Free Fiction

Figured since I had these bits, I would share them with you. Over time, I hope to offer more book related fiction for you as well.

Would very much appreciate it if you'd sign up for my Newsletter in exchange for the free stuff! :P

Flash Fiction Short Stories Book Based Short Stories Fan Fiction

Flash Fiction

Achievement Harbinger Prey Salvation The Tree
Bored Old People


It was finished.

After years of toil, of making sure every part was perfect and whole-his opus was complete.

A moment of indiscretion had led Taltus to his doom but also to his supreme achievement. Here, in this five by five cell, the greatest written masterpiece of his generation had been born and refined to perfection.

Yet no one would hear or read it. It would die in this dismal place with him.

He stared at the blank walls surrounding him, fighting welling despair. Yet as he stared, their very essence changed in his mind, sparking hope.

The walls would be his parchment. Blood his ink.

His story would be told.


When my gaze came across the man-sized raven I thought my heart would stop. It walked through the death shrouded streets as if the Grim Reaper could not touch it. A wide brimmed black hat adorned its head, the ensemble filled out with black cloak, black leggings, a touch of white at the cuffs and a ruffle around his neck. Its glassy, oversized eyes stared at everything around it, its long beak as dark as night. There were no wings that I could see. But it didn't need them. It walked the streets easily, like everyone else, except for all the sick and dying.

The year 1665 had brought with it the Great Plague. Death danced amongst us. It dispensed its evil vapors to invade the unwary and add them to its ranks. It ripped families asunder without rhyme or reason. Its mark upon those chosen distinct and unassailable -- black blossoms at the neck, armpits, or groin. Raging fevers and headaches served as teasers of worse to come. Torturous pain twisted through the guts so those afflicted couldn't forget their coming fate. Then, eventually, mercifully, the End.

And here was a raven, walking among us, its mere presence foretelling more would fall.

I watched it move from house to house. Those that still held life and hadn't been boarded up to try to hold in the contagion or the ones belonging to those who'd fled the city hoping for fresher air. Its beak was closed tight though there were plenty of bodies it could have chosen to eat from. They were stacked on the cobbled streets waiting to be picked up for burial, the men burdened with the task coming later and later each day as the numbers needed to be disposed of rose.

The smell of rotting flesh, waste, fear and sweat rolled and coiled along the buildings clogging my nostrils, yet it didn't bother me. There'd been too much of it for too long for me to truly notice it anymore.

My parents were gone, my sisters dead. Rank and privilege had meant nothing in the end. Perhaps this time the messenger had come for me. Or, if I was careful, I could follow it to its master. Perchance it'd show me mercy and take me swiftly rather than leave me to die in agony alone.

The raven's circuitous route eventually took it to a small cottage beside a church. Once the door was closed I hurried forward to peek inside through a partially shaded window.

The wide brimmed hat came off revealing a head of white curling hair. A strap, previously hidden beneath it, was unbuckled. As I watched, the raven removed its beak and became a man. I recognize him. It was the local priest. His name tickled the edge of my memory, but I couldn't quite recall it. I did remember it'd been said he was a doctor as well.

I watched him remove moss and herbs from within what I now knew to be a mask. He put them away in a sealed tin, adding bits of this and that before closing it. Then he made notes on an already handwriting filled paper.

A cure? Had he perhaps found a cure? Mayhap the priest had found a way to clear the air to stave off infection. Surely a man of the cloth wouldn't be like the many who walked the streets claiming they'd been successful, dispensing their supposed wisdom for a fee. Hope rose in my breast, though since the cold had meant little to me this day, I had a feeling it might already be too late for me. Yet to think there might be a way to save those still here, to save brave London from Death's siege! It made me optimistic that spring might yet come after all.

But as I continued to watch him busily scrawling away, I realized the hope was futile. Whatever method he was trying didn't work. For there, on his neck, was a red circle which grew darker as I stared.

The priest was doomed.

The man-like raven had been a harbinger, but the message it carried this day hadn't been for me.


Her hunger tore at her guts, once more demanding its due. She ignored it, already on the prowl, seeking for the means to satisfy it.

So far the darkness had revealed nothing.

Honed senses scanned for the merest hint of prey. Deftly, she skirted the trees and other vegetation, searching, always searching.

Her pangs growing ever more acute, she finally spotted a bit of light glinting through the foliage. Like a moth drawn to a flame, she changed course, dizzy with the possibilities.

As she cleared the last of the trees, she found her endeavors hadn't been in vain. A large clearing opened up before her showing the top of a small hill with a house, the calling light coming from its open doorway.

Sticking to the shadows, she drifted closer.

Excitement ignited inside her as she noticed a flesh being sitting on a raggedy chair on the sagging porch, staring out into the night while smoking a pipe.

Food at last!

With darting movements she made her way up the hill.

Nearing the house from the side, she peeked into the porch, studying her quarry, making sure her presence had gone unnoticed.

The balding prey puffed on his pipe oblivious.

A stray strand of wind wafted the scent of cooling sweat and pipe smoke toward her. Beneath it, barely noticeable, was the intoxicating perfume of blood. She moved a little closer, her hunger rising to a fevered pitch.

All senses on the alert for signs that her victim suspected her presence, she drifted closer still. Staring at her target, she could easily envision the life giving fluid pumping through the veins and arteries. If she'd been able to, she would have licked trembling lips in utter anticipation.

Barely stirring the air around her, she snuck up behind her victim, mesmerized by the pulsing beat of blood beneath the skin at his neck.

She moved closer and closer, her hunger and the call of the blood driving her on. Yet she purposely stretched the moment, moving forward ever so slowly, letting her anticipation increase.

As she touched the warm skin with the lightest of caresses, she felt a tingle rise through her.

No longer able to contain herself, she plunged deep into the succulent flesh. Gushing blood filled her hungering body, covering her with shivers of utter ecstasy. This was what it was about -- this was why she existed.

Trapped in the moment she didn't notice the large presence rising over her. Too late, she felt the movement above her and tried to disengage from the pierced flesh. Pressure crushed her where she stood and sent waves of excruciating pain through her fragile being until mercifully, she could feel nothing at all.

The hunter had become the prey.

"Damn bloodsucker!"

Joe pulled his hand away from his neck, staring with disgust at the bloody smear on his callused palm. He stood up from the rocking chair, hastily wiping his hand on his coveralls.

"Myrtle, where's that blasted can of OFF again?"


It started as a low rumble that built and built, reverberating off the walls of downtown.

Smiles peaked out at the increasing sound from dirty, scarred faces, their owners looking out toward the street from boxes and alleys, others through the open soup kitchen window that always burped out the friendly scent of baking bread.

They'd all heard the rumors. And it looked like they were about to find out if they were for real.

Corner dealers looked up like startled foxes and rushed to finish their transactions before slinking out of sight just in case. Streetwalkers stared with hope in the rumble's direction, making sure their pimps couldn't see their expressions.

The hum of engines roared as those approaching finally turned the corner, formed up in a double line. A Hesketh Vampire led the pack, followed by Kawasaki Ninjas, some Indian Chiefs, and even Hogs. The smell of exhaust filled the air. Glass rattled with the noise of their passing. Reflective sunglasses shone under the bright sun, even as black habits flowed behind them in the wind, their underskirts hitched up so they could ride.

As they came to a red light, the Mother Superior reached back to caress her bat sized cross in anticipation, her sawed off shotgun poking up above the seat from the other side of the machine. Both were within easy reach and ready for battle, just like she liked them.

The Mother Superior cracked her knuckles. After all the training, after all the sacrifice, the Church had finally deemed them ready. Souls would now be saved. She and her sisters were up to the task. Using whatever means necessary.

The Virgin Vixens-dispensing tough love in the name of God.

Prepare to be saved.

The Tree

Miaka sensed immediately that something in her kingdom had changed.

There was a new scent filtering through the house -- one that spoke of nature and outside. It sent a tingle through her furry frame, awakening primal instincts. She scurried to the corner of the hall, curious, watching her larger housemates struggle with this brown thing with green needles and that marvelous scent. They set it into a red bracket in the corner of the big room then cut away the net around it, which allowed the thing to spread out, small brown arms full of green reaching out, beckoning to her.

Boxes were brought in from the garage and set on the floor. These smelled of dust, glass, and metal.

She slinked around them and the tall outside thing, sniffing, cataloging, her small dark eyes bright.

Round, shiny items were taken out of the boxes and hanged off the arms of the tall mysterious thing. The sunlight glittered off their colorful bodies, making her dizzy and filling her with strange excitement.

Her housemates talked and worked, moving her out of the way when she got too close.

Eventually all the activity died down. Those who fed and played with her stood before the towering thing and stared with seeming pleasure.

The boxes were closed up and hidden beneath the couch or taken back to where they came from.

Miaka stared at it, too, and realized that this thing, it was for her. Must be hers. The tantalizing scents wafting from it told her so. She climbed the couch with a blur of speed then stood poised on the back studying what called to her soul. Yes, this was hers to do as she saw fit!

So moving over the top of the couch, she calculated angles and trajectories then she rushed at it, leaping through the air to land in the embracing branches.

"The ferret!"

The thing jingled and jangled as she dove deeper into the interior. Reaching the central core, she went upwards, her blood singing. She became as tall as her housemates. Taller! She was the owner of all she surveyed!

Her lofty perch began to sway.

"Miaka! Miaka, no!"


"Oh my God!"

She rolled as the thing bounced and ran off under a chair amidst the sudden yelling and running around by the others. Peeking out, she saw there was no need to worry. Her housemates were setting up her toy upright again.

Soon she would reign supreme once more.


"Mom, I'm so bored." Dave sat on the wooden back porch of the Toriyama's house, feet dangling. A well kept stone garden with small walkways filled the backyard, a tall wooden fence making it a world onto itself. Or so he'd been told.

"Honey, quiet! They'll hear you." His Mom rushed on stockinged feet to close the distance between them. "You're being terribly rude."

His face bunched up, his boredom turning to annoyance. "When you said we were going to Japan on vacation, you never said it'd be like this!" He waved his arms around at everything around them. He'd thought they were going to be in Tokyo or maybe Kyoto not in the mountains in the middle of boring nowhere.

"I'm sorry, sweetie. But we couldn't have come otherwise. Airfare and hotel would have been too much. When Betty said she knew some people we could stay with who wanted to learn more about the US, it was the only way we could even think to make it." She reached out to touch his arm but he pulled away. "We'll go to Tokyo on the last day. I have the bus and train schedules all set thanks to Mrs. Toriyama."

"One day there and over a week here. Yeah, joy." He turned away from her crossing his arms. How was he supposed to find all the manga and anime he wanted to buy at Mandarake with only one day to look through it all? Joey had told him the main store was several stories tall all crammed full of awesome stuff.

"Honey, I'm trying my best." She lowered her voice. "Why don't you go take a walk and cool off? I'd really hate for the Toriyama's to see you like this." The sentence dripped with disapproval.

"Fine." Dave stood up and tromped through to the front of the house wishing his shoes weren't in the foyer. Maybe he wouldn't take them off when he got back. Traipsing on the tatami with them on, that would show his Mom.

A smirk planted on his face, Dave put on his shoes and went outside. Taking the path to the gate, he let himself out onto the one lane paved road beyond. Everywhere he looked there was green. That or the flat cuts into the side of the mountains for rice paddy fields. Boring!

Shoving his hands in his pockets and staring only at the ground, he took the road randomly to the right. It was hot and humid with only the sound of insects for company. The road slanted up. The fields were soon gone and large trees grew overhead draping cool shadows over him. Old Shinto shrines or stone statues of babies with faded red scarves peeked at him from the foliage.

He was about to turn around when he noticed the road split a few feet ahead. One side continued on and up, while the other looked to go straight into the granite of the mountain. Maybe it was a tunnel. That would be cool to see. Might as well make the trip up here be worth something.

Jogging up the split he did spot a yawing maw of darkness. The vegetation had retaken the cut cliff, but not the tunnel itself. A rusted chain was strung across the entrance with a faded sign showing a red circle with a bar through it and some kanji. It didn't take a genius to figure out it meant for people not to go in there.

Still, curious, Dave walked up to the chain and looked inside. At first all he saw was darkness then a pin prick of light flared deep inside. A breeze blew through smelling of damp. He saw the flare again and figured the other end was blocked with plants. But there was another end. The tunnel hadn't caved in. Could even be a shortcut back.

There might be some adventure in Japan after all.

The chain rattled as if in warning as he slipped past it into the tunnel.

His steps echoed around him as he moved forward. The light slowly fell behind him, the flickering one at the far end growing more inviting.

About halfway goose bumps peppered his arms and neck as the air turned suddenly cold. Though he was alone he could feel someone's gaze on him from the dark. It was creepy. Suddenly the idea of being bored at the Toriyama's didn't seem half bad. He could try his hand at making paper cranes again. Maybe even make up with his Mom.

Dave turned around to go back. That part of the tunnel was now pitch black. He tried to go back anyway but within a couple of feet ran into a granite wall. That wasn't right. He'd just come through there!

The sound of laughter rose up behind him. He realized he could see the wall, flickering light lighting up the area. Dave turned around.

There were things there. A huge umbrella with a giant mouth and tongue hopping on a human leg. A red colored demon with one horn wearing only a fur loincloth. One was an actual human, or so he thought until the woman her head detached from its body to float above the others tied back to the body by dripping entrails. They were holding torches staring him up and down and walking up close.

Shaking, Dave plastered himself back against the wall. "St, stay away from me! Let me go back!"

A green man with a turtle's mouth and scaly skin shook its head and spoke in heavily accented English. "The sign is out there for a reason, boy. Once you cross into Yomi you cannot leave unless we let you."

"And we've not had foreign food or something interesting happen here in quite some time." The sight of sharp and yellowed teeth flashed all around. "So that won't be happening."

Dave's hair curling scream echoed off the walls of the tunnel as they fell upon him.

Old People

"Dude, I don't know about this…" Rick shuffled his feet, his hand unconsciously rising to wipe the snot away from his abused nose.

"What's there to know?" Ice turned to glare at him, his light blue eyes seeming to glow with the reflected illumination of the park lights.

Rick hunched down a little, putting more of the tree they were hiding by between them. "Still… Old people?"

"Easy pickings, fool." Ice's stare turned cold. "You want a hit and that takes money. You got none. So you've got to help entertain me if you want your fix."

Rick looked away, only too aware of the type of things Ice considered entertainment. Assaulting old people though, that'd be a new low, even for him. It was one thing to let Ice pick on him in exchange for what he needed, but this… His ran his tongue over dry lips; hands shaking at his sides, bottomless need trilling through him. "But they're old, Ice. They're not hurting anyone."

His companion snorted. "That's half the fun right there, idiot. You want the smack or not? I got others needing what I got as much or more than you. And they can pay."

Rick swayed where he stood, the gnawing craving causing panic to shoot up his throat at the thought of not getting what he needed. He'd hate himself later but right now the person he had to take care of was himself. "No, no, man, I'm in."

"That's more like it." Ice's smile was predatory. "Now come on. Those two old farts will never know what hit them." He hefted the bat at his side.

They stuck to the shadows as they made their way around the park toward the concrete game tables in the center. Several of the lights had been busted out by vandals or burned out and never replaced by the city, but the two old men had brought their own with them.

Rick and Ice separated.

Though it was close to summer, both old men were bent over the table wearing heavy coats, caps, and mufflers. They both had on round John Lennon glasses with dark lenses. Really dark lenses. They stared at the board for minutes at a time and then a slow, shuddering hand would clamber up and move one of the pieces.

Taking a deep breath to fortify his courage, Rick stepped out from the bushes and walked their way. "It's really late, isn't it?"

Both men turned ever so slowly in his direction as if having to calculate every movement. "Look, we have company, Mr. C."

"I see that, Mr. L."

Rick hesitated, the voices sending creepy shivers up his arms. It was like hearing old papers rustling out words. The faces turned toward him were wrinkled and dry, as old as dirt.

One of them made a beckoning gesture. "Come on closer, boy."

Something inside Rick screamed at the suggestion. Only his ever increasing need was able to clamp over the urge to run and allowed him to walk a little nearer. "You, you shouldn't be out here, you know? It's not safe."

"Why aren't you the sweetest thing? Worried about us like that." The smile that cracked over the face of Mr. L seemed to be laughing at him. Rick really didn't want to be here anymore.

Keep them distracted, fool. No smack for you if you don't.

Ice's parting words slapped him again. His whole body shook. He'd been without for so long. He would die. He knew he would die if he didn't get more. So he stood his ground. "Can you spare some change?"

He spotted Ice leaving his place of concealment the bat up and ready. Ice rushed forward, aiming for the head of the closest of the two men.

Rick opened his mouth to shout out a warning despite what might later happen to him -- in that one moment forgetting about the hunger inside him. Before he could say anything though, the bat was already moving toward Mr. L's head.

Without turning around, the old man lifted his arm and caught the wood in his palm with a loud whack. The force of the blow half unsettled the old man's glasses exposing his eyes. They were green orbs with an up and down black line. It took Rick a second before his brain started shouting the fact they weren't human.

"I don't know how you did that, old codger, but it's not gonna cut it!" Ice pulled out a switchblade and stabbed at Mr. L while still holding on to the bat. In a blink, Mr. L was no longer sitting, but standing, easily avoiding the blade.

Off balance, Ice let go of the bat to take another swing with the knife. Rick tried to warn Ice this time as the end of the bat moved in a blur to poke him hard in the stomach. Before Ice could fall gagging to the concrete, Mr. C was up and grabbing him by the collar. With a flick of a wrist, Ice's body flew up and thumped with a bone breaking crunch onto the chess table.

Ice screamed and blood gurgled from his mouth. Mr. L tossed the bat aside to the grass then reached inside Ice's jacket. Mr. C smiled and small tentacles played with his teeth as they reached out, as if tasting the air.

"Young man, do you want this?" Mr. L held up a packet of white powder.

Rick shook his head so hard it looked like it might come off. His eyes were wide, soundless screams issuing from his mouth, a dark stain growing on his pants.

"Off you go then."

He was gone before Mr. C finished speaking.

The two men leaned over Ice as life left him. "You should know better than to mess with old people, boy." The tentacles from their mouths reached down to lap the blood on his face. "You won't ever do it again."

Short Stories

Time Machine Redux

Time Machine Redux

(This story was written for a humor anthology set in the Apocalyptic Universe invented by Yard Dog Press and Selina Rosen. Unfortunately after 5 revisions over a year I still could not cut it down to the 5K maximum word count. Started out at 9K. 6700 was as good as it got. Never submitted it. So instead I give it to you. It is in the form of a pastiche. Enjoy!)

I wasn't overtly perturbed when we found out our host was not yet home. The Psychologist, the Editor, the Doctor, the Journalist, and the Silent Man (though why in creation he was invited I will never know), and I were more than happy to start supper without him.

The roast was succulent, the smell of it infusing the room long before Mrs. Watchett brought in the platter. Dessert jiggled beneath the new fangled incandescent light bulbs our missing host had blabbered about the month before. I'd almost forgotten about him until one of the others decided to speculate on his absence. Half jokingly, I suggested he was out 'time traveling'.

At the raised eyebrows of Editor and Journalist, the Psychologist stepped in to try and explain 'the ingenious paradox and trick' we'd witnessed the week before.

In the midst of the discussion, with plenty of interruptions from the Doctor, I happened to notice the door from the corridor open. "You're here at last!"

My smile faltered at our host's bedraggled appearance - hair mussed, vest ripped, mud spattered on his pants. His face was pale and drawn. There were also dark stains on his muted yellow shirt.

The Doctor shot to his feet. "Good God, man, are you wounded?" Everyone's attention was now riveted on our host.

He waved a dirty hand in our direction. "No, I'm fine."

"But your shirt!"

He looked down at himself, somewhat dazed. "Oh, that's not blood. It's barbecue sauce."

The Journalist's eyes shone, a small notebook and pencil already in hand. "That's more than just vinegar and pepper, sir. Is it a new invention?"

Our host ignored him. "Gentlemen, I'm going to go wash and make myself presentable. Then I'll come down and explain things…"

We watched him shuffle off, still stunned by his current state.

When he finally did reappear, he looked more the proper southern gentleman. Yet a weight still seemed to hang about his person.

"So, tell us, where have you been?" I asked, my curiosity grown even more piqued than before.

"All in good time." He stared at the others for a moment. "Why don't we retire to the smoking room? I think we would all find it more comfortable there."

Being well acquainted with the place, I took it upon myself to bring out the brandy and pass snifters all around. The Traveler cradled his, but did not drink. An old battered book sat in his lap. From my location I could see the title - 'Time Platform - How I plan to save my sanity from country idjits or die trying.'

"You were 'time traveling', weren't you?" I didn't realize the question was mine until I spoke it.

Our host gave me a pleased smile. "Yes, indeed I was."

"You don't actually expect us to believe this tomfoolery, do you?" The Editor glanced at the rest to include us in the statement. The light from the incandescent bulbs glinted brightly off the Silent Man's glasses from where he sat in a corner.

"I don't care what you believe, as long as you allow me to tell my tale." His gaze turned to steel. "Will you allow me to tell it, sir? Without interruption?"

The Editor looked on him for a long moment then nodded. "Agreed."

The Traveler took a sip of his drink.


After the meeting I had conducted with some of you last week, I spent all my energies to finish the full sized machine. Finally at ten o'clock this very morning, I conducted my first trip.

Stocking the engine and making sure the Flux Capacitor was in place, I climbed into the saddle. I reached forward to put my right hand on the starting lever and my left on the stopping one. My pulse raced, my hammering heart trying to match the pattern of the engine.

Before I could succumb to doubts and what ifs, I pressed the first lever forward and almost immediately after, the second.

My insides felt like they jumped forward. The room grew dark. Mrs. Wachett walked in and traversed the room to the garden door, looking for me. This should have taken her a minute or more to do, to my perception she zoomed about the room and was gone in moments.

Filled with wonder, I pushed the lever to its extreme position. Every breath brought more and more speed until night and day passed faster than a black wing flapped before the eyes and then turned into a constant twilight grayness.

The walls disappeared as if snapped from existence. A pressure built against me as if I were being thrust forward.

I glanced down at the dials and saw the hands registering the machine's speed indicate it was going faster and faster. My surroundings built up and fell away like ribbons in the wind, others blinking in and out of existence before I could even register they were ever there.

Curiosity grew inside me as the machine continued to hurl into futurity until it became a need which must be satisfied. I pushed the stopping lever forward even as I pulled back on the other.

To my shock and momentary horror, the machine bucked beneath me like a crazed horse and sent me flying. There was a loud clap of thunder and I hit the ground. Dazed, I tried to get up and for the first time got a look at my new surroundings.

Lush vegetation filled my field of vision, broad leafed plants and springy grass, made of a green so deep it seemed surreal.

"Here!" "No, here!" "Here." "Here." "No, no, here!"

I took a step back trying to figure out which direction the voices were coming from. "Hello?"

"Over there." "No, over there." "Over there, over there!"

The voices echoed from every direction but I couldn't look everywhere at once. What would the man of the future look like? What amazing things would they be able to show me?

Three arrived in the small clearing at the same time. They stopped, eyes wide, ogling me. I studied them back. There looked to be two males and one female. Both males were husky and sported scraggly beards, though both looked not far from having achieved puberty. They wore light blue thick cloth pants that continued up over the chest and were held up by what appeared to be short suspenders. Strangely shaped hats covered their heads -- they sat like bowls, directly on the cranium, and sported a bill, which would keep the sunlight out of the eyes.

The female was younger than the two males, a child really, and though she didn't have a hat, her clothing was identical to the males except for being pink. All three wore clunky shoes and no stockings.

Curiosity shone in their faces and they didn't seem to be afraid of me, though I was a stranger.


All three stared, their eyes scrunching as if my speech were unfamiliar. Then one of the boys straightened up. A grin spread across his face showing a couple of empty spaces where teeth would normally have been. "Howdy!"

The other two then grinned as well and echoed what I hoped was a greeting. I didn't recognize the word.

"Would you happen to be able to speak English?" Communication was one of the many problems of time travel I'd not actually thought to consider until that very moment.

This time it was the girl who answered. "We talk American!"

American? I was an American, to be sure, but I spoke English. Perhaps something had been lost in translation.


I snapped around at the shout. Three more young natives had arrived and were currently touching and climbing into the time traveling machine. My heart gave a small lurch of panic as they scrambled over it, knowing it was my only means to get home. "No, please, don't touch anything!"

I tried to wave them away, quickly making my way over to the machine.


I unscrewed the two short levers and placed them in my pocket. Without those, they wouldn't be able to start the machine. I hoped the casing over the engine and the rest would protect the Flux Capacitor from any further curious probing.

"Can you take me to your parents? Your leader, perhaps?" I was forced to smack the hand of the boy who'd declared the lever a Shiny when I caught him trying to sneak a hand into my pocket. "Bad boy."

The young man backed away, putting his smarting fingers in his mouth, looking like a pup disciplined for making a mess.

"He talks and looks funny." One of the girls giggled, while the boys outright guffawed.

I stared at them in some shock, never having expected beings of the future to be rude. "Where do you live? Do you have a home?"

"Take him home!" Soon they were all bouncing up and down. "Take him home! Take him home!"

They started herding me in a particular direction, though all I could see was foliage all around. I glanced back toward the machine, determined to try and recall where it was so I could return to it when need be.

Before long, the foliage decreased and opened up onto a small valley. Below were large rectangular structures, glinting like metal in the sun, set in a gigantic circle about a huge domed building with a bell encased at the top. As they came closer, I noticed that porches were attached to many of the strange metal edifices, with rocking chairs sitting inside them. These must be futuristic homes.

Rusting sculptures sat in front of some of the houses mounted on what appeared to be large blocks. Dogs of all ages and sizes lay lazily on the porches or amidst the odd sculptures. Cows and a few bulls roamed the area without fear. A few even wore hats.

The smell of cooking meat suffused the air. Meat and something sweeter, something which I could not identify. The children led me around the large dome to where an open walled structure rested. The building was full of people, all busily tending fires set in small black grills, vegetables and meat cooking away, gobs of a reddish substance smeared over all of them.

"Who that?" This came from an old bent man who spotted us first.

"Who that who?" Several faces now turned in our direction. Like a ripple on the surface of a lake from a thrown stone, more and more of them swiveled to look our way. As if a homogeneous whole, they removed themselves from the building and surrounded me.

The males wore clothing like the children but in a much darker blue. Most had beards and mustaches that draped over their chests, almost like badges of honor. The women wore shifts with different prints, indecently exposing their ankles and knees, even their arms! All seemed healthy for the most part, except a few whose breath could have stunned a bull into immobility. I quickly made sure to stay as far away from these as possible.

All in all, there looked to be about two hundred souls living in the community.

"You a Holy One?" A pregnant woman leaned in close. Several others were suddenly also invading the immediate space around me, as if only now thinking of this possible new aspect.

"No, no, I'm not. I am only a traveler."

"Sure he ain't. Don't look right. Don't smell right." It was the old bent man. He kept lightly smacking some of the others with his stick to keep them from getting in his way. I was very tempted to do the same. Hands kept reaching out to touch my clothes, my hands, face, and hair.

"Give the feller some room!" The old man swung the stick a little harder. Everyone else slowly backed off, their faces still shining with childlike curiosity.

The elder came close and took a sniff. "Nope, not ripe."

"Are you their leader?"

The old man kept sniffing. "Hm, something else though…" Suddenly a look of utter terror crossed his face. "The food! The food's a BURNING!"

Screams filled the area and a massive stampede headed toward the open sided building and the grills.

The children, which now numbered at least a dozen, ringed me in again and moved me along as they sang. "Food's a burning, food's a burning!"

Sturdy tables were lined up parallel to each other and it was here the children took me. They asked no questions, their curiosity seemingly satisfied just watching me breathe. I couldn't help but feel like one of those malformed oddities displayed at cheap carnivals for pennies.

I tried posing some inquiries, but the children either didn't know the answers or what they told me made little to no sense. I was thinking of trying to go to the adults and ask my questions there when they all gave a loud whoop and poured out of the structure with platters and platters of food.

"Napkins?" I glanced hopefully at the man who sat beside me.

The latter gave me a confused look, and tore into a set of ribs with his teeth. I quickly inched a little farther from him.

Not wanting to insult my hosts, regardless of their seeming lack of etiquette, I removed an ear of corn slathered in the red sauce, just like everything else on the platters. With the tip of a finger, I scooped a sample of the paste then took a taste. The concoction was tangy and sweet and not altogether unpleasant. I took a bite of the corn. Perfection.

Red covered teeth grinned in my direction as I took another bite. While we ate, several men left the area and after a few minutes came back pushing a huffing and puffing machine of some sort. A great whoop came from the diners at the sight of it.

Shallow cups were stacked next to the machine and a clear liquid spewed from the tubes into them. Flashes of long nights in college labs and experiments with fermentation flashed through my mind.

Intrigued by this show of technology, I stood, and having little choice, licked my fingers then wiped them on my shirt, before going to take a look at the mechanism.

As my gaze roamed over the large tank, the feet of copper tubing, valves, and more, one of those standing pushed one of the filled cups into my hand. "Drink up, drink up!"

Again, trying not to offend my hosts, I did as I was bid. Surely their alcoholic inventions could not compare with those of my youth. I took a swallow.

The last thing I remember was liquid fire ripping my throat and the pervading sensation that my head had left my body.


I woke up to bright sunlight, my head pounding as if anvils were being dropped on it from above, my mouth tasting of mothballs. With a groan, I sat up, wiping away at the spittle dribbling from the corner of my mouth.

Only too vividly did I now recollect why I had sworn moonshine from my life in that final year at Harvard.

I stood up and instantly wished I'd never moved. The valley spun and dipped but eventually settled back into its proper place.

It was time to go home. I'd had my fill of the future. I was ready for some true civilization. I stumbled my way back to where I left the time machine.

Except, it was gone.


Chilling panic vibrating through my bones, I searched for any signs of where it might have gone.

Twin tracks on the ground indicated it was pushed toward the northwest. Like a drowning man after a life preserver, I pressed through the foliage to track it.

After what seemed like hours though I only moved a few feet, I stubbed my toe on a set of bronze doors sitting even with the ground. The tracks ended right in front of them. I could only assume the machine had been taken inside, yet I could not find a way to open the doors. Their bronze surface was unmarred except for a strange symbol etched on its surface of a tri-foil around a circle.

I fell to my knees, holding my head in my hands, despair and my headache bashing at me.

I glanced up searching for God or inspiration, when I noticed the white towering building resting mere feet from the doors. Previously hidden by the foliage, the thin building rose higher and higher before me ending in a strange metal half sphere, giving the impression of an open flower.

Rushing to the building, I moved around it looking for an opening. I didn't locate one, but did find my attention drawn to echoing sounds of laughter and moving water. Might the Ohio River still exist after all this time?

I drifted in that direction, hoping against hope those playing by the water might have some idea of what happened to the time machine.

"Dare ya!" "Double dare ya!" "Tri, uh, qua, uh, dare ya too!"

One of the girls was wading out into the river while the others watched. As I approached, the girl waved at the others then gave a sharp squeal and sank out of sight for a moment. She resurfaced sputtering water. "Owie! Cramp! Owie!"

She was drowning, yet much to my shock, none of her fellows made a move to help, but laughed at her instead. Had humanity truly degraded so far? Rushing to the edge, I kicked off my shoes and removed my vest before throwing myself in the river after her.

I found her in quick order, and grabbing her, dragged her back.

We both crawled gasping onto the shore. As I tried to regain my breath, I took a closer look at the girl. Straw colored hair was plastered onto a common looking round face. She wore a dress like the women and the wet material had been rendered almost invisible and clung alluringly to her maturing form. Heat rushed to fill my neck and face as well as other places, and I quickly turned away from the sight.

"Thank you much! I am Weena May."

My surprise at her gratitude, since I was coming to think of these people as containing few if any civilized emotions, changed to mortification as she suddenly rubbed against me like a cat.

"Ah, yes, glad to be of service." Gently but firmly, I pushed her away. "Since I have helped you, will you help me?"

"Yes, yes, Weena May help!" She stared at me with obvious adoration. "Do anything you want!"

I turned away again, clearing my throat, hoping the day's heat would dry her dress quickly.

"Do you know how to open the big, bronze doors?" I led her to the tower and the doors where the trail of the time machine ended.

"No, no, no. Leave alone. Holy Ones say no, no, no. Danger." She backed away from the place. "Weena May hungry. Come eat."

"I need to get in this door," I insisted.

"No, no, no. Hungry. Eat. Now?" She stared at me imploringly.

Perhaps some of the older folk would have more information. "All right. Let's go back and eat."

With a shrill giggle of pleasure, Weena May grabbed my hand and we sped back to the valley. Leftovers from the previous night's feast were set on platters in the covered area, people walking in and out taking whatever caught their fancy. I stared at the food with distaste, especially with the flies buzzing about. Tubs of sauce were set by the platters next to large spoons. Many of those there ladled on more of the reddish substance to the already covered fare.

Again I caught no sign of napkins and was once more relegated to licking my fingers and wiping off anything else left on my ruined shirt.

"Like barbecue? Good, yes?" Weena May gave me a sauce covered smile.

"Ah, yes. It's lovely…" Soon all I could taste was the tangy sauce. It didn't matter what I ate, it all had the same flavor.

When I could stand no more, I tried talking to some of the others. Most smiled at me indulgently and attempted to answer questions until I asked about the doors or the Holy Ones. "Bad place. Not for you. Bad place!" Weena May echoed these sentiments with them every single time.

In disgust, I made my way back to the doors, searching the nearby area for fallen tree limbs I might use to try to pry the doors open.

My efforts to open the doors were wasted. Broken tree limbs lay scattered around the area, blisters and cuts covered my hands, but the doors remained intact. Weena May watched my efforts in silence, her knees drawn up to her chest. As the sun lowered in the horizon, I gave up my efforts and allowed her to lead me back to the valley.

More food was cooked, but luckily no sign of the demon moonshine machine was seen. Yet I noted a vein of excitement rising about the people, one word coming up over and over through the din - revival.

A bell rang. All those around me jumped to their feet in glee. It was the bell atop the large dome that took up the zone in front of the cooking area.

Weena May grabbed my arm and dragged me along as all the citizens of the valley, including the dogs, rushed around the dome. Large wooden doors were spread wide welcoming us all into the interior.

Benches were set in long rows before a raised stage and a pulpit, making me believe it must be a church of some kind. I stared about in confusion, sitting down beside Weena May as the bell ringing stopped and blaring music poured down over us seemingly out of nowhere. I covered my ears, the metallic thrumming beating through my brain. All the citizens were on their feet, swaying lightly from side to side. Though it began only as a murmur at first, two words were said over and over and slowly grew in intensity. "Holy One, Holy One, Holy One."

I jumped as a flash of light and smoke blasted from the stage. Everyone around me started yelling with glee, especially as a figure slid across the stage on his knees, wearing an orange and yellow jeweled suit that appeared to almost glow in the light. He even bore a pair of spectacles that appeared to shimmer, the actual lenses dark as night.

"Hello, Louisville!" The figure flashed a grin with a curled lip out to the audience and bobbed his head up and down while holding out both hands with the fingers extended except for the middle two, which were curled in, gold rings flashing on his fingers.

As the man stood up amidst enthusiastic cheering from those there, I realized there was something wrong with him. Yes, his hair was too long and slicked back with grease, yes, his clothes were so bright they hurt the eyes, but there was more. His skin was pale, too pale. His paleness somehow screamed of wrongness, of something dead. Yet there he stood, swaying and moving his hips around to the pounding music, as mobile as any of the rest of them.

"Holy One, Holy One, Holy One!"

"Yes, my brothers and sisters of soul, I am here! And the test results are in, children. We know who's been naughty, and who's been nice, even as the Big Guy rolls the dice! DNA for the win!"

Though the Holy One's words were clear, if one ignored his thick ungenteel Georgia accent, they made little sense to me. And if I couldn't understand his words, what about the others? Yet none of them seemed bothered by this in the least.

"When I call your name, please come up on stage." From inside the folds of the bright suit, the Holy One removed a folded piece of blue paper. "Doodle Bug, Martha Lee, and Neena Sue!"

I pressed forward, making my way closer to the stage, my gaze riveted on the Holy One. Those in the room cheered and trumpets blasted from the walls as the three chosen children rushed their way up to the stage.

"Welcome to geekdom and more, kids!" The Holy One took a white sheet from another pocket, and peeling away a square from it, pasted one on each of the children's chests. Squinting as I got close, I saw that each had writing on it - Hi! My name is - and then the child's name.

"All right folks! Now for our second group of winners this evening! The greatly coveted Dinner Menu position! Are you all ready to find out who won? Are you?"

The crowd and the walls roared.

"I can't hear you!"

The crowd roared again.

"Then let's get on with it, shall we?" From yet another pocket, the Holy One withdrew a red note. "Billy Bob, Ned, Drucilla Ann, Joe Bob, and last but not least, Bugger! Come on down!"

The more I watched the Holy One, the more convinced I became there was something very wrong with him. The man didn't seem to be breathing.

The winners screamed like banshees and rushed to the stage knocking their fellows around in their hurry. While the children picked earlier appeared relatively normal and in good health, this new group looked like candidates for town idiot - complete with recessed foreheads, drool, missing teeth, vacant stares.

As before, the Holy One went from one to the other placing paper on their chests. Unlike the others, these said only 'Dinner Menu' and nothing else.

"Let's give a hand to the winners now." The Holy One clapped and everyone else followed. "That's what I'm talking about! Booyah!"

Trumpets flared once more from the walls followed by a high piercing whistle.

"Oh! Does everyone know what time it is?" The Holy One stared out expectantly at the audience.

"Noise Time!"

"That's right! It's Communion Time! Where we partake of the Holy Drink in preparation to heeding His Commands!"

The backdrop curtain on stage parted and a huge red and white container, rolled out into view. A large mug dangled invitingly from a large spigot.

"Now everyone line up from that end. There's plenty for all so no shoving or pushing!"

Giggling and laughing with anticipation, the people headed off to the left to do as they were told. I watched the natives take their turns at the spigot. Foam formed in the mug each time the Holy One let the liquid flow. It was of a brownish color. Soft encouragements of 'chug, chug, chug' rang out each time one of them went to drink. And invariably, when the drinker was done, a great belch would escape from them to echo in the tall room. They seemed in earnest as to who could make the biggest and loudest belch.

Civilization was truly gone.

The giggling and laughter increased as more and more of them received their turn. Many hopped from foot to foot as if no longer able to stay still. A few shook as if gripped by an outside force. My nose wrinkled as the burps filled the air with a sickly sweet smell. As soon as the last one drank, a big cheer went up and more fanfare rang from the walls. The red and white container disappeared back from whence it came.

Strangers then appeared from behind the curtain, as pasty white as the Holy One, but dressed in subdued colors. As one, they began herding the winners of both contests off the stage and toward the open doors.

The natives pushed the benches toward the walls, a feeling of rising expectation filling the room.

"All right my children! You have done well. Now let's follow the Lord's commandments and do our duty. You have burped and been filled with the holy glory which is Coca Cola, now you must do your part and reproduce at will! Be yea plentiful!"

And as if a switch were thrown on one of Edison's new incandescent light bulbs, the natives fell on each other like ravening dogs.

I felt my knees go weak and slid down the wall as clothes flew everywhere and flesh pounded against flesh. The Holy One laughed like a loon and came off the stage head bobbing and his hands raised high in the same strange configuration as before. "Breed and multiply, baby. Breed and multiply! Thank you, thank you very much!"

I ducked down and hiding behind the shoved benches, struggled to follow the Holy One out of the hall. I had the feeling it was him and his fellows who took my machine. And at the moment I wanted nothing more than to escape this insanity of a future.

I'd almost made it to the open doors when someone grabbed my arm. My heart jumped into my throat then eased back down as I saw it was only Weena May. That is until I realized she was as undressed as all the rest.

"You, me, you, me!" She bounced up and down her budding attributes making my Adam's apple bob as I swallowed hard, truly trying not to stare.

"I - I musn't. I can't!" I pushed her away harder than I meant to and she landed on the floor, tears springing to her eyes. A hand landed on her leg and pulled her back into the massive throng of wavering skin.

I stumbled out into the darkness, my heart heavy. Shaking my head, I made sure not to look back, instead scanning before me for some sign of the Holy One. Luck was with me. Far ahead, I saw the moonlight shine off something orange. The strangely dressed man was headed in the direction of the mysterious bronze doors.

By the time I reached the tower and the doors in the ground, there was no one there. The doors, however, were still open. And from a lone light suffused to the wall, I could see the time machine, sitting alone and forlorn inside at the end of a long steep ramp.

Though the back of my neck prickled upon looking at the deserted place, I didn't hesitate. No sooner did I go inside, though, that the doors clanged shut behind me.

I rushed toward the machine. I straddled the seat and was reaching for the knobs in my pocket, when I was seized from behind. "Let go of me!"

Two of the pale men dragged me off the machine though I struggled against them. My kicks and jabs had no effect on them whatsoever. Their hands were cold, their mouths rancid. Corpses walked the earth.

"Now, now, there's no reason to be violent. We're all intelligent beings here, aren't we?" The Holy One stood before me and gave me what I assumed he considered a friendly smile. The stench coming off the dead man made my stomach turn.

"Let him go, boys. Our guest here will behave, won't you?"

I straightened my clothes when I was released. I was still a gentleman. "As you wish, sir."

"Oh, but I do." The Holy One put his arm through mine as if we were old friends. "Come this way."

I tried my best not to cringe at the contact. I gave a swift glance behind me as I was led away from my only means of escape. "What do you want with me?"

"Oh, not much, really."

We turned a corner and I gasped. A massive room stretched out before us, wide corridors heading off in different directions. Large machines hummed softly, lights blinking over them in dizzying patterns, managing who knew what marvels. Pipes and colored wiring covered the ceiling and wound off in different directions. Open carriages inside clear tubes rushed by with incredible speed to destinations unknown. For a moment, I forgot I'd been unwillingly brought here, my imagination soaring. This, this was the type of future I'd hoped to find.

"This is but a drop in the bucket, my friend. Our tunnels and manufacturing centers run throughout the entire planet. A natural utopia topside and a technological paradise inside. A balanced ecological system. Perfection."

I felt a shiver travel up my spine. "But you're not…"

"Alive? Human? Oh, but we are! We're just more evolved -- the crème of the crop." He pointed them down the corridor on the right. "Did you have much of the local fare?"

"Some," I admitted. "Is that a problem?"

"No, no problem. It just means we'll need to wait for it to flush out of your system. While the sauce is quite useful for keeping the stock immune to the Yuppie 25 virus, you won't be needing it. Evolution is in your future. You see, that machine of yours is utterly fascinating. We want to learn all about it. We even have a betting pool going to see whose theories come closest to what it actually does."

I shivered again, not liking the cold dead stare from behind the dark spectacles of the Holy One. "What, what is it you intend to do with the children and the others? Though I tried to slow our pace, knowing the farther I got away from my machine the more difficulty I would have returning to it, the Holy One kept tugging me forward.

"The children are tested every few years and those showing exceptional aptitude are chosen." The Holy One did a little skip. "This year the results yielded were phenomenal. Three children above the minimum range! Three. We're all atwitter!" He sent me a sly look. "Now they will become our children. They'll be fed nutritious meals without that awful barbecue sauce. They'll be educated, groomed, taught to appreciate the finer things, and then, when they reach their twenty-first birthday, we will share our secret of immortality with them and push them to the next level."

"And the others?"

"Well, let's just say they're not adding anything to the gene pool and will not be missed once they are served."

Fear left me cold. All I could think of was how the papers on their chests had read 'Dinner Menu'.

"Wooooooooo! Ned, go woooooo!"

One of the adult winners of the evening came around a corner, showing his pipe and taters. With a giddy smile on his face, he ran straight for us. "Hooooollllyyyy Ooooonnnneeeeee!"

"Stop, you!" One of the pale ones appeared from the same corner, heaving a meat cleaver in one hand.

Ned grabbed the Holy One and spun him in a circle giggling. Before the other two with them could grab hold, Ned rushed off again, leaving behind only the light scent of olive oil and paprika. They started after him.

As the Holy One reached for the wall to steady himself, I saw my chance and bolted.

At the main room, I angled left. My heart rate jumped as I saw the most glorious sight ever. Above the opening to the ramp which would lead to my freedom was a glowing sign with the word 'exit' in large red letters. It was a remarkable invention indeed!

"Forget him! Catch the other one, the other one!"

I put on a burst of speed at hearing the Holy One's words. I already had the levers out of my pocket as I leaped to straddle the time machine. Losing no time at all, I shoved the lever forward after screwing it on.

"No! Stop!"

The familiar thrumming of the machine's engine coursed beneath me and the world began to change. I slumped forward in relief, only then daring to glance behind me. The great machines could still be seen in the distance, though there was no longer any sign of the others.

I kept the lever pushed forward for a long time. Cautiously, I pushed the breaking lever and slowed my journey eventually coming to a stop.

Not taking any time to really look about, I got off the machine and began pushing it back to what I hoped would be close to its original location.

The ground shook beneath me, but I still refused to look, determined only to achieve my goal. As soon as I felt I was where I should be, I hopped back on the machine and pulled the lever backwards. Only then did I look up. I almost lost my grip on the lever at what I saw.

It was a giant apparatus, stomping around on three legs, the large green eye at its front peering down at me.

I felt the time machine's effect kick in just as a red beam of light flashed from the eye in my direction. Reflexively I covered my face with my free arm, but I need not have bothered. I was unharmed.

I didn't move the stopping lever again until the dials on the time machine told me I was home.


The room was quiet for several minutes as the Traveler's tale came to an end. A jittered laugh from the Journalist finally broke the silence. I sat in my chair not daring to trust my legs to hold me up if I tried to stand.

"Well, I dare say," intoned the Psychologist, "quite a fancy tale you've spun for us this evening."

"It is nothing but the truth!" The Traveler's hands shook. He touched his face. "Though here, in this place, it does make it harder to believe, and I'm the one who lived it!" He clutched at the book in his lap.

"Did you bring back any proof?" the Doctor asked.

The Traveler stared at him for a moment and then shook his head. "Aside from the stains from the sauce on my clothes, I have nothing. There was no time!"

A knowing look passed between the Editor and the Journalist. I could tell those two believed not a word.

"Why don't we leave you to rest for now, my friend," I suggested. "Things will look clearer in the morning, I am sure."

"Yes, yes, as you say. Go, leave me." He waved us all out, still clutching the book. "It was so much worse than he foretold. He must have failed…"

Somewhat hesitantly, we took our leave as he continued to mumble to himself.

The next morning found me back at the house at a rather early hour, which was totally unusual for me, but I'd barely been able to sleep a wink since hearing his tale the night before.

I found the Traveler pacing, looking as disturbed as I felt.

"Ah, you've come!" He rushed forward and shook my hand in greeting. "Now that I'm home, I've been able to do nothing but think of what occurred to me, of what I saw, of the doom looming over mankind in his future."

I couldn't admit to him that what kept me up most of the night was trying to picture the orgy at the revival - all that exposed flesh weaving and waving.

"I must go back, back to the future! I must see if I can find exactly when things began to go wrong."

He waved the mysterious battered book at me. "Will you wait for me? I will come back to this very day if not this very hour once my purpose is served."

"I, I, yes, of course." What else could I have said?

"I will see you very soon." And with that, he was gone.

I fretted for a moment, still daunted by what he wished to attempt, if indeed anything he'd told us was true. I decided I would try and talk him out of this fool's errand.

As I opened the door, I caught a glimpse of the machine and him sitting atop it, yet as I watched, both grew rapidly indistinct and in moments were gone.

Though I waited for him, the truth of all he'd told ringing in my heart, he did not return. It's been three years from the time when he departed on that voyage, yet nary a word has been heard from him since.

But I have not been idle. No, indeed. For on that very first day, before Mrs. Watchett could secure the laundry, I retrieved the only sample of a means for humanity's possible salvation - this strange red substance called barbecue sauce.

One way or another, humanity would be saved.

The End

Windows published at 4 Star Stories Online Magazine.