The Long Road

The Long Road

by

Christopher Thomas

https://42bitpi.net

This book is not for everyone. It may not be for you.

For Responsible People That Can Think!

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

This book is short stories for people with short attention spans. Read them all in one sitting or indivudually and think about them.

Each chapter is a short story

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

About the Author

Chapter One

Space Disaster

The launch is scheduled for T minus five minutes,” the project coordinator said into the bullhorn. Jack looked at his watch and noticed that they were running twenty seconds late; not a good sign for this kind of project. It had been ten years in the making, the first trip outside the solar system using dark energy as fuel.

It was considered by some that the dark energy would be safer not to mention the fact it’s a few thousand times faster than conventional rockets. Jack, who was to pilot the ship would be the first to make such a trip. They assured Jack that everything would be tolerable, the testing in the labs showed no signs of danger to the mission or human kind.

The time for doubts was two weeks ago, before the project was given the final green light; now they are 100% dedicated to moving forward regardless of being right or wrong. This project means everything to Jack and his crew of a hundred and three space cowboys.

We’re looking at T minus three minutes,” the project coordinator said this time in the PA system that was also piped to the crowds outside the launch site. There were several thousand people outside to watch this launch and billions of people watching television anywhere possible.

Jack and his team made the necessary preparations last week, the final check list to be followed during the launch sequence. Right now, they are on line number 222 which is the point of no return for Jack and his crew. Once the quarks are released into the dark energy booster the ship must take off or risk blowing up.

Jack who knows he has a limited amount of time says, “Were on line two hundred and twenty-two. Should anyone have reason to abort the mission, speak now or forever hold thy peace.” The line was silent. Jack waited five seconds and flipped the switch to release the quarks into the dark energy booster. ’Now the ship will lift off regardless of the count down,’ Jack thought to himself.

This left just five lines in his checklist, he waited for the ships computer system to show the temperature of the dark energy booster; the digital LED from the computer read: ’330k’ the dark matter would reach ’500k’ in just ten more seconds. Jack waited. “Were looking at T minus one minute for lift off,” the project coordinator said into the PA system.

Jack thought, ’less than that’ as the dark energy booster reached max temp and Jack flipped the final switch which ignited the dark matter, quarks, and oxygen in a blast that lifted the sixty-ton space carrier from the ground at a rate of a hundred miles per second.

The crowds weren’t disappointed, the show was unbelievable. One second the space carrier was on the ground the next second it was in outer space. Mission control was still counting down from nineteen, someone had the brains to turn the countdown off Jack had jumped the gun so to speak. Guess he was a bit antsy to get going, they were twenty seconds behind schedule and the time wouldn’t wait.

Once in orbit of the planet, the crew could plan for a long-haul space ride of over a billion miles, for which they would release the first booster into outer space and really light up the second dark matter booster. Checklists were followed, lights and switches were turned on and off as needed, everyone was alert and awake.

Jack was on the com link, “Please prepare for separation of first and second stage boosters, be sure we only disconnect stage one booster.” Check marks were made on paper and knobs turned to the right spot, plastic shielded switches were uncovered and switches flipped to on. Jack’s crew chief, Dan was on the com link and said, “Are we ready for separation, we show the green light and need verbal conformation on this one.” Kate, the ship specialist looked at her checklist and then the instrument panel. She double checked it and said on the com link, “We have no problems in separating the stage one booster. You’re a go.

Dan looked at Jack and said, “We’re good to go. When you’re ready.” Jack checked the temp on the stage one booster once again, it looked cold enough. Jack turned the com link on and said, “Releasing stage one booster now.” He waited five seconds and flipped the switch, the ship didn’t bounce an inch when the stage one booster was released.

Crew, please prepare for ignition of stage two booster. Please double check our flight sheet and the instrument panels, so we don’t have any screw ups. Thanks.” Jack signed off and closed his eyes for ten seconds. ’This is the part where we find out if we’re any good.’ Jack thought to himself.

Jack got on the radio and spoke with mission control, “Looks like we’re good to go, stage one booster has been released and we’re looking at lighting stage two booster now. How did the launch look from earth? It was a hell of a ride for us!” mission control came back on and said, “Good work guys, looks like a successful launch to us.” Jack opened the radio link again and said, “We will call you back after our next separation.” Mission control said, “Roger that.

The flight team made the final adjustments for the second dark energy booster to be lit up, Dan looks at Jack and says, “We’re looking at less than two minutes.” Jack went through the check list and flight plan of how to light the second booster.

Two minutes later....

Preparation of dark energy stage two booster complete, all checklists are go.” Kate confirmed as Jack reached out and uncovered the switch that would ignite the stage two booster, ’I have an awful feeling about this.’ Jack thought to himself, he opened the com link and asked, “Anyone think this is a bad idea?” the line was silent, he waited a full twenty seconds and no one said a word. With that he committed to flipping the switch.

The view from earth told the story best, thank god we didn’t all burn that day, there was a fire in the sky; all space was on fire and burning. It didn’t last longer than two days, the whole universe actually burned down, yet somehow stayed afloat. Now the sky is yellow, we shall never forget the men and women of space carrier #2048.

Chapter Two

To Error Is Human

The computer had been spitting out garbage for the last half an hour, the computer operator noted that to really screw things up requires a computer. They used to keep track of people on paper with check boxes and roman numerals. Now days the computers were keeping track of everything and only printing reports as needed. However, the last few weeks it seems every report was just a garbage mess, they didn’t make any sense. The man who operated the computer called tech support and asked someone to come in and tune the reports again so they could make sense of the last month’s reports.

Alex isn’t the computer operator, he isn’t even the tech support. Alex is Amber’s boyfriend unofficially and off the record. They meet in random places and ask each other for a name and find some excuse to go off and have fun when they’re not riding motorcycles together. You see both Alex and Amber live in a time when dating is not permitted, they are both to be married to different people by a pre-arranged system that is way out dated. They do however love each other, so it’s all good as far as they are concerned.

The computers that keep track of who and where people are work off a twenty-seven-digit pin in the mobile phone everyone now carries. People are tracked based upon proximity to each other’s phones, and the reporting detects people that spend too much time together. What most people don’t know is that Amber is a computer hacker and Alex built a box that scrambles the twenty-seven-digit pin code into a different number every time their phones enter a hundred-foot proximity.

Alex figures they can see each other a few thousand times before they must either get new IDs or figure out a way to get married. Amber keeps track of patterns to make sure things stay random and chaotic, Alex makes sure the bikes are tuned and in tip top shape. The computer operator doesn’t know it, the data being spit out of the computer system in number nine south west is accurate, but no one in their right mind would believe it. Amber’s program makes sure that the reports always show her leaving just five minutes before Alex ever enters the area. Sometimes it’s true if you count where Alex was a week ago and where Amber is now.

Alex is headed north by north west, Amber is headed west and fast. At over a hundred and thirty miles an hour she’s the fastest thing on the road; maybe except for Alex who is doing one hundred ninety-eight.

Alex in his spare time works as a water garden sculptor, which his clients pay premium prices for his service of knowing how to create the most Zen garden with koi imaginable. His current project has been on the clock for some three thousand hours, he spends his time putting the perfect finish on the black rock that makes the water falls look like black ice. Before he’s finished he will have used 1/2 ton of black rock and about 2 tons of rock and pebbles in a ten thousand square foot area with a large koi pond at the bottom.

Amber’s family is independently wealthy, old money so they say; Amber spends her time in books, writing letters to friends, and dreading her upcoming marriage in just two years. She has no idea who they have her paired with and she doesn’t want to think about it, all she cares about is seeing Alex again, and riding on her motorcycle. Alex hasn’t received his notice of marriage, however he’s due for it any day now.

Chapter Three

Strange Boring Story

It was a plain day, the sky was blue, there were no clouds to speak of. The wind it blew lightly from the west, birds fluttered from place to place, sometimes to a tree, sometimes to a shrub. The blue sky filled the air down to the ground, yet we only saw clear air between objects. There was a man, he wasn’t happy, though you couldn’t tell it because he was feigning a smile, really inside he was heartbroken. He wore a gray shirt, that was just big enough for him and the sleeves sometimes were too short. His pants were blue and worn thin from many years of use. The man had dark brown hair, and gray eyes. He was looking at a deck of cards that were black and red, he didn’t want to play the cards, he just wanted to sit and look at them.

The man sat in a chair, it was a plain chair, it had four legs and all of them were touching the ground, which was made of carpet. It was standard blue carpet that had been vacuumed twice in the last three weeks. The carpet was even unhappy, yet no one knew it because carpet isn’t able to speak. The carpet remained silent. The man would often grumble, not really saying words, just making sounds that no one would understand.

Under the carpet there was a floor, it was made of wood. Under the wooden floor there was dirt and foundation that had been laid in place some twenty years ago by strangers whom never met or cared about the man in the gray sweater who was feigning a smile. The man who feigned a smile didn’t even consider the people who had built the house, he cared neither for the house or the carpet.

The room that the man sat in was plain. There were no pictures upon the wall, there were no photos of strangers that graced his wall. He stared at the blank empty wall, it was off white. The man didn’t care about the color of the wall; it wouldn’t amount to anything in the next hundred years what color his wall was. The man was very still, he didn’t move much, the window was open in the room he sat in, sometimes it blew the farts out of the room and outside into the fresh clean air.

The man sat in a room, upon a chair at one end of the room. There was nothing at the other end of the room, except a small table, it was a wooden table with four legs that sat on the carpet. The table didn’t care about the carpet, or the floor, or the house. The man didn’t give a shit about the table in the room at the other end of the room. It wouldn’t make a bit of difference in a million years if that table was there or not. It was a nice table, it had wood grain, and stained in brown which had been finished by a man that lived somewhere else and never met the man in the gray sweater. They didn’t care about each other. Never did, never will.

The man thought he might say some word in some amount of time, and once he finally thought enough time had went by he said, “Yes”, with that nothing else happened within the room. It was strange the ceiling was painted bright yellow, it helped keep the man in the gray shirt from getting too depressed. He never went outside, and for that matter he never left the room he was in except to use the bathroom. Which almost never happened. He had a name, yet it had been so long since anyone had spoken his name he ceased to care if he had a name because there was no one to talk with.

There was a door in the room, it was at the east end of the room opposite the window, the doorway had hinges on it, yet there was no door, the man in the gray sweater had taken the door off and left the door hinges. That had been along time ago. He remembered the day he took the door off, it was a plain day, much like this one where the birds were fluttering from trees to shrubs. The door was not the problem, it opened like any other door would. It closed like any other door would. The problem with the door was it wouldn’t stay half way open or closed.

The man in the gray sweater thought, “That sucks

Time passed....

It was a new day full of blue sky that filled the air from the top of the sky to the ground, yet we only saw clear air between other objects. The man in the gray sweater was awake, he didn’t bother to read the paper, the date of the paper was the same every day he read the paper for some twenty years, he didn’t know that their was only one paper to ever be delivered and everyone got the same paper. It was a regular paper with news in it about other things that no one cared about. The man sat in the chair, which had four legs and rested upon the carpet that the man didn’t give a shit about.

He didn’t bother to think about the meal the people who had built the house had eaten some twenty five years ago, which by the way was made of a tin pale lunch and a warm beer in five days that it took to build that house. The man didn’t care about the beer. It might have been very good beer, the men who built the house had truly enjoyed the beer their wife’s packed for them some twenty five years ago to help them build that house. The men who built that house were now retired, they didn’t know who had lived in that house for all those years, and to be honest they cared more that the beer was good on those days than that the house was there. They didn’t know the man in the gray sweater. The man in the gray sweater didn’t know the men who built the house. The men who built the house were wearing blue shirts the days they made the house, one of them had a second shirt on under the blue shirt, it was a light gray shirt. It wasn’t the same shirt the man in the gray shirt was wearing now, no it was really very different.

Those days when the men built the house the sky was yellow, it wasn’t that odd it had always been yellow. The men didn’t know the sky would turn blue, they didn’t care because when they built the house the beer was good. One day the beer tasted like piss, and the men who built houses decided to no longer build houses. When the men decided to stop building houses, which were made of wood and concrete and other materials, one day the sky turned blue. There was no relationship between the sky turning blue and the men who no longer built houses. The men who built houses started to drink apple juice, it was fine apple juice from places where apple juice grew.

The man sitting in the chair which had four legs on the blue carpet in the room with the yellow ceiling didn’t care the men had drank apple juice from places where apple juice was very good. He really wished the ceiling wasn’t yellow, and matched the sky. He continued to feign a smile and look at the deck of cards.

Then one day the man in the gray sweater, took his shirt off and under the shirt was a white shirt. He had been wearing two shirts this whole time. He didn’t know he was wearing two shirts the whole time he just realized he was wearing two shirts and took one of them off. He felt no different in one shirt than he did in two. Yet the ceiling was still yellow, the man sat on the chair, in a mostly empty room with a window at one end of the room and door at the other end of the room, one day he went to the kitchen. He had only one choice of what to drink, it was water from the sink, or water in the water pail in the refrigerator. He didn’t care which he drank, and so drank from both. It was good water. Someone had been there every day to make the water taste fresh. The man in the white shirt didn’t care enough that the water was fresh, he was tired of looking at the deck of cards, and picked them up and placed them under the chair. He looked around the house until he found something else to look at.

The man found a pack of cigarettes and went back to sit down under the ceiling of yellow sky in the chair that had four legs on blue carpet. He looked at the pack of cigarettes and wondered; the sky was blue and filled the air from the top of the sky to the ground, yet when we looked at things it all appeared to be clear air. The cigarettes didn’t come with matches. The man had only seen cigarettes once a long time ago back when the sky was still yellow. He wondered about the blue sky, he didn’t miss the yellow sky much, he only wished that the ceiling was the same color as the sky.

The man read the instruction on the pack of cigarettes, and went to look for some matches. Not long after he opened the pack of cigarettes and took one out, he then lit the cigarette and let it burn very slowly. He did this twice. Then he read the instructions on the back of the pack of cigarettes and and followed them exactly. Two days later, a painter showed up wearing a painters uniform, he had blue paint. He told the man in the white shirt to spend some time outside in the blue sky while he worked. After he finished and the mess was cleaned up, the man in the white shirt entered the room where the ceiling had been yellow and saw that it was now blue.

The man realized he had a computer in the living room and turned it on, he saw the news, he read the news, he couldn’t believe the news. He walked out side and picked up the paper, it was the same news. The date on the paper had changed. The man was lost in time, and neither the men who built the house and drank beer and apple juice nor the man who painted the ceiling, nor the people who deliver the paper, could remember the last time the sky was blue.

The room which had a chair with four legs on blue carpet, was still there. The ceiling was now blue, which was odd because the sky was now gray and it was impossible that water drops from the top of the sky was falling down.

The man in the white shirt, went outside and took the chair with four legs with him, he sat in the rain and smiled. He waited for it to stop raining, so he could smoke another cigarette outside.

When it finished raining, the sky showed it’s color again, it was yellow, and the man in the white shirt looked in the room where the chair had been and looked at the wall the painter had left, the ceiling was the right color, the walls were green.

That is when the man realized he was in a movie. The director said cut, and everyone took a break. It wasn’t an easy day, but it was a day.

Chapter Four

The lost thoughts of Atlantis

I was having a parallelepiped dream of the people of Atlantis when I heard them ask me quite suddenly if I understood the situation and what I was supposed to do after I awoke. Sure I understood what they were saying but I was having trouble understanding if it were just a dream or if this was stone cold truth looking me in the eye and demanding an answer. I adjusted quickly to what they were asking me and replied, “Yes, I understand.” Then they asked me if I would agree to the terms of this dream in which I was offered a better life than my present life and told that it would cost me everything I had to gain a happy and rewarding life.

I agree to these terms.” I said not knowing if this was a dream or something real. They didn’t respond right away, as if they were discussing it among themselves before giving me an answer, which they finally did after two and a half minutes. They said, “You will be the one selected for this time slot and we expect you to pull you weight through the whole ordeal.” I thought about this for a few seconds and said to them as politely as I could, “I will do everything I can to get from here to there.” They sensed my desires and said rather quickly, “We know that you will do your best.

The memory of my dream was still fully intact when I awoke. I knew what I must do and it wasn’t going to be easy to get from here to there. I got up from bed and walked to the kitchen where I brewed some coffee and put a bagel in the toaster.

I ate the bagel with butter on it and drank the coffee slowly as it was very hot. The bagels were from new York and as the bread from new York tastes like no other, I think it has something to do with the water chemistry and how the yeast works with the new York water. Any ways after eating a light breakfast I worked on getting showered and dressed for the day, rather light clothing, beach wear as a matter of a fact. My instruction for the day was to go to a lonely and deserted beach over a hundred and fifty miles away, one that I had spent the summers at with the love of my life while we were going to college.

I packed everything I would need for the day in a north face backpack and took a pair of sport sandals to wear while walking on the rocks near the tide pools where I was going. I took my mp3 player and got in the car, after starting it up I let it run idle for a minute while I worked on setting the music for the drive. I figured four hours of tunes would be sufficient for the one hundred and fifty mile drive. I didn’t think it would take four hours, but I put four hours of music on any ways. Sometimes finding parking is a real pain in the ass.

The drive was peaceful but the sounds of MotorHead ramming their guitars through the windows would be enough to keep even the most tired person awake. I didn’t have any trouble as I had slept for almost ten hours that night and felt refreshed and alive today. There was some level of excitement for me as I had the hope of having a better life which I didn’t have the day before. It felt like everything was going to work out for once. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I started out on this journey at ten to six. But as the day wore on I would find out more than I ever thought possible.

I found a parking space about a quarter of a mile from the beach access point, I didn’t wait for the song to finish playing and ripped the auxiliary jack out of the mp3 player which caused it to stop playing noting that it was disconnected, I grabbed the backpack and slung it over my left shoulder, then put the sport sandals on and locked the car. I started to head off to the beach access point when someone who declared himself as the parking attendant told me that I had to pay to park here. I asked how much parking was and the attendant said it was five bucks. I dug my hand into my front left pocket and pulled fifteen dollars from my pocket and handed the attendant five of them, after putting the cash back into my pocket I started off in the direction of the beach.

I took my time when I got to the beach, I was in no rush and I didn’t have anything else to be doing today. I walked along the path till I reach the sand and walked strait down to the water where I noticed the tide was out and the waves were two feet height and crashing just about where the water was coming out to. I got my feet wet and thought of everything I had to do today, it didn’t sound that difficult in the dream, they just said to spend the day at the beach and visit the tide pools; they also said I would know what to do from there. I hoped they were right.

It was a half an hour walk heading north from here to the tide pools, I was in no hurry as I didn’t know what awaited me. Had I known I would have rushed strait to the tide pool and found what I was there to retrieve. But I had no idea that I was there to find anything, as far as I was concerned it was just another day at the beach. If found some shells that had washed up on the sand and also some sea weed that was in big clumps on the beach. There must have been two hundred pounds of dried sea weed there waiting for someone to take the stinking mess away. I walked past it and held my breath a bit until I was well past it. I walked the length of the beach in about thirty minutes and came to the place where the tide pools were at.

It was quite beautiful, seeing the the many large pools of water that were anywhere from a few feet deep all the way to nearly ten feet deep. I saw sea urchins and sea slugs, and a few fish were in there as well, the crabs were plentiful and I tried to catch a few of them but they were too quick for me. I listened to the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks and heard the sea lions having a good time. I took my sport sandals off and sat down in front of a shallow pool of water, I dipped both feet into the water and let them soak in the salt water for a few minutes until they were too cold to keep in there any longer. I dried my feet off and put my sandals back on, I was actually thinking I was going to meet someone today; I didn’t know that I was supposed to be looking for something.

I spent the better half of the morning in front of the tide pools thinking about different things that would come to mind. I thought about the times I had been here last and how those were better times than these. I worked on reading some poetry which I didn’t understand and yet read any ways in the hopes it would sink in some day. Then I got bored and had to choose whether to continue on north or go back to the beach where I was most certain to find only boredom and more poetry I didn’t understand.

There were another set of tide pools about a half a mile from here, but no one ever went there as they didn’t like to walk that far. It’s strange most people thought it was a waste of time to walk that far to see a bit of nothing. I don’t know if the heat from the day or perhaps the bad poetry put me into the mood but I was determined to walk it and see what could be seen this day. It was mostly rocky the whole way, and it was a good thing I brought my sport sandals, as the rocks were quite sharp and would have cut my feet, if I was going barefoot.

It took me the better part of an hour to walk across the rocks and make the half a mile trek to the other tide pools. When I got their I didn’t see it at first; it was in a pool that was about four feet deep and partially buried. I must have walked past it three or four times as I went from pool to pool looking for fish of different kinds. I didn’t see any fish in the pools of water though, so I gave up looking and sat down to read my poetry book again, while I rested for the return trek back to the main beach. I heard some clicking sounds about a hundred feet off from where I was and looked up to see a pod of dolphins where swimming north; there were five or six of them that was welcome sight to my eyes and ears. After watching them swim past and disappear into the distance, I looked into the pool of water before me and perhaps it was the fact I put my polarized sun glasses on when looking at the dolphins that I saw through the water and discovered something totally unexpected, it looked like a piece of drift wood, except it wasn’t floating, it was actually at the very bottom and had a good inch of silt on top of it, as a matter of a fact it looked just like a rock at the bottom of the pool.

I took my shirt off and climbed into the pool of water as carefully as I could; I took a deep breath of air and dunked my head into the water while reaching down to try and lift the box from the bottom of the pool. It wasn’t heavy and must have still had some air inside it, because it pulled free from the bottom and weighed around thirty five pounds. I struggled to set it on the top of the ledge of the pool and found it was almost impossible to get out of the water; somehow I did manage to lift it out of the water and found that after I climbed out of the pool and took a good look it clearly had a lid and there was some writing on the top of it.

I sat for a few minutes looking at the treasure I had pulled from the tide pool and wondered how long it had been there; it looked very old even ancient; after wiping the sand off the top and sides I found that there was a message on the lid of the box; there was a large X followed by about two paragraphs in Latin. I tried to pry the lid open several times and found no such luck with it. It was sealed by some mechanism I couldn’t see. Rather than leave it for someone else to find I figured that this was what I was supposed to find and prepared to carry it back to my car. I wondered how I would get past the attendant with it; but figured that it didn’t matter.

I stood it up on one end and to my surprise the water that was in it ran out the side of the lid, this would make carrying it back a little easier. The second time I picked it up I found that it was much lighter and only weighted twenty pounds. It was still going to take some work to carry it back to the car, but I figured I had a good handle on it. I put the backpack on both shoulders and began to carry it from the tide pools south to the main beach which was over an hour away.

Fortunately there wasn’t anyone else around and I had no difficulty getting it back to the car in less than an hour and a half. After I got it in the car and had it started I worked the mp3 player and set it to play two hours of music, which is all I thought I would need for the trip home. After a few hours of driving the mp3 player finished it’s play list and I had to work it and drive at the same time for a few minutes while I put on another play list.

I was in a strange mood from the surreal dream I had had this morning and the fact that it was no accident that I found the box in the tide pool. But understanding what I must do from here was a bit more difficult; just what did they expect from me? I was thinking that it was going to be some work to get the box open and understand the message on the lid of the box. It was a good thing I had a Latin grammar book on the bookshelf at home. I wondered how long it would take me to make progress in getting the lid to open. To say the truth I was worried about that fact the whole time I was driving home.

When I got home and parked the car in the garage, I was careful to leave enough room to get in the trunk to get the box out of the car. Then after getting my backpack and other items packed into the backpack I walked around to the boot of the car i.e. The trunk and took a good look at the found treasure I had come upon. I was impressed that this was meant for me and delighted in the idea that things were going to get better for me as I remembered hearing in my dream. I picked the box up and carried it to the living room setting it on the floor in front of the sofa between the stand table and the sofa. Then I thought I would have to vacuum after I got the sand off it and wondered if I shouldn’t take it outside to get the sand off. But it was too late, I already had it in the living room; so there it stayed.

I found some rags under the kitchen counter, in the third drawer on the left and I went back to wipe the sand off the box; it didn’t take long to get it cleaned up. Then I went to find the book on Latin that was to be my guide for finding a way to unlock the lid. I hadn’t used that Latin book in many years and it took some doing to find it; but once I came up with it, I was sitting back on the sofa and working on figuring out what it said. I read the message on the box again, the fist paragraph said, “[Latin removed uncertain of meanings]” It took about an hour of looking words up on the book to find the answer, but understanding what it meant was another story altogether. This seemed to be some kind of riddle and I didn’t know what it was talking about in the least.

Then after translating the words to common English, I found I was still confused as to what: “Philosopher the insane soldier of art.” Really meant and I had to do some heavy duty research that if it had not been for a lucky break I would have never figured out who it was talking about. The answer was clear, it spoke of Socrates. I moved on to the second paragraph which was just as difficult as the first to figure out what it said, but I got the general meaning from the words: “Gold and silver” And “Rings” To be that there was valuable treasure to be had. But the last line which was most important, which took a long time to translate into: “The wise live happily.” I wondered about that for the longest time.

I thought about what I had read and took to trying to understand it, the three main parts were, 1. A riddle, 2. A statement of riches to be had. 3. A warning. I wasn’t sure how to get the lid open even after figuring all this out. So I stayed up late working on thinking of what was meant by all of three of these things. I scanned the pages of the Latin book looking for an easy answer. There was none, I tried working on the problem from another level and thought about how to answer the box so that it would open. I tried saying the name: “Socrates” But it did no good. Then a strange idea hit me and I tried to write the name on the box lid with my finger.

To my surprise it burped a bit and the box lid unsealed itself, I was nervous to open the lid at first; it took a minute of thinking about the warning as to what to do. I held my breath a bit and reached for the lid and pulled up on it to reveal an almost empty box save but a key which appeared to be made of bronze. There was some sand in their too, I dug around in the sand to find a handful of gold coins that were very ancient. I stacked the gold coins on the stand table and looked at the key, then I took a good look at the box again, and found that it had a key hole on each end of the box. I wondered why I hadn’t noticed that before and grit my teeth a bit. I got down on the floor and and worked on the right side of the box first, the key turned and I could hear the latch as it unlocked the mechanism that held it in place.

I then didn’t know how to open the lid in the side of the box, finally I resorted to turning the box upright on the end that was unlocked and then lifting the box up so the lid would fall out on it’s own. To my surprise this worked and the contents which were packed quite tightly fell on the floor with a thud, I was just as surprised that it didn’t make a mess, it was all contained within the lid as if it was meant to be that way. There were about twenty items in this side of the box lid, and rather than get carried away on what treasure was to be found there I turned the box around and opened the other side following the same procedure. There was about twenty books to be found in that side and I wondered in awe at who would have packed books with treasure.

It became clear as I reached into the pile of books and pulled one out to read the cover, which was in English and it said, “Instructions for gaining access to Atlantis” And it had a number on it which said it was book four of twenty, I pulled the books out and set them in order as to which ones to read in two piles of ten with the number ten and twenty books being on the bottom and the number two and eleven books being on the top, book one was in my left hand. It’s title was, “Urgent and Important.” There were about fifty pages in the book and I turned to the first page to see it was stamped with a symbol from Atlantis citizenship committee. I wondered what I was getting into, and went to reading page two, printed on page two with what looked like a letterpress was the words, welcome to your new world. It’s really our world and were going to be letting you join us.

My heart raced a bit and I wondered at how such a thing could be possible; Atlantis was long gone, it was just a myth that people talked about when times were bad and they wanted a better life. But here and now I had been offered a better life in my dream this morning and here was the document proving such a thing wasn’t just a dream; my dream-world had melted into reality. And I was not entirely sure what was going to be coming down the line in the near future for me.

The book entitled: “Urgent and important” Instructed that I make a count of the number of items including the box that were present. I knew I had the box, the two lids that fell out of the box, and the twenty books. I then made a count of the number of items in the first box lid, a total of forty two including the key. I then read the next page which gave instructions on what to do based upon the number of items I have received. In my case there were some difficult orders to be followed. I started by taking my backpack and emptying it out on the kitchen table. The instructions said I could bring one thing with me to Atlantis from my world. I thought about this for a bit and wondered what was needed. I finished reading the book and the instructions that were contained in book one. I set it on the left of the two piles of books face down. I picked up book two and read it carefully, finding where I fit into the scheme of things would be difficult as I was given very difficult tasks to accomplish.

I finished book two, and picked up book three just before ten PM, I was tired but the excitement of going through this and the hope of being admitted to the city of Atlantis was totally exhilarating, the third book was entitled, “There is no excuse.” Which basically outline that if anything bad happens to me it’s my own damn fault. But that things could be made better by never making excuses for anything. I took this to heart and worked on books four through ten. It was three thirty in the morning, and I was starting on the second pile of books which were the instructions for new citizens.

The first book said I had seventy two hours to complete my objectives, namely transferring the ownership of everything I owned save but the contents of the box to the first person I met. Being too tired to finish the books I had to read, I went to bed and slept hard until almost seven thirty. I woke up and fixed some breakfast and had some coffee. After that I worked on reading books twelve through twenty non-stop. After making a list of the key points of each book, which took almost as many hours as reading the books themselves I was down to thirty five hours to follow the instructions in book one.

I packed the contents of the box into the north face backpack; being careful to keep the books in a separate compartment than the other items found on the first side of the box. With that done I put the backpack on and found it wasn’t too heavy, about fifteen pounds total. I had thought it over and decided that if anyone should get my belongings it should be someone I liked, and who could really benefit from them. I kind of knew where to find someone that was in need and should get the most benefit from the possessions. It didn’t take long until I got to where the individual usually was, only he wasn’t there today. Damn I thought. Just as I was leaving the way I came I ran into an old enemy from high school, and I thought about gritting my teeth about giving him everything I had once owned. I knew I had to follow the instructions as they were spelled out for me. So I made the old enemy an offer of friendship and to take control of everything left of my possessions.

He didn’t refuse and was happy to take from me the things I once treasured most. I told him there were only a few hours left and to go strait to the office where we could sign the paper work and finalize the deal. He agreed to meet me at the office in an hour from now and that we would talk about it then. I knew their wasn’t much time to discuss things, I had to finish this business and get myself to Atlantis where I would start a new life, complete with new people and new lifestyle.

I went back home and brewed a second cup of coffee, and worked on drinking that slowly. I then reread the list I had made from the main points of the books I had been reading. I felt prepared for what was to happen; I set the box on the kitchen table and put the two lids back in and turned the key to lock them into place. Then I placed the key in the main box and set about sealing the lid, which was to draw an “X” On the lid with my finger. After that was done I put the backpack on and carried the box to the car and put it in the trunk. From there I drove the office where the paper work would be signed, I had twenty two hours to be in Atlantis; it was a deadline I couldn’t afford to miss.

At the office the guy doing the paper work was already talking to my old enemy “Kevin” About the absurdity of what I was doing. It didn’t sound like this was going to go over very well. And I had no idea what I was in store for. They scorched me for an hour over this crazy idea and how I should be happy to have what I do have and not giving it away. I sat quietly and listened to every word they said. They had good and valid points for what they were saying. I understood their point of view. I was prepared to deal with this in the best manner possible. There was really only one course of action to take in this matter. Earlier I had placed two of the smaller golden coins in my right pocket, and I asked them if they would like to resolve the matter as quickly as possible. They both said, “Of course, but you have nothing to offer.” Then I took the two coins out of my pocket and put one in each hand, I then asked them to guess what was in my hand; I told them, “If you can guess what’s in my hand then we will settle it your way, if you fail to guess right in one attempt then we settle it my way.” They thought this was an absurd idea, then I mentioned that either way they would gain financial rewards. So they felt like they couldn’t loose. The guy who was doing the paper work, said, “It’s a pair of dice.” And I said, “Nope, it’s worth more than that.” And my enemy Kevin said, “You hold a pair of keys.” And I thought about it and said, “Neither of you are right, but as I said you both would gain financial benefits from this; what I hold is two small golden coins. And if you sign these papers now and leave me alone you both will get a coin. What say you to that?

They thought I was joking, but when I opened my hand palm up they could see the clearly visible golden coins, I told them, ’sign these papers and we will go our separate ways, I have someplace else to be." They took me seriously from there and being driven by greed and gain without any real work they shut the hell up and signed the papers. I read the paper work over twice before signing it also; it was good enough. From their I handed them each a gold coin and told them not take less then ten thousand dollars for each of them.

With that I walked out of the office and got in my car and drove to the mountains, which was far from the sea and very cold this time of year. After driving some four hours in the mountains I found a place that was perfect. There were stones all around and large trees growing and thriving. No one had followed me up the mountain, I was sure of that as I had went quite a ways up and down the same road more than once. I took the box out of the trunk and put it in the center of a clearing, then I took the magic thread from the backpack which was in the first lid of the box and strung it around three trees to form a triangle around the box.

I opened the lid and took the key out and unlocked both sides of the box, however I left the box lids in place for each side of the box. I then opened the main box lid and placed a stone in the box and then closed the box and sealed it. The magic thread began to hum as if it were stretched tight and someone was strumming it like a guitar. A few seconds later the vast forest disappeared and I was blinded by the light and closed my eyes; what happened from there is a mystery because the next thing I knew I was in Atlantis and the sound of hands clapping was all around.

In the spirit land of Atlantis there are three main cities around a fourth city that is known as Olympia; this is where the people that are invited to join the ranks of Atlantis are welcomed to the new world of divinity ship and hyper dimensionality. The people of Atlantis are famous because every one thinks the city was wiped away by the ocean thousands of years ago. What they don’t know is that the people of Atlantis move through time and space passing through other dimensions with ease to tend to the people who need comfort and a helping hand. They appear as strangers and you never know who those people are when you walk the streets of the world outside Atlantis

When I opened my eyes there were a handful of people around but not as many as I heard clapping to welcome me to the city. “Where did everyone go?” I ask casually to the nearest person who was smiling and looked like he had all the answers. “Those are the angels that welcomed you, they welcome everyone that comes to this city, yet the people of Atlantis you will meet all of them soon enough. Right now were here to take you to the center of the city where you can take a look around and have all your questions answered.” In the confusion of everything that had happened to me in the last five minutes I didn’t know what to ask first, but the question on my mind was why am I here? I wasn’t sure about asking that question first though, so I tried to figure out what else was on my mind, which was how did I get here? I figured that was safe enough and opened my mouth to speak, but the kind man who was walking beside me said, “Save your questions until after the city speaker has addressed you in person, he will answer many of your questions for you better than any of us can.

So I shut my mouth and waited until after we had walked to the center of the city which was very beautiful and the most wonderful place I have ever been. There were works of art in the street of all kinds. Everything from sculptures to oil paintings adorning the outside walls of the residents who lived in this city.

It’s best someone from Atlantis finishes this story........

Chapter Five

The Duke’s Son

The oak tree by the dukes castle has been alive for almost three hundred years. The dukes rule of the land has been prosperous and wrought with battles, none so severe as what is to come. The duke, lord Ellithorp of Nance is getting old, his day will come and what will be left of his estate? His only son is the only hope for the family line, look at him here; just out of four years officers training and healthy as he could ever dream of being.

See him here, as he makes his way to the castle and look at the strength of his muscles and his razor sharp mind, trained from a child to be a leader, if only there were a lady his equal, it would be a match in heaven. Finding the right lady to pair him with will be no easy task, it’s going to take someone very special for him to be equals with. No common barons daughter will make do. And it must be right from the start, there can be no mistakes made here.

I will leave the story to unfold while I arrange the matters of his marriage, I must find a suitable lady for this one. It won’t be easy, great females are few in number these days, I must look in all the land to find one for him. Alexander steps from the motor coach upon it’s arrival at the outer courtyard in the dukes castle. “It’s good to be home, it’s been far too long.” His fathers guards upon recognizing the son salute in honor of the new officer, and welcome him home. They had been expecting him, the duke in his late seventies is in poor health and will not be able to meet his son with out the aid of others. He has been notified of his sons arrival, the duchess of Ellithorp is waiting in the great hall sitting in a dignified manner, just after having finished afternoon tea. The hall master upon seeing the dukes son announces his presence to the great hall, “Alexander of Nance has arrived.

The duchess and her lady companions all rise and prepare for formal greetings of the young master. Alexander upon walking into the hall see’s that his mother is not alone and both feels relieved and pressured, he had hoped this would be a private affair that formal courtesies would not be required, after all it had been two years since he had seen his mother and father. Not to be out done Alexander stops at ten paces and putting his palms together before him bows twice at the waist while keeping his eyes on his mother. The duchess and her ladies each offer a solemn bow but break eye contact by closing their eyes just as they have bowed. “Your father is waiting, he is in his chamber.

Madam, I will go to see him at once.” Alexander rises from his second bow and follows the hall’s chamber guard through the castle to the dukes own private chamber, not that Alexander didn’t know the way, it was just a formality necessary in the castle. Upon reaching the outer door of the dukes chamber the guards open the door and announce the presence of Alexander the dukes son. “My lord he has arrived, your son Alexander.” This pleased the duke a great deal and he dismissed the guards with the slightest verbal cue, “Let him in, and leave us be; only retain your posts outside my doors.

As Alexander walked past the guards leaving they stood to salute him and took their place outside the doors and closed them. Leaving the duke to see his son, “Father, my lord; how the years have been?” The duke who is strong enough to sit feels his strength come back upon seeing his son in this state and rises to his feet. “Alexander you look well, good enough to be twenty men in your likes.” “Thank you father, What news of you and your castle?

The duke looks hard and thinks only a moment, “The years have been both kind and cruel, you know that fall from the mare almost killed me last year.” “Yes father, it was a most unfortunate accident.” The duke sits back down as the pain in his leg is more than enough, then says, “It’s good to see you, make yourself ready and come see me in an hour. I will be in my study.” With two bows to his father Alexander makes leave and opens the door with guards quickly saluting and falling back into place inside the chamber.

Alexander left unattended makes his way through the castle to the east wing, where two rooms are kept for his use alone. A long wide chamber with his books, maps, and weapons are stored. A locked door on the south wall leads to his private chamber, for which he alone has the key. It’s secured by a lock that takes both a key and a palm print to open, and upon making both true, the door opens. Alexander leaves the door open and looks at his room, just the way he had left it. He pushes the button on the rooms intercom and hears the hall masters voice, “Shall we bring your trunks now my lord?” Alexander thinks for a moment and says, “Bring both black trunks to my chamber, only the green trunk should be taken to the Dukes hall.

Very well my lord, consider it done.” With that alexander takes a look at the room and opens the drapes, only to find upon complete surprise a woman behind the drapes waiting for his return. “Who let you in here?” She looks coy and says, “Oh don’t be so formal with me, you know it’s been years since we saw each other, I could hardly wait to see you.” Alexander grabs her upon the waist and pulls her close, I whisper in his ear, “No not this one, you must do much better now, our fate depends upon it.” Alexander looks at her and lets go of her, “It’s been far too long since we saw each other, but meeting like this must not happen again. I will purge your security clearance to my chamber, if we see each other again it will be at the palace in the presence of the ton.” Eleanor has the look of a hurt woman, however she holds her dignity and excuses herself from the room without looking back at the young man.

Alexander boots his computer and accesses the security clearance database, find the entry for Eleanor and marks it with deny. ’such a pity, she was one of the finest I had laid eyes upon, I don’t know what destiny has in store for me, What better could I do than Earl of Davenports daughter?’

’be patient, there is time. Don’t rush it.’ I whisper, I don’t know what awaits us, but it must be made right, there can be no mistakes. Alexander understands this, after all I have been talking to him softly for many years. You don’t think that he made it to officers school by himself? Well he only had a little help.

’Damn it all the twenty third century is a strange place, we have the titles but no honor it seems.’ Yes I’m working to change that. Now be good and prepare to meet the duke in his hall. Alexander dresses in his formal dine wear and changes his boots to something he had been missing for about two years, the black leather motorcycle boots his father almost hated. ’maybe he won’t notice this time.’ alexander thinks to himself. Then upon thinking wonders if he will get to ride tonight.

***

The dukes formal hall is well decorated, three centuries of history on those walls, the duke from a long line of nobility and greatness. Although much has decayed, much remains to be rebuilt.

Alexander is standing in the dukes formal hall his father the duke sitting at a table with what remains of supper, Alexander stand some five feet from his father. The duke taking a formal letter from the table and hands it to his son, Alexander takes the envelope and opens it seeing that his father opened the seal, not just any seal, but the seal of the Queen. This looks serious, “Read the queens message to me son.” “But you have already read it right, the seal was broken.

Yes I read it, I want you to read it to me again, I’m looking for what tone the letter was written in.

The letter reads,

Dear Duke Ellithorp,

Many years your family has been in service of the thrown, now I require your sons obedience for a most delicate matter. Please send him at two pm tomorrow with this letter in hand.

The letter is signed by her majesty queen Agatha.

I don’t know how but I knew this was coming. Now the young Alexander has a chance to prove himself. Perhaps this will make way for my next life.

Son it seems the queen wants a word with you, perhaps an early advancement in your status, perhaps she see’s more than just an officer in you?

I hardly know father, perhaps my records from the academy have been reviewed. I was top in my class.

Yes I know. Your transcripts were sent along with the letter of recommendation for you, seems you have done very well for yourself.

The duke looks Alexander over carefully, “Damn it, are you wearing motorcycle boots in this house again?

Oh were in for it again. Damn it.

I thought I would go for a ride after we finished our briefing, sorry to disappoint you.

Tomorrow when you see the queen, be sure your wearing proper attire, or I won’t be forgiving, see to it son. Or else your going to be dismissed and on your ear.

Well that went well, better than I had thought.

Chapter Six

The Queen’s Assassin

Imagine a world where only one man could make your life right, how would you find him? What lengths would you go to trying to make it happen? I found out, it wasn’t easy; not by a long shot. In the world of Europa everything is different. I wasn’t prepared for what I had to do to make it work, you think when you become of age you’re prepared for life and anything it may throw at you, what a shock it was to learn I hadn’t learned half of what life was about. I didn’t have a clue.

Sitting here now in this park I people watch, mainly to hear what my inner voice tells me about them. I listen to that, 99 percent of the time it’s right on the money. I see all kinds of people here going about their life, people that think they have it figured out in some way or another, or perhaps just a handle on life that they can hold on to.

We live in a world ruled by royalty. A world of lords and monks, mostly a world of the ton who want to marry into a house of lords. Anyone can become a member of the ton, if they are willing to make the sacrifices to get them there. The chances of becoming royalty are almost zero. They only marry from aristocracy and the ton seldom make the leap from where they are to where they want to be. It’s like watching one giant merry-go-round in the rat race that no one will ever win.

You could say I live a life of privilege. Although I won’t say where I live it’s still a life of privilege. I was taken in by the queen and raised by her lady in waiting and private education, I never had to join the ranks of the ton to try moving up. No one will talk about my mother or my father, it’s never brought up and I have been taught to not ask questions about it. For all I know they died when I was very young and though I was not royalty I was liked by the queen enough to be cared for.

As I grew up I discovered that I was being raised in the queens presence for one very practical reason. I was to become her escort, not a lady in waiting but her personal body guard. Now at the age of twenty two, some consider me the most dangerous woman in the kingdom. Not because of my beauty, because I obey the queens command and those who the queen doesn’t like are never seen again.

I can’t say that I hate my job, I do love it. I want love in my life too. That is something that has been missing in my life. Well not the love from those that raised me, but the love that only a man can offer. My time is spent in the presence of the queen watching everyone that comes within the palace. There are rules in the palace, one of them is that no one comes within ten feet of the queen’s presence. I alone am trusted to be within her personal space, which I don’t make a habit of doing.

I never knew what my life had in store for me, I never imagined that this would be my life. To think that my life would have been otherwise, is foolish. Looking back on it now I can see every point in my life where the dots connected from there to here. Looking forward I can not see the future, however I know that something is about to change. It’s the color of the sky, I can always tell something is going to change by the color of the sky. It’s like a sixth sense in me.

Today I see the color just a bit brighter, stronger than usual. That tells me something is up today. I should be on my highest guard, you never know what will happen.

***

In the queens great hall there are her sitting sofa’s and the two sides of the room, the side the queen sits on and the side that the company sits on. I make a point to not move around too much, yet I still find myself between the two sides of the room more often than not. Taking the safety of the queen is my first mandate, everything else comes second to that. So I watch and listen, I listen to the tone of voice, even when their voice shakes in the presence of the queen, I still understand when they have hate in their hearts towards her majesty.

Today the son of duke Ellithorp will stand before the queen, as she has several questions she wishes to ask him. I will be required to listen to her conversation and also to see that the dukes son doesn’t come too close to her majesty. Sitting in the queens chambers is very formal, no one speaks to me unless it’s a matter of safety, somedays after the queen has dismissed those around her she asks me what feel the person had and if they were to be trusted in future visits.

All visitors are announced two minutes before they enter the queens great hall. I see that the timing today must be carried out exactly, the time it takes to clear security and reach the queens presence is exactly two minutes for the average person to be escorted through the palace.

I look at my watch, it’s thirty seconds until two o’clock. The marquess will be here promptly at two. It’s almost show time, I practice my breathing and move to the strategic point in the room to be most effective for my job. In this case it’s two feet before the queen, with her on my left. Though no man or woman knows what weapon I carry, the queen knows right well where every weapon is hidden.

The hall guards signal the light on the desk and announce: “The marquess Ellithorp of nance has arrived. All hail the queen.” I look at the seconds on the watch and see that he is one second behind schedule. Perhaps the dukes son is nervous about this encounter with the queen?

I have seen his father here many times in the queens presence. He is dignified and humble before his queen, yet also very strong and confident of himself. He should be, after the years of service to the queen he is one of her most trusted lords in the kingdom. Which I would not say the same of the baron.

The dukes son approaches, his hands at his sides, I can tell he feels nervous and not quite sure what to expect from the queen, I see no danger, yet. He reaches fifteen feet from the queen and kneels on his left knee, bows his head and addresses the queen while looking her not quite in the eye, his father has trained him well.

Your Majesty, you sent for me?

Young lord Ellithorp, I sent for you because I have a most important mission for you, a diplomatic mission. Will you obey your queen in all matters?

Yes your majesty, as my father so I am.

You are not your father, yet perhaps you have his courage. I see that you have completed your officers training in the formal military school, that you have five letters of recommendation, and that you were at the top of your class. Is this true?

Your majesty, I am the top of my class, though I know not how many letters of recommendation I may have. I have never been told.

At least your honest, that is a good sign.” The queen looks my way with only a glance and gives her permission to stand five feet from her that the dukes son will not focus on my presence and take to the queens presence. I somehow feel him noticing me, though I know not why he looks at me in that way, he doesn’t know that I am the queens escort and likely takes me for a lady in waiting that he might be wed to. No doubt the young lord doesn’t know what the queen has in store for him.

Young lord Ellithorp, I have made plans for you, you are to wed the princess of Anapa and join our two kingdoms as one. You shall do all that I command while living in the land of Anapa where you will come to rule. Her father just passed away leaving no son to rule the land, you will take your place in their society and do all that I command.

Damn that’s got to hurt. I see the shaking in his fingers, I see his lips tremble, yet some reason I feel sorry for him, such a fine young lord that might have been given to a lady in waiting in our own kingdom. I could only dream of having his company.

Yes your majesty, when do you wish this thing to occur?

In two weeks time. You will be sent on the first ship; you will be given the necessary access to see and study all you will need to know.

Very well your majesty, I will do all that you require.

I see that he isn’t happy but the queens orders haven’t taken the form of reality yet, he only says that out of duty. I wonder what kind of shape he’s going to be in when the shock of what is to happen sets in with him?

You are excused, now go tell your father the news. I’m sure he will be happy for you.

Thank you your majesty, I shall.

I signal the guard and the young marquess rises from his kneeling position and he turns at the touch of the guard and is escorted from the queens great hall. I exhale and think that this went well, it could have been worse. Some reason I feel sorry for him.

After the marquess Ellithorp of nance leaves the queen signals me to have a word with her, I might know what she wants, but I’m not sure. The guards are dismissed and the halls doors are closed with the guards left outside the doors.

Amber, what did you think of the marquess Ellithorp?

Your majesty, he seems to be everything his training has made him, I don’t detect a foul feeling in him towards your majesty.

The queen levels her gaze upon me making eye contact and asks, “Do you like him?

I don’t hold any hope that I would have such a man, your majesty my place is with you.” But secretly I think that I would do very well with such a gem.

You know your place, someday your world will change, I just hope to be alive when it does.

Yes your majesty, will you require my service any more today?

Not today, tomorrow the baron will be here, see that we have every security provision necessary, I don’t trust him.

Yes your majesty, if you need me I will be in the south dungeon.

Your excused, be good now.” The queen winks once and leaves through her private doors that lead back to her daytime chambers.

I open the doors and without acknowledging the guards make my way to my private keep, the south dungeon.

Chapter Seven

Alex Swan

Friday September 9, 2012 @ 18:13:59

Alex signs his time sheet and logs out of the computer system for the weekend. He walks out into bright sunlight and puts his sunglasses on while unlocking his 3 series BMW from fifty feet away.

The sunglasses he bought in the florida keys while on vacation two years ago, there nice and they cost a handful of dough. Which cash isn’t a problem for Alex he’s making a hundred and twenty thousand dollars a year programming software for a major publisher.

He starts the car and hits the freeway at 90km an hour, which is fast enough that people on roller skates won’t be catching up to him anytime soon. Traffic is light even for this hour and he gets home in all of ten minutes, he turns into his drive way and parks in the first available spot. His place is nice for a loft in downtown, just over five thousand square feet and it has windows that face south for daylight to come in all day long.

Alex picks up the remote and starts the computer tunes playing at 89% volume.

He doesn’t bother to turn on the television, rather he picks up the latest copy of ’gothic romance’ on his tablet and reads the articles about people who play in the cemetery after dark and go by names off the tomb stones rather than their real names.

He sets the alarm on his watch for: “14,400” Seconds, which is four hours sleep time for Alex and goes right to REM sleep. Five hours later Alex finds himself at: “The Blue Falcon” A dark place for dark times, his friend Kate is running half an hour late and Alex is starving. He orders a dark beer and looks at his phone for the second time in an hour.

Alex takes a look around and doesn’t see a familiar face at the bar, which is good. Kate walks in two minutes later and takes a seat on Alex’s left, the bar tender asks, “What will it be?” And Kate takes a look at what Alex is drinking and says, “I’ll have a black and tan and a glass of ice water.” With that out of the way Kate puts her hand on Alex’s back and says, “Sorry about being late, you wouldn’t believe the traffic from the valley.

Alex looks Kate in the eyes searching for something in the distance and says, “How hungry are you?” The bar tender puts Kate’s drinks down and she says, “Haven’t eaten anything since lunch time, how about you?” Alex takes a sip of beer and says, “About the same, should we finish up here and get something to eat soon?

Kate looks around and thinks for a second, “Sure we need to eat before we go to the club they won’t have food or drink after two.

Alex wonders what to say next and thinks of the book he’s reading at the moment, “You wouldn’t believe the book i’m reading right now, the guy is a genius.” Kate asks, “Yeah who’s the author?” Alex says, “Thomas a Hawk.” Kate thinks for a second and says, “Oh yeah i’ve read his book, what a tragic ending.” Alex pipes in and says, “Don’t tell me, I want it to be a surprise.

Alex says, “The use of dark energy for fuel is brilliant, too bad we don’t have that kind of technology now days...” Kate takes a sip of her ice water and says, “It’s very clever, however I think the point is made clearly, we shouldn’t play with things we don’t understand.” Alex knows when to change the subject and asks, “Is this a new dress your sporting tonight?” Kate laughs and says, “Sure is, bought it at ’the playhouse morgue’, just hope I don’t have to take it back I lost the receipt.

Alex says, “I haven’t been there yet, I hear they have the best clothing for ’Goth’ people.” Kate looks around the room and says, “Your clothing is fine. Besides you have to keep up with good looks.

Alex laughs and says, “I don’t plan on giving up my black clothing for anything!” And Kate says, “Not even for some hot ’fem’ that’s not half as dark?” Alex shakes his head no and smiles, “Just going to have to find someone that likes me for who I am.” Kate smiles and says, “Oh I thought you were only joking about being a dark soul?

Alex thinks of the times he has spent with Kate and how it’s not a waste of time to talk with her, he says, “Tell me something, are you happy with your life like it is?” Kate looks down and then smiles a bit and looks up to Alex and says, “I wouldn’t be here tonight if I wasn’t.” And Alex asks a second question, “Really? Where would you be otherwise?

Kate says, “I would probably be in the bathtub and drunk.” Alex frowns and says, “Well i’m glad your here tonight.” Kate nods and says, “Me too!

They finish their drinks and Alex says he’s driving for the two of them; which suits Kate just fine. They drive ten blocks to a sushi bar and walk in where the chefs know them by name and what they like to order. ’ken’ looks down at them sitting at the bar and says, “Want the usual?” They both smile and say, “Yup!

The chef prepares a total of sixteen items for each of them and they scarf it down like no tomorrow. “The amber roll is great.” Alex says in between bites of squid and blue fin tuna.

Kate nods her head and takes another drink of sake, then casually says, “You want to hear what I did yesterday?” Alex nods and says, “sure is it something I wouldn’t guess?“ Kate uses the napkin to wipe her mouth off before saying, ”I went with Amber on a photo shoot, she did great and the pictures came out great.“ Alex swallows hard and says, ”What was the concept?"

Kate smiles and says, “The poisoned peach.” Then she explains to him how the photographer used five peaches each with a different color of food coloring on it and how it effected the models moods. Alex smiles and says, “Sounds interesting, did you have fun?

Kate looks up at Alex and says, “I got to see her new tattoo. She got a dolphin on the small of her back.” Alex says, “Yeah that’s a safe bet when it comes to getting ink done.

Chapter Eight

Life After Death

I’m standing in line at the intake booth for the departed, I’ve been awake for forty-five minutes and spent ten minutes in line. It looks like if my paper work was filed properly my next life should begin in less than two days’ time.

I’ve heard whispers that the world has changed since I left it, almost two centuries ago, I hear they need good strong people that can make a difference in a world of hostile and sometimes downright aggressive people.

Standing here now, I see five people in front of me, at least I’m stable, the woman in front of me is in tears and doesn’t stop sobbing but for a minute before breaking down again. At least the line is moving, I wonder why I slept for so long? Two centuries of total rest is a long time.

Ah, the line has moved again and now it’s down to just three people in front of me, I’m looking forward to a new life and all the times that come with it, good and bad. I’ve been doing this for almost as long as I can remember, living life on earth and sleeping for a while in death before coming back to earth to live again. I seem to recall it was four ages ago, that’s ages of the earth, nothing you can relate it to in terms of years, it’s a long time.

I’ve seen people in this line often, never anyone I knew personally; there must be a lot of people in this place. Looks like the line has moved again, I should be getting my paper work when the woman in front of me steps before the assignment operator, that’s the person who keeps the schedule for new assignments.

I wonder how they keep this place so clean, it’s always looking like a cleaning crew of a thousand just finished a through detailing of everything. No, it isn’t heaven, it’s just a gateway to a new life on earth.

Ah the woman in front of me just stepped into the spot to discuss her arrival to a new life, she’s stopped crying, maybe when she read her paper work she got good news. Looking to my right the second attendant is reaching out his arm to hand me mine. I reach out and take the paper work, its stamped with a green circle with a number in the center, the number is the serial number for how many lives I’ve lived, looking at it some people get overly impressed and think too highly of themselves. To me it’s about the quality of life I have and not the number of lives I get to live. Besides when wars come it usually takes me fifty to a hundred lives to see it through before things really become peaceful again. My number is a modest five-digit number, it’s a good number because it means I’m going to get to live again.

Sometimes people don’t get an assignment, which usually means wild life detail, meaning they must go through the entire cycle of animal life from start to finish only becoming what ate them last. It’s hell. They don’t get a number and the stamp is in red ink on the paper work. It looks the the woman in front of me just finished and she’s not in tears, maybe she got a good life. I hope so. As I step forward to the attendant I hand him my paper work which he opens, and begins to read, he looks at me, looks at the paper work, smiles ever so slightly and says, you’re on the two o’clock train for planet earth, looks like they need you this time around. Have a good life. he hands the paper work back to me and I step through the gate to the boarding area, I won’t have time to look at the assignment until after I get on the train, right now I must find the boarding area for the train I’m scheduled for.

Walking through the crowds that are lined up, along the hallways it looks like many of these people are all getting new lives on planet earth, anyone on wild life detail almost always goes against their will, it’s not the kind of thing you forget.

Looking nearly half way down the hallway I see my gate, its marked with green lights and has a number on it, I look down for the first time on the paper work to read the number below my serial number, the number for the gate to the train, its number seventeen, how interesting I’m scheduled to be born on the seventeenth into the world. Most new people wouldn’t know this, I have been through this a few times, hell I’ve been through wild life detail twice.

I hear the bell, and the doors open letting people who were lined up in front of gate seventeen, they pour into the landing area only to see the train hasn’t arrived yet. But it’s coming. I walk in and hold my paper work in my left hand and for the first time reach up to touch my face. I don’t feel anything. It never ceases to amaze me that this place is real. You can’t touch anything, not even if you tried.

That must be the secret of how they keep everything so clean. In the distance you can hear the train coming in, it’s a low rumble that sounds like a thousand engines and a million wheels. It’s odd, this train will be taking people up the line as they are born in different years, people never go backwards, but they do make stops in the future. Looks like there will be a few hundred people on my train, being that I’m in seat two hundred means my stop should arrive near the end of all the other stops.

Looks like I’m going in near the end of this era and the end of a world. Those are always most difficult times for everyone. This happens to me a lot, they only put me in when I’m really needed and it usually comes at the end. Hate to miss all the fun with times in between. I have no memory of my last life, it’s been blocked from recall in this place. It’s too stressful, they can’t have people breaking down in puddles on the floor, the cleanup would be too expensive not to mention people wouldn’t go back if they knew how bad the last time was.

I take a spot near the end of the line and stand with my back to the wall while the train pulls into its landing zone. Looking down the rows of others like me, it’s strange to see them. They might have been people I knew, not likely though; these people look fairly fresh, I’m sure some of them had to be helped into the gate being that they were unsure which train they were on. Everyone that lined up is fairly new.

I look up and see the train is standing waiting for the conductor to open the doors. There aren’t any passengers on the return trip, no one ever gets here via train. As the conductor opens the doors, people who are totally unsure of themselves or where they will sit are moving forward to finding their seats. I’m going to wait a few minutes, looking at the wall where the digital clock is printing the time in green ink shows that we have one hour before the train will move an inch.

I might wait ten minutes. It isn’t likely anyone’s assignment on this train will change, that almost never happens. Just hope my assignment is good; I’m looking forward to a new life.

The line moves as people shuffle into the train holding the only thing that matters until they get to their next life, their paper work and instruction for their next life. I can hardly wait to read it.

As the crowd has boarded the train I find my place, entering the train and looking down the right side of the train for the seating chart. I have to look at my paper work again to see I’m in seat two hundred. I walk down the aisle and smile at other passengers. Some of them are reading their paper work, this is one of the places people could have a nervous breakdown.

Anyway, I find my seat with little to no trouble and get comfortable, not difficult to do. Looking at the clock on the back of the chair in front of me I see its thirty minutes until two o’clock. I take my paper work out and look at the front of it, and as I do the doors to the train are closed and the conductor makes his all aboard speech. It’s about ten minutes later, after everyone has made sure they are on the right train, the conductor wishes everyone a happy birthday, welcome to the seventeenth via the express route.

Now I unfold my paper work to see about two pages of detailed information about my next life. The top is stamped with the train time stamp for departure from the train and arrival into the world. Mine says 5:50 AM, uh! It’s one thirty now and my stop doesn’t get here for over fifteen hours.

This I can deal with. I will need the time to plan my life based upon the assignment that has been given to me. I read it once and think about it a bit. I read it twice and think about what needs done. The train begins to move, we’re rolling now. I hear the whistle blow seventeen times and we are headed for a new life.

The hours pass, passengers have no choice to dis-embark, they’re not given an option. It just happens. Could you imagine the delays we would have if people were given the choice to get off the train? No one would make their stops. It would no doubt be a huge mess and total waste of time. This system works at least.

It’s been ten hours I’m tired from sitting, my assignment weighs on me. So much to do. It sounds like times will be tough. At least there isn’t a major war taking place. It could have been worse.

Things are going good enough. Everyone has stayed stable. It’s never good to start a new life in a major tizzy, the people that have been here before know this. A few of the new people are still laughing over the conductor’s speech. That’s good. They won’t know what hit them until it’s far too late.

The hours roll by, and my stop is next.

Chapter Nine

Tough as Nails

It began over a cup of coffee in a world that looked much like this one, some five thousand years ago. Many of the people looked the same, some of them even had the same names. You may wonder at how those of us that know the truth would know such a thing. The answer is simple, we used to vacation here, before the enemy came and ruined what was once a good thing.

Her name is Amber, we met at a local hang out that catered to those who rode motorcycles in the canyons at speeds faster than sanity would allow.

She was there with her twelve friends all on matching green bikes and yellow riding gear; they looked tough, in a world of softies they could still pass, yet something told you they were driving nails in with hammers on the inside.

She sat at table ten by herself and watched the wanna bee’s as they approached her friends and got shot down like mammas boys who couldn’t handle the heat. Having been a regular I didn’t bother to ask if I could sit at table ten; I just pulled up a chair and sat down. We didn’t say a word for some ten minutes, neither of us asked each other for a name, it wasn’t necessary.

Finally, when the timing was right I asked her if she had a full tank of gas, she nodded her head once in a downward nod that neither gave anything away or confirmed anything whatsoever. She pointed to her bike which was backed into a spot by itself and said, “If you have the guts and can beat me to the springs without dropping below a hundred and five, I might think about seeing a local movie with you; beware that isn’t a date, it just means you might get to see me again.

No words were necessary, I signaled two fingers on my left hand, and said, “You can have a sixty second head start.” She laughed and said, “You won’t ever catch me.” With nothing more than a nod I waited for her to get on her bike and hit second gear twenty feet out of the parking lot. True to my word it was sixty seconds later when my bike hit forty-two miles an hour and pulled out onto the street. There was light traffic on the surface streets, nothing we couldn’t navigate, the only rule was red lights you had to go through backwards and the if you ever dropped the bike in the pavement you really lose points.

The springs were some twenty miles to the east, time was of the essence. With only one more light before the on ramp to the freeway the light turned yellow, I shifted the bike into fifth gear and watched the mirror for the light to turn red, which it did half way through the intersection, I spun it around and pulled the clutch doing some seventy five miles an hour when she came through the intersection, cut me off and turned her bike sideways making the turn into the freeway on ramp and hitting sixth gear, I turned the bike around and let the clutch out in sixth gear and pulled the throttle to where it opened the pipe full open.

Ten minutes later...

We were sitting at table five zero one at the springs and food was on the menu, we each ordered and not long after having eaten, we were standing outside in the parking lot discussing something at that point it didn’t matter, everything was as good as gold. We knew the times were changing, there were bad things on the move no one wanted to talk about. We didn’t go there, some things like that you just don’t talk about with anyone. We spent a lot of time there after together riding and training for impossible shit. My teams were on the move and kept a close eye on our safety. We had a radio com link implanted in our right ear just for such things as emergencies.

Amber and her team of twelve were known as the Anarchists, they all had bad boyfriends, who were off the record, most people never met their boyfriends twice, especially if they were trying to score a date with an anarchist. Those that rode with me all had very tough girl friends who were on the record, and proved to be the jealous type.

The world however was changing, it wasn’t the people, it wasn’t that god was angry with anyone, it was that the true enemy from afar was going to arrive any day and someone had to turn the system on to the most dangerous mode possible when the enemy got there. It was the same routine, it even looked like the same life as this one. It isn’t. What used to be a vacation spot has turned into hostile territory.

The world changed when the enemy arrived. Those of us who were awake when it hit, we remember what happened. The whole world ended, everyone was moved to different bodies and given different names, and no one had to tell us we were to never trust anyone ever again. From there we have been fighting the likes of an enemy that outnumbers us a thousand to one, and when they die they seem to come back faster than we do. Which most of the time isn’t a good sign.

Now in the year two thousand and one, we are sixty-five thousand strong, our sports are not as wild and we don’t show off that we’re skilled; as you never show the enemy what you’re good for until after they have tried to strike. Our sports include but not limited to placing black and yellow bumper stickers on old people’s cars that they will never be able to get off, sometimes in broad daylight as it ups the thrill of doing it without getting caught. We leave large letter A with a circle around it, all over the place. We pretend to drive faster than the speed limit in our heads, sometimes covering as far as we can see in a split second.

We look peaceful, we are peaceful most all the time. We keep the names and phone numbers of those who piss us off in a database, someday after the world has gone to hell we might make a collect phone call to those S.O.B.’s. We don’t bother using drugs, we’re on high alert for incoming. We know the schedule: “Up at five ten, cup of coffee and a hot shower, eat, second cup of coffee, do a day’s work and before sun down brew more coffee, cold shower, second cup of coffee, supper and not to sleep before midnight.

We don’t have time to get drunk. What a waste. Been there done that. Nothing good ever happens when you mix seven-day week with booze. It’s a mess.

Yet I count the days that she’s been gone, in my spare time I print black and yellow car decals that say: “Gotcha” And walk around putting them on people’s cars who hopefully won’t be able to get them off; then I drive around town looking for people who don’t have one and find out where they live. Finally, one gloomy day in June, a blonde on a bike pulled up and asked, “Who are you looking for?” I noted the color of her riding gear and said, “Looking for my Amber, have you seen her?” She shook her head and said, “Don’t bother trying to find us, we know where you live, we will find you.” I nodded once and she floored the bike taking off in second gear.

After that I spent many days pounding nails and didn’t care about printing decals. I walked out to check the mail, it was the usual rubbish save but one letter that wasn’t from anyone and addressed to me. I opened it to see it contained a note in a femme writing style, seems it was my chance to meet my Amber or at least find out where she is. The instructions said to go to the club on main street known as the Blue Falcon. I showed up five minutes late and wondered around, the place was packed so I found a table in the back corner and waited. Nothing and no one bothered me for some two hours.

Until the bar tender said there was a problem with my bill and asked me to step in back to speak with the manager. From there it was a little strange, the manager asked me if I was carrying anything and I told him, “Just a single edged knife in my front pocket.” He asked for it and then had the bar tender check me for other weapons. “You will get your blade or one better back when you leave here.” The manager said in an almost silly tone that made me want to mock him. From there they took me upstairs to where the real party was, and it didn’t take five minutes to meet half my team from days of old. They knew the question on my mind, but we didn’t breathe a word of it.

We knew the first rule, someone had to throw a pizza party and make it look real. I told my top right wing man to setup the pizza party and I have reason to believe that we all hoped the anarchists would show up. Seems there was more than one team on top tonight and that meant everyone else was looking for the same things we were. In just twenty minutes time the top misfits had met and knew that things were going on. We didn’t bother to discuss anything important, who knows what kind of trouble there was on the brew in the matter of a day or two.

As I left I stopped back by the manager’s office, he was waiting for me, seems I didn’t notice the backpacks that were lined up in his office; or maybe I just thought they were employees’ bags. However, second time in I notice they were almost all identical and it appeared to be fifty-two bags that were in his office. The manager reached down and handed me one at random, “Don’t bother opening it here.” He said to me, “Just pull your bike about a mile down the road and to the side, sit in the dark and wait for your contact.

I went ahead and asked, “Who should I be waiting for?” And the manager winked left once and said, “Some anarchist in a really bad mood.” I figured right quick things were going to get rough in a hurry. I put the bag over my shoulder and spun on my heals and walked out fast enough but not too fast to draw attention. I doubt anyone even saw me leave the place. I swung one leg over the seat of the bike and brought it center, pushed the kickstand back to riding position, fired up the bike and hit second gear before I made the pavement. There wasn’t really any good place to pull the bike over and wait, so I drove an extra mile turned it around and put the bike on the other side of the road right at where the mile marker would be.

I figured if anyone asked me what I was doing, I would tell them I had to take a piss. It was some ten minutes later, a bike doing about a hundred and twenty came by going the right direction, whoever it was passed me, five seconds later locked it up, and came back my way, it was defiantly a fem, and she demanded, “What’s your name?” I told her my usual code de arms, and she said, “Leave your bike here, and get the fuck on, we’re all relocating tonight with new gear too.

I could tell by her voice it wasn’t Amber so putting my arms around her was kind of out, this one was just doing us all a favor. I held on to the back-handle bar and leaned forward as much as I dared. Ten minutes later, at a speed I knew to be over a hundred, we arrived in boxton flats, where, as odd as it was, there were two semi-trucks and about fifty-two people looking over the wares. I got off the bike and thanked the rider for a safe trip and found someplace out of the way to watch what was going on. There weren’t any cars on the big rigs, just bikes, and from looking around most of these people didn’t have the backpack I was carrying, they must be getting theirs later.

I saw some of my team show up about twenty minutes later, they were carrying their backpacks on both shoulders, I could wait to open mine until the time proved itself necessary, if they were all the same they were packed per protocol and I could find anything I needed in the dark with my eyes closed in under twenty-nine seconds. Not that we do it that way except in training missions. This was no drill. I heard the sound of footsteps coming up from behind, about ten paces back, the fem knew I had heard her because I signaled two with my right hand and her voice gave her away, “You about ready to ride?” I didn’t dare say her name, nor did I turn around and give her the hug I so wanted to.

I simply said, “Yeah, ready when you are, what’s the floor for this one?” I could have sworn she smiled and said back to me, “We’re riding solo, no less than one twenty until we refuel. And no showing off. Something bad is going down.” I followed her back to the bikes that had been tuned and ready to ride, we put our riding gear on, black on black and yellow bikes. We hit the road in fourth gear and in less than sixty seconds we are doing a hundred and forty miles an hour headed east, although our helmets had com links we didn’t use them unless a turn or exit was approaching.

We rode for two point eight hours at those speeds, and no doubt Amber knew it was me, she stopped just behind me at the fueling station and walked up to me and tried to land a head punch at me, I blocked it but didn’t swing back. She knew. She was pissed off. Seems that I had blown the only cool hang out for us a few years back and we had to go solo all this time. Though no fault of my own, it seemed the second team was watching my back the whole time, someone had tried to kill me. I looked back at her and wondered if I dare give her a big hug yet, but something told me the hanger still had ice in it.

From there after we fueled the bikes, we rode into the city where a small flat was waiting for us. We parked our bikes in the garage and took the stairs in the back, up to the first floor. Amber had the key to open the door. We went in and placed our bags by the door, after which we spent a long time talking about the last twenty-one years that we had been missing each other.

Time passed....

Chapter Ten

Alice

Alice is not your typical woman. At age twenty-five she had been confined to a wheelchair most of her life. She passed the time surfing the internet and having tea with her one friend, Viktor. They would sit on the porch drinking tea spiked with vodka and having a laugh at their American pen pal’s stupidity with living in a country that has everything.

I think I’m going to drop him on his ear.” Alice said rather hastily speaking to Viktor about her American pen pal Adam. It seems they had been exchanging messages for a few years and the conversation had become pointless, boring, and tedious in the last few months.

Why don’t you just quit writing him?” Viktor asked with a grin. Alice had considered this option, but found that she actually felt sorry for Adam and his miserable life.

I think its best I find something that the idiot can’t screw up.” Alice said with a malicious grin. Viktor thought about this a minute and held a mouthful of tea and vodka to taste the alcohol and smell the sweet jasmine that went so very well with it all.

Try talking to him about God, he will either give up or find out he doesn’t know anything.” Viktor said victoriously. He thought he had Alice up against a wall now. Alice poured the last of tea and vodka into her glass and took a smell of the combination of sweet and bitter.

I’m going to bore him to death with talk about Russian philosophy.” Alice said proudly thinking that this would appeal to Viktor’s pride. It was Alice that had asked Viktor to come over and she had almost had enough of his drunken talk of church and state.

You’re never going to find love on the internet, you should consider the options you have in real life.” Viktor said, thinking that Alice would have thought him a suitable alternative to boring Americans that couldn’t keep her attention.

I have had enough of your always prying into my life, you know there is no way we could be together, our social customs are set in stone; your family wouldn’t let you marry someone in my condition.” Alice said firmly, thinking it was time to get rid of Viktor for the day. Viktor thought about his family and the buzz in his head was stronger than his common sense.

Well you’re right about that, papa can piss in the wind; I don’t care anymore.” Viktor said, thinking that Alice would approve. He couldn’t have been more wrong in his life.

You’re drunk, I think you should leave.” Alice said with as much disapproval as she could. She looked at Viktor and gave him the evil eye that her mother had taught her when she was just nineteen.

Very well then, until next week; we will see if your attitude changes in the next week.” Viktor said, thinking he had been too forward for poor Alice to accept his offer. “I will bring another thermos, but the vodka is gone, we only have cherry brandy left.” Alice thought quickly and says, “Maybe we will wait two weeks to see each other.

Viktor got up and wobbled a bit, he steadied himself on the rail and said his goodbyes and walked out the door. Alice sat in the cool air and thought about the crazy American that bored her with empty talk. She scrolled through the programmed rooms in her wheelchair and selected the computer room. The wheelchair began to turn and wheel off the patio and into the house, moving through the living room and the hallway to the room at the end on the left. The wheelchair has sensors that knows its location accurate to one inch from any object.

Alice takes the time to think, it’s late, but she has time to check her email. The wheelchair’s motor comes to a rest just in front of the computer terminal, that was nice. Alice thought to herself. She enters the password on her computer and opens the program that checks her email.

You have two new messages.

The first one is spam, which seems to never end. The second one is from her American pen pal, she opens the message:

Dear Alice,

I think I found a way for you to live a normal life, though you can’t do it in the body you’re in; you can, however, spend the hours you would be sleeping in another parallel universe. To do this you must take one teaspoon of nutmeg stirred in milk before bed and fall asleep with both eyes open. You will find the parallel universe in seconds from falling asleep. Anything is possible and you can have the life you always dreamed of.

Best wishes,

Adam

Alice reads the message again and thinks, ’yeah right’. She looks through the rooms which are programmed in the wheelchair and selects the kitchen. The wheelchairs motor comes to life and starts to turn, the chair moves back, turns a one-eighty to the right and heads out of the room towards the kitchen.

Alice doubts she has any nutmeg in the house. She arrives in the kitchen and she bumps the chair’s motor forward to the cabinets that have the spices in them. She looks through the spice rack, seems with so many spices in the cabinet she will never find what she is looking for. Looking through the top shelf, there is a very old can marked: Nutmeg. She reaches up and takes the can from the shelf. A teaspoon, eh? she thinks to herself. It’s worth a shot if I can spend eight hours in a parallel universe it’s better than being stuck here.

One teaspoonful later and a feeling that her allergies are going to make her cry, she finds the bedroom in her wheelchair’s list of rooms for her house, she hits the button and selects the fastest possible speed.

Ten minutes later she is in bed with her eyes open staring at the ceiling wondering if Adam isn’t a jerk. Her mind goes black, the nutmeg has kicked in, the light comes through the room so bright she must force herself to keep her eyes open. Twenty seconds later, she is standing in a field of grass on a bright day. ’This is odd.’ Alice thought to herself.

Alice walked down the path to a stream which had no crossing. She sits down and looks at the water. A few minutes pass with the stream flowing and the sounds of birds chirping. From looking down the path, Alice sees someone walking the path, she stands up and pays attention to see who is coming.

A voice she has never heard before calls her by name, “Alice, is that you?” Alice looks at the person walking towards her and says, “Who are you?

I’m a friend, I see you made it here, when you didn’t arrive at the party I figured you went the wrong way and I came to fetch you.

What is this place?” Alice asks not knowing what to believe. “This place is special, it has been made just for you. It’s someplace you can live your dreams.” Alice walks towards the figure and sees that it’s her American friend, the person she thought was a boring pen pal.

You didn’t expect me to be here, I can leave if you like.” Adam says casually, then adds, “I thought I would show you around first, once you get a feel for this place you won’t need me here anyway.

It’s ok, show me around.” Alice says in a coy tone. They walk together up the path that leads to a tea party. “Sorry there isn’t vodka here now, but the tea is very good.” Adam says as he takes a tea cup and fills it with a tea pot. He hands the cup to Alice and takes a second cup from the table.

I can walk here, I feel like I could run on my own two feet.” Alice says taking a sip of the tea, which to her surprise tastes better than any tea she has ever had. “You could if you wanted to. You don’t have the physical limits in this world that you have in the other universe.” Adam starts to explain when it dawns on Alice that she might not be here long. “But how long can I stay here?

That depends entirely upon you. Time is different here, what feels like an hour, would be just a second of time in the other universe.” Adam looks at Alice then thinks, ’might as well tell her’, “I want you to try this place for a few weeks, if you like it you can stay as long as you want and you don’t ever have to go back to the other place again.

How does that work?” Alice asks.

Well you will have to let me know if you want any changes, once you know what you want from life and it’s to your liking, staying here is a simple choice of adding vodka to your tea.” Adam looks at Alice and adds, “Of course if you don’t like any of it, the whole thing could be a remodel.

Where’s the vodka?” Alice asks with a curious tone.

Not so fast, you need to take a look around, but I warn you, don’t add vodka to your tea until you’re certain you want to stay here. There is no going back once you choose to stay. You can still have changes made after you choose, but going back is not possible.” Adam says in a serious tone of voice hoping to make it meaningful and definite.

Okay, I understand.” Alice takes a sip of tea which smells like nothing she has ever had before and thinks it’s pretty good.

Is this your world?” Alice asks in a curious tone. Adam smiles and says, “No this is your world, my world is different, the only reason I am here is to tell you where you are and that if you want it, it is yours.

Can I come to your world?” Alice asks.

No, I’m sorry but my universe isn’t any place for you. If you want I can come visit you here anytime you like, this is your world, your universe. To do with as you see fit.

When I return will I remember this place?” Alice asks.

Yes, but I would prefer if you didn’t mention it to anyone.

What if I want to bring someone else here?” Alice asks.

It’s your world. Do as you see fit.” Adam says. Then adds, “But think about what you want for a while, have some tea and chocolate; get to know it. There is however something else I have to tell you.

What’s that?” Alice asks.

I don’t know how to tell you this, but I guess this is the best way. In the other universe, the one where you are from, I am dying. I won’t last two weeks.” Adam says with a serious tone.

You mean I’m not going to get any more emails from you?” Alice says with a tear in her eye.

Adam thinks for a second and says, “Well, not in that universe. But where I’m going you can always contact me from this universe.” Then he adds, “There is a gateway between here and there, unless you really piss me off, it will always be open.

Are there any rules here?” Alice asks.

Just two rules that you must keep. Number one is never enter the gateway to my world. And second you must never mix vodka with tea until you are absolutely certain that you want to stay here. That’s it. It is very simple.

I thought you were a dumb boring American, seems I was wrong.” Alice says without thinking.

There is a lot you don’t know about me, our messages were a test, I think from what I know of you, that you will like this place a lot.” Adam says casually.

Did you create this place?” Alice asks.

I had some help from a friend. When he found out about my life expectancy in the other universe, he did me a favor. But, I got two worlds for the price of one.

That sounds like quite a deal to me.” Alice says. “But what’s it going to cost me?” she asks.

Nothing. This is gratis, I know you’re tired of your wheelchair and the life that goes with it. It’s a second shot at life you didn’t have.” Adam says with a soft voice that smooths everything over to the point Alice is ready to melt.

Chapter Eleven

The Cave

The winter scene outside my window is easy to deal with. Everything is easier in the winter, it’s the summers that I hate. I can explain why the summer months are so detestable to me, the shortest explanation, summer comes and love does not. It’s easy to be alone in the winter, but spring, when new things begin and come alive, it’s always a heart break when there is no love in my life.

To fully understand, you should know that I have been alone many years, this winter will mark a total of twenty years of isolation. Sometimes I believe that I’m better off alone in this world. There are things I want, it seems they have been withheld from me.

My home is my refuge, no one comes to disturb my peace and quiet. NO one calls, writes, or comes to visit. If they did come to visit they would overstay their welcome, I’m sure of it. I want friends, what I don’t want are trivial conversations about the weather that go nowhere. My life must have depth, I expect the same from my friends. Life shouldn’t be all talk and no action, to really live life one must do things that challenge and bring forth change. To live life, you must grow every day without fail.

I want to remark that I was brought up with a life that the status quo was never challenged. The monotony was dreary, and growing up was bitter to my soul. Yet I could not change my early years despite the hatred I have for what was done to me. All that matters is what I do from this day forward. Deep down I know that to live my life on my terms, I must take action.

The simple pleasures that most know, have no meaning in my life; perhaps they have a place in my life, however I don’t know where they go. It’s almost dusk outside, the cold of December is upon me, and even in bitter spirits I must take my walk through the small woods and hear the stream; it’s one comfort I still afford myself.

I walk through the house turning on lights in the two rooms that will be dark when I return from my walk. Before I go out that door there is one thing to take with me, my walking stick. The leather handle that I wrapped myself, in my prime, is worn and smooth from many years of walks; an average person would find the walking staff too heavy for comfort, it’s not for them so it really doesn’t matter.

The air is dense, like a rain is scheduled for tonight. Under foot the damp earth is not dusty, with my left arm holding the walking stick I pound the tip into the earth every two steps. Sometimes the marks can still be seen weeks later. If someone were to walk my path they would see this has become old habit and I walk about the same stride every night. Sometimes I can see where the old mark was and aim for the same spot. Why leave a new mark in the earth when one will do just fine?

Walking down the hill and to the south, the road ends and a path comes into view, it isn’t a wide path only myself and the wolves use it in the winter. The dry brush on either side are broken down from winter, they will be fresh in the spring, I think it’s easier to see them in the winter, despite the fact I like their green color when spring comes.

The stream with fresh water from the melting snow in the north mountains is still icy cold, in spring its banks are wide and full, this is just half of what comes when the rainy season is here. The path follows the stream on the left bank, with the water running from north to south towards the ocean. Oh, what a long journey the water must take to reach the ocean from here. No doubt other streams find their way until the water flows in a river to other faraway places. My life, unlike this stream, is not connected with anyone else, either the waters run dry or the water returns to the ground only to be forgotten.

I hear the water flowing downstream, the leaves silently passing as all dead things do. I have to wonder if the trees miss their leaves and the joys they brought in the summer months? The trees thin here and a meadow opens, the edge of my walk always stops here. I go no further, many years ago, I piled a group of stones in this place to mark my area, the deer can have the field, and the wolves can have the deer.

On my left I see the waning crescent moon still burning, I think to myself: Don’t be too jolly, the new moon will break your heart. It’s always the same, the old moon follows the new moon, even the heavens are clockwork of renew and decay. It seems the moon is always ready for more, it never seems to give up, I don’t believe the moon will stop until after the sun does.

My walk back is through a half mile of dark trees and the north path is cold with a southern wind that was at my back on my way here. The cold feels good as does the isolation, the only things that bring sound are the stream and the wind. My silent steps and the marks my walking staff leave are the only sign of human life here. That’s good, I like it this way. Up the hill and in the distance, I can see the light in my home, only there is sound that isn’t the stream and it sounds like a car coming up the road.

#

The sound is unmistakable. The computer is always on, the sound only happens when new messages are received. Which doesn’t happen often. It only happens after an error in someone else’s computer makes the mistake of sending me something I don’t want, junk mail. All the same, today could be different; perhaps there is hope that someone would write me. I won’t know for twenty seconds, the time it takes me to login and switch to my email application. My inbox to my surprise shows one message, the senders address is: Amber Constance.

I open the message and read it silently to myself.

Dear Calvin,

I want to thank you for sharing your poetry on your blog, you have no idea how your writing affected me, I am still in tears from how your words ring so true in my heart and soul. Thank you for being so honest and truthful, it is rare to find a mind like yours that has suffered the same hardships and trials.

I don’t want to be nosy, however, I have a question, if you feel you want to answer me I would appreciate a response. After reading the poem The Fall of Light, I was moved to write you, I have never found anyone that feels like I do, where does your inspiration come from?

Regards,

Amber

For the first time in a long while, I feel a hint of surprise and something else, something that I have not felt in many years; a thrill.

Well I better not get too excited at first, seems if I think I have any fans it will go to my head, before long it will bring my ever-ready spirit back to life. No I won’t answer this letter, the fact she cared enough to write doesn’t mean anything, it’s only a very sincere thank you letter and nothing more. If I ignore it, a few days will pass and there will be nothing else to be done. It will drift away like my life, until there is nothing left.

The thing that strikes me odd now is the title of the poem, “The Fall of Light.” That was years ago, I will have to check the date; I don’t believe someone read my blog that far back, it had to have been five years ago, I wrote that one. I open my web browser and type the administrators address for my blog, a few seconds later a list of hundreds of entries comes up, I find the search box and type the poems title. The page shows one poem from August 11, 2010, oh what a year that was.

I open the link for the page and read the poem, hmm those were dark years of my life. No good, wasted years of my life. It would have been better to have burned those poems. Only now they are on the internet and that is quite impossible.

Chapter Twelve

American Zombie

Final chapter

There is everything you need here. Everything we think you need. Don’t think about what you don’t have, be a good egg and obey. The bad eggs don’t make it long and you want to live a long time because you’re afraid of death. You were born in a world you don’t understand, with what you have been told you never will understand it. We want it that way.

People in the twenty-first century are just what we want them to be. They can be nothing more, they obey all the rules, we punish them for breaking the rules. They must all submit to our rule, they will like everything and understand nothing. The world is so new and fresh, we won’t tell them what they are, or why they are here. We tell them they must figure it out for themselves, which they will never do with the information we give them. They don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle, it’s kind of funny if you think about it.

Of all the billions of people in the world, only one in a million will figure it out. The herd is so convinced of the lies, that one in a million will never speak out. They don’t want to be the crazy ones that get locked up.

To know the truth, you have to know what some of the lies are. It’s just that simple, the sheep always think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, the truth is we grow that grass to make them want something they can never have. If the truth were known, there would be chaos and that will never do. We must maintain control and power, they won’t ever know the difference if we keep them stupid enough.

There is a point, like a line on a graph; once it’s been crossed you can never go back. Conformity, it’s like a warm blanket in the cold winter. Nothing like being just like everyone else to make you feel secure in yourself. The safety of the sheep is looking like a herd, stick together, don’t stand out. Don’t stray from the herd. Go to work, eat, watch TV and drink a six pack of beer. In our greed, we’re not happy with just raising sheep. We want zombies that don’t think. It’s more fun, if one in a million will figure it out, we must reduce the odds of one getting through the filter. We don’t want one to raise a fuss, they might remember it. That will never do.

The herd thinks they are never wrong, with the information they have been given they couldn’t choose for themselves from a hundred options. Too many options that seem just different enough to confuse them. They can’t figure it out, and something deep down tells them they don’t want to, fear keeps them in line.

I know you, yeah you, I know what you are inside. Don’t pretend to be so shocked, it isn’t difficult to figure you out. I have studied you, I have watched you, I know what you want. I can set you free, I can save you a lot of pain.

I’m not like you. No, I’m not one of you. After fifty years of life on your planet, after studying humans in detail; I know what I am. I am the wolf in sheep’s clothing. I see how easy it is to fool you, a nod on the street corner, a smile in the grocery store. A nice tip in the restaurant, without being difficult to please. I see how they go about their lives, the monotony of a day with acceptance. Working, eating, watching television with a six pack of beer.

Chapter Thirteen

Lab Rat

I was born in a laboratory just a year ago. My name is Y, it sounds like the word “Why” but it’s just the letter, with nothing more. The scientists were ready to give up before they had a breakthrough success with my life. This is like a second chance at life for me, the doctors thought I was better off dead, before they had the breakthrough. Now they are glad I lived.

They haven’t told me what happened to me, they say my body is thirty-five years old and that I had an accident that almost destroyed me. It’s a miracle I’m alive, and I feel healthy so the scientists are very excited to have a test subject that’s in this good of condition.

I don’t know what they did to me, I may never know. They say I will get to leave here in less than four weeks. I know that I should be excited about all this, everything seems so new and understanding all of it isn’t easy. At the same time, there is a doubt about this new chance at life. They say that I can have a normal life and live like everyone else. They say that I’m going to get all better and there is nothing to be worried about, the experiment was a total success.

I would like to know where I can from, who I was before this happened to me, but they say I’m not ready to know that yet. I hope to know the answers to these questions before I leave here.

How you feeling today Y?

I look up and see the scientist standing before me with a clipboard in his hand, he is holding a pen in his right hand and checking boxes on a sheet of paper.

I’m good, just thinking about life.” I say with as much courage as I can. “What are we going to do today?” I add, hoping that it will be something fun.

Two more weeks just like this, then you can start reading books.” the scientist says and marks the paper one last time, I try to recall his name but looking at his uniform I see I don’t have to remember, his name badge says, “Dr. Phelps.” That’s strange, I thought these were scientists.

The doubt in my mind, my surroundings, this seems like a strange place. I don’t see any other people like me here. Just scientists and people in uniforms.

I try to think back to who I was before the accident, then something strange happens, my mind jolts like it has been shaken in my skull and the words, “Memory access denied, please use more care when thinking.” I don’t know what they did to me, but they don’t want me to remember who I was. Ok fine. Let’s try this another way, maybe there is a back door. I think to myself, ’What’s my favorite food.’ I meditate on it for a few minutes and my memory comes in pictures, I remember something about sushi. I don’t know more than that. It’s all a haze to me now.

At least I didn’t get a warning trying to go there. I hope that never happens again. Someone comes in and gives me a shot in the arm, everything starts to go black and I’m not able to think.

When I awake, I see I’m in a different room. They have moved me somewhere else, I’m not sure where I am.

Have you had any warning messages?

I look up from the bed and see a group of scientists standing before me. I don’t know how to answer this question, I think back to the message I had, “No, just an error message.” I say hoping they will believe me.

The scientists look at each other and shake their heads in agreement, then Dr. Phelps steps forward with a photograph in his hand, he shows me the photo, it’s a group of people. I don’t think I have ever seen.

Have you ever seen these people before?

No, never seen them before.” I say coldly. I don’t remember the people in the photo, though something looks familiar.

These people are very dangerous, if you ever see them you are to run for your life.

OK I understand.” I say thinking this is weird.

If these people find you they will hurt you or maybe worse, they could kill you. Avoid them at all costs, no matter how friendly they seem.

Yeah that doesn’t sound fun.

We’re going to let you leave today, we know it’s a bit early, but you have shown every sign that you’re ready now.

Great I’m looking forward to it. Where do I go from here?

We’re sending you home, you will meet your friends slowly and over a period of time, so things aren’t too difficult for you.

I think to myself that I should thank them for all their hard work, I’m not sure I can say it with sincerity, I might as well try. “Thank you for saving my life.” There, I said something nice.

Oh, we should be thanking you and you are welcome. Hope you enjoy your new life.

I’m thinking, I hope I enjoy my new life too. I don’t know what else to say so I look up at them and smile. They grin back at me and everyone starts talking at the same time, something about a success.

As they file out of the room, someone else comes in with a stack of clothing and a pair of shoes. I’m thinking those clothes are going to be a welcome relief.

Are those for me?” I ask casually as possible.

Yes, these are for you, do you want to get out of bed now and put them on?

That would be great.” I lift my arms and roll on the bed until I can swing my legs out of bed. I sit up with my legs dangling over the edge. This feels pretty good. No problems so far.

I will leave you to dress yourself.

I stand up and take a look at the clothing, it’s brown and maybe a little big for me. Well, I can deal with this, putting my clothes on should be pretty easy. I take the gown off and put the underwear on, then I pull my pants up and pull the shirt over my head. Next task is socks and shoes. This is fairly easy.

With those things accomplished, I knock on the door and the person that brought the clothes comes back in. She takes a good look at me, looks me up and down and sees that I have my shirt on the right way and looks relieved.

Follow me, a driver will be taking you home.

I follow the woman out the door, down a long hallway, then a security check point, the woman has papers in hand to show the guard.

He’s clear to go, these papers are signed.

The guard takes the paper and reads them. He looks at me, looks at the papers, and says, “What’s your name?

My name is Y.” I say, not looking at him.

The guard hands the paper back to the woman and presses a button that opens the door, I walk through and I feel a cold sweat breaking on my forehead.

We walk through another hallway and into a lobby. There is a man waiting for me. The woman reaches the driver and says, “Take good care of him, he cost us a fortune.

The driver laughs a good deal, looks at me and says, “Let’s go, follow me.

I do as told, and follow the man out the building and to a parked car, the driver walks to the rear passenger door and opens it for me, I kind of feel like I’m getting special treatment. I climb in and the driver closes the door.

Once the driver gets behind the wheel, he tells me to put my seat belt on, which I do. Then he starts the car and pulls away, I look at the sign on the building from the car window. It reads: AltraBravo. A Two-Bit Computer Company, that is a bit odd.

I don’t say anything about it to the driver, he isn’t saying anything to me either. No reason to raise alarms now, I’m almost home. I stare at the city as we drive through it and maybe half an hour passes with seeing people, cars, bicycles, and lots of buildings. I don’t see anyone from the photo the scientists showed me. So far things are good.

We arrive in front of a five-story building made from gray bricks, the driver gets out and opens the door for me. “Come Mr. Y, I will show you your home.” I feel apprehensive about this, but I do as I am told and get out, the pavement feels cold through my shoes and a shiver goes through me.

We go through the building to the fourth floor, the doors all look the same and we stop at a door that says, Y42. The driver takes a key from his pocket and unlocks the door. It opens and I see what is supposed to be my home. It looks nice, better than the laboratory. That’s for sure. The driver hands me the keys and follows me in.

Everything is here, just the way you left it. Do you need anything else?

I look around. Thinking about this place, nothing I remember.

No, I’m fine, thanks for showing me the way up,” I say looking around the new surroundings. I see there are pictures on the walls, there is a bookcase with books in it, and a sofa with a television in front of it.

The driver looks around and looks at me, then he asks, “You be ok here?” I think this is improvement from the laboratory, so I say, “Yeah it’s great. Thanks for taking me home.” the driver looks at the keys and says as he’s leaving the room, “Don’t forget to lock the door before you leave, and don’t lose your keys.

Ok, will do.” I say nodding in agreement. The driver closes the door and I’m left standing in the living room in a place I don’t think I have ever been. I walk down the hallway to a bedroom, I see a bathroom on the left. The bed is made up and everything looks clean. Maybe a little too clean. I lay on the bed, it feels better than where I was. I take it easy and look around, everything seems like it has been here a while. But something doesn’t feel right.

I get up and walk to the living room, I look at the bookcase and see there are about two hundred books. I take the first one that catches my eye and open it. The first page is blank, I look at the next page, it’s blank. I thumb through the pages, they are all blank. Something’s not right. I take a second book from the case and thumb through it, same as the first one, the books all have titles on them, but no content.

I could panic, something isn’t right. I put the books back on the shelf just like they were. I look around, there must be something I left behind in this place. I sit on the sofa, maybe an hour passes.

Knock, knock.” I hear the thud of someone at the door. I get up and walk slowly to the door, I look out the eye hole to see who is there, it’s a face I don’t recognize. “Who is it?” I ask before opening the door.

Your neighbor, J

I open the door and see a man about the same age standing in front of me, he smiles and looks harmless enough. I open the door wider and think how foreign this all seems.

Welcome back, I know you have had a rough time, I just wanted to say that I’m glad you made it back in one piece.

Thanks, I’m glad to be back myself.” J stands there looking like a dork, I don’t know if I should invite him in or just say goodbye. I think he senses my hesitation and looks me in the eye, “If you need anything just knock on my door, I’m room J14.” He points down the hall at the second door on the left.

Ok thanks.” then it seems I want to ask a question, I want to know if I had a favorite book. I look at him and ask, “Do you remember if I liked to read?

Oh sure, I have seen your bookshelf, you read all the time.

Yeah, I am pretty sure something doesn’t add up. I smile and say, “Thanks for the welcome home, if I need anything I will stop by.

I close the door and walk back to the bookshelf. I take the book on the bottom corner out and thumb through it. All blank pages. I put the book back and take the keys off the counter. I look at the keys and see a key ring with a black obelisk on it. I wonder what that does.

I look out the eye hole and don’t see anyone in the hallway, open the door, step into the hallway and closing the door and put the first key on the ring into the lock. I turn it and it locks solid. I put the keys in my pocket and walk fast.

Two minutes later I am downstairs and out of the building. I turn right on the corner and walk into the first restaurant I see.

I’m seated at a table by the window, I look at the menu and wonder what I want. I know I don’t want soup. The waitress comes by and I look at her for a second and say, have you ever seen me here before?

She looks startled and says, “I just started, but I’ve never seen you before. Not here at least.” I try to pick something off the menu and the first thing that I see is a cheese sandwich. “I will have one of these, and a glass of chocolate milk.

You got it.” she says and walks back to the kitchen. I look out the window and see people walking past, I don’t see anyone I know, but I don’t think I know anyone anyways. My cheese sandwich arrives with a glass of chocolate milk. The food tastes better than that junk they were giving me in the laboratory. I eat in haste and leave the food stamp card on the table. Walking out the restaurant, a black van pulls up, two men get out of the van and walk right at me. I don’t recognize them, but they grab me and force me into the van.

They got to you; we’re taking you back.

No not the laboratory again, I don’t want to go back there.” I holler, with a feeling of panic in my heart.

Relax, we’re not going to the laboratory.

I struggle and try to fight my way away from them, but the van starts to pull out on the street and the people that have me aren’t letting me go. Who are you?

How much pain can you take?

The question throws me for a loop, I don’t know how to answer that. I just sit there and keep my mouth closed. I am not able to see out of the van, I don’t see anyone or anything for some thirty minutes. When the van stops, the doors open. The fist face I see, no this isn’t right? I was told to stay away from these people. How did they get me so fast?

Relax, you’re safe.

Who are you and why am I here?” I ask quietly.

We have to find out if we can break the passcode in the computer in your mind, if we can’t, we are all screwed. We need information that’s locked away, we plan to get it one way or another.

They lead me up a back staircase into a dark hallway, I don’t see any place to run to. We approach a door and the person on my left knocks on the door. The person on the other side, says,

Who is it?

We have him.

I hear the deadbolt unlock and the door opens into a large room. There are five people in the room. Someone comes forward, it looks like a familiar face.

Sit down, don’t ask questions and do as we tell you.

I look at the chair on the left and sit, then someone comes in with a cart with what looks like a computer on it, only there are a bunch of wires coming from it.

We know what they did to you, we are here to help but we have to unlock your mind. Do you have any passwords?

No none.

Figures, they wouldn’t give you any, they don’t want you to remember. Its bad blood and a nightmare they don’t want.

They lift my hair and plug a cable in just behind my ear, my mind feels the shock, and a warning light comes on. This isn’t good.

We want to know if this hurts, Run the first password through the system.

A sudden jolt makes my mind feel broken in so many ways I don’t know what to do. It hurts.

We have no choice, be good and endure it.

The first password is wrong and the pain is intense.

The passcode is a twenty-digit alpha-numeric code, it could take weeks to get it right.

It looks like they have the passcode wired to his pain sensor in his brain, either his mind will break from it or we will get the passcode, we have to try.

Ok I will run a hundred passwords a second for fifteen minutes, hope he can take it.

The pain starts, seconds pass and it feels like hours. My body goes numb from the pain, all I can feel is my mind being shaken like a martini, second after second, the warning message comes on, Password Error: Warning. I’m not able to shut it off and I’m not able to stop it from happening. Wish they would tell me what information they want maybe I could give them what they need?

When it’s over my muscles ache, my mind is swimming in a hazy shade of blue.

We ran ninety thousand passwords and nothing. Try more passwords and a longer amount of time.

Roger that. Running ten thousand passwords a second for thirty minutes.

Nineteen minutes later the pain was unbearable I started screaming, “Stop this, Stop it now!

No, we only have six million passwords left to try and break it. If your mind doesn’t snap, you will remember who you were in less than ten minutes. It’s worth it!

It doesn’t feel worth it right now, this is misery. Why do these people want me to remember who I am anyways? Then my mind over rides the warning message and the pain starts to fade, it still has the warning light but the pain is gone. Two seconds later they got what they wanted.

We’re in, the password was in our database.

You have been freed from the slavery they tried to force upon you, you’re a free man now.

Do you remember who you are?

The room is spinning and the faces look like blurs, I don’t know why they were doing this to me, but I think about who I might have been before this whole thing started and my mind responds to the thought, ’Who am I?’ only this time there is no warning message. It’s clear, I remember every page from every book I ever read. I remember who I was, this isn’t going to make me happy, but it might expose those who did this to me. Which would be the best revenge, they cannot hide the truth.

Chapter Fourteen

The Rat Race Forward

At an elite technical institute, some twenty years ago, Professor Guest began an experiment that changed the course of history from that point forward. It was in the heat of June, in the year 1980 the professor signed the delivery slip for a hundred thousand Cray super computers, which were placed in a campus of ten buildings and networked together to form one of the largest simulated life experiments ever created.

The brilliant Professor Guest’s goal was to find answers to big problems before they became problems in society. He also hoped that his contribution to society would be of use to the human race at some point that he might not now understand. During the twenty year time this project code named Urban Myth they found answers to the tough questions in the world that no one else could answer.

The only input is a sensor that changed the temperature of the environment in the simulation based upon the live weather reports outside the buildings. There were also the statistics and reporting facility which took up the entire floor of building number ten.

A look into the design of the project shows that each of the Cray super computers process in RAM a hundred million simulated people, their every action and course is documented by the computers doing the statistics and reporting along with the temperature of the outside, while the events were taking place.

The real surprises become clear, this is not Professor Guest’s story, it’s the story of the simulation as it happened.

Chapter I

Fast Food

Day 200, weather 79 degrees and sunny with scattered clouds on the horizon.

Thomas doesn’t understand it, he woke up one morning to find that he is alive and oddly enough knows how old he is, thirty-three years. That isn’t the part that bothers him the most, he has a number stuck in his head he doesn’t understand. He also knows there are a number of things that he wants to do. The number is 1022235, though he doesn’t know what it means, it bothers him to feel like a number. The people at the restaurant treat him like a number, they always hand him one when he places his order.

He never talks about it with anyone. Who would listen, no one! Yet he thinks about the waste his meals generate, the amount of processing that went into each meal, not to mention the effect upon his body when it isn’t as healthy as it should have been.

The thought of the coffee temple and how they give him a new cup every time he visits, which he uses and throws away. That really bothers him. What really surprises him is that no one else seems to care. He doesn’t bother trying to talk about it with anyone else, he just figures it is a part of life.

Thomas is driving on Route 42 in his gray VW, it is after eight p.m. he has been awake for seventeen hours and consumed five drinks at the temple and two fast food sandwiches that came in almost one fourth pound of wrappers.

As he drives by the corner of Route 42 and Smith Street he sees a homeless bum, first he sneers at him then he mocks him for a bit, then he just makes fun of him and doesn’t believe in this day and age there could be anyone homeless on the streets.

Six hours later it is after two am the following day, Thomas crashes in his soft bed and doesn’t wake up until the phone rings just after ten am. Thomas answers the ringing phone on the second ring and is surprised to hear from a distant relative he hasn’t been in touch with for years.

After talking just a few minutes his aunt breaks the news to him, “Your cousin Ted died yesterday and the funeral will be in two days from today.” Thomas is in shock, he couldn’t believe it and took down the notes of where to meet the family. After which Thomas dresses and goes to the coffee temple for his first purification, which is a glass of water and a double espresso in separate cups of course.

Thomas finds himself in the temple reading the paper waiting for ten a.m., the time he is supposed to be at the funeral of his cousin. Finally, a quarter to ten rolls around and Thomas gets in his car, as he drives up the street he sees another homeless bum. He starts to mock him and make fun of the guy, about now he wonders where these homeless people are coming from. Finally Thomas makes it to the cemetery and finds himself sitting next to Aunt Ginny in the fifth row where about a hundred and fifty people are gathered. The services are beautiful and they say some of the best things about Ted anyone ever heard.

Thomas is surprised when he studies Ted’s tomb stone, there are two different numbers he doesn’t understand. Thomas asks around as to what the numbers mean, no one would tell him or comment. That is, until he finds his grandfather who knows exactly what the numbers mean, but refuses to explain while at the cemetery in front of other people.

An hour later sometime around eleven thirty, Thomas finds himself at his grandfathers, where they began to discuss Ted and the numbers on the tombstone. Thomas is talking quite a bit and his grandfather gets down to the point and says, “Shut up for a minute and let me explain what those numbers really mean to us.” Thomas sat down and shut up on the spot.

Within three groups of people there are two games being played, many people don’t want you to know what those numbers mean, it could cost me my life if I explain the full meaning of why those numbers go with Teds tombstone.” Johnny says in a humble tone.

What are the two games being played in the world these days?” Thomas asks in a tone that he isn’t sure he wants to know the answer.

The two games people play are The Human Factor, and The Rat Race.” Johnny says in a confident tone. Then Thomas asks, “What is the third group of people?” His grandfather says, “If you really want to know go to the coffee temple and ask for the blue bible from the high priest. You will learn the full set of rules and what is going on in the world that we live in.

Which game do you play grandfather?” Thomas asked in a curious tone.

After I researched the rules of both games and thought about my long-term goals there was no other choice, I must play the Human Factor.

Thomas is very impressed. All the while Thomas thought this over and wondered what he wanted to do. He thanks his grandfather and takes his leave going straight to the coffee temple to ask the high priest for the blue bible.

He remembers what his grandfather told him just an hour ago, “Go to the temple and ask for the blue bible. It contains the complete rules and instructions for each of the two games. After that you have two years to make up your mind as to which game to play.

He is sitting at the coffee temple in a bar seat closest to the coffee priests and trying to build up the courage to ask for the blue bible in public, he orders his second drink and before the drink is ready he requests the blue bible from the high priest.

We have some paper work you have to sign before we can bring that out to you.” the priest says, and goes off to find the paper work, leaving Thomas sitting there with his heart pounding in his chest. About two minutes later the priest brings the paper work out and hands it to Thomas.

Thomas takes his time to read it carefully and then signs the four places in a stack of about ten pages. He hands it back to the priest as he walks by and in ten minutes the priest brings out the blue bible for Thomas to take home and read in private to learn the ways of the world.

Thomas knows that he isn’t to discuss anything about the two games with anyone, even his grandfather from this point until the high priest hears his decision.

Chapter II

The Games We Play

Day 202, weather report: 98 degrees, sunny, no clouds.

Thomas is sitting in his study at his desk going over the blue bible that describes the two games known as: The Rat Race and The Human Factor The rule book is quite complex and requires thinking deeply on what is being said. The blue bible is a hundred and fifty pages, and must be returned to the coffee temple in less than two weeks, Thomas feels like he has his work cut out for him.

While reading the blue bible, he finds that his distant cousin scored very well both in the Human Factor and his percentage that he lived up to his potential. Thomas doesn’t find out until much later that Ted gave his life saving an old woman from being beaten and robbed, not only that, Ted planned ahead of time to give his organs after his death to those who needed them.

Ted’s score on the Human Factor was eight hundred out of a thousand, his ability to live up to his potential was 89% which is considered quite high. Thomas feels that this must have been an extreme case and that not everyone is willing to die for some stranger. Yet the more he read the blue bible, he found the more he detested the Rat Race and everything that it stood for.

The basic rules of the Rat Race are quite short and include: 1. Never help anyone that doesn’t repay you or add to your wealth. 2. Don’t bother helping anyone because they will never repay you. 3. Go ahead and die with the most cash and toys and don’t bother asking if it hurts other people or the environment.

The rules for the Human Factor include: 1. Do what you can for others and the planet regardless of race, religion, or creed. 2. Be kind to others. 3. Contribute to humanity in some form or another, don’t just consume and take your whole life. Thomas thought this made the most sense. The book didn’t say what is in store for the players for either game at the end of their life, yet somehow Thomas knows that there must be a catch to both games.

Just before the end of the two weeks, Thomas finishes the blue bible, and returns it to the high priest at the coffee temple. Thomas is asked by the priest if he made his decision, Thomas says, “I am going to take some time to think about it, it’s a big decision.” The priest understands and grants him two years to make up his mind.

From there Thomas goes to the cemetery and walks around reading the various headstones and looking to see how many people played the game. He noticed that a lot of people didn’t bother to play and wondered how they would have passed up such an opportunity. The people who didn’t play one of the games were called: Axis morons. They were the people who never took the time to get to know other people and lived in their own little world that didn’t include others.

From the cemetery, it is two blocks to the coffee temple, on his way he sees two homeless people and asks their names and why they are homeless.

They don’t have good answers, Thomas thought this was odd. When he makes it to the temple he is sure to ask the priest about why there were homeless people and what was the story on Dirk Dartell who is one of the bums on the street. As outlined in the rule book it is possible to ask the priest anything about either game or about anyone and the priest is under contract to answer his questions.

After speaking to the high priest at the coffee temple Thomas learns that some of the people who play the Rat Race end up being very, very poor and miserable in their next life, though they still have another opportunity to make things right, their status is often reduced to poverty.

Thomas asked quietly, “You mean someone like Dirk Dartell was once a player of the Rat Race?

The high priest looks the name up in the computer and says, “He died with over ten million dollars in the bank. He was cruel and very unloving towards others. He now suffers in this life because of his lack of love.

Thomas thinks about this and asks, “What happens to people who play the Human Factor when they die if they play well?

The priest looks at him and says, “It depends, if they play for a prize or to get ahead in some other life, they don’t do well, whereas, if they play unselfishly and do their best, good things will follow.

Thomas orders his second drink for the day and buys something to eat, after which he walks back down to the cemetery where his car is parked. On the way, he gives half his sandwich to the homeless man who is begging for something to eat. He finds his car and drives to his home where he sits in his study and thinks for many hours about the rules of the two games, he wonders if he can play the Human Factor for the thrill of the game and not for any prize that he might be able to obtain.

He knows that he doesn’t believe in the Rat Race, but he isn’t sure he wants to commit to the Human Factor either. He has the option to not play any game. However, he knew what that would make him and he didn’t like that option.

Then the idea struck him, what am I worth, not in a figure represented by a dollar sign, but to other humans? He has to really think about this for a long time, he doesn’t have a good answer that he could point to and say, See I’m worth something. Yet he doesn’t know the right way to think in these terms. It took him several weeks contemplating these thoughts and he didn’t have any good answers.

Then he began to wonder what his potential is, and decides to visit the coffee temple again to ask the high priest what he would have to do to reach his potential, he figures “screw the game for points” and try to live up to his potential.

He didn’t like what the high priest had to say about his potential. And he began to get depressed about having to choose to play one of the games. At one point, he felt like it was hopeless and it didn’t matter which one he chose. He knew he couldn’t discuss either game with anyone but the priests at the temple, he wanted to go see his grandfather and ask him for advice. Yet he knew that he couldn’t do that right now. So instead he started to keep a set of journals where he wrote his thoughts down and considered the various options of the Human Factor.

After a while Thomas decides that his value can only be calculated when taking into consideration what he means to other people and what he thinks of himself. This causes more depression, finally he decides to quit playing the great and mighty head game and actually do something. He made his mind up and decides to play: The Human Factor. At least with that out of the way, he begins to discuss his life goals with his grandfather who is playing the same game.

Thomas went to the coffee temple and asked to speak with the high priest again, saying that he made his decision and wanted to make it known. The high priest made him wait an hour before finally coming out to hear the decision that Thomas would live by.

Thomas says, “Holy coffee temple priest, I have reached a decision as to which game to play.

The priest says, “Please give us your answer!

To which Thomas says, “I have chosen the Human Factor as my way of life.

After which the priest pours a cup of water upon his head and hands him the cup saying, “This is your drinking vessel, please bring it with you each time you plan to drink. From now on you shall not use a paper cup. Enjoy the game and do your best to reach your potential.

With that Thomas thanked the high priest and picked up his belongings and left.

He drove straight to his grandfather’s house and informed him of his decision, this pleased the old man a great deal. Thomas started to ask questions. His grandfather says, “Those things aren’t important now, let us have a cup of tea and talk about the weather.” Thomas is surprised but agrees to do so. What he learns he will never forget.

Chapter III

Rat Race Tactics

Day 400, weather report: 59 degrees, sunny, some clouds.

The printing company was Scott’s family business for as long as any of them could remember. Scott’s father Ralph left the business to Scott when he died and quit the Rat Race. He wasn’t very wealthy when he died, but he had taught his son the ropes of playing the Rat Race and how to make money any way possible using the printing business as his own personal means to hate and greed. They didn’t offer very many products, mostly business cards and flyers, of which they didn’t do a very good job.

Scott plays the Rat Race at an early age of just twenty-two, and using greedy unscrupulous methods he was buying other small print shops and putting them out of business in the hopes of being the king of printing where there is no one else to turn to for printing by the customers. Scott’s personal philosophy is to get the customers’ money and never have to give it back, regardless for how well his print shop did the job.

Scott used his own powers of manipulation and scare tactics upon the customers to get them to buy more than they needed. He wanted them to give all future jobs to his company. The customers felt bullied and helpless with no one else to turn to for their printing. Scott is walking around gloating about his accomplishments to his staff and family, he feels like he is getting rich and on his way to winning the Rat Race.

He does not know that the current winner of the Rat Race is now a homeless bum, who couldn’t put two and two together, despite the fact that when he did die, he left behind over six hundred million dollars.

Scott thought this goal attainable. Working day and night to beat the high score, he had three cars, and two houses, he was never nice to anyone, and he even had the gall to cheat on his wife.

He treated people like dirt most the time, and felt that he was better than everyone else; as he attends religious services at the temple of pay service incorporated, being as high minded as he is he looked down on other god fearing people who have less money or cars then himself. Not taking into consideration the things they did and said.

It wasn’t all his fault though, he was raised that way, he is very much like his father only worse. He didn’t know it yet, he is about to make a mortal enemy and perhaps meet his match. Though his employees tired of him often. Being a micro manager that controlled their every move, he even installed cameras in the print shop floor and yelled at them through a PA system to work faster and harder. One day while he was running the front desk someone new came in to have some printing done. It is Thomas, he has a wedding invitation for a friend of his that needs printed.

We only do flyers, no wedding invitations.” Scott told Thomas when he inquired about having the wedding invitation printed with gold ink and rose colored paper.

You’re the only print shop in the whole city, how much would it cost to have this printed for my friend? It’s really important.” Thomas said in a pleading tone.

Scott, not looking twice at the invitation says, “We can print it in faux gold ink and on red paper. It will be eight and a half by eleven and there is an extra fee for having it cut down.

Thomas, who is very disappointed, asked how much it would cost to have two hundred and fifty printed and is shocked to learn:

Minimum order is five thousand, and we charge extra for the colored ink and colored paper.” Scott said with his voice full of hatred.

Thomas is really depressed now and says, “How much will that cost?” To which Scott doesn’t even bother calculating the cost and just quotes a number off the top of his head, “Twenty-five hundred dollars.” Thomas is in real shock now and doesn’t know what to say.

Scott takes the bull by the horns and asks, “When do you need them?” To which Thomas says, “Their wedding is next week.” Scott thinks for a second and says, “We have a two-week lead time and if you want it before then, it’s thirty five percent of the total cost of the order.” Thomas did the math on his phone and walked out of the place. Once on the street he could hear Scott screaming obscenities at him, which was the last straw.

Thomas took the thousand dollars he had to get the printing done and bought a color printer and connected it to his computer. With that he spent twenty dollars on paper and printed the wedding invitations out himself. It was done in less than a day and delivered on time to the bride and groom. They were impressed. Thomas didn’t tell them he printed them himself and just went on about his business.

A few days later...

Thomas wanted to try an experiment, so he makes a mockup of some business cards he wants done and took them to Scott’s print shop to get a quote. Scott, who doesn’t greet him, glares at Thomas as though he is putting daggers in him. Thomas asks Scott how he is doing, and Scott just says, “What do you want?

Thomas hands him the business card artwork and asks for a price quote. Scott took one look at it and says, “For a thousand cards we get five hundred dollars.” Thomas thought this through and asked to have them printed.

Two weeks later...

Thomas arrived at the print shop to pick up his business cards, to his surprise they weren’t ready and he had to wait thirty minutes. It is some of the most uncomfortable time he ever spends. There is ink all over the outside of the box, when he paid for the cards, it was still wet. He took the box of cards and left. Scott didn’t even have the courtesy to say thank you and have a nice day.

When Thomas gets home he takes a look at the printing job and sees that there are a lot of blanks in the box, and the ink is still wet and offset onto the back of the card next to it. Some of the cards were almost completely black and were not useable in the least. Thomas is kind of pissed off about the whole thing, however he doesn’t lose his temper. He goes to the coffee temple and takes part in the daily offerings. From there he goes to his grandfather’s house and has a long talk about the stuff that is going on with the printer.

Chapter IV

Good Advice

Thomas spends a few hours talking to his grandfather about his experience with the printer and how Scott had treated him. Thomas felt that something ought to be done to make things better, yet he wasn’t sure of the best course of action. His grandfather suggested that Thomas open his own print shop and charge a reasonable fee and treat the customers right. Thomas isn’t certain that he wants to get into business because that would be too close to running the Rat Race and he doesn’t want to go there.

There is nothing in the rules that say you aren’t to run a business or to do things for some financial gain. For example, Ron DeWhite was playing the Human Factor and though he reached 92% of his potential and had a high score in the game, he was also very wealthy. Just because you play the Human Factor doesn’t mean that you have to be poor, Thomas’s grandfather explained to him. Thomas wasn’t sure about how to do that and besides he knew nothing about the printing business.

Why don’t you let me help you financially to start the business and you can hire the staff and work out the margins for what a fair price would be, and let others run the place.” Johnny says in a peaceful voice that makes sense to Thomas.

What if we do make a lot of money?” Thomas asks his grandfather almost apologizing for asking. Johnny says, “What would be the fair thing to do with the money?” Thomas thought for a bit and suggests, “We could donate a percentage each year to the homeless, giving them one lump sum each year for taking care of themselves.

Johnny thought this through a bit and says, “that’s really very kind on your part to help them. It shows you have a good heart, I know how you feel about the Rat Race and to make that kind of contribution to them might just make a difference.

Thomas felt a little bit uncomfortable right about now. He doesn’t know what to say, yet his grandfather quickly added, “I will start you off with half a million dollars to open a print shop, and you don’t have to pay it back, just be sure to do it right the first time and I think you will be very successful.

Thomas is blown away. He had no idea his grandfather has that kind of money, “I thought you were playing the Human Factor not the Rat Race, how did you make that kind of money?” Thomas asked in very curious voice.

Johnny thought a second and says, “Before I retired I used to own a silver mine, it was very profitable, we simply sold it when I was in my late fifties and the price was over twenty million dollars.

Thomas thought about this and looked around at how his grandfather is living and remembered the cars he drove and the places he ate. His grandfather then asked, “Who do you think funded your family and yourself to live like this?” Thomas shook his head and says, “I just thought that dad had some stocks or bonds or something and that it all came from him.

Johnny smiled and says, “Well he does have stocks and bonds, but the money to fund those things came from yours truly.” Then Thomas gets a strange look in his eye and says, “Do dad and mom know about the game?

Johnny frowned a bit and says, “No I don’t think they do, they might figure it out in due time. I’m not going to live much longer. No doubt you can tell them what the numbers on my headstone mean. I know they are getting a late start, but maybe there is time for them.” Thomas thinks about all this, and doesn’t know what to say other than, “I’m so surprised they didn’t figure it out by now, what planet are they living on?

Johnny says, “Don’t be too hard on them, they have been through a lot. I have hope that one day they will figure it out.” Thomas thinks about what needs done, then he gets a thought and says, “Thanks for telling me about the two games and teaching me the ropes of how to play.” Johnny says, “You helped yourself when you were smart enough to ask me what those numbers meant.” Thomas shook his head saying, “I’m really thankful that I’ve learned the truth about life. Thank you.

With that Johnny walked Thomas out to his car and watched him drive away into the late afternoon.

Two weeks later...

Thomas leased a building and the necessary printing equipment to run a successful print shop. He put an ad in the paper for employees and had an overwhelming response. He found some very talented and knowledgeable people to run his company. He worked out the costs to keep things running and to pay the employees a fair wage, while keeping the cost to the customer as low as possible. Rather than advertising they kept it to word-of-mouth through friends and friends of friends.

Within a few months, word had gotten around that there is an alternative to Scott’s print shop and business is coming in sure and steady. Thomas had decided on a name for the print shop, and called it: QP, which stood for Quality Printing. The good news is that it wasn’t going to take all his time, with the staff that he had hired, he simply had to sign some paper work once a week and review the customer satisfaction reports to make sure everyone is doing a good job.

Once a month the employees would fill out paper work that described how happy they were with the company and what might need changed to make things better. Before a year had passed things were running like clockwork. They were efficient and productive in what they were doing. Thomas is happy when at the end of the year they found out that each of the seventy-five homeless in their city would be getting ten thousand dollars each. With a year like that Thomas felt that things were going to be really great!

Thomas still went to the coffee temple each day for the daily drink offering, and he played by the rules of the game the Human Factor. Yet he still isn’t sure how he is going to live up to his potential as a human being. He knew he had a lot to do still. It wasn’t long before Scott figured out that there is a new print shop in town and he tries every way under the sun to buy the place. The core staff were very loyal to Thomas and knew that Scott would only shut the company down and fire all the employees.

This left Scott in a very poor mood. His desire to dominate the printing business in the city is now being jeopardized by this new company. It was doing better work and charging less than his fanatical king of printing company. Scott wasn’t sure how he is going to do it, but he swears to put them out of business. What he didn’t know was that the staff at QP had more grit in them than any of his employees that felt beaten and whipped every day.

Chapter V

Quality Printing

Day 798, weather report: 102 degrees, winds calm, some clouds, possible thunderstorms.

Thomas is working in his back yard in the heat of the day pulling weeds and gardening. The only thing that keeps him going is the ice box full of Orange Crush. He’s been working for the last four hours and is almost done. He just had to water and then it is complete.

As he is taking the trash cans around to the front for the trash trucks to pick up the next day, his phone rang, it is the print shop. They have an irate customer and they want to know how to deal with it. Thomas asks what the customer is upset about and learns that the job was printed upside down on one side. Thomas suggests they run the job again the correct way for free.

This calmed the customer down and made a real impression on him. He was used to dealing with Scott’s king of printing company and is used to being treated like dirt.

A few days later the customer satisfaction report came in. Although QP had made a mistake, the customer said he was very satisfied with the job that they had done. Thomas didn’t think much about it. He is just glad that things had worked out.

Thomas thought that things were going very well, and in reality, it was. Maybe too well in fact.

The QP print shop is mostly running itself with the employees that Thomas had hired. Most of the time they were turning a small profit and each year the homeless were getting money to live on. A few of those bums were able to get themselves off the streets and into a place to live. While not all of them were smart enough to do so, one of them, who went by the name of Mark, was able to get his crap figured out and start a new life.

Most people had no idea about who is helping the homeless and the majority of people don’t care. The axis morons where the majority and most of them didn’t really care about anyone but themselves. Other people’s business is only a thing to gossip about and they never took any of it seriously. There was some speculation that Thomas owned the QP print shop, and though he kept his routine as simple as possible with the daily drink offerings from the coffee temple, people started to notice that he used the same cup and never used paper ones at all.

The rules for the games of life have one very strict rule, never discuss either game with an axis moron, unless they ask what the score on someone’s tombstone really means. Other than that, the game is not open for discussion with those who don’t take the time to figure out what is going on. Thomas’s dad and mom hadn’t taken the time to figure it out, this left a hole in his life, of which he couldn’t discuss things about the games with them.

Thomas’s dad is wrapped up in the stock market and his bonds. He had almost twelve million dollars. His whole goal is to make more money. Thomas hadn’t told them about the print shop or what he is doing there. He did talk with his grandfather on an almost daily basis. That is his guide and counsellor and Johnny wasn’t about to let Thomas down. Thomas had his own money which his grandfather had provided to him when he turned eighteen. Money was never really a problem.

Thomas, unlike his parents who flaunted their money and their riches, lived a modest life without show or pompous displays of wealth. Thomas wished he could tell his parents about the game known as: The Human Factor. Yet he is bound by the rules of the game. He got a little depressed over this, because he felt his parents weren’t with the program and would later regret it in life.

In the meantime, there is Scott who ran king of printing, who became more and more agitated with his life. He felt that he wasn’t getting anywhere and he wanted more money for a big boat to sail on the ocean. He doesn’t know who is running the QP print company and doesn’t even care at this point. He has bullied all his customers into a false loyalty, yet it isn’t enough to satisfy his sadistic desires.

Thomas, who felt that things were going very well, received a flyer in the mail from the king of printing company which was full of slander and even put a price on the head of the owner of QP printing. Thomas felt this was the last straw. He took the flyer to his grandfather and asked for his advice. “What you should do is leave the ownership of the company to the employees and wash your hands of it.” was his grandfather’s advice. Thomas, who didn’t have any strong emotional ties to the company felt this was the best advice he could get and set out to make arrangements to turn the ownership of the company over to the employees.

In the process the information got leaked from Thomas’s lawyer to his parents who used the same lawyer. This really caused a big rift between them and there were many heated battles over Thomas’s actions and way of living. His parents took an interest in where he had gotten the money to start a printing company and why he was giving the profits to the homeless. They thought, he is crazy in the head and doesn’t have any sound financial philosophies.

Thomas, who wouldn’t explain things in detail for fear of his parents finding out about the game, wound up moving out and cutting off all communications with them. He attended the daily drink offerings every day at the coffee temple. People were beginning to point and stare at him. None of the axis morons were brave enough to speak to him. Thomas started to feel out of place. Then one day while he is in line, a woman who is behind him started a conversation with him. Right away Thomas noticed the drinking vessel that she used and saw that she was clearly playing the game, Human Factor. They got their drinks and sat down at a table to discuss the things they have in common.

You took a real beating over the QP print company from your parents,” Amber said in a polite tone while discussing the last few years of their lives. Thomas, who didn’t miss a beat says, “Well I figured out why they call them the axis morons. They have no real wisdom about the world we live in.” Amber laughed a bit and looked around to make sure no one had heard what was said. “Can we move this discussion to your place? I think we both have some things we would like to say that aren’t fit to say in public,” Amber said to Thomas in whisper.

Thomas agreed and let Amber follow him to his place which is just a few blocks away. They sat down at the kitchen table and sipped their drinks over a real conversation about the games of life and the axis morons sway in life. Before the end of the conversation and Amber took her leave, Thomas asked her if she felt like she had a number in her head.

Yeah, how did you know?” Was her response. Thomas thought carefully of the words to say next, and without giving it away he told her that he had a number in his head too! They agreed to discuss this subject on their next visit a few days from now at the coffee temple.

In the meantime, Thomas did some serious soul searching about his feelings and life in general. He did a lot of writing and felt that he is making progress.

Chapter VI

A Sad Day

Day 5425, weather report: sunny 74 degrees, scattered clouds, beware of road rage on the freeways.

I bought your piss poor print shop and shut it down, what do you think of that!” Scott the self-proclaimed king of printing said in a phone conversation with Thomas. Thomas thought big and decided to take a risk, “You’re very intent upon winning something in this life, what kind of head game are you playing with me?” Scott who knew what he was talking about says, “There is only one game and a lot of losers, the name of the game is the Rat Race and I’m going to win it at any cost.

Thomas who had been careful to phrase it in such a way as to not have asked a direct question got the answer he is looking for. He responded by saying, “We will never see things eye to eye because the goals and rules of the games we’re playing are totally different. I backed off from the printing company, why don’t you let this go? There is no need to carry anything a step further.

Scott, who became angry and lost his temper, started screaming at Thomas and said some bad things to him. Thomas, who figured things were going nowhere, hung up the phone and dropped all thoughts of the conversation in a healthy way so as to not let it upset him.

After seeing the cemetery Thomas and Amber visit Johnny to discuss the axis morons; Amber who thinks this over a bit says, “They don’t have much of a life do they?” Johnny says, “They think they are very high minded and many of them are self-righteous twits who think they are better than everyone else, yet they keep themselves and their kin small minded.” Thomas thought about this and remembered while growing up that his parents didn’t talk about anything much more than other people.

Thomas asked how his grandfather came to know about the game, and Johnny responded, “The man that saved my life while we were working in the mine was playing the game: The Human Factor, when he died I was certain to attend his funeral. There were many people present, over a thousand, as I paid my last respects to him I noticed his headstone and asked the funeral priest what the two numbers meant. When it was explained to me in private, I knew right away which game I wanted to play.

Is that why you sold the silver mine when you did?” Thomas asked his grandfather in a polite tone. “Maybe, there were a lot of reasons to sell the mine, right now it doesn’t matter, the only thing that matters is that we play the game as best as we can for as long as we can,” Johnny said in a thoughtful voice. Amber who is following the conversation with interest says, “I found out about the game when my high school teacher who was very dear to us passed away. It was a big funeral. She had taught for many generations. Her potential was rated at 95% and she had a good score. I’m sure her next life turned out very well.

Then Thomas says, “What happens to the axis morons in their next life?” His grandfather didn’t think long and waved him off from talking like that saying, “We don’t know where they go. Many of them don’t believe in being reborn and they may not be able to live again for many centuries if at all.

Thomas, thinking about Scott says, “Who started the Rat Race?” And his grandfather says, “The Rat Race has existed for as long as humans have been on the planet, yet a much better question is who started the Human Factor?” Neither Thomas nor Amber knew who had made what they believe in possible.

The Human Factor was started by a group of people that existed before the days of the priests at the coffee temple. We don’t know who exactly it was that made things work like they do now, yet we know that things work. By chance have you had time to visit the old cemetery for those who played the game long ago? It is a ways out of town, but worth going to see one day.” Both Thomas and Amber didn’t know what to say and said no they hadn’t been there or even know that it existed.

Thomas and Amber thanked Johnny for his time, and went for their second drink offering at the coffee temple. While they were there, they noticed Scott, the self-proclaimed king of printing come in and place his order. They thanked life for the fact that he didn’t recognize Thomas. Scott is cruel and harsh and short tempered with the coffee priest, he is impatient with how long it took for the drink to be made and scolded the coffee priest for taking so long. Thomas didn’t think it was any longer than usual, yet Scott says to everyone that would listen to him, “Time is money.” And with that his drink is ready and he storms out of the coffee temple.

Amber who watched this event unfold says to Thomas after Scott had walked out of the temple, “That guy has a serious ego problem, who does he think he is?” Thomas cracked a big grin and says, “Maybe he’s the next king of the Rat Race?” Amber laughed a bit and says, “Maybe in his next life he will be an axis moron?” Thomas who hadn’t explained the Rat Race to Amber says, “Maybe he will end up like all the winners of the Rat Race, a homeless bum.

Amber frowned a bit and says, “You were helping those people, they aren’t really winners of the Rat Race, are they?” Thomas didn’t say a word but nodded his head affirmative. Amber thought for a moment and then made her mind up. “God that was so kind of you to take care of them like that. Did you know what you were doing?

Thomas nodded his head affirmative and didn’t say anything. Then Amber says, “That was really a good thing to do, I’m sorry that Scott shut the print shop down. There aren’t many people who do things like that.

Thomas who had finished his drink says, “Come on let’s go home and snuggle under the covers and I will read you a book.” Amber, who couldn’t resist his devilish ways, held her hand out to him and waited for him to take her home.

Meanwhile Scott is in a rage. He cuts people off left and right as he drives the freeway at 85 miles an hour and switched lanes like chain smokers go through cigarettes. Everyone knew who he was as his license plate reads: “King” Most of the axis morons think he must be some one really important and worth millions of dollars, in truth the chips are down for Scott he is boarding on bankruptcy and is so angry at the world that he is doing and saying really mean things not only to his lover but his wife as well. That QP print shop had cost him more than he first thought.

Chapter VII

Grandpa’s Birthday Day

5429, weather report: 59 degrees, rain, winds calm.

As neither Thomas nor Amber watch television, they had to read the news in the paper. It didn’t make the first page, nor the second, rather the only way you would have known was to read the obituaries. Thomas is in shock and shows the paper to Amber who is deeply saddened, it read: Scott the king of printing passed yesterday, he died of a heart attack at the age of 33. The rest of the news was about who he was survived by and the company he used to run.

Thomas and Amber decided to go to his funeral not in spite, but as an act of kindness. It was two days later they found themselves in the game players’ cemetery with only five people gathered together in the memory of Scott. The services were held quite quickly and had no substance to them.

When it is over one of the people spits on his grave and walks away cursing the day Scott was born. Thomas and Amber watch as the others leave, and notice the tombstone which, besides his name and dates of birth and death, read: -$3000.00, Thomas thinks about this and says, “I don’t believe the guy died in the hole financially.” Amber says, “Well it’s no surprise to me, as cruel as he was.

Thomas feels sorry for the family and those that had to endure Scott’s cruel ways. With that he takes Amber’s hand and they walked around the cemetery to look at those who had lived and died before them. There weren’t many who played the Human Factor. Thomas and Amber didn’t know it but in truth, there were many who played the Human Factor. They just live longer than most of the people who play the Rat Race. And this cemetery was only twenty years old itself.

They spent the day in bed reading books and whispering sweet meaningful things to each other. The next day they went to visit Thomas’s grandfather, he is in good spirits and didn’t quit talking the whole time they were there. Which was odd for the old man who is normally very reserved. When they got home they found out what the fuss was about. Seems that they had made the front page with a story about enemies and the fact that Thomas and Amber had attended Scott’s funeral. Considering the times, it was a very odd thing to do.

Thomas and Amber wasn’t sure what to think about all the things that were going on, yet they decided to ride it out as best they could. Things got better a few days later.

Weeks and months passed...

Thomas’s grandfather Johnny had just turned 89 years old and the birthday party is terrific, many of his close friends show up and bring the old man presents of all kinds. However, it was only a few weeks later that they found grandfather dead in his bed. Thomas is the one to find him, it seemed that he died of natural causes and went in his sleep peacefully and with great majesty. The services were held a week later and there is standing room only, more than five thousand people were present at his funeral. The services were beautiful and carried a sense of deep meaning, you could tell he had lived his life to the full.

On the tombstone of Johnny, beside his name and dates of birth and death, read: 978 and 92% which is a wonderful score for such a person. Most people had no idea of the good he had done. Most people would never know, if it wasn’t for the people that he had helped saying what and how he had helped them. Thomas is pleased with the good that his grandfather had done, and was thankful for the times that they had spent together. After all, it was his grandfather that had told him of the game. He is sad at his loss, and spends a week in mourning.

Most of the axis morons present didn’t bother looking at the headstone, they placed flowers upon the grave and went on about their business. However, Thomas’s parents did notice and demanded an answer as to what those numbers meant. They asked Thomas, he told them to ask the high priest, which they did. They were shocked at what they learned, and felt that it is totally wrong that Johnny would have wanted his score for such a game upon his tombstone. They took no interest in playing either game, they detested both and called it unnatural.

Thomas didn’t spend any time with his parents after that, he felt they were being A-typical axis morons, with no understanding of the world they live in. Both he and Amber were deeply saddened by Johnny’s passing, yet they knew there is nothing they could do about it. Thomas kept his journals and wrote often of his grandfather. There is nothing else they could do. Johnny had left in his will that the money he had remaining be divided among his children and grandchildren and left five million dollars to start a homeless shelter in the city for those who had nowhere to turn.

Thomas and Amber both agreed to help start the project and work with those that were in need. It is just what Thomas and Amber need to help them spring back from their losses. A few years passed and things were working out well for both of them. As the days passed there were wars and reports of wars, there were many bad things happening in the world. Thomas and Amber didn’t like what is going on, but they were somewhat helpless to do anything about it. Money doesn’t solve the problems that they were up against. It would take a real leader playing the Human Factor to change the world we live in.

So, Thomas and Amber focused on the things that they could change and worked at the shelter for the homeless, offering meals and kindness upon them. While there were people in other parts of the world that were starving to death and in deep poverty, no one is addressing those issues. There is no one to help them. And the wars were getting worse all the time. Greed and hate filled most of the world. People’s attitudes were getting worse as everyday went by. No one was stopping to help a stranger on the street.

Thomas and Amber went everyday, sometimes two or three times for the daily drink offering. They spent all their spare time together reading books and talking about things that mattered. Then Thomas asked Amber a very very personal question that he wouldn’t have ever asked anyone else ever.

What is the number in your head?” Thomas asked respectfully. Amber didn’t think long and says, “1022234”, Thomas is in a bit of shock and says, “Mine is: 1022235” Now Amber is in shock. She couldn’t believe that their numbers are one digit apart. They both took it to mean they were meant to be together. And they were from the very start.

Chapter VIII

Axis Morons

Day 6555, weather report: 98 degrees, sunny and some clouds.

Thomas’s mother is the first to throw a stone at Thomas, and since she has one in each hand she threw the other one at his girlfriend Amber. The people had taken them outside the city and were giving them the treatment, the axis morons had convened and made a decision. Thomas and Amber were to be stoned to death outside the city. Thomas was shocked that the people he once knew and were his friends could be so cruel.

The whole process took all of twenty minutes and as they went along they used larger stones to destroy Thomas and Amber. Thomas wasn’t surprised at how they were acting, after all he had opened his mouth to most of the people that he knew, telling them that this life is just a simulation and that none of this is real. Amber fully supported his decision to do so. Now they were half dead and hurting like they had never before been in pain.

When the job was done the axis morons left the bodies for dead and went back about their business. However, once the news reached the high priest of the coffee temple there is outrage at the way the axis morons handled the situation and the doors to the temple were shut and locked, not just for one day, but for an entire week. By then the axis morons were hurting from not getting their caffeine dosage and were walking around bitching and moaning about their headaches.

In the meantime, Thomas’s and Amber’s bodies were being prepared for burial. They were to be buried together and next to Johnny who was their most trusted advisor. Their parents didn’t attend the funeral, but a lot of people who were playing the game on both sides did. A number of those who were playing the Rat Race attended out of respect for the players who had given their very lives for what they believed in.

The coffee temple high priest and the lower priests were there and said many kind things about each of them. Of special note was that they never bitched about how long their drinks took to be prepared and that they always used their own cups religiously. There weren’t many that knew of the good either one of them had done, most people didn’t talk about the good in the world. However, the high priest had reviewed their records and knew the score of those who had been helped. The high priest said many good things about both Thomas and Amber.

Their scores were plain enough and although their points weren’t very high, they had lived up to their potential both Thomas and Amber scored 110% on their potential, while their points were just over seven hundred for each of them, the mourners didn’t care their score, and shed tears all the same, as if Thomas and Amber were the kind of people they wish they were.

Meanwhile the axis morons were gathering together to do away with both games, though they would meet a force of men and women that they hadn’t reckoned with. Should the day ever come that the people of the Rat Race join forces with the people of the Human Factor, with the goal of wiping out the axis morons, there would be much bloodshed and great sadness. Yet with the way the axis morons are behaving the city is falling upon the brink of outright war.

The coffee temple remained closed. For two weeks they didn’t open their doors. Finally, when they did they found there were new rules to the game. Anyone that doesn’t choose the Human Factor is automatically added to the Rat Race. The axis morons were to be done away with. If they won’t play the game Human Factor, then it is decided for them. They will play the Rat Race. Many of them are angry about the wait times for their drinks, and cuss and swear to the drink priest about it.

They began to horde their money and walk upon the backs of those who were still good people, just not as rich as themselves. The game had changed. The rules were the same but the number of people playing the Rat Race went up 5000%, and they are out for blood. They won’t stop for the people in the cross walks, they wouldn’t take the time to say hello or goodbye. They treated their friends like disposable lighters, they used them for a month or two and threw them away.

People are taking and not giving anything back. They closed the homeless shelter, and they sneered at good people who didn’t deserve to be treated that way. They didn’t really know anyone, because they didn’t really know themselves. What they don’t know is going to catch up with them sooner or later. On the seven thousandth day of the experiment a virus swept through their town and left as many as twenty thousand dead.

Those that died, didn’t know they would come back as lousy bums who couldn’t put two and two together, and since they had closed the homeless shelter there was no hope for them. Finally, the balances of nature took control and the number of people playing the Rat Race were about the same as the number playing the Human Factor. Things had changed, war didn’t come, but it was a close call. It could have been so much worse. It’s odd the way life ebbs and flows.

Thomas and his girlfriend Amber went down in history as being very courageous and brave to have lived their lives in such a way. The people playing the Human Factor built a statue of the two of them right in the city square for all to see. Most of the people had heard by now what Thomas was saying, if you have a number in your head its likely your part of some program. They didn’t know that in less than one thousand seven hundred days the end would come and their lives would mean nothing as the computers were to be unplugged. This would leave them with nothing forever and ever.

We can speculate the lesson to learn from this is that you have to do the good you can, while you can, because life is short.

Chapter IX

Stop It

Day 7299, weather report: tears falling from the sky.

When the scores were tallied by the reports and statistics computer an unlikely hero is found. It wasn’t Johnny, it wasn’t Thomas nor Amber. It is Alex and Amber, they successfully rose from poverty in a third world country, gained strength and power when they overthrew a ruthless and violent dictator, brought democracy to their people and brought them out of the grip of war and poverty.

There is no one who won the Rat Race, it isn’t the kind of thing you can ever win. There is always someone who will try to outdo you or sink your boat. Though Scott was pretty high-up on the list, there are CEOs and corporate bears that were by far as cruel and unkind and who also died with more money. The further you get ahead in the Rat Race, the further you find yourself pulled under the waves of confusion in life.

The axis morons are dissolved in whole. There is no need for them anymore. Everyone had to make a choice for themselves, as to which game they would play. And those that refused were stoned by the priests at the coffee temple. Things didn’t last long, the plug was pulled on the seven thousand three hundredth day, everything went away forever and the only memory there is of these people is the reports and statistics that were printed and filed in storage cabinets, mostly it was in the form of numbers for all the various things that happened.

Oddly enough the final number output from the computer is as interesting as it was shocking the computer had output its own score as a part of the system. It read: 1000/1000 and 42%. Some thought this might have been the load on the computer system and didn’t bother taking it into consideration. However, others thought it was a sign.

Professor Guest won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work and found that the meaning of life is: sharing your life with someone else in the best or worst of times. The only meaning you will find in life, is if you mean something to someone else.

The End

Chapter X

About the Author

Christopher Thomas is a unique individual with talents in both creative and technical areas. He has studied Network Engineering and computer sciences, Art, photography, and writing. His one of a kind passion for creating shows a depth and love for the arts.

Christopher is a long-time writer and has typed over two million words in the last few years. With three novels completed and currently working on something new, there is hope that something exciting will develop.

With interests in both poetry and philosophy, he may even have the answer to one of the most important questions in life. If you ask he may tell you the answer. Just be nice and friendly.