Meryl stood at Jem’s bedroom door. He was a new born the last time she felt this helpless as a mother.
She could hear the weird music. He was watching those old horror sci-fi movies again. It wasn’t a good sign. The eerie wailing had worried her when she’d heard it first, but she eventually recognised the sound of a Theremin; falsifying an atmosphere of mystery and impending doom
It didn’t need falsifying today.
It had been 3 days since she’d seen him. He hadn’t come out of his room to eat or use the bathroom, or if he did she wasn’t aware. The only reason his dad hadn’t broken the door down is that eventually, Jem would answer their pleas for response with a grunt to be left alone.
Meryl knew he was drowning in guilt; she was devastated for him and felt powerless to help him.
It wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. Jem & Carl often spent their time exploring old Jennings’ farm. They’d learned to fish in his river, he let them pick apples in his orchard. Every so often he’d pay them to paint or clear the yard. He was a bit of a loner but the boys never caused him any trouble and he liked them.
But it had all gone wrong when the boys did the one thing he’d asked them never to do. They couldn’t see his truck in the yard and thought he was out. So they climbed the frame of the dilapidated wooden water tower. When Jennings saw them from a distance it never occurred to him that it was Jem and Carl. He got his shotgun and started firing in their direction. He didn’t want to hit them; he just wanted to scare them to get them down.
It worked. Carl got such a fright he almost let go. Jem grabbed him and pulled him up.
“Thanks buddy, we better get outta here.”
As they went to move, the beam that Carl was leaning against gave way and Jem watched him fall to the ground.
At Carl’s funeral Jem read a goodbye letter to his best friend. It was a heart wrenching elegy of friendship, regret, anger and guilt. Jem had not spoken a word since that day.
That was 2 weeks ago and now he was locked away in his room.
Meryl was about to walk away again but a voice somewhere inside stopped her.
“Meryl, you are his mother! You are his mother and he is your child. If you can’t get through to him no one can. You can save him, you can help him. You ARE strong enough.”
She was filled with determination and strength. Power surged through her veins as she knocked at the door.
“Jem, it’s Mom. Please open this door – right now.”
Meryl stood in her new found power; the power of a broken-hearted mother
Jem heard it in her voice. He stood up and walked to the door.
Dani J Caile
That damn theremin of his, why does he always have to bring it out every time we have guests? I’d like to shove that little talent cup trophy right down the throat of those judges who voted him ‘best act’ at the local community centre all those years ago when we first came to the area. Just like his father before him, always getting it out and doing the wavy muso bit looking so pompous and self-important! And why does he have to play those pieces which are so bleak and mournful? Always so depressing like some turgid elegy. Oh, thank God, he’s finished! Now’s my chance.
“Darling, don’t you think it’s time our guests moved onto the terrace now, have a few drinks in the cool evening air?”
“Oh but Daphne, I haven’t played my masterpiece yet, my pièce de résistance.”
No, please, not that one, I’ve heard it almost every night for the past forty-seven years! Why did I marry this man?
“Oh, Daphne, yes. Please let us listen, we’re dying to hear George’s masterpiece.”
I’ll die if I have to hear that dross one more time!
“Yes, please, Daphne. And can I have another cucumber sandwich? They’re rather delicious, I think.”
If only I had a super power or something to stop this scourge! Turn invisible and disappear, able to run away from the role of devoted and loving wife. Be able to turn back time and stop his father from buying the damn RCA in the first place. Or have super human strength and bring down that old wooden water tower at the end of the block, causing a massive deluge which would flow down the street and everyone’ll need to evacuate! Perhaps the water would even damage the thing and he wouldn’t be able to play it ever again! But no, I am the loyal and good-natured housewife, I have superhuman endurance to suffer the blows and misfortunes a husband can give, I am his most endured host and trusted love. I have the power to withstand all he can deliver. What? Is he finished? Is it finally over?
“Bravo, dear boy, that was excellent, bravissimo!”
Polite applause this time. Better get some drinks ready for the terrace.
“And now, for my finale, I will play a brand new piece, never played before!”
What! Now hang on a minute!
“Darling, don’t you think it’s time for drinks? On the terrace?”
“No, no, I must show our guests my new jewel, my new…”
“But darling…” Damn wires! They’re all over the place…whoops.
“Oh dear me!”
The ambulance came as quick as it could, considering the congestion on the main highway. One of our guests tried resuscitation after clearing his body from the equipment with a broom, but there wasn’t any real chance of saving him. I guess you shouldn’t mix semi-sparkling rosé wine with electricity. It’ll be quiet without him, though of course, the theremin will hold a central place on the mantelpiece.
Here’s a random fact for you. You ever see the movie ‘Forbidden Planet’? An old schlocky sci-fi show. It has Leslie Neilsen in it before he decided to become the head honcho of goofiness. Well, that soundtrack? Contrary to popular belief, it didn’t use a Theremin. At this point, you’re likely quirking an eyebrow and wondering what the hell this idiot is wittering on about. Said idiot being me.
Did you ever wish that you had a super power? I did, constantly. I ruined more of my parents’ bedsheets prancing around pretending to be Superman than they were really comfortable with. It turns out that the phrase ‘Be careful what you wish for’ isn’t just a plot device for teen drama. I got my wish. It just turned out to be a little more different than I would have liked. My super power is useless trivia.
I can hear you now, “That’s not a super power.” And I’d be inclined to agree with you, if it weren’t for the fact that I’ve yet to get a question wrong on a quiz show. This also seems to have an interesting side effect on others, in that it is incredibly irritating. If the quiz in question happens to be in a bar, well… Let’s just say that alcohol and irritation can lead to some less-than-savoury experiences.
You see, it turns out that another phrase, “Nobody likes a smart-ass” is also very relevant. It was never intentional, honest. Thing is, when these so-called facts want to come out, they do. They are like a body dumped into one of those old wooden water towers; they float to the surface and explode in a socially-awkward jumble. That, and everyone around me thinks there is something off about it. They spill forth, the words tripping each other up as they force themselves into existence.
This brings on a crushing isolation. People just want to avoid spending time with the guy who’ll tell them that their favourite TV character is actually a rip-off of an obscure Scandanavian character. They all just walk away, leaving me more familiar with people’s backs than their faces. Honest to goodness, I can tell gender, ethnicity and age from a brief glance at someone from behind. And all this because of a wish. It turns out that your hope has power, more than you could possibly imagine. Like any power, it can be devastating.
No, I don’t know how it happened. I just woke up one morning and was able to rhyme off information. Maybe I spent too much time reading Wikipedia. All I know is that now I know too much. So long story short, this is my elegy. I’m no Coleridge, but I do what I can. This is the lament of my life. Not the physicality. Not the soul. The social.
One last thing, trivia is also Latin for ‘where three roads meet’. Bet you didn’t know that.
The Day Phantom Bigfoot Stood Still
Phantom Bigfoot skipped across the mating glade with three of his Bigfoot Babes squealing and snorting behind him. They entered the great forest of their ancestors and trudged to Little Beaver River. There they all used the strange invigorating properties of the mating water. Phantom Bigfoot had a dream many moons ago where a tall blond pale one told him the water was special – he called it a simple super power – whatever that was. So long as it continued to get him horny, Phantom Bigfoot didn’t give a ffffff what it was called. It sure tasted good, but not as good as happy juice. Phantom Bigfoot sighed as images of all three of his Bigfoot Babes wild on happy juice pleased him so many times his thruster was red raw for three suns.
At the mating glade, heavy with the scent of honeysuckle, Phantom Bigfoot urged his Bigfoot Babes to the special place. The special place was a derelict settler’s home from so many moons past, Phantom Bigfoot decided not to waste precious mating time on it. As the sun caressed the ridge of gentle sloping foothills, its weakened rays slicing between the remnants of a stone chimney stack and a dilapidated wooden water tower now covered with ivy, Phantom Bigfoot got down to the serious business of the mating ritual.
“Wooowoooowooooo,” bleated all three Bigfoot Babes, swishing their hips to some internal rhythm of nature’s design. Well not really as Bigfoot Babes love to salsa shown to them by their friendly pale one, Doooane.
“Woooeeeeeoooooeeeeeeoooooo,” howled Phantom Bigfoot in reply to the mating call. As all three Bigfoot Babes hunkered down with hindquarters raised a most peculiar sound interrupted the proceedings. Phantom Bigfoot was most put out at this untimely interference. He let out a ferocious snarl, “Eeeeaaaaaarrrrraaaaarrrrrr!” To Phantom Bigfoot’s utter dismay, all three Bigfoot Babes stood rock still, mewling pathetically and pointing skyward.
As Phantom Bigfoot’s thruster lost its desire. He stood still looking at the source to see a strange doughnut-shaped object hovering above them. Attached underneath the silver doughnut were two shiny prongs, quivering with unearthly power. The object drifted almost to the grass level, swirling the green blades into a flattened circle. A silver footpath extended from the doughnut. A massive steel creature stomped forth. It stopped and looked all around with shining eyes. Another creature emerged, this pale one was old and bent with white hair. He walked up to a terrified Phantom Bigfoot and bowed.
The old man introduced himself in a language that Phantom Bigfoot could understand, “Do not fear Gort. I am Leon come to make music with you on Theremin.” Leon detached the device from the doughnut and ran his hands over it creating a sad elegy of electronic whines.
By now Phantom Bigfoot and his Bigfoot Babes had quite enough of this crap and ran away with hands to ears, squealing.
Leon Theremin sighed, shrugged and stepped back into his steel home, “That used to knock them dead, Gort?”
I was in the middle of the street as usual, playing Frisbee with a manhole cover. Closing my eyes, I spun around and tossed the metal discus in a random direction. They opened to the sound of a window shattering.
Damned it, not again! Hopefully nobody saw….
Looking around for accusers, all was calm and quite. It was mid-day. All the kids were in school, their parents hard at work.
Good. Nobody will see me sneak into the Saggy House either. I’d hate for somebody to drive into that manhole again.
The manhole cover flew, true as a sparrow, straight through the picture window of the Sagacious House. Dilapidated from disuse, it sat catty-corner from my own prim home.
Even though nobody was outside, I crept over to the Sagacious House, and peered in through its broken picture window. Its empty front room was a familiar sight, yet, it looked different.
Breaking out the leftover shards of windowpane, I looked over the block again. It was as lonely as a cemetery night. I dove through the broken picture window, landing in the spacious front room.
Standing up and dusting myself off, I spotted the manhole cover lodged firmly in the wooden flooring. Humph! It figures. Between its splintered beams, and the manhole cover’s smooth edges, I saw a wavering glow in the basement.
The subtle movement drew me away from the manhole cover, out of the empty front room, through a hallway of faded peeling paint, past an abandoned kitchen, and down a set of squeaky stairs. From the far wall of the basement, the efflorescent glow was emanating. It drowned out any light trying to stream in through the dirty windows.
I feared what might happen next since I wasn’t wearing a pair of clogging shoes. In a dream I had this morning, a great white water buffalo led me into a glowing basement that started flooding! The clogging shoes helped me to walk on water to escape the flood.
At the start of my dream, I was standing in the untamed wilderness that was the middle of my street; in front of my house. As I stood there in my clogging shoes, staring at the great white water buffalo who materialized before me, it placidly stared back. Its big black watery eyes implored me to follow it. When I agreed, it turned around and shambled off, the street parting like the Red Sea before it.
The great albino beast led me between earthen walls into a glowing basement. This glowing basement, I presume.
When I escaped the flood, I awoke. Then I came outside to play manhole Frisbee.
But what should it matter now, if I’m wearing any clogging shoes or not, as this basement isn’t flooding! If anything, I found the Edward Smith Papyrus that had vanished last millennium! It was hidden here all along; in the basement of the Sagacious House, behind the glowing wall I smashed down with the non-glowing sledge hammer I tripped over. But, that’s all good, since the Papyrus’s medicinal knowledge will come in handy to help whoever just crashed into the manhole outside.
Dani J Caile
Flinging his wife’s gift on the desk, Detective Brad Shaw noticed the same old folder back on the top of his mountain of paperwork.
“What’s this?” Brad caught his subordinate’s attention with a crumpled up pizza receipt across the face.
“We’ve got another spate of manhole cover thefts on the riverside.”
“Anything new?” He knew this one, a complete waste of time and manpower. What was it about that case? Something strange…that was it, cowshit.
“The same as before. Forensics say the only thing they found was some water buffalo dung.”
“Water buffalo? How..?” Not cow, water buffalo. Same difference. “Who has a water buffalo in Downtown Pittsburgh?”
“You tell me, you’re the boss.”
This was all Brad needed now, another miserable, crummy case to solve. He thought he’d shelved this one months ago, and now it was back. Great timing, what with his marriage on the rocks. More overtime.
“What’s that, boss? You getting into ancient history?” Brad’s subordinate had come over and was handling the new book.
“This?” His wife’s gift. Brad took it back.
“Yeah, didn’t know you were into Egyptian stuff.”
“I’m not. She is.” Brad turned over the book and read from the spiel on the back. “Written by James P. Allen. Among other things it’s got ‘the first color reproduction of the Edward Smith Papyrus in its entirety, accompanied by a full translation.’”
“Sounds like a winner.” His subordinate went back to his own desk.
“She loves this stuff. It might also get me out of the doghouse. Too many late nights.” Brad looked at the clock on the wall, realising the time. “Oh shit, I’m meant to be meeting her! She forgot her dance shoes this morning and her group’s doing a performance at the Irish Center at 8!”
“You better hurry. It’s getting on to half-past.”
Brad grabbed the bag with his wife’s clogging shoes, pocketed the Egyptian book and ran out of the door. Taxi or run? Run, you can’t trust the traffic at this time. Two hundred yards down the almost empty street and he stepped in something large and wet. Either this stinking mound was made by the largest dog in Pittsburgh or there was a cow lose in the streets. A cow? There was movement in the shadows two corners away, large and slow, accompanied by a slight metallic scrapping noise on the road. No, it couldn’t be. Not now. His watch said 20 minutes to the hour. Should he? He wouldn’t make it to the performance if…surely she could wear someone else’s shoes, and when he’d give the book, all would be forgiven. He gave chase and the noise of his running along the sidewalk alerted whoever it was as the scrapping noise became more frantic. Brad turned the corner to see what looked like a man with a large horned cow pulling a manhole cover on a rope.
“You! Stop! In the name of the…!” His last words were lost as he fell into the hole.
“In other news, the mysterious appearance of a water buffalo backed up traffic for two hours today on Interstate…”
“The FBI continues to be stymied in its investigation into the theft of the Edward Smith Papyrus…”
“A child survived a fall into a sewer with only bumps and bruises. City officials are still at a loss to explain the missing manhole cover…”
I put the remote down and stared at the dark TV screen, my mind moving with all the speed of a sloth in clogging shoes. Even without enough coffee to fuel coherent thought, I recognized the warning signs. Someone was trying to manipulate reality with magic and succeeding. The warped probabilities and appearance of non-domestic animals was the world working to rectify the imbalances.
It was that damned Smith Papyrus, again. These fools thought it was an Egyptian medical text. It wasn’t. I should know. I was there when they wrote it. I hadn’t understood the code at the time and I’d been banished to the temporal backwater of 21st Century America because of it. The thing was a spell to summon Apep, the personification of evil. Someone was using it and I had an idea who.
I looked down at the display and then back up at the shoddy warehouse. The device in my hand insisted this was the place. I shrugged and slid the device into the pocket of my work coat. I pulled up the hood and moved toward the building. The coat wasn’t really a coat. It was a tool that let me survive the shear forces that potent magic creates. Thank you 28th century technology. I kicked open the door to warehouse and felt the coat shed off waves of dark power.
I pushed forward and pulled out a fine piece of 20th century tech: a Smith & Wesson, Model 27 revolver. Sure, it wasn’t regulation, but practicality matters. The shear forces intensified the closer I got, making it harder to walk, but the coat held up and before long, I saw him standing there, papyrus in hand. His body cloaked in a coat like mine. He heard or sensed my approach and looked up.
“Contingency Jones. So, they really did send you here,” he said.
“Endgame Smith. You’re two centuries out of your zone,” I answered, cocking the pistol and pointing it at his right eye. “Also, you’re breaking the law. Summoning of deities is strictly forbidden. You know that. ”
“Oh please, you’re not going to shoot me,” he said, looking back down at the papyrus.
“You’ve never had the stomach for bloodshed.”
I pulled the device from my pocket and spoke into it.
“I need an extraction team.”
I plucked the papyrus out of Endgame’s hand. I set the stupid thing on fire and dropped it, closing the door on my biggest failure. The firelight danced in Endgame’s pristine, left eye.
The Weirdest Dig Ever
My name is Wilhelmina Van Dyke and I am a forensic anthropologist for the Society of the ancient Bones. You can call me Willie as everyone else does. My day started out as any other until of course I received the call to report to a site just south of London. I am stationed here for a year to study under Professor Alwyn Rossiter. The good professor is the foremost authority on anthropology and paleontology at the institute and I feel honored to be mentored by the great man.
“Willie, he shouted into the cell phone. I need you at the site for an important discovery. You do not want to miss this one.”
“Name the place Alwyn and I am so there.”
“Go to Victoria station and get on the train. Take the tube to the end of the line and meet up with Pang-Shao.”
“Ok then what?”
“I hope to death that you’re not allergic to water-buffalo. That’s your ride to the site. Sith might bite so be nice to him.”
“The water buffalo’s name is Sith. Pang is a Star wars fan.”
It’s a strange request but I have no choice. I ran around my flat looking for my rubber boots but all I could find were my great grandfathers clogging shoes. They would have to do. I hoped the dig site won’t be muddy. I have street shoes but I love the feel of these on my feet.
Within the hour I reached my destination and Pang-Shao was waiting with Sith. I could smell the beast from where I stood and nothing in my vocabulary could describe the stench.
After my smelly and uncomfortable ride we reached the dig site.
I approached Alwyn. He looked at my feet and shook his head. “No weillies?”
“Long story, couldn’t find them. So why are we here? Where’s the skeleton?”
“In the hole.” The professor was holding an ancient parchment in his hand by his finger and his thumb.
“What is that? What was that in the hole with the body?”
“It is the Edward Smith Papyrus, Ancient Egyptian medical text and the oldest known surgical treatiseon trauma which dates back to 1500 BCE. I have been looking for this for God knows how long.” Alwyn was jumping up and down in paroxysms of joy. Anyway there is a body there that does need our attention. Let’s go down and have a look shall we.”
“Lead the way.” Alwyn grabbed my hand and we got to work taking pictures as the anthropology students dug and sifted earth. Some one hit something hard and the digging stopped. The students brushed off what appeared to be an ordinary manhole cover.
Two of the students tried to lift the heavy disk but Pang-shao started to yell in indiscernible Chinese.