Elizabeth Price

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  • AO Project
  • Opening scene for a story based in the Last Narkoy universe.

    Murlad Havroy raced down the halls of Hormorl Hall, his eyes searching every crevasse for any signs of life. His bright flash-light shined across the vacant, light-less hall as if signaling to the dread that lay beyond the darkness. On the slick, polished white floors before him lay a trail of fresh blood. Whatever caused the trail, he knew they didn’t survive. There was too much blood. His light shined to the left, next to a floor-length wall mirror sat a man’s bloody arm. Murlad stopped dead, unsure if or how he should continue.
    “Olisk!” He waved his security chief to his side.
    Olisk Mirun removed his pistol from his belt, noticing the sudden concern of his leader. “Be on alert,” he turned to the three men behind him as he continued forward to Murlad’s side. “Sir, I have a strange feeling about this place.”
    Murlad pointed his flashlight to the blood trail than to the arm. “I believe you’re correct. What do you make of this?”
    The dark-skinned guard shook his head, his green eyes narrowed. He bent to the floor, taking a finger-dab of blood, sniffing it. “Fresh. My guess, this happened less than a half-hour ago. Sir, we should retreat and wait for back-up.”
    A scream echoed throughout the halls followed by the cracking of bones and a quick yelp. “Arm yourselves!” Murlad called back to his men.
    Everyone in the group reached for their weapons. Jari Gemul, a pale-skinned man with thin features and long, brown hair tied in a braid pointed his pistol to the main staircase.
    “Movement in the shadows,” he called aiming his weapon at the staircase.
    The group spun to the staircase, their weapons aimed for the shadows.
    “Show yourself!” Olisk demanded.
    “Don’t shoot!” called a woman’s voice. “I’m unarmed.”
    Olisk stood in front of Murlad as if to protect the older man. “Come out, child. Have no fear.”
    “Who are you?” she called back in sobs. “Who are you!” she screamed.
    Murlad stepped to the side, shining the light into his face. “I am Lord Murlad Havroy, Director of the AO Resurrection Project. Lord Hormorl sent for us because he believed you had a survivor in custody,” he explained.
    A young woman with short black hair and tight-fitting military clothing stepped from behind the staircase, her hands at her sides.
    “Eolani Hormorl, daughter of Lord Hormorl,” she introduced. “I’m afraid you’ve come too late. The Hall is under siege.”
    Another scream cried out causing everyone to point down the hall towards the blood trail. “Father!” Eolani screamed, starting to run towards the cry.
    Olisk forced her to remain with them. “Wait for back-up,” he insisted.
    “My father!” Eolani demanded, trying to break free of Olisk’s grasp on her shoulder.
    “You heard the girl. Let’s get to the bottom of this,” Murlad demanded flashing his light down the hall. “Keep your pistols on stun. I don’t want to kill any innocent.”
    Olisk removed his com-box from his weapon’s belt. “We have a situation, code red. We need backup and medics to our location,” he announced into the box, then motioned for his men to follow him. To much protest of Eolani, the men forced her and Murlad into the middle of the group for their safety.
    “Who? What happened here?” Asked Jari Gemul who stood behind the group heading up the rear.
    Eolani shook her head, confused. “I don’t know. Father bought him three days ago. They brought him here in chains and heavily sedated… said he was an ex-game player from the old Empire. Father has a soft-spot for beat-up slaves. He hoped to rehabilitate him. Our medic was tending to his old wounds when he realized he was one of your AO. We found the medic’s body yesterday morning, his head late last night. Father sent all women in the house away and promised he’d join us as soon as he caught the game player.”
    “Are you armed?” Murlad asked Eolani.
    Eolani shook her head. “No. But he won’t attack women.”
    “How do you know?” Jari asked.
    “When my father failed to show, I returned to find him. I met the game player in the hallway. He walked right past me without acknowledging I was there,” she explained, her eyes frantically searching the darkness for signs of her father.
    “What happened?” asked another security guard guarding the right, Norfey Gidyon.
    “Obviously the medic removed his binds,” Eolani returned sarcastically.
    “Why were you hiding if he doesn’t attack women?” Olisk asked from the head of the group, his eyes peeled to the shadows.
    “He’s killed six men by the time I left yesterday. Would you chance it?” Eolani quip back.
    “Hush!” Murlad called to the group. He pointed with his light to a shadow moving down the long hallway. The group grew quiet. “Lord Hormorl?” he called out. No answer. “Lord Hormorl, this is Certait Murlad Havroy from the AO Project. Give us a sign that you can hear us.”
    A soft knocking came from within what looked to be a study. Murlad flashed the light to the ground following the blood trail into the room. His light cast further into the room shining into the dead eyes of an older man in a security uniform.
    “Lord Hormorl, we hear you. We’re coming for you,” called back Olisk. “Sir, you should remain here with the girl. I can’t risk your safety.”
    “Me, stay? I will do no such thing! Father!” Eolani called back in protest. She broke through the group’s security diamond formation, rushing into the room.
    “Eolani!” Murlad called out in frustration, racing after the girl. Both skidded to a halt seeing a tall, shadowy figure lingering above the body of Lord Hormorl. The Lord strained to look up at his daughter, the light of Murlad’s flashlight shining in his dimming eyes.
    “Run!” Lord Hormorl gasped. His head fell to the floor with his final gasp of air.
    The shadowy man glanced to the group then slowly rose to full-height above Lord Hormorl’s body. The flashlight’s glow bounced off the long, ten-inch bloody kitchen blade in the man’s right hand.
    “Father!” Eolani screamed, running over to his body. A deep wound to his chest puddle with blood. She felt to his neck— no pulse. “How could you? He was trying to help!” she yelled to the shadowy man. She stood facing him. She was a head shorter than the man, but that didn’t stop her. “How could you?” she screamed. She clenched her fist, letting it fly towards his jaw. The man grabbed her, forcing her to turn her back to him. With a quick jerk, the blade was at her throat.
    Olisk and the group raced around Murlad, their weapons aimed.
    “So much for not attacking women,” Norfey commented low.
    “Hold your fire!” Murlad demanded. “Lower your weapons,” he whispered, motioning for the men to lower their weapons. He holstered his own pistol and stepped forward, his hands out to his sides. “We mean you no harm,” he called calmly but demanding to show that he was in control of the situation.
    The man cut into Eolani’s throat, causing her to wince.
    “Please, don’t do this. We were trying to help you,” she whimpered, her eyes glistening with tears.
    Murlad stopped, his hands shaking, but not for his own welfare. One false move and the girl would die. In the back of his mind, he kept thinking, I’m too old for this nonsense. Why did I agree to this assignment? Yet he remained focused on his task taking one step forward.
    “Take me instead of the girl,” he offered. His pounding heart caused him great difficulty speaking. He pointed to Eolani then to himself. “Me for her.” He removed a pendant from around his neck, shining the light onto it. “Certait Havroy, a very important man.” He again pointed to himself, allowing the metal to fall against his black and purple uniform.
    The man nodded, motioning Murlad forward. Murlad stepped forward, holding out the necklace for the man to see.
    “AO Resurrection Project,” he reached over to the man’s hand that held the blade and slowly lowered the blade from Eolani’s throat. “I’m here to help, son,” he spoke softly and calm, keeping constant eye contact. Even in the pale light, Murlad could see the man’s prominent golden eyes, a good indicator that the man was of the lost people of the Narkoy, or what many called the Ancient Ones.
    He took Eolani by the arm and guided her away from the man. Free of his grasp, she ran back to the group.
    The sudden movement of Eolani sent the man into a frenzy. He lunged forward, plunging the knife into Murlad’s left lung. Murlad looked down at the blade in his chest, his bottom jaw gaping. There’s no pain. Why was there no pain? 
    He grasped the blade with his hands around the man’s hands. At that moment he could see the panic and the pain hidden within the man’s golden eyes much like the look of an innocent, abused child. He held his hand to the man’s cheek.
    “I forgive you, son,” he whispered. His body tumbled from the blade and towards the ground. He fell to his knees, holding onto his chest. Blood overflowed his hands with no way to stop it. The room glowed with pistol fire, sending the man to his knees.
    “Hold… your fire!” Murlad called out, reaching his bloody right hand towards his men.
    The pistol fire halted. Murlad felt Olisk’s hands pressed against his wound as he guided his commander to the ground.
    “Sir, help is on the way,” Olisk spoke in a soothing voice.
    “The boy, check the boy!” Murlad cried out, straining to see where the man was. With so many shooting at him, Murlad knew the golden-eyed man could not escape unscathed.
    Jari Gemul stepped over Murlad to reach the man who was now lying on the ground beside his commander. The man’s eyes were wild as he strained to lift himself off the floor. His gray jumpsuit bore multiple burns to the chest. Not wanting to take any risks, Jari pointed his pistol directly at the man’s head. He knelt down to the man with his foot on his chest.
    “Stay down!” Jari demanded, forcing the man to the ground with his right boot on the man’s chest.
    The man gasped for air, his hands wrapped weakly around Jari’s ankle. He fell back, his eyes rolling into his skull. A light blood trail dribbled from the man’s bruised lips and his down chin.
    “Still alive, Sir. But he doesn’t look good,” Jari said, his heart still pumping with adrenaline.
    Murlad reached up taking Olisk by his uniform collar. “Whatever you do, don’t let the boy die!” he ordered in gasping breaths. Murlad’s body grew limp as his head sunk to the floor.



  • Santa Ana
  •  

    Southern California is well- known for erratic harsh wind conditions nicknamed Santa Ana. It was either named for the city, the historical figure, or something else entirely — ultimately it makes little difference. What I do know for certain is that it wreaks havoc on my neighborhood. Well, not so much the neighborhood itself, but a crucial part of the neighborhood… the trashcans.

    Come Wednesday morning all the trashcans are lined up like little smelly patrol men waiting for their turns to flip their lids and regurgitate their vile repast into a large, noisy truck. By the time I return home Wednesday evening, these sick little patrolmen have rolled half-way to the corner liquor store — no doubt for a rum run. I suppose you’d drink too if your sole purpose in life was to hold garbage, right?

    Okay,  maybe they didn’t make it to the liquor store, but somehow, thanks to Santa Ana, they always end up at the bottom of the street along with all of my neighbors’ cans. They’re all sprawled out against the gutter and sidewalk like hopeless hobos, unsure where they came from or where to go. And here I stand in the middle of the road, trying to figure out which cans are mine among the mess of plastic and muck. Why do I bother going through so much hassle to identify my cans? Because they are my cans! It would be so much easier to have everyone write their names on the cans for cases such as these. With all seriousness, would you want someone else’s trashcan?

    Unfortunately, no one wants to admit to their own garbage. Heaven forbid if we admit to eating Fruitloops! Yep, that’s my Bengay box. Three buckets of KFC last week? Hey, hands off my Ben and Jerry’s carton. When it’s tossed it’s gone, out of our thoughts and clear of our minds. The last thing we want is our neighbors to know that we read Teen Idol at age forty-nine, or that we’re trying to save money by buying the cheap toilet paper. Just in case some incriminating evidence is left behind, stuck on the inside of the can by some great glob of half-melted Jello, we can’t put our names on it nor do we want someone else’s can in case their incriminating evidence is worse than your own.

    It really shouldn’t matter that your neighbor bought the latest Lady Gaga CD and now the packaging is in your can. (She bought a CD? *Giggle, giggle, snort!*) Isn’t all the garbage going to the same place? It’s not like we’re going to be judged in the end by what we threw away or  what someone thought we threw away… will we? For now, I just hope the Santa Ana’s don’t blow by tomorrow. I would hate to admit to what is in my trashcan this week.



  • Vanpires
  • What doesn’t belong in the sentence: cannibalism, midnight, heartbreaking love, or undead? If you
    said midnight… well sorry you didn’t win the gold star. But if heartbreaking love caught your eye as
    being a little sordid alongside cannibalism and the undead then you are among one of the top
    percentages of sane people in the US right now. For some unknown, or perhaps undead, reason people
    are flocking to bookstores to read the newest and greatest blood-sucking adventures. And it isn’t just
    localized to books. More and more movies are filmed to coincide with the money-making marvel that
    this new craze of Vampire-isms is creating.

    Now I don’t know about the majority of people, but if I’m walking in a deserted alley, path, park, fill in
    the _____, I’m certainly not going to stop and chat it up with someone whose face is smeared with
    blood and has fangs down to his naval. Heck no! My pepper spray is in one hand, and a fresh garlic
    and oregano baguette in the other. No way am I about to stick my neck out for some creepy undead
    dude let alone have a long meaningful conversation. And why would I? I’m food. Meatloaf without the
    gravy! You wouldn’t stick around if a tiger was chasing after you. No. You’d run until you reached
    tomorrow’s tomorrow and probably keep running.

    So why is it that people are in love with the idea of getting their blood sucked dry? Most cringe at the
    idea of Zombies eating our brains, but not vampires sucking our blood. I know more people who exist
    without using their brains but blood… blood is important.

    It used to be the old idea of Bela Lugosi and his suave, debonair approach at vampire-ism. Something
    about his Dracula made the audience want to be bitten over and over. But now, many of the vampires
    that are portrayed on TV and in movies are nasty, hateful souls… strike that – soul-less, vermin that
    rage across the landscape chasing panic and mayhem. What’s so appealing about that?
    We can change them! We can make them good! We can… oh who are we fooling? They’re soulless,
    remember? They’re bloodsuckers and they’re here to stay… at least until the sun rises. Until they fade
    away into the darkness I’m keeping my garlic power close at hand and a scarf closer around my neck.



  • Hassayampa
  • In the past, and sometimes even in the present, I’ve had the habit of stopping off the beaten path to investigate a paranormal sighting. Usually, I discover a haunted location whether it be a restaurant, hotel, antique store, or whatnot, by something I read or saw on TV. Current entertainment is not without its Spooktacular television programs. On one such occasion, I found myself in Prescott, Arizona.

    Now anyone who has ever seen a western movie read a history lesson about the Earp brothers and their rascal of a friend, Doc Holiday than I’m sure you’re well aquatinted with Prescott. It’s an interesting little town whose main street is rightfully named “Whisky Row.” Many an old west hero, and perhaps a few villains, had wandered through the town to share a few drinks, swap a few stories, and perhaps indulge in a little a bit of after-hours merriment … wink, wink.

    Other than location, this particular sighting has little to do with the cowboy crowd and more to do with one once happy bride, Faith, whose life turned tragic one sad and lonely night.

    Shortly after the Hassayampa Inn opened in 1927, a young, newly married couple checked into the hotel for a romantic honeymoon in the Grand Balcony Suite. The suite was located on the fourth floor, 426 see photos. After they had settled in for the night, the new husband left his young bride to go buy some cigarettes. He didn’t return.

    No one knows for sure what happened to him for certain, whether he met the viper’s end of a gun or decided to high-tail it out of there. Perhaps he regretted his decision to marry? Regardless his disappearance left his new bride alone and very distressed. She waited for him for three days, three very long days without so much as a word as to what happened to her beloved new husband. On the third day, not knowing and being alone took its toll on Faith. She ended up hanging herself from the balcony, in clear sight of Gurley Street and Whisky Row.

    Now a’ days Faith has reportedly been spotted wandering in room 426 causing all such mischief with the room’s occupants and the hotel’s staff. One staff member was kind enough to allow me, and my very skeptical family, to take a tour of room 426. Although Faith didn’t show herself the room did have an odd feeling to it, almost as if someone was watching us. Was it Faith? Or was I relying on blind faith?

    If you’re ever wondering down the old streets…well okay old but freshly asphalted streets, of Prescott, Arizona make sure to wander past the Hassayampa Inn. You can’t miss it; it’s a giant red-brick building off of Gurley Street, walking distance from Whisky Row. And if you happen to walk by, turn your sights up to the tower. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll catch sight of poor Faith as she waits longingly for her husband to return.
    If you’re interested in more haunted locations in Arizona, then I highly suggest these books:



  • Ghosts
  • Haunted?
    It was a dark and stormy night-

    The rafters rattled and the storm windows shook as if mindless toys to the mighty wind blowing
    throughout the countryside. A bitter chill surrounds your new/old Victorian while the distinctive smell of rose perfume wafts through the halls. The light flash – DARKNESS! You dash under the kitchen table, your eyes wide with panic; it’s happening… again.

    The kitchen door opens with a creak, then slams shut. Dishes fly across the room, crashing with am eated vengeance as the baby grand piano in the lounge plays a concerto – minus one pianist. The front door rushes open bringing in a cool breeze and a wind-devil of leaves. A heavy boot-steps lead up the stairs, followed by a deep – tha-thump, tha-thump, tha – AHHHHHH! CRASH!

    The lights miraculously return to normal and you will your way out from under the kitchen table. Five dishes lay in pieces on the floor and a butcher knife is now permanently implanted in the wall next to the calendar. Out in the hallway, muddy footprints are leading up the stairs… odd surprising it has not rained in two months. And even stranger is a large red stain on the floor at the bottom of the stairs… the same piece of rug you’ve replaced three times already yet the stain keeps returning.

    What’s wrong with this house? – Well, it’s HAUNTED! Yep. So stock up on dishes, invest in
    some good throw rugs and call in the haunted house tours. Why not make a little money in the process?
    That’s what all the trendy hotels are doing, regardless if they’re haunted or not. Nothing brings
    customers in faster than a saucy tale of a prostitute and/or sea-captain “done in” by the one they loved.
    Haunted houses are no different.

    In light of the haunting season approaching, I thought I’d pay tribute to our shadowy dead. I understand many have mixed emotions when it comes to ghosts or spirits. Some believe they exist and scare the crap out of us and cause us to wonder why are car keys are in the refrigerator. Or the opposite – you’re crazy and it’s all in your head – you were too wired on NyQuil last night to remember.

    Yes, I admit I must be crazy, but there’s just too much information out there now to not believe in
    ghosts. I happen to fall in the first category completely believing that some of our beloved dead are still wondering about causing mischief. TV programs such as Ghost Hunters, Ghost Lab, Celebrities Ghost Stories and Haunted History bring about “proof” that there just might be a ghost after death. By taking the “Ghostbusters” scientific approach these shows “investigate” paranormal activity. Unfortunately, unlike Ghostbusters they have yet to truly confirm, let alone capture one.

    Wouldn’t it be interesting to capture a ghost? It would prove a lot to both the fields of science
    and theology that – Hey there is life after death… or something like that. But then again, I
    would feel guilty keeping a ghost captive. They should be free to romp about the countryside, making cow’s milk sour, right? Or should they be considered pests like a common house mouse? Find a “sticky trap” way of capturing them… ectoplasm and some cool-looking force-field box-trap?

    In my opinion, we should learn all we can about them. If they can throw plates around the kitchen, then they can certainly make breakfast in the morning. If they track in mud, leave out a broom and dust-pan out. It’s only right they pick up after themselves considering we all live – um…reside, under the same roof. Oh yes, thinking about it, why not hand them a hammer to fix those rattling the rafters? If they slip and fall, what’s the worse that will happen? They come alive again? That sounds a bit like Zombies… I’ll leave that subject for another time.

    Every day we live with the nearly-dead and not give them any respect. It takes a lot of energy being dead and still wondering about…try it sometime. Wait, um – that is when it’s the appropriate time, that is. You’d be amazed at what you’d find out levitating in another ghost’s shoes. For me, I’m looking forward to “ghosting” in my afterlife. My goal: to find an old attic with a vintage Royal typewriter and drive the house’s residence insane by typing at 3 in the morning. It will be more fun than a ghost on Halloween. But at least I’ll have the common courtesy to make coffee in the morning. – BOO!



  • Head for the Hill – Chapter 3
  • His friend spun around in time to see the creature lift the helicopter blade away, sliding the blade to the side. Slowly, the creature pulled its twisted and mangled body from under the wreckage. Its face resembled a praying mantis, the left side of it half-eaten away.

    Aiden’s horror-filled emerald eyes turned to the alien creature. In a mad panic, he reached to his entrapped foot, struggling to free it from the mud. Rodney rushed back to him, also helping to tug his friend’s leg free. It was no use, his leg would not budge.

    Inch by inch the alien creature grew closer, dragging its body along the muddy ground. Rodney stood, watching the alien. His jaw gaped slightly when he noticed that the lower half of the alien’s body was missing. Only a trail of entrails followed his lower half. 

    “That’s just nasty,” he gulped, attempting to hold back the mixture of cheese puffs and gummy bears he ate for breakfast. 

    “RODNEY!” Aiden screamed, his voice filled with panic.

    Rodney shook his thoughts back to reality. “Yeah, right, uh…” he glanced around, searching the area for something to help dislodge his friend’s leg from the mud. He found a long piece of metal attached to a handle, pulling it out from a pile of rags. As he lifted it, he soon realized just how heavy it was. The weight of it nearly knocked him off balance. He swung around to face Aiden, but as he did his foot slipped out from under him. He fell backward, the handle jerking from his hands. A loud “WHAAAABAAAAM!” echoed throughout the valley.

    Rodney’s head connected with the ground, smacking his face with mud. Dazed, he turned his chestnut eyes to the metal rod beside him. It was then he realized he had found some kind of alien weapon. 

    “Aiden?” he called, attempting to lift his body from the mud. “AIDEN?” he cried out.

    An arm raised into the air. “I’m… okay,” Aiden called back. “I… I think you killed it,” he continued.

    Rodney cocked his head, unable to move his body that was now encased in mud. He could just make out his friend through the hazy air. Inches from his friend laid the alien creature, its arm reaching out for his leg.

    “Looks… like it,” Rodney returned, his words strained as he attempted to sit up. “Uh… Aiden, I can’t move. I’m stuck in the mud,” he admitted.

    A long moment of silence was disturbed by Aiden’s heavy sigh. “Oh. Uh, Rodney?”

    “Yeah.”

    “Why is it so muddy anyway?” Aiden asked.

    “Planes dropped water to put out the fire,” Rodney explained. “You… you didn’t see what happened?”

    Aiden shook his head, the mud sloshing against his ears. “Nope. I was riding my bike and the next thing I know all this had happened.” He paused, listening to the distant crackling of the fire. “Now what?”

    “I’m not sure. We wait for someone to—“

    “To what? Walk by? Look around,” Aiden yelled.

    Rodney moved his head ever so slightly, noticing something hurrying towards them in the dusky light. “Uh, hi?”

    “Don’t move!” returned a demanding voice.

    He squinted, just able to make out the image of another pistol. This time it was aimed at his head. 

    “Uh… okay,” he gulped.

    “What’s going on, Rodney?” Aiden called out.

    The gun fell away from Rodney’s face, revealing a soldier dressed head to toe in camouflage. He reached to Rodney, pulling him out of the mud by his shoulder. 

    “We heard a gun,” the soldier explained.

    Rodney nodded, motioning to the gun that he accidentally shot. “I… I shot it. I didn’t know what it was. It… it killed that thing over there next to my friend,” he explained as he looked around. He was surrounded by adults all wearing camouflage gear. Two other people were fast at work lifting Aiden from the muck. 

    “We’ve got a dead one over here,” called out another soldier. 

    “Yeah, that’s him,” Rodney said, motioning to the alien.

    The soldier patted his muddy shoulder. “Good work. Let’s get these boys back to their families before there are any more problems. I bet they’re worried sick about you,” the soldier mentioned.

    Rodney nodded. “I bet they are.”

     



  • Head for the Hill – Chapter 2
  • The ship suddenly shot down a beam of light, engulfing the ground around his elementary school. The ship continued to shoot, sending waves of fire through the town and up into the sky.

    Aiden slowly stood from the bushes, his hands covering his head as he watched the town burn. From overhead came the loud chop-chop-chop of military helicopters followed by the booming of missiles being launched. He dropped to the safety of the bushes again, holding his head beneath his arms. The ground rumbled and quaked beneath him. Without warning, something smacked the back of his head, sending him face-first to the ground. 

    The air grew eerily still. Only the crackling and snapping of a distant fire could be heard. Aiden slowly opened his left eye followed by his right to see two sets of black boots standing above him. His eyes followed the boots to two pant legs, to a set of knees to… nothing.

    He jumped back, seeing a set of legs standing before him with no owner. Icy chills engulfed his entire body as he scurried back to his bike. The road was now covered in pieces of helicopter debris and dismembered body parts. He picked up his pack, jumping onto the seat but as he started to ride he realized the front wheel was bent out of shape.

    “Aiden, over here!” Rodney called from some distance away.

    Aiden searched the road, unable to see more than a few yards from all the smoke. “Where are you?” he called back.

    “Right here,” Rodney said in a whisper from behind him, causing Aiden to jump. “Come on. Follow me,” he explained low, motioning for him to follow.

    Aiden nodded, his eyes wide as they passed by the wreckage. Why couldn’t he remember seeing them crash? There must have been at least twenty different vehicles around them, all of them burnt to a cinder. He only closed his eyes for a second. 

    A thick drop of moisture rolled down his forehead and across his nose. He felt to the drop, feeling that it was thick and sticky. In the smoky light though, he couldn’t tell what color it was.

    “How’d you find me?” he asked Rodney.

    Rodney turned to him, his dark eyes wide with panic. “Oh, man. Uh…” he forced Aiden to pause and searched around them for something to use as a bandage. He spotted the fabric from a parachute and proceeded to rip off a piece. “Hold this to your forehead. You’re bleeding bad.”

    “How bad?” Aiden asked gulping back his anxiety. It was then he noticed that Rodney was wearing a soldier’s helmet, dog tags, and a men’s camouflage jacket. 

    “Stitches bad. Hold pressure on it. You’ll have to get it fixed up once we reach the foothills,” he explained.

    “Uh… foothills? Why are we going there?” Aiden asked confused.

    Rodney rolled his eyes. “Look, we’ve been attacked by something that’s destroyed half the planet. A bunch of people said they were heading for the hills, so that’s where we should go too. Besides, you said two days ago you had to go there to find something. I don’t believe in coincidences,” Rodney pointed out.

    “Two days? I’ve been asleep for two days? What happened?” he gasped.

    Rodney shrugged. “I decided to follow you. When I passed the bridge over near the Stanley farm a spaceship started shooting a red beam down at the town. I ran, hid under the bridge. I was down there like forever when the battling finally let up. By then, well…” he motioned around them. “I grabbed a few things I found and continued to look for you.”

    “What about our parents?” Aiden asked. He took hold of the track of an overturned tank to remain upright. 

    Rodney shrugged. “Mine was gone, but so was my house. I’m hoping they headed for the hills. A man ordered everyone to head in that direction from a loudspeaker on a helicopter, right before it was shot down,” he said, obviously concerned for his own family’s safety. “First things first,” he wrapped his arm under Aiden’s and helped him to stand, “we better keep moving. Who knows if or when those monsters are going to return?” 

    Aiden nodded, his eyes watching Rodney’s new boots. They looked too large for his feet. His left toe was covered in thick greenish blood. “What’s with those?” he asked then motioned to his helmet, “and that?”

    Rodney tapped his helmet. “Took it off a guy a yesterday. The shoes, well…” he lifted his foot out of the boot, revealing he was still wearing his sneakers within the boots, “I ran into a bunch of mud back by the old bridge. It was better to use these to get through it.” 

    “Smart,” Aiden said.

    Rodney grinned. “I know, right? Remind me not to ignore your dreams again. Whatever you were dreaming about,” they stumbled over a thick piece of metal, possibly a helicopter blade. The boys took a closer look, noticing something twitching beneath the metal. Aiden jumped back followed by Rodney. To their horror, they saw a long yellowish-green colored finger flexing beneath the metal, reaching upwards as if it were trying to claw its way free.

    “What… what is that?” Aiden gulped.

    Rodney searched the area with his tired eyes, spotting a thick stick about the length of his arm. With the stick, he poked at the finger. The finger wiggled up, followed by a hand, grabbing the stick and ripping it from his hand with such force it caused the stick to slice through Rodney’s flesh.

    Rodney released the stick, running as fast as he could to getaway. Aiden stumbled behind him, unable to catch up. He staggered to the ground, his foot captured within the thick unyielding mud.

    “Rodney!” he cried out.



  • Head for the Hills – Chapter 1
  • “I don’t care if you think it was only a dream. It felt real to me,” Aiden Hemse pointed aggressively to the black alien blob monster decal on his lime t-shirt. He reached down to the space between his bed and nightstand and pulled out his charcoal gray backpack. “I have to do this. I know there is something in those hills and I won’t come back until I find it!”

    “Like what? Aliens? Come on, you know they’re not real. You can’t exactly just start walking around and expect to be taken or something,” his friend, Rodney, said as he sat with his feet dangling over the side of Aiden’s neatly made bed. The bed itself was covered by a thick comforter blanketed with an image of the Milky Way.

    Aiden hoisted his backpack over his shoulder and stood from the bluish-gray pebbled carpet. A bandana made from his old G.I. Joe’s t-shirt was fashioned tightly around his forehead, one of its tales caught momentarily by the pull of his backpack straps. He jerked his neck, pulling the bandana slack away.

    “I’ll know it when I see it. It’s… it’s just something I have to do,” Aiden explained to his friend.

    Rodney’s legs bounced nervously against the metal bed frame. “You’re nine. Can’t you just worry about our next ballgame like a normal kid?” he pleaded. 

    Aiden shook his head, his short dirty blond hair flopping out over the bandana. “Nope. So if my mom calls I’m—“

    “With your dad. If your dad calls, you’re with your grandma Joy. I got it, I got it. When will you be back? I don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep this up,” Rodney asked as he rested his thick dark cheek on his balled-up fist. 

    Aiden shrugged. “A week, maybe two. I’m not sure. It depends on how fast I find what I’m looking for. It’s not like they’ll notice anyway,” he mentioned.

    “So you might never return?” Rodney mentioned. “Well, you don’t know what it is you’re looking for. Someone had to say it.”

    Aiden rolled his emerald eyes. “I’ll text you once I’ve made it to the foothills, okay?”

    Rodney turned his eyes from Aiden to hide his frustration. “Fine. Just don’t get hurt. I don’t want to get grounded over this,” he warned.

    Aiden slid open his window and peeked outside. The coast was clear. Just below the window was his bike, strategically placed there with anticipation of his departure. He dropped the backpack out the window than with the help of a small blue monster stool he climbed out.

    Inside, Rodney watched his friend jump onto his bike, having issues with the weight of the backpack and maintaining his balance. Within a flash, Aiden had ridden so far down the street he could no longer see him. 

    “He’s gonna’ get himself killed. I just know it,” Rodney huffed. He stepped up onto the stool and climbed out the window after Aiden.

    Aiden didn’t bother to look back at his house. He had seen it a billion times before. He knew what it looked like. Why did he need to see it again? His only thought was to reach the foothills before sundown. He glanced at the sun, then glanced down at his phone. His phone read 2:08. According to his math, it would take him approximately two and a quarter hours to reach the foothills on his bike, which was plenty of time before the sun went down. 

    Somewhere between mile marker twelve and Cedar Valley Road, Aiden’s eyes turned to his phone mounted on the front handlebars. A dark shadowy image floated above, casting a rainbow of light onto the glass of his phone. The bike skidded to a stop. The force of his stop caused his backpack to pound against his back, nearly knocking the wind from his lungs. He slowly turned his eyes to the sky.

    Hovering a mile above was a flat, completely translucent triangular image about the size of six large city blocks. It was cruising by at a steady clip of ten miles an hour. It was only because of the angle of the sun did Aiden even notice it. He dropped his bike by the side of the road and dashed for the safety of the bushes. With panic, yet curiosity-filled eyes he continued to watch as the ship drifted towards his hometown. 

    “What is that?” he asked himself in gasping words. He reached for his phone in his backpack, realizing it was still attached to his bike. “Great!” he huffed.



  • Celem – Chapter 5
  • As Amono pulled, the surface of the rock began to contort and melt inward. Calem fell through the other side and onto a big, soft pillowy material. He turned back to see half of Amono’s body stuck inside the rock, unmoving. All Calem could do was stare at the image of his companion.

    A man cleared his throat from behind. Calem spun around, seeing the same man he believed was his grandfather. “You!” he screeched. “You killed my friend!”

    “Was he? He looked like he was about to gut you,” the man pointed out.

    “Yes…” Calem glanced back at Amono’s image in the rock. “Yes, well, that’s beside the point. What is this place?” he asked, examining the inside of the mountain. The inside didn’t look like a mountain at all but more like a missile silo. 

    The man waved Calem to follow. Calem remained firm, not budging. “You have somewhere else you need to be?” the man asked. He had a point. Calem glanced one more time back at Amono then continued to walk after the man.

    “Are you my grandfather?” he asked the man.

    He shook his head. “I assumed this form. Our kind crash-landed here nearly a century ago. The inhabitance of this world claimed our ship was an atom bomb. Regardless of what they thought, our ship contaminated this world with radiation. For years, our people were spread out across the planet. Your real grandfather gave you the map and sent you out into the world to search for others of our kind, but I fear you and I are the only ones left.”

    “What happened to those in the cave? Why can’t I remember?” Calem questioned, his mind buzzing with more questions than he could ask. He had to pick and choose which questions were the most important. 

    The man shook his head. “You and I were born here, the others weren’t. We adapted but there are things on this planet that sickened the elders. Come,” he said, waving Calem to follow.

    The two walked down a flight of stairs. At the bottom was a space ship that looked like it could house over a hundred people. “You have lost your way, but you will find it again. We need to prepare to leave. Only after we leave will this planet heal itself again.”

    “Wait,” Calem called out as the man walked towards the ship, “I’m not human?”

    He turned, shaking his head. “Not their kind of human, no. How else do you think you’ve survived as long as you have?” the man pointed out. “Say your goodbyes. It’s time to leave.”

    “But what about…” Calem paused, glancing at the stairs towards the cave. It was then he noticed that leading up the stairs was an image of a solar system etched into the rock wall. The solar system was drawn in great detail and within the image was his home world. His planet had been drawn in such perfect detail it was as if he was seeing it out a window from afar. He recognized it as soon as he saw it. The sun was the very star he would search for every morning. He finally understood why he never felt like he belonged. It was all too clear at last. He wasn’t meant for this world and this world wasn’t meant for him. He hurried passed the man, towards the ship. It was time to go home.

     



  • Celem – Chapter 4
  • Calem hit the ground headfirst with a jerk and a slam. His head plopped back against the hard rock flooring, momentarily causing his eyes to blacken. Slowly, after some time had passed, he opened his eyes to a glowing circle above him. He blinked several times, staring up at the glowing worms. “Glow worms?” he thought. He hadn’t seen them since he was a small boy. He knew they had another name, but he couldn’t think of it.

    “Tanaya, Amono, you two alright?” Calem called out to his two comrades. 

    Amono lifted his arm from near the tunnel’s opening, signaling he was okay. 

    From several feet away, Tanaya groaned in pain. “Yes.” She tediously rose, cupping her left side. 

    Calem scurried over to her, dodging thick spider webs and mounds of dirt. He dropped to his knees beside her, helping her rise. “Hell of an entrance,” he mentioned, helping her to her feet.

    She felt to her head where a massive bump was forming. “You’re telling me,” she griped. “Amono?” she called out.

    Amono slowly sat up, cradling his left arm. In a panic, she hurried to his side, limping as she ran. She skidded down next to him, holding onto his shoulder. “Let see,” she demanded. He shook his head madly, seething as he shook. She insisted, revealing a rather nasty break to his forearm. 

    “Belt,” she said, flexing her hand out behind her where she knew Calem was standing.

    “For what?” he argued.

    “Now!” she demanded.

    “Fine,” he huffed, removing his belt. “But if my pants fall off–” he warned, handing her his belt.

    She carefully wrapped Amono’s arm with a strip ripped from the bottom of her skirt, then used Calem’s belt as a sling. “Nothing I haven’t seen before,” she joked back. “Better?” she asked her brother. Amono grunted. “Good.” She stood, looking around. “Where are we?” she asked.

    Calem held onto his pants’ waistband and slowly stood to have a look around. They were in a cave about the size of a large warehouse. Large drips echoed throughout the cave. He could only hope it was water. It was light enough to look around, causing him to wonder where the light source was.

    “There,” Tanaya called, pointing towards the left where there was a large cavern. 

    An itch of a thought scratched at the tender flesh of Calem’s mind. It was as though he had been there before, but when? Everything looked familiar to him, yet he was certain he had never seen the cavern or the tunnels before. A flash of light sent blinding images across his mind, regressing his memories back to the age of five.

    A ghostly figure of a man sat on a nearby boulder, whittling something out of wood. He held it up for Calem to take. “You’ve returned?” the man asked.

    Calem took the wooden figure, looking at it with both surprise and concern. “I don’t understand.”

    “You’ve been missing for some time. Did you find anyone else or is it just you?” the man asked.

    “Uh,” Calem stammered, searching the approaching darkness for his travel partners. “I don’t think so.”

    “We gave you a map for a reason. I figured you’d eventually return. Though,” the man motioned to a pile of bones near a pond, “I had hoped there would be more of us when you returned.”

    “Grandpa?” Calem gulped. “You sadistic bastard! You left me in the middle of the desert to rot!” he screeched, rushing the image to punch him. Amono took hold of his shoulder, holding him back. 

    “There’s nothing there,” Tanaya yelled, shaking his shoulders slightly. “He’s not there,” she assured as Calem calmed.

    “I… I grew up here,” Calem gulped back his hate and his panic. He pointed to the pond. “But,” he spun around, his mind suddenly clear of his memories. “There used to be over a hundred people living here. Where are they?” he asked, noticing several human bones scattered about.

    Amono plucked a sword from the ribcage of one of the skeletons, handing it to his sister. She examined it, musing over the jeweled handle. “Father,” she stated. 

    “Why?” Calem questioned, his wide-eyes gazing around the cavern.

    “Probably why they made you into a map. They hid valuables,” she thought out loud.

    “Like?” Calem questioned. 

    Amono slowly removed his blade from his belt so Calem wouldn’t notice. He noticed. He took a step back, all the while searching for the best place to run. How could he let his guard down? There was a reason these people were sent to find him. Why would he ever think it was for friendship?

    Behind him stood a giant rock that resembled a mountain. He recognized it from somewhere, but where. Then he glanced down at his right hand. It was inked perfectly on his hand, the top pointing to his index finger. His eyes glanced at Amono’s blade, then back at the mountain.

    A lungful of air propelled him the twenty feet it took to reach the mountain. He jumped onto the mountain’s surface, only to have his foot grabbed by Amono.

    “Get him!” Tanaya yelled.



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