D. A. Ratliff: A Pirate Too Late

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

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A Pirate Too Late

D. A Ratliff

Jackson Payne was a legendary figure, a free spirit, a proud citizen of the Conch Republic, a purveyor of tales, and a hunter of treasure. He was my uncle, and he was dead.

I flew into Miami and rented a car to drive to Key West. One should never fly onto the island, as the culture shock is staggering. As you travel south along US 1, you must abandon any concern of time and layers of your life with each mile marker passed. To enjoy the Keys is to become the Keys where time is measured twice a day—sunrise and sunset. Endless sun and salty air, endless glittering night sky, and an endless party, but the party had ended for Uncle Jack.

It was one in the afternoon on a muggy August day when I arrived. I parked in the garage on the waterfront and walked three blocks to the bar my uncle owned. It was hot and humid, my cotton shirt clinging to my skin, and I never felt more alive or sad.

Uncle Jack was the black sheep of the family. He turned his back on his father’s prestigious law firm in DC, the same one where my father’s name was on the door. I went to law school but chose to serve as a prosecutor. I suppose I was the gray sheep of the family, tolerated but not approved.

I turned the corner onto Duval and laughed as I saw the infamous Sloppy Joe’s bar. Uncle Jack owned a bar on Duval, right across the street, which he named Tidy Jack’s. He opened the bar every morning by flipping the bird toward his rival. But it was all good-natured, and the rivalry was fun for tourists and locals alike.

The bar was open, but a black wreath hung above the door. I stepped out of the sunlight into the darkened bar and, within seconds, collected into a bearhug by Toby Marks, my uncle’s best friend. He swung me around for a few twirls and let me down. Several other folks in the bar rushed up with greetings.

“Okay, okay, give the little gal some room.” Toby bellowed, and everyone backed off. Toby’s longtime companion, Lena, threw her arm around me and walked me to a table in the back. Toby joined us in a couple of minutes, carrying a margarita—a Pink Cadillac Margarita, the bar’s signature drink.

“Olivia Payne, I know you love these. Jack added the raspberry liquor because you love raspberries.”

I took a sip, and what little of my life in DC I was holding onto slipped away. I was formally in paradise. “You know me well. Thanks.” I took another sip. “Tell me what happened?”

Lena bobbed her head. “Jack was never the same after Bella died. He put up a good front but was dying from the inside. We didn’t know until the last days before he died that he was so ill. He had lymphoma, the fast-moving kind, and went down without a fight. He was ready to go.”

“He didn’t tell anyone?”

“No.”

With her answer, Toby shot out of the chair and walked outside. Lena sighed. “Don’t mind him. He’s grieving, but he’ll be okay.”

“The service is what time tomorrow morning?”

“Eleven in the morning, then back here for the wake.” She bit her lip. “You can stay with us if you want, Liv. That is if you don’t want to stay at his place.”

“No, I want to stay there.”

“Maggie Soto is his attorney. She said she’d come by after the funeral, and we’d read the will.”

“Okay.” I might have said okay, but I didn’t want to hear the will—too final. But he was gone, and I had to face that.

I spent the afternoon at Uncle Jack’s, working on a pending case and trying not to react to every noise, thinking he was coming in the door. Toby and Lena had dinner at their house and invited Jack’s closest friends. We sat on the deck as the sky turned crimson, then inky black, and traded stories about him and his treasure-hunting pastime.

Miles Murphy had been hunting for treasure with Uncle Jack for years. One summer, when Uncle Jack and Bella first married, my parents allowed my brother Mason and me to visit. We spent a great deal of our two weeks on The Betsy Lane, Miles’s forty-two-foot research vessel that he leased out to schools and research centers, but on days the boat was free, he and Jack searched for treasure.

Miles was nursing his fourth beer, sprawled across a lounge chair. I asked him what Jack had been looking for lately.

“Liv, he kept telling me he was on to something. Got a genuine interest in old Captain Henry Morgan—not just the rum talking. I was on an assignment with Scripps for a month, and Howard Brewer took him out a few times. By the time I got back in, he was too sick. Howard told me Jack did some diving around Marquesas’ and found something. Said Jack swore him and his mate Ronnie to secrecy. Haven’t spoken to him since Jack died.” He sighed.

“The night before Jack went to the hospital for the last time, I went to see him. He fell asleep, and, I admit, I did a bit of snooping around Jack’s house but found nothing. He had a room full of charts and items he had discovered. He’d sold most of the valuable items he collected over the years, coins, and artifacts to collectors or donated them to museums. If he had discovered something valuable or historical, we’ll likely never know what that was.”

~~~

If it could be called that, Jack’s funeral, held at a funeral home, was a lively affair, complete with the Los Margaritas, a Jimmy Buffet cover band, playing. He was a Key Wester, through and through, and his friends celebrated his life. Jack chose cremation and requested that we scatter his ashes over the ocean he loved. I had to catch a plane that evening, as I had a trial that began the following morning, and we decided to carry out his wishes at a later date.

Driving back to Miami for a late evening flight, I replayed the meeting with Maggie Soto, Jack’s attorney. I wasn’t surprised that he left everything to me, the bar, the house, and considerably more money than I expected. The stipulations that Toby and Lena continue to run the bar suited me. It is what I would have done anyway. Now, I needed time to decide what to do with the house. Uncle Jack, wish you were still here.

~~~

I treaded through Friday night DC traffic, rain pelting on the windshield harder than the wipers could wipe it away. Exhaustion from an eight-day trial washed over me, but we were victorious, the bad guy guilty, and we celebrated with dinner and drinks. All I wanted to do was get home, get out of my suit, and relax.

I parked and dashed up the front steps to my condo, realizing only seconds before I tripped over it that a large box blocked the door. I stepped over it, unlocked the door, and dragged the slightly soggy box into the house.

Who sent the package? The label said Chester and Soto Attorneys at Law. Maggie Soto never told me about a package when she read the will. I decided to change, pour a glass of wine, and then open the box.

Styrofoam and non-acid tissue paper lined the inside. Underneath the top lid was a legal-sized envelope from Soto clipped to a larger manila one. I opened her note.

Ms. Payne:

I was under instructions from my client, Jackson Payne, not to reveal the existence of the items contained in the package to you at the reading of the will. I was to wait one week and ship them to your home in Washington, D. C. Mr. Payne included a letter for you that will explain the contents of the box.

It has been an honor serving Jack as his legal counsel. Should you need my services in the future, please contact me.

Maggie Soto

I ripped open the thick legal-sized envelope to find a small leather journal secured with a leather tie and a letter from Uncle Jack. My fingers trembled as I unfolded it.

Olivia:

I have very little time, so I must keep this short and to the point. The items I have sent you are the most important items I could leave to you. I found something big but have no time to recover it

Bella found the map ten years ago, framed it, and hung it on our wall. Two years ago, in a little shop in Istanbul, I found this diary, and inside is the same illustration of a ship and name that appears on the map. After a bit of digging, I connected the ship on the map to the Pirate Captain Morgan. Howard Brewer took me to where I thought the ship might have sunk, and I found the items in the box.

Find Dr. Zane Lewis at the Grice Marine Laboratory in Charleston, SC. He knows of my suspicions but not of my findings. There are notes stuck inside the journal. Show him, let him help—you can trust him.

Maggie will ship this box to you after I’m gone. Do not mourn me, always remember the fun and joy we shared. Bella was my soul, and you were my glory. I die a better man for having both of you in my life.

Love you always, Jack.

I wiped away tears as I thumbed through the journal, loaded with sticky notes covered in Jack’s scribble. Putting the journal away, I sorted through the contents of the box. There was a long leather canister—a map holder? I unbuckled the strap and reached in to pull out the rolled-up parchment. It was a map, faded, but the ink was mainly legible. There was a polished wooden box, and I gasped when I lifted the lid. There were several gold coins and a gold brooch within the velvet-lined box. My attention, however, was drawn to a crude plywood box lying beneath the other objects.

Prying up the lid, I exposed two bales of cotton batting. I lifted one bundle and unwrapped it, anticipation rising as I realized what it was—a sword. A scimitar, to be exact, with a three-foot curved blade, gold hand guard, and trim. One edge of the blade nicked badly from use, but the sharpened edge of the blade was almost pristine. Its mate wrapped in the other batting.

I sat on the floor, back against the wall, and finished my wine as I pondered what to do. I chuckled. There was no question—I knew what I had to do.

~~~

Dr. Lewis agreed to meet me. I parked in front of the white clapboard buildings of the Grice Marine Laboratory and found his lab.

“Ms. Payne,” Lewis rose and walked toward me. “It’s nice to meet you. My condolences. Jack was a good friend.”

“You knew him well?”

“I did. Met him some twenty years ago when I was on a research boat out of Key West. I was a thirsty college grad student, and he had a great bar. We became friends due to our mutual interest in sunken treasure.”

“That is why I’m here. To talk about treasure ships.”

I told him about the information I had, which wasn’t much. He listened before asking questions.

“Do you have the artifacts with you?”

“Yes, in my car.”

“I’d like to see them.”

I opened the back hatch and then the box. Lewis removed a sword, a low whistle escaping his lips. “Jack suspected he had found a connection between a Turkish pirate, Dragut Reis, and his ship, the Gece Yildizi or the Night Star, and Captain Henry Morgan. Morgan’s pirate fleet consisted of about thirty ships. From what he learned of Rais in the journal that he found, Rais was a fleet captain and a successful one. I did some digging myself after speaking with Jack a few months ago. Dragut was said to have a scimitar like this. There are coins as well?”

“Yes.” I handed him the wooden box, and he examined the coins.

“Ms. Payne, I need to do more testing, but my gut says these are the real deal. Do you have the journal?”

I retrieved the journal from the car’s front seat. He glanced through it, then looked me in the eye. “What are your plans?”

“First, call me Liv, and I was hoping you could tell me. I had a month’s vacation saved, so I arranged to take it. I’m going to Key West and look for the treasure.”

Lewis smiled. “Call me Zane, please. I’m on sabbatical, conducting private research. How about I get my team together and join you on the treasure hunt?”

Relief rushed through me. “Jack said I could trust you. I’d love to have you along.”

~~~

The drive to Key West from South Carolina took three days. Zane said he would have his team there in five days, so I decided not to push the trip. When I arrived, I stopped at the bar first.

“You’re back?” Lena hugged me, “I know it’s only been a few weeks since you were here, but we have missed you.”

“I missed you too.”

“What brought you back so soon?”

“I got a package from Jack after I got home. I had to come back. I need to talk to you and Toby.”

We planned dinner together, and I headed to Jack’s house—my house. Not used to that yet. I pulled into the drive and started to enter the side door when I heard the crunch of glass underneath my foot. Shards of glass lay scattered across the stoop, and I realized the glass storm door had been shattered. I reached for the door handle and saw the lock popped.

I retreated to the car and called 9-1-1. After the police arrived, I called Toby and Lena, who rushed over. After searching the house, a police officer asked us inside to determine what was missing.

Lena shook her head. “Nothing appears missing. Jack kept a safe at the bar, not here. Even the artifacts that he recovered over the years are still here. I don’t understand.”

Toby shrugged. “Druggies, petty thieves.”

The officer shook his head. “TVs, cameras, laptops, jewelry still here. Whoever broke in was looking for something specific. Any idea what?”

We said no, and after taking photos and fingerprints, the police left. I turned to my friends.

“I know what.”

~~~

Toby, Lena, and I returned to the bar, too stunned to eat. I told them about the box and its contents and my conversation with Zane.

“Where are the artifacts?” Toby’s eyes narrowed.

“Zane and I agreed better that he had the swords and gold with his team should anyone ask questions.”

“You trust him, Liv?”  Lean shared Toby’s look of concern.

“Uncle Jack did, so I do.”

“Good, but for now, you stay with us. Jack hated security systems, but you need to install one, then you can go to the house.”

Zane and his crew of three salvage divers, all former Navy SEALS, arrived two days later. He asked me to arrange for Miles Murphy to meet with us. We were going to need a ship.

We met at Toby and Lena’s house. Zane and Miles met when Uncle Jack found a Spanish Galleon off Belize’s coast ten years ago. Jack had told Zane enough about Toby to gain his and Lena’s trust.

Over dinner, Zane laid out the plan. “On the trip down, I read the notes Jack left in the journal. Finding the journal and putting what he found on the map he already had together was sheer genius or some serious luck. Dragut Reis was meticulous in recording his exploits. He recorded that his ship, the Night Star capsized in a raging storm, possibly a hurricane. A handful of his crew survived, picked up by another of Morgan’s ships heading back to Belize. From there, he hoped to search for the treasure aboard his ship but couldn’t get enough money to mount a search and two years later returned to Turkey. The journal entries ended there.”

Lena cocked her head to the side. “Jack thought he knew where the ship sank?”

“Yes, based on the artifacts he found.”

I smiled. “Let’s go find his treasure.”

~~~

Before dawn, we loaded the equipment Zane’s crew brought onto Miles’ research ship, The Betsy Lane. Toby and Lena brought food and beverages, and by daybreak, we headed to the coordinates Jack left in the diary. We were lucky as no storms were predicted, so we would have a few days to explore.

As Miles called her, Betsy was a research vessel with state-of-the-art sonar and scanners. The salvage team—Brent, Emilio, and Marty—brought two commercial underwater metal detectors and had underwater communication devices. After anchoring at the initial coordinates, Brent and Emilio dove with the gear, alternating with Zane and Marty. On one trip to forty-five feet, Brent found two gold doubloons.

We begin to follow the path the pirate Reis had noted in his journal—the likely course the shipwreck was along. Not foolproof, but worth a shot. On the second day, sonar found something. Zane and Brent dove, and the chatter on the underwater mics became excited. They found a section of the hull of an old wooden ship. When the divers surfaced, they were grinning. Zane held out a mesh dive bag full of gold and silver coins.

“This isn’t the main wreck, but there is a lot of gold down there.”  Zane turned toward me. “If the manifest in the journal Is real, then there is a lot of gold and jewelry on the ship. The rest of the hull should be close by here. We need security, more divers, and more equipment, but that will cost money. We have proof we have a potential find here. Are you okay with bringing more people on so we can recover this wreck, Liv?”

“I’m doing this for Uncle Jack. Any money is secondary. Let’s get what we need.”

Brent called for two of their salvage boats and crew, along with a security team. Coming out of Ft. Lauderdale, the boats should arrive the following day. Toby suggested asking Howard Brewer to join the group as he already knew about the treasure, and Miles radioed him.

That evening we enjoyed calm Gulf waters and a dazzling show of lightning jumping across thunderheads in the distance. Toby caught several gray snappers and prepared them in the galley. We spent the evening drawing up a tentative contract for the division of any treasure we discovered, then bedded down wherever we could find a bunk.

~~~

The eastern sky was alight with gold and red as the sun broke through the clouds on the horizon. After a light breakfast, Emilio and Marty decided to dive to have one more look at the piece of hull they found while we were waiting for Howard to arrive.

The divers had been in the water for only a few minutes when we spotted Howard’s boat. Brent let the divers know via coms that a vessel was approaching and would dock on the starboard side. The look on Howard’s face was the first hint something was wrong. His mate, Ronnie, was standing close to him at the helm. Two other guys were standing on the deck. Lena and I exchanged nervous glances as Miles threw a rope at one of the men to tie off. He called out to Howard.

“Howard, I didn’t realize you had any crew but Ronnie. Well, we can use the help.” Miles turned to Toby, fear on his face as well. “Know these guys, Toby. Never saw ‘em before.”

The loud crack of a gunshot startled everyone. Ronnie stood behind Howard with a gun pressed to the back of Howard’s head. “If you don’t do as I say, I’ll kill him and all of you.” He pointed to Miles. “You tie the boats together. The rest of you sit down on that box and don’t try nothing.”

As we sat down, Zane nudged Brent and dropped his eyes to the comm in the diver’s hands. Brent nodded slightly, and I saw him press the send button so the divers could hear.

Ronnie and his cohorts stepped onto The Betsy Lane. Ronnie shoved Howard hard to the deck. “Now we can do this the easy way or the hard way. We know you found some treasure. This fool,” he kicked Howard, “wouldn’t tell me what he and Jack talked about when we went out, so got him drunk, and he spilled the beans.”

I blurted out. “You broke into Jack’s house.”

“Yeah. But couldn’t find nothing.” He grinned. “Then Miles here just invited us in.” He jerked his head to the men with him. “Tie ‘em up and then go looking for the treasure map and that book Jack had… it’s time we got rich.”

One of the goons grabbed rope lying on the deck and headed toward us. A huge thud sounded, startling everyone. A scuba tank had hit the deck, followed by Emilio and Marty jumping from the upper level onto the aft deck. With one kick, Emilio knocked the gun from Ronnie’s hands and took him out. Marty tackled one guy and Brent the other.

In less than a minute, we went from hostages to free. Zane hugged me. “You okay?”

“Yes, thanks to your crew.”

He laughed. “Why do you think I hire only former Navy SEALS?”

“I do believe you are a pretty sharp man.”

“I try. Let’s call the Coast Guard and get these guys taken to jail.”

~~~

Two months later, we sat at Tidy Jack’s, a pitcher of Pink Cadillac Margaritas in front of us. Toby, Lena, Zane, and I left the wreck site where salvage was taking place under the watchful eye of Zane’s salvage crew and a large security team. We were back in Key West for a press conference the following day, where we would announce finding the main wreck of the Gece Yildizi, the Night Star. Between the meticulous details in Dragut Reis’s journal and Uncle Jack’s extensive research, we found the shipwreck sooner than we expected. We planned to take Jack’s ashes back to the site to scatter them after the press conference.

Toby poured another round and held the pitcher up for the bartender to bring another. He then raised his glass. “Here’s to the best friend I ever had and while finding that treasure is a wonderful thing, I’d trade it all to have him back. To Jack, a pirate too late!” A chorus of “hear, hears” followed.

Lena grinned. “I still can’t believe we don’t have to share the treasure with the state of Florida. I figured they would take it all since we were in Florida waters.”

I grinned back. “You can thank Mel Fisher and the Atocha. Florida tried to take his treasure, but he sued and won. Paved the way for us.”

“And I still can’t believe you want me to set up the museum and work with all the research people and curators.”

“Lena, it’s the perfect job for you.”

Zane leaned in. “You happy you left the law firm?”

“I am. Are you happy you left the university?”

“I am.”

“Good.” He placed the journal on the table. “Been reading this. Reis mentioned other ships that went down in the area. Wanna go look for them?”

I was beginning to like this man a lot. “I think that is exactly what we should do.”

We clinked glasses, and I remembered what Uncle Jack always said. “Key West is an endless party.”

Here’s to you, Uncle Jack.

 Please visit Deborah on her blog:https://daratliffauthor.wordpress.com/

Enzo Stephens: Of Angels and Robots

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Images are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Master Tux from Pixabay.

Of Angels and Robots

Enzo Stephens

Genesis 3:24, So God drove out the man and he placed at the east of the Garden of Eden the cherubim and a flaming sword which turned every way to keep and guard the way to the Tree of Life (AMPC).

“Hello, Azrael, and well met.”

“Gabriel.” Azrael nodded, his fedora low on his naked brow, hiding the lack of eyebrows. “Thanks for meeting with me here.”

Gabriel hiked up his ankle-length London Fog and seated himself on the park bench beside Azrael. “You said it was urgent?”

Skies were heavy with misty fog; humidity was off the charts with a ‘Feels Like’ reading of … well, when it gets that hot, who the hell cares. Azrael still pulled his own London Fog together at the lapels with a slight shiver. He cast a sideways glance at his companion, who was busy looking at his sandal-covered feet. “I think we’re going to have to move IT again.”

“What?”

Folks like these two gentlemen did not suffer from hearing deficiencies; their bodies did not break down like that at all, which is a Gift from Him. “That was unnecessary, Gabriel; I know you heard me.”

“Of course I did. I’m just surprised at your request. Can you explain?”

Azrael opened his raincoat, extracted a rolled scroll, and handed it to Gabriel, who unrolled it on his lap. The moist air did not dampen the scroll; it had the air of significant age yet was not fragile. Azreal leaned over to view the scroll with his boss. He touched a spot on the scroll, and as he raised his finger from the scroll, a dim red hue marked the spot of his touch.

The scroll was a map of the world, and Azrael’s touched an area of the Andes Mountains in Peru. Gabriel blew a soft raspberry. “I knew it was there, Az. That still doesn’t tell me why we need to move it.”

A note of annoyance crept in Azrael’s voice; “I should think that would be obvious.”

“I need you to say it.”

“Because the monkeys may have found it.”

“Why do you suspect this?”

Azrael pulled a smartphone from his coat pocket and began thumbing and twiddling, muttering, “There it is,” before handing the device to Gabriel, who scowled.

“What are you doing with this … this thing?”

“Sometimes, it’s the best way to keep up on affairs.”

“Yeah, we don’t need this,” and he raised his arm as if to heave the phone away, as in far, far away, but Azrael touched Gabriel’s arm before he could cast it away.

“Seriously, would you please read what I pulled up for you?”

Gabriel lowered his arm and looked at the device as if looking at a hunk of dog snot in the palm of his hand. “Okay, Az, what’s this …?”

Word of Life: News for The Faithful

San Antonio, TX

Professor Jocomo Fleming Claims to Have Found the Garden of Eden’ 

Gabriel shook his head. “Okay, that headline is good enough for me. You know, we could just let him go and let the flaming sword polish him off. Wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened.”

“Yeah, but—”

“I know, I know. We need to move it to protect the monkeys. I wish He would share with us why they’re so important to Him. But nooooo. Do this. Move that. Go here. Go there …” He trailed off as he saw the look of shock and horror on Azrael’s face.

“Gabriel, don’t let Him hear—”

“He hears everything, and He knows what I’m going to say before I say it. Well, whatever, let’s get the team together to move the Garden before some fool gets decapitated by His sword.

~~~

Jocomo strolled into Jerky’s pub along the Riverwalk in San Antonio, bellied up to the bar, and slapped his meaty palm on the polished mahogany surface. This was not a subtle noise at all, but there was very little that one would construe as subtle when it came to Jocomo Fleming.

A somewhat annoyed, balding, and portly bartender with thickly furred and muscled forearms stopped on the other side of the bar from Fleming, frowning. “Don’t do that.”

“What?”

“Slap the frigging bar. Makes you look like a douche.”

Jocomo chuckled. “Maybe I am a douche.”

“Sure, bub. Whatcha want?”

“How about an Old Fashioned?”

“How about it?”

“Can ya make it?”

“Are you a douche?”

“I guess I am at that!”

“Old Fashioned coming up. What’s yer poison?”

“Bullet rye. And don’t be an arse and use a bunch of little ice cubes. Use a big one, please.”

The bartender’s left brow arched, causing a tapestry of horizontal wrinkles to surface on his forehead. “Okay, you know yer booze. Comin’ up.”

“Good man.” Fleming pulled a laptop computer from his shoulder bag and popped the clamshell open, and the screen sprang to life with a vivid image of the Great Wall. He logged in and clicked open an image of the map of the world, then continued clicking until he zoomed in to discern individual trees, then moved the mouse around, searching, searching —and not finding. He sat back and cursed under his breath and closed his eyes, and tried to remember what exactly he was doing when he spotted the … anomaly.

The memories surged to life—how he had been scanning the area through satellite imaging for a wide area devoid of any archeological digs over the past century when he spied a tiny blur. It looked odd as all get out because it was a gray blur right in the middle of crystal-sharp images of foliage.

Jocomo remembered jotting down the coordinates of where that blur presented because he wanted to check it out on another computer, of which many were available throughout the university. The blur presented there as well.

Curiosity ablaze, he approached his partner in the Archeology Wing, Dileep Prakash, and asked him to pull up imagery from the university’s last dig in Mesopotamia.

No smudge.

Jocomo and Dileep then moved the imaging to the site of Fleming’s coordinates, and there was the blur, smudge, or whatever you want to call it. Jocomo liked to think of it as an anomaly.

And as the two men continued to scan other areas to either prove or disprove the existence of a geological smudge, the third member of the Archeological Wing, Doctor Cheng Su Yul, rushed into the vast room, breathlessly waving his smartphone.

“Look. Guys, you have to see this!”

Dileep continued scanning the laptop screen while Jocomo stood to greet his peer. “What’s up, Yul? What’s got you so stirred up there?”

“Look!” and he thrust his phone in Fleming’s face.

Jocomo took the phone and turned it to gaze at the screen to see a news headline from the Global Report.

‘Urubamba, Peru

‘Flaming Sword Decapitates Local Villager’

“The sword just appeared out of thin air!”

Jocomo and Dileep located Urubamba on the Maps app on his laptop, revealing a tiny village of about 3,000 residents plopped between two peaks. Fleming checked the village’s coordinates.

Sure enough, it was just a couple of ticks away from where Jocomo spotted the anomaly.

Jocomo dug into his bag again as the somewhat surly bartender slid his Old Fashioned before him, muttering, “Hope ya choke on it ya douche.”

“Here it is!” he announced to not a single caring soul whatsoever, waving a small steno notepad in the air before he flipped it open and laid it on the gleaming bar. He spied the Old Fashioned, noted the big, square ice cube rattling around in the glass, and told himself to make sure he tipped the bartender well and with cash.

Jocomo found the coordinates and maneuvered his mouse around on the map app until he located the precise spot, and sure enough, there was the anomaly.

The Blur, as he referred to it affectionately.

Dileep leaned forward to squint at the screen. “Is the Blur still there?”

“Yeah. Right here.”

It was on the floor of the lush valley between two monolithic peaks; the Blur looked like it was jutting right up against the side of one of the peaks. Both men let out a “Whoa.”

Jocomo pulled his smartphone from his jacket pocket, thumbed to an app, and set it down on the bar. “See that?”

Both men nodded, then Jocomo swiped and twiddled until he opened a Bible app, located the verse he wanted, and did the enlarging pinch so the other men could see the words. Both read, then sat back in their chairs as the bartender returned with drinks.

Yul nodded toward the Bible verse and the laptop. “Judging by what’s on these devices, I’d say you think you might have found the Garden of Eden.”

Jocomo nodded. Dileep sputtered his drink. “Seriously? You believe this fairy tale?”

Jocomo sipped his drink; swirled the harsh rye around his mouth before swallowing. “Guys, look. Trillions of people throughout the ages have read and believed every single bit of what’s in this book.

“They say it’s divinely inspired, although as you know, many say that the actual Hand of God wrote the Bible; of course, you can believe or not believe it as you see fit.

“But if you believe it,” he glanced at each of his companions for a few heartbeats before continuing. “Then you have to believe what precedes that verse, which I think is pretty common knowledge.”

Yul returned his rum and coke to the bar while Dileep swirled his grasshopper, appearing to be a bit nervous about something. “That Eve broke God’s command and ate from the Tree of Knowledge—”

“—Which gave all of mankind the ability to know good from evil!” Dileep sat back with a satisfied smile plastered on his face, which, like many of Asian descent, was beginning to redden in reaction to the alcohol.

Yul and Dileep high-fived each other in front of Jocomo’s face. “Yippie, for you both knowing what a billion other people know. Huge congrats on that, guys.”

Yul laughed. “Snarky bitch.”

All three men chuckled, then from Dileep, “So you’re figuring that you know where the Garden of Eden is? You think it’s near this dump of a village somewhere in freaking Peru called Urabamba?”

“Urubamba. And yes.”

Yul piped in. “So, what’s your plan?”

“You guys have friends in engineering and robotics, right?” Both men nodded. “Do you think they can come up with something that can keep a flaming sword that appears out of thin air busy?”

Dileep took a healthy swig from his drink. “You’re serious about this?”

Jocomo nodded. “Think about it. Mankind was banned from the Garden, specifically the Tree of Life.”

“As if that should have some meaning for us?”

“The Tree of Life, dude. Immortality.”

Yul piped in, “Jeez, I don’t know about this man. I mean God, THE God banned us from even seeing this Garden, let alone that tree. We’re messing with stuff we shouldn’t be messing with.”

“God also gave us freedom of choice and a sense of raging curiosity. Seems like a logical focal point to me. Why wouldn’t we want to see that? Hell, partake of that fruit.”

“You know we got like six hundred gods in our culture, right? I make it a point not to piss any of them off, whether they’re real or not.”

Jocomo polished off his drink. “So, are you two in or out? Sounds like you both don’t want to be a part of this.”

“I think I speak for us both when I say that I’m not looking forward to death.” Jocomo slapped Dileep on his thin back.

“Okay, first order of business is the Defender Robot.”

“Huh? What the hell is that?”

“It’s the flaming sword defender robot.”

~~~

Several men stood in a loose circle on a blustery day in the middle of the university’s tennis court. They surrounded a futuristic metal cart on twelve wheels encased in treads. Yul pulled a controller from the folds of his overcoat.

“So, there’s no stop/start button; no pause, none of that. There’s a power on/off, and that’s it, which means everyone better be clear of the device before I power it up.”

The men nodded. Grys Norda watched with huge eyes. While he (and all the other dudes) was getting $50 to stand here, throw tennis balls, and then shoot some BBs, Grys had a deep suspicion that what he was about to witness was of vast historical significance.

Fleming nodded to Yul, who returned the nod. “Okay, everyone, please pick up your net of tennis balls. When I give the mark, start throwing at this cart. Throw as hard or soft as you want. Yul? On your mark.”

Yul pressed a large button on the side of the cart, and it sprang to life with a soft hum, and a thin pole telescoped out of the body of the cart to a height of thirty feet.

He glanced around at the men, prepared with tennis balls in their hands, ready to pepper the daylights out of his creation. “Go.”

And they did indeed Go. Grys let fly the first with all his considerable might, and it was dead-on, and just before it struck the thin pole, a sliver of metal whipped out from the pole and sliced the tennis ball in half. Yul and Fleming smiled, and then all the men began chucking tennis balls at the contraption.

Not a one struck the device, and before the dust settled, the ground was littered with severed pieces of fluorescent green and yellow tennis balls.

Utter silence and a lot of wide-eyed stares. “Nice work Yul. Care to explain the physics behind this thing?”

“I don’t think you’d ‘get it.’ In fact, the one person who could get it isn’t here.”

“Dileep?”

“Yeah.”

“How about in layman’s terms then?”

“The pole and the cart house some 16,000 light sensors, spanning all possible angles and directions of attack. That was the easy part.

“Within the pole, there are titanium blades that can swing freely within their prescribed radius. There are hundreds of them.

“When an object penetrates the light field, the sensor will trigger swings of the nearest titanium blade. And if the first swing misses, backup blades will engage until the intrusion is disengaged.”

“Humpf! Whatever.” Grys hefted a pump-action bb rifle lying on the ground beside him. “When can we start shooting this thing?”

“As long as everyone aims over the six-foot mark, you all can shoot on my mark until your ammo cartridges are empty. Ready?”

A chorus of grunts and noises responded, and Yul gave the signal to open fire, and the men did so with gusto, all aiming just above the six-foot red line drawn on the pole so as to avoid hitting the men across. No friendly fire!

Dozens of BBs whizzed toward the pole and were easily met by the device; thin titanium blades whipped out from all sides of the device, whacking and knocking hurtling BBs out of the air.

Jocomo Fleming was getting bored. This thing was ready to go; all this testing just delayed what he was itching with all his being to do, which was to embark on the trip to Peru to find that lost Garden and take the gift of immortality for himself.

Yul pressed the button on the device, and the gentle hum subsided gradually, and the pole fell in on itself until it descended into the bowels of the cart. He eyed Fleming. “Well, whatcha think?”

“Let’s get this beastie packed up and get a flight to Peru lined up. By the way, the University agreed to fund this operation, and I didn’t even have to threaten to kill anyone!”

~~~

It was a six-hour ride to the village of Urubamba through some of the deepest forests and jungles the team had ever seen.

Monkeys scattered among the trees, howling at the intrusion of Mankind in their smoking transports. Mosquitos the size of parrots thumped and stuck in the window screens aboard the several Humvees that were hacking and thrashing their way over the vertiginous terrain.

The vehicles stopped several times with what appeared to be a tree blocking their path, only to find that it wasn’t a tree.

Jocomo Fleming was fuming. “Just drive over the damned snakes!” His command fell on deaf ears.

Finally, after hours of tortuous jungle driving, the driver spied a small clearing of the ever-present jungle, which was strangely dominated with kudzu.

“See the kudzu?”

“Hell yeah. It’s not indigenous to this area, is it?”

“Not at all.” Yul smiled, and at that moment, he looked like a bespectacled predator from some B-grade horror flick. “Invasive species.”

“Ever seen it take over an entire jungle?”

“Nope.”

And that was it for the kudzu conversation. 

Their driver in the lead Hummer pumped the brakes, jostling the occupants one last time. “Urubamba;” which was an entirely unnecessary announcement. Everyone disembarked just as a small contingent of barely clad older men approached. Fleming approached his driver.

“Ask them to take us to the man who saw the flaming sword.” 

The exchange was done in even tones, and the village elders responded with an almost melodic rhythm. The eldest gent raised his forefinger in a universal gesture— wait, then he tapped a young lad on the shoulder who scurried off.

Soon a man who appeared to be in his mid-thirties appeared on the heels of the boy, making his way over to the travelers.

Jocomo stepped forward. “English?”

The man nodded.

“We are here to see what you saw. The flaming sword –”

“Dios!”

“Will you show us?”

The man shook his head and began to turn on his heel. “Wait!” Jocomo snagged the man’s bony shoulder. “Show us, please. We will keep you safe.”

He let fly rapid-fire in his own tongue, which was anything but melodic. The driver of the lead Hummer stepped up. “He says we cannot go back because it is the Will of God that we stay away.”

Jocomo boiled. To make this trip, go through everything they went through, including the Defender device, all to be nixed by some superstitious lout? Fleming gritted his teeth and turned to the driver. “Tell him we’ll pay him anything.” The driver looked at Fleming with questions, but Fleming was insistent.

“Tell him!”

He did, and the man stopped and looked at the traveling party. Several of the assistants carried small arms, and included in the armory was an M-16. The local man pointed at the weapon and smiled.

Jocomo gestured to the man carrying the weapon. “Give it to him but pull the clip first. We don’t need the guy gunning us down in the middle of this godforsaken jungle.”

The local man slung the weapon over his shoulder and began yammering at the driver/interpreter. Jocomo asked for a high-level translation. “He says he’s a powerful soldier now.”

“Good for him. Hooray. Now let’s get him on board and get this party started.

~~~

Another couple of hours of jostling, tortuous jungle led the party to the base of a mountain when the local man bid them stop and disembark to approach the site on foot, and by God, Jocomo could barely contain his excitement.

If this were true, the Jocomo would be famous. Rich beyond his wildest dreams, all with the added benefit of immortality.

The local man raised his hand, signaling the party to stop, and he pointed a shaky, gnarled finger to the left of the small footpath where a withered corpse was seated and leaning against a tree. The entire party stopped to stare.

“Did this guy kill that guy?”

“It’s off. It’s been several months since we saw that story. Look at the guy’s body. Do you see any decomposition?”

Yul shook his head, as did the driver. The headless man looked as if he and their local guide had just finished a round of Beach-Blanket-Bingo with a touch of Twister thrown in. In other words, the dude was fresh. 

This didn’t sit well with some of the men in the traveling party, and Jocomo Fleming stepped up to quash that right quick. “Do we need any more evidence of supernatural involvement here?”

He looked at Yul. “Move your cart as close to the guy as you can and get it set up. All we need do is keep that flaming sword occupied until we can get past it.”

Yul did as instructed while Jocomo and several others studied the vista beyond the spot of the local man’s beheading. “It’s odd. Everything beyond this spot looks ….”

“Normal.” There was a note of awe in the man’s voice. Reverence?

“Exactly.” He turned his attention to Yul, who positioned the cart where he saw fit. “Ready to go, Yul?”

“Does this look to be in the right spot here?”

Fleming was battling impatience. “Yeah. Power that beast up now.”

The soft hum of the device reached the ears of the traveling party, and as they looked, they saw glittering blades whip out of the device to slice ‘n’ dice flying insects and a few birds.

But no flaming sword.

“This is bullshit!” A burly adventurer surged ahead before Jocomo could grab him. He turned to yell at the party. “Gonna stand around like a bunch of pansies?”

“No! Don—”

Several men began taking steps forward, despite Jocomo’s protests.

The leader of the insurgence turned around, readying his weapon, and froze in his tracks, and a split-second later, the tip of a flaming sword pushed out of the man’s back, and he screamed ‘It burns!”

The sword extracted and moved so fast that the men could not track it until the pack leader’s head landed at the feet of Jocomo.

Just then, the air was filled with jarring clangs of metal, and the entire traveling party was entranced in watching Yul’s device engage with the supernatural Sword.

The device was holding its own, though the impacts were so thunderous that they could be felt through the thick boots of the men.

“Let’s go! Now!” Jocomo surged forward. “We have to seize the advantage while that blade is engaged. C’Mon!”

A scream penetrated the air, and everyone froze, turning to see Yul being hoisted high with a burning sword through his torso.

“Oh sh—”

“YOU ARE NOT PERMITTED HERE, HUMAN.”

All eyes lifted at the sound of the baritone voice that rumbled through the teeming and vibrant jungle to see what appeared to be a normal man floating down from the sky to alight gently on the floor of the jungle clearing.

But they could not look at him for long as he burned with an incandescence that forced the men to turn away.

“COME FORTH, MICHAEL”

And another man, similar to the first, stepped out from a copse of trees, the flames from the sword he held almost as bright as the first man. “I AM HERE, MY BROTHER GABRIEL.”

One of the men fell to his knees before the gleaming pair, gibbering. Jocomo Fleming was too busy trying to process what he was seeing.

Angels?

“OUR FATHER COMMANDED THAT NO MAN SHALL ENTER THE GARDEN AFTER THE FALL LEST THEIR LIFE BE FORFEIT, AND THEY WRITHE IN THE BURNING PIT FOR ETERNITY.”

“I HAVE TAKEN TWO ON THIS DAY, MY BROTHER.”

“YES, AND OUR FATHER WILL NOT BE PLEASED. IT IS TIME TO MOVE AS THE MONKEYS HAVE FOUND THE GARDEN AGAIN.”

“WHERE CAN WE PLACE IT NOW THAT THE MONKEYS WILL NOT SEEK IT? WE HAVE TRIED THE TALLEST MOUNTAIN, AND WE HAVE TRIED THE DEEPEST JUNGLE.”

Tears began streaming from Jocomo’s eyes. They were in the Presence of divinity, and it was magnificent.

“YOU ALREADY KNOW THE ANSWER, MY BROTHER.”

“YES, WE WILL GO TO HIM TO SEEK HIS GUIDANCE.”

“IN THE MEANTIME, LET US SHROUD THIS PLACE AND ADDLE THE MINDS OF THESE MONKEYS SO THEY WILL NEVER REMEMBER.”

~~~

Jocomo Fleming wrapped his lecture with very few interruptions, most likely because the students drifted off to sleep or something. As he packed up his books and papers, he dreaded the next visit he had to make, yet he steeled himself to attend this meeting with the university president and its chief comptroller.

The subject of the meeting? The trip to Peru.

And for the life of him, he simply could not remember what happened. He recalled the trip there and the horrendous drive to Urubamba, but after that. Nada-empanada.

The next thing Jocomo could remember was awakening on board a 747 out of La Paz.

And what happened to Yul?

He (somewhat) remembered their mission of finding the Garden of Eden, but everyone knows that place is a myth, so there had to be something else, some other reason for traveling down to some podunk in Peru.

Something.

Anything at all.

Please visit Enzo on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Enzo.stephens.5011

Lynn Miclea: Pirate’s Map

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Images are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Master Tux from Pixabay.

Pirate’s Map

Lynn Miclea

A shiver ran up Rick’s spine. His eyes wide, he turned and stared at his friend. “What are we doing here?”

Darren looked back at him. “Keep your voice down.” He gestured toward the men thirty feet away. “We can’t let them hear us.”

Rick shuddered. “But look what they’re doing,” he whispered. “Something is really wrong.”

Darren grimaced. “I know. This doesn’t look good.”

Only twelve years old, Rick felt uneasy, and his stomach churned with anxiety. “But why are we even here? I don’t understand.”

Darren shrugged. “I was just following a map I found.”

“That pirate’s map you took a picture of? The one you found in that old shack? That’s crazy. Look — this is serious.”

“Sorry. I thought it was a kid’s game when I found it. I thought we were just joining in on a fun treasure-map game. I had no idea.”

Rick watched the men as they dug up the ground in the woods, and his nervousness grew stronger. “This is definitely not a kid’s game. Something is really not right here. We need to go.”

“Let’s first see what they’re doing and then we’ll leave.”

Rick nodded. “Okay.” He couldn’t wait to get out of there. Something about this terrified him, and icy tentacles of fear prickled at his skin.

The two men’s voices reached them. “You sure this is the right spot?”

“Yes. Keep digging. I know it’s here.”

A shovel thumped on something hard. “Wait. I found something.”

The men squatted and lifted out a large black box with a carved top. They glanced around nervously and then slowly lifted the top of the box.

“Look,” one of the men said. “It’s real.” They lifted out what looked like jewels, and then quickly put it back in the box.

“Let’s finish what we came here for,” the other man said. “We got what we needed. Let’s finish the job and go.”

“Yeah, you’re right. I don’t want to be here longer than we need to.”

They set the box behind them under a tree, and the two men walked a short distance away. Two minutes later, they returned, dragging a man’s body behind them.

Rick gasped. “What …”

Darren raised a finger to his lips. “Shh …”

Horrified, the boys watched as the two men shoved the body into the gaping hole.

Rick gagged, then sat back, afraid to move. His body shook as he stared wild-eyed at the men.

One of the men stood up straight. “Did you hear something?”

The other man looked around. “Not sure. Let’s just finish and get out of here. The quicker we’re done, the better.”

The men’s eyes scanned the area, and then the two men went back to burying the body.

Rick grabbed Darren’s arm. “We need to call the cops.”

Darren nodded and took out his cell phone. “I’ll call in a minute.” He clicked a few buttons and held the phone up, taking a video of what the men were doing. As the men finished covering up the makeshift grave with dirt, Darren turned off the video. He called 9-1-1 and spoke softly but urgently into the phone.

Rick watched in horror as the men started walking toward them. He scrambled around the tree trunk, rustling the leaves under his feet, and huddled next to a large leafy shrub, trying to stay out of their view. A twig snapped under Rick’s foot.

One of the men suddenly stopped. “Did you hear that?”

“No,” the other replied. The men stood still, cautiously surveying the area.

Rick held his breath, afraid to make a sound. Darren remained next to him, still and silent, holding his phone but not saying a word. Suddenly a voice on the phone asked, “Are you still there?”

Darren held the phone to his body to muffle the sound.

One of the men pointed in their direction. “It came from over there.”

Rick’s teeth chattered as terror flooded his body. Darren stayed silent, huddled next to him.

“Well, well, well, what do we have here?” one of the men suddenly called out, moving directly in front of the two boys.

Rick and Darren stayed quiet.

The taller man stepped forward. “What are you two boys doing here?”

Rick looked up into the man’s rugged face. “Nothing,” he whispered.

Darren spoke up. “We just came into the woods and sat down to rest. Just enjoying the trees, that’s all.”

The shorter man glared at the boys. “I don’t believe you.” He spat on the ground. “What were you doing here? C’mon now, the truth. Out with it.”

Darren answered. “Nothing. We like this section of the woods. It’s only about a half mile from the parking lot, and this trail, the Glenrock trail, is really beautiful. That’s all we—”

“Shut up,” the taller man suddenly shouted, cutting him off. “That’s enough.”

The shorter man grunted. “What should we do with them? Think they saw anything?”

“Not sure. But we don’t want any loose ends.”

“True. We can’t afford any witnesses.”

Rick felt nauseous. These men were talking about killing them! Terror gripped him. How could they possibly escape? He desperately wanted to go home. He felt his bowels loosen.

As the taller man stepped closer, Darren jumped up and held out a small spray canister. “Stay back,” Darren shouted. “I have pepper spray!”

The man lunged at Darren, and Darren sprayed. The man swatted Darren’s arm, and the canister went flying as droplets sprayed the air. “Aaaah,” he yelled as he quickly jumped back and Darren fell to the ground.

Panicked, the two boys jumped up and ran down the trail. Rick could barely breathe.

Half-way to the parking lot, strong hands grabbed the boys from behind. Rick screamed. The grip on them tightened. The sound of weapons being cocked reached him.

“Stop! Hands in the air! Don’t move!” a strong voice commanded.

Four uniformed police officers, guns drawn, raced toward them on the trail.

Feeling relieved, woozy, and weak, Rick closed his eyes and slid to the ground, as the grip on him loosened. A few moments later, he sat up and scooted to a tree, leaned against it, and let out a long, slow breath. He watched the officers take control and snap handcuffs on the two men.

An officer kneeled in front of him. “Are you okay?” the officer asked. “Are you injured?”

Rick licked his dry lips. “I’m okay. Just shaken up.”

“Good, and I can understand that. Sit here for a few minutes and just rest. We’ll ask you some questions in a couple of minutes, okay?”

Rick nodded and saw the officer approach his friend. Darren animatedly told the officer what happened and what they saw. He showed the officer the video he had taken, told them where the man was buried, and explained how he called 9-1-1 and how he had carefully snuck in a description of where they were. The officer thanked him and said he had done a great job, and the video would help them a lot.

The officer then came back to Rick. “How did you happen to come here in the woods?”

Rick shook his head. “My friend took a picture of a pirate’s map and thought it was a fun kid’s game. We followed the directions here. We had no idea what was going on.”

The officer nodded. “You’re lucky we got here when we did. Those guys are part of a gang known as the Pirate Gang, and they are ruthless. They would have killed you on the spot and not thought twice. And that map is how they communicate with each other. You two have helped us catch them. And hopefully we are now one step closer to shutting down this gang. So we really appreciate your help.”

Rick gave a weak smile. “Glad we could help. But for now, I think I really just want to go home. And I think I will avoid the woods for a while.”

The cop patted Rick on the leg. “I don’t blame you, kid, I don’t blame you one bit.”

—————————————–

Copyright © 2022 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit Lynn’s blog and follow her at – https://lynnpuff.wordpress.com/
Please also visit Lynn’s website for more information on her books – https://www.lynnmiclea.com/
And please visit her Amazon author page at – https://www.amazon.com/Lynn-Miclea/e/B00SIA8AW4

Lisa Criss Griffin: A Treasure Of The Ancients

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Images are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Master Tux from Pixabay.

A Treasure Of The Ancients

Lisa Criss Griffin

The great, scaly beast slithered out of the depths of the shifting sand, blazing sunlight illuminating her iridescent green coloring. Her ivory fangs dripped with a swirling serum of liquid death in anticipation of a quick kill. She rose upward and flared her neck, preparing to strike the hapless intruder who dared to invade her sanctuary… the place she had been ordered to protect and occupy since the beginning of her time.

There had been others before her, but her memories of them were dim. They were like her but also not like her in other ways. Occasionally, she fancied she saw images in the clouds that reminded her of them… drifting away on a current. Strange how similar their actual departure had been.

Her vertical irises widened as she focused on her prey. The intruder was here without permission. It had to die. That was The Order. It was the purpose of her presence. A silent scream… hidden in a hiss, left her throat as her muscles tightened in preparation to deliver the venomous strike.

She flung herself forward, fangs bared. A miss! The Old Masters would not like that. Her scales glinted in the light as she agilely twirled, preparing to strike again. Unexpectedly, she felt her body levitating… leaving the protection of the warm sand. Writhing angrily in protest, she felt herself fall into a dark, albeit soft, cave. The cave also seemed to be spinning in protest. She felt herself relaxing against the side of the black chamber as the spinning slowed, then stopped.

A delicate forked tongue slipped into the darkness, probing for information. The scent in the chamber was strange and unfamiliar, although she could detect a mild aroma of something musky… with a hint of salt. She flicked her tongue out again. The bottom of the black chamber hardened without warning. A moment later, a shockwave rocked her enclosure followed by a noticeable vibration. The vibration was relentless and continued for what seemed to be a very long time. The prisoner eventually slept, vowing that when released, she would come out, fangs loaded and bared.

The creature shrouded in darkness felt the bottom of the chamber get soft, then hard once again.

Moving her body slightly, she readied herself for the battle of her lifetime. A surge of her unusual venom filled her fangs.

A bright light overhead exploded into the dark chamber. She shot out of her prison and viciously bit the first thing she encountered. She tensed in her determination, her venom quickly pumping from her glands. Something was holding her head still until she finally relaxed her hold on her victim. Wiggling in protest, she found herself gingerly lowered into a lovely garden. It was filled with everything she liked. She found a place under a warm rock ledge and surveyed her new surroundings. Although it was lovely here, it was unusually quiet. And small. The rock ledge was oddly calming, and she finally found herself drifting away into the merciful land of Nod.

***

Dr. Greg Zimmerman looked up from the lab report on the creature’s venom, unconsciously rubbing his goatee in excitement. The results were astounding and would be dangerous in the wrong hands. He called a colleague using his highly secure personal phone. He waited as the AI confirmed his contact on the receiving end of the call.

“Is this my old biochemist buddy, Wes?”

“Possibly. Who is this?”

“It’s me! Greg Zimmerman. Doc-tor Greg Zimmerman, research scientist with the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles.

“Ah, Greg. Always good to hear from one of my favorite MIT colleagues! What is going on in your slice of the world these days?”

“Remember the old pirate map we were fascinated with while we were students, along with those notched cutlasses and pieces of eight from the exhibit at The Peabody Museum?”

“Sure. It was a fun venture for a couple of imaginative maritime geeks like us. You almost got us in trouble by taking pictures of the display. What about it?”

“I was studying a faded part of the map the other evening when I noticed something unusual.”

“You still have a picture of it? That exhibit was discontinued about the time we graduated.”

“Yeah, I thought it was strange they would remove such a popular exhibit at the time, so I kept my photos of the exhibit. I pull them out occasionally… just for fun. And I found something hidden right in front of our eyes.”

“So what is this mysterious find, my friend?”

The uncomfortable silence on the line was deafening.

“Greg? You still there?”

“Yeah. I don’t exactly know how to say this. Can we meet in person somewhere? Somewhere private and secure. I need to share this with someone I trust. I will send you an encrypted file before we meet. There will be no explanation with it, but you should be able to recognize what it represents. I will also have a package hand delivered by my student lab assistant. He doesn’t know anything, so don’t ask him questions. Handle it with care and store it in a secure location. And whatever you do, do not allow the contents to make direct contact with you or anyone else.”

“Damn, you always know how to get my attention, you old pirate fanatic. I assume you have my current address? Alright. Meet me at the old Episcopal church on Vine Street, a couple of blocks down the street from my address. I will be behind the mausoleum in the graveyard, beyond the church building, tomorrow evening at midnight. You will follow me from there to a secure location… silently for our protection.”

“That sounds absolutely creepy, Wes. How will I know it is actually you and not some freakin weirdo waiting to suck down my choice bodily fluids?”

“Hmmm. That’s fair.” Wes chuckled. “I will flip you off on the last stroke of the church bell at midnight. How will I know it is you, my old friend?”

“I will reciprocate your greeting with both hands….”

The call ended, leaving Wes chuckling but scratching his head. Whatever Greg had discovered was big. Big enough for him to be afraid for their safety. It was a good thing Wes had a long-standing relationship with The Guardian. Hopefully, Greg’s discovery would end up within The Guardian’s organization. Their covert rescue operation of the hybrid humans interred in the Science Camps across Region One was almost complete, thanks to Evan Muhollon’s quick thinking and his clandestine theft and use of the latest chemical atrocity developed by the late, evil Dr. Nutter on the key people answering to The Czar. Wes respected Evan for his moral restraint in administering doses of the new substance to the personnel involved with The Czar of Region One.

Unfortunately, the removal of a person’s ability to make decisions on their own through Cabal’s AI technology was something Evan and his fellow members of the military were familiar with. The Guardian had provided the necessary resources to free the military serving as guards in the Science Camps from the mind-altering AI implants. The new serum Evan had stolen from Dr. Nutter was a step beyond that technology. Even so, Wes felt little remorse for General Mitchell and his staff.

An email announcement dinged on his computer, pulling Wes from his reverie. He was a covert operative for The Guardian, and he preferred to keep it that way. He downloaded the contents of the file to a thumb drive before opening it on a separate computer set up for this very purpose. If anything, The Guardian was obsessive about all versions of security.

His eyes opened in surprise as he scanned the image in front of him. A faded pattern barely visible on the lower corner of the old pirate parchment caught his eye. It was obviously a molecular formula of something he found slightly familiar, but it was not something he could immediately identify. Wes scanned the file for any type of tracking or malware before forwarding it to a trusted biogenetic specialist within The Guardian’s scientific organization, who would know what he was viewing.

He also sent a separate email, then an email with Greg’s file, both heavily encrypted, to his best friend Rance Edwards, who had helped him figure out the initial reversal protocol for the lizard hybridization due to the nefarious injections pushed upon the populace during the pandemic. The Guardian had stepped in to help once they discovered the success Wes and Rand were demonstrating with their treatment. Rand was a more overt player in The Guardian. Wes trusted Rand more than anyone he knew. If Greg’s discovery was important to their cause, Rand knew the right people to inform.

As luck would have it, the package arrived that evening and was safely placed in his housekeeper’s hands by a young man who obviously wanted nothing more than to drop off the several packages foisted upon him by his boss before heading home to his girlfriend for the weekend. Greg’s package was personally addressed to a Mr. Cheshire Katz, Esquire, who in actuality, had been a feral cat who lived near their housing unit at MIT. His housekeeper… another loyal operative for The Guardian, laughed out loud when Wes explained his custodial connection to the esteemed Mr. Katz, Esq.

He carefully opened the package in his lab, wearing full personal protective gear. He pulled the styrofoam box apart slowly, revealing a vial of creamy liquid. He held it closer to the light, the mixture swirling in the sealed tube ominously. Wes repacked it carefully and placed it far to one side in a deep, dark cavity behind a nondescript loose brick hidden by a heavy file cabinet in the darkest section of his basement. He resealed and placed the original outer package, minus Mr. Katz’s name and address, into his safe built into the brick stairwell wall. He smiled as he thought of the message he had placed within the original box. If the safe was compromised during his absence, there was a fairly good drawing of his signal to Greg awaiting any invaders searching for the contents of the box in his inner sanctum.

Fog lay like a heavy shroud in the old graveyard before midnight. Slow swirls of the thick mist curling upward were the only indication of the presence of the two men behind the granite mausoleum. The church bell finished the twelfth strike, the final forlorn ring dissipating into the damp, murky night. The two men exchanged hand signals. A barred owl hooted from the top of the church’s bell tower as the two men quietly disappeared through a hidden door on the back of the mausoleum.

Wes flicked on his small flashlight as they made their way down a set of steps to a small room lined with decorative granite walls. An ornate casket was elevated on a stone stand, covered with dust and a withered spray of dried flowers. It reverently filled the small crypt. Wes grabbed Greg’s hand, guiding him to a side wall. The wall slid sideways a few feet, revealing a tunnel. The two old friends stepped through the opening. There was only a small whoosh of air as the stone wall quickly returned to its original position behind them.

The tunnel went deeper, then branched off in several directions. Wes and Greg took the branch to the right. It twisted and turned until it unexpectedly ended. Wes reached up to an almost invisible dent in the ceiling and pulled down a folding ladder. Once they made it into the upper chamber, Wes pulled the ladder back into position. There were steps leading upwards from this chamber, then a long tunnel that sloped upward. They reached a landing surrounded on two sides by old brick. A door in front of them swung open easily, revealing a room lit by beeswax candles and a table with two chairs.

“What the hell, Wes?!”

“I know. You would think all this is a bit extreme. It isn’t. You know the Cabal would not hesitate to snuff us both if what you have to tell me has any merit. So, my old friend. What is on your mind?”

“You got the file? And the package too?”

“Yes, but I don’t understand what I was looking at, honestly.”

Greg’s eyes almost glowed with excitement in the flickering candlelight. He leaned across the table, his hands splayed across the polished wooden surface.

“I ran across a very, very rare snake specimen recently. So rare that it is widely accepted that these specimens are extinct and have been for centuries. These creatures were known as the Treasures of The Ancients due to a secret anomaly in their venom. I captured her and milked her venom.”

“Well… that is great! Congratulations, man! But what does that have to do with me or the Guardian?”

“Your answer lies in the venom. I believe it is an ancient way to help rid ourselves of the monsters that call themselves the Cabal. Many of us suspect they are not fully human, and the nonhuman part is impervious to things effective on human beings. Thankfully, there is nothing new under the sun, my friend. Only hidden away until it is time for it to be found to help rid ourselves of these noxious beings once again.”

Wes ran his hands through his hair in hopeful disbelief.

“If you want to pursue this, The Guardian will have to make the decision, Greg. And we will have to fake your death if you join us.”

“I am grateful to have survived long enough to get this information and a sample of the venom into your hands. The Guardian will want to confiscate the snake as well… before the Cabal knows she exists. She is unbelievably gorgeous, Wes. Her scales are bright iridescent green, but her eyes…. Her eyes are… cerulean blue, rimmed in black and gold. And she flares her neck like a cobra. I labeled her as a common green pit viper, which would be a viable substitute. I would be honored to join The Guardian if they believe I can bring value to their organization. Mostly, I felt like this discovery needed to be shared with someone who would use it wisely… and not cold-heartedly murder that beautiful, ancient creature.”

Dominic turned away from the one-way window facing Greg. He locked eyes with Max, then Melanie, who had founded The Guardian after the Cabal murdered their father. They had a hard decision to make. This man could easily be a mole for the Cabal. They were so close to their goal. This development was unexpected and very late in the game. What if the Czars were not completely human as rumored? What would the unusual venom do to them? What if it was all a lie to infiltrate their organization? Could they afford to trust this man? Could they afford not to? The stakes were very high and would be getting even higher shortly.

The three of them nodded to each other in agreement and left the viewing room. Wes and Greg continued to chat, completely unaware the difficult decision they were discussing had already been made. Actions were already well underway regarding the covert retrieval of the only surviving Treasure of The Ancients. The tragic story of Dr. Greg Zimmerman’s untimely death in a fiery car crash would be the first thing the two MIT colleagues would hear on the news the next morning. It was always one hell of a way to wake up.

—————–

Copyright ©️ 2022 Lisa Criss Griffin
All rights reserved

Please visit Lisa on Facebook: www.facebook.com/authorlisacrissgriffin

Anita Wu: Cutting Secrets

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Images are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Master Tux from Pixabay.

Cutting Secrets

Anita Wu

“Why do you have a wooden stick, Ma?” Kallisi asked me as she rummaged through my treasures, searching for the feather she threw in there last week. The sea chest was mine, but she treated it as her own. I didn’t mind.

I tilted my head a little from where it leaned against my hand, my body hunched over the paperwork I needed to finish before we docked tomorrow morning. I rubbed my eyes with my other hand, the pen gliding along my cheek, and I knew it had left a mark.

I squeezed my eyes shut before letting it refocus on my daughter. She held a tree branch in her hand: most of its length filed flat, but one end left untouched, intact, meant to be a handle.

“It’s a sword.” I smiled, the innocent days flooding my memory.

“But you can’t cut a single thing with this. How am I going to gut a fish?”

I laughed. “No, but you can cut the wind if you strike it fast and hard enough.” I remembered the crisp whip as it snapped against the air in a summer green backyard. I remembered laughter and my friend’s heavy footsteps as he ran and fought back, pretending to be weak against my onslaught.

The crack brought me back, and Kallisi stood, frozen, rigid, her hand gripping half the sword.

“Come here,” I murmured as I moved my chair farther from the desk, offering my lap to my child. She brought the broken thing with her but kept her gaze at her feet. Her hand twitched, and that was all she would let on.

“Your grandma gave me that stick,” I told her as I stroked her hair and lifted her chin so her eyes met mine. Tears touched their corners, but her lips stopped quivering when she saw my countenance, and her shoulders relaxed.

“I liked to pretend to be a pirate, but your grandpa…wasn’t a fan. She helped me make a sword anyways,” I pulled Kallisi onto my lap, “so that I could play with my friends.”

“She never thought I would actually become one. And I never found out why your grandpa hated it so much.”

“He had kept so many secrets.”

***

“Sam, go play outside.” I stopped looking through the spyglass, stopped staring at the horizon where the sea and the sky met, where I would bring my crew to explore new lands, and brought myself back to the living room, to the enclosed four gray-blue walls.

Pa stood by the door, and I couldn’t see the person who was visiting.

I stepped slowly around the couch in an attempt to find a better angle, to try to catch a glimpse of Pa’s life, the one he so desperately kept me out of whenever someone from his past visited. A head of gray-white hair with sharp black eyes took note of me. “So you have a daughter, Nav.”

“Sam, now.” I heard the suppressed anger in Pa’s voice, jumped across the couch, through the hallway, and picked up my sword; I slipped out the back door, circled around the yard to the front, and crouched in the bushes. I could not be a pirate, but I could defend my family — my crew — as long as I knew what I was up against.

“What do you want?” Pa spat. I was familiar with the venom, the way his curt words left scars along my heart every time I asked him to tell me about his childhood.

“Now is that the way to greet your Captain, Navigator?” the visitor sneered.

“I paid our debts. We are free.”

The old man let go a hearty laugh. “A few gold coins paid no debt.” I spied as he forced himself inside but left the door ajar. “You ran away, Nav. It took me quite a while to find you — I mean, I did have to find a new navigator. But I’m here to take you back.”

There was silence, and I scooted closer, trying to angle myself to see. The old man towered over Pa, despite standing just as tall, as his eyes preyed and his smile hungered. He looked just like the black cat that visited our backyard — the one who would hide in the flowerbed and stalk the birds that came to play. His tail waved purposefully, warningly, as his eyes followed the small red bird that would soon lose its color. Pa would chase the cat away, but he always came back to hunt.

I was afraid this old man would come back.

“Get the hell out of my house, Cap—” Pa stopped suddenly.

“Oh? Well, look at that — years, and your mouth still knows to call me Captain.” I heard the smirk. “I’m sure that means your own mind knows that you belong to me.”

“Like hell. Let go of me!” I would defend my family, my crew.

“Leave Pa alone!” I screamed as I leapt from my hiding spot, my sword in hand, and attacked the old man’s hind legs, smacking them with my sword. Only weak thuds sounded.

My feet lifted off the ground, and I was suspended by the collar of my shirt. I came face to face with those black slits for eyes. He gave me a toothy grin, and I shoved my feet towards his face, failing to kick him.

“Let. Go. Of. Me!” I emphasized each word, eyes shut, screaming, as I waved around my arm, hoping the sword would hit him again.

“Let her go.” Pa’s shout.

I felt my body slammed against a wall, then felt an arm wrapped around me. A cold pressure against my neck. I didn’t want to open my eyes.

“One step, and I slit her.” The old man’s.

“What do you want?”

Silence.

“Her. She’ll pay your debt.”

***

“He took you?” Kallisi asked.

I smiled. “Yes.”

“Grandpa didn’t do anything?”

“Well, he couldn’t. He would’ve risked my life. Then I wouldn’t be here, and neither would you.” I embraced my daughter, feeling the warmth of her body against mine.

“What was Grandpa’s debt?”

“I don’t know, Kall. Grandpa never told me, and neither did he.”

“Did you pay Grandpa’s debt?”

I smiled, remembering my blood-stained hands after years of torment. “Yes, I did. You won’t have any debt to pay.”

“I like that I’m here, Ma.”

“Me too, Kall, me too.” I stroked her hair again, eyeing the fake sword in her hand and then the real ones behind her, beside the treasure chest. The pair of curved steel that had stayed with me for decades and saw the lands I saw, that hacked the bodies aboard ships until it now lay cracked and dull — the pair I stopped using after staining them in his blood. “Now, don’t you need to go to sleep?”

She showed me her smile. “Right after I find that feather!” She jumped off my lap and dashed to the treasure chest, the broken branch forgotten.

“You never told me where you got the feather from.”

“Because you were too busy,” Kallisi called me out. “Ken caught a bird. Finally! He had been trying for months. And when he threw it in a cage and went to tell everyone else, I snatched the bird and set it free.”

I laughed. “I can’t imagine the crew would let him go free with that claim.”

“Oh, they didn’t. He has to clean the deck for the next month for lying.”

“Did he know you did it?”

“Nope.” She smiled, sad. “No one believed he caught the bird, and he spent the rest of that day on his bunk bed. He wouldn’t even come to eat dinner when I tried to pull him off the bed! Then he dragged his feet whenever he had to go anywhere. He stopped talking with me, stopped stealing Jeff’s mug with me, stopped hiding in the deck with me. Even stopped going up to the crow’s nest with me.”

She twirled the feather in her hands. “I plucked the feather before I set the bird free.”

“I wanted to give it to him as an apology. For not telling him earlier.”

I smiled then, knowing my daughter would not keep secrets from the ones she loved the most.

Please visit Anita on her blog: https://soreispeaks.wordpress.com/

PAUL W. REEVES ED.D: PARENTING 101 PLUS – EPISODE THREE

Images used are free use and not subject to attribution. Image by manseok Kim from Pixabay 

As writers, we are always doing research on many topics. Impact Radio USA offers a new program, “Parenting 101 Plus,” dealing with issues raising children, including case studies of drug use, truancy, anger, etc., for those of you who write family issues, particularly issues with children and how to deal with the behaviors. The show is based on host Paul W. Reeves, Ed. D‘s book, A Principal’s Family Principles.

Parenting 101 Plus

Join Paul W. Reeves, Ed.D—a longtime teacher and school principal, and the father of three children—and his guests, as they discuss the world of parenting your children, from birth through age 100! Also included are excerpts and discussions of Paul’s parenting book, “A PRINCIPAL’S FAMILY PRINCIPLESRaising Your Kids to Be Happy and Healthy, While Enjoying Them to the Fullest”

Parenting 101 Plus” drops a new show EVERY Thursday morning at 9:00 am ET; then each episode airs for seven straight days at 9:00 am ET and 5:00 pm ET.

Impact Radio USA

Podcasts Episode #3

On this episode, in addition to reading the chapter “I Dunno – I Fuhgot” from his book, sharing wisdom from others, a bit of humor, and more, Paul played his interview with Stephanie Ryan. 

Stephanie Ryan, working in Science with her Ph.D., M.S., and B.S., has started an Instagram page to help parents to educate their kids in Science! The page “Let’s Learn About Science” is filled with lessons and activities for all!

For past episodes, click on the link below.

Parenting 101 Plus Podcasts

———————————–

Paul W. Reeves Ed.D

Paul W. Reeves, Ed. D. is an author, radio talk show host, educator, composer/arranger, and professional musician.

Please visit his website for more information regarding Paul’s career or his books and CDs.

Paul W. Reeves

You can reach Paul by email at:
PaulParenting101Plus@gmail.com

Raymond G. Taylor: The Treasure Map

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Images are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Master Tux from Pixabay.

The Treasure Map 

Raymond G. Taylor

“Let me play the game with you… I wanna play!”

“Well, you can’t!”

“Why can’t I?”

“Because we’re playing boys’ games.”

“What boys’ games?”

“Pirates, if you must know! You wouldn’t like it.” It was the wrong thing to have said, and I knew as soon as I said it what Millie’s response would be.

“Yes, I would. I love playing pirates.”

“Girls can’t be pirates. There were no girl pirates.”

“Yes! There were. Lots of girls were pirates.…… Oh, pleeease, Marcus, I’m bored.”

“Why don’t you just play with your dolls.”

“Dolls are boring! I want to play pirates! Let me play! Let me, let me, let me!”

It was no use arguing, and my older brother Miles wasn’t any help. He just stood there, leaning on the gate, with his arms crossed and an annoyed look on his face. I don’t know why it was always me who was left to deal with my nuisance sister, and I just couldn’t win. If I said yes, he would tut and ask me why I had given in. If I stuck to my guns and silly Millie went off crying to Mum, he would say, “What did you do that for, stupid?”

We were all getting a bit bored and irritable that half-term holiday. The weather was starting to get cold and rainy, and we didn’t want to be kept in the house. That would be the most boring thing of all. We had been a bit spoiled by our summer holidays in the South of France with mad Aunt Aggie. We missed the hot weather, we missed our daily swims in the clear, warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea, we missed the coffee, hot milk, and crusty bread for breakfast, we missed the daft French kids, but most of all, we missed our freedom. For six blissful weeks, we had run around like wild things, having adventure after adventure, in the woods, the hills, the sea, and our new friends’ houses and fields (some of them lived on farms). Seemed to me that French children could do as they pleased. When we arrived home in sleepy Surrey, it was back to asking for permission whenever we wanted to do anything or go anywhere. You would think our parents ought to be glad to get rid of us but, no, we had to explain every time what we were doing, where we were going and when we were coming home. It was all, “Don’t go too far,” “Be back by teatime,” or “Don’t talk to any strangers.” Why would we want to talk to any of the weird grownups who lived around here?

The other children, too, seemed a bit strange to us when we came back, and they were none too friendly.

“Why are you pretending to be French?” they would say when they heard us speak for the first time on the first day of term. I think we must have picked up some of the French accent. They also commented on the deep mahogany tans we had acquired from weeks of exposure to the hot Provencal sun and wind.

“Look at that bunch of ‘Spanish people.’” (They used an ugly word, not ‘Spanish people,’ that I won’t repeat. They used an even worse word too, beginning with “W.”) We could have laughed it all off but for the fact that Johnny Jones, the school bully, was the one to start it. Once he had started to jeer at us, everyone else felt they had to join in. We were glad when half-term came, and we didn’t have to go to school for a whole week.

Neither of the other two ever mentioned the little episode in France when I had passed out. I didn’t want to speak about it either. I tried to tell Miles what had happened once, but he just thought I was making it up. Aunt Aggie never mentioned anything to my Mum, thankfully, but I knew she knew where I had been. I worked out later, by reading some books about Rome, that I had somehow crossed over into Roman times and found myself in a rich person’s villa in Roman Gaul. I think it must have been Aunt Aggie’s house and marveled that it could be so old. Or maybe I was just making it up, dreaming it, or imagining it. Perhaps I had gone a bit mad like our Aunty, and I certainly never touched that earthenware jar again.

“You can play if you can catch us,” I said as I darted off towards the woods, suddenly thinking of a ploy to get away from my sister. Miles quickly followed and had soon caught up with me, grabbing onto my shirt and pulling himself in front. Luckily, Millie was several paces behind.

“Wait for me! Wait for meeeeee!”

We ran clear across the playing field, avoiding the dogshit and the puddles, and were nearly out of breath when we reached the edge of the woods. Miles disappeared through a bush, and I followed him, leaving poor Millie way behind. I thought she would just stop, stamp her feet, and then go crying back home, but she didn’t give up.

As I leapt over a bramble at the edge of the field and took a few paces into the woods, I pulled up short. Miles was just standing there in a small clearing and staring at what looked like a wooden shed.

“I’ve never seen that before,” he said. Neither had I. We both stood there staring and were more than a little put out by the sudden appearance of this wooden structure and weren’t sure what to make of it. It was not new and was covered in moss and ivy, so it couldn’t have just been put there, but it certainly was not there when we were last in the woods. Just then, Millie arrived on the scene, panting, out of breath.

“Where did that come from?” she said once she had gotten her breath back. Nobody answered. I was beginning to feel a little uncomfortable. Miles started to walk around the shed, pulling at the ivy and banging the wooden walls with his fist.

“There must be a door somewhere,” he said.

“I don’t like it,” said Millie.

“Well, you know which way home is, don’t you?” he said, without a trace of sympathy. Millie didn’t move. We were both just watching Miles to see if he would find anything. As he pulled away some ivy, it seemed that a door suddenly appeared in the shed. There was no handle, but when he banged it with the side of his fist, it opened a fraction. It looked like there was some sort of light inside, a hint of a golden, fiery glow seeping out. Millie and I both stepped forward to peer in through the crack. Miles just pulled at the door, which opened with a distinct creak.

“Woah!” he said, stepping immediately inside. We followed him into the shed to see what was up and were confronted by a small table in the middle. It wasn’t the map and swords that drew our attention so much as the golden coins that lay strewn about. We each picked some up, examining them closely. They were solid, heavy, and certainly looked like real gold, and others were silver and copper. They had strange markings on them and couldn’t have been English.

It was only then that we noticed the walls. While we were looking at the coins, the walls seemed to have….. well….. moved away or something. The whole place was much, much bigger inside than the shed had been on the outside. We didn’t know what to make of it. It was like being in the TARDIS but without that funny up and down thing in the middle. And there was no Doctor Who to be seen.

“Miles, I think we should go now,” I said, starting to feel funny and a bit shaky. Miles looked at me, concerned.

“You’re not going to have another one of those fits, are you? Like you had in France.”

Before I could answer, the whole room began to shake a little, and I could hear a rushing sound, just like the time when I picked up the jar. Looking at the other two, they had both clapped their hands over their ears and closed their eyes. I did the same, trying to blot out the sound and the sight of the room shaking. Then it ceased abruptly, and I turned back to the door to run, but it had gone. There was just the bare, dirty wooden wall. The table was still there, and the coins and the map and the two cutlasses, as I now realized, which were crossed over the map like some kind of a warning. Then we heard an almighty bang!

Looking up to the opposite side of the room we saw another door open a fraction where there was none before. We were now all shaking with fear. Millie clasped onto me, and I put my arm around her, instinctively picking up one of the cutlasses as Miles picked up the other. We edged over toward the new door, not knowing what it could all mean. Millie tried to pull me back, but looking around, there was nowhere else to go. We either left through the door at the back of the room or shed or whatever it was, or we stayed put. Perhaps forever.

“What if that one disappears too?” I said to no one in particular. Nobody answered me either, but we moved more quickly to the door. Pausing, Miles put his hand on the door and then suddenly threw it open. We each let out a horrified gasp!

Stepping through the door, we stepped onto a shingle beach. Looking around us, we could see a wide beach hemmed in by rocky cliffs on either side and shelving down to the sea where, far out, a wooden sailing rocked to the swell. We could see a longboat close to the water, and half a dozen men were clambering up the shingle slope towards us. Before we had time to react, one of them looked up at us in surprise.

“What took you so long?” he shouted, and then: ‘Where’s the map? Go back and get it! Get it quick, you damn fools!”

Please visit Ray on Vocal: The Treasure Map | Fiction (vocal.media)
https://vocal.media/fiction/the-treasure-map

Kenneth Lawson: All the Water In the World

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Images are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Master Tux from Pixabay.

All the Water in the World 

Kenneth Lawson 

Old swords and maps always brought back memories. This one brought memories of a lifetime ago—several lifetimes ago, to be exact—and with it, the face of Deidre with her roguish ways, fiery red hair, and fierce independence. 

She was as dangerous as she was beautiful. Theirs had been a love that had blossomed in the torment of the seas. Her ship was one of few of his equals, but time and the sea had not been kind to either of them. The sea took her away from him. 

He’d memorized the exact location where her ship had gone down. As he muttered the coordinates to himself, special memories returned. Easing back in his worn leather chair, Captain Jacob Jarvis folded his hands together and let his mind wander back over the centuries to 1638. He had just boarded the Spanish ship as the early morning sun streaked across the water and greeted the ship’s captain.

The Spanish ship had fought bravely against his much bigger galleon but inevitably surrendered her crew and cargo. The swords now hanging in his cabin had been taken from that captain. 

That had been many centuries ago. He relaxed in his quarters, staring at the twinkly stars through the large porthole as he recalled more recent events. The year was 1939, and the ships he once sailed had evolved into steamships and ocean liners that now crossed his path. He remembered as a young lad crossing the wake of the Titanic on April 12, 1911, and marveling at how big and beautiful she was. Her lines seemed to glide across the water. To be the captain of such a ship would be the perfect ending to a sea-faring career. He sighed. History recorded the fate of the Titanic only a few days later. The Titanic holds a mysticism that few other ships have today.

Jacob let his eyes roam his quarters. Pictures and trinkets he had collected over several lifetimes covered the walls and shelves. A small black and white photo hung not far from a news clipping about the Titanic sinking. In it, a face framed in short curly hair smiled at the photographer. The leather jacket and headgear she wore were recognizable now. Amelia Earhart. He’d meet her briefly on a small island in the Pacific not long before her final attempt to fly around the world. He smiled at the brief encounter. Even as busy as she was and under pressure, she was warm and funny. He had followed her route by sea and discovered her fate, but he would never reveal it. He and his crew were never supposed to be there, and he swore them to secrecy which they never broke.

Each life Jacob lived had changed him ever so slightly. With each reincarnation, he’d sensed himself becoming older faster. At first, he hadn’t noticed. He had been so busy living each life, throwing himself into the throes of his adventures. Another picture caught his eye. His old friend Humphry Bogart and his lovely wife Betty, as he called her, but the rest of the world knew her as Lauren as they stood on the deck of his sailing yacht, Santana. Jacob had sailed his schooner into the harbor and joined the Bogarts for the evening. Soon afterward, Bogart sent him a copy of the photo with the caption, To my sailing friend, fair winds, and calm seas.

More than two hundred years later, that photo and many photos of redheads hung in his cabin. It seemed he always had a thing for redheads since the beautiful Deidre. Redheads always captured him in some way. They were strong, independent, willing, and able to meet any man head-on and win most of the time.

His eyes caught Helen’s photo taken in the early nineteen forties, during World War II. He’d met that beautiful redhead on a dock in New York City as she disembarked a transatlantic ship bringing refugees from war-torn Europe. He’d been working with the merchant marines and escorting allied ships. His ship had docked to resupply before returning to duty, and he was standing on the dock when she appeared.

He remembered the war years fondly. In some way, it had been the most exciting life he’d had. The danger and possibility of being killed had given him a rush he hadn’t had since he’d boarded a Spanish Galleon three hundred years before. And Helen? Coming home to Helen had also been a thrill of a different kind. But like every other woman he loved in his lifetimes, she wasn’t to be with him long. She passed before he renewed again. Aching from losing Helen, he vowed never to let a woman get that close again. But then, he knew his history. Ladies liked him, and frankly, he needed them.

Jacob pulled a couple of old logbooks from the shelves and began to read the details of all his lives that he had recorded. The evolution of his handwriting over the centuries amused him. It had been large and flowery at one time, the words filling more pages than they should have but easy to read. A logbook from a hundred years later showed how he’d developed into writing smaller and cramming more onto a page—most of the time making it harder to read. He laughed to himself. No one read these things, but Jacob knew someone would eventually read them. He never understood his reason for being, yet he had a strong need to write about his life and his lust for adventure and danger. Both of which he’d chased many times over.

He laid the logbooks on his desk as a feeling of déjà vu swept over him. He always sensed the time for his renewal was close. His life was always different, but his passion for sailing and exploring never waned. But alas, Captain Jacob Jarvis knew his time as a sea-faring captain and pirate was winding down. He could feel the age in his bones and a new age dawning on the sea-covered planet he loved so much.

As he had many times before, he would be reborn and become a new Jacob Jarvis with the memories and experience of the Jarvis of old. And history would record his new adventures. As he slipped off to sleep one last time, the ship swayed as it altered course, heading for port to be re-outfitted. A port he never reached.

~~~

Captain Jacob Jarvis leaned back in his chair and laced his fingers behind his head. Memories tugged at him as he reflected on the early days when he had begged and stolen enough money to finance a small rocket-powered ship. He started running freight for the early space stations and soon returned to his old pirate ways. Battling and boarding space freighters had differed from his sea-faring days, but the adventure and challenge kept him alive.

Now, in his current life, he was more than a pirate. After several centuries on Earth as a sea captain, he had learned all there was to know about the Earth’s water, the creatures that lived below it, and the ones that sailed it. That experience had become essential.

“Captain Jarvis, nice to have you back with us.”

Jacob Jarvis grinned at the image on his viewscreen. “Nice to be back, Commandant. It was quite the experience.”

What seemed like centuries and several lifetimes had been a very short time in his native timeline. The crisis facing his people was severe, and they had devised a plan to send him back in time to Earth to learn all he could about the oceans and the ecosystem. The time jumps took him across the ages until they had gathered information.

“Captain Jarvis, what is your final report on Earth’s water supply? Can we mine enough to save the planets in need in our system?”

“Sir, no, I don’t think so. Not now, anyway. When I first arrived, the waters were free and clear, but now so polluted, and with the severe drought they have suffered for decades, the humans, as they call themselves, monitor every drop of water taken from the oceans. There’s no way to mine the water without them finding out. The sad thing is that soon it won’t matter for them either. They’ve ruined their seas and waterways, and the damage to their ecosystem is unrepairable. We condemn them to their fate even sooner if we take water from them. We need to look somewhere else.” 

The commandant nodded. “Let’s hope some of your colleagues in the search program in other systems have had better luck. Perhaps with enough luck, we can save Earth as well. Good work, Captain.” The screen went dark.

A sharp pain tugged at Jacob’s heart as he reported his findings. He had enjoyed being Jacob Jarvis, Earth sea captain, but it was time to return to being Jacob Jarvis, spaceship captain. Before leaving his quarters to return to the bridge, he looked at the memories hanging on his walls.

He was going to remember those redheads.

Please visit Kenneth on his blog: http://kennethlawson.weebly.com/

Cheryl Ann Guido: Them Bones

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Images are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Master Tux from Pixabay.

THEM BONES

Cheryl Ann Guido

“Captain, sensors indicate a small object approximately nine thousand kilometers ahead.”

“On screen and magnify, Commander.”

The Bridge crew of the USS Expedition focused on the large panoramic display that served as their window to space. A metal boxlike object approximately ten feet long, four feet wide and three feet deep tumbled haphazardly through space. Captain Talbot leaned against his command chair. “What do you make of it, Commander Cole?”

Cole, the First Officer of the Expedition also served as Chief Science Officer. She touched a button on the brightly lit panel comprising her station. A holographic projection appeared in front of her, displaying a glowing sketch-like image of the container’s contents. “Hmm. According to scans, the box contains two swords, a map, some gold pieces and …” She touched another button which enlarged the image. “This is odd.”

“What?” Talbot’s curiosity had been aroused.

“There appear to be bones in that container, human bones.”

Talbot rubbed his chin. “We are over a thousand light-years from Earth. What are human bones doing in this part of space?”

“I do not know, Captain.”

“The question was rhetorical, Commander. Well, let’s transport that thing aboard. I want you to supervise a science team. Perhaps we can get some answers. At the very least, those artifacts are priceless and should be stored until we return to Earth.”

Ensign Tu Dae, a trainee currently at the helm, turned toward the captain. “Sir, recommend the artifacts be run through the decontamination beam to check for radiation and harmful space bio-organisms.”

Talbot tilted his head. “Excellent suggestion, Ensign. Decontamination of objects retrieved from space is standard practice. You will learn that when you train in Transport. But, do keep up the good work.” He touched a light on his personal command panel. “Lieutenant Sanders, initiate transport of that object. I’m on my way.”

“Aye, Captain.” The audible response heard through the Bridge speakers confirmed the crew member’s acknowledgment.

“Commander Cole, with me.” The two officers exited the Bridge and entered the lift module that serviced all seven of the Expedition’s decks. Talbot inputted their destination audibly. “Deck Three.” A few seconds later, the lift door slid open. He turned to his First Officer. “Well, Marlena, let’s see what we reeled in.”

The mysterious box still sat on the transport pad. Lieutenant Sanders looked up as his two superior officers entered. “I ran it through the decontamination beam, Captain.”

Talbot nodded and walked over to the box. He squatted down on his haunches and ran his palm across the top of the container. “What do you make of it, Commander?”

“It appears to be an escape pod.”

“But what was an escape pod doing floating around in a section of space that has no planets?”

Cole snorted. “Another rhetorical question, Captain?”

Talbot waved her off and rose to his feet. “Okay, Marlena, this needs your expertise. Take it to the Science Lab and let me know what you find.”

“Aye, Captain.”

Several hours later, Talbot received a communication from his First Officer. “Captain, I think you better come down here.”

“Were you able to open it?”

“Yes. However, I’ve run intensive scans on the contents, and after the computer analyzed the data … well … I’ll explain after you get here.”

Talbot cocked his head. “On my way.”

***

Talbot, Cole, and the rest of the science team stood huddled around a long glass table. The team had been able to trigger the pod’s hatch door which, when opened, revealed its puzzling contents. All of the objects had been extracted and laid on the table, carefully placed side by side, with the human bones in the center. Cole, dressed in a white lab coat, wearing protective gloves and goggles, examined a pelvis under a magnifying lamp. “Well, he’s definitely a male. I sliced off a sliver of bone and ran the DNA. The computer has identified the remains.”

Talbot shrugged, palms up. “Well, don’t keep me in suspense. Who is this guy?”

The Commander inhaled, then slowly blew the air out through her lips. “You’re not going to believe this. These bones belong to Captain Horatio Gascon, a pirate of ancient Earth. His ship was recorded as lost at sea in 1728. There is no further information.”

Talbot’s jaw dropped. “That was over eight hundred years ago! How the heck did a pirate from 1728 end up in space in the year 2532?”

“Unknown Captain.” Cole shrugged. “However, with our cloning abilities, it is possible to clone him and pose those questions to the man himself.”

“Let me get this straight. You are suggesting that we bring this pirate back to life?”

“Affirmative. He would be able to provide us with a detailed knowledge of the world in those ancient times. As you know, much of recorded history was lost during the nuclear attacks of World War III. As a result, information prior to that time is sketchy. Recovery of even some of that information would be of great benefit to our society.”

“Marlena, you are talking about reanimating a notorious pirate from an ancient time period, a violent ancient time period. We have no idea how he will react or if he will even cooperate with us. Not to mention the fact that he just might try to run one of those swords through my gut.” The other members of the team chuckled.

The Commander remained stoic. “We can pack up these artifacts and store them until we return home. Once the Planetary Science Society is in receipt, they will simply put everything on display. Our other choice is that we can attempt to regain a lost part of our planet’s history to preserve for future generations. Besides, I for one would like to know just how he ended up in that pod and why.”

Talbot clasped his hands behind his back and began to pace back and forth mulling over his conundrum. Thousands of light years away from Earth, they were out of range of communication with their superiors at Earth Central. They were on their own. He had known the risks and responsibilities of that isolation when he accepted command of the exploration ship. He also knew that even at top speed and utilizing wormholes they had discovered, they would not reach Earth for several months.

When the ship had been deployed, the Expedition’s orders were to explore and record data about the vast outer reaches of space. They had traveled farther than any other ship in the fleet. To return home would mean they would have to be debriefed then redeployed. They would not see this part of the universe again for some time, if ever.

On the other hand, Marlena’s point made sense. Being able to interact with someone from the eighteenth century could fill in at least some of the lost gaps in Earth’s history. Besides, they lived in the twenty-sixth century. Even if Captain Gascon got out of hand, their superior knowledge and weapons gave them an advantage. Talbot stopped pacing, then spun around and faced Commander Cole.

“Do it.”

“Really?”

“Yes, Commander and do it quickly before I change my mind.”

The next morning at 0800, Captain Talbot got a call to report to Sick Bay. Still holding his mug filled with the rich dark coffee he savored, he entered the medical facility. “Well? Do we have a pirate?”

“We have a pirate.” Commander Cole beamed. “I took the liberty of replicating some period dress for him so he would not feel completely out of place.”

“Ah. That was thoughtful, Commander. When can I meet him?”

“Right now. Doctor Soluja is giving him the last revival injection as we speak.” She stepped aside revealing Gascon dressed in full pirate regalia. Talbot noted with amusement that Captain Horatio Gascon’s appearance mirrored that of pirates depicted in the few preserved paintings he had seen as a child in the Museum of the Arts on Earth. Marlena had replicated black trousers that tucked snugly into brown leather boots extending above his knees. An open brown leather vest with caplet sleeves topped a white ruffled shirt. A thick brown leather belt that looped through an oversized buckle held everything in place. Beside the exam table, a brown leather tri-corner hat trimmed with colorful beads spilling off one side waited for its new owner.

A loud gasp escaped from Gascon’s slightly parted lips, his eyes flew open and he sat straight up. Without a word, he scowled, eyeing each of the three people surrounding the table. His hands patted his chest, then his stomach and his legs which he swung over the side of the table. He locked eyes with Captain Talbot. “Argh, I’m alive!” He reached out and fingered the gold insignia badge on Talbot’s uniform shirt.

Talbot cleared his throat and took one step back. “I’m Captain Tiberius Talbot of the Star Cruiser Expedition.”

Gascon cocked his head. His eyes narrowed into slits. “Tiberius, ya say.”

“Uh yeah, don’t ask.”

“Well, shiver me timbers and blow me down!”

Talbot glanced at Cole and mouthed the words, “Shiver me timbers and blow me down? Really?”

Gascon continued. “So, yer the cap’n of this fine vessel! I be Cap’n Horatio Gascon o’the galleon …” He scratched his head. “Hmm. I seem ta be havin’ a problem recallin’ the name of me ship but tis good ta meet ya!”

Captain Talbot extended his hand and the two men shook. “Captain Gascon, you’ve been through a lot. If you would like to rest for a while, we can talk later.”

“Naw, I feels like a new man. Speak yer mind, laddie.”

Nodding, Talbot held up one of the swords. “Do you recognize this?” Gascon reached out in an attempt to snatch it but Talbot pulled it back. “That’s me sword. I needs that, young feller.”

“I think it’s best if we just store this in a safe place, at least for now.” He placed the weapon on top of a nearby cabinet then handed the map to Gascon. “What about this? Do you know where this is?”

“A’course, that’s a map o’the Ivory Coast. Lotsa good plunderin’ ta be had in them waters.”

“Alright. And these?” Talbot spilled the gold coins into Gascon’s hand.

“What’s wrong wit ya, man! Them’s gold doubloons. Are ya daft?”

“No, not daft, just a bit … forgetful.” He turned his head to the side and chuckled softly. “Refresh my memory. How are they used?”

Gascon held one up between his index finger and thumb. “With these beauties a man gets anything he wants. They makes a man rich. He could have the biggest palace, lots o’servants, wear the finest silks, and drink rum that has been aged fer many a year.” He slipped the coins into a pocket. “A golden treasure, me hearties.”

Doctor Soluja smiled. “I have read about these doubloons. They were used as money.”

Gascon wobbled a bit and Commander Cole grabbed his arm to steady him. “Captain, we should show our guest to his quarters. He needs rest. After all, he has only been alive for an hour. We do not want to tire him out too quickly.”

“Only alive fer an hour? What does ya mean by that, wench?”

“Nothing of concern, Captain.” She smiled then continued. “We have a nice room prepared. Doctor Soluja and I will escort you and get you something to eat. We can talk some more later.”

“Aye. Me belly is rumblin’ a bit. I’ll just get me hat.” He turned to his side and reached out but spun back around and pushed Cole out of the way. Hopping off the table, he grabbed the sword from the top of the cabinet. Pointing it directly at Talbot, he shouted, “Ya thinks ya had me fooled ya blackard. I knows who ya be … Tiberius.”

Talbot’s eyes bulged. “Damn! Told you he’d try to run his sword through my gut.” Unarmed, he regretted his decision to interact with the pirate without a weapon. His eyes shifted across the room and found the other sword. He lunged for it but Gascon’s own weapon sliced into the top of the cabinet, nearly cutting off his hand.

“Nay, ye’ll not be takin’ me property.” Gascon snatched the other sword and brandished both of them as he backed up toward the Sick Bay door. “I’ll not be imprisoned again, me bucko. This time, I’m takin’ yer ship. She’ll fetch me a fine bit o’gold when we dock at port.” His eyes glanced sideways at Commander Cole who had been frozen in place by shock. “And I’m takin’ her with me.” He grabbed her arm and yanked her through the doorway.

Talbot touched the communication badge strapped to his arm as he entered Lift One. “Computer, locate Horatio Gascon.”

A robotic voice emanated from the tiny speaker. “Horatio Gascon is located inside Lift Two.”

“What is his destination?”

“Deck Seven.”

“Computer, Deck Seven.”

Talbot touched his communication device again. “All hands this is the Captain. Gascon has escaped and is headed for the Bridge. He’s armed. We need him alive, blasters on stun only. He’s holding Commander Cole hostage, so proceed with caution.”

When the doors opened on the Bridge, he witnessed his crew scrambling to avoid the flying edge of Gascon’s sword as it swung left and right. With weapons locked away in a special compartment on the Bridge, they were at Gascon’s mercy.

Gascon released Cole then held his sword at the throat of Ensign Dai. “From what I recalls from me last time aboard a ship such as this, tis you that commands the wheel, ain’t it?”

Eyes bulging, the Ensign nodded his head vigorously.

“Well then, get goin’ laddie. I wants ta go home.”

Focusing his eyes on the viewscreen, Gascon never heard Talbot sneak up behind him. Before the pirate could react, the ship’s Captain snatched the sword from his hand and jumped back. Twirling on the ball of his feet, Gascon raised the other sword brandishing it menacingly. “So’s ya thinks yer clever, eh Tiberius? Well not so clever and not so skilled as the pirate Captain Horatio Gascon!”

To the crew’s amazement, Talbot held his own while the two engaged in battle scrambling around the Bridge, swords clanking, blocking, and lunging. Gascon, being brazen as pirates are, taunted Talbot in an attempt to get the upper hand. “Ya needs ta be bettern’ that, Tiberius me bucco. Yer a clumsy ox with that blade.”

A blaster discharged and Gascon’s body dropped to the floor. Startled by the sudden loss of his adversary, Talbot snapped his head up to see who fired. Marlena Cole stood facing him, still holding the blaster in her hand. “I thought you could use some help.”

Talbot dropped the sword. “You thought right, Marlena. Thanks.”

“Don’t worry, he is only stunned. Security will take him to the Brig.”

At 13:50, the Captain and First Officer stood in front of the cell sealed shut with a force field. Gascon sat on a bench with his hands folded on his lap. “What are yer plans fer me, Cap’n?”

“Well, before we talk about that, I’d like some answers.”

“Aye. Ask away.”

“I don’t mean to upset you, but I think that by now, you are aware that you are a copy of the real Gascon, but you also have all of his memories.”

“Aye. I suspected somethin’ were off when the wench said I’d only been alive for a short time.”

“Do you know what happened to the original Horatio Gascon?”

“Tis a strange story, laddie. He sailed the seas lookin’ fer rich ships to plunder. One day, his ship hit a reef and sank with all aboard. The few that survived managed ta stay afloat by hangin’ onta barrels, boxes and pieces o’ship that had spilled out into the water. They floated in the ocean fer days and Gascon watched as one by one each a’his crew slipped inta that dark watery grave. Just as he were about ta do the same, a bright light came down from the sky and snatched him up through the air and inta a big vessel such as yer own.”

“So, you were rescued and brought aboard a spaceship?”

“Aye. Once aboard, he were poked and prodded. They even took some a’me … er his … body fluids. That were the last straw. He waited until the time were right, stole back his sword and ran it right through the gut o’the blackard Tiberius.”

“Ahh the other ship had a crew member also named Tiberius.”

“Aye, the Cap’n. But another one o’them touched somethin’ to the gash in his chest and he sprang back ta life.”

“I see. Then what happened to Gascon?”

“They keelhauled ‘im.”

The eyes of the two officers popped as their eyebrows shot up. Talbot recovered his voice first. “They … what now?”

“They keelhauled ‘im. Doncha know what keelhaulin’ is?”

“The research I’ve done on ancient punishment at sea indicated it was a method whereby the individual was tied with a rope, tossed into the water then dragged from bow to stern under the ship. But that’s not possible in space. That person would be dead as soon as they were out of the airlock.”

“Well laddie, that’s what they done. They put him and his few possessions in that box. And next that pirate knew, he was sailin’ through the stars.”

Talbot turned to Cole. “So, they launched the pod. Perhaps the coordinates were set for Earth but something went wrong and it’s just been drifting in space for the past eight hundred years. Horatio, please continue.” 

“Aye. Seemed like he were in that dark small space fer ages. His belly rumbled from lack o’sustenance and the air grew thin. One day, everythin’ went black. The next thing he … I … remembers is wakin’ up here.”

Cole pulled Talbot aside. “What a great discovery! He just proved that ancient astronauts visited Earth before our society evolved technologically.”

“Sounds that way though it was tragic for Gascon. Now, what should we do with Horatio Gascon 2.0.”

“A memory wipe can be performed though that means we will not learn any more about Earth’s history.”

Talbot chuckled. “Somehow, I am guessing that his perception of history would be somewhat skewed. It’s probably kinder to simply wipe his mind of his pirate past, then help him to relearn how to live. In time, he could become a productive crew member here on the Expedition, at least in some capacity.”

Smiling, Talbot returned to the cell while Cole signaled for a Security escort. “Horatio, we have a plan for your future that I think you will like.”

“No boxes?”

“No boxes. You will live a good life here with us aboard the Expedition.”

“Ahh Tiberius, yer a merciful cap’n. I’ll try me best to live up ta yer expectations.” He stood up, reached into his pocket and withdrew the gold doubloons. Smiling, he extended his coin filled hand toward the two officers. “Take ‘em. I don’t need ‘em. I’m already rich without ‘em.”

Please visit Cheryl on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cherylannguidoauthor

Calliope Njo: Family Treasure

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Images are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Master Tux from Pixabay.

Family Treasure

Calliope Njo

It was August, and that meant vacation time. Two weeks of trying to figure out a mysterious message Grandpa left me. He died last year and left me a treasure chest that took the better part of a year to open. Inside were a pair of pirate swords, an eye patch, and a scroll.

I couldn’t tell if the swords were real or fake. With him, I never knew. The eye patch could’ve very well been bought during Halloween. That left the scroll.

On one side was a map of somewhere on an island in the middle of the Pacific. The other side was a sort of love note. To my sweet little love. May you forever be holding this treasure. That was it.

I went for it because it gave me something to do during my vacation that didn’t involve modern technology. That and I needed a little adventure.

“Hey, P,” Mr. Sommers said. “Don’t tell me you found the Lost Mine.”

I tried to swallow those words that could potentially get me fired.

Feebs was almost tolerable. He called me P. “Mr. Sommers, my name is Phoebe.” It was PhoebeMarie, but with him, I had to make things simple for his miniscule brain. “As for the Lost Mine, no, I didn’t find it. No, I am not elaborating. If you will excuse me, it is now five-thirty and time for me to go.”

I went into my bottom drawer to get my purse. I reached inside to get my keys with the ends in his direction. Most men got the hint and walked away from me at that point.

He approached me. “You call yourself a treasure hunter.”

So much for that theory. I poked him with it expecting him to back up. He pushed himself into my keys.

“Bruce, in my office.” His father didn’t look pleased with that iron-clenched jaw moving back and forth. “Now.”

I reached into my drawer and grabbed my purse. With everything off and my boss’s butt getting chewed, I left.

Friday night meant getting something to relax and have fun. There was a line of restaurants on the way home. On the left side of that road was a store, gas station, lumber yard, and a garden center. The places to eat were on the right. All one needed to do was decide what they wanted.

Chinese hot pot, sushi, pizza, burgers, tacos, and a liquor store. There was a new gyros place that opened, but I wasn’t in the mood for Greek food. I went to the pizza place to get a meat calzone with plenty of sauce. While that was cooking, I dropped into the liquor store and grabbed myself a beer. As long as I didn’t open it, everything was fine. Of course, following the rules helped.

I made it home, stripped and changed into comfy clothes, and had my dinner. I kept staring at the pirate’s ship in the background.

I didn’t notice the first ten times I read it over, but there were a series of numbers with symbols. After I finished and cleaned up, I inputted them into the computer. It gave me a location. They were coordinates to a specific place. So, all I needed was to look for a way to get there. Later though, my eyes kept closing, so I took that as my cue to get to bed.

The next morning, I searched online for a way to get there. It was easier than I thought. Two major airlines flew to an airport that neighbored that spot. Price wasn’t a big deal since the difference was a matter of fifty dollars. The ratings were what helped make that decision for me. That and they had a time slot that fit.

I made a reservation and got packed. I stalled in between as I wondered why grandpa left it to me. Yeah, he traveled a lot and always told stories. I enjoyed them. What kid wouldn’t with tales of love and getting lost with lots of embarrassing stuff in between? I grabbed his picture off the dresser. I cried when I remembered there were no more.

It took all day to get that done. I couldn’t stop looking at his picture. It was the picture he took while trying to take the same trip as Indiana Jones. I laughed so hard when he tried to explain that there was a bit of an age difference, so of course, Dr. Jones was more successful.

Once at the airport, I checked in and dropped off my bag. I skipped breakfast because I woke up late. So, a trip to Starbucks was in order. That would satisfy me until I got onto my flight. I had an eight-hour nonstop trip ahead of me, so I made sure they had food available. That and I checked for Wi-Fi availability. With both done, I was set for an adventure.

Everything had been going well up to a point. Check-in was a breeze, and I found my gate. They did not cancel my flight. I got to my seat, and a blonde woman sat next to me.

I’ve got nothing against blondes. Some of the most intelligent people I knew had blonde hair. Something else about this woman who sat next to me and felt it was her mission to annoy the living hell out of me.

She must’ve caught the attention of someone important because the flight attendants started walking around reassuring everyone that everything would be all right. I must’ve looked pathetic or something. The next thing I knew, I was offered a first-class seat—peace, quiet, and luxury. I couldn’t beat heaven.

After I got off and grabbed my bag, I walked through the airport and waited for a taxi. That taxi took me to a small airport where I could get a flight to where I needed to go. It had six seats in all, and that included the flight crew. A fifteen-minute trip later, I made it to my destination.

The airport was nothing more than an awning-covered stand. I wondered if I had made a mistake and if I needed to learn a new language. The downside was no Wi-Fi available.

I walked up to the guy at the stand. “Excuse me. My name is Phoebe Baker. I was supposed to come here to find something in a cave.”

He looked up and smiled. “Ms. Baker. Yes. I’m Hughie. That would be my job. If you can wait a few minutes, my relief should be here. Then we could go.”

OK. As long as I get someone, and we don’t get lost. He had a bit of an accent, but I could still understand him.

My stomach growled, and that was never good. I snatched the sandwich that sat on the stand. It was cold at least, and it had cheese. I ate it as fast as I could before anybody returned.

A woman came outside with a thick book in her hand. They talked to each other before he turned to me. “If you would follow me.”

We stopped at a Jeep. No doors or windows and only two seats. We could’ve had to use donkeys instead. I’ve got nothing against that. I didn’t have experience with them and that would’ve been the only problem.

I felt every bump, rock, hole, and whatever else was on the dirt path that snaked between tall trees. If I let my imagination get the best of me, they were alive and would reach out to me for a snack.

We stopped when we got to a steep hill. He grabbed my bag, and I followed him. That was when we had to take the donkeys because the path from that moment on would’ve been too steep, slippery, and narrow for any vehicle to take.

I got on his back, and things were OK. Yeah, I found muscles I never used before, but at least he didn’t throw me off. I took advantage when I thought he had fallen asleep and searched the bags on either side of the saddle—nothing in them.

Once we reached a cliff, we got off, and Hughie handed me my bag. “From this point, you walk to the west until you see a path. Walk down that path until you get to the bottom. The rocks are slippery, so be careful. Nobody out here other than you.”

“Wait. You won’t be here? How am I supposed to get back? I’m not staying here forever.”

“OK. OK.” He reached into his pocket and pulled something out. “If you are in a clear spot, push the yellow button and speak. Somebody might hear you. You may not hear them or even be able to talk. There is a chance, though.”

It didn’t sound promising, but it was my only chance. I looked at it, and it was heavy. “Is it waterproof?”

He looked at me. “Questions?”

Right. “I guess not. Thanks.”

He shrugged before he ran away from me and mounted his donkey, and grabbed the other one’s reins. I watched him go and wondered about that hotel I made a reservation at. This was not how things were supposed to go. What about food? I had to eat something. How was I going to sleep?

Well, there was still sunlight, so I did what he said. Problem was that I had to figure out what direction to go.

West was the direction of the setting sun. The last I looked at the clock, it was the afternoon. So, if I headed towards the sun, then that should be in the right direction. I walked in the other direction, and nothing was there other than more cliffs.

I went back to the path with trees, sticks, rocks, and animals I couldn’t name on both sides of me and in my way. I reached the beach and took a big breath in and out.

A man sat in a chair on the beach. I wondered if he needed some company. He might have the info I needed.

I walked around to get a better look, and it was a skeleton. I screamed. Oh, my God. Somebody had been out here too long. Somebody wanted to play a rotten trick on me. I never thought Grandpa had that kind of humor.

Deep breath in and out. I looked at it again, and once I got past the ew factor, a scroll stuck out from his pelvic region. I didn’t want to think about what it looked like, but memories of Grandpa’s sense of humor came to mind. I had to love the man.

Willemina, if you found this scroll, congrats. It went on from there and finished by telling me to go into the cave. Follow the path, and it would lead to a treasure no one had ever seen. There was only one path.

“But Grandpa.” I groaned. “OK. All right. Fine. Send me on a no-end-in-sight adventure, why don’t you.”

“Excuse me, George. The unknown awaits.” I didn’t think I had lost my mind. On the other hand, I was following a dead man and even talked to one.

I looked around the cave, and nothing noteworthy there. I went in and expected pitch-black surroundings, but as soon as I stepped in, torches lit as I passed by them. I didn’t think too much about it and kept moving.

Grandpa was right. There was only one path, at least the one lit by torches, and then I came to a door. I turned the knob, and it opened. As soon as it did, the room lit up.

I must’ve tripped a chemical reaction or something. It was a room filled with artifacts, gold, and jewels.

I was never one to cuss, but holy fuckin’ shit. All of this. It couldn’t have been real. No one could amass anything like this.

I found another room filled with books. Wall to wall, from ceiling to floor, filled with leather-bound volumes. All of them filled with Grandpa’s notes. I knew his handwriting, and he wrote them. That made me think that all of this had the genuine possibility of being the most valuable gathering of everything.

I only took a quick glance to find out who wrote them. I didn’t read everything until that realization and grabbed one of them.

All this time, I thought he made up those stories. He didn’t. They happened.

He labeled all of them. The Treasure of the Lost Mine. The Royal Chest of the Spanish Armada. I had a lot of reading to do. The only problem was what to do with all of it.

I looked at the books again and found one that didn’t fit. It was smaller, and rather than being red, it was green.

To my adventurer, read the binding. It was his last words to me and how much he enjoyed our time together. I never cried this much.

“Oh, Grandpa. I love you, you crazy old man.”

“I know. I know. I love you.”

I screamed again. It couldn’t have been. I buried him last year at the local cemetery with that stupid eyepatch he insisted on wearing everywhere he went.

I turned around. “No. It can’t be. You’re… you’re….”

“Dead? It’s OK. You can say it. I have little time, so I’ll get to the point. I created this getaway with all of this because I knew you would cherish it. I never cared about politics. That’s why I never offered it to any museum. All I ask is that you use it how you see fit. It will always be here. If you need a couple coins, go ahead. All of this is yours.” He vanished.

I watched a little TV, and they always had a scene where one person had their back turned until somebody cocked their gun. That famous clicking noise, well, that happened to me. My heart was about to beat out of my chest. All this time I thought I had a healthy heart until this point in time.

“Well, well, well. So that old coot wasn’t senile after all.” Hughie laughed. “I’ve been here multiple times, and nothing ever happened until now. The one with the magic touch.” He waved his gun towards the door.

That was when I remembered the walkie-talkie he gave me. He also told me there was always a chance. “Someone. If anyone is out there. 9-1-1.”

Hughie laughed, and that worried me. “Oops. No batteries.”

I threw the walkie-talkie at him, but he jumped out of the way before it hit him. What was I going to do? He had a gun. I ended up bumping into something, and out of habit, I apologized for hitting it.

Not a second after that, the ground shook. I didn’t notice any volcanoes in the area, so it couldn’t have been an earthquake. An angry god, maybe because I was the stupid one for doing this.

Things shot up from the ground. They were covered to the point I couldn’t tell if they were men or women, black or white, or even human. They beheaded Hughie and his companion. As soon as that was done, they vanished below ground again.

The sight of Hughie’s open eyes staring at me made me take a quick step as I screamed and ran out of there. I collapsed to the ground. I needed to calm down.

Grandpa never told me about any of this. If he were still alive, I would’ve used those swords on him. My heart beat normally again, and I regained my breath. “Oh my God.”

I found the will to stand up and get back in there. I located the thing I bumped into. It looked like a seal to something. I couldn’t decipher the writing, but my guess would be a secret society. I still had a bit of battery left on my phone, and I took a picture for later.

I got a glimpse of another head and screamed as I ran out. Too much went on at once, and I wasn’t sure if I could take much more.

I went back to George and buried him. That was easy. I borrowed his hat, and whatever was wrapped around him and sat there. I didn’t think they were infested, but I needed to relax to figure out what to do.

It wouldn’t take long to get dark. Maybe at sunrise, I could find out if there were people here. The sound of the waves somewhat soothed me. I could relax.

The warmth of the sun on my back felt so good. With that came the realization the sun came up. George’s mound was still there when I looked over. I covered it with the blanket and put his hat on top of it. I hoped he knew I was grateful.

It seemed to take longer going up than coming down. Once I was there, I went to the other side of the cliff, and I found a group of people. If the cars were any sign, I hit civilization.

Strange how Hughie never mentioned it. If he did, I wouldn’t have been able to find the treasure room.

Through a series of rollovers and falls, I made it down the cliff. I left my bag on the other side, but I didn’t want to go over there and get it. I wouldn’t be able to pay for anything. Up and over and back, I went to get my bag. Have I mentioned how much I hated this vacation? Whose idea was it anyway?

Between getting something to eat and finding a place to get cleaned up, I felt so much better. One of them was nice enough to take me back to the major airport in the area. Of course, I owed him big time for that. He refused, but I took down enough info to give him whatever the going rate was.

The plane wasn’t scheduled to be there for a couple hours. I took that time to think about what happened. My problem was that I didn’t know what to think. So much happened all at once.

My mind kept spinning without an end. Three questions came to mind, and the more I thought about them, the more muddled they became. I had no answer.

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