The Iron Writer Challenge #182 – 2017 Spring Equinox Challenge #3

The Iron Writer Challenge #182

2017 Spring Equinox Challenge #3

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

E. Chris Garrison, Bobby Salomons, M. D. Pitman, Vance Rowe, Josh Flores

The Elements:

A lying national media cable TV anchorman (real or fictional)

Global warming

A crystal ball

A small snowblower

Doing Something About the Weather

E. Chris Garrison

Sally’s elderly Prius barreled along the breakdown lane of the freeway. The thermometer and the speedometer both read 75.

Other drivers, stuck in a jam, blared their horns at Sally. Some made rude gestures. Did she hear cars backfiring or shots being fired by hotheads? 

Sally didn’t care. She wouldn’t be denied the truth.

From the bracket on her windshield, her smartphone streamed news of the Weather Emergency. Bundled up in a parka, the cable news anchor mimed shivering cold while talking with a bespectacled woman in a puffy coat. White flakes swirled around them on the New York City streets.

“So, this wave of cold will continue until the end of January, Dr. Fahrenheit?”

The woman stared at the camera. Her eyes panned from right to left as she said, “Yes, that is correct. The polar vortex is sweeping across the plains, through the Midwest, and on to the East Coast.”

Sally exited the freeway, upsetting more drivers as she whizzed past them on the shoulder. The side of her car struck sparks from the concrete barricades along the right. Sally laughed as she passed a supermarket, its lot full of cars. The news told her that stores had all the French Toast ingredients depleted due to the Weather Emergency, since citizens had been warned that they’d have to stay off the streets after dark, so that plows could clear the streets for the morning commute.

Sally turned up her air conditioning as she skidded onto Broadway, the back end of her car fishtailing.

A great glass orb, very much like a giant snowglobe, blocked the roadway. Inside, Sally made out the figures of Blaine Roberts and Dr. Fahrenheit, their gestures slightly leading the broadcast. Sally resisted the urge to speed up as their faces registered terror as her car burst through flasher barricades and hired guards flung themselves out of her way.

The nose of her Prius met the enormous glass enclosure, which cracked like an egg. Sally hit the brakes even as the airbag deployed and shoved her back in her seat.

She flung open the car door and stumbled into the space between the camera and the other two. She picked up handfuls of white flakes and rubbed them all over her face. “It’s a lie! Global warming is real! They’re lying to you! This is just styrofoam!”

The low drone of a small snowblower’s electric motor quit. So did the camera’s red light.

Many rough hands seized Sally at once.

Blaine Roberts stood before her. “Ma’am, you’re in a lot of trouble. Vehicular assault, sure, but also the Weather Normalization Act, which makes discussing Global… Discussing that topic, a federal offense.”

“You’re not fooling anyone! They’re pretending, just like you! This is stupid! Why doesn’t anyone wake up?”

“Look, if you people win the election next time, then you can write the news.” Blaine flicked a piece of glass off his parka as Sally was dragged away. “Could someone get that poor woman a coat?”

Cold Lies, Burning Truth

Josh Flores

Why do I keep trusting Jimenti Roso after he made up stories to improve ratings? No one caught on when he lied about a magic cure to cancer being tested or how the perfect weight loss drug was found. Then he decided to make up a kidnapping. That made the Were-Police begin sniffing around. He had to admit he lied. The scandal lasted a while. 

He was fired. He was interviewed. He wrote a book. He became more famous. He did the talk shows. He was re-hired. Ratings went up. Job accomplished. 

I watch his plastic-like mouth stretch out on my cable-ready crystal ball. Canines sharp and white belied the words barking past them.  

“Global warming, the world’s leading sorcerers have confirmed, is a human urban myth! It is simply not happening. There is no danger of the Earth’s climate changing. The Warlock Coven has released an official statement today. They have looked at the mortals’ scientific data and consulted their charts, familiars, crystal balls, the stars, and the bones; and have determined global warming to be a hoax, created by some of the human corporations and political groups to control others and make money.”

I’m hoping he isn’t lying. Winter business has been bad for a few years now. I look at my inventory: snow plows, shovels, salt, scrapers, dragon’s fire-spit, heaters, and of course, snow blowers. I stock from small to heavy duty ones. But the last few winters have been mild and if it wasn’t for the other stuff selling at a reasonable rate, I would be bankrupt. 

My attention goes back to Roso. 

“In other news, sightings of dragons, chimeras, phoenixes, and other fire creatures have increased. These beasts have been captured and handled by the Defense Mystics, who have put out a national alert asking anyone who notices unusual steam, flames, or heat to report it immediately. When asked as to why these pests are populating rapidly, the spokesman said, 

‘No comment. Man, it is getting warm in here.’” 

I wonder if I can sell Roso a snow blower or two. I fantasize about it for a bit when my doorbell rings. A customer! Finally.  

I look up to see a brown-skinned lanky man, with salt and pepper hair and beard.  

“Hablas Espanol?” 

“No.”

He lifts his hand in a stop motion and reaches into his pocket to pull out his wand.  

“Parli Ingles!” He incants. “Me understand you?” 

My face said no.

“Parli Ingles ni google!” He pauses. “Do you understand me?” 

“Yes. How may I help you?” 

“I want to buy all this. How much?” 

“Why?”  

“This year a lot of snow in my country. I sell these and all others I find, no?” 

“Sure, we can come up with a price fair to both.” 

I look at my crystal ball TV. “So no such thing as global warming, Mr. Roso?”

“Jimenti Roso?”

“Yes.” 

“His name in Spanish sounds like He mentiroso — ummm — He Liar.” 

 Blasted Snow

 Vance Rowe

“There will be little to no snow at all this year due to global warming in the upper portion of North America and Canada, so you can all sell your snowblowers and keep your shovels in the shed. You won’t even need winter clothes this year as it will never be colder than 72 degrees Fahrenheit,”said Smiling Chet Armstrong, America’s favorite newscaster.

“Hot Damn. No snow this year,” Eustis said, looking outside. Eustis lives on a hill and his driveway is long. He tires of walking it with a snowblower. “Now I can sell that blasted thing.”

“Wait a minute, you cannot trust that liar. Before you do anything, let me consult with my crystal ball. Spirit has never led us astray yet,” his wife said. 

“Bah, you and that damn crystal ball. You consult your glass ball and I will put a sign up down by the road.” 

After Eustis put the sign up, he walked back up the long driveway to his house, his wife greeted him at the door and said, “Spirit says we are in store for a lot of snow this year, Eustis.”

“Grenadine, I want to hear no more about it. I will believe Smiling Chet over your stupid ball.”

“You’re a fool, Eustis. What happens if we get a lot of snow this year?”

“We won’t, Grenadine. Smiling Chet said so.”

Two days later, the snowblower sold and Chet was a thrilled man. Regrettably, two weeks later, Chet stopped being a thrilled man when the snow fell. It fell for two days straight.

“You blamed fool. I told you not to believe that son-of-an-unnamed-goat. Now what are you going to do?”

“I will just go buy another snowblower, Grenadine.”

Eustis found a place that sold only small snowblowers.

He purchased a small snowblowers, and it only just made a path up his driveway after hours of use. 

“Face it, Eustis. It will be easier just to shovel.” Grenadine yelled to him.

Seething, Eustis responded with, “I ain’t shoveling jack.”

Eustis grabbed his shotgun off of the rack above the fireplace, went out to his truck and drove to the news studio where Smiling Chet broadcasts at. He walked inside and grabbed the newscaster by the scruff of his neck and dragged him out to the truck.

“What happened to not being any snow, Smiling Chet? What do you call this? I sold my big snowblower because of your stinking lies.”

“I-I-I don’t know what happened,” Chet replied, stuttering.

“Shut up and shovel before your new nickname is Toothless Chet.”

A police car soon pulled up in front of Eustis’s house and the county sheriff stepped out of the vehicle.

“Oh, thank God. This man kidnapped me and is forcing me to shovel his driveway.”

“Is this true, Eustis?”

“Sure is, Sheriff. This lyin’ so and so said we wouldn’t be getting any snow this year and I sold my snowblower.”

“Sheriff, don’t just stand there. Arrest him and let me go.”

“Nope, I sold my snowblower too because of you. Bring him by my place when you are done, Eustis.”

“Sure will, Sheriff. I sure will.”

Papa

Bobby Salomons

The director and live studio are blabbering through each other like drunk sonority girls on Mardi Gras. I know – I was one.

“So, why the crystal ball again?” I say to the expert next to me. “I don’t think I caught on the first time.”

“’Global Warming’ is pure ‘fortune-telling’. A hoax.”

Across from the parking lot, an elderly, black man is clearing his lawn with a small snowblower. His red ski jacket and white snow hat remind me of my grandfather. ‘Papa’ was a Norwegian immigrant, loved snow and ice. Never used a snowblower, maybe a snow shovel but not before we’d play and build a snowman. I miss him.
“We’re about to go live.” Terry, my cameraman, says. “Maybe more cleavage?”

“Cleavage!? It’s freaking 23F!” I bark.
“It was a joke, Melissa.”

“A cold day for Global Warming!” My colleague Nancy in the studio chuckles, I hate her. “And my colleague is outside! In a blizzard! With an expert! Melissa, how is it out there?”

“Hi, Nancy! It sure is cold! They theorize the Earth is warming but it sure doesn’t feel that way out here! Oh! Is that a polar bear!?” I say, pointing at a white Husky passing by. Fake laughter in the studio.

“I’m here with Simon DeWitt! Expert from the Independent Ecological Research Institute.”

“That’s right!” He grins, “No associations with other research groups, no government grants!”

“So, tell us about this ‘Global Warming’-theory in the middle of a blizzard!”

He begins his story of disinformation. I zone out, looking across the street. The man’s still there, blowing snow, his back to me. For a moment, I believe it really is my ‘papa’. He turns around. I gasp. It is.

“I know!” The expert says smug, crystal ball in hand, believing it’s about him.

I choke. Seconds pass. Terry’s making a face at me.

“I-I can’t do this.” I say, thinking of ‘papa’, “This is all a lie. This man isn’t a real expert, he’s an economist paid by Exxon Mobil!”

“We have no asso-”

“-Oh, please! You’re wearing one of their key chains right now!”

Terry zooms in, the expert breaks sweat.

“I’m sorry, global warming is real. Pass the world on to our children the way it was left to us, so they too can see a REAL polar bear, not just a dog pointed out by a lying anchorwoman! Just Google it, dammit!” I yell emotional.

“Um, thanks, Melissa. We’re back in the studio, it appears our colleague is having some… technical problems…” Nancy says.

“Why don’t you go suck a dick, Nancy! Maybe it’ll warm your cold heart!”

“That’s it! You’re fired!” The director barks over the headset.

“Good! I’ll go work for the Home Shopping Network!”

I push my microphone into the ‘expert’s’ hands, head for my car and drive off passed the house. The man’s stopped the snowblower. He’s himself again, waves and smiles. I blow a kiss his way.

One Lie Too Many

M.D. Pitman

Jacob Scott’s jaw hung open for a good fifteen seconds before he realized he wasn’t saying anything and asked the ZNN’s president, “You want me to say what?”

“I don’t think I stuttered,” said Louis Copeland, who founded the news network 40 years ago as a way to report the news how he saw fit.

ZNN has developed into the go-to echo chamber for those of a certain political persuasion, which is the same persuasion of those currently in power. That made ZNN the most powerful and popular news networks, and Louis Copeland the most powerful political figure.

It also is the most despised because of the sensationalized and often inaccurate news. But Louis did not care because he’s making more money than ever before even though his rhetoric has transformed from fringe to flat out falsehoods.

Jacob’s been told to say many things over the years, who started out as a 38-year-old anchor with idealistic fervor. A half-decade later he’s developed into a jaded cynic because of the B.S. he’s been ordered to “report.” 

He compares Louis Copeland to a charlatan clairvoyant gazing into an oversized crystal ball. But the only thing oversized was Louis’ ego … and Jacob’s dependency on his seven-figure salary. That’s been enough to compensate his conscious as he’s become America’s most unreliable news anchor

“I’m to say global warming is a hoax because of Stihl? The power tool company?” Jacob’s jaw has yet to shut.

“Specifically their lawnmowers and snow blowers,” Louis added.

Jacob could usually spin what Louis wanted to be said on the news, but he’s been able to spin it into something that didn’t sound like it was a mandated from a senile fool. “That doesn’t sound a bid … um, odd?”

“No. Not at all,” said the octogenarian news magnate.

Jacob ran his fingers through his perfectly sculpted hair. He closed his eyes as he inhaled a deep breath, held it for a second, and slowly released it. He opened his eyes, looked Louis into the eyes and said, “It’ll be an unforgettable report.”

Louis Copeland slyly smiled as he nodded. “That’s by boy.”

*****

“Hey, Linda,” said Frank as he cracked open his second beer from the cooler next to his recliner. “Check this out. I think that Jacob Scott guy you like on ZNN is having a nervous breakdown.”

Dressed in an apron and wiping her hands with a kitchen towel, Linda walked into the living room staring at the television. All that appeared were the color bars with the words “Please Stand By” appearing. “What did he do?”

Frank tapped rewind on the DVR to the start of the newscast the pressed play. “Watch this craziness.”

“Good evening and welcome to ZNN,” Jacob Scott started before pausing. He took out his earpiece. “I can’t do this anymore. I’ve been told to repot” – and he made quote marks around that word – “and because I wanted to keep my job I did. But I can’t anymore.”

Before Jacob Scott could say another word, a producers rushes on set and the color bars appear.

The Iron Writer Challenge #177, 2016 Autumn Equinox Challenge Championship Preliminary Round, Nancy Taylor Rosenberg Bracket

kid-bango-dog

The Iron Writer Challenge #177

2016 Autumn Equinox Challenge Championship

Preliminary Round

Nancy Taylor Rosenberg Bracket

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

 The Elements:

A kid playing a banjo to a dog
Bullying 
A limit
A life in danger

nantaylorsmall

Nancy Taylor Rosenberg Bracket

Maureen Larter, Michael Cottle, Bobby Salomons, Dani J. Caile

The Double ActDani-J-Caile

Dani J Caile

I’d never come out of that front door so fast in my life. I thought someone was dying with the amount of hollering I heard. But they weren’t. I looked around, and there he was, my little brother Johnny sitting on the porch, playing Grandpa’s old banjo badly and singing along to it – if that was singing, the only similarity being that it came from his mouth – while Timbo the dog tied up on his chain, normally a vicious little creature, barked and whined next to him.

“Johnny! What the hell are you doing?” I’d been left in charge for the afternoon but I must’ve dozed off in the heat.

“Playing to Timbo,” said Johnny, messing up notes and timing as he went along. His hands didn’t walk along the fingerboard, more like stumbled.

“That’s Grandpa’s banjo! You can’t play that!” I moved closer but the noise only got louder.

“That’s what you think. Timbo likes my playing.” Timbo barked and growled in agreement.

“No, you’re not allowed to play it, Johnny, it’s a family heirloom!” I went to reach for it but Timbo almost snapped my hand off. His saliva dripped from my sleeve.

“It’s not a hair loon, it’s a banjo! See!” He concentrated hard with his tongue hanging from his mouth, and he scratched at the instrument as best he could.

“Johnny! You’ll ruin it! What will Ma and Pa say when they get back?” There was no hiding place from the din.

“They will say what a great banjo player I am!” My little brother and the family’s guard dog. A great double act.

“Please, Johnny, stop!” I was sure my ears had started bleeding.

“I will never stop! I will play forever and ever! I will play this banjo everywhere!”

“Oh, come on! They…they won’t let you play it in school!”

“Oh yes, they will! They will call me ‘Johnny Banjo’!”

“It’s more likely that your life will be in danger, Johnny! You’re gonna suffer a lot of bullying when you get to school! Banjos aren’t cool, bro, trust me! It’ll make you look like some redneck, or even worse, like that mountain hillbilly kid in ‘Deliverance’,” I said, pressing my hands over my ears as he hit some bum notes in whatever song he thought he was singing.

“Who? Is that a place?” smiled Johnny. He continued to twang along as the dog accompanied him with moans and yelps.

“No, it’s a movie!”

“I don’t like movies. I like the banjo!” he replied, plucking away. The noise was excruciating!

“Oh man, there’s a limit to what I can take!” I screamed. With one quick thought, I took Timbo’s chain off. Realising he was free, he took one look at the banjo and ripped it from Johnny’s hands. The strings were the first to go, followed by the neck and finally the head. Good boy!

“You’re in for it now,” I said to Johnny. He ran into the house crying at full volume. Plus one.

Short and SweetMaureen Larter

Maureen Larter

“I’m ashamed of you, son.” his father said gruffly. “Standing out there in the street, jiggling about to the music.”

“But I love performing – it gives me a sense of belonging. I really enjoy the sound of the banjo – it makes me happy.”

“I don’t care,” his father growled. “There’s a limit to what we should do to please the crowd.”

“It’s only a front, you know,” Billy nodded to his Dad a wise knowing in his eyes. “I do it so I’m there when the bullying starts.”

His father frowned. “What bullying?”

Billy cleared his throat and stood tall. “The other kids treat my human as if he’s a freak, and it isn’t fair.”

“Stop whining,” His father shook his head. Spittle and hair scattered across Billy’s face.

“But Daaaad,” Billy rolled onto his back and pawed the air. “My human is a happy little chap, and if those bullies get to him his life might be in danger.”

“Oh for goodness sake, Billy,” his father howled. “You keep this ‘performing’ up and I’ll let the cat know – and then it will be YOUR life that’ll be in danger!”

A Glimmer of HopeBobby Salomons

Bobby Salomons

There was something soothing about the absurdity of a young boy playing banjo to a dog. To him a friend was a friend. There was no separation, no judgement, no prejudice to who and what he was – just the simple given of a friendship. Surely the dog knew not what was played to him but he listened intently, as to him the friendship was just as dear.

I reminisced on the meaning of friendship in a small town like this. Though I grew up here, friendship I never knew. There was a strange tradition of bullying, one founded on old principles and targets picked by careful choice. It mattered little what effort would be made, once you were picked on, you’d get picked on again. And word spread like wild fire, who was to be ignored, it knew not a limit to a school or a playground and it grew with you over time. Like a social cancer, without warning and without treatment.

The threshold of being picked on was set by simple principles. Wrong of color, wrong church, parents falling out of grace after a divorce or simple rumors of. Conditions easy to reach with no intent or control of your own. Still they were enough to haunt you.

The chords of the banjo returned me to the present as I had wallowed in self grief. The dog raised its head towards the sky and stretched its chest like a great tenor worthy. From its throat yodelled the ugliest of sounds that hurt the ears like needles. But the young boy smiled with intense delight. They were performing now, together. And that was all they needed.

I sat and watched the two till my ears could no longer give. I grabbed the lid from the hood of the vehicle and placed it onto the lukewarm Styrofoam cup. Before it closed well, I could see how my pigments matched the caffeinated innards of the cup. Bullied for that simple reason.
But as the dog wailed once more, I could not press back the smile that formed from ear to ear. Those days were behind me.

The muffled noise of radio chatter slipping through a window crack. A life in danger.

As I opened the door to step into my vehicle, the light struck my badge and a golden glimmer blinkered across the street. They met the eyes of the young boy – blinding momentarily. He looked at me and smiled. A small hand raised to greet me as I drove passed to answer my duty. To protect and serve – free of the limitations of separation, without judgement and prejudice.

Buster

Michael Cottle

Chip found a spot under a large pecan tree where he settled down upon the sidewalk. He traveled light with a peanut butter sandwich in a sack and a banjo strapped around his neck. Sure enough, Buster came up and sat right down beside him. He looked at Chip and turned his head sideways as he made a small whining sound.

“Buster, you already had your breakfast” Chip said. “This is mine boy.”

Buster whined again and turned his head to the other side.

“Alright boy” Chip said. “Here, take half of this. There’s only one sandwich though, so that half is for you and this half for me. That’s all I got. Ok?”

Buster grabbed his half, and chewed on it until the peanut butter coated his mouth. Buster was still working on the peanut butter when Chip finished his sandwich and washed it down with a thermos of milk.

 “It’s really sticky” Chip said. “Here you go.”

 Chip raised the last little bit of milk in his thermos and poured it into Buster’s mouth.

 “That’ll help a bit boy” Chip said.

Chip put away his lunchbox and turned to his banjo. He began to play a bit of “Turkey in the Straw” as Buster finally stopped licking. Buster rested his face on his paws, and there they sat awhile just like that. Chip played every song he knew a couple of times over.

There may have been many more afternoons to pass like this, except for a kid named Bobby. He rode up on his bicycle popping wheelies and generally showing out a bit. Chip stopped playing and looked away. He never cared much for Bobby. Bobby was never too nice towards Chip, or anyone else that Chip knew for that matter.

“Watcha doin’ there Chip?” Bobby asked as he stopped his bicycle. “Are you playing your geetar?”

“It’s a banjo” Chip said.

 “You wouldn’t know how to play a real geetar anyway. Would ya? I’ll bet your old man couldn’t ford a real geetar. And that’s why you play that stupid banjo. It sounds like a drunk chicken with its head cutoff. You hear me Chip?”

Chip wouldn’t look at Bobby. He wanted him to go away, but he wouldn’t. Bobby threw his bicycle on the ground, and grabbed Chip by his shirt collar.

“Look at me when I’m talkin’ to ya’ boy!”

Bobby shook Chip, and Chip swallowed hard. Chip could hardly speak when Buster let go a low growl. Bobby wadded up Chips’ shirt, and that was more than enough for Buster. Buster jumped up and clamped on Bobby’s wrist. Bobby fell backwards and begin to holler in a panic. Finally, Chip recovered just in time to pull Buster off of Bobby before he done much more damage.

Bobby took a few stitches in his left wrist, but he never messed with Chip again. Chip never really got over Buster being put to sleep. Chip lost his audience, and gave up the banjo. Most folks in town said that bulldogs are just like that. They said that you couldn’t really trust them anyway.

#TIWC members, please vote here 

The Iron Writer Challenge #174 – 2016 Summer Open Challenge #11

mine-entrance

The Iron Writer Challenge #174

2016 Summer Open Challenge #11

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

  Authors:

Richard Russell, Harry Craft, Geoff Gore, Vance Rowe, Bobby Salomons 

The Elements:

An abandon mine
Gold teeth from a dead person
Whistling
Main character is being pursued

Untitled

Vance Rowe

“Are they still behind us?” Charlie Gable asked his brother, as the turned their horses into the canyon.

“Little brother, they will follow us right to Mexico. I don’t think they took very kindly to us robbing their bank,” Frank Gable replied with a chuckle.

“Big brother, I think you are right,” Charlie replied with a laugh of his own. “Maybe we can lose them in these canyons.”

“I surely do hope so. I ain’t liking the idea of being sent to Yuma prison or being strung up neither.”

They soon left the canyon and started their horses up a hill to try and lose the posse. Near the top of the hill, they spotted an abandoned mine.

“Let’s go in there Charlie. We can bring the horses in and let them rest.”

The two men entered the mine and brought their horses as far into the mine as they could, just so they wouldn’t be heard. 

The two men decided to check out the mine and maybe see if there was another way out. As they walked deeper into the mine, they heard a whistling noise. They walked deeper into the mine to check out the sound and Frank tripped over something and fell to the ground. Charlie lit a match and they were shocked to see a skeleton of a human body.  Charlie used the match to check the skeleton out and was happy to see gold teeth in the head of the skeleton. After helping his brother up, Charlie pulled the teeth out of the mouth and put them in his pocket.

Suddenly the whistling noise got louder and when they turned to look down the mine, they saw a pair of yellow glowing dots in the darkness. They didn’t stick around to see what it was. The two men quickly ran back toward the front of the mine, They grabbed their horses and ran out of the mine. They spotted the posse on the trail below them and Frank shouted to them.

The sheriff and the posse hurried up the hill.

Frank said,”Please arrest us sheriff and get us out of here, There is a ghost or something in there with yellow glowing eyes.” 

Charlie Gable grabbed the bags of stolen money from the bank and handed them to the sheriff, The two men handed their guns to men in the posse and they mounted their horses.

“We’ll meet you back in town Sheriff,” Frank said as he kicked his horse and rode out of there, followed by his brother.

A deer walked out of the mine and the men in the posse laughed and hurried to catch up with the criminals.

Broken HillGeoff Gore

Geoff Gore

Ray Whitten was the last CEO of what had once been one of the most prosperous companies on the planet. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. BHP. It seemed fitting it should end here. For more than a century the Earth here had willingly offered its soul to the long line of men before him who had been only too willing to receive it, in exchange for cold, hard, cash.

That was before they discovered the artefact. Even then, at first, there were scant few people on the planet who knew the secret of its existence. That was before it poisoned the surrounding landscape and the minds of those who’d once lived there.

How many had died?

He couldn’t tell. All he knew was those who remained would hunt him down until they found either him, or the artefact itself.

He stopped the car and checked the mirror to see if he could catch a glimpse of his pursuers.

Nothing.

It wouldn’t stay that way for log.

He scooped the cloth wrapped relic from the passenger seat beside him, hugged it close and stepped out into the hot wind whistling across the dusty red earth.

Broken Hill.

Once there’d actually been a hill here. A modern day tower of babel, stretching upwards toward God. It wasn’t so much a tower of knowledge as a tower of money. When the mines had been prosperous the mining magnates had thought themselves God’s, but it was what lay hidden beneath that was the real source of power.

Broken Hill.

Broken men.

In the last years, under his tenure as CEO, the only gold extracted from this place had come from the teeth of the men who’d died here.

Broken himself, Whitten trudged across the open earth. Whatever parched grass remained turned to dust under his boots until he stood at the edge of a deep scar in the Earth where once a mighty mountain stood. To his right a huge grader lay silent, slowly being buried by the wind-borne sand. Mother Nature trying to conceal the evidence. An accessory after the fact. A skeleton slumped in the driver’s seat. One of the many who never stood a chance when they’d first found the object. The artefact still wrapped beneath his coat seemed to throb against him like a heartbeat. In the distance behind him another steady metronomic thud was getting louder.

Choppers.

They’d found him. Soon they’d be on top of him. He had to finish what he’d come to do. To return the cursed thing to where it had come from and where hopefully, it would never be found again. He kept going. Staggering on to the left of the main pit, until he found the abandoned shaft. A cavernous maw in the ground. Behind him the thrum of the approaching helicopters grew into a roar. He knew all that remained for him to do. He peered over the edge into the abyss. He stole one last look behind, then stepped forward.

James 4:17Richard Russell

Richard Russell

Soldat Friedrich Huber was simply doing his job. Assigned to a small convoy driving cargo from Germany to Switzerland, he had no idea what the cargo was. His wipers swished back and forth trying to keep up with the barrage of rain, but the hypnotic rhythm and anxiety of driving with blacked-out headlights was exhausting. When the deluge was at its worst, Friedrich took a wrong turn and drove many miles before realizing he was separated from the rest of the convoy.

While trying to turn around, his truck slid into a ditch and nearly turned over. Opening the back to check on his cargo, Friedrich discovered a crate had broken open.

He scooped up a handful of the contents. Astounded, he realized it was gold. As he looked closer, he was horrified. Friedrich was young but he was not stupid. This gold was certainly taken from dead Jewish prisoners in Dachau. But there was so much of it! How many human beings must they have killed? Thousands? Tens of thousands? More? Friedrich’s stomach turned sour and he vomited. His naive adoration for the glorious Third Reich – his own German government – came crashing down from its pedestal.

He would have no part in this … Except …

He thought quickly … There was something he could do!

It was in his power to return the items of gold he now had under his control.

He could turn it over to its rightful owners, the Jewish people.

He knew it would cost him his life, but it was the right thing to do.

Using the winch on the truck, he got back on the road and headed farther away from the convoy. They would soon discover his absence. He had to get far away and work quickly…

Taking the gold out of the crates, Friedrich hid the treasure in an abandoned mine.

He quickly penned a letter to a “Jewish Rabbi, Switzerland,” and gave the letter to a small group of refugees headed across the border. He refilled the crates to make the truck appear heavy and resealed them.

The SS caught up with Friedrich after he had spent several hours driving back into the heart of Germany. Pulled over, the truck was searched, but the crates now only held rocks.

Friedrich died a slow, horrible death as they tried to make him tell where the gold was.

The unopened letter was delivered 30 years later to a Jewish Rabbi in Switzerland. It simply said, “ ‘On a windy day you can hear the sound of toothless whistling underground; Rising up from all around for their lost treasure to be found.’ On behalf of the German people, I apologize for the wrongs perpetrated against your race. Signed, Friedrich Huber.”

Eventually investigations revealed the existence of an abandoned mine in the south of Germany where locals claimed the wind would make an eerie whistling as it blew through the tunnels. The World Jewish Restoration Organization found the mine and several hundred pounds of gold teeth and fillings taken from murdered prisoners of German concentration camps.

A Clipboard and a WhistleBobby Salomons

Bobby Salomons

My heart is beating in my throat, I can taste it. I can literally taste the pulse. It drones in my head with every beat of my racing heart.

I can hear the sound of crushing rocks and pebbles underneath the soles of my boots. My legs are on fire, burning more with every step up against the steep incline. The ground slips away beneath me, and my balance begins to shift, my knee crashes into the ground. I can feel gravel breaking the skin and piercing its way into the soft tissue underneath. Blood mingling with dirt. I don’t care.

I grab onto a protruding metal bar and pull myself up, everything hurts. I gasp for air as I straighten my leg and an intense pain momentarily overcomes the urge to survive. Faint voices, angry whispers, follow from the darkness behind me.
Warm tears running down my cheeks. Snot running from my nose. Mucus is obstructing my throat as I try to draw some oxygen in. It’s so hard to breathe.
I miss my family, afraid I’ll never see them, but worse is the crushing guilt that I’ll leave them behind. A weight heavier than tunnel collapse.

Nothing and no one was supposed to be in here. All I was here for was to inspect if it was safe for tours, all I brought was a clipboard and a headlight. Something grabbed my clipboard, I’ve broken the light. All I have to go by is going upwards and a faint light in the distance that I can only hope is the outside world.

The vaguest sound of a whistle haunts me, it may be the wind outside, or a draft from another tunnel. But it’s enough for me to try again. I begin to climb, with every step hurting more than the last. But I have to try, just a few more steps. Then another. Each one counts.
Behind me an overwhelming sinister is watching – following me shortly. I grab my tapeline and throw it at the darkness. A chilling cold creeps up my spine as it never hits the ground. It just disappeared into the void behind me, that is darker than night and my eyes can register. It hates me.

One final time the adrenaline shoots through every fibre still left, and I can tell that I’m about to be pounced. I throw myself forward and gain some momentum, my chest thunders like a drum to a point where I worry if it will suddenly stop. But it doesn’t matter, I’d rather die trying. Everything is in slow motion as I take bigger strides than I thought possible, my bones bending under the stress, but I’m doing it. Light is near, just a few more strides.

Behind me gains something, the whistle turning into a deafening scream, overcoming even my own. But then the sound escapes, into the open. I fall out onto grass and turn around to look back. Into pitch blackness retreats a twisted, evil face. The wail fades back into a whistling, coming from between a dead man’s golden teeth. I’m quitting my job today. I sob.

BequestHarry Craft

Harry Craft

As he came to entrance to the mine, Jack looked back. No sign of his pursuer; but he knew Lucian had not given up and would still be on his trail. Jack leaned against the jamb to rest a moment. Straightening up, he took a deep breath, squared his shoulders, and entered the mine. Dangerous, to be sure; but safer than being captured.

As he turned on his flashlight and headed farther in, he thought about the time he and Lucian had spent as fellow students of the old man. He had taught them the esoteric lore that had been passed down for generations. As they progressed, learning more and more about the powers of the mind, he had promised them that one day they would be able to make full use of the arcane powers that moderns called paranormal, but the ancients knew simply as “magic”.

Jack carefully picked his way along the tracks and sighed, recalling Lucian’s impatience. The old man had said that to become a master one must be worthy. Moreover, one could receive final empowerment only by a free gift from the master. Lucian had actually laughed when the old man had said that.

Gift?! If we learn all the techniques and have the understanding, why do we need a final ‘empowerment’?”

“This teaching is sacred,” the old man had said. “The empowerment is to ensure that only the truly deserving attain full power. The master must give the final permission to the ones he deems worthy. Otherwise, he might be turning loose horrible evil on the world!”

On the last day of training, the old man had announced that he would give the empowerment to Jack; but not to Lucian. Enraged, Lucian had attacked the old man before he could give Jack the empowerment. Stunned, Jack tried to stop him, but the old man was already dead.

“If the old man can’t give me the powers, I’ll find a way myself!” Lucian had screamed. Jack had tried to bind Lucian with his power, but they were evenly matched. At that moment, Jack realized that Lucian would use clues scattered throughout their teachings to find another route to empowerment. He realized that he must beat Lucian to that route, lest Lucian succeed.

Jack had travelled for months, pursued always by Lucian. Now, the end was near. Intuition and a cryptic remark he remembered from the old man had led him to this mine. Lucian could not be far behind. One or the other would prevail. His reverie was broken when he tripped against something. A skeleton—the skull filled with golden teeth. He knelt, and saw the sigil painted on the forehead. Touching the bones, he could feel power flowing into him—the final empowerment!

Jack suddenly heard a tuneless whistling—a habit of Lucian. He stood up and saw Lucian aiming a pistol at him.

“It ends here now! The answer is in this mine and I don’t need you anymore!” snarled Lucian.

“Right on both counts!” said Jack. He waved his hands and in a flash Lucian was unconscious. Jack was the master now.

 

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