Friday, June 21, 2013

Alton One: Capsule 5

The audible hum of the machine was his fan in Rick Shane's room.  He was in his own bed lying on his back.  His wife was lying at his side.  Carrie was snug in her crib, and Clarice was snug in her bed.  The alien was just a nightmare, a horrible nightmare.  When he opened his eyes he'd see that he was in his room, and he'd roll over and see his wife, smell her sleepy breath.

Yet if all of that were true, why did he feel as though he were in a moving vehicle.  Yet when he opened his eyed he saw stars in an otherwise pitch black sky.  Yet when he rolled to his side what he saw was the inside of the spaceship with some dials and gadgets.  Yet the dials and gadgets were no longer flashing with red and blue lights.  They were just gadgets.  They were just objects.  They were just there.

He tried to reach a knob to his left, yet something was restraining his his arm, holding it back.  He inspected his chest and realized he was secured to his resting place, his bed of sorts, by straps.  He was strapped to the bed in a tiny space capsule, the front of which was glass, or fiber glass, or some type of material that allowed him to see the space where he was headed to.  And, as he though of heading into space, his heart thumped an extra beat, and a fresh flow of blood oozed through his veins.

How long would he be able to live like this, in this thing.  How long before he starved do death?  How long can a person go without eating?  What?  Is is four days?  Yes, that's what he remembered reading.  Yet he would die of thirst long before he died of hunger.  And he would die of lack of air long before he died of thirst.  And he would die of an implosion as the pressure of space crunched this capsule into a wad of metallic paper, something that would float in space in one direction until it hit an object and was sent off in another direction.

"Carrie?" he cried.  "Carrie?  Clarice?  My babies.  Please, Lord, take care of my babies." A tear trickled down his cheek.

Rick sneezed, and as he did so his body thrust forward and the capsule, or whatever he was in, tilted forward and now he could see the earth moving further and further away.  He writhed his body back and the capsule once again so he was looking at stars.  He writhed forward and the capsule turned again so he could see the earth moving away.  Yes!  I can control it. 

It was a victory.  He wiped away the tear.  Maybe I can guide this thing back to earth, he thought.  For the first time since he saw that spaceship in the sky he had something go his way.  He watched as the earth moved further and further away. What a beautiful planet.  You can look at picture after picture after picture of the earth, and you can see it on TV or a video game, yet nothing is like looking at the object in real life from outer space.  It's the most beautiful thing ever.  That thing, that blue and white globe, has given life to so many things, so many people.

It also gave life to two little girls and a wonderful lady. Oh, my poor babies.  Marie was supposed to come over for lunch, but that's a long time away.  "MY BABIES NEED THEIR DADDY!  LET ME OUT OF HERE!"  He writhed and turned and writhed and and tossed his fists and arms and flailed this way and that, anything to get out of these restraints.  He fought, he wrestled hard, until his abdomen burned so hard he had no choice but to admit defeat.

"What am I going to do?  All I want is to make sure my babies are taken care of," he said, "I don't even care if I die.  Go ahead, let me die.  But just let me know my babies are okay."  His breathing was heavy.  He cried, and hard, harder than he ever remembered crying even when he was told his wife was dead; even when he saw his wife's lifeless body.  Even when he held his wife's dead, cold, hard hand.  Even when he told his baby's about their mother going to be with Jesus.

He wanted so bad to go back in time and not have that fight with Marie.  He wanted to make the last time he looked at her a good moment, and he wanted to kiss her and say he loved her.  Yet life doesn't work that way.  If he could wish his way through life he would have clobbered that alien back in his living room and he wouldn't be here in this thing looking at earth.

Yet if he could have everything in the world go against him, he couldn't think of a better way to end his life than looking back at the planet earth.  For a moment he thought he might be the first human to die looking at the earth in real live time, yet as he thought of it further, these aliens didn't just pop up out of no where.  They've probably been hovering over our planet for hundreds or even thousands of years, taking people like this all along.  How many missing persons, he thought, were really alien kidnappings?  A shiver crept up his spine at the thought.

He saw Carrie's first smile.  She was on her changing table, and he was tickling her belly.  She smiled her first toothless smile.  And then it just seemed to move fast forward from there.  He saw her take her first steps He saw her walking across the living room toward her mother who was smile cheek to cheek under her head of silky blonde hair.

She was a student of Shoreline Community College in the social work program.  It was her last day as a student and she ordered pizza for everyone.  She enters Rick's office and presents him with the most beautiful smile that complimented her big blue eyes: "There's pizza in the lunch room if you want some."

As he stood up in font of St. Joseph's Church, in front of the alter, looking down between the pews of crowded people, whose chatter had suddenly stops as the organist starts to play "Here Comes the Bride."  The front doors of the church open and there she stands in all her glory, in her white dress, and the smile he'll never forget.  It's ever engraved on his mind, and makes him smile, even as he sees the capsule to his right.

The earth is no longer visible, and in its stead is a capsule a few hundred yards in front of the one he was a captive in.  A flash of light stunned his direction to his left, and he thought he could make out a third capsule.  At first he could only see the bottom side of it, as only that side was lit up.  Then the entire thing was visible, and he could see it was identical to what he was in, both of the other capsules were.

Then he spots the new source of light: the spaceship.  The object filled a huge chunk of space, more so, it seemed, than the earth did as he lifted off into space.  It was round and white, although not as smooth as science fiction writers make them out to be.  It was a huge, round space building, and he could see the different depths of different sections. It was like a large, round building in space.  It was like a Colosseum in the sky.

Yes, it was like a Colosseum.  As he closed in he could see the various stories.  There were four stories on the main body.  He could see four layers of windows, all darker, a dark gray, stacked up all around, and in the front, the part he was headed to, there seemed to be a large door and platform, and a large garage-like door opened. He saw something moving on the platform, perhaps a person.  He watched as a capsule in front of the line landed on this platform and was sucked in, the garage door snapping shut.  Now the next capsule closed in, and so does his.  He figured he could make out three, maybe four of them, in front of him.

He rotated the capsule around so he could see the earth. It was still there.  It was still huge too.  If he had drifted off he didn't drift off for long.  He could still make out the huge white clouds, and where there weren't any clouds he could see the layout of the continents and islands.  He could not, however hard he tried, make out the continents.  Perhaps, however, if the clouds cleared, he could make it all out.  He may even be able to make out the United States, and even the mitten that is Michigan.

The capsule starts to spin.  He wonders if he did something to make this happen, and figures it must be programmed to do so as it closes in on the ship.  Because he's now closing in.  There are only two capsules in front of him.  Clearly it was a garage door that opened as a capsule lands on the platform, and he can see that the person on the platform is not a person but a robot.  It looked like something Clarice would draw on scrap paper: square head, slightly large square middle, and slightly larger rectangle bottom.  The door slides shut and both the robot and the capsule disappear.

He could clearly make out the four stories of windows on the main body of the ship-building.  On the top of the spaceship is a row of windows that seem to jut out.  These windows are larger than the ones on the main body, kind of like the executive suites at Comerica Park where all the rich people and broadcasters watch the games.  On the bottom of the ship it kind of tapered in and then flattened on the bottom.  He couldn't see down there very well, especially as he started to close in.

What is waiting for me in there?  Who are these people, or critters, or aliens?  Where are they from?  Is it Alton as Mike Rove described in all those sessions.  He wished he had spend more time studying those tapes now, maybe he'd understand what was happening better.  Maybe he'd be better prepared to meat them.  And what was it that those bad aliens had planned anyway?  Were these the same aliens?  Or were they even worse?  Were they going to lock him in a room?  And, why all the capsules.  What do these aliens want with the citizens of earth?

He could feel his heart racing, and he thought to calm himself as he knew Mike Rove went through this on his own once. Mike Rove had no one with him and he was only ten-years-old.  Mike Rove tried to tell his story, and he was mocked and ridiculed.  He was made fun of.  Yet Mike Rove had helpers on the spaceship he was on.  There were good people trapped on it, from various planets.  They banded together with Mike and so Mike made his way back to earth somehow.  How?  How did he do it?  If only he had listened to the tapes.  If only he had taken Mike's stories more seriously.  If only....

A garage door on the top of the spaceship-building, amid the executive suites, slides open and he can see a large spacecraft exit.  As it shoots out Rick hears an audible SHWOOOOOOOOOOOO
SH that rocks the capsule ever so slightly.  "Oh my God!" slips from Rick's lips as the coliseum becomes a ball of flame.  He can feel the heat.  His mind drifts to the smiles of Marie, Carrie and Clarice, and then the lights go out for him seconds before the crash, BOOM! BANG! that's heard clearly in Shoreline.  Anyone who looks up sees a fireworks display in the sky.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Alton One: Capsule 4

It grabbed the nape of Rick Shane's neck and wrestled him to the ground with a strength that shocked the six foot, two hundred pound social worker.  Even with four years of high school wrestling he was no match for the alien.  He heard a cry from the back rooms.  "Carrie?" he whispered softly.

Rick wanted to jump up and tackle it, yet he wondered if this would be wise.  The alien took something small off his waste.  An audible wail from the back room from Carrie made up his mind.  He made to tackle it.   With an audible click the alien removed the object and flicked it at Rick.  He made to jump on it.  He did not move.  He could not move.

The alien stood over him Rick got a good look at it for the first time.  It was eerily similar to the pictures Mike Rove drew during the sessions.  He felt bad for the boy back then, but he had no idea of knowing if the boy was telling the truth of just making up some kind of a fable to account for a tie that was very stressful for the boy.  Yet now it appears his hunch was right all along, that the boy was telling the truth.

He picked up the scent of burned cinder.  Yet he could have sworn Mike described the alien, the good alien anyway, as smelling like cinnamon.  This alien didn't smell like cinnamon at all. Is that a bad omen?

Only this alien wore what appeared to him to be a tight, shiny uniform that had spikes on the shoulders that made Mike think of motor cyclists, and mainly the gruff, bearded Harley Davidson type cyclist.  And it gave him the impression of the Hell's Angels gruff motorcyclist, or a gang member, as it's expression appeared as though the creature was smitten with a whip by the supreme  alien in charge of it, kind of the way Hitler humbled gained the cooperation of the Germans during WWII.

Yet that was just a hunch by a social worker who provided an ear for many young boys and girls over the years, many who were abused and beaten.  He felt, at least, that he had the ability to read people, and now he felt he had the ability to read the alien before him.  The alien who was now intently playing with a shiny blue object on the creatures right lip, and with a loud CLICK the round object popped off and rolled on the ground.  Nick felt it bump his right foot, where it rested.

The alien slowly moved toward Nick.  He smacked Nick with his hand, and all Nick could do was deal with the sting.  The alien bent down to pick up the object, and stood before Nick. With a vicious scowl on it's face, the alien touched the object on Nick's left shoulder.  It burned horribly bad, so bad Nick wanted to scream.

Yet his mouth would not move, and words would not come from his throat.  For that split second he thought he was a living being in a body that wasn't.  Memories of his dad's life after the stroke flitted through his mind.  He was a mind trapped in an object he had no control over.  As the arm of the alien moved toward him again, he wanted to pounce and crush the frail looking beast, yet he could do nothing but deal with the burning.

Fresh, red blood dripped from the blue globe that suddenly seemed larger.  The beast struck a third time, and held the globe out and appeared to be inspecting it.  Yes, he was sure of it now: the globe seemed to get bigger each time it touched him.  Is it my pain that's making it grow?  Or, is it my blood?  Yes, it's my blood, that's it!  

Something smacked his left side, making his body sway slightly in that direction in the middle.  Through his periphery he could see a string was connected between him and some object.  There was an object in his living room. Where did that come from.  He felt tension at his waste and his body was being moved.  It was as though the rope was connected to some pulley inside that machine and he was being tugged toward it.  The alien just stood by, groping the bloody ball, watching.

He could see the machine now, and hear it's hum.  Why didn't he see or hear it before.  There's no way it could just appear, is there? It was like a box, and the top opened and he could see all sorts of  lights.  There were flashing red and blue lights, like a police siren.  And, in a heartbeat, he was looking at the ceiling.

Now he was lying in the machine, staring at the ceiling, watching as the lid with the flashing blue and red lights closes on him.  "No!  No! Noooooooo!" he screams.  Yet his words were only audible in his mind.  He heard  wail from Carrie.  It was the last thing he ever heard from her.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Alton One: Chapter 16

Even over the whir of the wind over the bed of the truck, Mike could hear the boy's slow, deep breaths as he sleeps sound.  Not even the bumps, turns, twists, and stress wakes him, and thank God.  Mike crosses his chest, and says, aloud:
"Our father, who art in Heaven, hallowed by thy name.  They kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.  Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen." 
He crossed himself again, and closed his eyes.  Lying on his back, he could feel the truck was still moving at a high rate of speed.  They were closing in on Manistee fast.  He opened his eyes and saw the sign of the Shell gas station buzz past, and he now knew they were half way on the 20 mile trek.  They would be just passing Fountain Road. 

He had time.  He looked at his iPhone, and pressed the icon for Lance's blog. 

I had that dream again last night.  You know, the one where I'm a rattlesnake slithering down a long and winding road.  I'm running from something, and don't know what.  All I know is it's something really bad and I can't let them catch me.  I come to a skull and squeeze between loose teeth.  Once inside I coil into a ball, and peer out through the nose, praying the whatever it is doesn't see me.  I can see human-like feet, although I know they aren't human.  I hear them shouting, and I feel my heart thumping. They are so close, so capable of seeing me if they look right, although for some reason I feel a sense of comfort.

This is when I wake up.  About a year ago I looked up this dream on the Internet. A snake is most often interpreted as a bad omen, a skull often symbolizes death and evil, and running may represent my attempt ot escape from something.  Well, I see what I might wish to escape, although I know if I do that I might be caught and either killed or forced to be a slave among the Sassa Guarrd.  I am told my Tsatso that you do not want to live on Sassa.  It is the most dark, gloomy, bloody, and horrifying place in the world.  He says he lived there during his childhood, and had many horrifying stories to tell.  I shared this story with you once before, if you care to check it out by clicking here.  Understand, however, that the people in the story are not people, but Altonians.  (The little boy is really Tsatso, but I won't reveal that until later)

The only difference between the dream last night and the one's I've been having the past several years is this time when I woke up my heart hasn't stopped racing.  I also feel really short of breath, as though the air is depleted of oxygen.  So I checked the oxygen meter a few hours ago, and it's reading 20,000 PSI.  When calculated for flow and time, I figure I have about 12 hours remaining, or, actually, less than that now.  I will explain my present situation in few hours, but first I have a few things I have to do.

I remember the class reading "Tell Tale Heart" when I was in high school and the teacher interpreting that beating of the heart of the dead as one’s conscience beating away at the living until the truth be told. And, even though the hero of Poe’s tale had committed what he considered the perfect crime, and had deposited the remains in the perfect place, the dead man still found justice in the end.

Evil is everywhere today; I can feel it in my bones. If Edgar Allen Poe were alive today he’d be right in the middle of his game; his own mind. This is the king of darkness, fear, dread, melancholy that he loved to write about. Yet it was the same kind of melancholy he yearned to escape in his real life.  I think the ironic thing about Poe's writings was that he wrote more about what he was trying to escape.  It was almost as though he yearned for more.

Not me. I hate this. I hate the darkness, the not knowing, the evil that lingers in the night and, as it now seems to be, the day. Evil is everywhere, including down there in Ludington, Scottville, and Manisttee. The rest of the world seems to be free from the Sassa Guard.  They only want what's where you are.  They onlyi want you, and Sarah, and other people it seems to need to continue this quest of theirs to take over Alton.  Now I'm not quite sure what they are looking for on earth, although I have a pretty good idea.  It has something, if not everything, to do with things that have happened in the past.  If things ultimately come full circle, then this is full circle.  What comes around is now all the way around.

I don’t want to imply that Mason and Manistee counties are evil, it's just that something evil happened down their a couple thousand years ago.  I remember when I was a kid reading about people finding dinosaur bones.  I remember you and me going for long walks in your back yard, way out beyond your parent's property, hoping to come across some dinosaur bones or something that would link to the past.  And we'd call the newspaper and become famous, maybe even get on TV.

After we hunted for something for several days in a row, on those long summer days when I spent the weeks at your house, we eventually came to the reality, although never admitting it out loiud, that it was so rare for someone to find a skeleton, dinosaur or human, just by walking amid nature.  Those kinds of things didn't happen, especially when you wanted them to.  They only happened when you weren't expecting them, and if you happened to be in the right place at the right time.  Well, it appears there was something under our nose the entire time, it's just we were looking in the wrong places.

So here's my journal excerpt.  Hopefully you can get enough of it down before your next journey.  In the meantime, here is an excerpt from my journal I've kept since my arrival here.  This should explain my situation a little better for you.  Good luck!  God Bless!  Lance Goodman.

Mike looked up at the blue sky, and watched as couple birds fluttered aimlessly and quickly flew out of view behind some trees alongside the road.  He looked to see if he could see Lance or Tsatso in the sky, but there was nothing, not even a cloud.  You'd think if he saw it in Scottville he'd still be able to see it, but it simply wasn't there.  Or, at least he couldn't see it.  They seemed to have the ability to make things seem invisible, and then visible when they wanted.  Or, perhaps it wasn't intentional.  It was just so awkward what was happeing, what had happened, that it was hard to even think about; reason about.

So what was it Lance was referring to.  He texted something similar to this. What was it that was in Manisttee that Lance wanted him to find; something Tsatso mentioned so many years back.  He couldn't think of a thing. 

Current Date:  January 11, 2013
Date Written:  January 1, 2013
Name:  Lance Goodman
Location:  Alton One
Subject:  Journal

Here I am, up here, aboard a hijacked Alton One. Tsatso was not supposed to allow me to keep this blog because it's against Alton law, but Tsatso told me he had "powers above the law," and that is why I am able to keep this.  I will save it as a draft and publish it later, but at least it is here.  If something happens to me Mike has my passwords, so hopefully he will be able to find it some day.  If not, my story will be lost, and i will go down as just another person who disappeared for inexplicable reasoning.  So, without further adieu, here is my story.  I like to call it:  Alton One.

Technically speaking, they (the Altonians aboard Alton One) had no idea Tsatso was communicating with me prior to the point the Altonians realized they needed me. Of course, the sagacious Tsatso knew this all along -- that I would be needed to save Alton. Honestly, I have no idea how he could possibly have know, but apparently this has something to do with why he's been communicating with me for all these years.  I am to believe that the the experiences I told you about were actually Tsato's attempts to communicate with me.  I know, this sounds bad, yet he said it was the only way he could do it without getting caught.  He had some kind of insight. If I could go back, I'd ask a few more questions about this.  If only I could go back.

So the Altonians figured it anomalous that I wished to communicate with such ’Distant life.’" Not Tsatso of course, but his friends.  They couldn't figure out why I'd want to continue my relations with earth.  After all, it's never happened before.  However, there was no Internet before either.  And there never was a situation exactly like this before either.  This, as they say, is a new road to be plowed.

So here I am, in the office of Tsatso aboard Alton One.  One of my favorite objects in this room is an old-fashioned alarm clock from the 1950s.  It's an earth clock.  I asked Tsatso if he brought it on board from the time when he was a messenger, but he said no.  He said it was brought to Alton by one of the subjects.

Okay, I have so much to say I don't know where to begin.  I'll describe Tsatso in a while.  I will explain all that stuff about messengers and subjects and the like.  I imagine I'll have plenty of time for that before we return to Alton (or go to Alton, in my case).

So Tsatso's clock sits on the backside of his desk (pushed right up against the window) where it has stayed the past 50 years. He says he winds it once a day first thing in the morning and, thus, it has never stopped its ticking so far as he knows.  Tsatso has given me the job of winding it, and as I sit here I can hear the audible tick, tick, tick, tick as the red second hand moves round and round.  That ticking being my subtle reminder of where I come from. Two silver bells on its top chime had the alarm ever been set, but Tsatso said he never heard the alarm go off. He also said he hoped he never would; whatever that meant.

When I first arrived here and saw that clock, I wondered why he would want it, and I never asked either. Then, as time went by (no pun intended), I realized the importance of this clock: It was part of his job. Not his job on the ship, but his job of being an Alton Guard patriot first, rather than...

Okay, hold on, this is what I mean by having too much to say.  I got ahead of myself already.  Anyway, to put things in perspective, I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep the clock going much longer. Tsatso says something will happen soon, and I’m not sure what.

The most awesome thing about being up here, as I tried to describe in my last post, is looking out at Planet Earth.  Tsatso's room here is one of many hundreds.  The wall to the outside is one giant one way window, and it allows him to have a splended view of space.  Okay, so I don't want to spend my time here describing earth, as I'm sure you can see many pictures of it on the Internet.  Although, I have to admit, there's nothing that compares to see it in real time for yourself.  This, I have to say, is, oh man, so awesome.

Okay, so, you'd think Tsatso would have access to ebooks or things like that.  I mean, he does, but he also has some real books here.  He says writing on Alton has a similar path to earth, and for many thousands of years the only means of writing was through scrolls and eventually books.  I have a ton of books at my disposal that I just can’t get enough of. There's hundreds on the book shelf by the door.  Tsatso loves books as much as I do.

Let’s see, there’s the "History of Alton", "Alton and Earth: A comparison analysis", "Miracle the Time Warp", "The Cosmos", "Earth History: What the Altonians Know, "Earth History: What the humans know,"
That last one is our history, but Tsatso says it has a ton more information in it compared to one of our own history books written by our historians.  Some day I'd like to read it.  But so far I've found the history of earth, what the Altonians know, far more interesting.  I have trouble putting it down.  Between picking Tsatso's brain and reading these books, I find little time for writing.  However, I know writing here is important.

Yesterday I spend eight hours in a row reading without eating, drinking or even taking a pee.  Yes, it's that interesting, at least to me.  Speaking of eating, food here is made in a machine and it basically comes out as mush. There’s breakfast mush, lunch mush, afternoon mush and before bed mush. And to tell you the truth, it tastes like mush too. I'm not too impressed with Altonian food.  Tsatso says it's not like this on Alton, and if I were allowed to venture to the cafeteria I'd get to enjoy real Altonian food, although Tsatso has yet to allow me to do this.  So instead I'm stuck eating mush.

When I first came on board Alton One, Tsatso told me I was personally selected by him to spend time on Alton. He said I had a choice, but once I left for Alton I could never return to Earth. But, the terms of our agreement have since changed, so now I don’t know what’s going to happen. It seems there some sort of conflict on this ship.  He says something is happening that he doesn't like.  Although, he said, he's suspected, and planned, for such an event.  And, he says this has something to do with my visit.  He says I can help.  I'm not sure how yet.  That's something he will explain to me, he says, in due time.

Yet I can tell you that I was given the option to go with Tsatso.  He in no way "kidnapped me."  He gave me the option of going with him back to Alton.  He said Alton One's mission was complete, and it was time to go home.  So we made it to a space station outside Alton in about 72 days, and to me that was amazingly quick considering the great distance between the two planets. However, upon a mandatory inspection, Alton One was denied landing rights on Alton, and was forced to refuel at Space Station Alton and head back to Earth.

I really have no idea why this happened to such a respected ship as this, except perhaps it had something to do with the talk of war on Alton. Tsatso told me the Altonians had re-established peace, and was assured it would be long lasting again. Otherwise, he said, he never would have allowed me to go on the journey with him back to Alton.

On the way back to Earth he didn’t talk to me much about this, it seemed to be a sore spot for him. I’m certain he knew more about what was going on, though, than he let on to me. Perhaps he felt he had let me down.

My guess, however, it that the Sassa Guard (which Tsatso often refers to simply as the miscreants), had become fed up with the Alton Guard and sent out all their forces. Lord knows there had been Sassa spies among the good guys all along. I imagine Tsatso had an inkling this was going on. However, I don’t think he knew the extent of their plan (to state the obvious). When he did figure it out, it was too late, and he was forced to leave his home of 50 years (his home being here on Alton One by earth).

It must have been while the main crew was off Alton One relaxing in one of the Alton Space Station’s 250 luxury rooms, or dining in one of its fine cafeterias or clubs, that miscreants, already surreptitiously among the crew, set Grassa gas bombs (which release a gas that causes severe flu like symptoms and lasts for several days) inside the ventilating system. That Alton One was forced to return to Earth was as much of a shock to them, I think, as it was to us; but, nonetheless, they proceeded with their plan.

I left Tsatso’s quarters am on my way to the Captain Zaquastin’s quarters to have a meeting with Tsatso and the captain, when Tsatso and his private staff came running down the hall yanking me with them toward an escape room. In the rush I'm separated from Tsatso.  There's an explosion, and I'm hit hard in the head, and fall to the ground.

I wake and find myself in the hall of the spaceship.  I sit up and see a bunch of dead Altonians.  The escape room has no capsule, and I pray Tsatso was able to make it away safetly.  I must have been left for dead.  I make my way to the only place I know, and that's Tsatso's quarters.  Outside his door is a keyboard, and I enter the password.  I will not tell you what that is -- Lord no.  That password is the only thing keeping me safe for now.

I’m not sure what happened to the other "good guys" aboard Alton One. I imagine they either escaped as Tsatso did, or have become slaves. Or, perhaps many (if not all) have been killed. I have no way of really telling.  So, here I am, this time aboard a hijacked Alton One.

Current Date:  January 11, 2013
Date Written: January 11, 2013
Name:  Lance Goodman
Location:  Alton One
Subject:  Journal

I can’t imagine they know I’m in here, Tsatso said not even the scanners they use to detect life forms can penetrate these walls. You’d think I’d feel safe, but I don’t. That constant noise they make in trying to get in here is as consistent as the ticking of Tsatso’s clock, a constant reminder of the evil so close to where I sit.

Somehow, though, I’ve managed to keep my sanity despite my present situation. I do it by reading (lots) and writing, and do it by occupying my mind on some way to get out of this room and off this ship. So far everything I think of would result in my immediate demise if I failed. Then again, doing nothing would also result in death. So, you can see my dilemma.

I do have access to something in here that the miscreants probably know about, and of which I can use to destroy them.  However, I have a few things I must do before that time.  I have a few things -- WE have a few things, WE have to do.  We have 11 hours.

I give up on any chance for me: at some point they will get me.  However, as I watch the people on earth, I find a speck of hope.   Yes I can zoom in.  I'll get to that in a moment.

Current Date:  January 11, 2013
Date Written:  January 2, 2013
Name:  Lance Goodman
Location:  Alton One
Subject:  Journal

So here I sit, all alone in Tsatso’s quarters aboard Alton One. It’s quite cozy, actually. I mean, I have this nice leather recliner made just for me, for all their furniture is way too small. Sitting in their stuff is like an adult going to an elementary school and having to sit in the kid-sized chairs at kid-sized desks.

Speaking of desks, this room has this capacious desk with all sorts of computerized, futuristic looking gadgets at my disposal (futuristic to your and my eyes anyway). And when I look out from my desk I can see the most beautiful object in the history of the universe in all its shining glory: The planet Earth. Again, I could spend hours writing about that.

This whole place is amazing. The whole wall is one big window, which curves inward at the top. It’s as though I’m sitting right out in space with the sole job of watching Earth in its abundance. I can totally understand why Tsatso chose to do this rather than captain Alton One as his ancestors had done for so many years. It’s like I’m living in a dream, only I’m not dreaming.  I pinch myself all the time and nothing seems to change.

To the right and left of the window are ribs that go all the way to the other side of the room. Between them, there are more ribs about a foot apart. In the middle of the ceiling, on one of the ribs, there is a rainbow colored object, circular, and about a foot in diameter. It is this object that somehow provides light for the room. Quite frankly, I have no idea the technology that makes it work. Some day, if I survive, I aim to find out.

As I sit here at the desk, a Tsatso-sized recliner next to mine, and look to my right I see the solid white wall. The wall to my back side, while it looks to be a solid white wall at first sight, actually has three doors on it. The wall to my left has three large machines that produce food, water and oxygen: the essentials of life. Also along this wall, between the desk and the oxygen machine, is a door which leads to an elevator and an escape hatch below. (I’d use this to escape, but..., well, I’ll get to this later.)

On the right side of the desk is a big red dial, when I touch it the same image seen out the window is projected onto the wall to my right, which I determined is actually one giant computer screen. By moving the dial left or right I’m able to zoom out and view the earth from far greater distances than is possible from the present position of the craft, or zoom in closer and closer to Earth. I can zoom in so close that I can literally read the print of an old newspaper lying in the backyard of my parent's house.  I can see my good friend Mike Rove lying in the grass next to it.  His eyes are shut.  The sun beats down on his face.  I can only imagine what's on his mind.

That’s right, Mike. You were Tsatso’s job. Tsatso had been watching you no matter where you were on Earth for each of the past five years of your life. Likewise, he spied on Sarah and me too. If you don’t believe me, you go to the hospital and get x-rays done of your body; you’ll see a chip somewhere. And I’m not joking about this either.

Remember the dreams you told me about where you were lying in your bed late at night and this thin, white creature with big black eyes came into your room and touched your forehead. I remember you told me you’d wake up so scared you couldn't get back to sleep. Well, those dreams were regarding veritable events. You were having those dreams because your subconscious mind was reliving what your conscious mind was programmed to forget.

I’m not trying to scare you; I’m merely preparing you, Mike. There are things you need to know, things you need to do. I’m beginning to think that perhaps my being here at this moment is more than a mere coincidence. Even if it’s not, it’s this optimistic thinking that keeps me going amid the underlying dread of my present position.

If the hair on the back of your neck is standing straight up right now and that warm tingly sensation running up your spine, I felt the same way when I learned about this. Heck, I had that feeling several times a day since the time I saw that first message on my screen and learned that Tsatso was coming to my living room to pick me up. Sometimes what I learned would amaze me, and other times what I learned would throw me into a state of trepidation (utter fear). When I learned that we all had been abducted, it made me rethink my whole life.  I will get into the kidnappings later, if I get time.

Is it perhaps true that Tsatso is responsible for us being friends in the first place, or was that a mere coincidence? From some of the research I did it appears that alien abductions may even be genetic in a way, whereas the Altonians like to do genetic research. I can’t really go into details about this research because my knowledge of it is miniscule. If I ever get out of this alive, and Tsatso is alive yet, perhaps he’d be willing to share his knowledge with you guys. Then again, he’s been an ardent supporter of not educating Earth people beyond what they already known.  H said history has proven too much information too early can cause more problems than it's worth, and history proves it.

Current Date:  January 11, 2013
Date Written:  January 3, 2013
Name:  Lance Goodman
Location:  Alton One
Subject:  Journal

I suppose I can take you back in time and explain that the Altonians had actually arrived on Earth about 2,500 years ago (however, some accounts have it going back 3000 years). The way they got here to Earth was a miracle, or, better yet, a mere coincidence.

According to "A History of Alton" by Mildamoasa Quassar (1), Queen Mestimoglio was ruler of the Altonians and has gone down in Altonian history as the most famous Altonian rulers of all time. She was a very good queen, and was determined to move Alton forward into the future. She was also a very open minded and fair ruler who was more than willing to change policy if someone could convince her she was wrong. Likewise, she wanted to hear about new ideas and technologies; and was more than willing to allocate money to any project that would increase knowledge; and make Alton a more prominent nation.

That’s where Tsatso comes into the story. Well, not Tsatso personally, but one of his distant, great grandparents named Tsatsilato. As a matter of fact, from what Tsatso told me, Tsatso is short for Tsatsilato. Anyway, Tsatsilato was the son of a famous Altonian philosopher named Remus who was on very good terms with the queen because of his ideas regarding the cosmos.

While people on Earth were busy burning down Greek and Roman libraries and places of learning, and while Church officials prevented commoners from gaining knowledge, philosophers and scientists on Alton were encouraged to do just the opposite. Sure some of them met with opposition (some even executed), but those times were over and done once Queen Mestimoglio came upon the throne. She was, as they say, the Queen of Knowledge and Wisdom.

Working with the theories of various other Altonian historical figures, Tsatsilato determined that Alton was round and that it revolved around the Statson, which is their sun. Likewise, he dedicated his entire life to learning the truth about the stars, the planets and the Alton satellite (which they call Mont). They also learned about the other eight planets in the Altonian solar system, and a ninth planet which they also called Pluto, although, like on our planet, there was always a debate as to whether or not it was really a planet.  It's reading things like this that make me think that perhaps the Altonians had some influence on the name Pluto.  And I'm not just referring to the planet either, I'm also referring to the dog Pluto.

Tsatsilato was as amazed and excited about the cosmos as his dad, only he wasn’t just interested in coming up with new discoveries and theories, he wanted to actually travel out into space. So, with funds from the Queen, he built a magnanimous space station and a space ship. (Just to put this into perspective, Altonians 2000 years ago traveled around on horseback and had no electricity in their homes. Quite frankly, life on Alton was not much different from Earth. Actually, it still isn't.  As I get time I'll delve into all this).

Twenty years it took him to finish his work, and during that time the infamous dinner meetings continued. He was not a great communicator like his dad was, but he was a smart man and wanted to stay in the good graces of the Queen.

Finally, in the Earth year of 20 AD, Tsatsilato sent a message to the Alton Queen that her ship was complete, and instead of meeting her at the palace he requested that she come to see her space station and the launch of her space ship.

When the queen arrived Tsatsilato gave the Queen a Royal tour of the Great Space Center and all its magnificence. He then offered a feast to the queen and her 17 royal followers. When all were done eating Tsatsilato lead them out into the courtyard where 60,000 individuals had turned out to see the launch of the Great Ship.

To a cocophony of cheers, she said: "I dedicate this Space station to the honorable Queen Mestimoglio," As she spoke, the cheering stopped, and every ear was directed at the loving queen.  "I wish to allow my friend Tsatsilato describe this home."

Tsatsilato spoke loudly before the crowd. "This space center is not mine, it belongs to the Queen and all her glory. Therefore, I dedicate it to her and, henceforth, it shall be named The Moglio Space Center."

The crowd bellowed, "Hail the Queen" and "Hail the Moglio".

Tsatsilato continued: "In great dedication to Queen Mestimoglio, I dedicate her ship as the Mest. My firsts journey in the Queen Mest will be to the Mont and back, and I will leave at this time tomorrow."

At this moment, a series of Blists flew overhead.  These are men with Blist wings attached to their arms that are light, and as they are flapped, and the feet pedaling powers an engine, they fly.  I found this fascinating, because I know that Michelangelo drew up designs that must have been eerily similar to the Blist.  I wonder what would have happened to earth history if Michelangelo had more time to finish his project.  I wonder if earth history may have taken the same spin as Alton.

Tsatsilato continues:  "Everything I do I do for the Queen, and I will make sure I bring back plenty of gold for Her Majesty of Alton."

Of course there was no gold on the Mont, but just like ancient Earth societies had superstitions, silly false gods and fables they believed as true, so too did the Altonians. And, however silly this may sound, the (ancient) Altonians believed the Mont was made of gold.

The next day a crowd of over 100,000 packed solid into the courtyard around where the Mest was stationed and ready for take off. There were so many that late comers had barely any chance of seeing anything at all until the ship finally took off.

The crowd yelled "Long live the Queen" and "Go Mest" and (as was the favorite of the Queen) "Alton is the future". And, finally, with "ooos" and "ahhhs" from the crowd, a plume of exhaust and the roar of engines, and a rumble of the ground, the Queen Mest slowly lifted off; and all eyes intently followed her until it was a tiny speck in the distance and finally disappeared into the clear blue Altonian sky.

According to Quassar, "it was the most magnificent moment in the history of Alton. Just as the Queen had wanted, it was an event that shaped the future." (2)

Tsatsilato and his crew of nine did intend on traveling to the Mont and back, but the journey ultimately took them beyond the Mont to a place in time and space that no one at that time had ever even imagined existed. And this is where the miracle I was talking about comes into play.

The Mest never made it to its destination. Just as the ship was closing in on the Mont it seemed to have vanished into thin air; all contact with the space center was broken. It was assumed that the space project had been a failure. The queen was saddened, but she was also quite irritated that so much money had gone into a futile project. She immediately cut off all funding of this and any other future space projects.

Tsatsilato’s staff never stopped trying to regain contact with the Mest, and it turned out to be a worthwhile effort. Exactly 102 days after it disappeared, the Mest was right back where it had started, in the courtyard outside the Queen’s space station.

Quassar writes that Tsatsilato never intended to land on the moon, "as a matter of fact, he just kept right on going as though the Mont were just a minor attraction. But the reason contact was broken was because the Mest somehow ended up 6.5 million light years away not far from a planet we soon would learn is called Mars."

Think about this for a minute, the Mest traveled from Alton to Mars and back to Alton in less than four months. To put this in perspective, a 6.5 million light year journey would take 6.5 million years to complete. This seems an impossible event, does it not? Well, it’s not impossible. I will explain.

You see, this is where the miracle (or mere coincidence) I mentioned earlier comes into play. As it turns out, not far beyond the Mont, the Mest ran right through a warp zone. If you ever read the book "A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engleyou'll know what I'm talking about. A warp zone is almost a place where time is wrinkled, so as you enter from point be, point c is only a short distance away, as opposed to many light years.

Let me describe this another way and then I want to move on. Take a piece of paper. Put a dot on the far right side, and lace a dot on the far left side. Now draw a line between the two, and write 6.5 million light years on the line. That's how far and long you'd have to travel to get from one dot to the other -- 6.5 million years. When you are on one dot, if you see the other, you are basically seeing that planet 6.5 million years in the past. If you want to see the present, you'd basically have to travel 6.5 million earth years into the future.

Or, you'd have to travel for 6.5 million years at the speed of light. It was the case with the Mest, you could travel through a warp zone. I will describe it this way. Now take that paper and place your thumbs over each dot.  Bend the middle of the paper so that that your two thumbs, which are right over the dots, are side by side.  Now the two dots are close to each other.

Now to get from one dot to the other you only have to travel a short distance.  This is what a time warp is; a wrinkle in time.  By folding the paper as such, you have created a wrinkle in time; a warp machine.  n a way, this wrinkle allowed the Mest to travel from one dot (Alton) to the other dot (Earth) in less than a month.  The warp zone has since been named (and rightly so) Miracle.

Thus, it was a Miracle that led the Altonians to Earth. Completely invisible to the naked and the aided eye, the only way one would find a warp zone would be by mere coincidence.  Neat story hey. I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s one of the stories I read about in "History of Alton" yesterday. I imagine it is true, though, because that's the only way I can think that Alton One would be able to travel to Earth from Alton in one person's lifetime, and then back to Alton.

  1. Quassar, Mildamoasa, "A History of Alton," 1743, volume II, Milosa, Altonian Historical University, pages 667-732
  2. Quassar, ibid, page 669

Current Date:  January 11, 2013
Date Written:  January 4, 2013
Name:  Lance Goodman
Location:  Alton One
Subject:  Journal

I have many more stories I’d love to tell about life on Alton and its history. I always figured they’d be so much more advanced than we are. Granted their space program is superior to ours, but some things of ours are far superior to theirs.

For instance, in "The History of Sassa," which is written by anonymous authors, probably Altonians (which makes the history kind of speculative) historian Mistoosha walks along a stone path along the edge of a river.  the path is wide enough so that three horse and buggies can ride side by side.  But as he closes in on the city of Sassoon, the road gradually becomes narrow.  The way the Sassafrass trees loop over the road, it's like being inside a tunnel.  Even if the sun is shining, lights are needed to travel through this.

Yet after a few miles in darkness, the road becomes narrow, and the woods thin.  The blazing sun shines off the golden steeples of the towers in the distance, barely visible over a huge gate the lines a mile long bridge across the river.  Mistoosha orders that his men dismount their horses and lead the animals across the bridge as to not scare the Sassoonians.  He knows very little about them, but he does know that they are very gruff, rapacious people.  He has to visit them because he wants to write an accurate history of them.  In return, he's hoping they will take knowledge he has to offer about the Altonians.

Eight large, stone arches extend from inside the river and tower high.  Ropes splayed between the arches make for a magnanimous artifact.  On the sides of the road is a stone wall the height of about three Altonians.  So you can see, getting a view of Sassoon without actually being inside the border is nearly impossible.  One cannot go into the water, as it is full of Gatorfalls, which are creatures similar to yet way larger than Aligators on earth.

The stone wall curves in as the path narrows, and leads the travelers to the bridge.  At the base stand three armed Sassonian soldiers.  They wear black tights, and carry Splissopoons, which are basically large laser guns with very accurate and deadly aims.  The guards are shorter than the Altonians, although they are quite deadly.  If you don't have good communicating skills, or something useful to offer, you are killed.  So Mistoosha must have faith he has a good product to trade for his demand for history.  He must also have settled all his affairs back home in case he never comes back.  And, chances are, he never will.

The massive golden gate that expands in the middle of the bridge.  As the travelers approach, Mistoosha is leading the way, and he is not walking his horse.  While the other stand back, he walks up to the guards, and bows.  This is what he believes is the appropriate introduction.  He crisscrosses his arms across his stomach, and says, "I am Mistoosha, and these are my men.  I have knowledge of the Altonians to offer.  I bring you wisdom so you can conquer them.  In exchange, I want to learn your history."

There must have been a sigh of relief as the gate started to open.  The soldiers moved to the side, and Mistoosha can see that a series of pulleys are attached to oxen, who are working hard to pull the gate up.  As he steps forward, he can see building upon building lining the path.  Some are two stories, some are way taller.  Some are only one story, and each of these have potted plants in boxes under their windows.  These were homes where the women lived.  The larger buildings were shops where products were made, or as we would call them, large industrial factories.  Smoke billowed from many of them, polluting the air.  The smell of sulffa was strong.

In the distance, to the right or left, as far as the eye could see, so long as no forest of trees was blocking the view, were houses stacked side by side.  They were made of mud-brick, and each was surrounded by a mud-brick fence so that there was a small courtyard for every homeowner.  In the courtyard was a fire pit, a larger fireplace, and tables.  There were no chairs.  This was where the women spent their days, cooking and taking care of the equipment the men needed to fight their battles, or perform their work in the shops.  At night the men slept in beds in the small houses, and the women returned to their homes.  Children lived in special schools until they were 18, and they were run very strictly (you can get a small taste of this by clicking here).

Finally they are at a place on the road where neat looking square buildings, all made of a yellow rock, the same rock that the path was made of, that had signs on them.  These, he imagined, were the shops, and above them were apartments where the shopkeepers lived, or where their guests stayed.  These apartments were also reserved for official visitors, and this is where Mistoosha figures he and his men will be housed.

Finally the travelers are far enough along the path that they can see what they came to see: the temples, museum, library, and the castle that housed the Queen of Sassa.  The castle stood high up on a hill so that it was more magnificent than even the temples to the Sassa gods.  It was and coluseum, and the museum, and library, and other amazing and interesting structures.

To approach the Acropolis, which is what the beautiful structures on the hill were called, one had to dismount animals and approach on foot.  It was also advised that only one person at a time approach.  When more than one person approaches, this is seen as intimidating and arrogant.  One man, or one alien, or one visitor, was seen as humbling and giving of himself fully to the Queen.  It also made it easier for the pat down. If you had any weapons on you, even a pencil, you were beaten by hand until you were dropped to the ground, and then you were thrown into the prison that was on the other side of the castle, and on Sunday you were thrown into the Lions Den of the colosseum in front of over 30,000 spectators, and the Queen and all her followers.  If you were lucky, the King would be there to send out weapons for you to try to defend yourself, but he only made sparing appearances when he thought you had something that may benefit him.

I also have a ton of knowledge about Earth and it’s history. Did you know the ancient Greeks invented a computer in 150 BC, and a few years later, in 142 BC, a rocket was built and successfully launched? I mean, if this is true, then why didn't the Romans invent a rocket way back when Jesus was roaming the Earth?  Why wasn't the computer invented so many years ago?  Such were invented in Alton, and is the reason for this amazing progress in time, at least as far as technology was concerned.  Although on Sassa, such technology was feared and outlawed.  Anyone bringing in anything technological was beheaded.

In "Alton and Earth: A comparison analysis," Hick Langast explains that the leaders of Alton (with queen Mestimoglio being a prime example) were far more open minded to new ideas than the leaders on Earth. This wasn’t necessarily true in all areas, but it was definitely true in the area of science (especially regarding the cosmos).

For the most part, though, Langast explains that the people of both planets are very similar, and the histories of both planets very similar as well. For one thing, they both had a period of great scientific and philosophical growth around 300 BC, and they both had a period such as the Renaissance on Earth. They both had Kings and Queens in their past and have mostly evolved to democratic type nations with capitalistic systems, although the Sassonians were regarded mostly as totolitarian.

I remember when I was a kid my parents took me to see some ancient Mayan ruins in Mexico. I can’t remember the exact name of the ruins, but I remember when I was there the guide directed our attention to a carving above one of the ancient entrance ways. The carving was of a man on a cross ascending into Heaven. It looked like Jesus. When did the ancient Mayans live? I know for sure it was way before 1492 and the discovery of America. So, how did they know about Jesus?

Anyway, me learning that Christianity is a religion on Alton gave me that same "wow" feeling that carving over the Mayan door did back then. How could it be that societies on opposite ends of the Earth could know about a man named Jesus? And, likewise, how could two societies 6.5 million light years separated believe in the same God?

Well, I say they believe in God. Not everybody believes in God on Earth or on Alton. But, various religions are prevalent on Alton too. Does this somehow prove the theory that religions are necessary for societies to survive? Does it prove God is real? Well, I've never been much of a religious person myself, but this is just something interesting. I can't stop reading this stuff, even knowing the end will come soon.

When it comes right down to it, though, Altonians are good people (aliens if you must) and they are also a flawed people; just like us. They have celebrations, loyalties to their home nations, economic ups and downs, problems with crime and differences of opinions in politics. And, yes, they too have wars, mainly with the Sassa Guard.

Overall, you’d be amazed at how similar our planets are. I will expound on this later, I will continue the story of Mistoosha later, but for now I have to go fix that damn oxygen machine again.

Current Date:  January 11, 2013
Date Written:  January 11, 2013
Name:  Lance Goodman
Location:  Alton One
Subject:  Journal

All is quiet tonight but for the tick, tick, tick of the clock. This is the first time in the past week I haven’t had to listen to that banging. It’s nice in a way. Then again, the generator has been silenced as well. Now I have a diminishing supply of air and food. So maybe I won't make it the 12 hours I predicted earlier.  I might have no choice but to set off the bomb earlier than I suspected.  Oh, I didn't explain about the bomb yet.  Yeah, I'll have to get to that soon.

From the constant sound of metal on metal (ting, ting, ting) reverberating through the walls of this ship, I'm now beginning to wonder if they are trying to get through these walls.  If so, maybe they are the reason my oxygen machine no longer works.  If so, then I will have no choice but to set of that bomb.

I can only wonder how long it will take them to break through the specially reinforced walls of the quarters I’m in right now. Tsatso’s position and prominence on Alton One had provided him with the most secure quarters in the ship, but considering the noise, they obviously think they can break the code or, perhaps, smash the door, or walls,or something. Or, maybe I'm just paranoid.

Anyway, I'm glad to hear Sarah is okay.  I was really worried about her.  It's her that keeps me going.  I actually thought of blowing this ship up already, but with Sarah on my mind I came up with this plan of mine  I hope it works.  Yet you'll have to help me.  With you guys, I’m inspired to go on.

Tsatso’s food machine has remained functioning, and will (hopefully) get the oxygen machine working again, soon, so long as the generator remains on. The oxygen machine, on the other hand, has been nothing but a stressor for me: It keeps pittering out and I keep having to restart it. Either way, there's only 10 hours left in the tank.  It can only be filled by the Engineers, and I'm sure the Sassa Guard won't allow that to happen.  I will die of asphyxia in my sleep, or I'm going in an explosion.  I get to pick.  Time, I guess, is not on my side.
Finished reading all Lance's posts, Mike set his head next to the boy's head and fell asleep.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Alton One: Chapter 15

Mike was lying on the bed of the truck, holding, snuggling, the boy, who continued his fight.  He was not letting up.  "Hey, it's okay," Mike said, trying to sound calm.  "It's gonna be alright?  You're gonna be okay.  I'm a good guy.  I'm here to help you; we're all here to help you."

"They tried to get me!" The boy cried.  Mike let go, and the boy cowered to the front of the cab.  His face was flooded with tears.  His eyes blood shot.  What happened to him? Who was following him? What did they have to do with the boy's fright? Why was he running?  Well, Mike supposed it had something to do with those objects that were -- Mike looked back.  He saw nothing unusual -- chasing us; chasing the boy. 

What do they want? Why do they want with the boy? What did they want with Sarah? Or, did they purposely let her go? Sometimes Mike wondered if they purposely let her go so she would come to him, and then they'd know where Mike was.  If that were the case, if this theory were true, then they'd have a chip in Sarah too.  Maybe that's what they were doing when they grabbed her? Maybe that's why she was bleeding? But, if that were the case, then were in her is the chip? 

Of course, if that were the case, then what was it about Mike they wanted.  Well, Mike had his theories about that too.  The boy was looking at Mike, and he heeded the moment. "My name is Mike Rove.  I'm fifteen years old.  I was taken by aliens when I was a little older than you.  I know what it's like.  You did the right thing by running."

He didn't know why he said all that, it's just what came out.  Given the strangeness of the day, he figured he might as well just spill everything to the boy.  Maybe it would help make a connection with him.  And, as the boy slid over to Mike, lying down again, Mike figured he must have made such a connection.  Mike put his arms around the boy when his phone started ringing. 

"Can I answer the phone," Mike asked. 

"Yes," the boy answered quickly. 

Mike sat up, and he felt uncomfortable as he did.  For some reason, with the truck moving as fast as it was, sitting didn't feel right.  He felt he was being pulled out.  He felt he had to hold on in order to stay in. How fast was Jim going? Was it 60? 70? 80? Probably faster than that the way the trees were buzzing by.  Trying to focus on the trees made him feel light headed.  It made his head hurt.  Jim must have the truck going at least 100 miles per hour.

Concentrating, trying to stay calm, Mike reached into his pocket and grabbed his phone.  He held it so he could see the front.  The message was from Lance.  It said, "Mike, this is Lance. Are you there?"

Mike quickly one-finger type a response, "Lance, I’m here."

He looked at the boy, and saw he had his eyes shut.  "Oh, man, you must be just completely exhausted.  Sleep well, my firend."

His phone chimed.  The text read, "Mike, I need your help. I have a mission for you. I don’t have much time."

"Anything." The truck bumped over something, and Mike nearly lost the phone.  He looked back, but the truck was moving so fast he could barely focus on it before it was well ain the distance and gone.  Although, he surmised, it was a possum or raccoon. 
"If you by any chance hear from Tsatso, and I think you will, I need you to tell him I'm alive and I can help.  But I only have twelve hours left."  Another bump, and this time he heard a scream from the cab, and he dropped the phone.  He looked in the cab, and didn't see anything unusual.  He tried to peer through the front window, and couldn't see anything. 

The truck hit another bump, and swerved.  Mike fell on to his butt, just missing the head of the sleeping boy. He brace himself as the truck took a series of swerves: to the right, to the left.  He lies down next to the boy, who's waking up.  He snuggles with the boy, rolls so he's paralell with the tailgate of the truck, as the truck swerves again.  He rolls slighty onto the boy, and then presses his feet against one side of the truck, anything to gain support. 

The truck rolls right, and the force pulls him to that side of the truck, is feet feeling the pressure.  The the truck turns left, and his head hits the other side. He works hard to keep the kid from hitting anyting.  No matter what happens, he has to keep the kid safe. 

Finally the swerving stops, but now he feels the urge to wretch.   How the hell does Jim keep this on the road? He has the urge to scream, to shout obsenities, but he can't.  He can't for the kid.  He has to stay calm for the kid. 

He looks back and sees a variety of objects in the road, and this time he realize they weren't animals but objects.

His phone chimes. "12 hours, Mike.  We have 12 hoiurs to get this thing done."

"What do you mean?  What happens in twelve hours?

"The Sassa guard has taken over Alton One, and they are using Tsatso's the E35 Fether Landers (think coffins) to travel to earth.  They bring some people back here, and I would guess to be used as slaves.  Some people they let go.  I don't know why.  But it's not good.  We have 12 hours to stop them." 

Mike types in "How can I help," then he deleted it and typed "How can we help?"

"I need you to remember your discussion with Tsatso when you were with him in 2008.  I need you to think hard.  There was a theory he had, and you must remember what it was.  Think.  I have to go now.  I have something I have to do. I did update my blog.  It will be the last time, I think."

"Lance, what happens to you in 12 hours."

"I die. If we succeed, they die with me.  I only have a couple of these. Now duck."

Mike did not duck.  Instead he continued to crouch, with a forceful wind blowing his hair.  An explosion -- BOOOOM! -- knocked him back, rocking the truck ever so slightly.  Sitting with his back to the cab, he saw a second explosion -- BOOOOM! -- which again rocked the truck ever so slightly.  Mike watched as pieces of incinerated E35 Fether Landers fell to the ground.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Alton One: Chapter 14

The wheels of the truck sqreeched; the engine roared.  The truck shot forward, and the tired screeched again as Jim took a left turn.  Mike ran alongside the pickup, grabbed the rim, pulled himself up with all his might, and flipped himself into the bed.  "PICK UP THAT KID!" He screamed. 

The vehicle roared forward.  He worked his way to the front, leaned to the driver's.  "PICK UP THE KID. THERE'S A KID.  PICK HIM UP! PICK HIM UP!"

"WHAT!" Jim shouted.  "What was that!"

"Pick up the kid, Donna.  There was a kid.  We need to pick him up.  PLEASE!  GO AROUND THE BLOCK AND PICK UP THAT KID!"

Seconds later the truck took an abrupt turn, and Mike was tossed across the cab, and just as he regained his balance, Jim sped up and he was flung to the tailgate, where here smashed his head hard.  The vehicle took another sudden turn, left again, this time onto Columbia, and this time Mike braced himself good.  The pressure of the turn tried to yank him from the truck, but he held on tight, as though for dear life.

As the truck was gaining speed Mike saw the boy taking the turn from Columbia onto James.  And just then the truck crashed into something, yet thankfully Mike was already holding on tight.  A large silver object crashed to the ground on in front of the truck and burst into flames. 

Mike jumped from the bed and ran after the kid. He cut across the lawn, down the end of the Goodman driveway, and back onto James.  The boy was about two blocks ahead and still running hard.  Mike figured he couldn't be more than eight or nine years old. Mike ran hard, hard as he could, and was quickly gaining on the kid. 

"GO AWAY! GO AWAY!" The boy screamed frantically, as Mike passed him, grabbed the boy around the waste, and hugged him tight.  "LEAVE ME ALONE!  GO AWAY! GO AWAY! GO AWAY! GO AWAY!"  He writhed and pulled, trying to get away.  Mike was too strong. 

Mike heard a screach as the truck came to an abrubt stop alongside the the boy and Mike.

"GET IN! GET IN!" Shouted all the folks in the truck

"Quick, get in," Jim said.  "They's more commin!"

Mike looked back toward Lance's house.  He saw nothing, but trusted his friends.

"Come on, boy.  We have to get in the truck."

The boy continued his efforts to escape Mike's grip."

Mike picked him up, and heaved him into the bed, and jumped in behind him.  He held on to the boy to make sure he didn't try to jump out.  Mike forced the boy to the ground, and as he did he looked back toward Lance's house -- one more look.  As he did, as the truck took a sharp right, Mike saw, or thought he saw, two silver objects, elongated objects, the size of coffins, zooming close behind. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Alton One: Chapter 13

A warm satisfying breeze whistled through the turning maple and oak leaves that filled in the gaps between the row of houses lining Columbia Avenue in the east, and James Street in the North. The sun glittered respectfully of the rusty, chrome fender on Lance’s light blue 1976 Dodge Ram, which sat well off the curb on Columbia. The audible hum of the truck’s engine muffled the sounds of nature.

Looking out beyond the intersection, where both Columbia and James met an end, two brown squirrels scampered from the edge of the road and up the tall oak tree Jim Carpenter, Lance Goodman and Mike Rove spent hours climbing as kids. Jim’s dad supposedly broke his arm falling out of a tree as a kid, so he enforced a no climbing in trees clause. But Jim’s mom would say, “Oh, they’re just kids having fun!” When Mr. Carpenter wasn’t around, Mrs. Carpenter permitted free climbing.

The voice of Brian Johnson sounded, and Mike looked at Lance’s iPhone. The text was from Mrs. Goodman. It read: “ten minutes out.” He looked back toward the woods, and a memory of he and Lance playing catch on the road danced through his mind.

There was no texting back then, and the Internet was an adult tool. If iPods and iPads and Kindle’s and Nooks existed back then, maybe things would have been different. If those things existed, perhaps he’d have spent his time indoors texting instead of hanging from trees. Then again, there was Nintendo, and then the Nintendo Wii, and they still climbed trees. So it’s just natural for kids to play outdoors, he figured.

Peering over the trees he sees a beautiful blue skyline, with only one white cotton ball cloud. If Tsatso and Lance are out there, they’re behind that cloud. What are the odds of that? He asks himself. “Not very good,” he answers. And now I’m insane because I’m answering myself. But the clouds moving slowly to the south, so if I wait long enough…

“Mike!” It was Sarah, pulling him back to reality. “We gotta get going. Are you ready?”

“Yeah,” Mike said, continuing his gaze at the white cloud a moment, then he turned. The door slammed. Sarah was back inside. Lance’s text popped into his mind: “They’re coming! Get out! Go to Lookout Mountain.” The assumption was – “and you know what it means to ASSUME,” Mr. Textler said once. “It means that you make an ASS out of U and ME.” The class laughed. – that “they” meant the bad aliens.

But what did he mean by “Lookout Mountain.” There are no mountains in Scottville, or Ludington, or Manistee, or Michigan for that matter. The only thing he could think of was…

“Mike! Mike! Wake up!” It was Donna this time. “Come to earth! Come to earth!”

“Earth ta Mike! Earth ta Mike!” Jim said, rummaging his way through the doorway, and holding the door open for Sarah, who was prepped with her backpack and a large brown paper bag full of sandwiches. “Yo man, we gotta go.”

“I’m here.” Mike said. “And I’d like to wait for Mr. and Mrs. Goodman. They’re only a few minutes out.”

“We can’t,” Sarah said. “Lance sent another text. We gotta go, right now! Come on! Come on!” She grabbed Mike’s sleeve and started down the steps. Mike didn’t budge, and she lost her grip, and stumbled down the steps.

“Sorry, Sarah,” he said, “but I can’t leave without them.” He looked up at the cotton ball cloud, and took a step back as he saw something poking from behind the northern side of the cloud. “Look!” he said, pointing.

“It’s a cloud, you stupid mor… HOLY SHIT!” he dropped the iphone he was holdling, and it bounced off the edge of the top step and bounced onto the cement. “Holy-Mary-Mother-of-God, it is true what you say.” His jaw dropped.

“Okay, guys, come on,” said Sarah. She was now in the truck. “Come on! COME ON!” Donna was sitting next to her, on the passenger side, with a look of fright on her face similar to the look of fright on Sarah’s. Mike thought they could be sisters.

“Come on, Mike!” Jim said, jogging toward the truck, and jumping into the driver’s spot. “Come on!”

“No! I’m not going without Mr. and Mrs. Goodman.”

“Mike. Listen. Mr. and Mrs. Goodman are on their way to Manistee. They’ll meet us there, okay. Now let’s get going.”

As Mike started to the car, a scream, like an animal caught in the jaws of a predator, reverberated through the warm air. A naked boy was running down the street.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Alton One: Chapter 12

"You, dudes, you look like crap," said Jim Stone, looking like he just got out of bed.  His red hair was a messy wad, his chest bare, and Detroit Lions pajama pants covered the rest of him. He was lying back in his recliner, his big feet spread out for all to see.  On the television Miguel Cabrerra was stepping up to the plate.

"Jim, you need to pack your bags.  You're coming with us," Mike said, wheezing. He slammed the door, and rushed to the couch so he could lean over the back of it.  He reached into his pocket for his inhaler.

"What?  Why? You guys been smoking some doobies?" He made a cock-eyed smile, and made a circular motion with his pointer finger around his ear.

"We're being chased by aliens, Jim," Sarah said.

Mike tried to make a "shhhh" sound, but he couldn't get enough air out to make that sound.  He reached into his other pocket.

"Aliens, right! You guys have been smoking weed.  Just like our buddy Lance." He pretended to hold a joint to his lips, inhaling deep, holding his breath. "Ahhhhhhhhh!"

"Please, Jim, this is no joke.  You've got to believe us," said Sarah. 

"For crying out loud guys," Jim said, scratching his head. "I am trying to watch a ball game... YEAH! GO! GO! GO! GO!"

Mike could hear Mario Impemba giving the play by play of a Detroit Tiger's game, although he couldn't see the game from his viewpoint.  "Can't find inhaler," he said, in one breath.  He heaved in deep, as though through a narrow straw.

"Four to Zero!" Jim Chimed. He held his arms over his head, resting his palms behind it, revealing his armpits.

"I have your inhaler -- oh crap!" Sarah was searching herself for the inhaler. "I swear I grabbed it on the way out."  She took off her backpack. Set it on the couch.  Unzipped it.

"Mike, man, you better have a seat.  You don't look so well.  You're lips look blue."

Mike was on the floor behind the couch now.  His arms were at his side, next to his knees, on the floor, holding his shoulders high.  His chest burned.  He heaved his shoulders up, trying to take in a full breath, yet only a partial breath came in.  He tapped the ground with a fist.  "Oh, I can't stand this."

"Oh, come on! Where is it!" Sarah was rummaging through her backpack, many of the contents now spilled onto the couch and floor.

Jim hopped off his recliner, got down on his knees, and crawled on the ground looking under things: the recliner, the coffee table, the couch.

A strange idea crossed Mikes mind, that Jim looked like a dog searching for water.  He made a weak "Woof!" followed by a weak smile.

"You must be feeling better," mike said, crawling around now on the floor by the door. Then there was an audible CLICK! followed by an "OW!" followed by a "Oh, gosh, I'm sorry!"

A thin brunette slammed the door behind her, got down on her hands and knees, and put her cheek to mikes cheek," Oh, my little Jimmy, are you okay?" He took over rubbing his head for him.

"Oh, I'll survive."  He said.  "It's Mikey who's demanding attention now."

"Oh, Mikey, you look aweful," she crawled over to Mike, and proffered in her hand a little blue inhaler. "Is this what you guys are looking for."

Mike grabbed it from her, stuck the mouthpiece in his mouth.  As he inhaled (a shallow breath, yet a breath indeed) he squirted the inhaler.  He coughed, exhaling the white mist into the room.  He puffed again, and gain, and again, and again.  DEEP BREATH. "Ahhhhhhhh!" 

"Better?" said the young lady hovering over Mike, patting his back.

"Oh, much," he said, inhaling deep. "I love you, Donna."

The tune of Hell's Bells made Mike jump.  He hopped to his knees, reached into his pocket, pulled out his phone, and looked at it. "Shit!"

"What is it?" Sarah, Jim and Donna all chimed.  They were all three hovering around Mike, on the ground, behind the couch.

Mike jumped up, and rushed to the door.  ""It's a text from our buddy Lance," he said, just before slamming the door behind him. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Alton One: Chapter 11

Sarah writhed and squirmed until she made her way out from under the dead weight of Mike, inhaling dust, gagging and coughing as she went.  "Mike! Mike!" She screamed, shaking his body.  "Mike! Mike!"

Mike coughed, and made to sit up.  Sarah assisted him until he was in a sitting postion, brushing dust and splinters of wood and even glass off him as best he could.  No blood, though, she thought, and sighed.  As she signed she inhaled dust. 

He heeved, wheezed, and burst into a serious coughing spasm. He managed to his knees, holding his shoulders up with one hand pressed on the floor, the other on Sarah's knee.  "Inhaler!" he gasped.

"Yes, your inhaler," she said, "Where is it?" He didn't respond.  "

Mike reached into his pocket, pulled out an inhaler, coughed, pulled off the cap, coughed, put the inhaler mouthpiece into his mouth, coughed, inhaled with a squirt and a huff, coughed, inhaled with a squirt again, coughed, inhaled with a squir again and again.

"Oh, my God, that feels better," he said, taking deep easy breaths now.  His breathing was rapid, but Sarah could tell he was breathing easier.  He'd seen him like this before, but never LIKE THIS!  Never THIS bad.

"Holy, Cow!" Mike said, "Look at this place." Sarah was so concerned about Mike she completely forgot what made him so bad.  Looking around she saw pieces of wood and drywall dust and glass over everything in the house.  The front wall was busted open, and the windows shattered.   A couple large pieces of wood busted through the padio door, and were lying askew on the floor.  That could have it us! The idea busted through her mind.  That could have landed on Lance, killing him, and crushing us both.  We could be dead. 

"Sarah!  That old green house across the street blew up!" Mike said. 

Sarah peered out the opening in the front of the room and saw he was right.  The house across the street was barely a shell.  All that remained of it was half a wall on the right.  Otherwise it was almost completely incinerated, taking with it some of both homes on either side.  Flames shot up from what was left, and flames roared from the houses around it. 

"What happened, Mike? You think it was (she paused, as the idea was so scary she could barely make herself say it) the aliens."

"Sarah, shit!  I don't know.  But we gotta get the hell out of here.  We gotta get out quick."

"Where's my backpack?"  She looked around, kicking aside boards as she searched.

"Put your blouse over your mouth and nose, like this," Mike said.  Sarah turned and saw Mike had his blue (well, it used to be blue.  Now it was whitish from drywall dust from the explosion) shirt pulled over his nose and mouth.  She did the same with her blouse. 

"Ah, there it is!" she said, and bent to pick up the back back.  When, all of a sudden (and it was right about here she swears she hears Mike say, "Holy Shit!") a force strikes her from her right side and knocks her right into Mike, and they both fall to the ground with a mighty force. 

Sarah picks her head up, looks toward the opening, and sees a large glass, silvery object coming through the opening.  It was (or so her mind interpreted) floating.  It was hovering over the ground.  It was coming in fast. 

"It's just as Lance, described, Sarah!" Mike yelled. "Man, let's get the hell out of here. Run, Sarah! Run!"

With a single motion Sarah grabbed her back pack, Mike's inhaler (which somehow ended up on the ground) and followed Mike through the kitchen, through the back door, and into the backyard.  She ran, alongside Mike, for her life. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Alton One: Chapter 10

"If I wrote a story of my kidnapping by aliens, I always thought I'd call it Escapes from the Lost," Mike said, still standing with Sarah, peering out at the corner of James Street and Columbia Avenue.  Mike didn't knjow what Sarah was focusing on, but his vision was mainly set on the eastern skyline.  His hope was that he'd see the ship Lance was on. Why not? It's not like it hadn't appeared before.

"That's a good name," she said. "Why that name?"

"Because the aliens who kidnapped me were lost.  They were lost in space, per se.  They had no home, because there home planet was destroyed by crooked people who had no idea how to run a planet...

"Did you see that!" Sara stepped back, and pointed out the window.

"What?" Mike stepped next to her."

"Get down, Mike."  She fell to the ground, tugging his arm as she went.

He fell on top of her, and rolled so that he was lying on his belly, and could still see out the window by peering through the edge of the curtain.  "What did you see?" he whispered.

"I guess it was nothing."  He face suddenly pale.

"What?  Tell me."

"I saw it.  I saw..." tears rushed over her face.

"You saw the alien?" He looked at her, hugging her the best he could in the position they were in.

"Mike, I'm scared."

"Me too."

"We're getting out of here," she said.


A half hour later they were seated at the kitchen table, and Mike watched as Sarah stuffed some beef jerkey into the top of an already stuffed back pack.  "There," she said, "That should be about everything we'll need."

"Or at least everything we think we'll need."

"Or at least everything Lance and his mom stored in this house."

"It's funny, it's like they were looking preparing for this day."

"Are you ready?"

"Well, I was thinking we should take naps first," Mike said, and burst out laughing.

Sarah joined in.  At one point during the fit she knocked the backpack off the edge of the table and she heard something smash.  "Shit!" she laughed.  "We should see what that is."

As stressful as things were this day, laughter seemed to be a major irony.  How do you find laughter among blood, death, aliens and the like, Mike thought.  "This might be the last normal moment until whatever we are going to do today is finished, Sarah."

"What do you mean?"

Mike didn't answer right away, instead he listened to the audible hum of the refrigerator.  He jumped at a CLINK CLUNK" sound that came from behind him, and he and Sarah both turned to look.  "It's just the refrigerator," Mike said.  "It's the ice maker."

"Wow.  It's funny, all the time I've spent in here I never noticed it before."

"It's funny you say that, because I was just thinking of the humming of the refrigerator, a sound you only hear when you're really paying attention to it.  It's neat how life goes on, and we don't hear, or see, what's right in....


Something whizzed over Mike's head as he jumped onto Sarah, dragging her to the ground with him.  He rolled over, on top of Sarah almost, to protect her from flying boards, glass and shrapnel.  He felt objects falling onto him, stinging his left ear.

"TEH HOUSE IS FALLING IN!" Sarah Screamed.

Clambering sounds, like glass breaking, boards falling, continued for several moments.  Mike's eyes were locked shut, and he kept them shit what seemed like 10 minutes, but in reality was only seconds.  He did not budge, even as he felt he was covered completely.  He inhaled, and COUGH! COUGH! COUGH!

"You okay, Sarah," he whispered, motioning to get up, but unable to over the weight of Mike.  She pushed Mike hard, and he made no effort to move.  He was unable to move.  He continued his coughing jag.  He inhaled deep.  A breath came in sharply and painfully with a mouthful of dust.  He exhaled, and when he inhaled the air was thick and hard.  His chest burned.  His ear burned worse.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Alton One: Capsule 3

"Dinner last night was great," Rick said into the receiver.  "I really appreciate what you did for me yesterday."

"What do you think that was," Missy said.  "Was that really a U.F.O.?"

"That seems to be what they think in the Shoreline Daily News," Rick said, holding the paper out on his couch.  "There's a picture of a man looking up at the sky, and there's a U.F.O. up there.  It's clearly what we saw yesterday."

"I wonder if it's real.  I wonder what the experts will say.

"It says here that they blew it off as a weather balloon," he said.

Carrie started crying.  She and her sister were sitting on the couch next to Rick watching Cinderella on the television.  It was late, like past 10 p.m.  It was way past their bedtime.  He was so rapt in conversation he forgot to put his kids to bed.  Yet now Carrie was setting of her alarm.

"I gotta go," Rick said.

"I understand why.  I can hear the little sweat heart," she said.  "Bye.  And take care of yourself."

"Goodbye," Rick said, and clicked end, and set the phone on the side table.  He picked up Carrie and took her to the rocker.  "I want to rock too, Clarice said. And she climbed up next to Rick on the rocker.  He sat there, watching Cinderella.  After a scene a commercial was on, and Rick could hear deep breathing.  Carrie's head was limp on his shoulder.  And, just then, he felt a thud on his side.  Looking down, he could see Clarice was also out.

He slid Clarice's head carefully so it was resting on the arm of the chair, and got up with Carrie.  He carried her to her room, turned on the white noise of beach waves, and kissed her cheek.  He tucked her in, and covered her with her blue Cinderella blanket.  He closed the door and picked up Clarice.  He took her to her room, kissed her cheek, and tucked her in.  He turned on a fan on top the dresser, and softly shut the door.

A petite man with a pale, white face and black tights was standing in the middle of the living room. Startled, Rick screamed.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Alton One: Capsule 2

Rick Shane set Carrie in the sled, right in front of a smiling Clarice. They both smelled of the suns screen he rubbed over their exposed parts.  They were both decked out in their pretty bathing suits.  Around them were a variety of beach toys: two yellow buckets, two yellow shovels, a bag of snacks, towels, and sun screen.  He grabbed the string and started tugging the sled through the hot sand.  With his toes he dug in hard in the sand with each step, and half way to the beech his feet were sore and burning.  He moved fast.

If Marie were alive she'd see to it he remembered his sandals.  If she were alive he'd probably do a lot of things different.  If she were alive she'd be with him, perhaps carrying Carrie.  And if she were alive, she would have made sandwiches.  She even made sandwiches better than he did.

He listened as the girls innocently played, oblivious of how hard their dad was working at tugging them through the sand.  He admired them for that innocence, maybe even envied them.  Is he going to hell now for envying his two and four year old daughters?  He smiled at the thought.

It was a scorching hot day, near 90, and the sun was shining in a clear blue sky.  There were hundreds of people decked in their bathing suits scattered all over the beach, the playground to his left, and some scattered around their cars in the parking lot.  A teenage boy with the most perfect body lay with his arms over his head on his beach towel, showing the world his armpit hair and his six pack abs.  His body was brown, tanned by hours spent soaking rays.  Next to him was his girl in her bikini, sporting her perfectly tanned teenage body.  The world must seem so simple to them.  Oh, how he envied them, as he tried to pass by without kicking any dirt.

An older, morbidly obese lady a t-shirt meant to cover her body, yet failing as her apron hung out from under it, staining his vision, haunting his mind.  He looked around her for a path to take to the beach.  As he looked over her head he couldn't help but look into the sky. There was one cotton ball cloud overhead, and to the left was a line of exhaust where a jet was guiding through the sky.  And along the skyline of the water he could see the dark outline of a sailboat.  And immediately above that, in the sky, he could see an object.

"Daddy?" Carrie wailed.  He turned and saw that Carrie had decided to lean out of the sled.  She was half in and half out, more out than in.  He stopped pushing the sled, and watched as his daughter fell the rest of the way out.  She looked up and was smiling despite the sand that was now on her face.  She sat on her butt.  "Bucket," she said.  "Bucket."

Rick smiled.  He picked her up, brushed her off, and placed her back in the sled.  Despite interrupting her plans, she was still happy as happy is.  Clarice helped her daddy by putting her arms around Carrie.  "I'm helping you," she said.  "I'm helping you, da da."

"Thank you so much," Rick said, and started his march around the fat lady again.  Before long he wended his way though the sun bathers and a group of kids tossing a Frisbee and found an available spot in the sand only a few yards from the water.  Someone had tried to build a sandcastle by the water. Although it had been washed out by waves, he could still make out where the castle was and the moat around it.

He watched as Clarice jumped out of the sled, grabbed a yellow shovel and a yellow pale, and rushed to this spot. She sat on her butt in the mushy water of the moat and started digging.  "Come on, da da.  Get Carrie so you can help me."

Rick grabbed a towel from the bag and spread it out for the girls.  Then he did the same for himself, although he suspected he wouldn't have much of a chance to lie on it. The girls wouldn't give him a chance to relax and soak up rays.  The main goal today was to spend time with his birthday girls and relax in that way.  His goal today was to forget that his wife was in an accident; to forget that an 85-year-old man smashed into her as she was waiting at the intersection.  His goal was to forget seeing her lifeless body on the hospital bed.  His goal was to forget that there was no life insurance.  His goal was to forget his stupidity.

Within a half hour he had refurbished the sand castle, and somehow convinced his daughters to keep their shovels off it.  They were making smaller castles of their own design.  They encouraged their da da to work on the BIG sand castle. Once he felt satisfied he sat on his own butt, and closed his eyes, listening to the soporific din of waves.

After several moments of relaxing as such, he stood up, shed his shirt, tossed it onto his towel, and stepped into the water.  Clarice stepped in the water next to him, her but covered in wet sand.  Rick picked her up, and turned and, with a major effort and a grunt, picked up his baby.  They were both so heavy, so it seemed.

"I can help you," a female voice said.  Rick turned around and saw Missy Perry, the secretary at Shoreline health where he worked the past ten years.  "I can take Carrie if you want."

"Hey, that would be awesome," Rick said.  Now he was conscious of his aging body, and held Clarice so that she was blocking, so he hoped, his 12-pack abs, as so he liked to call his aging abdomen.  "Da da," Clarice wailed, "I'm falling." He shuffled his older girl back to where she was, exposing all his upper body.  "No one cares what your body looks like," Marie's voice shot through his head.  "Most guys on this beach look worse than you, and they don't care.  So why should you?"

"So you getting by okay," she said, as the two trudged through waves into deeper water.  "We all are praying for you and missing you at the office."

"I want to go REAL DEEP!" Clarice shouted.

"REEE DEEE!" Carrie repeated.

"Things are going great," Rick lied.  "I'm doing great."

"That's good.  You've been through so much."

"I'm glad you're here," Rick said, changing the subject, "It gets kind of heavy lugging two kids out here.  They love the water."

"I can see."  Carrie was hugging Missy's neck firmly.  Clarice, on the other hand, was leaning down at the water, slapping it.  As her butt was under water, and then her belly, her slapping was getting Rick wet.  He said nothing, enjoying the fact that she was just so happy.

"Rick, look!" Missy said, pointing at the sky.  "I swear that looks like a U.F.O."

Rick looked up.  "It's a flying saucer."  Rick looked around and saw that just about everyone on the beach was looking at it, many with their mouths hanging open.  The fat lady, the one he trudged around on the way to the water, the one with her gut hanging out, had her tongue lolling out the side of her mouth.  There was a lot of hymning and hawing, and "Oh my God!" one lady shouted. "What in the world is that," another said.  "Could it be?" another asked.

"Splash water with me, Carrie," Clarice said.  "I love water. Splash. Splash. Splash.

Rick looked back and saw the object had to be a space ship. It hovered over the horizon, outside the covering of that huge white fluffy, cotton ball cloud overhead.  The sun shining brightly off it hard to make out any of the specifics of the ship.

An audible gasp from the bystanders on the beach rang out over the sound of waves as the space craft disappeared in a flash, and all that could be seen where it was was the clear blue sky.  Rick looked around, observing how people, young and old, fat and skinny, all decked in their suits, some in the water, some on the hot sand, were still gazing at the sky, probably hoping it would return.