Welcome My Friends

The fog was so dense it was like a cloud had descended to obscure the world. Everything was reduced to wisps of light and dark and the ubiquitous fog between. The drip, drip, drip of condensation from the tips of tree branches kept the cobblestone paths slick. Occasionally the glow of a neon sign would herald a shop of some sort but it soon faded as you wandered on aimlessly.

The fog dissolved the most cheerful, resolute attitude and turned it into a homogenous gray blob of apathy. It had been like this for days, weeks probably. Relentlessly, without a moments respite. Occasionally there was a buzzing overhead as if an entire hive of bees was flying in formation overhead. Aside from that there was an eerie silence permeating the entire area.

I first noticed a feeling of being watched. I looked around but saw no one or nothing watching. But the feeling persisted so I hid behind the next large tree I saw. Moments later, a strange creature emerged from the fog. It looked a little bit like a very long dachshund until you started counting legs. The thing was like a canine centipede. It must have had two dozen legs in all.

It came creeping to of the fog, nose to the ground and feet pounding. It followed my trail until it realized that I had gotten off the beaten track. It looked up but by the time its front end stopped and saw me hiding behind the tree. The rest of its legs hadn’t gotten the message and kept coming. It ended up in a writhing heap in front of my ersatz hiding place. I laughed in spite of myself and the poor thing finally got its feet back under it and scurried back into the fog from whence it came.

This in no way prepared me for what happened next. Sitting on a park bench behind me was a tall man in a white suit with a top hat. He was smoking a cigarette stuffed into a long holder but from the smell it wasn’t tobacco he was smoking.

I started to say something to him but he just put a finger to his lips and nodded his head no. He indicated the bench next to where he was sitting as if to invite me to sit with him. I thought about it for a moment and then had a seat. He clapped his hands three times and a troupe of little men about two feet tall came running and tumbling into the clearing in front of us. They were dressed in dark gray suede suits with black shirts under them. They were perfectly proportioned, just scaled down by a third.

Next, from out of nowhere they produced florescent yellow balls and were juggling among themselves while still tumbling and doing various acrobatics. They stood on each other’s shoulders making towers three high and continued juggling. This went on for fifteen minutes until all of a sudden, they all ran off single file into the mist.

I couldn’t help but applause and the man in the top hat joined in. Then he stood up, tipped his hat at me and turned around three times and faded away.

I never figured out where any of them came from or went to for that matter. I go back to the area every spring in the hope of seeing them again. But some things are pure magic. They happen once and then never again. You have to live in the moment and appreciate every one of life’s little miracles.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

The Lady or the Beast

I sat at the bar nursing my bitters and listening to the fiddler set his fiddle on fire with the speed of his fingers and the heat of his bow. I had been sitting there all evening walking the thin line between mildly buzzed and full blown pissed. I had been watching a young lady sitting at a table in the corner. She had a single glass of wine sitting in front of her all evening. I never saw her so much as take a drink.

The bar maid stopped to ask if she needed anything every now and then but she always smiled and nodded no. As I sat and watched her, she sat and watched the door. It was as if she were waiting for someone. Several times the local wolves on the prowl attempted to make a move on her but she always shook her head and gestured toward the door.

One particularly persistent predator kept approaching her time and again but she was equally as stubborn at rejecting his advances. The evening wore on and finally the bartender announced that they would be closing in half an hour. The young beast ordered one last beer and took it to the end of the bar where he could sit behind his prey and watch her every move.

The patrons started trickling out in pairs and threes. Soon there were no  customers left in the place except the wolf, the lady and me. The lady handed the bar maid a large tip as she got up to leave. She left the glass of wine untouched. As the door closed behind her, her stalker grabbed the glass of wine, downed it and followed her out the door. Afraid for her safety, I threw some cash on the bar to cover my tab and followed him.

It was a moonless night and the street lights cast narrow cones of lights with vast expanses of dark in-between. In the distance, a coyote howled. I could see the silhouette of the lady pass out of the border of the light at the end of the block. Romeo was attempting to be stealthy and gave her a fairly long lead. I kept him in my sight but I wasn’t anxious to get so close that he picked a fight with me.

As I was coming into the pool of light at the end of the block I heard a commotion in the dark up ahead. I decided if I was going to be of any assistance I would have to move quickly. I ran headlong into the dark so fast that I fell over something laying across the path. It knocked the wind out of me for a minute but I was pumped full of adrenalin at this point so I soon pulled myself together and got on my feet to see what it was I had tripped over.

I was afraid it was going to be the body of the lady but as I lit my lighter to see what it was I saw the face of the dandy with a blank stare in his eyes. I looked closer and saw that his throat had a big gash ripped out of it. He was laying in a pool of his own blood. I could hear a low panting noise in the dark beyond the reach of the light from my lighter. I could see the red reflection from two eyes. As whoever or whatever it was became aware of my attention, they turned and ran deeper into the night. I chose discretion and ran back the way I had come.

The news the next day said a local boy had been mauled by a bear. I had my doubts about that. I never saw the lady again.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

Obligation (part 4)

Just as Gilbert had said, the next day Mr. Hightower sent Jack to fetch the bag from the hotel safe. This time, Jack placed the entire flower in the bag. He peeked into the bag but it appeared to be empty. He quickly closed it and delivered it to Mr. Hightower. Mr Hightower took the bag to a business meeting. When he returned, he had Jack take it back to the hotel safe.

A week later, Jack and Pamela were married. After a magnificent reception Mr. Hightower sent them on a honeymoon fit for royalty. One night Jack woke up in the middle of the night. The full moon shone in the window of their stateroom. Quietly he got up and put some clothes on and went for a walk on the deck of the cruise ship. He was staring at the reflection of the moon on the water when a voice behind him said, “Beautiful, isn’t it?”

Jack turned to find Gilbert standing behind him. “I was expecting you. I don’t want any more favors.” Jack said.

“That’s not the way it works. The bargain was three favors for three favors.” Gilbert said.

“Okay. I thought you’d say that. So here’s my third favor. I want you to not insist on a third round of favors.” Jack said. Gilbert started to turn red in the face. His eyes rolled back in his head. Then he started shrinking into his torso until he disappeared with a pop.

Jack and Pamela finished their honeymoon and Mr. Hightower bought them a beautiful house in a nice neighborhood. Mr. Hightower made Jack his partner and named him his sole heir. Jack and Pamela had a large family and lived happily ever after.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

Obligation (part 3)

Mr. Hightower returned and he and Jack went back to their hotel rooms. Jack stayed awake half the night thinking about the girl that he would meet and marry. Slightly before dawn, Jack fell asleep. It was a deep dreamless sleep. When he awoke, it was late afternoon. He sat up and again the room was dark. The shades were drawn and in the corner were the glowing green eyes.

Jack sat very still. He heard the low growling from the corner where the eyes were. He stuck his head under a blanket. Abruptly the growling stopped. He peeked out from under the blanket and there was Mr. Hightower, standing in the doorway to his room.

“My boy, you must get up. It’s way past noon. I have met someone who wants to meet you. Jack got up and got dressed as quickly as he could. By the time he got downstairs there was a crowd in the parlor. Jack went to see what it was. It was the most beautiful young lady he had ever seen. She look at him and smiled.

“And who is this handsome young man?” the young lady asked Mr. Hightower.

“Pamela Pendragon, may I present Jack. Jack, this is Pamela Pendragon,” Mr. Hightower said.

“I am charmed to make your acquaintance,” Pamela said.

“No, it is I that am enchanted,” Jack replied.

Mr. Hightower beamed. “Ms Pendragon has agreed to join us for dinner.” Mt. Hightower explained to Jack. “After which, I have engaged a box at the opera.”

Jack trembled with excitement. “We are honored that you grace us with your company,” he said.

Jack and Pamela had a whirlwind romance. By August Jack had asked her to marry him. They set the date of the wedding for the end of May. It was to be the event of the season. Everyone who was anyone would attend. Mr. Hightower was Jack’s best man. Pamela’s younger sister, Amelia was her maid of honor. Pamela’s father spared no expense. He hired the largest ballroom for the reception and the wedding itself would take place in the cathedral.

Jack was about the happiest man that had ever lived. As his wedding day grew ever closer, he forgot all about Gilbert and the favor that he owed him.

A year and a day after Gilbert granted his favor and a week before his wedding, Gilbert showed up at the cafe where Jack was drinking coffee and reading the news.

“You haven’t forgotten my favor, have you?” Gilbert asked.

“No, of course not. Just name your favor and it is yours,” Jack said.

And name it he did. “Tomorrow, Mr. Hightower will send for the bag from the hotel safe. You will place this entire blue flower in the bag before you bring it to him.” And with that, he disappeared.

[To be continued.]

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

Obligation (part 2)

When Mr Hightower came back from his meeting, it was as Gilbert had said it would be. He had a bag with him and he asked Jack to carry it back to the hotel and have the concierge lock it up for him. Mr. Hightower had an errand to run but would take Jack to dinner later that night.

Jack did as he was asked and took the bag to the hotel. Just before he went inside, he slipped the red flower into the bag as Gilbert had asked him. But before he did he took a petal from the flower and put it in his pocket.

The concierge was happy to lock up the bag for Mr. Hightower. He gave Jack a claim ticket to retrieve the bag later. Jack placed the ticket in his pocket with the flower petal. Then he went to his room and lay down on the bed to take a nap.

When Jack lay down the afternoon sun was shining through his window but when he awoke, the room was dark. He heard a low growling in the corner and there were two green glowing eyes staring at him in the darkness. Jack reached in his pocket and pulled out the flower petal. It was glowing red and the creature with the green glowing eyes quit growling and started whimpering piteously.

Jack heard a commotion in the hall. Abruptly, the door to his room opened and the light from the hall spilled in. Mr. Hightower entered and turned on the light. Jack looked at his hand and the flower petal was gone. He looked in the corner and it was empty. Mr. Hightower told Jack to hurry and get ready. It was time to go to supper.

When they got to the restaurant Mr. Hightower introduced him to the gentleman that he had been meeting with earlier. “Mr. Edward Templeton, this is my charge, Jack. Jack, this is Mr. Templeton.”

“I’m pleased to meet you sir. A very good evening to you sir,” Jack said.

“I’m pleased to meet you as well my young sir. Let me introduce my wife, Lettie Templeton, this is Jack. Jack, this is Mrs. Templeton,” Mr. Templeton said. With that Jack bowed over Mrs. Templeton’s hand and shook Mr. Templeton’s hand. Then, he pulled out the chair for Mrs. Templeton to be seated.

The gentleman were seated and Mr. Hightower spoke briefly with the waiter and then turned to the table and announced, “Tonight is a special night. Mr. Templeton and I have reached a very special agreement today. We will both make a fortune from our deal.” Jack and Mrs. Templeton congratulated them and the waiter brought champaign for everyone.

Jack lifted his glass and said, “Long life and profitable business to all.” Everyone lifted their glasses and drank the toast. They all had a wonderful dinner. Mr. Templeton told stories of his adventures in foreign lands and Mr. Hightower told stories about business deals he had made in half a dozen different cities. After dinner they said goodnight and Mr. and Mrs. Templeton got a cab back to their rooms.

Mr Hightower looked in all his pockets and then said, “I’ve forgotten something. I’ll be right back. Wait for me here.” Jack nodded and Mr. Hightower ran back into the restaurant. When Jack turned around, there was Gilbert.

“Did you do as I asked?” Gilbert said.

“Yes, I did,” Jack said.

“But did you put the entire flower in the bag?” Gilbert asked.

“It was such a beautiful flower I took on petal and put it in my pocket,” Jack admitted.

Gilbert shook his head. “I’m so disappointed in you,” he said. “I told you to put the flower in the bag. Next time you must do exactly as I tell you.”

“I will.” Jack said.

Gilbert nodded and asked, “What is your next favor?”

Jack thought for a minute. “I’d like to meet a beautiful girl and marry her.”

“Remember, you owe me another favor.” And then he disappeared.

[To be continued.]

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.


There once was a young boy named Jack that became bored with his life in the sleepy village where he was born. Every day he got up before the sun rise and helped his grandpa feed the chickens and goats, feed the cow and milk her, and collect the eggs from the nesting boxes.

Every morning his grandma made a good breakfast and sent him off to school. At school he learned to read and write and do his sums. But his teacher was very proper and everything had to be done just so. He studied hard and learned his lessons but sometimes he forgot the rules and the teacher gave him bad marks.

One day as he was walking home from school a strange man was sitting on a rock at the side of the road. He wore a pointy green hat, a green coat and trousers and a brown shirt. His shoes were brown and as soft as rabbit fur. He was playing a tune on a tin whistle and Jack stopped to listen.

The man finished the song and grinned at Jack. “What’s your name and your heart’s desire?” he asked.

Jack thought for a minute and replied, “I’ll tell you my name if you tell me yours.” He had been warned about talking to strangers.

“I see you are a wise lad. Knowing someone’s name can give  you power over them. I’ll give you part of my name if you’ll give me part of yours,” the strange man said.

“That sounds like a bargain to me. They call me Jack.”

“Glad to meet you Jack. I’m called Gilbert.” the stranger replied. “And what is your desire, Jack?” Gilbert asked.

“I’d like to travel and see the world,” Jack said. Gilbert listened intently and nodded his head.

“What would you give me if I made that happen?” Gilbert asked.

“I have no money. What would you ask of me?” he replied.

“If I grant you this one favor, I only ask that you grant me three favors in return.”

“That sounds like you get the better end of that deal. Three favors for my one,” Jack said.

“A bright lad you are,” said Gilbert. “So, I will give you three favors but you must grant a favor of mine after I grant each one of yours. Three favors only will I grant. And three favors must you grant to me.”

Jack thought about it for a moment and agreed. No sooner than he had agreed, Gilbert disappeared and Jack was approached by a well to do man. He introduced himself as Mr Hightower and offered Jack a job as his assistant and they left town immediately  as Mr. Hightower had business all over the world.

Jack enjoyed seeing the world. They stayed in the finest hotels and ate in the finest restaurants. Mr. Hightower bought Jack fine clothes and taught him the ins and outs of his business. In short, he treated Jack like the son he’d never had.

Until one day, a year and a day after he had struck his bargain with Gilbert, Jack was sitting in a Cafe drinking coffee and waiting on Mr. Hightower to complete some delicate business transaction. Jack looked up and there stood Gilbert. “Won’t you join me?” Jack asked.

“No, thank you. I must be going. But I will ask my first favor of you. When your benefactor comes back he will ask you to carry his bag back to your hotel and have the concierge lock it up for him. You will do this but you will slip this flower in the bag before you give it to the concierge.” Gilbert handed him a small red flower. Jack looked at the flower carefully but when he looked up, Gilbert was gone.

[To be continued.]

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

Do Not Go Gently…

The time change has happened. Tomorrow I am going to try to get up at approximately the same time that I have been. That is to say an hour earlier by the clock. I need the extra time to keep the novel rolling.

It is going well. It is surprising me but I think that’s the best reason to write a novel. The NaNoWriMo web site has a badge to recognize the kind of person I am, a plantser. That is someone who plans their novel for a little bit before they start writing and then when the sit down to write, they write by the seat of their pants.

Doing that is liberating, fun, and informative. You never can tell where your subconscious will take you. It also results in more believable characters. Think about it. Do you know what you are going to do before you are in the situation that dictates what action you are going to take? In other words do you know exactly how your life is going to go and what mistakes you are going to make?

Neither do I. Nor do my characters. They are all complex individuals that take life as it comes to them. I’m sure there are people that live their lives differently but I don’t know any of them. Or if I do, they haven’t told me about their master plan and how it is working out for them.

We bought a season pass to the new BBC show Dirk Gently. It is written and produced by John Landis’ son, Max Landis. It is outrageously good. It is inspirational for writers like me. It is obvious that Max is a pantser. It is not nearly so obvious whether there is any aspect of planning in his writing or not. I suspect that there is at some point. It is unclear what, if any, impact the technologies that are brought to bear have on the story.

I’m scaring myself. I am beginning to sound like Dirk. I believe that we must all, individually make our own decisions and accept the consequences for them. But the universe steers things in our direction. We are allowed time to develop the skills we need before we actually need them. When we need money, that is another thing entirely. But it comes.

Who knows where these things come from? It manifests like Mana on the desert overnight. We partake of it and are creatively nourished. And don’t forget to throw challenges at your characters. It is the only way we get to see the kind of stuff they are made of. It spices things up and keeps your readers interested.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

A Moral Delima

We ran the last hundred meters to the bridge. The hatch was open and there was a man I didn’t recognize, a large bird, and a woman that looked like a tree in the center of the room. The XO and Ellen were off to one side. The helmsman was sitting at his post at the helm. The captain was about to speak when all of a sudden I heard Janice’s voice in my head.

“Captain, may I present the patriarch of this planet.” The man bowed slightly from the waist and extended his hand to shake. The captain stared for a minute and then took his hand.

“I’m Captain Jack Armstrong. This is the Starship Beagle. Welcome.”

The old one smiled. “I have had many names. I am the avatar of my people. I should explain. I have taken this form to better understand your people as your crew member, Janice Fletcher has taken the form of my people. It is temporary I assure you. We have much to talk about, captain.”

“Are you hurt?” The captain asked the tree woman.

“Captain, you were speaking to the one called the mother of the forest. I am the bird over here.” Janice’s voice in my head held a hint of amusement as she waved the tip of one wing at the captain.

“Sorry. I’m pleased to meat you,” the captain said to the mother of the forest.

She nodded at him and we heard an old woman’s voice in our heads say, “As am I, sir.”

The captain turned to Janice. “What is going on here? Your mother will kill me if you are hurt.”

Janice replied with the same calm voice in our head, “We have a quandry. These fine folk are very reclusive. They have technology the like of which we have never dreamed. They have explored this universe and more. But now they want to be left alone. They realize that there are those of our species that would never leave them alone if we reported their existence. They have offered to remove all memory of our contact with them from our minds. It is the only way they will let us leave here.”

The captain reached for his sidearm. It wasn’t there. The old one said, “You disappoint me sir. I had thought you wouldn’t resort to violence.”

“You kidnap one of my crew, transform them into an alien creature, invade my ship, and you are disappointed in me? You are a condescending, self centered snob. Transform Janice back to the way she was and get off of my ship!”

Janice spoke in our heads again, “Captain. One of their young shot at our ship. That was what pierced cartography. They wanted to make amends. They were not aware how young a race humans are. They didn’t realize the panic that teleporting me to their holy place would cause you. They only want to live in peace and quiet and contemplate their existence without having to constantly deal with people that wanted to steal their technology.”

“But what right do they have to manipulate others to suit their whim?,” the captain said. “They may have the power to force us but that doesn’t make it right.”

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the people you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

Seeing Things Their Way

I followed the old one down a path through the forest. The mother of the forest followed right behind me. We came to a small clearing and the old one ducked into a cave to one side. I followed him but it was dark inside. After a moment, my eyes began to become acclimated to the dark. There were florescent stones on either side of the path back into the cave. They glowed in various shades of pink, green, blue, and yellow.

We walked for a few minutes and then the cave opened up into a large chamber. There was a long stone table in the center of the room. The old one gestured to me to sit. The mother of the forest went around the table and sat opposite of me. There was a gong at the head of the table and the old one picked up a mallet and struck the gong making one clear tone. Then he sat at the head of the table.

We sat listening to the gong reverberate. It sounded for what seemed to be a long time. As it was finally dying down, three creatures that looked like very thin, very tall monkeys entered from the rear of the cave. They each carried a covered tray. They set one in front of each of us. The old one nodded and a monkey took the cover off the mother of the forest’s dish. It appeared to be a pile of dirt.

The next monkey uncovered my dish. It was covered in various types of seeds and grains. I watched each of the others looking for a cue to proceed. The last monkey took the cover off the old one’s dish. It was what looked like a steak and baked potato. It smelled like one too. The others just stared at their food. I followed suit.

After a few minutes of this, I noticed that I was starring at the mother of the forest. In the dim light it was hard to be sure but it seemed to me her face was becoming wrinkled like the bark on a tree. It also seemed like she was taller than I remembered her being.

The old one had grown taller and no longer had wings on his back. His head had become more round in shape and his beak had become a nose. He had a mouth and two ears. And where his wings had been he had two arms. By now, he was starting to look like a human male.

I looked down at myself. My arms had disappeared and my legs had gotten extremely short with talons instead of feat. I know the drill. If you look like an animal, you are treated with precautions. The old one spoke out loud. “Do you appreciate my concerns better now, my friend? I certainly understand yours.”

Before I could speak, he nodded his head and I suddenly found myself on the bridge of the ship. The old one in his human form was with me. I found I couldn’t speak but my thoughts were audible to anyone in the room with me.I could understand everything that was being said.

The XO was standing there with Ellen. They were looking at a tablet. They looked up and the XO stepped in front of Ellen. The helmsman hit the intercom. “Captain, you’re needed on the bridge!”

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the people you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

Secrets Shared

The intercom chimed insistently. I started awake. I must have fallen asleep scanning the pictures from the surface below. It was the captain. “Can I come in?” I looked around but Ellen was not in the room.

“Yes sir.” I opened the hatch and the captain entered. I closed the hatch behind him. “Ellen and I were scanning the photographs of the surface for signs of a civilization that might have abducted Janice. I must have nodded off. I’m not sure where Ellen is now.”

“That was a concise report. It’s more than I’m getting from anyone else lately. Don’t worry, Ellen is discussing something she found with the XO. She said you passed out around 0400 and she didn’t have the heart to wake you. I came down to let you know and to talk to you about something else.”

“Yes sir. What can I do for you?” I asked. I felt a little bit apprehensive.

“Well, I need you to hold what I’m about to tell you in strictest confidence.”

“Of course, sir. I will take it to my grave.”

“It’s not quite that serious. It would be uncomfortable for me and Janice if anyone else were to find out.”

“Oh, I see. Like I said, I’ll keep your confidence.” I could see where this was going.

“You see, Janice is my sisters youngest daughter. She’s my niece. She didn’t want anyone to know because she wants to be treated like any other crew member. You and Janice seem close and quite frankly, I’m about to go nuts trying to find her. If anything happens to her I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.”

“I see. I need to ask you to return the favor, keep a secret that is. Janice told me you were her uncle and swore me to secrecy. I suspect she won’t hold me accountable for telling you, especially since you just told me but I don’t want to mess things up between us.” The captain sighed deeply.

“I’m glad to hear that. Well, shall we go hear what Ellen’s theory is and whether the XO thinks it is plausible.” The captain put a hand on my shoulder in a fatherly fashion as we headed for the bridge.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the people you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.