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Archive for May, 2013

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

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Anomaloscity VI

I hope you enjoy these latest chapters of my “Anomaloscity” series.
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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.”
“How?”
“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.”

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