The Iron Writer Challenge #13

bugleThe Iron Writer Challenge #13

2013 Iron Writer Summer Solstice Challenge #13

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

A Francis RaymondHarry CraftLiz Winn

The Elements:

A bugle

A Derby Hat

A live goat

A trampoline

Circus RejectsA Francis Raymond

A. Francis Raymond

“You’re lucky you weren’t turned into a rock,” said Lola.

I shifted my body so I could look up at her. The Vespa had run out of gas and we needed to walk, we hoped, only a couple of miles to where Bouncing Betty Babington supposedly lived.

Lola dismounted and walked around to the sidecar that I was awkwardly stuffed in. My front hooves rested on the handle bar, but my backside and rear hooves were fit into spots they weren’t meant to be.

“Just help me get out of here. And I need to eat,” I replied.

Lola did as I asked. Not as easy as it sounds. Goats don’t belong in sidecars, but it was the only option available.

Once out, I started munching on weeds on the side of the road. Rainwater from an early morning storm left puddles, too. Good, because I was thirsty. I saw my reflection in the still water before I put my face in to lap it up.

Oddly enough, my beard looked the same as when I was human. Besides that, I didn’t recognize myself. I looked like a typical goat, except for the Derby Hat strapped to my head so it wouldn’t fall off.

It was a cruel joke for Mr. Waters, the circus owner both Lola and I spent our entire lives with, to say we weren’t wanted anymore. It was even crueler to turn me into a goat, and remove Lola’s talents. But why give me the magic hat? I didn’t understand, but grateful that through the hat, I could talk.

But this morning’s rain also affected the hat. It wasn’t as powerful anymore. Should I tell Lola?

I looked over at her. She sat with her back to a large tree trunk. In her arms, she cradled the bugle she used to play while walking a tightrope. Now, she could do neither.

“Let’s go,” I said.

“Oh, Tony,” she responded, “What if this woman can’t help us?” Her knuckles were white as they clutched the brass bugle.

I didn’t have an answer. We stared at each other until she stood up, and started walking.

Bouncing Betty Babington was exactly where we were told she lived. Instantly, we understood the moniker. Outside a small shack was a rectangular trampoline. A woman, presumably Betty, bounced on it. Incredibly, her form changed at each bounce. On one bounce, her hair was blonde. On another, brown. Yet another, her hair stayed brown, but she grew a foot, or shrunk. Each was a transformation.

“Hello!” she called out. Her final move, one that our former circus colleagues would have envied, began as a double back somersault with half twists through each before dismounting and landing in her final transformed state.

Lola explained our predicament, since the magic of my hat was wearing out. The last thing I remember before returning to my human state was a teary Lola giving her bugle to Betty, then placing me on the trampoline.

The View from the TrampolineLiz Winn

Liz Winn

By jumping on the trampoline in her back yard, eight-year-old Lolly Smith, grape-flavored popsicle clutched in one grimy hand, pigtails flying in the air behind her, can see over the tall wooden fences surrounding the back yards adjacent to hers. A single bounce gives her a bird’s eye view into Mr. Gvidas Petras’s back yard with its shrine to the Lithuanian flag. Two bounces allows her to see over the fence into Mr. Jones’s back yard with its precisely arranged lawn furniture, and Mr. Jones himself reclining on a lawn chair. With three bounces, she can just see over the fence into the Bailey’s back yard, which contains their children’s playground equipment and their pet goat, Emerson.

Boing! Over the top of the fence to the west, there’s Mr. Petras coming out with his bugle to perform his daily salute to the Lithuanian flag.

Boing! Boing! To the north, there’s Mr. Jones, napping, his derby hat pulled down over his eyes. Next to him, on the grass, a paperback copy of 100 Ways to Roast A Goat and a technical manual for dismantling trampolines.

Boing! Boing! Boing! Now she can see into the Bailey’s yard where Emerson the goat is munching on grass.

Boing! Mr. Petras is fitting the bugle to his lips and playing warm-up scales.

Boing! Boing! Mr. Jones’s lips are twisting into a frown beneath the brim of his hat.

Boing! Boing! Boing! Emerson the goat is looking around for something else to munch on.

Boing! Mr. Petras is erupting into a veracious fit of bugling.

Boing! Boing! Mr. Jones, pushing the derby hat off his face, is scowling at the racket from next door.

Boing! Boing! Boing! Emerson the goat is standing on his hind legs, nibbling at the leaves from a low-hanging branch.

Boing! Mr. Petras is starting his one-man concert by playing the beginning notes of a funeral march.

Boing! Boing! Mr. Jones, disappearing into his house.

Boing! Boing! Boing! Emerson the goat, leaping high into the air, aiming for another leafy branch.

Boing! Mr. Petras, cutting loose with a powerful, jazzed-up version of his country’s national anthem.

Boing! Boing! Mr. Jones reappearing from his house with a shotgun, heard muttering “a man’s castle” and “the virtues of silence” and “multiple things that shouldn’t be seen OR heard.”

Boing! Boing! Boing! Emerson the goat, up in the tree, ripping leaves and twigs from the branch with his teeth.

Boing! Mr. Petras, wailing away like Louis Armstrong on steroids.

Boing! Boing! Mr. Jones taking aim—

A shot rings out. In surprise, Lolly cries out and falls off the trampoline, her popsicle flying. Multiple screams, followed by a savage “Naa-aa-aa!” Lolly sits on the ground for a moment. Then she climbs back onto the trampoline.

Boing! Mr. Petras, not in his yard, the bugle lying discarded on the grass.

Boing! Boing! Mr. Jones, not in his yard, the shotgun tossed aside.

Boing! Boing! Boing! Emerson the goat, standing beneath a tree next to the fence in the Bailey’s yard, munching on a well-worn derby hat.

A Bugle in TimeHarry Craft

Harry Craft

“So you’re going to time-travel by music?”

“Very roughly speaking.  My resonance theory—“

“I’m quite familiar with it!” He glanced at the tattered trampoline in the corner of the room.

Despite his colleague’s response, the inventor continued.  “An accident; and we did escape, after all.  In any case, I’ve figured out the problem.  The fabric of the trampoline set up an inter-dimensional resonance, but too irregularly.  Thus the—”

“Wormhole!”

“Ah, yes.  Anyway, this bugle is made of a unique alloy and configured so that when it is ‘played’ it will set up a controlled set of hyper-spatial and trans-temporal resonances down to the quantum level.  Your analogy to music is a good one; after all, music has complex timbres, resonances, and harmonies, and those quantum effects—”

“As we found out last week,” the colleague said a bit sourly, “quantum effects can cause unpredictable results.  How do you know you won’t open another wormhole?  Even worse—the slightest error in your ‘timbres’, and the very molecular structure of anything in this room—such as us—could be completely disrupted!”

“Each effect is produced by a specific resonance pattern—a different ‘tune’, if you will.  True, my musical skills are not optimal; but my device will self-correct, and play the right ‘tune’ to open a portal to the Paleozoic Era!”  As his colleague continued to glare at him skeptically, the inventor handed him a hat.

“A derby hat?!”

“’Bowler’ is the preferred term, actually.  It is made of a fabric similar to that of the trampoline, but with a reversed resonance pattern.  By molding the fabric to the exactly proper topology—which, oddly, produced the shape of a bowler, or if you insist, ‘derby’ hat—I have produced a shield for you.  Put it on, and you will be unaffected by any effects produced by my temporal bugle.  Not that you have anything to fear—“

“I’ll take the precaution!”  The colleague put the hat on and found it to fit perfectly.  He couldn’t put a finger on it, but somehow a feeling of calm descended on him, and there seemed to be stillness in the air around him.

“That’s the protective field you’re experiencing,” said the inventor.  “Well, no more delay—I am off to the Paleozoic!”  He placed the mouthpiece to his lips and blew a strange melody.  The colleague watched in fascination.  No portal to the Paleozoic opened; but the inventor had turned immediately into a large goat with an irritated expression on its face.

“You know,” said the colleague, “I think I can analyze your bugle, recalibrate it, and restore you in a few days.  The goat brightened.  “However—“continued the colleague with a devious grin.  The goat’s face fell.

“You owe me for last time.  Now my lawn needs to be mowed, and my mower’s in the shop, so I have a job for you while I’m working on your horn.  They say a goat is better than a mower….”

The Iron Writer Challenge #12

Roman GaleaThe Iron Writer Challenge #12

2013 Iron Writer Summer Solstice Challenge #12

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Diana SpringerJ Conrad GuestJeremy PumaM. D. Pitman

The Elements:

A Roman Galea

A Rotary Dial Phone

A Pole Vaulting Pole

Black Lipstick

Carnival FeverDiana Springer

Diana Springer

There is a ruckus on the highway.  Curious onlookers line the streets, releasing oohs and whistles as I shimmy by wearing nothing but a gold leotard with an extravagant plumage of blood-red feathers across my back. The afternoon sunrays ricochet off my gold Roman galea as I swing my hips seductively to the hypnotic calypso beat.

“Aren’t you glad you did it after all?” asks Charlene.  I was supposed to be celebrating my big track and field win. Things hadn’t gone according to schedule. The crowd on the sidewalk is swelling and Charlene is on what appears to be her fourth mix of Red Bull and rum, clearly enjoying the buzz of energy. I have to admit that my team mate was right. This is exactly what I needed.

“It’s great out here,” I shout over the music. God knows I needed cheering up, after my pole vaulting pole snapped in half as I ascended on my second attempt.  Now here I am two weeks later, trying to make myself feel better in this ridiculous get-up.

Charlene raises her plastic cup in a toast, and I do the same with my bottled water, its rim coated with traces of my black lipstick.  Ordinarily I wouldn’t be caught in such a gothic lip color without a shroud, but today was anything but ordinary. A quick survey of the party animals reveals that we are all in various stages of nudity; bare chests, severe cut-outs, thong-bottoms and Charlene swears that she saw a man wearing a loin cloth.

A photographer leaps out of nowhere, blinding me with a series of rapid flashes. Wait until Aunt Flora catches sight of me and Charlene in the newspapers.  It will be one more thing for her to gossip about on her vintage rotary dial phone.

“Looking good Nelly,” says a familiar voice.  My ex-boyfriend Gavin does a choreographed shuffle.  Ahead the giant music truck inches along the stretch of the highway, flanked on both sides by enthusiastic revelers.

“Thanks,” I say to his mud-painted face.  His paper thin lips are coated with black lipstick as well. My gaze drifts downwards to his bare torso and to my amusement, I see that Gavin’s ever-growing beer belly has been air-brushed with an immaculate set of abs.

“Finally got that six pack,” I say coyly, gesturing at the neon green and brown abdominals.  He laughs while rubbing his Buddha belly suggestively.  The music truck cranks out one of the season’s biggest hits, inducing a roar from the suddenly reenergized crowd.

“This is our song!” screams Charlene.  She jumps around, her arms encircling the waist of the stranger in the loin cloth whose lack of coordination sends all four of us into a riptide of laughter.  Carnival is the theatre of life. I am in the Spartacus section of the band so I adjust my galea, raise my fiber glass, glitter-coated sword and release a warrior cry, before surging forward towards the carnival judges.

The Crabs IncidentJ. Conrad Guest

J. Conrad Guest

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I drove a stretch of tarmac dark and weary, I chanced upon a damsel in distress. I braked hard and pulled over onto the shoulder. A moment later, I heard the crunch of boots on gravel as she approached the passenger door I’d opened.

“Thanks,” she said, sliding in beside me. She was what her generation called Goth: hair dyed shoe polish black, pale makeup, black lipstick, and facial hardware—silver rings through left eyebrow, nose and lip, an array around the inner lip of her right ear, while a skull dangled from her left lobe. When she spoke, a tongue stud glittered in the headlights of an oncoming pickup truck. I wondered what other hardware she might have, in other, more secluded places.

“What are you doing out alone so late on a Saturday?” I asked.

“My dawg and me had a fight. He dumped me at North Territorial. Fucker. Where you headed?”

It took me a moment to figure she was referencing the boyfriend as “fucker” and not addressing me, as in, “Fucker, where you headed?” I grinned. “South Lyon.”

“Me, too. I’m Melody.”

“Then I guess I’m heading your way, Melody. I’m Malcolm.” I glanced in the rearview mirror and pulled back onto Pontiac Trail, running up through the six-speed transmission of my Mazda3. Once I got it into high gear, I ventured, “Don’t you have a cell phone you could’ve used to call a friend?”

“I don’t own one. I hate the things.”

“Truly? That’s surprising, for someone of your generation. When I was your age, making a phone call meant dialing a rotary dial phone and talking to someone while attached to a wall by an eight-foot curly cord.”

“Oh, for the good old days,” Melody said. “For all the connectivity cells boast, I think we’re more disconnected than ever.”

“You know, in Denmark there’s a marked incidence of brain tumors they link to cell phone technology.”

“I’m not surprised. Which reminds me, my ex-boyfriend—he who abandoned me tonight—gave me a case of the crabs last week.”

I chuckled.

“Crabs is no laughing matter.”

“Sorry. I wasn’t laughing at you, Melody. I was just reminded of a sign I once saw above the urinal in a public men’s room: “Don’t throw toothpicks into the urinal; crabs can pole vault.” I chuckled again, but Melody didn’t join me.

“You see,” I explained to fill the silence, “the crabs were using toothpicks as a pole vaulting pole.”

“I get it,” she said. “I just didn’t think it was funny. You obviously never had crabs.”

“No.” I dimmed my high beams in deference to an oncoming car, but not before he flashed his at me to remind me mine were on. “How come you didn’t give him the boot after the crabs?”

“I should’ve. But I’ve got a real hard head sometimes.”

I nodded. “Me, too. Been accused of having a real Roman galea for a skull.”

“What’s that, a Galea?”

“A sort of helmet thing, with a faceplate. The ancient Romans wore them when they fought. Russell Crowe wore one in the movie, Gladiator.”

We finished the rest of the drive in silence. Maybe it was a generational thing. But then again, as I drove home after dropping off Melody, I couldn’t help but think it had something to do with the crabs incident.

CombatJeremy Puma

Jeremy Puma

K’von the Barbarian stared into the seething, sweat-covered face of the gladiator across from him, panting under the open-faced galea he’d torn from his previous opponent’s body. The helmet, heavy and bronze, pressed painfully against his scalp, but offered him an advantage over his enemy. His own body dripped, his muscular figure decorated with the blood of two combatants who had already fallen. K’von ran his hand across his face, wiping a mixture of red and his ritual black paint out of his stinging eyes.

How’d he end up in this situation, locked in mortal combat with an unknown opponent in the Roman Coliseum? He remembered dialing the code for Time Sector 8-B into his ChronoMate; he’d expected to land somewhere in ancient Scotland, where he’d be able to study the Pictish people first-hand. In preparation, he’d painted his face in the traditional style of the warrior’s tattoos he’d seen in the books he’d read on the ancient barbarian tribes.

Unfortunately, after the fall through hyperspace, he found himself surrounded by a crowd of Roman soldiers and unceremoniously dumped into the dungeons under the Coliseum. The timeframe seemed right, but the location? Off by over a thousand miles. Had he entered incorrect coordinates? He hadn’t thought to bring his Latin electrotranslator, either. Before he could escape, they stripped him and took everything—even his ChronoMate.

Now, his only recourse was battle. Thankfully, he’d used a series of biostims prior to his ChronoJump in preparation for combat within the war-like Pictish society. Maybe, just maybe, if he survived until the end, he could figure out a way to retrieve his ChronoMate and get back to his own time. However, after two rounds of combat, he was beginning to tire. Looking around for some kind of advantage, he glimpsed an hasta—a long, battle-worn spear—just a few feet away. As his opponent charged, he lunged, grabbed the spear, rolled to the side and lifted the weapon just as the other man fell upon him, impaling his enemy through the stomach.

He pushed the man away and stood. As the crowd hurrahed, he looked to the door which led to the staging area, which had begun to swing open. Sighing, he lowered the spear, wondering who his next opponent would be, and if this interminable battle would ever end. A figure appeared, and he lifted the spear.

“Kevin, it’s time for lunch!”

Kevin’s mother opened the screen door to the backyard and emerged into the afternoon wiping her hands on her apron. “Kevin, I—what are you doing with your brother’s pole-vaulting pole? If you break that, he’ll kill you—he has a meet next week! Did you use my black lipstick to color your face? Get inside and wash that off of your face, mister.”

“Aw, Mom! I was playing Time Travel!” Kevin, age ten, looked back down at the dial on the old rotary phone he’d labeled “ChronoMate 3000,” turned around, and followed her inside for bologna sandwiches.

WillieMichael Pitman

M.D. Pitman

Joey and Willie were the best of best friends. Whatever Joey did, Willie did.

Usually they played hide-and-seek, but Joey wanted to use his new Wiffle ball and bat. Joey ran outside wearing his plastic Roman soldier’s helmet – he didn’t have a baseball helmet – and two thick lines of his mom’s black lipstick under his eyes.

“Willie, let’s play.” Joey raised his arms displaying his bat and ball.

Joey took off his helmet and tossed it and the bat by the bush – which was home – and walked to the “mound.”

“You may want to put that on in case I come high and hard.” Joey winked. He held the ball at his waist before a high kick wind-up like Steve Carlton, only right-handed. He hurled the ball over the plate.

Joey jerked his head up to the sky and turned looking over the neighbor’s house. He hung his head. “There’s no way you took Steve Carlton deep. Let’s see how you handle Mike Schmidt.”

Joey marched to home plate and picked up the bat and looked back at the mound as he swung it in a circle.

“Joey! Time to come in.”

Joey whipped his head around and dropped the bat. “DAD!”

“Sorry, Willie. My dad’s home. I’ll come get you later.” Joey ran up to his dad and leaped into his arms.

“Are we going to Montreal, Dad?” Joey buried his head into his father’s chest.

“No. I didn’t qualify. My pole broke on my final pole vault. But we’ll try again in four years.” He knew that won’t happen. Thirty-eight would be just too old for the 1980 Olympic trials. “What were you doing outside?”

“Willie and me were playing ball. Can you believe he took Steve Carlton deep?”

“What? No! Carlton’ll get him next time.” His father mussed Joey’s hair. “Go cleanup for dinner, champ.”

Nancy hung up the phone sitting on a table in the kitchen. She called for Dan.

“What did the doc say about Joey still ‘playing’ with Willie?”

Nancy traced her hands over the rotary dial. “They want to either give him more medicine or take him to a specialist.” She exhaled deeply. “I’m so worried, Dan.” Nancy rubbed her already red eyes.

“Why can’t we just handle this ourselves? Just take Joey to Willie’s grave and tell him he’s dead, and hold him tight until he stops crying?”

“You know why, Dan. The doctor said it may scar even deeper. He’s fragile.”

“It’s been a year and nothing has helped. I’m just … just … ”

“Frustrated,” Nancy said finishing his thought.

Dan pinched the bridge of his nose. “Ya.”

Joey stomped down the stairs and nearly toppled his chair at the dinner table. Nancy and Dan helplessly watched. The excitement on Joey’s face faded into a somber stare at his empty plate. “Mom, Dad. Can I tell you something?”

They quickly sat on either side of Joey at the table.

“Ya, anything, champ,” Dan said.

“I really miss Willie.”

The Iron Writer Challenge #11

EdSmPapyrusPlateVandVIThe Iron Writer Challenge #11

2013 Iron Writer Summer Solstice Challenge #11

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Curtis Lee CancinoDani J CaileEric DontigneyKaren Vaughn

The Elements:

The Edward Smith Papyrus

A manhole cover

Clogging shoes

A water buffalo

Medicinal BuffaloCurtis Lee Cancino

Curtis Lee Cancino

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.

Curious….

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.

Wait, rewind….

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.

DungDani-J-Caile

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.

Contingency JonesEric Dontigney

Eric Dontigney

Click.

“In other news, the mysterious appearance of a water buffalo backed up traffic for two hours today on Interstate…”

Click.

“The FBI continues to be stymied in its investigation into the theft of the Edward Smith Papyrus…”

Click.

“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…”

Click.

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.

“No?”

“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 EverKaren Vaughn

Karen Vaughn

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.”

“Sith?”

“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.

“What’s he saying Alwyn?” I looked at my mentor.

“It’s the third gate to hell. Leave it alone!”