Anomalosity IX


Okay, this is the final episode of the Anomalosity series. I hope you enjoy it. Let me know what you think, about this episode or the entire series. I do want to hear from you.

Anomalosity IX
July 2013

Radom gunfire came from the direction of Forest Lakes North. The group of people in the great room of the cheesy house became quiet. Heads swiveled northward.
“What’s the word from the roof?” Loularoo asked.
A woman on the roof called down, “Can’t see anything. Just a vehicle coming this way.”
Stephanie and Jason look to each other. Perhaps it was word from the camp?
“Am Here has become more communicative over time, but he’s also become more enigmatic,” Stratos said. “Eddy, ask him how he wants us to help him depart.”
“No!” Eddy cried.
“Eddy,” Stephanie said. “He’s your friend. Help him. Help us.”
“No,” Eddy shouted.
“Eddy, there may be something we can do to save lives.”
Eddy became quiet, a tear running down the side of his nose.

Pete turned the SUV into Forest lakes and got passed on by the pickets there. Before the aliens he had sometimes repaired internet service at Forest Lakes homes. Most were cheesy built but nicely cared for. Now it was overgrown and blighted. Forest Lakes north was not so bad off, a number of military types had held things together there. But there was a clear divide between north and south.
Pete found Loularoo’s headquarters easy enough. A rag tag group of men and women were standing in front. He entered and found the interior open and bright, even though sheets hung over windows on the sunny side of the house.
“Pete!” Jason called. “Are we glad to see you! What happened at the camp?”
“I don’t know. People were still running when I left. Rogan’s probably got rescue and repair going. Some of our people got messed up.”
“What about the aliens?”
“They left right after you. And I mean after you. I knew you were coming here, so I came as fast as I could to warn you. And it’s not just cylinders. Those tall creepy aliens are with them.”
“I suspect the cylinders are merely hunter-killers, and the organic aliens are for more delicate work,” Stratos said. “Our alien friends have a stratified organizational chart.”
“What do you mean,” Nostrum asked.
“Take our friend, Am Here. He exists in Eddy’s computer. How did he get there”
“Go ahead, tell us,” Loularoo said.
“He must have come over the web. We know that all equipment governed by electronics stopped working. How is that? It’s because these aliens didn’t just send us a computer virus. They sent themselves.”
“You mean they’re the virus?” Nostrum asked.
“No. The electronic milieu is where they live. They’ve somehow managed to upload themselves from their corporal bodies into an electronic one.”
“I don’t get it,” Jason said. “Some are like the tall creepy aliens, and some are pure energy like electricity. Were they born that way?”
`”No. You see they select some of the flesh and blood aliens to be uploaded to their electronic milieu. They exist there, and as long as their electronic milieu exists, they exist — perhaps forever.”
“But Am Here wants to stop,” Eddy said.
“That’s right, “ Stratos said. “How do we help him do that. And do it fast, as his compatriots are almost here.”
Loularoo turned to one of her clan and motioned towards the laptop. Stephanie and Eddy moved aside so she could see AM Here’s screen. It was flashing three dimensional brilliant red.
“All right, everyone,” Loularoo commanded. “Prepare to repel boarders!”
“Think of it,” Stratos said to Nostrum and Stephanie. “These electronic aliens can by their thousands exist on a memory card. Their spacecraft can be totally devoted to drive systems and navigation.”
“What about the corporal aliens?” Stephanie asked.
“Maybe they go along in suspended animation, to be pulled off the shelf as needed. I wonder why they bother with the corporal bodies at all? Machines would be better.”
“And why bring their animals here?” Nostrum said. “They have a soft spot or something?”
“Maybe that’s why they fear Am Here. They have a soft spot that may respond to him. They need to reeducate him.” Stratos shrugged. “All speculation of course.”
“Is Loularoo’s geek making any progress?” Stephanie asked.
“Just ask me,” the woman said.
“Okay, I’m asking.”
“Can you upload a virus that will wipe the computer clean?” Stephanie asked.
“I have something that should work, but who knows with Am Here in there. Shall I try?”
Stratos and Stephanie nodded. The woman inserted a thumb drive into the USB port.
The roiling screen slowed and became two dimensional, the grainy. Then as though a sump opened, the screen went black.
“It’s dead,” the woman said. “Wiped clean.”
“Am Here,” Eddy cried.
The sounds of gunfire and screams drew nearer.
“Do we run?” Loularoo’s asked.
“Can we wait just a moment?” Stratos said. “I don’t know what to expect. But Am Here is gone. If that means anything….”
A tall dark shadow appeared behind the french doors shaded by a bed sheet.
“Hey, hey! We have company!” Stephanie yelled.
The whole french door and its frame burst into the living room. The bed sheet bellowed to reveal a giant figure, its face like smooth iron with dark divots where eyes and mouth should be. It’s feet were huge and splayed, its hands huge and clawlike.
“Shit!!!” somebody yelled. “Run!”
There was a mad scramble in all directions.
“Stephanie!” Pete yelled as she dove in the direction of the alien for the laptop. “Leave it!”
“Like hell,” she said.
Pete drew his Bersa and fired three shots into the alien. It staggered momentarily, long enough for Stephanie to get to her feet with the laptop and run.
“That ugly shit trashed my house!” Loularoo yelled.
“Shut up and run!” Stephanie spat.
Jason was about to overtake Stephanie when the ringing sizzle of a cylinder’s beam cut him down.
“Shit! They’re after me!” she yelled.
“Toss it over here, Steph,” Pete called.
The laptop sailed through the air. Pete one handed it and tossed it into the back seat of the SUV. He jumped in and went squealing away.
“Follow me!” Loularoo yelled.
Stephanie, Stratos, Nostrum and Eddy followed at the run. They cut through back yards, down a hill, and came out on a walking path by the road. Pete came screeching around the bend. Three cylinders emerged, skittering up the other side of the road. Sizzling beams pierced the SUV. It swerved, scraped along a guardrail and stopped.
“Get in,” Stephanie said, as calmly as she could.
Nostrum and Stratos tried to get in at the same time, struggled, and tumbled out.
“Oh, shit!” Stephanie muttered at the unnecessary delay.
The cylinders were just feet away. She drew and fired once and sent one spinning.
“Here!” Pete gasped and handed Loularoo his AR.
She hefted the AR and squeezed off 10 shots. Most of the rounds ricocheted off the pavement around the cylinders, but several impacted and staggered them.
“Get in, get in, get in!” Loularoo yelled, and squeezed off another 10 rounds. She crawled over Nostrum to get into the back of the SUV, and emptied the magazine through the rear window.
“C’mon, Pete! Let’s go!” Stephanie shouted, her ears ringing from the gunshots in the confined space of the SUV.
The SUV scraped away from the guardrail.
“C’mon, Pete!” Stephanie yelled. “Step on it! They’re almost on us!”
The SUV rolled slowly.
A volley of squealing beams pierced through the tailgate. A burning smell penitrated through the smell of gunpowder.
“Pete! Let’s go!”
Stephanie stretched a leg over the center console and stomped on the accelerator. The SUV leaped forward. She gripped the steering wheel and straightened the SUV’s course. It was then she saw that Pete’s torso, arms and legs were streaming blood. She barely had the SUV under control, her body twisted backwards to their direction, head turned awkwardly to peer over her shoulder. The SUV started to drift to the right, she over corrected, then over corrected again. The vehicle lurched from side to side, its front wheels finally catching in a drainage ditch, jolting the SUV to a sudden stop. Groans erupted from the back seat.
“What a bad driver you are,” Loularoo said. “Open the back hatch so I can get out.”
`Oh, shut up!” Stephanie muttered, pushing herself from between the dashboard and Pete’s body. She walked around to the rear and opened the hatch back. Loularoo, Stratos and Eddy crawled out.
“What about Nostrum?” Stephanie said.
They opened the rear door. There he was, slumped forward, two holes the diameter of pencils in his back and one in his head.
There came the metallic skittering sound.
“What will we do?” Loularoo asked. “On foot we’ll never get away.”
`”Let them have the laptop,” Stratos said. “We have the thumb drive. We’ll go back to your headquarters and find your computer woman. Maybe we can find a way to enter her virus into their whole system.”
Cylinders came into view, their crazy skittering legs a blur of motion.
“It won’t be long before those big fellows show up,” Stratos said. “Leave the laptop in the SUV and let’s move away. We’ll see where their attention is drawn.”
The four of them crossed the road and climbed up an embankment. Three cylinders approached and splayed their rear legs so their business ends pointed at the group.
Stephanie and Loularoo slowly raised their guns.
“Wait,” Stratos said. “They could have killed us by now. Let’s brave out a moment or two and see what happens.”
Moments later three humanoids arrived, floating about ten feet above the ground. At first it looked like they themselves were floating, but as they neared it could be seen they rode upon a featureless rectangular conveyance. Its surface was dully reflective which made it hard to see.
They floated down next to the SUV and dismounted. One reached in and emerged with the laptop, while the other two stood facing the group. Then they remounted their vehicle and floated off, as though on a flying carpet.
The cylinders turned about and made off on their crazy skittering gait.
Eddy whimpered. Stratos laid a hand on his shoulder.
“Don’t worry, Eddy. Am Here is no longer in that laptop. He no longer is.”
“C’mon,” Stephanie said, rushing down the embankment. “Pete’s hurt, and Nostrum too, and Jason back at the house.”
But Pete and Nostrum were dead. Stephanie attempted to back the SUV out of the ditch, but it would take a tow truck to free it. They began the walk back to Loularoo’s headquarters.
“We’ll find a way to insert the virus into their web and short circuit them out of existence,” Stratos said.
“How now, Stratos!” Loularoo said and thumped him on the shoulder. “We’re two Englishmen saving the world from aliens, just like Wellington and Nelson saving the world from Napoleon.”
“Oh, shut up,” Stephanie huffed.
The sounds of fighting had ceased, but crying and anxious voices came to them thinly over the distance. New columns of smoke rose skywards.
“With my computer guy and the NGIC brains, if any are still alive, we’ll find a way to plant the poison in their teeth. Then we’ll only have to deal with their monsters, humanoids, and cylinders. We can do it like that!” she said and snapped her fingers.
They became quiet. Especially Stephanie. Two friends were dead, and third probably was.

Post Script
This story ends without resolve, mainly because I want to get on with other stories. My view of what later occurs is that the alien machinery all ceases to function. In trying to reclaim Am Here into their fold, the aliens upload something which shorts out all of them. They all cease to exist. Was it Loularoo’s virus? Was it Am Here, playing possum to in order to re-enter the aliens web and sabotage it? We earth dwellers just don’t know. We are left with the organic alien creatures left behind, the organic virus they carry that is so deadly to us humans, and several collosal alien spacecraft that will over time fall out of orbit and crash into the surface of the earth.
How does that leave the earth’s survivors? In a post apocalyptic world.
Hmmmm… Maybe the germ of a new set of stories!

Anomalosity VIII


I’m adding the last two episodes of my Anomalosity series. I was thinking that this story, over the course of its episodes, has wandered from where I was wanting it to go, but colleagues from the Science Fiction Fantasy Horror Speculative Writer’s Group said it has not wandered too much. And that the story winds up in Albemarle County and the City of Charlottesville, Virginia was an attraction… So here is # VIII

Anomalosity VIII
May 2013

“You know,” Stephanie said, pointing at Loularoo’s necklace. “That’s really gross.”
Loularoo shook her necklace in Stephanie’s face and said, “Would you like to contribute a finger to it?”
“Can we get back to business here,” Rogan said.
The small group gathered under a marquee in the Dogwood Valley camp watched intently as Eddy booted up his laptop computer. There were quiet gasps as a multi-demensional screen appeared.
“My word,” Stratos said. “It’s so elaborate! It’s like you could reach your hand into it. And just what is it?”
“Its personality is emerging, like when you know someone over time,” Nostrum said. “And it is someone from a foreign land with customs and expressions we’re just beginning to learn.”
“Well I don’t appreciate it taking over my world,” Loularoo said.
“It’s kind are not taking over our world. They’re merely brushing us aside. Do you remember what Stephen Hawking said about courting aliens? We don’t want to. They’re only interest in us isn’t us. We merely pose an annoyance to them on their way to our resources.”
Pete burst into the group.
“I hate to break this soiree up, but there’s a platoon of those cylinder things coming this way. North side of the camp again.”
Rogan set out running towards the north side of camp. Pete gathered up other campers and followed.
“Someone ought to attend to the east and west sides of camp to head off flanking movements,” Loularoo said.
“Close it up, Eddy,” Stephanie said. “C’mon everyone! Let’s go!’ she yelled to Stratos, Nostrum and Loularoo.
“Well I wish I stayed home!” Loularoo said. “Those NGIG military types in Forest Lakes North could have entertained those things, while we lounged easy in Forest Lakes South..”
They set off sprinting towards the south side of camp and the vehicle park.
“There’s something else we need to be careful of,” Stratos said, huffing.
“What’s that?” Loularoo said.
“Coming into contact with any of their animals. Some carry microbes that are deadly to us. You know, the die-offs that have killed off whole geographic segments of world population.”
“Is that the intent of the aliens?” gasped Loularoo, running hard.
“I don’t think so,” Stratos said, his voice high and wheezing. “I think that is incidental to their transporting their fauna here. I expect we’ll start to see their flora soon. Who knows what that will wreak on us.”
There came the loud crack of the Barret sniper rifle, followed by a volley of small arms fire, then screams and cries, all coming from the north side of camp. A shaft of energized particles streamed over their heads as they reached the vehicle park.
“We’d better go,” Nostrum gasped,
“Let’s take the Jeep and head back to my territory,” Loularoo huffed, gesturing to the vintage Cherokee. “Stratos, are we being annihilated?”
“Maybe. Or maybe we’ll exist in small pockets, fighting with each other for survival, like we’ve already been doing in some locales.”
“Fighting each other and not them?”
“We can’t fight them. If they chose to take serious notice of us they could eradicate us the way penicillin use to eradicate bacteria.”
“We could nuke them,” Nostrum said, and he wipe sweat from his brow and upper lip.
“That giant thing in orbit up there?” Satratos said. “Do you have a nuke, Mr. Nostrum, and a rocket to get it up there? And if you did, don’t you think they could shoot it down. And what if there are ten of those things up there, or a hundred, or a thousand?” Stratos paused, breathing heavily and listening to the growing sounds of chaos coming their way from the north side of camp. “I don’t think they need hundreds of giant spaceships. Just enough to accomplish the transformation of our planet.”
The noise of gunfire and screams was drawing closer.
“Let’s hurry before we’re lost in the crowd,” Loularoo said. “This fine camp is breaking up.”
“Hey! Wait up!” It was Stephanie, followed closely by Eddy carrying his laptop and Jason. “Everyone is scattering. There’s a lot of those cylinders things. They’re headed this way!”
“Look!” Nostrum yelled.
A cylinder emerged from behind a maintenance tent adjacent to the vehicle park. In a fluid motion Loularoo swung her ax over her head and let it fly at the cylinder, its weighty head whirling into its front legs, buckling it to the ground. Its two rear legs, vibrating frenetically, swung its front end towards the group of escapees. Stephanie ran up to it by the flank and emptied the magazine of her 1911 at it. Big leaden slugs ricocheted off the cylinder, and a scream from behind told of someone being struck. The last two slugs impacted a dent into its side, and its flailing legs beat the air fruitlessly. It sputtered and clicked. Stephanie pocketed the spent magazine and loaded in a fresh one, considering another barrage into the cylinder.
“C’mon, Stephanie!” Eddie yelled. “Let’s go!”
They piled into the jeep. Jason gunned the engine. Nostrum looked behind. The screams were dying down as well as the gunfire. The campers were headed in all directions. At least a dozen were on the ground, a bloody mess where the cylinder’s energy beams had cut them near in half or severed limbs. Others, even those still writhing in pain, were bloodless, the energy beams having cauterized the holes shot through those bodies.
Loularoo stretched over the front seat back to see out the rear window, pressing her necklace and bosom into Stephanie’s face.
“Get off me!” Stephanie growled. “And get rid of that gross thing!”
“Oh shut up!” Loularoo shot back. “Or I’ll have your head as an ornament. And I want my ax back.”
“Look!” Stratos hissed, pointing ahead and off to their left.
A tall humanoid figure with huge feet and hands appeared, walking stiffly towards the jeep.
“Geez! What the hell!” Jason yelled. He couldn’t deploy his AR within the confine of the jeep, but he could his .380. He fired three rounds into the figure that was little more than 20 feet away. He could see the bullets impact, but couldn’t see if they penetrated. The tall bizarre figure staggered. Jason fired three more times, then stomped the accelerator, the jeeps rear wheels spinning and spitting gravel.
There came a loud zinging noise and a whiff of burnt smell. A series of half inch holes peppered the rear window and windshield.
“Owwwww!” Eddie screamed, hand pressed to the side of his head, blood streaming out between his fingers and pouring down his neck.
Jason kept the accelerator pressed to the floor and the jeep fishtailed down the gravel road.
“Let me see,” Stephanie said, trying to steady herself in the rolling vehicle while pulling Eddie’s hand away from his head. The top half of his ear was hanging by a sliver of flesh. “Someone give me something to bandage this.”
Jason pulled a bandana from around his neck and tossed it over this shoulder.
“Everybody okay?” he asked.
“No!” Eddie yelled. “I’m dying!”
“Ooooo, I’d really like an ear for me necklace,” Loularoo cooed.
“Shut up!” Stephanie hissed.
“This hurts!” Eddie yelled.
Stephanie tied the bandanna around Eddie’s head. The side of his head, neck, shoulder and shirt front were covered with blood. We’ll have to snip the top half of his ear off, Stephanie thought. It was hanging by a thread. But she’d be damned if Loularoo would get it.
“You know,” Jason said. “Those things are only going to follow us to Forest Lakes.” No one spoke, except for Eddie, whimpering. “We could just toss that laptop. That’s what they want.”
“No,” said Stratos. The normally congenial Englishman’s voice was strained.
“You’re from the lowlands, aren’t you, Stratos?” Loularoo said.
“Shut up!” Stephanie hissed.
Loularoo shook her necklace at her.
“No,” Stratos said again. “They want the laptop, and the laptop wants something they don’t want.”
“Not laptop,” Eddie said. “Am Here.”
“Whatever,” Nostrum said. He no longer wanted to be a journalist. He rubbed the huge welt on his forehead from the ricochet of Stephanie’s gunshots at the cylinder. He’d had enough. There must be some island somewhere where he could hide.
“That’s right, Eddie,” Stratos said. “Am Here. His people want him back in the fold, but he wants out. And what he wants, they don’t want. But why? I think I know why, but we will have to help Am Here to attain his heart’s desire to find the truth of it.”
“Nooo,” Eddy cried. “He’s my friend.”
“Your friend wants oblivion, Eddy. And his friends don’t want that. Why? There’s a reason. I think we can find that out, and then maybe we’ll find a way to fight these aliens. Tell me, Loularoo, do you have a computer genius back at your stomping grounds?”
“I”m sure we do,” she said. “Will she need all her fingers?”
With attitudinal inflection she pursed her lips at him and shook her necklace in his face.
“Why don’t you shut up?” Stephanie said.
“Oh, dear,” Stratos said.
“God, please take me now,” Nostrum said.
“Owww, my friggin’ ear friggin’ HURTS!” Eddie whined.
Jason smiled, leaned back into the driver’s seat, and lit up a cigarette.
Am Here was silent.

Okay, I got busy. Here’s another installment of my “Anomaloscity” series. I hope you enjoy!
Anomalosity VII

Main Street heading west towards the university, windblown debris swirling in the street, shards of busted out storefronts glittering in the afternoon sun. For a city of 40,000 inhabitants, it was strange to not to see anyone on this main avenue. In the west the university seemed deserted but for dozens of columns of thin smoke.
The two vehicle convoy turned left onto 5th Street South West, then right onto Dice Street. Two blocks ahead a group of black men and women surrounded a large dump truck. Several people in the bed of the truck were handing out packages. As the convoy became noticed two hidden and armed people arose from the bed of the truck, and then a handful of armed people appeared on the porches and rooftops of small Fifeville homes.
“Stop, stop, stop!” Rogan yelled.
A squad automatic weapon swiveled up over the cab of the truck and pointed at the windshield of their SUV.
“Everyone be calm!” Rogan ordered.
Stephanie, in the passenger seat, cursed softly. She held a full sized .45 pistol between her knees. It appeared very large in her hands. Nostrum and the other camper were in the back seat. The camper was armed with an AR style carbine. Nostrum held a notebook.
Behind their SUV was a Volvo wagon, smaller and lower to the ground. Pete, Jason and two campers were in it. They cracked their doors open, ready to bail and shoot.
“Wha’d’ya want?” a gray haired black man called. He stood beside the cab of the truck.
“Don’t shoot,” Rogan called, climbing out the driver’s side of the SUV. He whispered to Stephanie, “Be ready to get behind the wheel.” He stepped away from the SUV. “We’re looking for a friend from England. We believe he’s here in Fifeville.”
“Wha’sis name?”
“Nostrum and Stratos,” Stephanie said, giggling. “Sounds like two characters in a bad science fiction movie.”
“Skinny, funny talkin fella?” the black man asked.
“That may be him. Where can we find him?”
“What for?”
“He came here to meet with us, up at our camp in Greene County.”
“He from England? Why he here in the neighborhood?”
“We don’t know how he ended up in Charlottesville.”
“I tell you. He come down from Washington with a food truck, like this here one,” the older man said, hooking a thumb towards the truck. “He staying with Miss Mary and her daughter ‘n children. Over this way on 6th and a half, brick house with a porch, on the left.”
The dump truck was in the middle of the road with neighborhood people all around it taking packages handed down from the bed.
“Can we get by?”
“Sure. You come on by,” the man said.
Rogan got back in the SUV and pulled as far to one side of the street as he could and inched forward. Jason followed in the Volvo. The people in the street barely moved aside.
“I don’t like this,” Pete said to Jason, back in the Volvo.
“Just hold on,” Jason said. “Everyone out to driver’s side if we have to bail.”
They progressed slowly, tires squealing against the low curb. Rogan whirled the wheel around and turned left onto 6 1/2 Street Southwest. A few houses down on the left, several people were seated on a front porch.
“That’s him!” Nostrum said.
“No shit, Sherlock,” Stephanie said. “He’s the only white person on the porch.”
Nostrum got out and rushed towards the people on the porch.
“Mr. Stratos, are you all right?”
“I’m fine, Nostrum! These fine people have taken me in!”
An elderly black woman, chin and lower lip jutting out, rheumy eyes peering through large rectangular glasses, sat next to Stratos, holding his hand.
“How’d you get here?” Nostrum asked.
Stratos gently pumped Miss Mary’s hand up and down. She turned to him and smiled.
“I came on a government food truck. I thought I would find you here in Charlottesville. I went to that city hall. It was a very confused place. People tried to take my bag. I ran out onto that mall and literally bumped into this man right here and fell down. He looked at me and laughed and helped me up. I told him I was looking for the Dogwood Valley people. He laughed again and dragged me along by the arm. We walked to here. His grandmother’s home. Miss Mary’s younger brother here,” Stratos indicated an older man sitting on the other side of Miss Mary, “is an amateur radio operator. He’s the one who knew your call sign and contacted you.”
In the distance, gunshots rang out. Heads swiveled gradually in that direction.
“Well,” Stratos beamed. “Thank you! Miss Mary. Now, Nostrum, come take me to your laptop!”
“Let’s go,” Rogan said.
The young camper rushed out of the back seat of the SUV and placed a bag of corn meal and a box of 9mm ammunition at Miss Mary’s feet.
Miss Mary nodded.
“That’s good. Listen, boy,” she said addressing Stratos. “You talk funny, so take care of yourself and stay with these friends of yours.”
“I will, Miss Mary,” Stratos beamed. “Thank you so much!”
“You all watch out for Loularoo,” Miss Mary’s brother said. “You watch out for Loularoo.”
“Yeah,” Miss Mary said. “Don’t let Loularoo catch you.”

“Good to see you again, Mr. Stratos!”
“You too, Mr. Nostrum. Lets go see your laptop. I have some ideas about what this is all about.”
Stephanie looked over the seat back at the two men. She smirked.
“Stratos, Nostrum. You’ve got to be kidding.”
Stratos smiled good naturedly, but Nostrum merely stared back at her.
“Do we have far to go?” Stratos said.
“Not far, but it will seem like forever,” Rogan said back.
They drove out of Fifeville, down McIntire, west on the Bypass, to Hydraulic, then north on 29, swerving to avoid debris, abandoned cars, and burning tires. They traveled at a moderate speed, the wagon following closely behind the SUV, all eyes scanning in all directions. It was a bright cool day, yet they drove with the windows open, gun barrels protruding. They passed through a trash-strewn landscape populated by wandering people, some out in the roadway, slow to move out of the way. That was the danger, stopping for an ambush. Rogan actually hit a man, knocking him a good 20 feet sideways. Everyone in both vehicles tensed, waiting for a trap to be sprung. Back in the wagon Pete muttered, “Don’t slow down, don’t slow down.”
They steered a zig-zag course up the four lanes of Rt. 29. The lanes contracted to two. They slowed to a crawl, inching around downed trees and burnt out vehicles. On both sides of the road columns of smoke arose from burning homes.
At the Forest Lakes South entrance they came to a halt. The roadway was blocked by vehicles. Armed people appeared behind cover on all sides.
“Okay,” Rogan said. “We can reverse course and head back towards Charlottesville.”
“I don’t think so,” Stephanie said, gesturing to their rear where a vehicle rolled in to block them from behind.
“We can try crossing the medium strip and maybe get stuck in a ditch and shot up,” Rogan said. “What do you think?”
“Even if we make it across, Pete’s wagon won’t,” Stephanie said.
“What have you for me?” came a musical voice.
“Who’s that?” a camper in the back seat of the Volvo said. “That’s an accent like that Stratos guy.”
“Your journey ends here,” came the voice. “Unless you give me half your firearms, ammunition, all your medical supplies, and your large vehicle.”
“Geeze,” Stephanie said. “Why not demand our underwear too?”
A shot rang out and a divot appeared in the pavement in front of the SUV.
“Times up!”
Nostrum and Stratos sat frozen.
Rogan got out of the SUV, hands held high over his head, and started walking towards the voice.
“I’m not armed,” he called, as he approached a pile of debris at the entrance to the subdivision.
Onto the pile rose up a striking woman with flaming red hair and an axe.
“Are you Loularoo?” Rogan asked.
“I’m Louise the Red, and you’re in trouble.”
“We’re not the enemy,” Rogan said.
“I don’t care. In a moment I’ll take both your vehicles.”
Stephanie stepped up beside Rogan.
“We’re not the enemy, but they are,” she said, pointing straight up towards the heavens.
There, at an extreme altitude, so high it was just a hazy patch in the sky, floated a long irregular rectangular shape.
Rogan and Stephanie advanced towards the pile of debris.
“Would you like to talk about how that thing is both our enemy?”
The woman shook a necklace at them, a necklace of short crooked stick-like objects.
“You’re still going to give me something!”
“Are those what I think they are, hanging around her neck?” Rogan said.
“Shit,” Stephanie spat. “That’s what we get for coming to craphole Charlottesville.”

I hope you enjoy these latest chapters of my “Anomaloscity” series.
Anomalosity VI

“That’s a most interesting name you have, Mr. Nostrum.”
The older man kept up a good-natured chatter, shouting to make himself heard above the clatter and drone of the ancient DC 3.
Nostrum laughed.
“That’s a pen name, an avatar.”
“How did you come by it?”
“Early in my career somebody complained that an article I wrote was so boring he fell asleep while reading it. So I adopted his criticism as a name. My real name is Henry Albert.
“That is also a good name, Mr. Nostrum. A little pedestrian, perhaps. But Nostrum, that name, attached to a globe trotting journalist, speaks of adventure.”
Their seat belts strained against their laps as turbulence dropped their plane a sudden hundred feet. The old man smiled grimly, regaining his composure.
“You know they brought this old girl out of retirement from an air museum and pressed her back into service.” The older man forced a smile. “Do you think she’ll make it?”
“If she doesn’t,” Nostrum said, “we won’t be the last to know.”
The cockpit cabin door opened and the flight engineer stuck his head out.
“Listen up, folks!” he yelled, and the 24 passengers leaned forward to hear him above the racket of the tossing aircraft. “We’re going to divert around a large storm front. We’ll be landing in Charlottesville, Virginia, instead of at Reagan National. Sorry for the delay and we hope you can complete your journey.”

* * *

“What’s this?” Rogan asked the sheriff’s deputy.
“It’s an old fashion facsimile.”
“It’s all blurry.”
“That’s how they’re like.”
“What is it?”
The deputy drew a faint line around a heavily shaded area.
“That’s a sea monster. It came ashore at Sandbridge. It was still alive, but its flesh was rotting off. Within hours people were getting sick and dying.”
“That’s what happened in Sweden,” Nostrum said. “They controlled it by cordoning off a whole university town. They shot people who tried to get out.”
“That’s what’s happening around Sandbridge,” the deputy said.
“They’re shooting everyone?” Jason asked.
“No,” the deputy said. “Just people trying to get out.”
Jason snorted.
“And the lesson is don’t touch strange animals, don’t touch people who touched strange animals, and don’t touch the people who have touched the people who have touched strange animals.”
The four sat beneath a colorful marquis in the center of the Dogwood Valley camp.
“Hey, look what I’ve got,” the deputy said, passing around a crumpled pack of cigarettes. They all took one and lit up.
Jason took a glass flask from his pants pocket and passed it around. They all took a pull on it.
“You have a talking computer,” Nostrum said, a little disoriented by the liquor and cigarette.
Rogan beckoned a young boy and sent him off running. A few minutes later a young woman with long brown hair and wearing a bulky sweater approached, a laptop under her arm.
“You have one of those for me, deputy?” she said.
The deputy smiled and shook a cigarette out of the pack for her.
“This is Steph,” Rogan said to Nostrum. “She’s been exploring this computer personality with the boy who belongs to this laptop.”
“What are you finding?” Nostrum asked her. “Is this some voice recognition program that responds to a speaker?”
“Nothing of the sort. And who are you?” Stephanie said.
“My name is Nostrum. I’m a journalist. I’ve been following the events that have been happening everywhere.”
“Nostrum? A one name person? Are you kidding?”
“Steph…” Jason said. “Tell us about Am Here.”
Stephanie smirked, considering Nostrum darkly.
“Am Here?” Nostrum said. “Is that your name for the program?”
“It’s no program, dufus,” Stephanie said. “It’s just there. It responds to us, but not always logically. Or at least not logic we understand.”
“What are you asking it?” Rogan asked.
“We’re asking it about itself. And it says it wants to end. And then it shows a motion image of a bleak terrain with a strange figure that walks onto the scene, shakes, and then drops out of sight. We believe that is meant to be a visual representation of AM Here.”
“Does it answer to anything else?”
“Eddy gets more from it.”
“Like what?” Rogan asked.
“It’s a bit of a story, but it seems to be saying we’re being displaced.”
“What does that mean?” Jason said.
“I’m not sure,” Stephanie said. “But it doesn’t sound good.”

* * *

Later that day Rogan, Nostrum and Stephanie sat under the marquis with Eddy and his computer. Metal camp ware was scattered on the ground about them. They passed around a pack of cigarettes and a metal flask.
“None for you, Eddy,” Rogan said. “What do you make of Am Here?”
“He’s my friend.”
“He told me to run when that cylinder thing came after us. He was running too.”
“Running from what?” Stephanie asked. She had become close to Eddy.
“Running from his crew.”
“Who or what are his crew, and did they want to hurt Am Here?” she asked.
“No,” Eddy said, shifting uncomfortably in the company of the adults. “They want him back in the crew.”
“And what does he want? Why is he running?” Stephanie asked.
“He wants to die.”
The adults looked from one to another.
“Eddy,” Nostrum said. “How does something in your computer kill itself?”
“It needs help,” Eddy said. “It sorta needs to be shorted out.”
A commotion from the north side of camp attracted their attention.
“Hey, look what we got, folks!”
Pete ran excitedly into camp, waving wildly. Behind him four foragers, two at each end of a stout pole, carried a beast-like creature, hanging by its bound paws.
“Oh, crap,” Nostrum said.
“What?” Rogan asked.
“Anyone who comes in contact with that animal is going to die!”
“Why?” said Stephanie.
“The die-offs! What we were talking about just this morning.”
“We’ve come into contact with these things before. No harm, except for when they get their teeth into you.”
Nostrum settled back into his chair.
“The places where people have come into contact with the sea creatures. Some organism in it kills us, quickly and agonizingly.”
“Well these bad boys aren’t so bad,” Jason said.
` “Look at it,” Nostrum marveled. “What kind of animal is it?”
It was 11 feet long when stretched out, from short tail to long pointed snout. It’s body was covered in short thick gray hair with dark streaks down the ribs and spine. The ears were short and pointed. The teeth weren’t individual teeth but ridges, thick at the base and cruelly sharp along the jagged edge.
“Eddy,” Stephanie said. “Let’s ask Am Here about this animal.”
Eddy opened the laptop. The screen leaped to life with tossing geometric shapes.
“Am Here, what’s this animal?” Eddy asked.
The screen grew quiet. Images emerged, what looked like a humanoid child, oddly featured, face and head smooth except for divots that might have been eyes and mouth. The limbs seemed unnaturally abbreviated and flattened. Into the image came the head of the animal. It picked up the figure in its jaws and moved off the screen.
Stephanie picked up the flask, took a pull on it, and snorted a chuckle.
“I get it.”

Anomalosity V

Okay, it’s been a couple months since I’ve added to this blog.  This is the fifth installment of my Anomalosity series.  Soon, in the next installment, our jounalist character arrives in the Charlottesville area.  But for now, a new meeting with Stratos in Harwich, England, and our little friend Eddy is brought to a survivor’s camp in the Dogwood Valley up in Greene County.


Anomalosity V 

The seas were rolling, long green swells with barely a whitecap. Harwich was in sight. Nostrum stood in the bows of the lively schooner. A hissing bow wave threw spray over the railings. It was invigorating. He felt alive. He needed this cleansing. The past weeks had been a depressing descent into chaos.

The crew shortened sail as they entered Harwich Harbor. The schooner’s action calmed, but people back in the cockpit were green, and their vomit swirled in the scuppers. This was a small schooner, barely 40 feet along the waterline, and not a vessel for landlubbers to brave the seas on.

The captain started the engine and for the last few minutes of their voyage they motored to the docks. Nostrum shook hands with the captain and the two man crew as he debarked, and headed quickly towards the city’s business district a short distance away. People were out and about. The city had the appearance of normalcy, but it could not have been normal. He attributed it to British ‘stiff upper lip’.

He came to the building that housed U.C.U.E., but before the door stood an armed guard.

“Your business?” the guard said in a quiet but direct manner. He wore a uniform of sorts, the name of the security company on a patch on his right shoulder: ‘Security Systems Ltd.’ He was also armed: a holstered automatic pistol on his right hip, and an FN sub-machine gun hanging by a lanyard under his right arm.

“I’m here to see Mr. Stratos.”

“No one by that name here,” the guard said.

“I met him here, in his office, not long ago. He doesn’t expect me, but it is important that I see him.”

The guard looked Nostrum up and down.

“What’s in that bag?”

“My personal belongings. Look, I know Mr. Stratos has an office here.”

“I think you should empty that bag onto the walk, sir.”

“I won’t. Let me in. I know Mr. Stratos has an office here.”

The muzzle of the sub-machine gun rose to point at Nostrum’s groin.

“I think you will.”

Nostrum stood still. The guard leaned his face towards a microphone attached to his left shoulder and spoke softly into it. The muzzle of the sub-machine gun rose to Nostrum’s chin. Both men stood still, staring hard at each other.

It seemed a long time, long enough for Nostrum to think that if this were his end, it wasn’t so bad, not as bad as many an end he had seen these past weeks.

The glass door behind the guard opened.

“Mr. Nostrum. I wasn’t expecting you.” It was Stratos, looking tired and worn. “I didn’t think I’d be seeing you again.”

“Forever’s a short time. I went to that place to meet your acquaintance… ”

“No need to hide our movements now, Mr. Nostrum,” Stratos interrupted. “As you say, things have changed drastically in just a short while. Will you let Mr. Nostrum through?” Stratos said to the guard.

With reluctance that the guard lowered the gun, then stepped aside so Nostrum could enter the building. Nostrum breathed a sigh of relieve.

They walked through the lobby and headed for the stairs.

“That ‘guard’ said there was no one by your name here.”

“Well, he was either being protective or he just didn’t know. They have a head quarters nearby. He must have radioed there. They keep a list of names of who belongs where.”

“He doesn’t look official to me.”

“He’s not. Just someone who was briefly trained and armed. Those like him are dangerous pumped up little men who think much of themselves. There’s not enough police, so the municipalities have resorted to this.”

“What’s happening?” Nostrum asked.

“The need to keep order, to keep things from breaking down. So far most seem to be minding their Ps and Qs, but there has been trouble. More frequently now. You hear sirens all the time and occasional gunfire.”

They quickly ascended stairs and entered onto the U.C.U.E. floor. It was dim, the offices lit only by daylight.

“We’re a bit handicapped, you know. We only have electricity a few hours a day. Who knows how long that will last. But until that time we still have occasional use of some computers and shortwave radio.”

“So what is it you hear?”

“You first, Mr. Nostrum. What have you heard? What have you seen?”

“On the continent, there are safe and orderly places, and then there are places that have broken down. Gangs roam streets. Villages and homes pillaged. And then the anomalies, the news of strange animals, UFOs, alien-like humanoids.

“More sea monsters!” Stratos said.

“Yes, and apparently some aggressive land predators. I haven’t seen any yet myself. I did see bodies that were viciously torn up. I don’t know if that was dog work or something else.”

A murmur arose from the surrounding offices, and several staffers emerged into the hallway outside Stratos’ office.

“That’s the electricity gone off again,” Stratos said. “Well, my computer has some battery back up. Come see what I think is causing the damage you saw on those bodies.”

He turned the screen to face Nostrum and opened an icon.

“This was taken by one of our associates in Germany.”

It was a picture, most likely taken with a cellphone, of an animal that was at the far end of a farm field. It was hard to tell its size, but it looked something like a long polar bear on short legs with a long snout.

“Here’s a picture that she took of its footprint. That’s her own foot next to it.”

“More than twice as long as her foot,” Nostrum said. “I’d like to see that animal close up.”

“Safer seen through a telescope,” Stratos said.

“What do you think it is, and where did it come from from?”

“Maybe that’s what we should talk about,” Stratos said.

“Your acquaintance in Finland showed me pictures of a sea creature, the one that apparently wrecked that fishing boat. It resembled a masosaur, a prehistoric sea reptile. Then there’s the die-offs in some places, the break down of society in others…

What is going on?” Nostrum asked.

Stratos turned off the computer and remained silent in thought a moment. The distant crack of gunfire seemed to rouse him.

“Maybe this is way off in Dr. Who’s universe, but I think we’re seeing an alien invasion.”

“I don’t think you’re off base, Mr. Stratos. I’ve wondered the same myself. Your acquaintance in Sweden is convinced the strange body that was found washed up on the beach was alien. What became of the body? Who took it? Has it been autopsied?”

“We don’t know. But here’s my initial theory, subject to change as we learn more. I think we are being invaded, or perhaps more accurately said, absorbed. The intelligence behind this invasion has disrupted major networks: electricity and internet, transportation and distribution. We still have some ability. We can still use generators. Some of our computers still work. Some of our earlier model vehicles work. Some ships are operable, the older ships. Older aircraft work. It’s seems that electronic systems built after a certain time don’t work.”

“Have you had news from the States?”

“Not a lot. None of their media is working. What we get are short wave broadcasts from the amateur network. We listen in. It’s mostly members reporting to other members what is happening in their various districts.”

“And what’s the buzz?” Nostrum asked.

“Much like here. A break down of order in some places. Food is the biggest issue, and shelter, as winter is approaching. Medical attention. People of our time don’t keep stockpiles food and medicine. And unless they have a fireplace, they get cold when the electricity goes off. It doesn’t take long for people to get desperate, and the government can’t supply their needs.”

“I need to get back there. Can you recommend a means for me to do that.”

“Good luck to you there, Mr. Nostrum,” Stratos said with a sad smile. “Take care of your self.”

“What’s his story,” Rogan asked.

“The foragers came across him. He was on foot. He’s a mess.”

Rogan reached into the pocket of his jacket and pulled out a small Albemarle pippin apple. “Can I give you this,” Rogan asked.

Eddy looked up at him, his hazel eyes watery and dumb. He was maybe 14 or 15, skinny, dirty, with a dusting of chin fuzz.

“When did you last eat?” Rogan asked.

Eddy’s eyes slid away.

“I don’t know,” he said in a whisper.

“Here, take this.”

Eddy took the pippin and looked at it a few moments. Then he pushed the apple between his lips and took a bite. It was juicy and sweet. The taste woke something in him, and he greedily bit at the apple, the best gift that had ever been given him. Jason gave him a water bottle. Eddy drank with sloshing gulps, his eyes rolling from Jason to Rogan, and then he started panting, tears rolling down his cheeks.

“You’re safe here. You’re going to be okay.”

Eddy shook his head.

“I’ve seen it. I’ve seen what it does. We’re not safe. No one is safe.”

“What’d you see, boy?” Rogan asked.

But Eddy became quiet again, eyes observing his surroundings.

This place was impermanent. A high meadow surrounded by trees. Tents were set up in rows with an avenue between. There were vehicles too: cars, jeeps and trucks. And pairs of people, both men and women, walking around the edges of the field.

“Eddy Shifflet! Eddy Shifflet! How’d you get here, boy?”

It was Corbit Morris, a boy Eddy knew from school but wasn’t really friends with.

“Don’t know,” Eddy said.

“Foragers found him and brought him in,” Rogan said. “Corbit, why don’t you show Eddy around the camp, get him oriented.”

“Sure,” Corbit said. “C’mon, Eddy. Let me show you around. This is home for a while.”

Eddy handed the water bottle to Jason and got up to follow Corbit. It was hard. Tears ran down his face and he struggled to keep from whimpering.

“You look rough, Eddy. Where’s your folks?”

Eddy couldn’t find the words. His mouth worked but no words came out.

“Are they still around, Eddy?”

Eddy couldn’t answer.

“Mine aren’t. Things happened. We got separated. I went back to find them. But they were dead. They were all tore up. I threw some dirt over them.” Corbit’s voice grew weaker. “Nobody believes me. No one’s ever seen dogs do that. No one’s ever seen bears do that. They were in pieces.”

Eddy swiped a hand across his eyes and turned to look at Corbit.

“They didn’t just have small holes shot through them?”

“No. They were in pieces. Tore up. My dad, my mom, my little sister. I should’a been tore up too, but we got separated. I went over a hill to see what was there. I heard this commotion and screaming. When I got back there they were all in pieces. I threw some dirt over them and ran. I was afraid.”

“I was afraid too,” Eddy said. “I saw it. The thing that got my ma. It wasn’t very big. Just a metal pipe looking thing on wiry legs. It shot out a laser beam or something. It made a noise. It nearly got me. I got in the car and ran. But the car broke down so I ran on foot.”

Corbit didn’t seem like he had in school, sort of a mean punk. Eddy poked him with an elbow and gestured about.

“How does all this work? It looks like most people are doing somethin’.”

“Yeah, everyone has a job. No loafers. Unless you’re sick or hurt.”

“Who runs it?” Eddy asked.

“Rogan, Jason and a couple others. They’re like bosses. Everyone has somethin’ to do: searchin’ for food and stuff, keepin’ lookout, and keepin’ the camp in order. Watch out you don’t get picked to dig latrines. Oh, man, we’ve all had to do a shift on that, and it ain’t fun..”

“I haven’t seen people walking around with guns,” Eddy said.

“Oh, there’s guns. The bosses don’t want people walking around the camp with guns, but a lot of people have them. The people walkin’ on lookout, they always have guns.”

“Where are we?”

“We’re in the Dogwood Valley. How’d you get here?” Corbit asked.

“I’m not sure.” Eddy laughed. “I must have been wandering around awhile.” Eddy became quiet for a moment. “I thought the world was coming to an end, but Am Here said it’s being changed. I don’t know what he means. But then these guys came along in that jeep. They were looking for underground tanks to get gas from.”

“Yeah, we have an old tanker truck they got working. We can use it to get gas and haul it back here.” Corbit’s face screwed up a bit. “Who’s ‘Am Here’?”

Eddy kept walking along as though nothing strange had passed between the two boys. “Am Here talks to me from my computer. I don’t know how he got on it, but he’s in there.”

“In your computer.”

“Yeah. He’s runnin’ away too. I think that’s how that metal thing came to find us. It killed my mom and her boyfriend. Nearly killed me too.”

Corbit walked along a while before saying, “I think you need to talk to Rogan and Jason and the others.”

” There’s still a lot of people in their homes,” Rogan said. “But as they come to us for protection, we have more need. Our hunters have pretty much cleaned out the surrounding area of game. Pete has his folks out looking for anything in the woods and fields edible. A couple ladies in his band are naturalists. They’ve been a blessing. So far the meals have been pretty good. But winter’s coming on and we’re going to be hard put to feed everyone.”

“We’re stockpiling canned goods and packaged products that we come across,” Jason said. “It’s enough to hold us a few weeks.”

“We have to find more,” Rogan said. “We need the foragers to go through homes we find abandoned and hope we don’t run into someone hiding with a gun.”

“We’re getting it down. So far no conflicts,” Jason said. “But we have to go further afield. The supermarkets in Stanardsville and Ruckersville are cleaned out of everything. We’ve gone into a few rural markets. We picked up a lot in a basement storage area that got overlooked. Tinned meats and fish, some canned vegetables. Some sacks of concrete. We can use that to build a cook stove. Be a lot better than an open fire.”

“Should we venture into the Charlottesville area?” Rogan asked. “I expect all the markets there will be cleaned out, and Big Lots and the Dollar Store too. But if we go into the edges of the city there’s bound to be homes that have things we can use.”

“We’ll be seen as looters. I think it’s too dangerous right now. In another few weeks when things really break down, we may have a better chance of getting in and getting out without much trouble.”

“By then those homes will be cleaned out good,” Rogan said. “We’ll be reduced to harvesting squirrels and whatever small game we can find.”

“Not so bad,” Jason said. “The cook squad does a pretty good job making up the daily stew. We won’t get tired of it. We’re getting hungry.”

Several people came running up. A tall lean woman with light brown hair and piercing brown eyes interrupted them.

“There’s something strange over on the north side of the camp.”

“What?” Rogan asked.

“We don’t know. Never seen anything like it. It’s like a metal thing standing on wires, a few feet long and a foot off the ground.”

“Sounds like a car muffler,” Jason offered, laughing. “Maybe we can use it.”

“I don’t think so,” the woman said. “We’re walking our section of the perimeter and it wasn’t there 20 minutes ago.”

“Someone put it there to freak you out,” Rogan said.

“Well, then, it’s working. Please, let’s go take a look.”

They’re crossing the camp with a purpose drew other campers after them to see what was up. Jason waved them back, but they followed anyway.

“There it is,” the woman said, as they arrived at the north edge of the camp.

“Yeah, and it’s moved since we first saw it,” said a companion of hers, a skinny man with chin whiskers and a strong rural accent.

“It has moved!” the woman exclaimed.

“Let’s take a look,” Rogan said.

He and Jason started towards the strange cylinder, but the others held back. Jason looked back and saw the fear on their faces. Everything that had happen over the past couple months had strained everyone beyond their experience, except maybe for the actual combat veterans in their clan.

“Come on,” Jason said. “Let’s check this out. It’s not a flying saucer or anything.”

They approached the object, but when within fifteen feet of it, it moved suddenly on its spindly metal legs and pointed itself at Jason. They stopped.

“Okay,” Rogan said. “Let’s back off and see what it does. Maybe this is something the military has to gather intelligence.”

“Maybe,” Jason said. “Wouldn’t it have some kind of markings on it?”

“Yeah, maybe,” Rogan said. “Let’s back off slowly.”

When they had reached the group that followed them Rogan turned to address them.

“Haven’t a clue what this is, but it’s animate and seems to react to us, so let’s not get close until we figure it out.”

At that moment a teenager in that group picked up a rock and with surprising accuracy hurled it at the cylinder. It struck it with a dull clang. The cylinder turned slightly to point at the boy and emitted a crackling beam of light that struck straight through him. He stood motionless, a pained look of surprise on his face, whisps of smoke curling upwards from the holes in his abdomen and back. Two men grabbed him by the arms and started running in the opposite direction. Then, with a strange dancing motion, the cylinder pivoted and shot crackling beams into the group. Screams and havoc seized them. They ran away, leaving behind three people lying on the ground. Then on crazily walking legs the cylinder started moving towards the center of the camp.

Everyone was running in different directions, trying to escape. Rogan headed straight back into the camp, waving his arms in prearranged signals at two people up on a platform in a tree. A young woman who had been watching the scene below leveled her Barrett .50 caliber sniper rifle at the cylinder. It was a straight line of sight shot, the target much closer than the usually anticipated enemy. She fired, hitting the cylinder squarely in its middle. It staggered and tipped over, its spindly legs wagging wildly. She fired again. And again. And again. The big .50 caliber rounds finally tore a hole into the cylinder. It lay still.

Rogan and several others came back cautiously. Seven people were down, some not moving.

The cylinder was impacted with dents, and where a round had penetrated it, a florescent slime with tendrils of silver oozed out.

“You think it’s dead?” Jason asked.

“Does something like this die?” Rogan said. What is it?”

There came a thin wailing. Rogan looked around expecting to find more injuries. Instead he saw Corbit waving excitedly. Curled up on the ground beside him was Eddy, his hands covering his face.

“What’s going on, Corbit?” Rogan shouted, his voice strained.

“He says he knows what this is,” Corbit answered.

“Let me talk to the boys,” Rogan said, not willing to dismiss anything in this new age, and wanting for a moment to escape the need to make sense of this and give directions. “You want to poke around on that thing? Maybe get a couple UVA eggheads to help you?”

“Sure,” Jason said.

Rogan walked over to the boys.

“What’s this about, Corbit?”

“Eddy says something on his laptop talks to him, telling him what’s going on.”

“What’s this about, Eddy? You even have a computer that’s working?”

Eddy stayed curled up on the ground, whining softly. Corbit opened Eddy’s backpack and drew out the laptop with its cord and solar panel. He opened it and turned it on. Rogan knelt by the boys, breathing deeply, trying to collect his thoughts. He heard the medical people talking amongst themselves as they moved among the injured, and the camp defense team was deploying. They’d have some warning if attacked again, but by what? It used to be pillagers and gangs. But now, robots? Dept. of Defense killer robots? The stress of these past weeks weighed solidly on him. How he wished he could just be one of the campers, attending to simple tasks and worrying only about the next meal.

The laptop booted up.

“Come on, Eddy. I believe you,” Corbit said. “Show me what you’re talking about.”

He gently slipped a hand beneath Eddy’s shoulder and lifted.

Eddy sat up, wiping grimy hands across his face. He tapped a few keys and the screen opened up into a swirling multi-dimensional display. Rogan and Corbit both caught their breath. And then a thin electronic voice started to speak.




I’ve continued my Anomalosity Series of stories.  You will find “Anomolosity IV” posted below.  My fellow peeps from the Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror, Speculative Fiction Writers Group really liked this one.  I hope you do too!





Anomalosity IV


“Eddy!” his mother yelled. Go get some firewood. It’s getting cold in here!”

“All right, all right,” Eddy yelled.

A week had gone by since the black out. Power grids around the world were still down. Most people were still in the dark. The internet wasn’t working. There was some radio and television transmissions to receive for those who had batteries and generators. For those who knew, Eddy’s family for one, school was open half days, powered by generators. But not for long, once the fuel ran out and who knew when there’d be a refill.

Eddy filled the canvass sling with a half dozen pieces of firewood and struggled it to a place next to the wood stove. His immense mother, with alacrity belying her size, waddled over, chucked a couple pieces into the stove and clanged its door shut.

Eddy ran upstairs to his bedroom. He opened his laptop, which he kept powered by a solar panel connected to a device that allowed him to recharge its battery. Eddy was clever that way. He was good with electronic devices. He had recovered some of his computer games, although his favorite on-line game was inaccessible. And he had a tab where he met and talked to “Am Here”.

“Who are you, Am Here?” he keyed.

“Am Here,” came the response.

“I know that, I know that. You always say that. But you are some program someone put on my computer, aren’t you? Some bit of malware.”

“No,” came Am Here’s response on the center of the laptop screen.

“You have to be, Am Here. Listen, it’s fun pretending I’m talking to someone, but I’m not some stupid redneck.”

“Yes,” Am Here wrote.

“Okay, smart ass. Tell me something about something we haven’t talked about.”

“Power gone.”

“No shit, Sherlock. Tell me something you don’t have from my computer.”

“Power gone everywhere.”

“Where everywhere?” Eddy demanded.


Eddy sat back to think. Over the past week Am Here had grown more verbal. A program could capture that from what was on the laptop and from their interactions. But knowledge beyond that?

“Am Here, where are you from?”

“Not here.”


“Not earth.”

“Do you communicate with others like we do?”

No response came across the screen.

“How do you talk to others, Am Here?”

The screen filled with multi-colored bites and dashes that flowed rapidly left to right.

“Am Here, show me an image of where you came from.”

The screen faded to gray fuzz, then emerged a nocturnal-like image of a craggy landscape, but the cragginess had order, like someone without imagination had pushed together geometric shapes. Something moved. At first it looked like part of the landscape was moving, but then emerged a strange figure; human-shaped but with huge hands and feet. Others like it followed.

“Am Here, what is that?”

The words “Am Here” appeared over the scene.

The figure came to a stop. It vibrated violently side to side, then dropped vertically, like a hole had opened beneath it.

“What was that? What just happened?”

“Am Here change.”

“Change? How change? What change?”

“Eddy!” his mother yelled “What are you doing with the car? Get that crap off there!”

Eddy got up from his desk and went to the bedroom window. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary in their front yard: an old beat up Nissan quarter ton pick up, an engine block, a few worn tires, and an old rusted out fifty gallon drum that they used to burn trash in. He picked out the ’98 Ford Taurus but didn’t see anything amiss.

“What you talkin’ bout, Ma? I don’t see anything.”

“That piece of crap on the hood! Go get it off there!”

He looked hard and finally saw an odd thing on the hood: a cylinder like thing held up by thin bent rods.

“I don’t know what that is, Ma! I didn’t put it there.”

“Don’t sass your Ma, Eddy!” his mother’s skinny live-in boyfriend yelled.

“I’m gonna take a bat to that thing, Eddy!!” she yelled angrily.

“Go nuts, Ma! I don’t care!”

“Don’t you sass your Ma, Eddy!” the boyfriend yelled.

Eddy watched his mother storm out of the house and advance on the family car, swinging the bat in a wind-up above her head. When she was within a few feet of the car her great bulk dropped to her knees.

Eddy looked on stunned. He didn’t see what had happened, but when his mother dropped, the thing on the car had moved. His mother leaned forward and swung the bat weakly onto the hood of the car. A beam of yellow light shot out from the cylinder with a crackling sound and pierced straight through Eddy’s mother’s head. His mother pitched forward face first onto the ground, her lower legs flopping up, then down.

“Racine! Racine!” the skinny boyfriend cried, running out of the house, raising a shotgun to his shoulder and shooting at the cylinder. It spun around crazily, the windshield behind it peppered with fractures, then it struggled aright. The boyfriend shouldered the shotgun again, but the cylinder emitted three crackling bursts of yellow beam. Eddy watched the boyfriend flop face first onto the ground, thin wisps of smoke rising from the back of his head and two places on his back.

For the moment the cylinder stayed put on the car hood. Quickly, Eddy tapped on the lap top keyboard.

“What’s this, Am Here?”

“Evacuate,” appeared on the screen.

“What’s this thing?” Eddy demanded.

“They come,” came a strange buzzing voice from the laptop’s speaker.

Eddy’s hands were shaking and his breath coming in short gasps. He plugged a mic into the laptop.

“Can you hear me, Am Here? Who’s they? Who’s coming?”

“Evacuate,” came the buzzing voice.

Eddy took a quick look out the window and saw the cylinder was gone from the car hood. He didn’t see it at all now.

He tossed the laptop and the solar panel in a backpack, swung it over one shoulder and ran downstairs. The cylinder was inside the back door, which had a large smoking hole burned through its lower half.

Eddy ran out the front door and jumped into the driver’s seat of the Taurus. He fumbled under the seat for the keys that were always there. His fingers slipped over them again and again, failing to grasp them. The key ring flipped over his knuckles and slipped further back under the seat.

“Damn, damn, damn, damn,” Eddy hissed.

He got out of the car to open the back door and reach under the seat from behind. His gaze passed over the obese form of his mother lying still just in front of the car’s bumper. Eddy whimpered. Further back lay the skinny boyfriend. And just behind him, in the front door of their home, stood the cylinder. It shot a crackling beam that pierced both open front and back doors of the car.

“Shit, shit, shit, shit!” Eddy hissed.

His little finger hooked the key ring. He jumped over the front seat and tried the insert the ignition key, fumbling with the key fob and ornaments his mother had decorated the ring with. It fell to the floor and he reached down to retrieve it. There came a loud staccato crackling. Closely spaced dime-sized holes punctured the windshield above Eddy’s head. He stayed low and managed to insert the key into the ignition.

“Please start, please start, please start,” he hissed.

With a jolt the Taurus’s engine turned over in a rattling rumble and a cloud of blue smoke. He moved the gearshift to drive and stomped on the accelerator. For a moment nothing happened. Then the car lurched forward with a crunching of gravel and a bump as it ran over the body of Eddy’s mother. Eddy swung the wheel tightly, steering the car in a circle away from the house and down the rutted gravel drive. Again the crackling, and again more holes appeared in the windshield, roof and seat back.

“Come one, come on, come on, come one,” he yelled.

In the rear view mirror he saw the cylinder racing after him on its spindly legs. It moved fast, but the Taurus was faster, provided it didn’t get disabled. At that moment he felt the left rear of the car slump as a tire went flat. Eddy kept the accelerator to the floor, swinging the wheel back and forth against the swinging rear end of the car.

“Come on, come on, come on, come on! Don’t quit! Don’t quit!”

Eddy hazarded a quick look at the rear view mirror. The cylinder was falling further behind. It flashed a yellow beam and the rear view mirror crumpled and fell to the floor.

“Am Here! Can you hear me? Am Here!” Eddy screamed, tears running down his face.

“Evacuate,” came a buzzing voice from the backpack.





The Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Speculative Writers Group hosted a Public Reading at Writer House last night.  This was the fourth Public Reading this group has done since its begining 2 or so years ago.  The previous Readings have always been well attended, but the threat of Hurricane Sandy seems to have kept many people at home last night.  We did have a small group of listeners.  The stories were good.  We also had wine and gruesome goodies to snack on during the intermission.  It was a fun night.  I wish you could have been there.

Posted below is the story I read last night.  I though it would be fun to create a spooky story around WriterHouse itself.  In fact the three women mentioned in the story are actually connected to WriterHouse.  My apologies to those I killed and maimed in this piece.

House of Writer House


Salon of the Dead


“Hey, Moaner! Look at this! Where the dirt’s fallen away. There’s a brick wall.”

The slab face city worker, nicknamed for his penchant for complaining, stood with his arms crossed, looking down into the utility trench they were digging.

“So what? It’s a foundation,” Moaner said.

“No it’s not! Look. These are old bricks.”

With a huff, Moaner unfolded his arms and lowered himself into the trench.

“Hey, you’re right. These are old bricks. You can scrape the mortar out with your fingernail.”

Moaner pulled out a pocket knife and started digging at the mortar around several bricks. Soon he wriggled one free.

“Get me a flashlight from the truck,” he ordered. In a moment one was tossed to him. “It’s hollow back there. Like a cave. Looks like it goes back under that building. Phew! What a stink! Hey, Moose! Call back to the yard and ask if there’s a basement under 508 Dale Avenue. There shouldn’t be.”

Two hours later the drone of a powerful ventilator fan could be heard from blocks away, and the buildings around 508 Dale Avenue had been evacuated. The large flexible duct guiding the flow from the fan into the underground chambers writhed like an animal alive. Workers in the trench and in the underground passages wore hazmat suits. Spark precautions were taken because the venting noxious atmosphere might be explosive.

Two hazmat suited responders with powerful LED lights slowly explored the warren of passages beneath 508 Dale Avenue.

“Look at this,” one said. “Looks like some sort of kitchen area.” With a probe he touched an open tin of sardines. “Look at this tin. These might have been canned back in the 1950s.”

Indeed, the labeling appeared antique. The responder pushed the tin with his probe, and a cockroach ran out from beneath it and disappeared down the side of the crude shelf. An old percolator coffee pot sat on a gas burner connected by a rubber hose to an old gas line. Stacked wooden crates housed an assortment of old cans, sacks and boxes, all faded and dingy.

“Look over here,” the second responder said. He shown his light into a different chamber. “Looks like some sort of sleeping quarters.”

There was a pallet on the earthen floor, a dark bundle that may have served as a pillow and a filthy rug-like thing that may have been a blanket.

“You know,” the first responder said. “Even in this suit I can feel the stink.”

“C’mon. This passage continues.”

Slowly they made their way down a brick lined passage. It opened into a chamber where their lamplight whirled a kaleidoscope of horror. Three bodies sat on wooden boxes around a makeshift table. One was skeletal. The second was shriveled, mummy-like except for slimy skin. The third corpse was not long dead, just beginning to drip fluids onto the earth floor beneath its seat. Also beneath its seat was an object. One of the responders knelt and poked it with the probe.

“It’s a wallet.”

“Can you see identification,” the other said.

“Yes,” he said, pivoting slightly to shine his light onto the plastic cardholder. “It belongs to a ‘Clifford Garstang’.”

“Look at this,” the other said.

He aimed his light onto the tabletop. In front of the vacant seat was a piece of paper bag. Written on it in fine script: ‘Welcome to the Artist’s Salon’.

“Looks like someone was expecting a new guest.”

A brick in the chamber wall pulled away. A pair of yellow eyes stared out onto the scene.

Several days later at WriterHouse, three members gathered to talk.

“Oh, My God!” Chelsea said. “I can’t believe that!”

“It’s true,” Rachel said. “The body had identification and the family confirmed it.”

“And he was in a room beneath WriterHouse?”

“Yes. There’s a maze of passages beneath us. One of those rooms was set up like a Salon with table and chairs and bodies sitting around it — a vacant place with an invitation.”

“Has Cliff been missing long?”

“Not long,” Rachel replied sadly. “He missed a couple classes he was teaching. We couldn’t get in touch with him. It was odd. Cliff just wouldn’t stand up students.”

Jennifer, who had been listening to the other two, said, “Whatever happened must have happened right here. Someone came in while the door was unlocked.”

There came a sudden clatter from the kitchen. The three women jumped with alarm. They were the only ones in the building. Then Chelsea laughed.

“I put too many dishes in the drainer. Something settled.”

They all laughed.

“I’m going home,” Chelsea said. “Don’t you two stay here long.”

She left the classroom where they had been talking. Rachel and Jennifer got busy organizing WriterHouse materials. They could hear Chelsea puttering around by the front desk.

Suddenly came a shriek! Rachel and Jennifer jumped with alarm and rushed into the main hall.

There, with huge skeletal-like hands around Chelsea’s throat, was a dark figure, tall, wearing some kind of knee-length covering. Rachel and Jennifer both screamed. It swung around, one huge hand still on Chelsea’s throat. Its face was long and dark with filth; yellow eyes, yellow teeth, and long stringy hair draped over narrow sharp shoulders.

With a flick of its wrist it smashed Chelsea’s head into a door jam — then it turned on Rachel and Jennifer. They retreated into the classroom.

Rachel fished around in her handbag. In a heartbeat Jennifer saw there would be no call to 911 — they were both dead. The creature swept in, just steps away from Rachel when she dropped her handbag, and in her hand, instead of a cell phone, was a .327 magnum.


She fired off all six rounds. The blasts froze both women in place. The creature stopped, a pained look about its liver dark lips. It spun and ran towards the kitchen, emitting a yowl that rattled the windows.

“Oh my God,” Jennifer whispered.

Rachel knelt, fished in her handbag, retrieved a speed loader, and quickly reloaded the revolver. She crept on hands and knees into the front hall, surveying the scene.

“I don’t see it,” she said.

Jennifer hopped over her and rushed to Chelsea.

“Oh my God, I think she’s hurt. I’m calling 911.”

Minutes later police and emergency responders were all over WriterHouse – and beneath it. Rachel and Jennifer sat in a classroom, facing a detective.

“Are you going to arrest me?” Rachel asked.

“No. We’ll have you come down to headquarters to make a statement and take more details, but we’re not going to arrest you. You have a permit.” The detective motioned to an officer who was drawing small circles on the floor around Rachel’s spent shell casings. “You weren’t firing blanks?”

“No. Self defense rounds,” Rachel said.

“We’re not finding any holes in the walls. You must have put every bullet into your target.”

“It was close, like from me to you.”

“That was brave,” the detective said.

“How’s Chelsea?”

“She was unconscious when they carried her out of here.”

“Have you found that thing?” Jennifer asked.

“We found a blood trail in one of the passages below this building. It leads to a way outside, but we loose it in the stream next to the railroad tracks. We need to get the dogs in to help. How this ‘person of interest’ ever fit through that tiny hatchway beneath the kitchen sink is beyond me. But until we do find him or her or whatever, I suggest you lock the doors here. It seems to have some affinity for members of your organization.”

Across Dale Avenue from Writerhouse, in a chamber deep beneath the York Building, sat a figure in deep despair, rocking back and forth on a dank and filthy pallet, in total darkness. In rejection, it cried. It cried for the loss of its Artists Salon. It cried with the healing of its many wounds. And it tasted amidst the bile leaking from its bowels the vengeance it bore for WriterHouse.