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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The Iron Writer Challenge #169, 2016 Summer Open Challenge #6

Sonja Henie

The Iron Writer Challenge #169 

2016 Summer Open Challenge #6

The Paul Arden Lidberg Challenge

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

  Authors:

Richard Russell, Steven Harz, Bobby Salomons, Alex Grabovski, Malissa Greenwood

The Elements:

A stapler

A program for the 1939 World Series

Mao’s personal copy of his Little Red Book

Sonja Henie

The Staple in the Chairman’s Finger

Sasha Grafit (also known on Facebook as Alex Grabovskiy)

“We will arrive in Wuhan in 47 minutes, chairman.”

The train gently swayed as if to agree with Yang’s prediction.

“There will be no disturbances until then.” came the command.

Yang bowed retreating through the polished wooden door. His departing footsteps were swallowed by the hushed roar in the connecting hallway. Another door was opened and the chairman heard a brief moment of laughter from the restaurant car. Then his door slid shut with a heavy click; a faint odor of pungent cigarettes–the sharp smell of the ones with his face on the pack –had managed to slip through in the last moment.

In his comfortable, cracked leather chair the chairman squirmed and sniffed the second-hand exhalations. He detected something exciting as well — ginger and sesame oil – his favorite cucumber salad would be served at dinner, when he returned to the train. If he didn’t finish the meeting with the bureaucrats quickly the salad would turn bitter and unfresh.

He lit a cigarette, one from a pack with the picture of a giraffe. His tonsils throbbed with pleasure and submitted to the overpowering smoke of the Turkish and Virginia tobacco blend. He scratched the scaly skin of the mole on his chin and looked at the pile of correspondence that had been on this table for the past few hours, since the mail collection in Xi’an.

He ignored the garish boxes wrapped in silk and scented ribbons and reached for the one wrapped in plain brown paper with the foreign writing. There was a Norwegian customs stamp.

Inside the package, he was startled to see the first addition of a book he had written long ago, the one made cheaply and quickly when he was young; it’s cover was a faded orange now. He cringed as he remembered the many botched symbols and inky errors that the cut-rate press had allowed into the hasty printing.

Out of its pages fell a letter folded many times to fit. The writing was Sung-Jing’s beautifully horrendous attempt at Mandarin: the characters were all crooked, and the whole thing was written in a nearly illegible childish scrawl. He struggled to make sense of the incongruous characters: “If you gotted this paper word it meant I dead.” He dropped the letter.

Inside the box was a pamphlet with robust American men running with their strange whiskers on the perfectly trimmed grass in a stadium and the number 1939. He took out, with shaking hands, a strange metal contraption that resembled an elongated bird beak. His finger slipped comfortably into the groove between its upper and lower jaw. He pushed the top and felt nothing, but when he pulled out his finger a shiny metal clip was embedded neatly in his nail. Another one of Song-Jiang’s weird doodads from her world travels, the chairman smiled even as a heavy emptiness formed in his chest.

He pushed the button for the intercom with his bloody finger: “Yang, you will please serve the salad now.”

A Key and a String and a KiteSteve Harz

Steven Harz

 

As I suppose Columbus had in his pocket while he sailed the ocean blue,

I try to locate your whereabouts with a polished brass pocket compass.

 

As Sonja Henie spun, with gold around her neck, I skate swirls around your memory

while staring at her on the silver screen, letting you know that you’re

“One in a Million” and not anyone’s “Second Fiddle.”

 

As I’ve seen Gandhi wear, while nonviolently battling the Brits,

I attack old photos of us through round lenses and gold frames.

 

As I use my vintage red Swingline Tot Stapler to reattach the pages of my father’s

1939 World Series program, his first without the beloved Gehrig and his deadly disease,

I also staple together map pages showing where we’d started and where I am now without you.

 

As I’d learned da Vinci designed, along with his helicopter and scuba gear,

hanging on my wall and awaiting your return is an all-too-painfully accurate clock.

 

As with the 267 pieces of propaganda published by the People’s Liberation Army,

and contained in the dog-eared Little Red Book nestled inside Chariman Mao’s olive uniform,

I navigate through past tattered love letters, now propaganda in their own right.

 

As we were taught that Hancock used to wield his name across the Declaration,

on my desk is a pen that I’ve used, too often, to denounce my own independence.

 

As we know Franklin flew when he discovered electricity,

I have a key and a string and a kite that I send up each day

like a beacon hoping to be struck and set fire to,

so that wherever on earth you are

you will know I’m still here.

The MarkBobby Salomons

Bobby Salomons

He sat down next to me with a gentle thud, staring as the horses approaching the starting gates, ignoring my piercing gaze. He was older, weathered face and formal dress – just like about everyone else around.

“Could you be any more obvious?” He grumbled.

“Sorry, I just wasn’t sure.” I said.

He turned his head, a half smirk that lasted no longer than a second.

“Rookies.” He reached into his pocket, “Here.”

A small envelope – very fine of crisp beige paper so thin it was almost translucent.
“I’m guessing that’s the news then.” I said and nonchalantly tried to slide it into my pocket.

A hand firmly grabbed my wrist.

“Open it.” He said.

“Here?”

“This one needs some explaining.”

The crowd roared as the gates opened and beasts of game thundered by. I opened the small envelope and stared at the photo.

“Sonja Henie?” I said, a deep frown forming.

“You understand why this needs explaining now?” He said.

“She’s the mark?!” I hissed.

“No – the lead.”

“How? Why?”

“Mao.”

“Mao?”

“He’s been reaching out to sports figures that compete internationally as moles. Either makes them sympathetic to the cause or slips them fists full of cash. Lets just say Intel found some interesting things in this broad’s belongings.”
“Tell me.”

He paused for a moment and looked at the stub in his gloved hand, horses half way down the track. It surprised me to find a fellow agent gambling on horses.
“Mao’s personal copy of his little Red Book.” He made eye contact for just a moment.

“Christ, she’s full blown commie.”

“That’s not all we found. It’s in the envelope.”

I reached in and wriggled my fingers around, I touched something made of a stiffer paper and pulled it out. A program and tickets for the 1939 World Series. I looked at him.

“Don’t you get it, rookie?” He said, “That’s her contact. One of the players. A fellow sportsman, another goddamn red, right in our midst. That’s your mark.”

“I see.” I said sliding the envelope into my breast pocket.

“Congratulations, kid. You’re going to the World Series! All you have to do is follow her and wait for her to meet the bastard, probably somewhere in the stadium. Then, make your move.”

“What if she starts screaming?”

The horses crossed the finish line, my contact rose up, looked at his bet one last time before throwing it up in the air into and endless storm of stubs – a whirlwind of disappointment. Agents ought to know better.

“Goddammit! You never goddamn win!” His face was red with anger.

“What if she screams?” I said.

“What?”
“When I take care of this guy, what if she starts screaming?”

“I don’t know! Bring a stapler! Nail the bitch’s mouth shut! You’ll figure something out! Besides, she won’t scream. She knows you’ll shoot her too.”

He turned around and walked off – he was right. She wouldn’t scream and I wouldn’t hesitate. I never did.

Unit 143

Malissa Greenwood

It was already close to midnight when I pulled up to the storage facility. Less than twenty four hours ago I had found out that my beloved Aunt Eloise had died and named me responsible for her estate. I had always loved Eloise. Even after her mind started to go, I enjoyed listening to her crazy, imaginative stories.

I walked into the building and approached a security guard seated behind a front desk.

“Good evening ma’am. Do you have some identification?” he asked.

“Uh, yeah, I have an ID,” I began ruffling through my handbag, “but I don’t think I’m on your list or whatever. My aunt just died and I’m in charge of her estate.”

The guard looked at me flatly, still holding his hand out.

“What is your aunt’s name?” he asked after I had given him the ID.

“Eloise Hannigan. She left the key with the lawyers, I have it right here…” The guard looked at his computer, back at me and then back at the ID.

“Ok Miss Hannigan, I’ll buzz you though.”

Well at least I wouldn’t have to worry about robberies, I thought as I opened the thick metal door and started down the corridor in search of unit 143.

I inserted the key into the old lock and lifted the rickety garage style door. I’m not sure what I expected to find but what I saw was somewhat surprising. Instead of the typical unorganized clutter you might expect to find from a ninety-five year old woman, it was set up like a tiny living room; a loveseat, a coffee table and an end table with a lamp all positioned on one wall and a neat row of boxes along the other wall. Placed on the coffee table was a shoe box with an envelope leaning against it.

I dusted off the old loveseat and sat on the edge before gently opening the lid of the shoebox. I began taking out the contents, admiring them one by one. It was an odd assortment – an autographed program from an old World Series dated 1939; a gold medal from the 1936 Olympics in Bavaria; a picture of Aunt Eloise with a beautiful brunet, ‘Sonia Henie – 1940’ scribbled on the back; a little red book with Chinese lettering wrapped in plastic with MOA printed on it; a stapler, which with a button on the bottom that when pressed sprung a knife out the front.

“What on Earth?” I said out loud and moved on to the letter.

“My sweet niece Alley,

Inside these boxes you will find many stories. But of all my adventures and all my memories, this box holds my very favorite. I am entrusting it all to you, so that you may write my story and carry on my legacy. ”

Who was this woman? What had she seen and never spoke about? Or tried to tell me but I had brushed it off as an old senile woman with an imagination.

I took a look around the storage unit and realized, I had several boxes to help me find out.

The Fate of a QuislingRichard Russell

Richard Russell

It had only been a few months since North Vietnam overran Saigon. Nothing much had changed for Hung Chiem in the mail room except for the repressive feeling of angst which pervaded the entire office. The new Communist party managers watched everyone very closely, but they hadn’t had time to screen for dissidents.

Hung admired his original copy of the 1939 world series program hanging above his desk. Baseball was the greatest game ever invented, he thought. He dreamed of going to America and attending a real big league ballgame. His co-worker, Phuong, approached Hung, “You better put that program out of sight. That’s enough to get you killed, you know.” Hung looked surprised, but responded, “It’s okay, Phuong. Don’t worry about me.” Phuong smiled. “We’re going for lunch. You coming?” Hung turn off his desk lamp and they all hurried off, laughing and joking.

A few days later the Communist party official from the local office came around to question all the employees in the building, and sure enough, the world series program was noticed. “You like American baseball, um let me see, Hung?” he queried. Hung was very clever and had prepared for this eventuality. “Sir, please understand the situation here. Before we were freed from the capitalist regime controlling us, this poster was merely camouflage.” Hung took the poster down and tore the program out of the frame. Hidden behind it was a very worn-out copy of Chairman Mao’s little red book. Hung handed the book to the official. “Look at the handwriting in the book. This was Chairman Mao’s personal copy. He gave it to me when I met him a few years ago. I was in China for a Communist rally when our paths crossed. I could hardly believe he really talked to me, a lowly mail clerk, but he was proud of my low position and sought to encourage me.”

Of course, the inscriptions in the book were forged by Hung, but after Hung suggested that efficiency could improve in the mail-room if the other capitalist workers were replaced by loyal Communists, he was given clearance to keep working in the office and promoted to head of the mail-room. Subsequently, his old co-workers were fired and some were arrested.

Within a few months, Hung became very frustrated at work because the Communist co-workers didn’t recognize his seniority, so he had no real power at all. Not only were things worse at work, but he also had become a pariah among the non-communist, nationalist crowd.

Depressed and dejected, Hung meandered down the street in a drunken pity-party one night. Several of his former co-workers passed by, stapling anti-communist bulletins to signs and store-fronts in the dark.   One of them commented to the others, “Hey look, it’s Sonja Henie!” Then they jumped him, screaming, “Traitor!” and “Turncoat!” They violently beat and kicked him until he was bleeding and unconscious. Next, someone took the staple gun and stapled a piece of paper that read, “Quisling” to his forehead.

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The Iron Writer Challenge #164 – 2016 Spring Equinox Open Finals

The Iron Writer Challenge #164

2016 Spring Solstice Open, Final Round

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

Authors:

Mamie Willoughby Pound, Richard Russell, C. S. E. Greenberg, Tina Biscuit

The Elements:

Around the Campfire

The Blue Star Kachina

Fossilized remains of a three-legged fruitbat

Main character grandparent was executed

It’s the End of Our World … As We Know ItRichard Russell

Richard Russell

Five teenage boys gazed into the flickering campfire as Alex continued, “And still today you can find the fossilized remains of the grossly disfigured three-legged fruit bats right here in this valley. Some say they still live here, looking to drink warm blood… from their victim’s eye socket.”

Dave shifted, “Okay, Alex, first, fruit bats don’t drink blood. And second, there’s really not much blood in an eye socket.”

Dave turned to the others. “Guys?”

The vote was unanimous; sentence was passed. “Alex, your story is LAME, so you must drink the poison.” Alex threw back his “punishment” and shuddered; bourbon was NOT his favorite.

Sam rose. “Okay, it’s my turn, but be forewarned, this is as gruesome as it gets!”

Several eyes rolled in disbelief as a few more beers were opened.

“This happened right here in the valley, just over there by that oak tree. My grandparents were living in the cabin on the ridge with no electricity, no running water, and no internet service …”

Bob shuddered, “Your weirdin’ me out, Sam!”

Sam smiled and continued, “and the family was starving. So Grampa takes his gun and comes down the river to shoot some dinner. Well, this side of the creek belonged to them Jacksons that lived in the holler, and they caught Gramps huntin’ on their land, so they tied Grampa to that old oak right there and executed him; cut him wide open and all his guts fell out. ‘Course, they were starvin’ too, so they took his body home and ate him. But here’s the thing; this happened just a few weeks ago and I can prove it.” Sam jumped up, ran to the oak and shined his flashlight on an old, dried-up pile of intestines.

They all vocalized their objection to Sam’s tactics emphatically. “So, we’re camping right here with that old stinkin’ pile of deer guts right there!?” Sam, a bit crest-fallen, retorted, “Hey, ya gotta give me credit for creativity!”

Dave conceded, “That’s gross, but he’s got a point. Nobody else has used props. I vote ‘approved’!” The others concurred, and sentence was passed. All but the storyteller had to “drink the poison.”

Spying the blue rays of an LED flashlight working its way through the woods toward them, Bob quickly began his story.

“Have you guys ever heard of the Blue Star Kochina?”

“No.”

“Well, it’s the Hopi Indian spirit of doom; that comes to earth as a blue star to destroy the world due to rampant human corruption. And guys,, I think Kochina’s fixin’ to rain doom down on us … RIGHT NOW!”

They turned in time to see the blue light crashing through the woods as several outraged parents burst onto their camp-site.

“Samuel Thomas Jenkins, you’re GROUNDED!”

“David and Daniel, how could you DO this to your mother?!”

“Robert William Wakowski, you LIED to us!”

“Where’d you boys get this alcohol?”

Bob glanced sideways at the others and whispered, “True story.”

The Coming of Saquasohuh

C. S. E. Greenberg

Hanai tapped his bound feet against the kiva wall. It was difficult for him to keep the rhythm of the sacred dance. Grandfather stood beside the fire, blood dripping from the feathers that Grandmother had carefully woven into his hair. The fire popped and crackled as the Katsina mask that he had worn burned next to the pieces of his Pahos.

“Mighty glad we caught this heathen trying to magic up trouble.” said their captor, his beady eyes reflecting the firelight.

He removed his hat, and turned to the parson brooding near the fire. “Not to say that I’m afraid of injun magic, mind. I’m a good Christian, and ain’t nobody got power over me. But who knows what sorta evil that redskin was trying.”

The parson stared through the hole in the roof into the night sky. His eyes refocused, and he turned to the man. “Shut up, Whittaker. The Lord hates a Christian liar worse than an honest pagan.” He snorted. “Hopefully, the injun’ll see reason before we hang him.”

Whittaker kicked the leather pouch that lay at Grandfather’s feet. Hanai yelped in protest, and Grandfather glared at him. Hanai smoothed his face and remained silent. He knew that white men could not be allowed to defile the fossil of the sacred sawya, the three-legged bat that Saquasohuh had gifted the Hopi as a symbol of their stewardship over Túwaqach, the fourth world.

Hanai kept tapping. Hopefully, Grandfather would find a way to continue the ritual of the Kachina dance, and help guide the sun back from it’s winter slumber. Grandfather shifted his feet slightly. Whittaker kicked him in the stomach, and turned to the parson. “You know the sheriff’s gonna say that he’s gotta hang; why don’t we just kill him now?”

The parson looked over at the man. “You’re right.” He pulled out his Winchester. “Mr. Medicine man, do you wish to confess your sins before you meet your maker?”

Grandfather did not reply.

“Alrighty, then. Boy, cover your ears if you can.” The parson fired. Grandfather, unbowed before any taqaa, toppled. Blood speckled Hanai’s face as Grandfather whispered, “Don’t… let… Saquasohuh… dance.”

Hanai stopped tapping his feet, and instead began to chant. “Oh Kachina of the Blue Star, hear my plea! This world is koyaanisqatsi, corrupt. Use my body to dance before these unitiated fools! Remove your mask and destroy Túwaqach! The ceremonies have ended! No more shall we dance for Soyal, to return the Sun from the slumber of winter!”

Whittaker looked at the parson, confused. “What in tarnation is that youngster going on about?”

The parson turned back to Whittaker and shook his head. “I don’t rightly know, John. His grandfather must’ve turned him injun. Once he’s safely home, I’m sure I’ll be able to bring him back to Christ.”

Hanai stared through the hole in the kiva, out into the star-spotted sky. He smiled as a bluish dot on the western horizon became a streak, then a blur, as Sasquasohuh danced across the sky. Blue fire rippled through the atmosphere as he came to dance the world away.

Big Kachina Burger

Tina Biscuit

The last smile of the moon dropped below the invisible horizon. The campfire flared as chicken fat ignited in violent plumes. As I walked back, I could see my father’s face – telling his story.

There were eleven more faces around him – some of my friends, some of the scouts. We were recreating a battle against Mexico, for the centenary, but apart from the hats, it was an excuse to camp out. I listened to the end of my dad’s story:

‘… and when he chipped out the last piece of stone, we saw’, he paused for a few seconds, ‘a third leg!’

I joined the circle. I saw a light, and knew Billy was on his phone, probably looking up “three-legged fruit bats” – hoping to dispel another urban myth. Unperturbed, my fossil-hunting father stepped over to the fire, and picked out some chicken legs.

‘Anyone still hungry.’ He offered the cremated legs among the group.

‘Only three left.’ He glanced at Billy, who was shaking his phone, still looking for a signal.

‘I’m good’, mumbled a few of the boys in unison.

Tired bodies slumped; shoulders eased onto bedrolls. My father sat cross-legged and alert. We were his soldiers, his platoon, and he was taking first watch. I sat next to him, trying to keep my back straight.

‘Do you remember that, Jim?’

I looked up.

‘Is it Orion?’

‘Yes. Can you still find Sirius, son?’

I traced the line of Orion’s belt, like he had shown me. It was so bright; I didn’t need Orion’s help.

‘It’s almost blue, dad.’

‘I know’, he put a finger to his lips, ‘it’s changed’.

‘Blue Star Kachina.’

We startled, even though the voice was soft. His footsteps had been silent on the sand. His silvery hair shone in the firelight. Everyone sat up, waiting for him to speak.

‘This is the last sign. When the star you call Sirius turns blue, the purification begins’, he announced, and drew two fingers down each cheek.

The boys looked up; I looked him in the eyes; my father answered:

‘We’re heading down to El Paso.’

‘Celebrating another battle. My grandfather fought there. A lot of the Hopi tribe helped you down at Camp Cotton. He was put against a wall, and shot, by order of Pancho Villas himself.’

‘I’m sorry’, said my dad.

‘Not your fault, my friend’, our guest continued, ‘you need to worry about camping on a riverbed; the stars are disappearing’, he gestured with an open palm.

‘Do you mean the Kachina thing?’ I asked.

‘It means the clouds are covering the stars’, he answered.

‘He means it’s going to rain’, my dad explained.

‘It could be the Kachina’, the group gathered around him, ‘the Hopi see it as an apocalypse, the cleansing of souls. It could be water; it could be fire.’

A raindrop stained his palm. The blue star flickered, obscured by cloud. The rumbling started in the hills.

*****

My father pulled up the last of his platoon; the flash flood extinguished the fire, spreading argent rivulets across the desert.

The Hopi chief stroked a finger across his brow, and smiled – again.

Distant FireMamie Pound

Mamie Pound

The desert highway was nothing more than a stone river running through a silent night. The battered Chevrolet sped toward the rising moon.

Slow down. Turn there.” She pointed toward a trail of potholes.

No one will see us,” she said. “Looks like a good place to sleep.”

He gathered sticks and piled them in the clearing.

You hitch-hiked all the way from Baton Rouge?” he asked.

What?” she said. “No, Birmingham.”

You could’ve been murdered,” he said, breaking the brush limbs in half, dropping them into a pile.

Give me a break,” she said.

He lit the dry brush, poked it with another stick.

It went out. He cupped his hands and blew on the embers until they caught. Once the fire was going, their silhouettes danced on the canyon wall.

We could sleep in the back of the truck,” he offered.

I like it out here,” she said.

Scorpions and rattlesnakes,” he began.

I’m not scared. The Hopi say this place is sacred,” she said.

That doesn’t mean the snakes won’t bite,” he laughed.

You know, my great-grandaddy was an indian,” she said.

Hopi?” he asked.

Creek,” she said.”On my mother’s side. A white man took his daughter as his wife, burned his house. Shot him dead. My grandmother, his daughter, buried a three-legged fruit bat under the white man’s house to curse his family. ‘So they would always wander’. Unfortunately, he was also my grandfather. She was pregnant with my mother at the time.”

The fire crackled, smoke tendrils snaked toward the glowing stars. Coyotes’ barks echoed throughout the canyon.

He stared at the expanse of sky.

Why did you pick this place to camp?” He asked.

“I don’t know. Time stands still here,” her eyes found the Milky Way.

“Look at the stars,” she said, waving her arms overhead. “They’re so beautiful. And what better place to see them?”

Except that it’s a million miles from Alabama,” he laughed.

Where’s your sense of adventure? What happened to the guy I skinny-dipped with, in January, all those years ago?” she joked.

What happened to just hanging out downtown? It’s worked for a decade, “ he smirked.

“I’m different now. Something in me wants to be here, where things are real and wondrous,” she said. “Like the Hopi way of life.”

You realize that the Hopi believe that people will be sucked underground when the Kachina shows up? And you’re Southern Baptist. They probably won’t even let you on their spaceship,” he said.

I don’t care about that, or the blue star or the fifth world. I just want to slow time in this world. I want to jump naked into the Cahaba River. I want to go back,” she said. “Just for a while.”

And there she was, standing before him, the girl he’d known all those years ago, before kids and marriage and life, stars blazing in her eyes.

It had been so long.

Yeah. I get it, “ he whispered.

The light of ages past burned as if it had waited forever for this night. The desert sands stilled.

And somewhere beneath them, the earth shifted.

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