Sunday, May 26, 2013

Second Coming - Part 2

Trax stood up and turned to the miner. "Where's Riscofftison?"
 "We come here for comfort and to be left alone," the miner objected.
 "Where is he?" Trax took a step towards the miner.
 "We mind our own business here!"
 "Riscofftison." Another step.
 "We don't bother a body and we expect the same."
 Another step.  They stood close now.  The miner showed no fear.
 Trax's hand shot out and clamped around the miner's throat.  He squeezed, applying pressure slowly and steadily.  The miner, who had seen most everything, done most everything and figured he had nothing to live for, saw the room grow dim and in that fading light realized his own mortality. The miner emitted a faint gurgling sound.
 "What?" Trax released his grip slightly.
 "Which door?"
 "On the left," the miner choked, pointing.
 Trax released the miner who fell back gasping for air, his hands at his throat.  He regarded the miner for a moment, looking for some trace of deception - he saw none.
 He walked to the door on the left and tried the knob - locked.  He took a step back and raised a booted foot.  He kicked the door and it sprang open with a crash and a splintering of old wooden moulding.  In the room there stood a bed and on the bed was an old man mounting a woman from behind.  Their faces instantly turned to the door in frightened surprise.  Only then did Trax notice that it wasn't a woman at all, but a young boy. Nor was this the old man he was looking for.  Wordlessly he closed the door and looked accusingly at the miner.
 "I reckon I meant the other left," the miner said timidly, backing away a step, hands returning to his throat.
 The stranger moved to the door on the right and kicked it open. It was another comfort room furnished with a bed, a chair, a table and a lamp.  On the bed lying side by side was an old man and a middle-age woman.  Though they had never met Trax knew the old man to be Riscofftison.  The woman, obviously a comfort hostess, sat up, the blanket pulled up to her ample but sagging breasts. She smoked a thin cigar and looked at the stranger with heavily mascara-coated eyes.
 "Riscofftison," the stranger said.
 She nudged the form next to her. "Passed out," she replied.
 He entered the room and looked closely at Riscofftison.  The old man's hair had long ago started to grey but there still remained a trace of colour. The old man stank and lay on the bed half dressed.
 Trax picked up the old man's clothes and threw him over his shoulder.
 "He owes me for five days," the woman said.
 Trax reached into his pocket and tossed a handful of bills onto the bed.  He left the room and passed the middle door not caring to think what he might find behind it.  When he reached the stairs, he found his way blocked by the muscle-bound hulk he had encountered when he came in.  Hiding behind the creature, the small bald headed man said, "You wrecked the place and drove off the clientele.  You won't get out of here alive!  I'm going to have Roscoe here do you slow.  Very, very slow."
 If he had not been carrying Riscofftison, Trax may have tested Roscoe, but things being as they were he simply pulled his gun and pointed it at the men barring his path.  "Back away," he told them calmly, and he began to ascend the stairs.
 Roscoe was either too stupid to be afraid or had never seen a gun before.  The giant did not back away.
 "Get him, Roscoe!" the little man commanded, and the beast moved forward.
 Trax knew he was in a vulnerable position.  He fired one shot into Roscoe's chest.  The giant halted slightly but did not fall.  Another shot produced a small, round red hole but still he kept coming.  Trax raised his weapon and placed a bullet between the glassy eyes of the giant. Roscoe faltered, swayed like a branch in the wind and fell over collapsing the railing.  The bald man threw up his hands in fright.  He was hardly worth a bullet. Trax shot him anyway. The thin body collapsed like a straw man and fell to the landing by the alley door.
 Trax reached the top of the stairs.  With Riscofftison still on his shoulder, he bent down and retrieved the Steinbeck novel sticking in the waistband of the bald man's trousers.
 The night air was a welcome relief from the stale, fetid smell of the comfort house.  Trax walked to the edge of town where he had left the buckboard, deposited his burden into the rear of it, then climbed into the front.  He gave the reins a light snap and the horse, a sad-looking old nag, started on its way.  In the dead of night they headed south drawn by an unerring instinct too strong to question.

 Early the next morning, before the sun could rise high enough to turn the sky a dull grey. Trax reined the horse to a stop.  Fresh water was scarce but they came upon a small pond fed from an underground source.
 Trax knelt by the water's edge, scooped up a handful, sniffed it then tasted it.  He spat the water out, tasting the salt in it. The ocean lay a short distance to the east and he looked in that direction accusingly.  Obviously the ocean had seeped into the underground stream salting the supply.
 Trax walked back to where the old man still lay snoring and offering only an occasional grunt of discomfort.  He picked up Riscofftison and threw him onto his shoulder, carrying him over to salt pond and unceremoniously dumped the old man into it.  The pond was not deep and the salt kept Riscofftison from sinking to the bottom. He went under a bit but bobbed up, choking and gagging on the salt water and flaying his arms and legs, cutting quite a comical figure.
 Trax did not smile. He stood watching dispassionately while the old man uttered cries for help between foul oaths and curses. After three attempts to regain his feet Riscofftison climbed out of the pond and up the small bank to where Trax stood.
 "What's the big idea?!" the old man sputtered. "What's the meaning of this?!"
 In response, Trax straight-armed Riscofftison to the forehead, driving him back into the water.  After a repeat of his previous performance the old man dragged himself out again.
 "You want to tell me what this is all about?!" he spat angrily.
 "You're not ready yet," the tall man said and pushed him back in.
 This time Riscofftison stood up in knee deep water and announced, "I'm not getting out until you tell me what you want!"
 "Suit yourself," the other said and walked back to the buckboard.
 Riscofftison stood up soaking wet tasting salt on his lips.  He became painfully aware that his head ached and throbbed.  He gripped his empty belly as it growled protestingly. The old man did not know how many days, or weeks or months he had spent in that comfort house, but he was sure it had been considerable.
 The stranger stood feeding the horse a handful of grain from a sack.
 Riscofftison looked at the man.  He knew he had never met the tall man, but there was something oddly familiar about him.  He had no idea what the man wanted or why.  In the back of his mind, he feared to know.
 Riscofftison knew only that he was no longer of any use to anyone.  He asked nothing of no one and expected the same in return.  That was why he sought refuge in the comfort house. He had turned his back on society and to what some ironically referred to as mankind. Riscofftison knew this man was not kind.
 Reluctantly, Riscofftison sloshed his out of the water and walked up to the stranger.
 "Either tell me what you want or take me back to town!"
 "I'm headed the other way," the stranger said.
 "To hell with you!" Riscofftison exclaimed as he turned and began walking back the way they had come.
 "Long walk back," Trax called after him, to which the old man saluted him with a finger.
 Riscofftison walked about two hundred yards before he realized the magnitude of his trip back.  Soon the heat would come, accompanied by the wind and the dust. With no food or water he knew he would not get far.  He could not be certain how far they had come and he was in no shape for a long hike.  He looked ahead and saw nothing but the empty horizon. Riscofftison turned around to see the stranger standing by the buckboard and he started back toward it.
 "Get on," the stranger said when Riscofftison returned.
 "Where are we headed?"
 Trax cocked his head down the trail.  Riscofftison climbed onto the buckboard and the two sat side by side riding in silence for some time before the old man asked, "Who are you, anyway?"
 "You really don't know?"
 "I stopped playing games when I was nine years old," Riscofftison said, perturbed. "Do you want to tell me your name?"
 "Farell Trax."
 Riscofftison almost started, and he stared at his abductor.
 "Search your memory," Trax told him. "You know me."
 "No I don't!" Riscofftison protested.
 "You know me the same way as I know you.  Do you remember the dream?"
 "Do you remember me?"
 "No, I don't!"
 "I was in the dream."
 "It was a nightmare!" the old man confessed and he began to sob.
 They rode on, Riscofftison clearly shaken and Trax allowing him to be.
 "I tried to forget it, to deny it," Riscofftison said finally. "From the beginning I tried to deny it. It frightened me and I hoped to forget it in the house of comfort."
 "That's where I found you."
 "You should have let me be!" Riscofftison shot back, his manner bordering somewhere between fear and anger. "I want no part of it, or of you either!"
 Riscofftison jumped off the moving vehicle and hit the ground on all fours.  He scrambled to his feet and ran off.  Trax brought the buckboard to a stop and jumped lightly from the seat. In long-legged strides he caught up to the other man and  laid his hand on Riscofftison's shoulder. The gesture startled the old man who screamed as if the devil were chasing him.  He hit the ground again. Trax stood over Riscofftison and turned him over so that they faced each other. Trax grabbed and shook him by the lapels of his jacket. "You're  a part of it," he said calmly but authoritatively. "It doesn't matter if you want in this or not.  It's decided.  I don't know why you and I don't care.  I just want to get the job done."
 Trax hauled the man to his feet. "Now you promise not to run away again and I won't have to tie you up."
 "You wouldn't dare."
 Trax made no reply.  None was needed.
 They continued south, never straying far from the coast to avoid infringing on the Farm Co-op.  Like all the major conglomerates, they guarded their borders jealously, forcibly. The two men followed an old road lined with rotting hydro poles.  Electricity no longer ran through the down lines but the wooden poles remained standing in a row leaning this way and that.  Like the road to Rome lined with crosses, Riscofftison thought.  But this road did not lead to Rome. Where did this road lead, he wondered; to glory or perdition?
 After a few days they passed a row of stacks once part of a antique nuclear power plant. They stood like long dead sentinels petrified in time.  Like electricity, nuclear power was a ghost of the past, it belonged to the old world.                                                                   
 Riscofftison proved to be a reluctant companion.  He did not want to be there nor did he try to be the least bit cooperative on the road or when they made camp.
 They did not again speak of the dream.  Trax found it unnecessary to speak of it, Riscofftison feared to.
 Past the power plant stacks, they entered the foothills and on the second night while sitting around a small fire they heard a sound, as if God had given the wind a voice to sing its sad song.  The sound began low and soft escalating into a mournful wail that split the night. Riscofftison started. For an instant he thought it was a wolf but determined it sounded more intelligent, almost human.
 "Toxins," Trax told him. "They were driven into the hills to live apart from people. They probably smell us."
 "What do they want?"
 "Nothing," Trax lied. "They won't bother us tonight."
 He could see that Riscofftison was shaken.  He saw no point worrying him with the truth. The two turned in for the night.
 Riscofftison shook Trax. "Wake up!" the old man urged, his voice tinged with fear.
 "I'm awake."
 "Did you hear that? They sound closer."
 Trax heard the wail of the Toxins, and Riscofftison was right, they sounded closer.
 "Build up the fire," Trax told him. "They're afraid of fire.  I'll scout about and try to scare them off."
 Trax left Riscofftison secure in the belief that a good blaze would keep the Toxins from the  camp.  The moon rose full and its dull yellow glow allowed Trax to pick up the Toxin's spoor.  They led him through the hills, never letting him get close enough to get off a good shot. Frustrated, Trax returned to camp after some forty minutes to find the fire no bigger than when he had left.  His first indication that something was amiss came when he called out to Riscofftison and received no answer.  Trax cautiously entered into the circle of light, one gun drawn.  With a trained eye he read the story in the dirt. He saw strange footprints mixed in with Riscofftison's. He now realized that the Toxins were a wily bunch.  They had led Trax away on a merry chase while others sneaked into camp and made off with Riscofftison.
 Trax set off, following the trail that led deep into the hills.  He knew why they had taken Riscofftison and it was a fate he would not wish on anyone.  The Toxins were a race of human beings adversely affected by toxic contaminants in the air, food and water, but mostly by the obvious leaking of the old nuclear reactor plant they had passed.  Some people developed no severe affects from the contaminants, but the Toxins were men, woman and children who developed terrible side affects either mental or physical, most times both.  Webbed toes and fingers were common amongst the Toxins, along with puss oozing boils, third eyes, extra fingers, no fingers, no arms or legs, even second heads.  Their physical impairments were compounded by their mental disorders.  Some were only slightly retarded while others developed into dangerous psychopaths. Some were barely affected  mentally at all.  The mating of Toxins resulted in even more horrible mutations.  They were a race becoming less and less human with each generation. The Toxins were not without their enlightened leaders and it was these leaders who had decided that to preserve the Toxins as a race of people they must mate with normal human beings.
 That is why the Toxins had taken Riscofftison; they wanted him for his sperm.
 The moon disappeared behind the clouds and the ground became rocky. Trax lost the trail and it was well over an hour before he picked it up again and another hour before he came upon their camp in the hills.
 It was a large camp of crude huts and underground dens they used to hide from the daylight.  No fire lit the camp but Trax was close enough to see figures moving about.  Once, he thought he heard Riscofftison cry out.  Trax waited another hour.  There were too many for him to rush the camp single handed.  The sun would be up soon and he would wait for the Toxins to go to sleep.
 Certain that the Toxins had bedded down, Trax approached the camp still under cover of darkness.  He walked sure footed and silent, with the ease of a jungle cat.  Every muscle in his body flowed with grace and precision, his hat pulled down low and his dark coat wrapped around him like the night.
 He found Riscofftison tied spread eagle on the ground in a half conscious, half naked state. Riscofftison's trousers lay around his ankles, his manhood exposed for the female Toxins to use at will.  He had been knocked around quite a bit but those wounds would heal.  The old man's mental state concerned Trax the most.  Who knew what effect their multiple rapes on Riscofftison had had on his mind?
 Trax squatted down beside Riscofftison.  The old man emitted a low moan.  Trax clapped a hand over his mouth. "Shhhhhh," Trax whispered, hoping to reach Riscofftison's mind. "Lie still. I'll get you out."     
 Trax reached back behind his neck and pulled out a hidden knife.  The well honed blade sliced through the crude cords binding Riscofftison's hands and feet. Trax slipped the knife back into its sheath. Riscofftison began to mumble inarticulately, desperately trying to say something.
 Trax hushed him. "Quiet!  You'll wake them."
 Riscofftison mumbled on.  " you."
 Trax turned in time to be struck by a tree limb squarely in the face.  He saw shapes; stars and dots blinked on and off before his eyes.  He became aware of bodies rushing at him, laying inhuman hands upon him.  Trax instinctually went for his guns but they were not there, his coat had been torn off his back.  His fists struck out as he vainly tried to defend himself from the blows that rained down on him.  He smelled the Toxins sick, rotting flesh, could catch glimpses of twisted, deformed bodies, and felt their slimy, filthy diseased skin as they bore down on him. They emitted half-human grunts as they maddeningly tried to hammer him into submission.  By shear weight of number, Trax was born to the ground and he struggled on his back, kicking and flailing blindly, but there were too many of them.  With his guns he might have stood a chance, but dazed and weaponless, he suspected they would either beat him to death, tearing him limb from limb with sharp claws and teeth, or they would render him unconscious to be used for captive breeding like Riscofftison- he was not sure which fate he desired more.
 Trax lay bruised, cut and bleeding.  He continued to strike out weakly until he became aware that the Toxins were no longer on top of him.  He sat up and through bleary, puffed up eyes he felt blinded by twin miniature suns.  When his eyes adjusted he thought he was seeing things.  Was he dead?  In another world?  For there in front of him he thought he saw himself. The hat and coat were his and the figure dressed in them emitted fire from each hand. Trax gained his feet and stood unsteadily on wobbly legs.  He shook his head and blinked, trying to focus.  It wasn't himself he saw but Riscofftison!  Riscofftison had donned his hat and coat and was brandishing two road flares he'd obviously found in the coat.
 The Toxins were cowering back from the flares.  Trax saw their dull, lustreless eyes. Their deformed faces showed fear but Trax knew if only one of the mob rushed at them they all would join in on the attack.  All it took was one Toxin with a remnant of courage and he and Riscofftison would be done for.  Trax caught sight of Riscofftison. Trax read anger and revulsion on the old man's face.  He had gone through a kind of degradation that would destroy most people.  Only this brave act kept him from becoming a broken man.  He gripped the flares with trembling hands.  To Trax he seemed on the verge of becoming hysterical.  He just might drop the flares and run.  Trax hoped he wouldn't.
 "Is there anything you don't carry in this coat?" Riscofftison asked Trax with as much humour he could muster, then said more seriously, "Can you walk?"
 Trax nodded.
 "Get behind me and take us out of here!" Riscofftison shouted, his nerves starting to fray at the edges.
 His courage seemed on the verge of collapse, Trax thought.  He might still bolt.
 Back to back, they exited the Toxin camp, Trax leading, Riscofftison covering their rear. After a dozen yards or so, the old man threw one of the dwindling flares into the mass of Toxins who yelled and scattered.
 Trax barely got them back to their camp before he passed out.  Riscofftison rolled him into the back of the buckboard, hitched up the horse and struck out south just as the sun rose in the east.  It hung heavy in the dull grey sky and slowly climbed upward.
 Past noon, Trax wearily climbed into the seat next to Riscofftison.  Neither man looked at the other or spoke a word.  Trax's face was a mass of purple bruises and bloody scratches.  His lower lip was split and one eye swollen closed.  Riscofftison carried his own emotional scars from the night before and they would haunt him.  He would add those to the others.
 After a time, Riscofftison said only: "Trax." And in that word he thanked the man for saving him from a fate worse than death.
 Trax, himself a man of few words, acknowledged this and thanked Riscofftison in return by saying, "Yep."    

Second Coming now available on Kindle!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Second Coming -- A Man Named Trax

The Road to Redemption

 His boots barely made a sound as they fell lightly on the uneven board sidewalks that ran past store fronts, taverns and hotels.  He moved like a shadow, gliding smoothly along, blending into other shadows.  Those alert enough to see him would have thought he had spent his entire life learning stealth- and they would have been right.
 He turned down a black alley.  Most of the town lay dark but the alley was entirely devoid of light, as though it had fled fearing the dark, though the darkness meant little to Trax.  He stopped before a wide, heavily built metal door.  He placed his ear to it and listened.  Satisfied that it was the correct door he knocked - once, twice then paused and knocked again.  A metal panel slid open just below eye level and someone peered out.  The eyes regarded the stranger. The panel slid back as quickly as it opened.  Trax waited.  After a minute he heard no less than five bolts being pulled back, then a heavy board was lifted. The door swung in slowly.
 In the aperture stood a little man as thin as a rail and as bald as a stone.  His scowling features showed utter suspicion and he held aloft a tallow lamp to see who had disturbed him. The light of the lamp fell upon the stranger's features. He was a tall man, lean and lanky but well- muscled. He was dressed like an outlaw in a long dark slicker, broad brimmed hat, tight fitting denims and worn boots. His angular face and sharp features reflected that of a predator- a hunter rather than the hunted. Above a pointed chin lay an almost lipless mouth, and above that a long thin straight nose.  Peering out from under a broad brimmed hat were two thin slits for eyes.  His gaze was stern and penetrating.  A five day growth of beard lightly masked a strong jaw.
 The bald man turned his head to look at the stranger from a different angle.  Certain he had never laid eyes on him before he asked gruffly, "What do you want?"
 "I've heard tell a man seeking comfort might find it here." Trax spoke softly and hoarsely but his voice carried well enough.
 "Who sent you?" the bald man demanded.
 "Old Toothless Tom."
 "Haven't seen Tom for quite some time.  Promised to buy me a drink next time we met."
 "Tom wouldn't buy a drink to save his life."
 The bald man scowled.
 "Don't know you mister.  I ain't letting you in.  Try your luck elsewheres."
 The small man attempted to close the door but the stranger blocked it with a straight arm.
 "Listen - " Trax said but stopped short when a figure appeared out of the darkness behind the bald man.  The figure loomed large and threatening. Taller than Trax himself the hulk stood bare chested and heavily muscled.  The bald man smiled smugly as if challenging the stranger to make a move.
 "Listen," Trax began again, friendlier this time.  "I'm looking for comfort and I heard this was a place where I could be left alone.  I can pay."  He brought out a handful of bills crumpled up into a ball.
 The bald man looked at the money and scoffed.  He tried to close the door again but Trax persisted.  The large creature moved forward threateningly and emitted what sounded like a low growl.
 Trax released the door and brought up his hands peaceably, palms facing out. With exaggerated movements he reached into his slicker and pulled out a small book.  He held it up in front of the bald man whose eyes opened wide and greedy.  The bald man brought the light over to see the title: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.
 The bald man licked his lips hungrily and motioned for the stranger to enter the room.
 Trax moved forward cautiously.  Once inside, he handed the book over to the bald man who immediately opened it to appraise its authenticity. Twice before he had been fooled by feigns- leather covers with blank pages in between. But this was no phoney.  It was an honest-to-god Steinbeck. Better than gold.  Filled with thoughts of how much the book might bring, he motioned the stranger down a flight of rickety steps with an even wobblier railing.
 Trax descended the stairs. He stopped three steps before the bottom and assessed the place. It was a large room with a rough hewn bar near the stairs.  Scattered about the room were some twenty-odd tables occupied by half as many patrons.  Hanging heavy in the air was a thick pungent smoke from a dozen different kinds of tobacco and plant leaves. Lining the walls hung lamps whose partly refined oil had blackened the chimneys long ago. Two paintings adorned the walls.  One hung behind the bar, displaying a rather full figured naked woman lounging on a sofa and looking up rather sadly as she dangled a bunch of grapes above her half-opened sensuous mouth.  The other picture hung on the opposite wall and showed a group of dogs of different breeds sitting around a table playing cards.  Two of the dogs smoked cigars, another laughed hysterically, another was cheating.
 One the patrons at the bar turned to stare at the stranger briefly before turning away.  Trax in turn eyed each customer carefully checking to see if any of them openly carried weapons and appraising which one would be most dangerous in a fight.  Trax decided he must be most wary of the large, bearded man sitting alone in the far corner, not counting the monster guarding the ally door.  Aside from the way he came in, the room had three other doors, all closed and in a row along the back wall.
 Trax walked up to the bar and laid his hands on the edge.  The barkeep, a burly man with a drooping mustache, moved toward him keeping one hand under the bar.  Wordlessly, he asked the stranger his comfort.

 The barkeep produced a spotted glass and an unmarked bottle and poured some of the contents into the glass.  Trax picked up the glass, looked intently into the filmy liquid, sniffed it once then swallowed a small mouthful.
 "Do you have any pipes?" he asked.
 From beneath the bar, the burly man produced a clay pipe whose bowl was black and chipped with the stem partially broken off.
 "Makings?" the barkeep wanted to know while proffering a small bowl.
 Trax shook his head and from his coat pulled out a small leather pouch.  He unwrapped the pouch and filled the pipe with his own blend.  The barkeep lit a thin stick from a lamp and touched it to the pipe bowl.  Trax drew on the flame in long, steady breaths until the tobacco glowed a soft yellow then red.  Smoke rose up from the pipe to mingle with the smoke of the room, but one whiff told the barkeep these were no ordinary makings and this was no ordinary man.  The stranger threw open his coat and the barkeep took in the man's lean, hard appearance. He carried not an ounce of fat to slow him down.  He seemed like a man of little talk and all action.  A Trouble-shooter perhaps.  The barkeep had never seen one but he'd heard stories. Better to kill him now.
 Trax seemed to read the barkeep's thoughts.  He glared at the barkeep who lowered his eyes and moved to the far end of the bar.
 Trax inhaled the smoke from the pipe and held it down in his lungs before releasing it through his nostrils.  He finished the whisky and motioned to the barkeep for a refill.
 "I'm looking for a man," Trax said.  "He's an older man.  His name's Riscofftison."
 The barkeep topped up his drink but ignored his question and walked away to wipe down some unoccupied tables.  Trax turned to face the room and judged the patrons again calculating his odds if things turned sour.  He drew on the pipe and chased it down with the whisky.  He put down the pipe and glass and spoke in a voice loud enough for the room to hear.  "I'm looking for a man."  His voice was calm and controlled but impossible to ignore.  "An older man named Riscofftison."
 He saw the men of the room become still but none looked up.  Trax waited for some sign of acknowledgment.  No one moved.  Why should they? These were men who, half-forgotten by a dying world, wished to die in anonymity.  They had come to this hole in some unnamed town (it wasn't the edge of the world but close enough) to find a last bit of comfort before fading away. Their lives held nothing for them anymore.  They had given up and came in search of some last fragment of peace.  They had come to the wrong place.
  Trax picked up his glass and hurled it across the room like a missile.  The glass struck the picture of the poker-playing dogs and it fell from the wall.
 Trax heard one chair leg scutter across the floor.  This was it.
 The barkeep moved back behind the bar.  One by one the men stood up and faced the stranger.  Slowly they closed in on him in a wide semi-circle around the bar.  Trax could have drawn his gun but he didn't.  He liked the odds.  He had lived for this at one time and old habits, like the world, die hard.  His pulse rate and breath quickened.  He could feel adrenalin releasing into his system and the slightest smile touched his lips.  Even outnumbered he would not make the first move.  If they rushed him he was done for.  He was betting they wouldn't.  Cowardly curs never do.
 A short, feisty man on his left moved in close.  Trax heard wood whistling through the air behind him and he ducked.  The barkeep swung an old Louisville Slugger.  It grazed Trax's head, knocking off his hat, and caught the feisty man square on the nose, driving a bone fragment into his brain and killing him instantly.  Another man moved in, arms outstretched.  Trax rose up suddenly and kicked the man in the balls with a pointed boot. That man would not get up again that night.
 Someone grabbed him from behind and was foolish enough to swing him around to punch him in the face.  Trax used the force of the swing to plant a stiff finger in the fool's eye.  That fool would never use that eye again.
 Two men grabbed him from behind, one on each arm and a third faced him and drove a fist under his chin.  It struck with enough force to knock him and his two dancing partners back a step. The man could hit, and he knew it.  He smiled wickedly and planted his feet for another blow.  One or two more like the first one could turn the tide, that much was painfully clear.  As iron fist swung his jaw-buster Trax pivoted and brought the man holding his left arm around. Iron fist caught the man fully on the head and he went down.  Trax brought up his boot and kicked iron fist in the temple rendering him unconscious.  The man on Trax's right arm proved to be a veritable bulldog, and would not  relinquish his grip.  Trax tried shaking him off and  the pair resembled deranged dancing partners.  They fell against the bar and the Louisville Slugger crashed next to Trax.  He picked up the whisky bottle on the bar and smashed it into the bat-wielding barkeep's face.  The bulldog lost his footing and the two fell to the ground as one.  Trax landed on his left shoulder with the bulldog on top of him.  The fall numbed his shoulder but at least it shook the bulldog loose.  Trax gained his feet in time for a chair to be broken across his back.  Partially stunned, he felt himself being picked up and thrown across the room and he crashed into a mess of chairs and tables.  He lay in a heap and heard the heavy tramp of footsteps coming closer.  He was lifted literally into the air and came face to face with the large, bearded man he had noticed previously.  The man had him by the collar and shook him like a cat might shake a mouse in its jaws.  The man tossed Trax, who hit the wall and slid down to the floor. This man's  fighting style was only too evident -- he liked to bounce his opponents around the room like a rubber ball.
 Through half-dazed eyes Trax saw the brute coming for him again.  Trax reached into his coat and pulled out what looked like a club about half the length of his arm.  He gripped the rubber handle with his hand resting a thumb on a small button. With one push of the button, the club telescopically elongated three times it normal length and as the bearded man approached, Trax raised the staff and touched the end of it to the man's barrel chest.  A brief but powerful electric jolt passed through the big man's body and left him lying unconscious on the floor.
 This proved to be the turning point.  All those left standing fled the bar.  All but one.  He was a middle-age miner down from the hills. His hair and beard grew wild and his clothes were dusty and dirty. He remained more or less out of curiosity than fear.  In fact, the man's entire demeanour exuded defiance.
 Trax stood up and turned to the miner. "Where's Riscofftison?"

Second Coming now available on Kindle! 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Not With a Bang

This is the way the world ends,
This is the way the world ends,
This is the way the world ends,
Not with a bang, but a whimper

– T. S. Elliot
   The Hollow Men

There has been large amount of writing about the End Times, the Apocalypse, the end of the world and how it will come about. Most major religions have writings on the subject. T.S. Elliot’s famous words has the world ending not with a bang ( as it began, a theory proposed by Georges Lemaitre, a priest and scientist) but rather ending with a whimper. Some would prefer we went out with a bang.

The point is the world will end. That is a fact that even science has to agree with. All things end; all living things, all creation. Nothing lasts forever (that is a line my protagonist, Trax, utters in Second Coming). 

Certainly the Black Death that wiped out a third of Europe’s population in the Middle Ages must have seemed like the End Times. The Great War of 1914-1918 must have seemed like the Apocalypse with a death total of 37 million. Less than twenty years later WW II claimed over 60 million lives. But it was not until the atomic age that people truly considered life on earth ending in a mushroom cloud.

What is the point? Like Trax says, Nothing lasts forever. Nations rise and fall. Economies collapse. We live, then we die. This world will end. And so will this post.

Second Coming on Kindle

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Second Coming - Prologue

The opening lines to Second Coming were posted on my last entry. The opening words were:   THE END... . It was to set the stage for the drama to come.

In the following weeks I plan to post more of the story. This post has the story's short prologue. Check back frequently to read the opening chapter.

 Second Coming on Kindle


 Storm clouds moved in from overhead and took up strategic positions as if following a preconceived plan of action.  They blocked out what little starlight filtered through the poisonous firmament.  The dark clouds hung heavy, pregnant with moisture until they could support the weight  no longer and water began to fall from the sky.  Completing the age-old cycle, the rains returned to  earth, and as they fell they mixed with sulphur and other pollutants creating a lethal chemical solution.
 In the town below a  man ran down a dark street with singleness of purpose, spurred on by desperation and fear.  The rain fell in blinding sheets and he sought to protect his eyes from acid-filled drops that were known to blind.  He shielded his eyes to a point where he feared he might lose his way.  Parts of his skin were starting to tingle which told him that his protective clothing had allowed some of the rain to soak through.  Despite the personal danger, he had not allowed the poison rain to keep  him from getting the things they needed.  He clutched the cloth sack close under his coat in hopes of keeping it dry and free from corruption.  Fearful and alert he ran, not relying on the rain for cover, but rather hiding behind hotels, houses and stables whenever he could.  Both he and his wife had shared the same frightening sense of imminent danger for the past several days.   They were being stalked- of this they were certain-- but neither knew by whom or for what purpose.  They shared these feelings with no one; not even the old woman, Ezra, who had helped them without question and for reasons of her own.  But here in the dark, the man wished he had confided in someone, for he was running scared and feeling the danger close at hand, tightening around them like a noose.
 The man ran home in a circuitous route, darting in between the shack houses, down alleyways and finally arriving at the door to a small, darkened dwelling.  He tried the door, knowing it would be locked.   He rapped twice, paused then rapped three times.
 "Hurry! It's me!" he said harshly but quietly to the person inside.  He heard the locks being pulled back and he shot a glance into the semi-darkness.  He thought he heard a noise in the shadows that shifted restlessly in the dark rain.  The door opened and the man plunged inside to a room lit by a single candle.  Once inside he immediately shut and bolted the door.  Handing the package to the woman, he placed a board across the door, praying it would be sufficient to keep whoever was out there at bay.  The man stood against the door with eyes closed waiting for his heart rate to slow to normal.  He wiped perspiration and rain from his face.  He and the woman faced each other for a moment, both terribly afraid.  So afraid in fact that neither could say so, yet each sensing it in the other.  He threw off the rain gear that helped protect his skin from the acid rain. It had done him little good tonight.  His eyes burned and his skin tingled unhealthily.  The man peeled off his wet clothes and wiped himself dry with a towel. 
 The man and woman embraced and kissed with lips that trembled slightly.
 "Were you followed?" the woman asked anxiously.
 "No," he said. "I don't think so.... Well maybe."
 "Who are they?  What do they want?  Why are they doing this?"
 The man shook his head.
 "What are we going to do?" she asked desperately. 
 He paced the room wringing his hands.  He stopped, looked about and motioned to her with palms turned up.
 "Where is the baby?" he asked her.
 "Safe," the woman said, and she cocked her head to the rear of the house.
 He nodded approval.  "The two of you have to get away," he told her.  "Start packing some things together."
 "No!" she said emphatically. "We won't leave without you!"
 He approached her and gripped her shoulders firmly.
 "This is important!" he said. "The two of you have to go.  Don't ask me how I know but you have to get away.  Perhaps if I stay it will throw them off your trail. You go away.  Far away. Far enough so they'll never find you."
 She shook her head adamantly.
 "Listen to me!" he spoke angrily.  "This could be more important than either of us realize. The old woman seems to think so."
 "You talked again with Ezra?"
 "Yes, and she more or less said she would help us get out of here if we wish it.  I don't know how she knows but she knows."
 "No!" she repeated with even more passion. "We won't leave without you! We're in this together. We stay together, the three of us."
 His face grew stern and he wanted to argue further but knew it was futile.  Whenever she got like this she proved unmoveable.  He loved her for her strength and her stubbornness, that was undeniable. His face broke out into a grin despite himself.
 "We will go together then, the three of us."
 She smiled back at him.
 "We'll leave tonight," he said.  "Can we be ready to go within the hour?"
 The woman nodded, choking back her tears.
 They embraced clinging to each other.  He pulled away with a jerk.
 "What is it?" she asked.
 "Shhhhh!" he hushed her.
 Then she heard it.  A sound from outside.  They were here.
 The door and windows were barred, but they knew that would not keep them out. A sudden bang on the door made them jump and they looked towards it.  Another bang, this time louder and delivered with more force.  Whoever it was, they were trying to break down the door. It would not hold them long.
 Moving with a slow, unnatural calmness the man picked up an old axe handle he kept close by.  She took up a rather large butcher knife which she held in both hands.
 They looked to the door, then to the back room, then back to the door.  They would be in soon, that much was obvious.  The couple stared at one another.  They read the love in each other's eyes.  A small nervous smile played on their lips.  And in that smile was everything they had been to each other.  With it came the beginning of a new era neither would live to see.
 Confident that they would die to protect what they had made with love they turned and faced the door again.  It would surely give soon.
 "I love you," the woman said simply but with all the conviction she possessed.
 "I love you," the man said back to her.