasoning is that having less turnover will result in more consistent policies and practices.”

Rachel reflected and nodded, “Well, yeah, I can see that, but…”

I  jumped in, “Yes, the point is well taken, but while it may sometimes be uncomfortable, stirring the pot every now and then is healthy.”

Reggie put a bow around the conversation, “It smells, don’t it cuz?”

As we descended, Nick, as he often did, even when the Aunties were in play, took the lead. Both he and his sister Rachel served as officers in Starship Corp, he as captain, and she as a chief medical officer.  She’d left the corp some time ago to start a family, but Nick lived and breathed it just as much as ever. Everyone listened to his instruction, with the exception of the big burly Reggie, who’d engaged in far more of these battles than anyone present. Once Nick finished laying out the plan, Reggie crowed, “So, basically, get them, but don’t get got.”

As we broke through the rain clouds we saw the two giants in the midst of causing mayhem on an epic scale. Golden skinned, with black twists dangling, Nemesis was busy trying to stabilize some shiny metal contraption as energy arched from the clouds into it. Akina buzzed around her like a nat, jumping in and out of this level of existence. The device Nemesis held was just as tall as she was, and just a wicked looking. Elizabeth stood up, “That’s a planetary drill, they’re they’re trying to destabilize the Earth’s core.  Open up the back, I’m jumping out!”

Darnell did as Elizabeth requested and she flew down to join Akina. Over our

communicators, we heard Akina tell her, “I was able to make the feet for that damn thing go bye-bye, but I can’t grab a hold of the device itself to teleport it somewhere safe. Too much energy.”

Nick replied back to Akina, “Stand down Akina. You’re too valuable to all concerned.” Nick said this in reference to Akina being the only resource on our team that could instantaneously ferry personnel across the universe.  Thus at the direction of the Elders, and

The red headed Elizabeth, flew low over Akina giving her a quick smile, before arching back up towards Nemesis, “I think girlfriend here could use a facial, don’t you?” Elizabeth proceeded to unleash a torrent of flames into the face of Nemesis. While the flames startled Nemesis at first, but weren’t hot enough to harm her, much less ignite her flesh. But they were distracting enough to cause her to take a moment to adjust. Matter from her head ban descended down her face to form goggles around her eyes. By artificially expanding the electromagnetic range which she could perceive, they literally allowed her see past the flames again to her tool of destruction.

Nemesis spoke aloud the universal tongue, “Here to save the day, are you, righteous as you are? I will concede that we are a warlike people with little regard for human life, but so are you. You are no better than us. And now that you carry your destructive ways into the stars, you are no more worthy of life than us. Welcome to Armageddon earthlings, we’ve had our fill!”

As this was happening, Darnell struggled to deposit us near the Magni, but the Norse god, was busy alternating from stoking the raging storm he’d brewed and striking the ground with Mjollnir.  Nemesis had a plan, but Magni simply wanted to smash as much stuff as possible.  Reggie instructed Darnell, “Just pull up and hover above his head and I’ll jump out.” Darnell did as he asked and Reggie, along with his trusty club, lept out of the cargo bay and onto the head of Magni. As Reggie landed he swung his club down into the Norse god’s metal helmet. The impact was such that a low bass clang could be heard across the battlefield even over the raging storm. The space god swung to and fro trying to dislodge Reggie. But the thing with Reggie was that even though he was a big man, who could barely pass through a doorway without turning at least slightly, he was very agile, extremely so. If any of us cousins could dance on the head of a pin, it would be Reggie.  Finally Magni, grabbed the helmet from his head and tossed it and Reggie into the treeline.

These events allowed Darnell to deposit the rest of us in between the two oversized combatants and return to the skies once again.  But this is where things began to go off plan. As we entered the battlefield the software inside of Nemesis’ head band began to assess each of us just joining the flight. In doing so, it alerted Nemesis, that I, Michael, the one and only son of Black Sarah, was present.  Nemesis, paused for a moment in disbelief. In the universal tongue she called out to Magni, “It is the alchemist, Michael, son of Black Sarah! What better way to avenge to our ancestors than to slay the only child of that devil woman before we destroy the world of her birth!”

Magni’s reply of a wide grin needed no translation. He turned toward me and swung Mjollnir into mother Earth causing her to split apart. The breach shook those of us on the ground.

Akina, who had been standing atop a tall building which overlooked the battlefield, cried over her communicator, “Enough of this!”

“Stand down Akina! You know the deal.” Nick barked at my cousin.  She wanted to grab a hold of these beasts and teleport them somewhere far away. The problem was that she had to be tangible to do so, and like a nat she could be squashed either before she teleported them or after they reached their destination. And since we didn’t really know at the time how they breached our defenses to arrive on Earth, such a tactic might not buy us anything more than a brief respite. But as anyone in the family could tell you, Akina is not really known for following orders. We all knew that she was only going to stay on the sidelines but for so long.

After witnessing the two giants marching in my direction, Kim looked over her shoulder towards me and joked, “Hey cuz, they seem excited to see you. Do you owe them money?” before she mounted her metal skateboard and soared into the air to confront Magni.

My kids, Nick and Rachel stood beside me. For me it was a mix of pride and horror. I was pleased on one level that their first instinct was to protect me, but that is the absolute last thing I could ever want in such a situation.  I looked at them feigning  puzzlement, before switching from teammate to Dad. “Hey, y’all need to be over there taking care of that drill while they’re focused on me.”

As they ran off, Kim and Magni traded electrical charges, until both realized it was futile exercise. Kim then focused her efforts on magnetizing Mjollnir in hopes of somehow making it more difficult for him to use. All manner of metallic matter, such as steel pipes from underground and railcars from the railyard, flew into the powerful hammer, but none of it seemed to impede Magni’s progress.

Reggie re-entered the scene slamming his club into the heel of Magni, causing the giant to spin and swing Mjollnir down upon him. The force of the blow drove Reggie into the ground.

In the meantime, Elizabeth, realizing that the heat of her flame was nowhere near hot enough to stop Nemesis, reached into her bag of tricks to stop Nemesis.  But nothing seemed to work.

I called out to my teammates, “Guys, all of you, back off. Go take that drill out while we have the chance and leave these two to me. Just give me some room.”  Sure that was quite a statement to make given my circumstances, but it was not completely without merit.  While I’d seen less combat than the others present and my offensive skills did not compare to some, I played defense with the best of them. I was hard to kill. I welcomed the attempt on my life.

Nemesis, who was very powerful in her own right, also had the ability, within certain limits, to adapt her abilities to a given situation. Marching towards me, she removed her goggles and unleashed a killing glance which caused every living thing around me to immediately wither. This was typically her finishing move, but our book on her stated that she sometimes did this as an opening move. As one who cannot age or deteriorate, it had no effect on me.

Magni took his shot next by calling a barrage of lightning strikes down upon me. The ground smoldered for acres all around and smoke rose to the heavens as Magni called on a wind to aid him in examining his handy work. At last in the clearing air they saw me. I smiled at them, and then in the universal language I shouted back angrily at them, “My turn!”  I’m certainly not the destructive force that my mother is, but I can do a few things. I touched the ground liquefying it out as far as my two attackers, making the whole area essentially a huge tar pit. Then just as soon as they splashed in, I changed into a particular metallic compound to lock them in place.  Magni, called struggled mightily even calling down a second round of lightning from the skies. But he could not free himself.  Nemesis however was a different matter. At first, she too was trapped, but then I saw it. I saw her glow a blushing hue, just as our research stated she would do when she called upon her adaptive powers. She summoned the ability to change the state of molecules, the same as my son Nick. And in doing so, she changed the prison around her into its gaseous state and flew up into the air and landed next to her compatriot to free him as well. We were back where we started, or so it seemed. The two behemoths stood side by side facing me. I waited a moment. Then I saw it. The compound I’d frozen them in was relatively harmless to them in its solid state. But in its gaseous state it binds with Oxygen and subsequently forms a compound that binds and solidifies when it comes into contact with their alien flesh. With a quickness, their own skin became a metallic prison. And while their artificial respirators continued to supply the molecules that they needed to remain alive, they were little more than statues.  Their glistening faces turned towards the setting Sun as the winds became gentle once again was quite a sight.  I turned and began walking towards the prone planetary drill. From a distance I could see that with a few quick blows the mud covered Reggie had broken the planetary scalpel into several pieces, which my son Nick then turned into a liquid which ran down the giant hole in the ground the drill had created.

Akina, Kim and Elizabeth joined me on the ground as I walked towards the others.

Elizabeth, who’d officially only joined our team that year, asked, “What now?”

Kim and I both looked off, before Akina answered, “Well, we used to hold intruders like these and negotiate some kind of terms with whoever they belonged to.  But the current set of Elders really don’t believe in diplomacy.

Kim asked, “Can’t we just leave them like this and move them off world?”

I answered, “Well, their environmental packs should operate for years, but eventually, they’ll run down and they’ll suffocate.”  I was quiet for a moment before I began again. “But now that they’re powered down, with a touch, I can take care of this.”

Akina touched my arm, “No cousin, let me handle this.  I’ll take them to the pit. We can work out a safe way to unfreeze them later.” Given that I was a man of peace, and in fact a missionary, serving in the less traveled corners of the universe, my cousin tried their best to protect me from the realities of our role as protectors of human-kind.  In much the same way, in the previous generation my Aunt Ruth was protected by her sisters because she was so tender hearted. By moving them to the “Pit”, a place out of time, in layman terms it’s something between purgatory and hell. Releasing them there, they’d have to fight it out with the demons, who existed there in the flesh. But these were powerful being and that at least provided them a fighting chance.

At last we reached Rachel, Nick and Reggie.  Reggie staring up at the frozen godlings from atop the last chunk of the drill to be cracked open called out, “Good work Cuz. I’m impressed.”

I replied with a smile.

This is who I am. This is why they call me. I am the Alchemist.

Please check out my new book, Sacrifices at Amazon.com.

Perspective

Madness. What is it? Truth be told, what it is, or even if it is, depends on where you stand. What the majority deems mad, might make perfect sense to the minority or to anyone within a given moment. So, madness, to some degree, is contextual. That context being of course, whether its in my neighbor’s house or mine.

“Wake up, Deb.” a soft voice spoke into Deborah.

“What am I doing here?”, a confused Deborah asked as she struggled against her bonds, and the Earth trembled accordingly as she opened her eyes.

Deborah’s sisters, Ruth and Sarah looked at each other for a second before Sarah leaned over the bed to speak softly to her, “You, don’t remember?”

“You do remember, don’t you, Deb?” the soft voice spoke again.

“Remember?” a puzzled Deborah asked.

“It’s not unusual that she doesn’t remember,” a white coat robed Doctor Graves called from the side of the bed as she checked the bag of saline solution filling Deborah’s veins.

Deborah tried to rise, but again the constraints created by Ruth held firm and again the Earth trembled. “No, you don’t understand. I shouldn’t be here, I shouldn’t be anywhere I slit my wrists, I died, I was dead.”

Sarah and Ruth glanced at one another believing that Deborah was having a flashback to when she a teen and she tried to take her own life. Sarah said quietly to the others, “She’s been saying this for years.”

“And it’s been true for years.” The voice whispered.

Dr. Graves realizing the same as Sarah and Ruth, stepped around to look back at Deborah face to face, “How old are you?”

Deborah paused for a moment before answering, “I’m fourteen, or at least I was when I died.”

Dr. Graves continued, “Darling, you’re a grown woman with two amazing teenage kids of your own, a girl and a boy. And, look at your sisters. See, they’re adults.”

The voice replied, “They are all so linear.”

Deborah smiled and then did as the doctor requested, looking first at Ruth and then Sarah, “You’ve filled out some…” Sarah simply smiled, before Deborah continued, “Cil?”

The room froze for a moment before Sarah answered her, “Deb, Cil died Thursday, we’re burying her tomorrow.”

“Huh, what are you talking about, Sarah?   Cil, what is Sarah talking about?”

“Sister, don’t worry about them.  You know that they are temporally challenged.”

“You passed out at the viewing. It turns out that you were severely dehydrated.” Ruth said as she tried to comfort Deborah.

Dr. Graves chimed in, “She suffering from some sort of psychosis from her underlying condition being made more acute by her being severely dehydrated.”

Still confused, Deborah looked at each of the women standing around her before settling on Ruth, “Ruth-Ann, what have I always told you?”

Ruth, bowed a bit before speaking, “Just because your view of reality doesn’t match mine, doesn’t mean you’re crazy.”

Sarah thought to herself, “Doesn’t mean you’re sane either.”

Sensing that things in the room were deteriorating, Dr. Graves suggested, “Hey, why don’t we get out of here, so that her kids can come in and visit. Seeing them should help.”

As the ladies prepared to leave so that the next two visitors, per hospital policy, could enter, Deborah called out to Ruth, “Can you please remove these?”

The three women looked to one another again before, Ruth answered, “Sure. I just put those on you as you were waking, so that you wouldn’t hurt anyone.” And with a thought the glowing blue bans tying Deborah to her hospital bed disappeared as though they had never been.

Dr. Graves called out to Ruth and Sarah, “I’ll walk out with you.” Her reason for doing so, was so that she could speak with Deborah’s kids, Carla and Darnell. She wanted to prep them before they went in to see their mother.

After everyone was gone, Deborah continued her conversation, “Cil, what’s going on with them?”

Cil replied, “Deborah, have you forgotten, they never could see what we could see. Gifted though they are, they are blind to such things. But it is already written, that tomorrow, after the funeral, they shall see and know the weight of what I have done.”

In the eyes of God we are as words on a page. Our lives a story, with a beginning and an end. Unhindered by the three dimensions in which we move and time, the fourth dimension by which we are bound, God sees all in a simple glance. And thus, we live out our lives with our past, present and future already written; every path taken, destine since literally the beginning of time. And yet, might not the Author of such a text, edit it every now and then?

To see how this ends, please check out my new book, Sacrifices at Amazon.com.

The Prize.

As one who can turn lead into gold, or more importantly, steel bindings into vapor, being restrained was a new experience for me. Because of my ability to transmute one element into another with a simple touch, it was not uncommon for some to try to capture me for their own personal gain. But always they’d failed.  Those using more traditional restraints failed for obvious reasons, but even those who’d tried to bind me using some form of electromagnetism failed as well when my body transformed into non-conductive matter. For the first 300 years of my life, many of the attempts were almost comical.  But with of the passing of my mother (also known as Black Sarah for her reputation of laying waste to entire civilizations), some of the powers that be in the universe joined the chase and with them came better equipped kidnappers. This time, the villains used something akin to an antigravity gun, actually several of them, to capture and hold me.  Interestingly, all of my captors continued to wear their disguises long after they’d secured me in the hull of their star craft.

At long last the captain of the vessel joined her compatriots in the holding area. Her voice boomed through the room, “You are the one they call The Missionary, are you not?”

“Some do, but my name is Michael.”

“You’re the one who can change transform any element into another, right?” A cloaked mercenary cried out.

“Quiet!  Do not speak again!”  The captain snapped at her contractor.

“Yes, I have done that from time to time.” I replied to the stifled crew member, in the language in which he spoke.

The captain scowled before continuing.  “These cowards crouch in awe and fear because of the tales of what your mother and her sisters did to the eternal realms like Olympus, despite numerous reports from credible sources that only your aunt Ruth remains alive.  These believe sisters were true gods and hide their faces for fear of retribution.  But I am unafraid.” Then the captain stepped towards me and removed her mask, revealing on her cheek the symbol I knew so well.  It was the mark of Ares.  She was a disciple of the fallen god of war.  This fact changed everything.

I looked down for a moment and reflected on how my own mother, explained to me how people revisit the unresolved matters in their lives time and time again, and that my own first love was a clear example of this.  My first love, Sandy, was a victim of sexual assault, just as my mother had been on the night on which I was conceived. That created a need within me to “fix things”. Sandy was my opportunity.  And here was this captain, still, so many years later, seeking some form of closure.  I was her solution. It saddened me to think of how she had held on to this. I shook my head as I raised my eyes, to greet her heartbroken smile.

The captain raised her finger towards me, and speaking in perfect English, said, “Your mother murdered my god.”

“Yes, she killed him, after he threatened the entire Earth. And what of the countless he killed over thousands upon thousands of years?”

“He was no guiltier than a farmer who harvesting his own chickens. Should the farmer be put to death?”

“It depends.  Is the judge a chicken?”

“See, this arrogance is the problem with your species. You do not know your place. When we found you, you were waddling in the mud, living day to day on what you could scavenge. You are perverse in your lack of respect for the natural order of things. The eternal judge the finite.”

“And yet Ares is dead, is he not?  We shall all be dust one day, even me, although I neither age, hunger nor thirst.”

“Serving an invisible and silent God, you couldn’t possible understand what we’ve lost, what I’ve lost.  To be in his presence, to walk with him, to feel his caress…”

“First, the evidence of my God is all around to those with an eye to see nor is He silent to those with an ear to hear. “

“Do not compare your faith to mine.  Your faith is simply another system of control to burden the living. Ares liberated us to do as we please.  There is but one truth, the strong devour the weak.”

“And still this truth you claim does not satisfy you? Yes, religion is a system of control, yours and mine, otherwise neither of us would be here. But the same is true for any truth one may claim. Even love and hatred are essentially systems of control which bind. I choose to be bound by love.

“Alchemist, what binds you, is that I am stronger than you.”

“No, my love, you are mistaken.  Bound I am, but not by you or your devices. I am bound by a love which required me not to resist when you captured me for fear of collateral harm to the very ones I’ve served all these years.  And even now, I could be free, but this Love which I serve requires me offer you an opportunity to save yourselves from the results of that action.”

“Stop with your lies mortal. Who allows themselves allows themselves to be bound, when they can be free?”

“Is it not so, with you and Ares, even though he has long left this existence? And know too, that even without my gifts, you could no more bind me, than one could the wind, for the true me is spirit, not this fleshly vessel. ”

“I don’t believe you. Prove it, do your worst.”

“Trust me, you don’t want my worst. But it would be wise to at least leave and seal this room.”

The eyes of all of the crew fixated on the Captain, as she stood silent for long unblinking moments. But then in an instant, she blinked, “Open the door.”

After the crew relocated outside the room, I smiled at them through the reinforced panes. Then I began.  I had not lied, this would indeed be tricky. The first task was to covert a single hydrogen atom in the palm of both hands into antimatter.  I closed and eyes and reclaimed the focus that that was so hard to achieve in my youth.  Tunneling deep within, I isolated a single molecule of water in both palms.  I felt the bands of energy composing atoms therein. Carefully split off four hydrogen atoms allowing the two oxygen atoms their freedom.  But before I could twist them either into antimatter, I had to fuse them together into helium, for where I could convert the hydrogen atoms into antimatter, I would wipe out not only the ship but anything within an area equivalent to five of our Solar Systems.  In the vastness of space, it was very unlikely such an explosion would harm anyone but those on the ship, but I didn’t want to take that chance. My mother literally fused atoms for breakfast.  But for me, it was a much more difficult task.  And yet after several tense moments of struggle, I did it.  Now, with the two new helium atoms suspended between my palms, I began the most delicate task.  Again, I reached deep into the subcomponents level of the two atoms and I began to manipulate them with willful intent.  Slowly the two helium atoms disappeared from human sight, but they remained in my vision and control.  I glanced once more towards the crew, “I suggest that you move towards your escape pods now and broadcast any emergency signal you need to quickly.”  After seeing what I had done to that point, even without fully understanding it, they didn’t hesitate.  They scattered and then quickly launched as I continued to hold the fleeting particles in my hands.

It’s was a struggle for me to hold them that long. In scenario, the old adage, “use it or lose it” was truer than ever.  At long last, I could see life pod statuses update on a screen right above where the Captain had stood.  I focused once more and began the process of fusing the two antimatter particles together.  Like its counterpart antimatter helium was relatively stable, but the fusing of them in antimatter form did more than create an isotope.  It’s releases anti-energy, which is the perfect cure for antigravity energy.  The problem was that I really didn’t know just how much energy was needed to disable these devices.  I started with the fewest number of atoms I could manage and figured I’d simply double it, if this didn’t work.   Well, let’s just say that I didn’t need to do that.  The resulting energy not only took down the antigravity bands which encircled me, it evaporated the guns from which those beams emitted, everything in the lab, the walls, ceiling and floor of the lab.  It also, as I suspected it might, reverse charged their power system, but that I could fix (I’d done this stunt several times before so I knew what to expect).  I simply had to “lay hands” on the power core to reenergize it.  Once I restored power to the ship, I entered the command deck and broadcasted to the crew floating outside in their escape pods.  “Eh, Captain, I’m gonna to need to borrow your ship for a little while.”  She didn’t respond, even though I could clearly see on the monitor that she was alive and well.

I released a breath and took in another one as I sat down in the Captain’s chair. “Look, Captain, here’s the thing. I need for you to do me a favor.  I need for you to spread the word, into the right ears, that I won’t tolerate this anymore.” We both knew that only a very few had the knowledge and funding to find and come after me. “I will not be so charitable the next time this happens.  And speaking of charity, I hope you recognize this gift that I am offering you, for what it is.  I know your people see kindness as weakness. But even if I cannot change your mind in that regard, I would think that you’d recognize the folly in seeking revenge against a woman long dead and buried. What is the point of that?”

“You don’t understand.” She replied, at last.

“Obviously.”

“For thousands of years, I lived for him, and your mother took him away. In the countless years since I’ve sought to avenge him.”

“But knowing something of your belief system, since my mother defeated Ares, shouldn’t you have switched your allegiance to her?  Not that she would have wanted that, but isn’t that what Ares taught and isn’t that you law?”

“Yes, some of us believe just as you say.  But I could not. I simply could not.”

I sat there silent for a moment before responding, “Despised across the universe and yet held dearly by you. Do not fret, my love, you are not the first to ever love someone. I know such a thing is blasphemy to you, but you’ve just scratched the surface of love. There are depths of love that you cannot even fathom right now.  And if it should be, one day you will discover that there is but one love. And regardless of what you call it, if you serve that one love, you will discover that you serve the same love as do I.”

I then spoke to the entire crew in their common tongue, “Peace and Love,” as I slowly engaged the thrusters. As for me, I needed to return to the world where I was serving to say my goodbyes.  Despite my message of retribution towards anyone that would harm the defenseless who I serve, I knew in truth that I could do little to protect them. I could only avenge them, and I had no desire for such hollow victories.  No, I decided then that I needed to limit my mission and relief work to dying worlds, where my presence would not negatively affect outcome.

You can buy my new book Sacrifices at Amazon.com

Blood Ties.

What truly binds us one to another? Passion, apathy, love, hatred, belief, doubt, courage, fear, life, death? Might it be that what binds us, is simply what we allow? But the bind of what you begat, is a special bond which shall not be undone or cast out.

“Yes, I’ll be careful.” Aunt Deborah replied over the phone to her own prodigy Darnell as she put away the dishes in her small Barcelona apartment. Formerly an English teacher at Spelman college in Atlanta, Georgia a lifetime ago, Deborah had many special abilities, one of which was the ability to speak any tongue. Having recently moved to Spain to begin her second life as a translator, Deborah had adapted quite well. Being descended of both human and what most call angels, she never aged. And thus, like all of us who never age, every fifty years or so, she was required by the Elders (the ruling body of those like us) to reinvent herself. Therefore, in 2020 she and her  sisters, Ruth and Sarah, were forced to leave the only life they’d known and for the first time live separate public lives. Still, privately, they were allowed to stay in contact with family.  On this evening, the newly transitioned Deborah lovingly listened to her son’s concerns. However, the concerns of her son had little to do with her new life, but rather with her old one.

“Mama, please leave them folks alone, you can’t trust them.” Darnell implored. The “folks” in question here were Nightwalkers or what some call Vampires. Mostly myth, much of which they perpetuated for their own benefit, the Nightwalkers were very real even if most of the attributes associated with them were fiction. They were in fact the long assumed extinct Neanderthals. Their pale often pale skin and ability to hibernate like many other cold weather mammals were the seeds of their modern day reputation.  But their extended life expectancies, which jumped from 800 years to nearly 3,000 years with the advent of modern medicine and nutrition, enabled them amass large amounts of money and power, even from the shadows. The relevance to these facts was that Aunt Deborah’s biological father was indeed a Nightwalker. He was just not any Nightwalker, but the son of a past king and his Nubian wife. In the early days of the transatlantic slave trade the Nightwalker king laid eyes on the captured Queen (although, in many African cultures there really was no distinction of gender in the role, if you ruled you were deemed “king” regardless of your gender) who’s beauty was so striking that the slave trader king immediately fell in love with her. They lived out the remainder of her days in the American south, before he returned to Europe never to sell another slave. The king’s name was Bento, but after his death the name of his wife and child were stricken from the Nightwalker Tree of Blood which adorned the king’s throne room. The story of their love would only be whispered in the darkness between one Nightwalker and another for centuries. And one such whisper escaped their inner sanctum and reached Deborah’s ear lighting a lifelong desire within her to find the truth of the things.

“Mama.” Darnell called out over the phone.

“What?” Deborah replied.

“Mama?” Darnell said again.

“Yes, I’m alright. I’m not my mother.” Deborah suffered from the same mental illness as her mother did, which oddly made her the harshest critic of her deceased mother. Deborah graduated from Spelman College, before going on to earning her Phd from Atlanta University. While working there as an English professor while raising two kids, she also managed to assist in saving the world from various extinction level events. Her mother, Lola, an extremely selfish woman by all accounts, abandoned her family, never picked up a hero’s banner and died of a drug overdose when Deborah was a child.  If anything, Deborah fought every day, not to be Lola. It can be said that Lola, in many ways, frightened Deborah more than any demon or extraterrestrial ever did. Deborah continued her attempt to sooth her son’s concern, “Look, I’ll check in once I make contact. I’ll flash a smiley face if everything is cool. If I send a frown, come right away.”  She knew that this last part would appease her son. She was sure there was little that her son could save her from that she could not handle herself. But she knew that this was what her son needed to hear, being the protective son that he was.

Once Deborah ended her call, she began gathering her things for her trip. She’d communicated to The Elders and all concerned that she would be on holiday for the next week.  But what the Elders did not know, was that Deborah possessed a small piece of cloth left to her by her Nightwalker godfather, Henri, which gave her detailed instructions of how to engage the Nightwalker community, should she ever need to do so. Ordinarily, such contacts had route through the proper channels, and even more so during this time when relations between the two hidden communities were icy at best. And while Deborah did not share Darnell’s level of trepidation there was some reason to be concerned. Deborah was more powerful than any Nightwalker, but they as a people had studied the children of “those who came before” for thousands of years and had developed certain means to deal with them.

Deborah followed her instructions and drove out to the place in the Spanish countryside described in Henri’s note. She parked her car before making herself invisible. Then she walked three kilometers to her destination. Deborah the Deceiver, as her enemies called her, possessed many such abilities which allowed her to hide and get into places that others couldn’t.  But entering the Nightwalker world posed a different challenge.  Deborah had known since a young girl that there were passages scattered around the world, but few, if any non-Nightwalkers knew where to find these portals.  But if things worked out, Deborah would soon be in that number.

Nightwalkers operate by a lunar calendar and these secondary portals only opened once a month on the night of the full moon, at midnight. Deborah wasn’t one to be afraid of much, but as she waited, not knowing exactly what to expect, she feared that she might somehow miss this opportunity and be forced to wait another year for the Elders to grant her time off. She’d waited a lifetime already.

Although she was invisible, Deborah still hid in the bushes, as she awaited some sign that she was in the right place and time. Her sign came in the form of movement about five minutes before midnight. Quietly, buried hands pushed up through the soft dirt and eight individuals emerged. It was only then did Deborah notice the snipers stationed in the distance to protect this secret event. The dirty eight each stood and faced in the same direction. Deborah sensed that each was looking at something that was invisible even to her. Sliding around so that she stood behind the waiting party, Deborah at last saw the focus of their attention. There was a golden door only visible when facing north. As the door opened at midnight, Deborah crept up to make their number nine.  The lot of them entered through the golden doors and all stood upon a single glowing platform until the doors behind them closed. Invisible Deborah stood quietly among them, which as those who knew my Aunt Deborah, was a small miracle in itself. Bathed in light, they descended into the bowels of the earth.

Once they reached their destination, but before they were allowed to leave the floating platform, a voice from outside called within, “There are but eight of you seen, but our scales show that you’re about sixty kilograms over.  If you’re hiding please show yourself.”

Impressed, Deborah chose to reveal herself, a moment later Deborah said, “A cleaver measure. But who’s endeavor is this? Show now or never.”  While Deborah was indeed impressed by the Nightwalker security staff detecting that an additional entity was on the platform, she was still “going to mess with them” (although, her word choice of what she was doing would differ just a bit). Today’s torment from this flavor of Deborah would be to speak to them in nothing but rhyming haikus.

After allowing the other Nightwalkers on the platform to enter the underground kingdom, the guard stepped to Deborah and asked, “What business do The Willing have with Nightwalkers that necessitates them entering through the backdoor?”

Deborah smirked and gave a half-smile before answering, “But I’m one of you, from my nose all the way through, I’m you true and true.”

The guard looked at his scanner before saying aloud for the other guards to hear, “She’s at least twenty-five percent Nightwalker. But I still don’t trust her.” The guard after taking a second look at his scanner took a step back, “So, why are you here?”

Deborah gave a knowing smile, “Blood of King am I,  ask I see him eye to eye, by your law I cry.” Deborah knew that anyone in the royal bloodline could demand an audience with the king. And by the guard’s reaction, Deborah knew that he knew it too.

The guard motioned to the other security officers before replying to Deborah, “Okay, we’ll take you to the king, as is your right.  But we’re going to restrain you first, which is our right.”

Given her linage, Deborah didn’t much agree that they had a right to bind her, but she did not resist them, since her goal was an audience with the king. She continued to heckle and tease the security team as they shackled her in restraints which were suppose to hold even those like her. The single piece metal cuffs covered her hands and wrists completely.  Even through the hood they placed over her head before they carried her through the city to the throne, she continued to berate her captors.

At last, the officers delivered Deborah before the king and his royal court.

Hood removed, but still shackled Deborah stood before the white faces looking for traces of herself or her children in them.

The Nightwalker king cleared his throat before speaking, “So, what is it that you want?”

“You know who I am?” Deborah asked.

“You’re Deborah the Deceiver!” one of the adolescent male family members called out from behind the throne. Recently of age to join the royal court, the young Nightwalker was filled with the exuberance finally seeing a Nephilim in the flesh. And she was not just any such of these creatures, but one of the legendary “Sisters”. For him, at least, it was like meeting Hercules.

Before he responded, the king raised the back of his hand universally signaling to the young lad to shut up, “Certainly, I know who you are.”

“So, say it then. Say who I am. Who am I to you?” An unusually transparent Deborah, requested.

The king leaned forward, “What difference does it make now? You are who you are. How will my words change that?”

Deborah shook her head, “What difference does it make?”

The king paused for a moment, “Child, what is it that you want? Do you want money or power? Did you come here for our treasure?”

“You know well, that with my own gifts, I could have any of those things. No, I want you to say my grandmother’s name. I want you to say my father’s name. I want you to acknowledge who I am.  Your court has known of me for over sixty years, and never, not even once have you reached out to me. You know what my sisters and I went through as kids being hunted, having to move from safe house to safe house. Only, dear Henri, who you cast out, reached out to us. Why haven’t you acknowledged me? Why won’t you even dare to say who I am?  Is it because, I am the evidence, the blood that you cannot wash away? Is it because you treasure the ill gotten golden throne on which you sit more than righteousness? Oh, stiff necked king, the abundance you forgo by not reconciling yourself to me.” Deborah pointed her finger at the king.

The king sat silent for a moment and then spoke, “Young lady, I will say two things.  First, as king, I don’t answer to anyone. Not to you, not to these surrounding me or even to your Elders. No one.   Secondly, since you are here in my kingdom, I have legal dominion over you. And as such, I’m charging you with espionage and commending you to our prison until such time as your Elders negotiate your release. They have some assets I’d like returned to the kingdom.  And yes, I know who your sisters are and what power they possess.  But Ruth isn’t going to kill anyone, and she’d have to do so to free you from here.  And though your sister, Sarah, or Black Sarah as they call her, could easily kill us all, she won’t make a move unless the Elders authorize her to do so, and they won’t. Even in these times, the Elders value the services we can provide against our common enemies.”

Deborah, knowing full well that her sisters would literally move the Earth and stars above, if need be to rescue her, stood speechless at the apparent ignorance of this “king”. And in that moment she also realized that his real treasure was his pride. Astounded, Deborah shook her head and shivered in anger. As she did the entire Nightwalker underground domain shook and trembled, “So, that’s all you have to say?  Don’t you know that with a single word, I could cast this entire kingdom into darkness for a thousand years? Even as you deny who I am, you are quite delusional about what I am. I am not the one you want to hold in your bowels. Better you spit this bitter herb out. Better you face my sister Sarah, that she might make your last moments brief and painless. For, if I be the one to measure your punishment, you will not go easy.  No, blessed are you that you cannot carry out your plan to imprison me. You should celebrate this day that death passed you by!”  In that moment, the Deborah who stood before the royal court began to fade.  “While I was not here to spy on you, I am indeed a spy of those whom you call The Willing.  In fact, I’m the best at what I do, thus your silly attempts to hold me are amusing at best. But I leave you with this. I claim all that I am, the good and the bad. All of it.”  After Deborah’s final pronouncement, her image faded away completely and her constraints fell to the floor. On the transport Deborah had created a version of herself which she had made visible and allowed to be captured and now returned it to herself, that she might once again be whole and composed of every aspect of her personality.

The room sat in silence for several long moments before one of the attendants called to the king, “Sire, over here on the Tree of Blood.”

The king and his court proceeded to the side wall which documented the royal linage. Once there they looked upon the tree to see three names freshly carved into the cold stone wall.  The names were Kendi and Filipe, the names of Deborah’s African grandmother and biological father, respectively. And beneath them was the name “Deborah.”

Epilogue:

Three weeks later as Deborah sat at a Barcelona café enjoying the last hour of her afternoon siesta, she was joined at her small sidewalk table by a tall, attractive fair skinned blonde headed woman. Deborah looked up puzzled as she recognized the face. It was the face of one of the women in the Nightwalker king’s court. Deborah remembered how this woman had stared at her so.

The woman smiled an easy smile, “Hello, Deborah.  I’m your grand aunt, Amanda. Your grandfather, Bento, was my brother and I would ever so love to get to know you.”

Capture of cover

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The First Fall

What becomes of us when a star falls and seemingly all hope is lost? This is a question that no parent ever hopes to answer.  And yet as a parent I’ve answered three times. My name is Michael and I am descended from the mating what most call angels with humans. We are the heroes of legends. Known as demigods,  we refer to ourselves as merely the children of those who came before. And thus were my three children as well. Each of my children were born with only a portion of my ability, given that their mother, Vicki, was fully human.

The mission was to be a humanitarian one, a visitation upon an alien world to bring glad tidings. The place was Andromeda Six, the sixth earth-like world found in that galaxy, and of particular interest because it was a world seeded with humans (and other mammals, all of which decimated many of the indigenous species) thousands of years ago as a part of some long since abandoned grand experiment to determine if humans were indeed intrinsically violent. That alien race planted humans on several other worlds as well, but none were as warlike as the residents of Andromeda Six. But when the rogue planet appeared in their sky all hostilities between nations ceased. That it might be on a collision course with their world was the fear of most, but the reality of the learned among them.  And since they’d not yet learned to navigate the stars, the locals were stunned to see a starship, albeit a modest one, streak across their sky. The ship passed over thousands of people who witnessed it land in a centrally located mountain range at an emergency conference of their world leaders. Most of the inhabitants of Andromeda Six were unaware of the world of their origin, but many of their leaders were very aware of that fact and hoped against all odds that someone from their parent world might arrive to save the day.   Seeing the strange vessel land in the middle of their courtyard, the leaders walked out unto the lawn to greet the visitors.

My oldest, Nicholas exited the star craft first. He had the ability to transform the state of matter, be it to solid, to liquid, to gas and back again.  He also, inherited my gift of never aging past thirty years of age. In truth, he was over three hundred years old. Tall and athletic, and possessing all the poise of the military officer he’d once been, he forced a smile to the hopeful men and women before him. As the oldest, he felt the need to always take the point and that day was no different. His heart was heavy because he and his siblings, who’d been sent by the Elders (a governing body for those such as us), had just learned that there would be no help from home to avert this extinction event, even though upon their acceptance of the mission they’d been told that it would be so.

Rachel, my middle child, a doctor and seminary graduate, descended from the craft after her older brother. She didn’t possess any gifts that the human eye could see beyond that fact that she would never grow old from the passing years. However, what she did possess was the armor created by my mother and her sisters. The breastplate, shield and sword, each had supernatural properties and appeared to the naked eye only when needed.  But she also, received, in part, my gift of dreams.  Many of her dreams foreshadowed things to come. Rachel was a strikingly beautiful woman who looked so much like her mother that many questioned what role I played in her creation.  But on that day, her face was blushed as this new audience took her in. She’d been frantically reaching out to any who might be able to help, since there would be no formal help as she’d been led to believe. Her options were limited at the time. She could have circumvented the Elders and asked my mother Sarah for help, or my aunt Deborah, if these events had happened just fifty years earlier, when both were still alive.  Or if they’d had more time they could have reached out to me.  Although I was thousands of light years away, I would have found a way to aid them.  My Aunt Ruth was alive and certainly could have addressed the matter as well, but as protector of our world, she could not leave her post.

Last to exit the star vessel was my youngest Simon (at that particular time of his life he preferred to be called Luscious, but we his family chose to call him by his given name). He was not blessed with agelessness, but did have the ability to change the mass of any object, making it heavier or lighter as he wished. He was also, in some ways the misfit of the lot. In and out of trouble all of his teen and adult years, he often used his gift to hustle others in games like pool.  As a practice, his two older siblings would request the aid of my time and space traveling cousin Akina, to go back into time to retrieve him for the mission de jour. So, in this instance, since he was incarcerated at the time, he was in a prison cell one moment and in the next aboard the star craft with his older siblings. Simon lived for these excursions, as an escape from a life which even he had to admit, had played out short of what he expected for himself.  And although he seldom showed remorse, he certainly felt it from time to time. But whenever his siblings had a big mission they’d reach back into the 21st Century to retrieve him.  Nick and Rachel were now living in the 2400’s and Simon knew that in each trip to the future he’d see some new marvel that he could never have even imagined. And though the days in the future were always grueling and perilous, they were ultimately rewarding when done. But this day was different.  Simon, who was the only one of the three not surprised by the devastating twist of events, felt a woeful sense of being as he first glanced at all the hopeful faces below him. Only forty four years old, but looking at least fifty five, Simon tugged at his salt and pepper goatee as he stepped down the staircase to join his brother and sister. Simon knew that this backward world of few heavy elements and no galactic exports worth mentioning stood little chance of assistance from any civilization capable of altering the course of a planet. In fact, if anything, the powers that be would only stand to gain by harvesting the remains of these two worlds once they collided. In over three hundred years and a hundreds seemingly inescapable jams, the three of them had always found a way.  There had always been a way.  But as he gazed upon the looming planet in the blue sky above a realization swept over Simon that there was really only one way this time.

Through their translation devices Nick and Rachel spoke to the leaders, doing their best to explain why no cavalry was en route.  A tearful Rachel said over and over again to the angry politicians, “I’m sorry, there is nothing that we can do.”

But my son Simon corrected his big sister, “No, there is one thing that we can do.”  Simon ran back up the stairs into the starship. Expecting him to return with something from the voice controlled ship, Nick and Rachael were surprised to hear the vessel roar to life and begin to ascend.  Over their communicators, they called out to Simon, “What are you doing?”

As he put on his space suit, Simon replied, “On our approach, I saw a smaller uninhabited planet just outside the orbit of this planet.  I’m thinking that if I can increase the mass of that planet, I may be able to alter the path of the rogue planet enough to miss this world. I’ve never tried anything this massive before but I don’t see that we have much of a choice here, but we have to try. The onboard computers are running through the scenarios right now. “

Nick cried out over the communicator, “Simon, what are you doing, man? Come back and we’ll figure something out. You know we always do these things together.”

Simon replied back, “Come on big brother, you know full well that you’ve always taken on the risky tasks on our little adventures throughout the years.  So, maybe it’s my turn.”

In tears, Rachel repeated her brother’s name, “Simon, Simon…” Knowing full well the cost of his gambit.

A resolved Simon replied, “Hey, I’ve known for some time that it would end this way for me. Ever since I realized that neither of you were lying to protect me, when you said you’d seen no record of how I died.  That told me that my day would come on one of my little excursions to the future with you. But you can’t change your destiny can you? And if I am destine to die, what better way is there?” Simon paused for a moment before continuing, “I’ve lived a life of easy choices and thoughtless actions. Be we descended from angels or not, we three know that my gifts have largely been wasted on me. You two have always seen fit to see the very best in me, what I might be some day. Yet, I am no noble sort, but perhaps I can have a noble moment.”

Nick, fighting back is own tears, called to his little brother, “Simon, I know of a few million folks down here who would disagree with you regarding your nobility.”

“None of us is noble in and of ourselves, Simon. Each of us simply opens ourselves to selfless moments from time to time.” Rachel spoke in an attempt to comfort Simon.

“Thanks for the kind words sis.”

Rachel followed, “But they’re true. We are all the same, and this moment bears witness to that.”

Simon composed himself before continuing, “I’m instructing the ship to returning you once I’m on the planet we passed. The ship is going to loop out a bit away from all three planets so that it’s not caught up in gravity field I’ll be creating. Still, it should reach Andromeda Six in plenty of time for a safe escape should my efforts fail. And of course, I’ve locked you two out of the voice command system for the next seventy-two hours.” Knowing that in moments he’d step into the breach never to return, the space suited Simon paused a second time before opening the outer airlock to the cold vacuum of space, “I love you two more than anything.”

Rachel replied , “We love you too.”

Quoting their collective mantra, Nick added, “We three, then, now and forever.”

Alone on the small barren world, Simon knelt  stretching his hands out to the ground below and focused as he had never done before.  Even shielding himself as best he could from the artificial gravity he created, it would not be long before Simon was lying flat on his back unable to lift his own head. He’d hoped that he could save the doomed world by merely increasing the mass of this small world so that a simple flyby would suffice in altering rough planet’s path enough that it would miss the inhabited world.  But not a single calculated scenario supported such a plan. The only sure solution was to increase the mass of the small outer planet to the point that it would collide with the rogue planet. In doing this the ship’s calculators projected that Andromeda Six would incur a more pronounced tilt in its axis and be drawn into an elliptical orbit, but would survive.

Still, there were consequences.  The proximity of the Rogue planet was already causing widespread coastal flooding as the seas rose and earthquakes as the tectonic plates shifted under its pull. The flooding was so severe that over seventy percent of the land was already covered in water. The increase in mass of the third planet in play, only made things worse. Soon as the water began to evaporate there would be worldwide rain showers that would last for weeks. And while the data being streamed in from the starship’s computers to the siblings showed that Simon’s plan was indeed working, there was little change to the naked eye as all three worlds pulled still closer together. During those three days my three children, seemingly in a world of their own apart from the chaos all around them, communicated almost constantly. Sure they spoke of vectors and velocities, but largely they discussed time, or better yet past times. They recalled the moments of their shared lives. They spoke of their mother, long since departed. They spoke of me and made fun of my silly caps and overall lack of style. They recalled family vacations and times with their many cousins and extended family. All the while they hoped for a miracle, they were accepting that they indeed were the miracle, the hand of God, for an entire world.

On the morning of the third day, Simon called from the cold, dry, dead world to his siblings one last time, “Hey, I’m calling my shot, rogue planet in the corner pocket. Problem is that I’m riding the cue ball. Ha, how’s fitting is that?”

Nick never one to give up, replied, “We’re still waiting to hear back from Akina.” The thought was that Akina could teleport to Simon’s location and rescue him before his barren world collided with the rogue planet. But Akina’s movements at this time were like the wind, with no one outside of the elders able to consistently contact her. There were at least two Elders with telepathic powers with telepathic powers strong enough to call on Akina when needed.  Supposedly, word had been sent to Akina, but there’d been no response. We all knew that Akina was slowly going mad, but she always seemed to find a way to make all the really important calls.

Simon laughed, “And I don’t think you will. I tell you brother; I see a shadow behind the curtain.”  This was the third time in three days that Simon had inferred that he, Simon, was a problem the Elders would like to go away. And sending just the three of them on this mission without the needed support or equipment was a perfect solution. He didn’t know for sure, but wondered if the Elders had even reasoned that he, Simon, would do just as he did. “Although, I don’t understand why they didn’t simply banish me to some uncharted planet or the Pit as they’ve done with others?” The “Pit” was a parallel universe which some might call purgatory. “Maybe, they thought that as long as I lived, you guys would simply find me and bring me back.  I don’t know, doesn’t matter now, it is, what it is. Funny, how at the end of things, you gain such clarity about what matters and what doesn’t.”

A tearful Rachel called out as the worlds closed in on one another in the Andromeda Six dusk lit sky, “Simon…”

“Sister, would you give me my last rites?” Simon asked. When Rachel was finished, Simon continued, “Please give my love to Dad and please look after my kids.”

Nick with his arm around Rachel’s shoulder answered back, “Of course, we will.” The answered so, even though they had done so for his children and their descendants, some three hundred years prior, after his mysterious disappearance.

Through the static Simon replied one last time, “You know it really is an awesome sight to see another world taking up most of the sky. I can see her oceans swirling. I’ve never experienced anything so surreal, so beautiful and yet so frightening.”

Rachel cried into her communicator “We’re here with you, Simon,” as the static raged back.

Nick joined her, as they called into the ether over and over words of comfort to their little brother. But as they saw the silent horror of the two worlds colliding overhead, they both fell to the ground in a tight embrace. Bitterly, they cried together as the world around them rejoiced. Like a ricochet shot in a game of pool, the two worlds collided and then what was left of them careened into vectors which exited that star system. The resulting debris first seemed to cast a halo around the event, before scattering in every direction. Having lost much of their velocity most of the resulting asteroids would fall into the host star before Andromeda Six passed that way again in a year’s time. Conversely those projectiles with higher velocities would exit the star system or establish themselves into a higher orbit, only threatening Andromeda Six occasionally as they fell out of orbit one by one over millions of years, with each star fall a reminder of the grace afforded that day.

Nick and Rachel carried on as one would expect, but it was never the same.  When Akina delivered the news to me, a part of me died.  I’d known that Simon disappeared sometime after the year 2040. But like his siblings, I’d hoped that he simply decided to live off the grid to avoid the authorities and even the Elders. I liked to believe he was intentionally out of contact, but safe and maybe even happy. And perhaps he is.

Darnell’s Dream

                The Hero Darnell floated in and out of consciousness six feet beneath the rich African soil, laid low by the guile of an ancient nameless African Elemental.

His own heritage afforded him the ability hibernate near death for long periods of time, but that same gift which preserved what little air there was to breathe in the wooden box, also prevented him from being awake long enough to take any sort action. Not that there are many options six feet deep.

In his dark prison, Darnell dreamed of his life just two days earlier when his girlfriend Patience had accepted his marriage proposal. But the brightness of that moment quickly transformed into a darkness cast by this nameless priest who took his Patience away. “I have been waiting, watching and hiding in the shadows for centuries and at last I see one capable of reclaiming my treasure,” the wretched man called from where Patience once stood only moments earlier. Speaking in a voice dripping in evil, “I am a priest of the house of Eshu, murdered centuries ago by an ancestor of your beloved.  And still my blood calls out across the years over this debt still owed family. But you, mighty Darnell can repay this debt.  Thus, I we have taken her hostage until reparations are made.”

Darnell yelled, “What did you do with her?”, as he swung at the shade. But Darnell grasped nothing as the vapor slipped between his fingers.

The demon cautioned, “While I appreciate your futile efforts, if your attempts to harm me were actually effective, you’d never get your love back from beyond. Better that you focus on the simple task I am to give you. Listen closely.  There is a key brought to this land through the middle passage around the neck of a slave known here as Sam. He was the son of an ancient gatekeeper who entrusted him with the key in his dying breath. You will find this key in a slave cemetery located just east of here near Athens, Georgia. There are many such cemeteries, but this one is known as the Circle Graveyard.  Ask and you will know. Retrieve this key from Sam’s grave.  Once you have it, do not tarry, but travel to Africa to what was once known as Mawenaland. There you will find a lake in the valley of kings. With the key search the bottom of that lake for my treasure.  You will know the treasure when you see it, for the key will glow as brightly as the sun when you are near it. Bring my treasure ashore. Open it and I will appear there before you with your beloved.” After his final instruction the apparition disappeared.

If it had been nighttime, Darnell could have taken to the air and been in Athens in minutes, but since it was not, he ran to the old Datsun he’d maintained since college and made haste down I-20 East from Atlanta towards Athens. His thoughts rushed back to when he first laid eyes on his love the day she walked into his bookstore. In her yellow sundress, she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Her chocolate skin was as flawless as her smile. As he sped eastward, the thought that his supernatural gifts had somehow put Patience in danger, weighed on heavily on Darnell.

On the road to Athens, Darnell stopped to ask an older gentleman about the Circle Graveyard.  “Oh, you mean the one where the slaves are buried. It’s not far from here. I can show you the way.” At the old man’s direction, the two of them arrived at the site. As the sun set the old man continued, “See on the right there is the cemetery for white folks, but on the left side, in the middle of pasture, that circle of trees and shrubs is the graveyard you seek.  Word is that no man who entered it at night, ever returned.  I don’t know if that’s true or not, but neither the county, the land owner nor the preacher man will step foot into that thicket at night. However, the story is told that back before the war, a black woman, being chased by demons and dogs escaped by hiding in there.  She went in, they went in, but only she came out the next morning.  Her name was Harriett.”

Darnell thought for a minute, “What, do you mean the Harriett Tubman?”

“Yes, that one. Folks say that Harriett wasn’t fully spirit, but she wasn’t fully human either.” The old man winked as darkness fell.

The old man witnessed the Hero Darnell, muscular and sporting an outdated afro, step across the tree line and disappear from sight by his second step.  The man wanted to blame it on his eyes, but his soul knew otherwise. Amidst the sound of country crickets from the left and right, the old man called out to his new friend, but only silence echoed back from the dark graveyard.

For Darnell the impenetrable dark of the brush was replaced by an openness, empty of life and a blood red sky above him. And before the Hero Darnell, a yard of open graves. The Hero Darnell realized instantly that he was somewhere in the Pit, a place out of step with our existence, where the illusions of our reality are stripped away and flesh and spirit walk side by side.  Immediately upon his entrance he was swarmed by hungry, talon armed shadows thirsty for his flesh.  But these beasts did not know that Darnell was no ordinary prey.  During the day he was a man with the strength of ten.  But at night, he was something more than that. At night, not only could he fly, he was pretty hard to kill and could emit fire from his eyes the like of which few mortals shall ever see.  To quell these creatures Darnell picked up a fresh bone from that killing field and swung it like a club bashing his opponents. And for those just out of reach the flames from his eyes worked just fine.

As the chaos abated, Darnell could see that he was indeed standing in a slave graveyard. Where the graves were marked, they were so with a small unscripted stone. In the Pit many constraints are no more. For instance, Darnell could see clearly that what lay in one grave was different from the others. He knew immediately, that this was the grave of Sam (Abioye was his true given name).  Darnell, who was familiar with the Pit and many of the perils that therein, moved with purpose towards his target that he might retrieve his prize and depart before some of the more dangerous predators in the Pit took notice of him. But as the Darnell stood before the man’s grave a shade appeared before him to block his way and ask, “Why do you disturb the grave of this one?”

The Hero Darnell paused for a moment, “He wears a key around his neck that I need to free an innocent woman.”

“A high claim indeed. I’m sure there is little associated with that key which is innocent.”

“Woman, why do you care about the one who sleeps below?  That key can do him little good now.” Darnell replied.

“He is my husband. He was a good man. In his land he was an Eshu priest, like your dark master. But in this land he was a carpenter. I abandoned him for a chance to be free.  I heard that a group headed north was gathering not five miles away from our cabin. So, I dropped everything and ran barefooted in the evening dusk to meet them. I left my husband here and sought my freedom in life, only to be bound here by his side in death.  Teaching others to read and the liberty therein is what got him lynched and laid low in this graveyard of murdered slaves. And here you are to disturb his rest? To this I must protest. Please do not do this thing. He is my husband.”

Darnell, hesitated for a moment and then walked through the shade.  Quickly he dug and reached his goal buried just beneath the surface.  Darnell knelt down and said, “Sorry, my brother, but I need this to save someone who still walks the earth.” But as Darnell reached for the key, the corpse shuttered and its hand reached for Darnell’s wrist.

“See, you disturb his spirit! Oh misguided warrior, please step away. You know not what you do!” The wife cried out.

But Darnell, using his free hand, grabbed the skeleton’s bony wrist and pulled himself free along with the key. Grasping the key, Darnell stumbled to his feet and stepped through the grieving wife back towards from whence he came into that odd land. The woman reached out her hand to the departing Darnell, “Surely one such as you knows that this is wrong. You cannot trade wrong for good on any day. Soon you will regret this moment.”

Darnell exited the Circle graveyard to find the old man and two other old men leaning against his Datsun. A puzzled Darnell asked, “Who are these guys?”

The old man replied, “Friends. They took me to dinner and brought me back out here to see if you’d come back.”

“What? I wasn’t gone more than ten minutes.” Darnell said.

The old men laughed, and Darnell’s new friend replied, “No sir, you’ve been gone for at least three hours. We were just getting ready to call it a night.  But seeing someone actually walk out of there was worth staying up for!”

Departing from the old men, Darnell quickly found a secluded area in which to leave his car.  Then he took the night air.  Barely visible he would appear as a passing shadow to anyone who happened to see him.  Never catching the sun, Darnell flew across the Atlantic Ocean to the Valley of Kings in Mambasa, ancient land of heroes. Flying as fast as he could, Darnell landed at the lake right before sunrise.  Given that he was flightless during the day, he was grateful that he made it before sunrise.  Then following the instructions of his beloved’s nameless captor, Darnell prepared to find this treasure at the center of the lake, deep below the surface.  Darnell searched the shoreline for a large stone. Finding it, he carried it back to a dingy he saw as he was landing. The stone was too heavy for most men, but not Darnell.  During the day he wasn’t nearly as powerful as he was at night, but he still possessed great physical strength.

Darnell rowed out to the lake’s center with stone, mooring rope and key.  As Dave tied one end of the rope around the stone and tied the other end to his ankle, he thought about what the wife of the good priest had said.  But he’d come too far now and the deed was done.  And yet his spirit was troubled as he gathered the rope and took a hold of the stone. The stone pressed the key hard against his sternum. Darnell paused for a moment and then fell backwards into the lake.  The stone anchor worked as expected, taking Darnell rapidly towards the lake bottom.  Once there Darnell looked to his left and right but saw nothing.  But as he turned to his left a second time, he noticed the key glowing just a bit. Lifting the stone again Darnell strode off in that direction and as he did the key grew ever brighter. Then at last he felt something right beneath his feet. Darnell knelt down and stroked his hand back and forth to reveal an ancient crypt. It was ornate and out of place.  Not because it was at the bottom of a lake, but because Darnell knew something of the people of Mambasa and their heroes (such as Changa), and the design and symbols on this vault were not from this land.  It was as if someone buried it in this strange land to hide him or her and used the people of Mambasa as unwitting protectors.

Darnell managed to raise the vault to the surface. Tying it to the dingy he rowed slowly back to shore. Nearing midday, he reached the lakeshore and pulled his prize ashore. The tomb from a foreign land was in remarkable condition considering where it was and how long it must have been buried there. It was constructed of some ancient alloy that Darnell doubted he could breech even at night. But he had the key.  Searching for the keyhole, Darnell could see the key glowing even brighter as he neared it.  Before entering the key, again Darnell paused.  Oddly, Darnell had never felt so alone as he did in that moment of decision. The air seemed to thin and his heart raced. And still a breath later, he proceeded. Turning the key, the lid of the vault sprung open and Darnell stood back not quite knowing what to expect.

A mist arose from the tomb and mingled with a second dark mist from the western sky. Twirling and becoming one, the collective mist dove back into the corpse in the coffin.  In the next instance, Darnell heard an ear piercing screech.  Unknown to Darnell the words screamed into the universe were in the native tongue of the dead now raised. Translated into English, the being simply howled,  “I’m alive!!!”

Darnell took two steps back as the being rose from the crypt.  But then seeing that it was the  unknown priest now made flesh before him, Darnell took one step forward and exclaimed, “You!”

Speaking in English, the nameless priest crowed, “Yes, mortal, at last I am arisen! I am flesh and blood once more.”

Darnell shouted, “So be it. Now, what of my beloved, Patience?”

The African Elemental floated above Darnell laughing, “Honorable men are such fools! Why would I lift a finger to help you now? Besides, I am due a blood offering from the woman’s family, and her life will do nicely… as a start. Then I will proceed to find and kill every branch of that tree which still walks the Earth.”

Darnell screamed, “Demon, you know not who you are dealing with. Cross me and you will regret it!”

“Fool, I fear no mortal!”  The dark priest motioned towards Darnell lifting him into the air and placing him within the empty coffin.  “I hope that you find my old home as enchanting as I did.”  The lid closed tight sealing Darnell within. With his other hand the demon priest motioned towards the earth to open a grave, into which he placed the coffin.  As he covered Darnell’s new home with dirt, the callous priest chided Darnell, “Sleep well fool knowing that you have unleashed a new age of darkness upon the world.”

In the darkness, Darnell fought to still himself to save air.  Strong as he was, he knew that he could not break free of his prison during the daylight.  One possibility he had was to somehow survive until sundown, when his full complement of gifts would kick in.  The amount of air in such a small space would not be enough to last even an hour for most humans, but Darnell was not most humans.  And thanks to his maternal grandfather, he had both the gift and curse of deep hibernation.  Full blooded nightwalkers can sleep beneath the earth in shallow graves for months. But he was not full blooded and had no idea of how deeply he was buried. As the moments wore on and he wrestled against panic, his physiology took over, and sleep came upon him.  He dreamed that perhaps he could call out to his fraternal twin sister, Carla, who possessed the gifts of telepathy and telekinesis.  But even if she heard him, could she reach him in time? Floating in out of consciousness, Darnell tried to call to his sister, but he wasn’t sure if he actually did or dreamed that he did.

And then, in the midst of his turmoil, just as all seemed lost, Darnell awoke.  He sat straight up in confusion. Where was the coffin’s lid? Where was the dirt and sand which should have entombed him?  Breathing hard and looking back and forth, he slowly realized that he was in his own bed!  Still not quite believing, he arose and marched over to his bedroom window and opened it.  Only once he smelled the night’s fresh air was he assured that it had all been a dream. He sighed in relief that it had all been vapors of the night.

Or had it been just a dream?   The next day while Darnell worked the register of the bookstore he owned, he recounted his dream to his sister Carla and their cousin Akina, the ever mellow, Angela Davis afro wearing  time walker who can travel through time, space and dimensions beyond the perception of mortal eyes.  But as the women, who often stopped by during their lunch hour, tried to interpret Darnell’s dream, the front door opened and in walked the woman of Darnell’s dream.  He gasped softly, “That’s her, in the yellow and white sundress.”  The three of them stared at the chocolate beauty who filled the room with her presence as she browsed the back wall of books.  Selecting one, she approached the register and smiled as she and Darnell shared a moment.  Akina and Carla, stood just out of sight stealing glances at the would-be couple. As the young woman took her purchase in hand she paused and extended her hand to Darnell, “Hi, my name is Patience.  I just started work at the bank across the street this week.”

Darnell smiled, “My name is Darnell and this is my bookstore.  Thank you for your patronage.”  The Hero Darnell wanted to say more, but held his tongue until after she left.

An incredulous Carla raced to her brother, “Why didn’t you say something?”

“No, don’t you see?  The dream was a warning. If I were to date her it would cost her, her life and unleash an ancient evil upon the world.  Better that I keep my distance.” said the Hero Darnell.

Carla and Akina glanced at each other before Carla spoke, “Just listen. What if… what if the three of us, plus maybe Michael, were to flip the script on this clown and pay him a visit one night? I know the Elders are funny about self serving missions, but we know this jerk is haunting this young lady, waiting for an opportunity take her life.  I’m sure they’d be fine with it.  Once we’re done you can pursue Miss Thing there, knowing that you’re not putting her or anyone at risk.”

The Hero Darnell reflected for a moment, before relenting, “Okay, what must we do?”

Carla touched her brother’s arm before she answered, “Akina will square things with the Elders. I will reach out to Cousin Michael.  But you, for now all I need you to do is to have Patience.”

To Read more about the adventures about the alternate reality of Harriett Tubman please visit: www.chroniclesofharriet.com

To read more about the Nameless Esus priest, please visit: www.aliciamccalla.com

To read more about Changa and the warriors of Mambasa, please visit:  ww.mvdediaatl.com

The Girl

There is this girl who can turn darkness into light. She is all that I could ever hope for.
So, of course there’s a problem, in fact, it’s downright complicated.

Sure I knew their intentions, but what is love without sacrifice?
Besides, my boy Itchy had told me the day before that, for a man, being
surrounded by women is always a good thing, unless they’re nurses around
your deathbed and even then, it’s a push. So, in the life which was mine,
this was a win.

So, they commenced to striking me with their fists and then with
a whip. And then not seeing the reaction they wanted, they tilted the table
and a couple of them kicked me in the nuts. I winced a bit, but I’ve been kicked
in the balls by some of the worst sociopaths in the county. Some of the guys who’ve
crotch punted me should be playing FIFA or MLS. They have a real flair for it.

So then they took a mallet and swung it fiercely into my head and shoulder. But
even the cracking of bone is not uncommon for me. I have the misfortune of holding the
school record for consecutive weeks of being pushed down the main stairwell.
For six straight weeks I did the staircase bounce. It would have been more had
I not cracked my collar bone on that last fall. I’ve been abused so much that the other
kids call me Crash Test Dummy.

Truth be told, after suffering through so much pain, you eventually become numb
to it all and you begin to see these disasters as opportunities to escape it all,
to do that, which you never would. I value life, just not my own. And if I was to die,
I could not imagine a more spectacular way to do so.

Of course, when I start talking like this, my mother says it’s just gas. Denial
is my mother’s weapon of choice.

After several other methods of torture some of the witches grew weary of me,
“If he’s not gonna scream, what’s the point?”

Another said awkwardly loud, “He’s a dud. She brought us a dud! He’s damaged
goods.” Her voice was just a little louder than socially acceptable, even for a
group of non-conformists as those women.

A third added, “This guy is such a loser, he doesn’t even know how to die right.
I can’t believe I missed favorite show for this mess.”

Anyway, after more complaining the woman with the biggest hat and the most makeup
walked over to me shaking her head. Her face was so covered with painted eyes that
I really couldn’t tell which eye to make eye contact with on her. As she
undid my bindings, she derided me, “Jesus, you’re a real martyr, aren’t you?”

Well I wasn’t sure if she was speaking to me or the universe, but I replied nonetheless,
“You have to have a cause to be a martyr, don’t you? I’m just a pebble stuck in crevice of life’s shoe.”

The Head Witch lowered her eyes, all of them, and pointed to the front door,
“Just leave, please.”

Hobbled as I was, I limped towards the door, looking left and right for my girl.
I’d paused at the door surveying the room, when the two sentries standing there grabbed
me beneath my armpits and tossed me out the door. I crawled passed the then sleeping
carnivorous tree back to the sidewalk. Once outside the gate, I laid silently in the
October cold waiting for the next calamity to befall me.

“Hey, you.” I heard the familiar voice speak from above again. As she helped me to my
feet she shared, “This was such a major fail, that they kicked me out totally.
Took all my gear and even kicked me out of our Facebook group.”
Looking into this fallen angel’s eyes, I apologized, “I’m sorry about that.”

“Oh, no worries, I just met these chicks at last year’s comic con and I wasn’t totally
feeling them anyway. I saw an ad for an assassin on the internet that I’m going to look into. A few weeks ago I was a witch doctor. Still trying to find myself you know?”

Color Blind

As you see the world, I’ve been blind since birth.  I see by listening. I know the truth, hear the lies, but I choose to ignore them, because to confront liars is more that I can bear.

That day started as every other day, alone and in darkness. I was walking in the woods, as I’d done countless times before, enjoying the feel of tree bark against my finger tips, of moist straw between my toes and the scent of pine in my nose. Then suddenly in my night there was a light. I turned my head and the light went away, but its glow still illuminated my peripheral vision, and led me to turn back to it. The bracelet shone in ways that even someone blind like me, could perceive it. Stumbling, I made my way to the light and saw that it was in the shape of what I knew a bracelet to be.  I slid it onto my wrist and suddenly my eyes flooded with light of every color. For the first time I saw the brown bark I’d loved all those years.  I saw the green grass and knelt down to touch it.  A ladybug landed on a wet blade and I saw red for the first time and I gasped. But when I looked up and saw the sky, I wept without remorse.

I wanted to tell someone, so I ran to a nearby sandwich shop. Full of brightness and luminous hues, I swung the door wide and stepped in.

In that moment of new love, my open heart sought another to love, another to breathe in.  But as I looked around café, I saw what I instinctively knew to be angry faces. Their skin was not brown like mine. Still believing, I sat at the gray counter before several people got up and left, as others had done many times before, but this time, being sighted, I could no longer hide behind my delusions that it had nothing to do with me. Their disdain turned my happiness into an unbearable sense of being and I ran from the counter and onto the street. With each step, each slight and dismissal from my life cascaded down upon me like dominos, insufferable and unrelenting. I ran through the rain, back through the woods, to the river beyond and unto the bridge spanning it. My salty tears flowed into my mouth as I removed and tossed my black shades into the river. I slid off the bracelet and flung it into the waters below as well. I am floating now, peering through aqua-tinted lenses into a world still revolving. Truly my pain has eclipsed my joy, and likewise shall I too pass from light back into darkness.

“Color Blind,” copyright © 2012 by Alan Jones

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