Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Alton One: Chapter 9

It was noon in Scottville, Michigan.  Sarah laid with her head on the couch pillow, playing with her i-phone, occasionally laughing, occasionally verbalizing something she read.  Mike watched her from the kitchen table while eating a chocolate chip cookie, his t-shirt covered in crumbs.  On the table were seven boxes of opened girl scout cookie boxes, with about half the former contents in either his or Sara's stomachs.

Bloated, roasting, he got up and opened the patio door, the same one Lance floated through on his way to Alton One.  The sun was shining bright over head, and a warm, toasty breeze that wafted through the door felt very refreshing.  As he peered out he felt it odd there were no shouts from children playing, and no squeaks and chirps from squirrels or birds.  The only audible thing outside was the rustling of leaves. "Do you think the police have people locked in their homes, or something else is going on."

"Why do you ask that?"

"Because it's eerie the way things have transpired?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, it's almost as though we're being cooped up in here on purpose?"


"That we're being shown just enough to tempt us?"


"Well, look out there?"

She was not standing by him, holding the curtain with her left hand.  "Just look out there.  The sky is clear blue, and there's barely a cloud, just a few random ones.  Look at the homes across the street.  You notice anything odd about them?"


"Neither do I.  I spent many hours sitting on this front porch with either Lance or his mother, and I never once ever saw a person come out of any of those houses.  Occasionally you'd see a car go up a driveway, and enter a garage, but once the garage door closed that was it."

"So what are you getting at?"

"Those people never went outside anyway.  They were house potatoes. It seems every neighborhood has house potatoes.  They have their windows closed, curtains or shades closed, and they sit in their houses all day.  No one knows what they do.  They only leave to go to work or to pay bills."

"Okay, what does that have to do with this.."

"The only exception is Mrs. Schaffer.  She's out and about in her yard all the time. You can tell by all the pretty flowers and plants in her yard.  She reminds me of my grandma.  Every time you pass her she has something to tell you. If you spend time with her she has a nice story to tell.  If your'e interested, and I'm always interested, she could entertain you for hours."

"I don't get your point."

"My point is she's a useful person."


"And we're useful people.  Lance is a useful person.  Lance is doing something all the time.  For crying out loud, look at all the stuff he wrapped around this house.  He may be the laughing stock of the neighborhood, he may not, but either way, he's productive.  He doesn't sit around all day playing video games, watching TV, and doing things that don't effect the lives of other people."

"So you're saying house potatoes are non productive members of society."

"They at least look non productive.  What we don't know is what they are really doing with their lives.  I remember dad told me once that he felt like he was a house potato for about ten years when Jimmy and I were little, really little.  He felt like he was useless to society; that all he did was watch kids, work, watch kids, work, take his wife on a date, and stuff like that.  He had no contact with his friends.  In fact, he went so long without hanging with his friends he felt he was antisocial.  And that's when he came up with the term house potato, because he suspected others probably thought that of him."


"He wasn't a couch potato at all.  He was outside more than the couch potatoes in the neighborhood.  He was outside walking with his kids, us, down the street.  He was teaching us how to ride bikes.  He was pulling us in the wagon.  He was taking us to the state park.  He was taking us camping.  He was taking us to the store so we could buy Christmas presents for mom.  He was busy raising his kids.  He was invisible to the rest of the world because he was raising kids."

So, that sounds great.  What does it have to do with this."

"Well, don't you feel like a house potato right now?"

"Oh, yeah, I see what you mean."

"Do you?"

"Yes, I guess I do."

"That's my point.  Maybe... maybe.... maybe we are a part of the plot.  Maybe the alien let you go on purpose, ever think of that."

"Mike?" Her face looked a sudden fret.

"Look, Sarah, the bad aliens, if that's what they are, kill people.  As far as we know, there's no way to escape their evil grasp.  But you got away.  You got away and you returned here, where, coincidentally, you have me, who was kidnapped by aliens in the past, and Lance, who, by the way, is on a spaceship."

Sarah hugged Mike, tight.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Alton One: Chapter 8

"So now what do we do?" Sarah said. She was sitting on the couch.

"I have no idea." Mike said. He was slouched in the love seat, staring at his Kindle Fire. By moving his fingers he created the word "SILENCE" to start a Words With Friends game. "Ah, beat that move!"

"How can you do that at a time like this?"

"I needed a brain break, Sarah. My head is fried." He closed the Kindle case and set it on the sidetable alonside the empty Coke can.

"We may both be fried soon," she said, and burst out laughing. 

He joined her.  He laughed so long and so hard his stomach cramped.  He tried to force himself to stop laughing, even went as far as to pinch his cheek, and it was no use.  He hopped out of his seat, laughing all the way to the kitchen.  He opened the refrigerator and grabbed a Coke.

"Here, you need this," he said, talking with difficulty.  He was still trying to fight off the laughter.  "Boy, I needed that.  We needed that."

"Yes."  She said.  She sighed. 

"Here!" he proffered her the can again.  "Take this, would you."

"No, I'm trying to be good."

"Not today you're not.  You deserve a day off.  You deserve a treat.  In fact, I think I'm gonna go to Northside and get you an ice cream sandwich.  I know that's your favorite."

"I'd love that, but what if the aliens are out there?" She took the Coke, clicked it open. Drank. It seemed to bring some color back to her face, for a moment any way. "Mike, I don't want you to get hurt?"

What are you worried about me for?  I'm worried about you.  I'm worried about you, Sarah.  "You have a point."  He sat next to her. 

She said, "We need to do something, though. We can't just stay cooped up in here forever.  There's a dead body staring at us for Christ sake, and aliens out and about that are killers." 

"Well, how 'bout if I call 911 and tell officer Joe Bean I saw an alien, and the alien scared the crap out of me..."

"You were there when I Disappeared," Lance wrote.  What did he mean by that? What are these coffins?  If Tsatso had a coffin, and this evil, alien that killed the cop and tried to kidnap Sarah are two different aliens, then why do they both have coffins, or whatever those things are?  Are they from the same place?  Are they from two different places?  What's the connection here?  And does this other alien have anything to do with the urgency of Tsatso needing Lance?  Man, it almost looks like there's some kind of connection here. 

"...and then I'll tell them about everything that's happened.  I'll tell them about the body.  Hell, I'll just show them the body.  Hell, they'll see the body on their own..."

There's also the U.F.O. sightings reported in the papers.  There was more than one sighting, so does that mean there's more than one U.F.O.?  Is there some kind of intergalactic war going on in the space over Skitville?  Are we in the middle of some kind of Star Wars battle?  And if so, where are the aliens from anyway?  And why in the world did they choose Skitville?

"...I just wish we weren't trapped in the middle of this, you know what I mean.  You know how all your life you kind of want to believe in the extraterrestrial and you kind of believe in it but it's a belief that's on the surface.  But you..."

The aliens who kidnapped me were not from Alton?  I know they weren't.  But the alien Sarah described wasn't like Tsatso. Sarah, you're wrong there.  It wasn't like Tsatso at all.  The question that has me about Tsatso...

"...know what I mean.  I always supported Lance, but, as he said, it was a hobby to him.  It wasn't something you expected to really happen.  You never... whether or not he is a prisoner like he was with me on that ship.  No!  If he was a prisoner now, he wouldn't give Lance a choice?  No, that would't make sense.  If Tsatso was a prisoner, and he was being forced to take Lance, he would just, you know...

"...expect to actually see or meet an alien.  Well, I suppose Lance did.  Lance I think believed a lot more than the rest of us stories like...

...Kidnap Lance...

" know, he would... Mike?  Mike, are you with me?  Am I talking to a wall?

"I'm sorry, I just can't stop thinking about Lance's blog.  It just reminds me so much of..."

"Of what, Mike?  What does it remind you of?"

His fingers dug deep into the couch fabric. He took in a deep, slow breath.  "You do have a point, Sarah.  And, yes, I'm listening, Sarah. I really am."

"You were not.  You were staring at the blank TV." She smiled.  She was so sweet.  Mike studied her face. Her features matched her innocence.

"The coffin, you know, whatever it was, it just appeared in front of me.  It was in the back of Mr. Foster's house.  It just appeared, as though it knew where I was gonna be.  I don't think it was Tsatso.  I don't think if he's the way you described him, that he would do such a thing.  This was a bad, an evil, alien.  He, she, it, tried to kill me.  There was no doubt about that.  It tried to kill me.  There was no choice.  If I didn't run, it would have killed me right there. 

"Sarah, can I ask a question?"

"Ask away."

"How did you get the blood on your hands?"

She looked at the ground.  Her hands were shaking.

"Never mind, he said.  I shouldn't have asked."

"No.  No."  She looked in his eyes.  "THE ALIEN HELD A BALL, AND IT WAS COVERED IN BLOOD!  She squeezed him.  "It tried to touch it to my shoulder.  And that's when I started to run.

She cried.  Mike put his arm around her, and she wrapped her arms around him, and cried.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Alton One: Chapter 7

Her hold on him was a life grip, so hard he tremmored with her.  Her head was snug on his shoulder, and he could smell her hair spray.  On a normal day he would have made a commical remark about it, but there were no words for a moment like this.  She was scared to death, and he could smell that too.  He let her hold on as long as she needed.  What in the world brought THIS on? he wondered.

She let go and an immediate flow of warm blood rushed down his arms to his fingertips.  She stood in front of him with blank stare, shivering. 

"Sarah!" he held her hands. They were cold as ice.  "Sarah!  What happened?  Who did this to you?"

"Hold me, Mike!  Just hold me!" He did.  And he guided her to the livingroom, and sat with her on the couch. All the way, he never stopped hugging her.  "Who did this, Sarah?  Who hurt you?"

"The coffin!"

"What?" A shiver rushed up his spine. His mind immediately recollecting Lance's story. "A coffin? Like the one Lance wrote about?"

"The coffin.  It was a coffin.  And an alien, like the one you drew.  It was an alien.  It came out of the coffin.  It came and tried to take me.  It tried to take me." 

She squeezed him again, hard, very hard. 

"Sarah, you have to tell me what happened.  You have to tell me everything."

"I can't.  I can't!" She started crying.  "I don't mean to be a baby."

"It's okay.  It's okay."  It wasn't okay.  Tsatso took Lance, and he was supposed to be a good alien.  Now this.  "Did Tsatso do this to you?  Was it Tsatso?  The one I drew was Tsatso."

"Yes," she said.  It was Tsatso.  Only..."

"Only what?"

"Only he wore black.  He looked mean.  He grabbed me and I ran."

He let her squeeze him again.  She cried hard, and he made no effort to stop her. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Civilian on the front lines

So do you ever have a dream you think could easily be turned into a story if you had the time to write it down.  Last night I had one of those dreams.  There were a bunch of guys all hanging out in front of this building, and we were writing in our journals.  One guy was passing around a picture book, and having all of us guys write things in the margins, between the pictures.

We all had on our regular clothing, so it was obvious we weren't real soldiers.  I didn't even have a helmet, at least not yet.  I could tell you I wasn't a real soldier because I have asthma and would never be accepted into a real military.  But desperate times call for desperate measures.  For whatever reason, the real military was desperate, and they called on us.

Some of the guys are trying to find their spot for when the battle starts, and I'm just sitting in a lawn chair.  A couple of the guys are amazed how calm I can be at such a stressful moment.  I didn't say anything, although I'm not necessarily as calm as I look.  I'm relaxed to a certain degree because I know I have no control over what happens to me, and I believe in God.  Although I'm still afraid of dying.  I worry what would happen to my wife and kids more than anything.

Then someone says, "You guys know we're on the front lines!" And this causes a bunch of guys, including myself, to crawl down at the front of the porch, duck to behind the fence, and see how we would fit in that spot. I lied down and noted that my head stuck over the barrier unless I was lying down.  I aimed my gun at the distant darkness, and my entire head and shoulders was out in the open; an easy target.  I supposed if I had a helmet on the bullet would ricochet off me.  Where is my helmet?  Please give me a helmet?

I wondered if the fence wasn't completely done.  I wondered what was out there waiting for us, if anything.  Obviously there was something out there or we wouldn't be here.  Then I heard a scuffle, and that's when I realized there were a bunch of kids hanging around also.  They were playing.  One of the guys says, "This is the front lines. All kids I want to gather over there."

So now I'm looking around hoping to see my kids; or hoping not to see my kids.  None of the kids I saw running to my left were mine.  Then I forget about the kids as I'm trying to get my spot ready for battle, although I can't find anyone to help me.  I'm kind of irritated that the battle ground isn't ready.

Then my attention is brought back to the kids again as I hear scuffling to my left.  I look over there thinking I might see warriors pent to kill us, yet what I see are all the kids grouped in a large circle amid a white picket fence.  I hear a truck pull up, and all the kids get into the truck.  I keep watching this even though I know I should be getting myself ready, yet I can't help but to watch the kids until everyone of them is in the truck.  They were snuggled close back of the truck, but at least they'd be alive at the end of the battle.  I couldn't predict the same for me, being that I was amid the med on the front line.

As the kids are being driven off in the distance, the sound of the truck brings me back to reality.  In real life it's probably a truck going by my house as I lie sound asleep.  Then I look in the distant woods where the enemy is probably waiting to kill us.  There appears to be a good chance they will succeed, although you hear no talk about defeat  We are all willing to fight to, obviously, save our kids.  I also have no idea who the enemy might be, and that in itself sends a shiver down my spine. Who am I going to kill?  Why? Will I be able to pull the trigger?  Will I simply cower behind the shield.

Another idea crosses my mind.  I remember in past dreams during similar stressful and scary situations hiding behind the barrier that is my dream.  I know that at any point I can just duck and be still, and no one will see me.  It is, after all, a dream. I remember running in the woods once, away from some killer chasing me, pent on killing me.  And as I'm running I picture a hole in the ground under some stump, and I find that spot, duck into it, and then I can hear as the bad guys are looking for me.  But they never find me.  When I wake up I'm still alive.

So now here I sit, back in my recliner, waiting for the word that it's time to duck for cover, in my battle spot.  I'm assuming now that whatever we have right now is what we will have for battle.  We are the last stand.  I hear a jet over head, loud  It's close.  And instead of looking up at it, I look around at my fellow soldiers.  They are all afraid, as I am, that bombs will be dropped.  None are.  Then, just when we are feeling the sense of relief, another jet goes overhead louder than the first, then another and another.  For about five minutes there were several jets go over head, yet we cannot see any of them in the still darkness.

I know that the lights are on around us, as I can see the glow of our lights of the distant forest.  I can see no soldiers in the field, although I have no idea if our soldiers are out there in camouflage, or if the enemy is.  The dream is set up here so that it's as though I'm just all of a sudden in this spot.  I have no idea of anything that transpired in my life before this scene.  It's kind of like that old TV show Quantum Leap.  The main character in that TV show would all of a sudden take over someone's life, and make things right.  That's where I was, in some soldiers body trying to make out who I was and why I was there.  Only I was me in my dream.  I just didn't know why or where?

A man all of a sudden appears, and I think he's the enemy.  He's telling us what we need to do to survive the war.  He's trying to get us to give up.  He has a gun, and he keeps waving it.  I'm afraid of guns, and am afraid he might shoot it.  Then he aims it at me.  A fear drenches through my body that he will kill me.

The room is full.  I hear a baby cry, and kids innocently bantering about their fake worlds.  Men and women in the room are more solemn, as they wait.  Wait for what.  Then the crown in the middle of the room clears as men in uniform enter.  The men have a stack of journals and a photo book that they pass around.  The women found solace as they find notes from their presumed dead spouses.  I still do not see my wife nor my kids.  I know they must be around somewhere or I wouldn't be here in my spirit form.

Finally I get a chance to look at the photo book.  I see what the men wrote in the columns.  I find not one mention of dead or battle.  The words are all things like "It's a beautiful day out here.  I can hear the crickets chirping."  Each quote is followed by a signature.  I look for something I wrote, and find nothing. I look for my journal. I find nothing.  Why am I here?

Suddenly two more men donned in high military gear enter the room  All the women and men are silent, including the kids.  One of the men says, "I would now like to present the highest metal award to a man who is not in uniform." Now I realize I'm standing behind this man.  I hear sighs and rapid chatter from the folks.  "I would like to provide the award to Rick Frea."

That's when I'm pushed forward.  The military men stand aside, and I'm pushed forward.  Smiles and smiles and smiles across the room on every person I saw.  Yet my eyes quickly find a lady, and my arms go around her, my head upon her shoulder.  Two women and two men wrap their arms around both of us.  Happiness.