Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Go F Yourself

A Short Story about Death
by Roger A Wilbanks


The crowd at Andy's was thin tonight and that suited Gary just fine. The fewer people he had to endure the better. He slipped into his spot near the ESPN TV and motioned for Angela.
“What'll it be tonight, Gar? The usual?” She slid a coaster in front of him.
“No. I want whiskey. The cheap stuff. From here..” he put his left hand down on the bar “ here.” His right hand landed 19 inches away from its mate.
“That's a lot of whiskey. Rough night?”
“Hope so.” he nodded.
Wanna talk about it?” She placed seven shot glasses in a row and began filling them.
“Yeah. Fuck Death.” Gary looked at her. All emotion was absent from his face. Angela saw a pain in his eyes that no small talk could salve and began placing the full glasses before their master.
“You don't have to say another word. I got you for these.” It was a gesture he had not expected. He nodded his thanks and picked up glass number one.
“To Craig.” He drained the contents in one gulp and picked up glass number two.
“You may want to take it a little slower than that.” The voice came from his left.
Gary turned and regarded the voice's owner. He saw a balding, middle aged gentleman with glasses looking back at him. The two could have been twins had the stranger sported as nice a goatee as Gary maintained.
I would say 'Who the fuck are you and why should I care what you think.' right now, but to be honest, I really don't even want to waste that time speaking to you. Piss off.” He drained glass two in a single draw.
You seem like a man in pain tonight.” the stranger offered.
“You don't know what pain is, fella...but if you keep talking to me, I might just show you.”
“A threat?” the stranger laughed. “I haven't heard one of those in a while. Thank you Gary.”
Gary stopped smiling and regarded the stranger anew. “How do you know my name?”
“I know a little more about you than just your name. Gary Kline. Born Oct 1971 in Cockrell Hill, TX. Son to Helen and Frank Kline, retired. You work in a dead end job as a salesman and you just lost a dear friend to suicide.”
Gary reached for an ashtray. It was the glass kind, heavy and sharp.
“Oh, you won't need THAT.” the stranger smiled. Gary looked at his wandering hand and put the ashtray back in its proper place.
“Who ARE you?” he asked.
“I'm not so much a WHO as a WHAT, Gary.”
The stranger's smile was nails dragging across a blackboard to Gary.
OK. I'll play. What are you, asshole.”
“I am eternal, I am the end. In as much words as necessary, Gary...I am Death.”
Gary understood the words but his mind refused to acknowledge them. He stared at his clean shaven doppelganger. As his gaze passed through their external sheen, he could see a vast expanse open beneath the surface of the stranger's eyes. He felt himself pulled as if by gravity towards these eyes. The stranger blinked, shaking Gary back from his stupor.
I understand.” he said.
“Good. That will make this easier.”
“Is time?”
Gary crinkled his eyebrows, visibly shaken.
“What are you doing here then?”
“I just claimed someone close to you. You took exception to this and, how did you put it? Suggested I 'Go Fuck Myself'.”
You're damned right I did. You had no right to take Craig. He was young. He had a family. People loved him.”
“I have every right, Gary. That's what I do. The cycle of life begins with birth but ends with me. It has for all time and will continue as such long after all of this...” he motioned generally at everything “ gone.”
“Forgive me for not being impressed.”
“Are you mocking me?” Death asked?
“Dunno. Does 'mock' imply some kind of mutual respect here? Cause I gotta tell you, I ain't particularly feeling that right now. This here?” He pointed into the space between the two, “This here is pure contempt, Jack.”
“I could draw the spark of life from your body with a thought.” Death bragged.
“Go ahead then, asshole I'm not scared of you.”
It was Death's turn to regard the man in front of him. Past the window of Gary's eyes, Death saw vile contempt.
“You truly have no fear of me.” Death said.
“I wonder. Is that wise? It seems, I don't know, self destructive somehow. Where is your sense of self preservation? Surely the drink hasn't robbed you of your faculties so soon?”
“No. These haven't hit me yet. That loathing you're feeling? That's my stone cold hatred of you. You took a good man today and I don't need to hear your “BIG PICTURE” “Greater Scheme of Things” bullshit right now.”
Gary picked up glass number three. “In fact, I really don't need anything from you.” He finished the shot in a blink.
Death put his elbows on the bar and clasped his fingers, resting his chin upon them as he took stock of this angry human before him. His eyes narrowed. “You have my interest, Gary. I haven't been able to say that about one of you in a long time.”
“So you're not going to claim me, and you're not going to give me back Craig. What is it you want?”
“I am interested in what you want, Gary. If you were given the ability to ask a favor of Death, I am curious what a person like YOU would ask for.”
Gary paused. This was an idea that had never crossed his mind.
“No need to answer now. We will meet again soon. You can tell me then.”
There was a loud crash in the street outside the bar. “I have other business to attend to presently.” Death tipped his trilby hat towards Gary and left the bar.
“Who is Craig?” Angela asked.
Gary blinked and looked at Angela. “What is that?” he asked.
“Was Craig a friend of yours?” she asked.
Gary looked at Angela and at the now empty seat next to him. “You didn't...?” he asked?
“I didn't.” she said. “Are you sure you're good with these?” she motioned to the other drinks.
“Yeah,” he said. “I just...I dunno. Did you see that guy?”
“Nope.” she said.
Gary realized that playing dumb was the safest bet at this point. “I just...yes. Craig was my friend and he died today.”
“Oh, I'm so sorry, hun!” she cried.
“No. It's... I just...I'm taking it a little harder than I maybe ought to, I guess.”
He finished the remaining shots.
“I'm taking a cab home.”
Angela waved him out of her bar and Gary went home for the evening with a lot to think about.

Gary splashed water from the sink onto his face. He saw his old friend in the mirror behind him.
“You've been expecting me.” he said.
You've been busy.” Gary answered.
“Busier than you could possibly fathom.”
“You're picking the wrong day for jokes. They were my parents.”
“Would it help to mention it was their time?”
“Not in the least. And don't you DARE drop that 'Well, at least they aren't suffering anymore.' line on me.” Gary spun to face Death “I will END you!” he roared.
Death smiled.
Gary punched his foe with all the strength he could manage, spinning his head around with a force he didn't think he had in him.
Death smiled as if the assault never happened. There wasn't a mark to be seen on his face.
“That should have broken your nose.” Gary glared.
It would likely have killed a man. You've been working out.”
“You're poking me again. I wish I had the power to make you regret that.”
“Is that the thing you would ask of me? The power to put me in my place?”
“No. What point would that make?” Gary laughed. “I cold-cocked Death! 'Well, ain't your mama gonna be proud?' Yeah...maybe, except she's fucking dead.” Gary rubbed his knuckles, still ringing from their blow.
Yes. I agree. It would be pointless.”
Gary turned his back on Death.
“What do you think I am, Gary? Do you think me a monster? A villain? Am I the bad guy in your movie?”
“No. You're none of those. I know what you are. You're the end none of us wants to face. You're the credits after the movie.”
“I'm glad we understand each other.”
“ it my time now?”
“No. I have come to visit you again now to ask you a second time. What would you like?”
“I still don't want anything from you. Do you expect me to ask for immortality? For more time? I'm gonna go whenever you decide...”
“It isn't my decision, Gary.”
“Whatever. It isn't MINE either. If you're standing there waving that in front of me like a red cape, I'm not going to charge you.”
“You are a very unique Man, Gary. I have to admit that you have me intrigued. We will see each other again soon.”
“Will that be the last time?”
“Would it make you feel better to know the answer to that?”
“Not really.”
Death smiled and walked out of the bathroom. Gary followed him. There was no sign of Death when he got back to his seat in the church.
The priest continued the service memorializing his parents. Gary stared straight ahead.

“I know.”
“Good. Would you ask anything of me now?”
“What would you ask of me, Gary.”
“I want time.” He saw a smile crack Death's face.
What's so goddamn funny?”
“It's just the repetitive nature. If you had been in my position the trillions upon trillions of times I have heard that you would perhaps find it funny too.”
Not that kind of time you malignant tumor.”
“What other kind of time IS there, Gary?”
“I have things I need to take care of. People I would like to say good bye to.”
“That's not really part of the deal here, Gary. Time doesn't really allow me to control it like that. Your time is now. That is as immutable as the heavens. More so, even as one day, I shall claim them as well.”
I need a day.”
Death paused. “I can allow you an hour. No more, no less. I feel I owe you that for the amusement you have given me.”
“Amusement? I'm some kind of fucking game to you?” Gary screamed.
Not at all. That was a poor choice of words on my part. I am sorry, Gary. You have given me joy if such a thing were available to one such as me. But I'm afraid I have less control over events as you would like to believe. Time for you is a straight line with two distinct points, the start and the end. For me, it's a little different. You are a ripple among infinite ripples in an immeasurable pond. And I have no more control over your undulations than you do. But I can, hit the pause button as you say, for a brief while.”
“I won't take long. I have been expecting you for some time now.”
Gary picked up the phone and made a phone call. He laughed. He cried. He hung up.
“I'm ready.”
“That I almost feel as if you have been...cheated.”
“You said it all those years ago asshole. The cycle of life begins with birth but ends with you. It has for all time and will continue as such long after all of this...” he motioned generally at everything “ gone.”
“I have lived a full life and given and received love. I have held my child and HIS child in my arms. I have seen all I know die in this world and slowly be replaced by something else. I came to terms with this cycle of yours a long time ago.”
Death was moved by this. “You continue to impress me, Gary.”
“Yeah. Go Fuck Yourself.”
Death smiled and the two moved on.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Stumbles - Halloween 2018 Short Story #2

by: Roger A Wilbanks

I really hate Halloween. I mean I REALLY hate it. Not your garden variety "take it or leave it" kind of hate, either.

The "I want to set it on fire and salt the ashes after it burns alive" kind.

That's probably a pretty funny statement to hear coming from a ghost. I get that. You would just assume most of us supernatural types are partying it up on Halloween. But not me. No sir. And I've got my reasons.

You see, I'm a ghost. May have mentioned that before, but I'm not the "scare the Beejeebus out of you" kind. I'm the "I just want to be left the HELL alone" kind.

Thing is, I'm not graceful. I have this habit of, well, stumbling. I was like that when I was alive, I'm like that now. I guess God must have been short one yuck monkey in the afterlife when my time came up.

You can only imagine how hard it is keeping a low profile when you're constantly bumping into everything. I remember after I passed, I woke up like this, some kinda conscious cloud, invisible to the living. Well to people at any rate. Dogs can kind of see me, or smell me. To be honest, not really sure how that works, but they know I'm there and that's all that matters.

So there I am, this newly minted spook, not sure where or what I am and I start walking or floating or whatever it is I do in what used to be my house, only everything is different now. Imagine going to sleep and waking up to find that someone's thrown out all your crap and replaced all your junk with theirs and on top of that, they've moved it all around on you. It's like getting up in the middle of the night to go pee at someone else's house. Things just ain't gonna work out well for you at that point.

Case in point. When I first woke up here on the other side, I was still in a lotta pain. The cancer that killed me wasn't quite done with me and it felt like every piece of me was on fire. One second, I'm in my bed saying my goodbyes to my family, the next, I'm sitting in the same room I died in but everything's different. The bed's been spun around. The dresser's different and on the wrong side of the room. There's a nightstand in the way now. Horrible. I stand up for the first time as a spook in this bizarro world and I do what I always do. I stumble.

Now there's fellas that will swear to you ghosts are immaterial. Well, that fella's only halfway correct. We're immaterial when we want to be. At that moment, though...I didn't want to be. I was falling down and, hell...I didn't know I was a ghost yet. It's not like they gave me a rule book or anything. But anyways, I put out my hand like this to keep from falling and I knock over a lamp that had no place being where it was. It goes crashing to the ground, I pass clean through the floor and tumble through a wall, making a crazy racket the entire time. I hear some lady yelling in the kitchen and that was odd. The first time I heard a liver talk from the other side. It's like they're underwater or something. Well this liver cusses up a storm till she gets in the room. By this time, I've figured it out and am poking my head through the wall and watching her. She thought her dog made the mess till the little beast comes trotting in the room. Fido takes one look at me, smells me or whatever and freaks the HELL out. Starts barking and whining. I hear THIS just fine. Runs to the wall I'm poking my head out of and starts clawing it to shreds. Needless to say, this takes baby girl back a bit. She turns as white as me. I get a kick out of this and chuckle. SHE HEARS ME. Scared the piss out of her. Literally. She just wet herself right there where she stood. She was gone from the house in a week and I never saw her again. But she did take all her crap with her and left the house blessedly empty. So thank you, Pee Lady.

I found out living like this ain't like it is for the livers out there. Not like it is in the traditional, sense at any rate. There is no more 24 hour day. It all blurs now, like watching a movie that just keeps jumping forward. One minute my house is empty, the next thing I know, someone's put a frikkin ottoman in front of the fireplace and there is a fire burning. I discover both of these at approximately the same time as I trip over the ottoman and go sailing into said lit fire. It doesn't hurt, but again, it catches me off guard. I make a ruckus, I curse up a storm and then I sit in the fireplace and turn to see the family gathered around my fireplace. I'm guessing I had some soot sticking to me because as the sparks die down, they are all looking right at me. I pass on through the fireplace floor and into the basement. I come back up into the room behind them and watch them staring at the place I was and looking at each other. I figure at this point, I'll just go back to the basement and wait this out and turn and walk right into a display case that shouldn't be there and send it crashing to the floor.

Dad must have been the religious type cause he's got all of his spawn behind him and he's pointing a crucifix at me like it's a loaded gun. I giggle. He hears that and lunges at me mumbling something like "the flower of rice propels me..." I sink into the floor again to get away from him but this crazy man but the jackass follows me into the basement, throwing holy water on everything. Some of it sticks to the soot on my face and gets in my eye. I start howling like a wounded bear and the coot runs backwards and busts his head on a beam.

Time does that wacky thing again and jumps forward and now I'm alone in the basement. I hear commotion directly above me. I poke my head through the floor to see what's going on and see a full blown exorcism going on in my friggin living room. These assholes are trying to kick me out of MY house like I haven't paid the rent! This was MY house! I wasn't going anywhere! Still tho, I got it. I knew the score. As long as these mushrooms were in my house I had to be careful and not bump into anything. Easy to say, hard to do. Like I said, I ain't particularly graceful. So I bump into a few more things, Jehovah’s Gestapo chases me around with holy water and a super soaker until they finally give up and get out.

Now the place is nice and quiet with NO crap in the way. I don't even mind the broken windows and hole in the ceiling. But I will tell you what I do mind. Hallo-freakin-Ween. That's what. I get 364 days a year of peace and quiet till the calendar flips and then I get the crazies who want to see the 'documented poltergeist' whatever the hell THAT is. Some of these turnip heads even spend the night, running power into the house from a generator outside. Sometimes I unplug the cords, sometimes I switch the generator off, once I drained the gasoline out, but that was a pain in the ass. Most of the time I just hide in the basement and wait for them to leave. I blocked the entrance up so no one can find it. But every year they came and every year it got worse. So last year, I got fed up and had my "Popeye Moment" Where I "had all I can stands and I can't stands no more." As soon as they got in the house, I ghosted the locks so they couldn't get out. Then I "stumbled" into their kerosene lamp (Honestly. Who uses those anyway?) I dump the lamp on the floor and the house catches fire like tissue paper. I didn't mean to kill those people, well, I wasn't doing this for that reason. I really just wanted to scare them. Some par of me may have wanted some company, but it didn't matter. They didn't sick around. Almost the second they died, that light shined out of nowhere and everywhere and they walked right on in. I see this and start running towards the light, but wouldn't you know? I stumble on that lamp and fall and the light just goes away.

So now, here I am, living in the basement, house burned down and these crazy bastards have turned the entire place into a campground that kicks off on October 1. Every year.

GOD I hate this holiday.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

All God's Creatures 2018 Halloween Story

All God's Creatures
by: Roger A Wilbanks

"Will you shut that goddamn dog up?!?"
Tom threw a half full beer can at the screen door between him and Sluggo, the 90lb Pitbul currently barking its head off.
"He's been going on like that all night and I'm trying to watch the goddamn news now.!" he growled.
"I already missed the end of Forged in Fire...stupid mutt. YEAH! I'm talking to you!"
He threw an empty can at the door. Sluggo continued barking, never breaking eye contact with the obese human screaming from his chair.
"Did he get into something? Check the garbage." Carol screamed. "I bet he got into some chocolate. I heard it makes em go nuts."
"How the hell would I know, woman? I haven't moved in three hours."
"Got THAT right."
"You better handle up on that miserable mouth of yours before I handle up on it myself."
Sluggo was now clawing at the screen door and scream barking.
"Look at that goddamn mutt of yours, woman! He's tearing up my fucking door! You better do something about it before I do."
The dog stopped barking. It now locked eyes with Tom and the sudden calm that covered the room felt alien when compared to the chaos that filled it only a few seconds before.
"Wait, what? The FUCK are YOU looking at dog? Honey? Get me my gun or some kind of big old stick. This dog don't look right!"
Sluggo's right ear pricked to his side. It took its time circling back to focus on a now shaking Tom. The hook lock on the screen door lifted itself from its hoop as Tom watched slackjawwed. His eyes doubled in size as the door creaked open and the dog took his first careful step into the house he was never allowed in. He had stopped looking at Tom now and focused his attention a point just over his shoulder. Tom began shuffling deeper into his La-Z-Boy, fumbling on the floor for one of his discarded shoes.
"Get in here and get your dog, Carol! He ain't right!"
Sluggo walked towards Tom with purpose and with care. It was a solemn walk intended to give one viewing it time to appreciate it. His attention still focused on a spot just on the wall behind Tom, a slow and menacing growl began to bubble from deep within the dog. Carol appeared in the hallway and saw her sweet little baby stalking her boyfriend.
"Sluggy-bear," she sang. "Come see momma."
The dog turned to look at her and as the door to the living room closed itself she saw Sluggo look back at Tom and smile.

"In local news, police in Cockrell Hill make a gruesome discovery when they find Thomas Sweeny and his common law wife Carol mauled to death by the couple's pitbull. Police were forced to euthanize the animal when it refused to allow them entry into the house and appeared to be protecting the bodies of the deceased when they arrived."
"Oh those dogs are so horrible!" Doris pulled another liver flavored treat from the pouch and presented it to Daisy. "Just dreadful." The shit-zu regarded the treat for a second before accepting it with regal elegance.
"Obviously bad breeding. Nothing like my little Daisy-kiss." She kissed the dog on the nose. The dog allowed it.
A whisper drifted across the room from an open window.
"Kill her." it said.
"What was that?" Doris turned down the sound on her television. Daisy hopped down from her lap. Doris cocked her ears to try to recapture the ethereal sound to no avail.
Daisy licked her feet as Doris returned the television's standard volume. The newscasters were waxing poetic on the public opinion regarding pitbulls as an aggressive species. Doris agreed. Daisy stopped licking her foot and stared at the living room window. Doris patted her empty lap and Daisy acknowledged her signal to resume her position but hesitated. She remained transfixed on the living room window. Her tiny brow crinkled. Her tiny nose scrunched up. This was a clear warning sign that a nip was imminent.
"Baby girl? What is it? What's wrong? Come snuggle with mommy."
Daisy hopped up into Doris' lap, never taking her eyes off the window. The high-pitched engine of her growl began rumbling.
"Kill her."
This time, Doris heard it. Daisy did as well. The rumbling turned into a full throated assault on the window. Doris turned to see what her precious sweetheart was going on about. She felt a cold flash rush through her as Daisy fell silent. The tiny dog's body was a tense coil of shaking steel. The window offered no answer. Doris looked into the eyes of her constant companion of the last 12 years. The dog was looking directly into her eyes and appeared to be crying.
"Do it. Do it now." a cold voice rasped.
This was the last thing Doris heard as her precious jewel lunged at her and tore her to shreds.

"Hurry up! We'll miss the train!" Paul dodged the always helpful Peanut on his way to the front door. The suitcases in each hand made balancing difficult, but he was an athlete and your baby girl only leaves for college once.
Carolyn exited her room at the top of the stairs with all of her worldly possessions contained in three bags. Her high school varsity cheer bag held all of her athletic stuff. Her suitcase held all her clothes. The rest of her material goods lay sheltered in her father's Navy duffel bag.
Peanut sat mid-stair, uncertain of whom to pounce upon first. The labrador was twelve, the girl was eighteen. Paul brought the puppy home the day they buried Carolyn's mother and she relished her role as family protector and court jester over the years. She chose Carolyn as the fun level there was always higher and dropped down in a pre pounce pose. She cocked her head towards the living room window.
"I'll bet it's another ambulance," Paul said. The dog hated ambulances. He waited for the sound to become audible to him. His time spent working on submarines in the Navy had focused his already adept hearing, but they had nothing on the radar cones parked on the chocolate lab's dome. Those puppies could hear a fart on the International Space Station, he thought.
This was different. There was no eventual wee-ooo of the siren this time. Peanut swung around the staircase and began growling at Paul. This was no playtime growl either. This dog meant business. She was warning Paul that danger and death sat on the stairs before him.
"Easy, girl. What's wrong?" He set down his suitcases and knelt at the base of the stairs.
"Get them."
"What the HELL was that?" Paul stood up and turned around expecting to see a burglar but saw nothing. The words came from nowhere and everywhere.
Peanut continued to growl at Paul. Carolyn put her hand on the dog's neck to calm her and she immediately looked back at the teenager with a pained whimper. She looked back at Paul and took a step further down the stairs, focusing her attention on Paul.
Paul was scared now. "Did you hear that?" he asked.
"Hear what? I didn't hear anything. I'm scared, daddy!"
"Don't worry punkin. I'll-" Paul stopped speaking as a lightning bolt of coldness struck his body. It felt as if he were leaning back in a chair that has just slipped and he was catching himself, but that feeling perpetuated. Paul found himself falling deep into himself.
"Here I am beast. Go ahead and kill me." he found himself saying.
"Daddy, NO!"
"Quiet, whore! You're next." The cold maleficence in his voice was the thing that hit Carolyn the hardest. Paul saw himself speaking but it wasn't him doing the talking. Something dark had hijacked his body and taken control. Something cold and angry, very angry. He could see the thoughts of this entity and knew its mind. It wasn't of this earth. It was wandering the world in search of chaos and it had been forcing dogs to attack their owners just for fun. It meant to make Peanut kill him in front of his daughter and he was helpless to prevent it. The dog was inching closer to him. He saw the fear deep within Peanut's eyes and wanted to speak, to warn them to flee but was unable. The entity had dug its claws deep into his spirit and wouldn't release him until the job was done. Paul thought about his daughter. He remembered burying his wife. He remembered stopping at the pet store on the way home. He remembered the immediate connection this newborn puppy had with him. She was a poor substitute for a dead mother, but then he remembered Beth's last request to him. She had been quite specific.
"Get her a puppy. A labrador." He obeyed and the three of them healed the wound of a lost loved one together. They were inseparable for over a decade, but the years were starting to take their toll on the old girl. She wasn't as spry as she used to be. The slippage was real but right now, that was irrelevant. Her teeth were very real also and they were getting closer and closer to Paul.
Paul knew this dog would do anything under the sun to protect his daughter from harm. He fought back a tear of regret at the thought of what was to come and thought of Beth one final time. That was when he felt a wave of warmth wrap itself around him. The entity felt it too Its claws dug deeper into Paul's heart but they found themselves sinking and becoming trapped there. He knew he would never be able to expel this entity but now he was certain that he had the strength to contain it. The shock of cold he felt as the entity realized the certainty of its predicament numbed him and his body crumpled to one knee.
"Come on girl. You know what to do. I don't have much time." he said.
Peanut stopped when she recognized her master's voice.
"DO IT!" he screamed.
"Daddy? What's happening?"
"Don't have time to explain, punkin. You need to run. NOW! Take the fire escape. Go to the Smith's and call the police. AHHHHHH!" he felt a million needles pepper him. "No you don't motherfucker. I have YOU now and I'm not letting go! Fire Escape. NOW! Call the police but don't let them hurt the dog. This isn't her fault." Paul locked eyes with the old girl one final time. "You know what you need to do. I will always love you, girl."
The dog took a step backward and threw a warning bark at Carolyn, who obeyed her father's orders and shimmied down the fire escape ladder in her room. Peanut turned back to her master, certain the girl was safe and walked to where he knelt.
"I have it. Do it and I can take it with me. You will all be safe."
The dog understood. She licked his face and nuzzled his nose one last time and ripped his throat from his body.
The entity found itself locked in a box it couldn't understand. Its claws were still dug deep into Paul's spirit but they were now trapped there as Paul clung to them with a fierce resolve. A light opened up into the room.
Peanut turned to look into it and felt a small piece of her step outside her body. She walked towards the spirit of Paul, writhing on the floor with the entity. She plucked the shaking entity from his back and Paul felt the warmth return. He looked up to see the face of his beloved Beth standing over him.
"I have so many questions..." he stammered.
"I know. I can't answer them now but I will. I need you to go into the light now. The three of us will be there waiting for you when you get there." Paul's heart sunk. "Oh no, darling, don't worry. She will be fine and she will live a long beautiful life. Time doesn't work the same way there as it does here. You will understand." She turned her attention to the scaly being in her hand as pieces of it began to ignite and drop to the ground. "You on the other hand have a different fate waiting for you."
Paul walked towards the light and paused to glance over his shoulder. He saw the creature that tormented him shrivel in his wife's grasp and shrink into nothingness. He saw that nothingness belch reddish black smoke as it accepted its newest addition. He continued his path, leaving his ever faithful friend to guard his corpse.
The dog sniffed his body and pawed at his shoulder to rouse him but he failed to rise. She felt a white hot sun erupt inside her chest as her ancient heart finally gave out. She found herself in the living room but different as the light opened behind her.
"There's a girl!" she heard from behind her as she bounded into the light to join her three favorite humans, nimble as she was when she was a puppy.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Keep Politics OUT of the Gun Debate.

by Roger A Wilbanks

This is a nice sentiment, but I fear that ship sailed a long time ago. So, rather than rehash exhausted arguments, I want to talk instead about the Federal Assault Weapons ban that expired in 2004 and how that action injected politics into this debate to the point of paralysis.

The Federal Assault Weapons Ban was passed in 1994 with former US President Ronald Regan leading the way in support. "The Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB)—officially, the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act—is a subsection of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, a United States federal law that included a prohibition on the manufacture for civilian use of certain semi-automatic firearms it defined as assault weapons, as well as certain ammunition magazines it defined as "large capacity"." (1)
This ban kept the weapons we are haunted by today off the market and out of the hands of civilians.
This ban expired in 2004 after congress allowed its sunset provision to act.

Three years after passing the AWB, Congress banned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from doing any research that could be used to “advocate or promote gun control,” effectively ending federally funded public health research on gun violence through the Dickey Amendment (2), a rider tacked onto a Federal Spending Bill in 1997 that has quietly been renewed and renewed and renewed.

The NRA has lobbied and donated to Congress in an ever increasing scale, spending almost $55million in 2016 (3)

The NRA also threatened boycotts to manufacturers Colt and Smith & Wesson when they attempted to work with Washington to proactively include safety controls in the weapons they manufacture. (4)

In all cases, when action was talked about, money or the threat of boycott from the NRA prevented any action from taking place and in fact, exasperated the issue by potentially stymieing any further action by threat of retribution. (5)

So what we have on the one hand is a group of politicians and doctors that try to understand gun violence and enact legislation to curb it, and on the other a powerful lobbying force dead set against even the contemplation of said understanding.

So I will say Politics has been involved here for a long time by the very same people telling us to keep politics OUT of this debate.

That said, I have exhausted myself banging my head against the same wall that most of America has.  I have exhausted my care when I see another dozen school children gone.  I have exhausted my horror when I hear of another heroic teacher, cop or bystander who lost their lives trying to shield innocents from lunatics.  I have also exhausted my patience with the revolving debate that happens with each of these events.

What we can agree on:
*Gun Violence is a bad thing

What we can't agree on:
*What we can do to stop it

The most effective solution to this is getting rid of guns.  All guns.  From everyone.
This will never happen because our Constitution specifically enshrines that right for all US Citizens as God Ordained, and I agree with that.
Another effective solution is banning Assault Weapons.  We did it before, and while that ban was active. (from 1982-2004) we experienced 34 mass shootings.
Since the expiration of the AWB in 2004, the nation has seen 64 mass shootings with the frequency rising.

Yes we need to look at this problem from ALL sides.
We need to break down all of the factors involved in these shootings and look at them logically. Looking at these from the POV of the shooter, their thought process from start to end, would be a good place to begin the conversation.
Look at every single factor: Motivation, instigation, equipment and methodology.
Find commonalities.  Find weak points.
We have no chance against this epidemic if we aren't allowed to even look at it honestly without angering an unelected Lobbying Association.

If I say "Ban all guns!" I am wrong because that is only one third of the issue.
Systemic - The access to the weapons that they use.
Personal - The motivations of the shooters.
Societal - Our apparent and absolute lack of empathy or compassion.

We need to take all three of these phases into consideration and evaluate this problem without the politics.  THAT much I agree with Ted Cruz on.  But I also would like to see him remove his politics from this discussion.  Marco Rubio also says now isn't the time to politicize this.  Again, I find myself agreeing.  In fact, I think ANYONE who accepted a contribution from the NRA be exempted from this discussion to assist them in their goal of DE-politicizing the discussion. (6)


Saturday, September 26, 2015

A Murder of Crows - Halloween 2015 story

by: Roger A Wilbanks


As Newton decreed, there is both gain and loss in any exchange. This law is one of the most basic tenants of physics and rules the world that man lives within. In order to get what he wants, he must act a certain way, do a certain thing and pay for that boon with his compliance. Chaos ignores this rule. It delivers without request, takes without exchange. One must understand that Chaos is always with us. She sits next to you on the bus and she ignores you. The entire time you sit beside her, lost in your thoughts, she waits. She bides her time for an opening into your ordered little world to appear and when she sees that door fly open, no doorman or army of angels can keep her at bay. One must remember above all else this one thing. When the dust from her wake settles...none of this was personal.


Kennedy stared at the mess in his living room and raged. “They will never understand.” he thought

He walked into the boy's room and punched the light switch on. The boys shot awake like a bolt.

“That living room is a Goddamn disaster zone!” he screamed. “How many times do I have to tell you to clean up after yourselves? He started to remove his belt as the boys cried out in protest.

“Get your asses up and get those hands on your beds!” he ordered. “NOW!”

The boys complied and Kennedy slashed each of them five times across the backside, counting each one aloud as if ticking down a New Years Eve celebration. Once the rounds were complete, Kennedy marched the boys into his living room and watched as two 14 year old boys tried to figure out how to carry a single napkin between them to the kitchen trashcan.

“That'll teach them.” he smiled to himself as he re-thread his belt. He left the boys to get ready for their school and went outside.

The streetlights were still on as he walked to his truck. “sure is getting dark early.” he thought.

“Caw! Caw! Caw!”

Kennedy spun and looked up at the power lines above his house to see the crows.

Their attention was not focused on him, however. The crows stared at the house Kennedy had just exited. He turned back to the house and saw both of the boys looking out the window at the birds. He flung his finger away from the window and the obedient children shrank into the darkness of the house. He turned back to his truck and noticed that the crows gaze was now fixed on him.

“Get outta here you filthy bastards!” he grabbed a rock from the flower bed and flung it at the birds, causing them to scatter.

“Dumb-asses.” he said as he drove away to work.


Walter reached for the coffee. He kept it on the top shelf way in the back as a courtesy to the doctor who had advised him to cut down on its consumption. He prepared the drink to his preferred potency (somewhere between battery acid and thick molasses) and walked outside to collect the morning paper. Walter didn't have time for the technological nonsense of smart phones and Internets. He preferred the old fashioned way of things and saw nothing wrong with reading words printed on paper after being typed by another person.

He sat in his chair at the head of an empty table and opened his paper. This table had seen hundreds and hundreds of breakfasts with his wife , children and grandchildren, but these days, like Walter, it enjoyed the quiet solitude of a single occupant.

He felt the first shock as he opened to the Metro Section. He started to read an article about the squandering of a bond program the public had voted on twenty years ago when the second one hit him with a sledgehammer in his right shoulder. He pulled the assaulted limb tight to his chest as a bolt of pain shot deep into his chest. He fell to the cold tile floor in a ball as his body quit on him. The last thing he saw as the black tunnel closed around his eyes was the crow perched outside the kitchen window that looked out onto the creek across the street. The tunnel stopped shrinking for a moment as the two locked eyes. Walter knew, and the crow offered no apology as the tunnel closed it's grip on him. Walter's body spasmed one final time and then relaxed alone in a ball on the cold tile floor.


Claire held her morning jogs even dearer as Fall drew closer. The cooler temperatures in the morning allowed her to open her run up a little more than the oppressive Texas Summers would. This was her favorite part of the day. She spent these precious minutes alone in her thoughts as she wound her way up and down the streets of the neighborhood. It allowed her to focus her energies on the tasks ahead and start each day with a clean plate. This morning the creek that formed the eastern border of her neighborhood has abandoned its signature musty smell in favor of a translucent fog. Claire took this change as an invitation to jog on the creek-side of the street. She never wore headphones when she ran. She thought music was too much of a distraction. This was why she heard it.

“Help.” The voice was distinct yet weak cry rising up from the creek-bed some 20 feet below.

“Hello?” she asked. She walked closer to the treeline that signaled the drop off to the creek-bed.

“Help.” the voice repeated.

Claire ignored all caution and passed the treeline to peer into the creek-bed below. The light from the streetlamp could not fully penetrate the dense trees that fenced in the creek and the bed 20 feet below remained shrouded in darkness.

“Are you there? I can't see you.” she said. “Do you want me to call for help?” There was no answer.

Claire felt the shawl of dread wrap itself around her shoulders as she realized how dark it was in the creek-bed. Some light from the streetlamp should make it down here but it was as if something were intentionally blocking even that. She looked back to the street and saw the reassuring yellow glow of the streetlamp when she saw it. Silhouetted against the light from the street were hundreds of crows all staring back at her.
“Help.” said one of them.

Claire remembered something from her childhood. She was watching a TV show with her father about crows. The narrator mentioned that some crows have the ability to mimic human speech. She remembered how silly she thought that sounded then. She laughed at herself for doubting that fact as she felt the cold arms grab her and drag her down to the darn creek-bed.

She never screamed.


The crow flew above his car as he sped down the winding street. He was playing his music way too loud for this time of the morning but he didn't care. He needed it to pump him up for work and this was how it was done. He took a sip of the coffee he had just bought but it was still way too hot. He stopped at the intersection behind an SUV. The crow touched down on a wire overhead, still watching. The driver of the SUV was distracted and hadn't moved fast enough for him so he layed on his horn. Again, he didn't care how early it was. He didn't care that this was a residential neighborhood populated by older folks. He only cared that this “Stupid Fucking Idiot!” was not paying the proper amount of attention to her driverly duties this morning. She finally stepped on the gas pedal and moved on allowing him to resume his shortcut through the neighborhood. The crow took flight again, maintaining its aerial shadow of the loud man in the expensive car. He was changing the song on his iPod when he entered the School Zone. He slowed down a bit but was still above the required 20 miles per hour. He was selecting the next artist to play on his radio as he approached the blind curve that preceded the school. The crow closed the gap between them. His windows were open. His hand was still filled with a cup of hot coffee. The crow flew into his car just as he rounded the curve, still well above the speed limit. He spilled the coffee in his lap and screamed out in a howl of pain as he jerked the steering wheel and his leg spasmed onto the gas pedal, sending his expensive car on a runaway course through the cross walk.

Marty held his neon stop sign high as he stood in the middle of the street. He was certain that the path was clear and motioned for the children to begin making their way across when he saw the car making a beeline towards him. He threw up his hand on reflex to stop the children as the man's expensive car screamed around the corner and crushed him into its hood and windshield. Marty tumbled over the car as the man was finally able to apply the brake and a crowd of parents and children ran to the spot the old man had fallen to. As his smashed body lie dying in the middle of the street, Marty looked up one final time and saw the crow. The bird on the wire above him looked into his eyes and again, offered no apology as the spark of life whisped away from the crossing guard.


“Now that I have your attention...” Kennedy heard the disembodied voice say.

“What is happening?” he screamed. The voice laughed.

“Are you sure you ready for the answer to that question?” it asked.

Three minutes ago, Kennedy had just returned home for the day. His job had taken its usual toll on his patience and he could already taste the Jack Daniels. He had barely shut the door to his truck when the first crow slammed into him.

“OW! Motherfucker!” It took him a half a second to recognize the black bird as it flew away.

He was looking on the ground for another rock to throw at the bird when the second bird struck.

“Sonofabitch!” he screamed. A third and then a forth crow crashed into him, their beaks tearing at his clothes, their talons shredding his skin.

“What the Fuck?!?” he demanded.

He spun to face the direction the first crow had attacked from as another one pounded his face, knocking his glasses to the ground. He retrieved them and returned them to their perch atop his nose when he saw the cloud of crows closing in on him. He had never seen this many of them at one time. He broke into a dead run away from the sky-borne assault and fled down the street. The crows tore after him as he ran, slamming into him from one side and the other, herding him towards the creek that made up the eastern border of his neighborhood. He reached the treeline that marked the creek and tore a small branch to swat at the swarming crows.

“We don't like that much.” a voice from nowhere said.

“We like you even less.” it added.

“Who said that?” Kennedy blurted. His anger was catching up to his panic and he felt the red blood beginning to boil up from its depths.
“What the fuck is there?” he demanded.


The crows ceased the attack and began flying in a giant circle before Kennedy. It was a black tornado composed of gleaming black feathers and razor sharp claws.

“I have seen how you treat the boys.” the voice stated.

“Yeah? So the fuck what? What business is it of yours?”

“My business is my business.” the voice answered. “My time is short here so I will keep this brief. You have been bad.”

Kennedy gripped his branch tighter. “What are you talking about?” he cried.

“Stop. Listen to what I say. This is the important part. By what right do you abuse those boys?”

“I'm their goddamn father! I have to teach them discipline!”

Laughter exploded from within the circling cloud of crows. “It has cost much for me to be here today.”

The crows began to circle faster and faster. “The old man, the jogger, the crossing guard. Three innocent souls had to perish that we could have this little chat.”

“What are you talking about? Who ARE you?”

Crow after crow began crashing into one another as the central mass of the circling birds began to solidify. “You beat those boys every day of their lives. Why?”

“They never listened to me! They never do as they were told!” Kennedy screamed.

“That is a lie.” the voice laughed. “Trust me.  I know.”

“It wasn't easy for me to raise those two brats all by myself. I never even asked for them to be born. I tried the best I could but it was hard without their mother...”he trailed off.

“Right. She died giving birth to them. The final necessary sacrifice”
“How do you know that?” the voice ignored the question.

“So you took your abandonment. You took your anger and rage. You took all of that and focused it upon two helpless creatures entrusted to your care.”

“They are MY boys! I'll raise them however the Hell I want! I'm not going to bring two spineless little whiny-ass pussies into a world already full of them! I'm going to bring two ass-kicking Men into the world!”

“You are wrong.” The swarm of crows sped up their pace and continued slamming and crashing into each other.

“What the Hell do you mean I'm wrong? Who the Hell are you to tell me how to raise my boys?”

“Oh, you aren't wrong in how you raised them. That was why you were chosen, after all. You are wrong in thinking them to be your boys.” Kennedy could see the shape of a torso begin to appear deep within the circling cloud of birds.

“I don't understand.” he said.

“That much is obvious, but again that is why you were chosen.” The circling crows continued to crash into one another and he could see the trunks of legs begin to take form. “The cost was much higher then. Many thousands of innocents had to die that September in fire and rubble for me get access to her, to your Loretta.”

“You're crazy!”

“I've been called worse.” a Cheshire grin said as it floated above a still-forming body.

“All this time and they ain't even mine?”

“Oh they are yours...after a fashion.” the toothy grin said. “While it wasn't your loins from which they sprung, those two little darlings are every bit the men you raised them to be. Callous, coldhearted, ruthless and angry...oh so angry. You are to be commended on the fantastic job you have done.” Three crows slammed into the arms of the creature in front of Kennedy forming hands that now applauded as cold white eyes atop the evil smile cut deep into him.

Kennedy found the power of speech had abandoned him. The bluster and bravado that was his trademark had wilted like lettuce left on the counter for days.

“What are you?”

“Ah! No longer who but What? There's my broken clock!” The crows kept adding mass to the man-shaped shadow before him. Two slits of white resembling eyes and the crack of jagged teeth that no sane man would mistake for a smile stood within the still circling cyclone of crows. Kennedy could see feathers, eyes, beaks and claws within the shape before him shifting, squirming, writhing as if trying to free themselves from an unholy form.

“Father?” Kennedy spun on the spot to see the twins behind him. “Call for help! GO! Get somebody! Anybody!” he screamed. “Move you little bastards!”

“We weren't talking to you.” they said in unison.

“ children. Come to say goodbye to the babysitter?”

The boys nodded. Kennedy lunged at them with his torn branch and felt a cold claw grip his arm.

He turned back to see that the shape had closed the 20 foot gap between them in the blink of an eye.

“This is the part where you say farewell, Kennedy.” the smile atop the shape said. “But I believe these two rambunctious little scamps might want a word with you before I take them home.”
“May we, Father?” they asked.

“Oh why not. It is a long trip and you're bound to get hungry along the way.”

The boys tore into Kennedy like a pack of hungry dogs as they showed their true form to the man who had beaten, berated and tormented them for fourteen long years. It was not the tearing, the clawing or the gnawing that ended Kennedy's life. It was the knowledge that he had been responsible for unleashing these monsters upon the world that sealed his fate.

After all, they were their father's children.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I Forget - Halloween 2014 Short Story

by: Roger A Wilbanks

You have no idea how difficult it is to begin.” I took a sip of water.

Just start at the point where you feel the most comfortable.” He pressed record on his tape player. “How long have you been dealing with this?” he asked.

This is all relatively new to me,” I said, “but it has been building in intensity over the past few years.”

Has it always been this severe?”

That just began.” I couldn't maintain eye contact with the man asking me these questions. I looked instead at the wall behind him and focused on the framed diplomas he had there. Rutgers man. I never saw Rutgers. Somewhere in New Jersey. That's where the Devils play.



Mr Granger?”

What? Who are you?” I demanded. I didn't recognize this man or where I was. I was scared. “What am I doing here? Am I in trouble?”

Do you know where you are, Mr Granger?” he asked.

Of course I do. I am sitting in a chair, yours by the look of it. What have I done? Why do you have me here?” The door was close. If he became dangerous, even as old as I am, I could make it in time.

You asked to see me, Mr Granger. My name is Doctor Ford. I am one of the nation's foremost experts on memory disorder and we are here in my office because you made an appointment to see me.”

“I think I would remember doing such a thing.” I said.

That is why you are here, Mr Granger.”

I looked at the man before me. He sat calm and relaxed. He had the look of a teacher or a professor. Someone who demanded attention. Someone who had answers. “Did I slip again?” I asked.

Yes. What do you remember this time? About just now. Do you recall any specific feelings or memories?”

No. Not really. I saw your diploma. Rutgers. That's in New Jersey, isn't it?”

Yes. Does that hold any significance for you?”

Hockey,” I said. “The Devils play there. I remembered watching the Stanley Cup on television in a dark room with wooden walls. A lot like your office. What did I say?”

You thought you were in trouble.” he said.

It must have been because you look like an authority type. Always had an issue with that type.” I said.

Well, I am a doctor.” he said.

We laughed.

Do you remember the slip?” he asked.

Vaguely.” I said. “It's like a TV show I watch from the corner of my eye while I am busy doing something else. I have an idea of what is going on but no idea regarding the who or the why. That seems to be a common thread with these episodes. I feel like I am watching someone else's life unfold but I have no idea why I am there.”

Alzheimer’s doesn't have any rules, Mr Granger.” he said. “It has some common threads across its tapestry but it is precocious. It will throw you curve balls that make even us experts swing and miss.”

What have I got to look forward to?” I asked.

How frequent are these slips?” he ignored my question.

Random. I was getting one a day, sometimes more. They seem to be triggered by memories. I get off on a thought tangent and my mind wanders. Once it gets going down that path it has a tendency to keep going that way, like a car rolling down an icy hill.”

That is one of the common threads. How much of your self do you maintain in these slips? Your true self.”

No idea. If by self you mean I know what I am, then a bit. I really lose the who and the why but the what remains constant. It's like I am plucked from a past memory and dropped into a current one with no context. The only constant is the feeling of total dread that overcomes me.” I took a drink.

Before. You mentioned you felt you had done something wrong. Is this also common?”

I paused. “Yes. These slips always center on the feeling that I have done something wrong; like I have intruded into someone else's story or I am being called to the carpet for something I have no knowledge of. The recurring feeling is one of blame. Blame focused on me.”

Delusions of persecution are the most common in Alzheimer’s patients, but often the fear is of loss, as if someone were trying to steal from you. In your case I think it stems from your own feelings of guilt. It is my guess you somehow feel responsible for your disease, as if you brought it upon yourself. I have referenced this as the Leper Mentality stemming from the Middle Age belief that Leprosy was somehow self-inflicted. It was thought of as an ailment brought down on one due to living an impure or unclean life. I can assure you now that there is nothing you have done or not done that brought this disease upon you. Regardless of what any televised charlatans say, there is neither a magic berry or super fruit you could have eaten nor any vice you could have avoided that would have prevented this. In truth, Mr Granger, you were born with this disease and it has been lurking deep within you biding its time until your body's natural recuperative powers waned with age. Anyone who tells you different is from Oz and is trying to sell you something rather than being truthful with you.”

I believe you, Doctor. I really do. But I know deep-down in my subconscious, in that part of me that is immune to outside influence that it doesn't matter. That is the part of me in the driver's seat when I slip and no one can reach that particular version of me because it is impossible to hold. Like Mercury in your palm.”

That is the true face of this disease, Mr Granger. The blank subconscious face of nearly every Alzheimer’s sufferer in existence. You retain the essential sliver of yourself but you lose all the context. This is not something a Psychiatrist like myself can fix I can only explain it to the you that remains constant in the hopes that it provides you with a base. It is my hope the part of you that refuses to participate in your life might someday see that as well, but it is not something I hold a lot of faith in.”

This must be what Hell is like, Doctor Ford. The constant cycle of on and off I endure. It feels like a carousel ride sometimes. Like I keep moving past the same point on a circle but sometimes I just don't recognize it. I stopped traveling in a straight line a long time ago. I just cover the same ground over and over again and at no point in this does that slipping part of me understand or even acknowledge that fact. It is left to the tired and old me to sort out the pieces when I come to my senses. I owe thanks to my dear son for putting me in this institution because now, when I 'return' I am always here where it is safe instead of having wandered off to God knows where. I woke up one time in an Adult theater. No idea how I got there.”

I read that in your file. It must have been frightening.”

“No. The terrifying part is the blanks. The parts I never remember. The terrifying part is how I feel when I have no understanding of my surroundings. I slipped while standing in line one time. I somehow remember staying in the line even though I had no idea how or why I was in it. When I got to the counter, I was crying. I told the attendant behind the counter that I had no idea who or where I was. They checked my wallet, called my son and now I am here. Safe.”

Yes, this is a safe place, Mr Granger. It is my belief that now that you are in an environment that has removed that factor that your slippages may wane, if not in number, than perhaps in severity as your feelings of sanctuary grow. While you will never be free of this disease, its effects upon you will loosen their hold and allow you to enjoy what remains of your life.”

Thank you, Doctor. That is very reassuring.”

Thank you, Doctor. That is very reassuring...very reassuring”

“You have no idea how difficult it is to begin.”  I took a sip of water.


“What's up with him?”

Alzheimer’s. He's one of the new ones. Has this conversation over and over with some invisible doctor. He hasn't eaten in days and I think he's a goner. Got no family to claim him. We found him in an Adult Movie theater having this conversation and he hasn't stopped.”

That's sad.”

Yeah. I guess so. What are we serving these guys for dinner tonight?”