Xenoarchaeologists

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“Remember your training,” said Mink. “Aliens are delicate. We need to blend in to study them. We are not to reveal ourselves under any circumstance.” Captain Mink, Private Ingy, and Alien Specialist Djava buoyed in the water where the ship landed.

“Ingy! Stop squirming you will blow our cover!” ordered Mink. It took all of Ingy’s willpower to keep from fidgeting and checking his uniform. He tried to just focus on floating. “Ingy!” Mink shouted again. “Fix your face!” and Ingy wriggled to make himself blend in. He was so nervous. He didn’t understand how Mink and Djava were so calm.

“Captain,” said Djava, “The aliens call themselves ‘humans’ and they are approaching on that ‘boat’. And Ingy, it’s two ears total, not two per side.” Ingy retracted the excess ears into his body. He also retracted an extra pinky on his hand and was glad he was wearing gloves just as the “humans” pulled him aboard the ship.

Game

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Two vials lay before the contestants, the fate of the tournament in their hands. They stood slightly away from the vials. The game was simple. Drink a vial to transform. Defeat your opponent by pinning him to the ground. Thirty minutes until the effects of the vials wear off. Contestants never knew which vial was which – one would transform a contestant into a flameless, winged dragon. The other vial would transform a contestant into a fire-breathing, spiked tailed, flightless dragon. Each contestant wore colored uniforms, including helmet. When the bodies transformed, the colors of the uniform remained the same on the dragons so the audience could know which contestant was which.

The announcer raised his arms and anxious silence filled the audience. “Contestant one – Matthias, blue. Contestant two – Scaldor, red.” The audience roared applause and several exchanged coins, placing their bets. Helmets covered the contestants’ faces but it was obvious both looked straight ahead at the vials. “Let the game begin!” shouted the announcer, firing a gun.

The contestants sprinted. Scaldor was faster and grabbed one vial leaving the other for Matthias. Both humans convulsed as their bodies transformed. From the contortion a red dragon emitted a flame and shortly thereafter a blue dragon took to the skies.

Matthias swooped down upon his prey looking to end the game in a quick pin. But Scaldor rolled away and emitted a stream of fire that glanced off the flying dragon as he re-ascended. The blue dragon circled above, just out of fire range and the red dragon put his back to a wall to maintain visibility of his opponent. Matthias took advantage of Scaldor’s position and rammed into the rock face of the wall, cascading boulders upon Scaldor. Scaldor dodged and Matthias swooped again. Scaldor was ready and swung his tail up just as the talons cut into his skin. The tail cut open the blue dragon’s wing and forced him to release his opponent in a wobbly retreat. Scaldor openly bled from his back but stayed focused. Back and forth they went, each taking advantages and then being forced to retreat.

Tournament time was running down. Matthias flew as high as he could with his one good wing in order to gain more speed flying down. Scaldor backed up to a wall just as Matthias bulleted from the sky. Scaldor managed to evade being pinned but Matthias’ talon closed around his leg and both dragons somersaulted on the ground. Scaldor moved slightly hoping Matthias was not right on top of him to pin. But he was stuck. The red dragon’s tail was impaled into the blue dragon’s chest.

Time was up. Both contestants contorted back into humans. Scaldor, hunched over with a bleeding back, crawled over to Matthias. Matthias lay perfectly still as dark blood spread across his chest. Scaldor removed both their helmets and the screams from the audience grew louder. The contestants’ faces were identical.

“I’m sorry brother,” Scaldor whispered. “It was just supposed to be a game.”

Just Like Jesus

“Come on, Ma! Just take the picture!”
“Well I just want to get a good one.” She said. Dad used to just walk away when Ma had a camera in her hands. He was a wise man.
click
“Oh shoot the flash wasn’t on. Your face is shadowed. Just hold on a minute longer!”
“Ma!”
“Honestly, Suzie, just think of this as practice being patient, like Father Noble said in church yesterday.”

I posed for another twelve pictures on the beach – with flash, without flash, with Ma’s finger covering the lens, some smiling, some frowning.

“There! That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Ma asked. I rolled my eyes and luckily Ma was trying to work the snapping lock on the camera bag and was too preoccupied to notice. She hated when I rolled my eyes. At my sixteenth birthday party my Aunt Miranda announced her engagement and it was decided that half my cake be designated as her celebration cake and half for my birthday since I would “never in a million years eat the whole thing.” And when Uncle Billy cut the cake in half I rolled my eyes behind his back. Ma saw me and later that night said, “You know, Suzie, even if Billy didn’t see you roll your eyes, Jesus did.” Dad nodded in agreement. So I got a lot better at timing my eye rolls to make sure they weren’t looking. And Aunt Miranda got divorced a year later.

Pictures taken on the beach, Ma and I went up to the car and drove the few blocks back to her house. She lived just off the coast in a one bedroom house. Her front porch was painted white and boxed red and yellow carnations hung from the railings. The whicker rocking chairs swayed slightly in the constant sea breeze. I did not grow up in this house. She moved here after Dad died. She said he was in Heaven now and she felt closer to him on an earthly paradise. And the beach was that paradise.

“Are you hungry,” I asked as Ma settled in to an overstuffed chair in the living room.

“No thanks, dear. Tell me how you’re doing without John,” she said. I nearly choked while swallowing at the abruptness of her request.

“Nothing to say really,” I said.

“He was such a sweet boy. Too good for this world. God knew that when he took him,” she said. I nodded and turned my head away to roll my eyes. Ma meant well but I was more in the habit of blaming Jesus than thanking him.

“Yea. I’m going to go for a walk, Ma, I’ll be back soon,” I said and left without listening to her protests. I walked back to the beach a few blocks away. And as my feet got wet in the edge of the tide I wished beyond anything I could keep walking out onto the water. Just like Jesus.

And the Thunder Rolled

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Vardezia, Georgia. CC photo by Ben van der Ploeg.


Billowing, bloated clouds briskly approached the cave. The balmy breeze kicked up dust creating beastly illusions in the darkened shadows. Every black crevice of the cave seemed to be breathing as the cavern dust bloomed into beings of boys’ nightmares. The bedrock of the bluff convulsed as the booming, crackling thunderbolts barraged above. Below, the briny deep pounded upon the boulders at the base of the cliff. Bundles of pebbles and rubble tumbled into the blue water as breakers beat down the layers of the crag. The battery of rainfall cascaded in blasts. The thunderous claps crescendoed as the clouds balanced directly over the caves, building up for the cacophonous culmination of its belligerent bombardment. Rain bludgeoned the cavern roofs. Breaking waves battered the boulders at the base of the bluff. The dust cloud beings brought on by the cantankerous breeze besieged the shadows and corners in the cave. And the thunder rolled.

Monster

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His was the last face I expected to see outside my iron door. I unchained the rusted locks. He walked past me and my nostrils bristled at the stench of decaying flesh emitted from him. He took off his hat and hung it on the Minotaur horns mounted on the wall. With his face unhidden and the light of the candelabra flickering, Frankenstein’s Monster looked more horrific than even the first day the Doctor breathed electrical life into him. I couldn’t look away. His face haunted my dreams.

“Igor,” rasped the Monster, speaking like his lungs were full of dust from a long forgotten attic. I shook myself as much as possible to break my stare. “I’ve been searching for Father.” 

“I…I have not seen The Great Doctor since the incident,” I stammered. The Monster’s eyes grew misty and the memory of that fateful night flooded my senses. The lab had been bombarded with hostile villages ever since The Doctor’s Creation breathed its first breath. We barricaded the doors. But we did not expect an even greater threat to come from above. Dracula’s army of bloodsuckers attacked through the skylights. Their giant wings shattered the glass and cascaded upon us. Only the Monster fought his way out. At least, when the Doctor and I were captured, the Monster was still fighting. The flying bat army took the Doctor and I directly to Dracula himself. Doctor Frankenstein was removed from the room and Dracula told me I had a special purpose…

“I have searched everywhere,” said The Monster, pulling me back into the present. “I heard Dracula had a lair in the north. I spoke with the merman king. He was the first who didn’t scream in fear at my face. He pointed me higher to the mountains to a colony of werewolves. I’ve been all over looking for Father.” he said, trailing off. The tears from his eyes nestled in the scars of his face, making them shimmer in the candlelight. He was terrifying. He turned his back towards me. I started to walk forward but the Monster spoke again, this time, less hollow sounding. 

“But then I found him. Dracula,” he sneered the name. He spun around and faced me. I felt my lungs tighten in my chest. “His army lay dead around him and my hands were around his throat. I told him I wouldn’t rest until all of his kind were dead. And he laughed. Laughed! And said it was ironic.” He paused and I felt the hair on my arms and neck rise like an electrical storm. “He said in order to kill all his kind I would have to kill my Father and his friend.” 

He knew. I felt the wings on my back burst open. Ever since I had been bitten by Dracula himself, I was no longer human. And it was my mission from Dracula to kill the Frankenstein Monster. Just as it had been my mission from the Doctor to create him. 

Taking Chances

3.010 by Thomas Leuthard. Some Rights Reserved. (CC BY 2.0)

There’s a girl. Well, there’s always a girl, I guess. This one was different. She was smart and beautiful and kind. And I’m sure you’re thinking, “Oh, I know that girl!” But you don’t.

She came into my coffee shop on a day the news declared that the heat warning was still in full effect and to go outside at your own risk and to not take your dogs for long walks. “Health hazard heat” was what the paper called it. But she braved out the sun and entered my shop, beads of sweat dripping along her dark hairline. She ordered a bottle of water and an iced tea and went to the tables by the front window. She spread books out across two tables and looked outside expectantly.

After about ten minutes she opened two books in front of her and buried her nose into the crevice. The books on the table next to her laid untouched and each time she turned the page of her own she glanced out the window. One girl walked past the shop but the street was quiet. Most people had taken the heat wave as an excuse to spend Saturday indoors by the television. But years of experience told me nothing good played on Saturday afternoons.

Another half hour passed and still the girl sat. She flipped the page, looked up, looked down, read, and repeated. Her iced tea was empty and I had not had many customers so I brought her another. She seemed startled when I approached but gave me a crooked grin.

“Hot out there,” I said. I knew it was obvious but I was bored and she was pretty. It was worth some small talk.

“Yes,” she agreed, and looked back down at her book. I took the cue and started to turn and go back behind the counter to wipe it down for the hundredth time. “Wait,” she said. “I need to pay for the tea.” She rustled around in her purse.

“On the house,” I said. She stopped and looked up at me and her forehead furrowed questioningly. “I’m sure!” I insisted. And she smiled again.

“Well thank you.” She took a large gulp. “I’ve walked by this shop a thousand times. This is my first time coming in.”

“I’m glad you did! Jack’s Beanstalk would be nothing without its customers.” I can’t believe I said that. Like some schmoozy salesman. “What are you reading?” I asked in recovery.

“I don’t know. I don’t speak Spanish,” She said. It is rather disconcerting when you get an answer to a question so completely different from anything you were expecting. It leaves your mouth hanging open like a goldfish. She must have taken pity on my guppy expression and she laughed. “I was waiting for a friend to show up help me with it. I was just looking through the Spanish English dictionary to try and make a sentence for when he arrived.”

“Oh! That makes more sense,” I said. “What are you going to say?”

“I was going to tell him he was late,” she said, covering her mouth with her dainty fingers to hide the squeaky giggles. I laughed too and sat down across from her at the table where the untouched books still sat.

I cleared my throat majestically and read from the page. “Como… estás?” I said. She let her laughter out this time. Her laugh just made her prettier. “Como te…llamas? What? Llamas! Like the animal?” She continued to laugh as I was flipping through pages in the book reading random words that I saw.

“Estoy bien, gracias,” she said when she caught her breath. My heart skipped a beat when she rolled the ‘r’ sound. She smiled at me still. I set the book down and leaned across the table.

“What’s your na –” The bell on the door dinged obtrusively as a lean dark skinned man entered.

“Sorry I’m late babe, I got caught up,” he said and planted his lips on the girl. I stood up and wiped the cushion down and straightened the napkins on the table.

“Good afternoon, sir. What can I get you?” I asked him.

“Hot day, I’ll have an iced cappuccino with whip,” he said. As I walked to the counter to make his drink I heard him say he would help her as much as he could before his next class but he couldn’t be late to it. I heard her tell him it was okay.

His cup on a napkin on a tray on my hand, I returned to the table. He slapped a five dollar bill down and said keep the change. The girl looked at him and then smiled at me. She was so pretty. She looked like a different person when she was looking at me. Of course, I wanted her to look at me differently so it may have been my imagination.

“Perdone?” I said, feeling the crisp roll of the ‘r’ at the end of my tongue, turning to the man. The man looked up from flipping through the book. “Yo no soy tan afortunado,” I said. Then I turned to the girl and said, “Fue un placer conocerte.” She started flipping through her dictionary. The man just said thanks as I returned behind the counter.

The girl glanced over her shoulder a few times at me as the man pointed out good practice activities from the book and such. And when they packed up their things the man took her hand and rushed out the door. But she stopped right as the bell dinged on the door and said, “It was nice to meet you too.”

And then she left. I know what you’re thinking – that I’m acting like some love struck teenager who melts into the eyes of any girl who glances at him. But she was worth melting for. I hope she comes in my shop again. Maybe next time I’ll get her name.

Margaret

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The gunshot echoed.

Margaret’s bouquet smoked and smelled of sulfur. The priest had just pronounced her “Wife of King Henry and the new Queen of England.” But Henry now lay dead at her feet. The flowers had fallen away revealing the small pistol that was hooked in the wrist of her white wedding dress. She looked at the priest who was ghostly pale.

“Give me the book,” she said to him. He stuttered but said nothing. He pulled the book out of a chest and proffered it to her. She pulled the trigger again and the priest fell limp next to her dead husband. With the book in hand she picked up the scepter that still lay at Henry’s fingertips. The panicked public in the square watching the wedding stood still when Margaret raised her head tall.

“I am now widow of King Henry, and acting priestess of the Church. I am Queen Margaret.”