His arm came off, and along with it, the sword. Maezy spun on her heel and jammed her blade into the next attacker. She wasn’t in the mood to dance around as they tried to grab her and instead, resorted to ending the conflict as soon as possible.
He crashed to the ground as Maezy yanked out the sword. “There's too many! We have to fall back!”
The world was a frenzy of armor and swords. Metal flashed in the bright sunlight. Elves preferred their swords, bows, and arrows to guns. Keeping to the rules of war etiquette, Maezy used the sword to deflect another attacker. This one, like the last, made a concentrated effort to pull her along with him. Refusing to be kidnapped, which she could only guess was his intention as he deflected her blows and tried to grab her, Maezy took the first opportunity to smash him over the head.
“FALL BACK!” The trumpet sounded as the Captain gave the order.
“Maezy!” The voice calling blended with the sound of another sword thwack!
“Hold on!” Maezy returned, as she parried, thrust, spun, and blocked again.
Sweat drip, drip, dripped into her eyes. The salty sting had her blinking double-time as she predicted her attacker's next move. His other hand reached out to grab her wrist and yank her off balance. With another parry, arm straining above her head, she reached for her belt, grabbed, and shoved her dagger into the heart of the warrior in front of her.
He collapsed without a sound.
Turning and leaping over fallen bodies, Maezy charged into another opponent who was about to strike one of her own down. Stabbing him through the heart, she leapt over his body and runs forward.
“MOTHER!” Screaming and pointing, she rushed to her mother's defense. Striking the new threat over the head with her sword handle, Maezy shoved him out of the way. His sword missed her mother by a breath.
Exhaling her own breath in a long wisp, Maezy helped block a sword thrust from the warrior attempting to behead her mother. “Why isn't your spell working?” Maezy cried.
“I don't know! There must be a counter spell blocking my own. They keep trickling in!”
“We need to fall back to the castle! You’re too exposed out here!” Maezy slashed and skewered several who charged at her and tried to surround her.
More men met their maker.
“Whose men are they?” she called.
“Your father's,” her mother returned.
That explained it. The king wanted her. They should have known he would resort to all out war. Her mother had told her this day might come. Tucked in their own realm, several dimensions away, Maezy hadn’t thought it would be possible for him to find out about her.
“RETREAT! FALL BACK!” The Captain's cries surrounded them and were repeated.
“FALL BACK TO THE CASTLE!” Maezy added her own cry.
Maezy's sword blocked, sliced, and rang out as the troops fell back and surrounded her and her mother. Soon, they were encased in a shield of men and armor. Their men continued to fight and block the Elf King’s men as they retreated.
At the bridge, they crossed as quickly as possible. Shields covered their heads as the enemy realized they were losing ground and resorted to arrows to take them out. Maezy noticed none of the arrows came too close to her.
They want me alive, she thought. Wouldn't father be angry if I was accidentally killed?
“WHAT DO WE DO?” Maezy shouted.
“I'M UNSURE! I NEED TO GET TO A QUIET PLACE TO ASSESS THE SITUATION!” Her mother tossed another fighter away with the flick of her wrist.
“TO THE CASTLE, MEN!” Maezy shouted to the nearest warrior.
They were inside the gates, doors closing even as the last few of their men streamed through. The doors stood open as long as they could before each steel-enforced structure slammed shut in the face of the intruders.
“Inside!” Maezy and her mother scrambled to the front doors, and launched them open. Servants scuttled back, and guards followed. “Keep them out as long as you can. We're going to find out how they came through.”
The Captain nodded and hurried back out the open doors as others took up their posts inside and out.
“Mother, what happened to the protection spell? How was he able to break through?”
“I don't know. I don't know! It's one of my most powerful spells. It should have worked against anything he threw at it. There must be someone else.”
Closing the doors to the library, Maezy returned her sword to her belt and began pacing. “I wonder how he even found us? We're within a whole other dimension! We need to reinforce the spell.”
Her mother sat on the edge of a chair and closed her eyes. Hands out at her sides, she took deep breaths in and out. Maezy watched her, eyes darted back to the door, and tried not to scream.
What can I do?
Spells were her mother's domain. Hers was fighting. She had grown up learning to defend herself for a day like this. The Elf King was a collector. Anyone with a special power he could possess was captured and added to his collection. Maezy didn’t want to be the one he caught next.
“Bring me the book, Maezy, and stop wearing a hole in the carpet.”
Doing as asked, she found the Book of Ancient Sorcery and ran it to her mother. “Should I call the others in?” Maezy wanted to know.
“No, we need them fighting with everything they have while I search for a solution. There’s only one-- No! It can’t be.”
“Mother, what’s going on? What do we do?”
“I have an idea. I don't know if it will work. I may need your assistance.”
Looking up, her mother's blood red lips smiled. “I'm glad you said that.”
Amazon Kindle Customer: 5/5 Stars
"Realm walk kept me interested the entire time I was reading. It's not your typical fairy tale and has a ton of action as well as twists and turns. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes different takes on classic fairy tales. Also, because it's a novella, it didn't take long to read."
Other books in this genre:
SIMPLE SECRETS TO SUCCESS AND BETTER RELATIONSHIPS.
“Over the years authors have written similar things in similar ways. This is the first time anyone has written a great guide to improving relationships in all areas of our lives, and using just One Rule. It is definitely a page turner.”
Follow the One Rule and you will have confidence in yourself, and everything you are doing in your life.”
Not everybody believes in rules. “One Rule” will help you to establish the basic foundation and guidelines upon which you can build and maintain better personal and business relationships and reach the goals you establish for yourself. It will help you to better understand your spouse or partner, your friends and associates, and most importantly, yourself.
The secrets to success are based on the author’s extensive business career and international life experience. It is a book for all ages because we are never too young or too old to redirect ourselves. Learn how to take yourself out of the equation, in order to more clearly see the best direction to take. “One Rule” will open your eyes to answers you never dreamed were so simple.
There are important chapters on relationships, why they are so important, and how to structure them properly. An informative question/answer section is included from many who participated. You will find a helpful relationship quiz that lets you measure yourself, and how your partner views you. It will help you live a full life, while keeping life simple, and teach how to correct mistakes instead of living with them.
One segment is titled “Rules and Relationship Resolutions,” and there is a compatibility quiz and an extensive “Question and Answer” section that touches on everything from dating, marriage, sex and intimacy to aging, faith and religion.
One Rule will improve your self-esteem, your self-worth, and open the doors to the opportunities in the world. It may be the best personal investment that you have ever made. Isn’t it time you got started?
After her parents mysteriously disappeared at the age of thirteen, Evangeline Evans has been on her own. As a military pilot for Olympus, the most powerful and technologically progressive Citadel of the new world, she keeps her reasons for finding them a secret. Without warning a terrifying disease that could destroy civilization begins to infect citizens across the city.
Only the race known as Angels—who brought advanced technology to Earth—seem to be immune to its devastation. Evangeline and her husband Jack, an Artificial Intelligence designer, are swept into a secret war between the Dissidents in the Low Technology Zones and The Quorum of Zeus. The Human race is on the precipice of Extinction. Who will prevail? Angel or Human? High Tech Olympian or Low Tech Dissident? But the better question is… Who SHOULD prevail?
He turned his eyes to meet mine through the water and a small smile came to his lips. “You are far more than I ever imagined you could be,” he said and sat forward, his elbows on his knees. “My magic, mixed with Fenrir’s, as well as the magic you inherited from your parents makes you—”
“A weapon, I know,” I interrupted, unwilling to listen to him.
Liam leaned back against the counter, his arms folded as he continued to stare me down. “All I know about Avalon is from you and those mercenaries. What I see when you talk about it, is that you don’t know much either. You’ve been hidden away your entire life. How do you KNOW what’s truth and what’s lies to keep you in the dark?”
You have just entered a new realm - a new Universe where there are worlds, races, powers, allies and enemies just waiting to be discovered. You have found yourself...
Beyond the Outer Rim
In the prelude to the series, we met Dungias as he became the Star Chaser – forever changing his world and receiving a quest to travel to a distant system and save the progeny of the Founders.
Venturing to the Rims, Dungias encounters new races, new cultures, and a self-styled adventurer by the name of JoJo Starblazer. A brilliant and daring pilot, this pirate seeks her freedom from the constraints of the Inner Rim Empire, the Middle Rim corporations, and the Outer Rim races of legend.
With only her skill, her savvy, and one dedicated First Mate, she seeks to find her niche in the Cosmos... even if she has to cut it out first!
His terminal path was irreversible and had been certain from the moment he palmed the cash at the blackjack table. The greedy moment was his second chance. Once before, he had attempted to steal from them. It was only a small amount that would not be missed, or so he thought. But they caught him, and later in an isolated shed deep in the woods, he experienced what they called awareness training…and he suffered. He survived the test only to gain a renewed, but baseless, confidence.
Greed can blind the goodness of a soul. Its selfish nature ignores those things important to the rest of humanity, consumes more than its share, and discards its rubble. Greed cultivates only that which feeds its insatiable appetite.
As time passed, the fear and pain dissolved with the distance of the memory. He learned from the experience and now believed that he knew the unwritten rules crucial to his survival. He settled back into the routine of his job and yearned for acceptance into the family. His desire to be one of them was fueled by an internal fiery ambition, which caused him to forsake all who had loved him before, and this temptation for easy money made him a different man.
He had underestimated the pertinacious spirit and the tenacity of their stewardship regarding family money. The lesson they taught him that night in the shed had faded, giving way to the undeniable force of addictive greed, which romanced him and enticed him to take the short stack of hundreds left on the table by a distracted, inebriated gambler. He palmed it with a swift practiced motion; no one would know. The drunk was barely conscious and unaware, but the ever-watchful eyes had seen the quick hustle. They showed him the camera replay before his trip to this final place to endure their wrath.
Scars are etched and spoils discarded along greed’s ugly trail. Greed is a cancer that tangles its suffocating tentacles to all it can reach and eats away the foundation of its subsistence. Greed devours and moves on to its next host. Greed teaches greed.
They tied him by his wrist to pilings under a dilapidated industrial dock on the Sampit River. The river branched and flowed in a deep channel previously used by ships that had served the Georgetown steel mill. The mill was closed and forgotten. Greed had converted this life-giving estuary into an abandoned, rust-colored wasteland. The murky channel was a frequent path for large bull sharks cruising upstream from the bay in search of schooling mullet and trout. Sharks would not overlook this tempting morsel for long.
Before the big predator arrived, the thief hung in the changing tides for two days with his mouth taped shut and his castrated loins slowly seeping his bodily fluids to mingle with the secretions of bloody chum bags secured about his waist. He was the anointed temptation and the warning. The water rose to his chin and receded to his waist in a slow, consistent, tidal cycle. He had guessed what might finally happen, but did not know how long before death would come. Anxious, but resigned to his fate, he wished the end to be now. He craved the satisfaction of relief, but there was no answer to his false prayer offered to a feigned religion.
The beast circled, moving faster as it sensed the source of the blood trail and tested the defenseless nature of the prey. It became more aggressive. He felt the first tearing punctures of the powerful, predatory attack as the hidden beast surged and ripped away the lower half of his body in one crushing bite. The attack was painful at first but ultimately delivered anticipated relief from his tortured trial. For a few short moments, he remained alive and conscious and watched as his life’s blood drained away. He saw the mortal wound but did not dwell on the implication. The attack was fueled by hungry, gluttonous greed.
Greed is often without mercy.
He had lived a short, highly charged life on the edge, with all that a young single man could want, but he had wanted more. While seeking more than his due, he had crossed the avarice boundary patrolled by a greater greed, and then he paid. His termination was the justice dispensed by an unmerciful, pestilent force, a force he had once nourished, but never allied.
He no longer felt pain, released his apathetic grip on life, and floated, rising above the body that was once him, watching the shark attack again and again in a ravenous feeding frenzy that would not stop until the prey was consumed. His soul was already gone, maybe to his final paradise.
The setting sun illuminated the clouds in a peaceful orange-and-blue sky. His violent death did little to disturb nature’s beauty at the end of this fine summer day.
Greed will prune the fresh buds of nature’s spring and sour the taste of its life’s stream.
A young hitchhiker stood on a high bridge that crossed the Sampit River. He was tired and hungry, but he stopped to watch the sunset over the vast stretch of pine forest that swallowed the winding river to the west. Without concern he looked down the river channel to see thrashing water under an abandoned pier. The dim light and the distance to the pier conspired to obnubilate his view of the prey and the predator. The water settled to a calm, black surface. He quickly lost interest and looked back at the distant sunset, picked up his bag, and moved on. He was going to Myrtle Beach, and he was sure that life would be better.
Battleship gray merged to powder blue as the eastern sky met the new day. Pelicans flying in a disciplined flight formation skimmed the glassy, rolling surf. Sandpipers raced along the seafoam cast to shore on the edge of each wave.
“I love this time of day. It’s just so perfect.” Edna sighed.
“Me too. I just wish it didn’t come so early.” Evelyn yawned and rubbed her eyes.
Each morning Edna and Evelyn walked a half block west from their apartment and crossed four lanes of asphalt, known as the Kings Highway, to purchase one of their little decadent pleasures: coffee and a warm Krispy Kreme doughnut. With the treats, they returned east two blocks, kicked off their flip-flops, and walked on the cool beach sand, to their favorite morning rendezvous off First Avenue South.
They enjoyed commanding views of the surf from this spot in front of the Swamp Fox Roller Coaster and Amusement Park. The two thirty-something friends relaxed on seats attached to either side of a lifeguard stand positioned near a high-tide beach drain know as the swash. While watching the calming turmoil of the surf, they savored each bite of the scrumptious, hot doughnuts. Both had a habit of dipping the sugared, caloric bombs into their coffee prior to each bite.
The early-morning salt air, the ocean’s constant music, the sand creatures scampering for their morning meal, and the new beachcombers’ bounty of shells left on the high tide were all things precious to these aging, but not old, former beach babes.
They had come to the beach during the most impressionable time of their young lives to experience the joy of the glitter and lights of Myrtle Beach in the summertime. At first, to stay or leave was an easy choice, but time rerouted the path to any other place. Each swore to the other she would never leave, and the promises had been kept, so far.
As friends since elementary school, Edna and Evelyn had enjoyed the summer beach vacations of their youth. They had played all the Pavilion games, shared cotton-candy swirls, ridden go-carts and all the amusement park rides. Each had swooned over a beach romance, falling in love for a week with a guy they would never see again.
Edna and Evelyn lived in an affordable two-bedroom apartment over Eddie and Vera Rondell’s garage. The girls had been renting this beach apartment from the Rondells for over ten years, and they had all grown to be like family.
Evelyn was Twiggy-cute, anorexic thin, and wore thick, black-rimmed glasses. She had straight black hair that she trimmed when the bangs hung over her eyes and had an uncanny ability to select unflattering fashion styles that hid her natural beauty. She was a prime candidate for a professional makeover.
With each of the many minimum-wage jobs on her Myrtle Beach resume, she left when the breaks were cut back, the boss was too bossy, or she just needed a change as a reminder that her dream was still possible. That new job would surely provide the bridge to greener grass and a path to her dream. She typically found the new patch of green grass to be maintained by similar gardeners.
For now Evelyn worked the two-to-ten shift at the Krispy Kreme doughnut shop. The shift was too late for breakfast and too early for the late-night pot-toker’s feast. But someone was needed to tend the counter for that late-afternoon sugar urge and for those who craved the hot, sweet appetizer that Krispy Kreme had delivered in the South since 1937. While the Krispy Kreme was short on bridges, it provided rare opportunities to pick up extra cash tips to supplement her hourly minimum wage.
Evelyn lived for the coffee, her cigarette breaks, and the occasional big tipper, the guy who dropped by more for conversation and a break from loneliness than a doughnut. For a few minutes, they met each other’s needs—a caffeine, sugary, afternoon high, mixed with a no-brain, incoherent conversation about the latest government-induced gripe, the sports report, or the weather. The tippers left thinking someone cared, and Evelyn left with a tip.
She held holy her ten-minute break allowed each hour by store management. The only smoke break location was out back on a concrete step, but in the heat or in the rain, Evelyn was there. For nine minutes and fifty-eight seconds, every hour, she sat on the back step thinking about her future and occasionally what her soul mate might be like when she finally found him. The available candidates were rare visitors at this job.
She wondered how long she would work the counter at this joint. Was she trapped in a life gradually morphing into someone she had never wanted to be? For now this beach resort was her place, her inescapable island of life.
She punched out at exactly ten every evening, a cigarette in her lips and a tired dream in her heart. When she left, she walked across Highway 17, the Kings Highway, to “her” happy hour at the Frisky Rabbit. She had a seat at the end of the bar that was always open for her. Each night Evelyn met her friend and soul mate, Edna, at the end of the bar, in the middle of life.
Edna still had the same curvaceous figure of her early twenties, with all the right parts in the perfect places. She dressed in a modest style but accentuated her positives and could still turn a few heads. Since her early teenage years, she had pampered her waist-length blond hair with expensive shampoos and one hundred brushes each and every night.
From the first week of her arrival at the beach, Edna had worked in a gift shop touted as the world-famous One-Eyed Flounder. She had worked her way up through the employment ranks of the Flounder, learning the retailing tricks required to succeed in the extremely competitive business of selling tourist trinkets in a coastal resort market.
She had toiled faithfully through the growth years to see each new addition to the One-Eyed Flounder as it slowly expanded upward and outward into a multilevel tourist bazaar. She was one of the few who could navigate the many aisles, rooms, and stairways without getting lost. She knew where every item in the store was supposed to be located.
On occasion and more often recently, she hinted to her supervisor, her supervisor’s manager, and the storeowner that she felt capable and deserving of the opportunity to move into a management position or at least a floor supervisor position. Unfortunately, all of these growth opportunities were currently filled and were likely to remain that way, as the owner had overstocked the positions with relatives. Most were lazy, clueless, unmotivated, and overpaid. Edna continued to labor silently under the supervision of the owner’s twenty-eight-year-old son, Darrell Jr.
All too quickly their morning routine was done, the sun was surprisingly hot in the early morning sky, the doughnuts were eaten, and the last sip of coffee emptied from their mugs.
“Ready to go?” Edna asked with an obvious reluctance to leave.
“No. But I guess it’s time. You know I could sit here all day and play on the beach. The tourists aren’t here yet, and the beach is so fresh and clean with all of the trash gone, but it won’t be long. I see ’em coming already, one by one.”
“Yep, the confused and thankless horde will be along directly. Look at that guy over there at the edge of the water already digging a hole in the sand, and for what? What is he thinking? The guy gets up at seven a.m., puts on a swimsuit, and starts diggin’ a hole in the wet sand. Has that particular urge ever hit you—to go out and dig a hole in the sand before dawn? I mean…what the hell?”
“Well, now that you ask—like, ah, nope, haven’t had that urge—but then I get to see this masterpiece of nature everyday, so I suppose I’m just spoiled. I’ve never been able to figure out what goes through the minds of most tourists anyway. They almost seem like an alien breed of some sort. It’s freaky, ’cause they look like the rest of us, except with a sunburn.”
“Hey, you know, you might be right. Maybe it’s just a disguise or something to fake us out!”
“Oh, Edna, you’re crazy, girl. Let’s get our fat butts moving. We got things to do.”
“Speak for yourself, fat butt. I’m gonna waltz my fine, tight, young stuff on back to the house. Maybe some redneck stud in a jacked-up pickup truck will whistle at me when I cross Ocean Boulevard! Woo-hoo! You know how I love that kind of intellectual love call,” Edna teased with sarcasm.
“You will just never grow up, you silly thing.”
They both laughed and trudged through the sand, flip-flopped over the hotel parking lot, and trotted across the asphalt of Ocean Boulevard. No studs of any type were out this early, but a large four-door Buick with Quebec licenses plates almost hit them.
The driver, with oblivious concentration, guided the car forward in the wrong lane, ignored the pedestrian crossing, turned sharply across four lanes without even a glance in his side mirror, clipped a stop sign, and continued weaving down a side street as if nothing had happened. Ahh, another day in paradise had begun. Summer was coming fast, and the Canadians were migrating back to their northern habitats.
The girls decided to reroute their path home, giving the main road and the unpredictable morning traffic a wide berth. They cut through the amusement park, taking a boardwalk trail that passed near the base of a large wooden and steel guy-wire structure, the world-famous Swamp Fox Roller Coaster.
“Edna, is that the kiddie train I hear running at this ungodly hour?”
“It sounds like it, but it’s too early. They never run that noisy thing much before noon. If it’s not against the city noise ordinance, it should be.”
The kiddie train was a small-scale replica of a passenger train and served as an amusement-park ride, normally complete with a properly attired engineer to drive kids and their attentive parents on a twisted route through the amusement park. They could hear the signature whistle of the engine making its way along its railed path beneath the massive trusses. The park was closed, and the girls were curious.
The miniature engine rounded a curve from behind a manicured Ligustrum hedge.
“Oh my God! What the—” Edna and Evelyn stood paralyzed with shock, their mouths agape as they stared at a naked young man with hands and feet tied and lashed across the engine. His head and upper torso were positioned over the front of the train and appeared like a figurehead on a ship’s bowsprit. A plastic bag filled with a small quantity of a greenish-brown substance was stuffed in his mouth and secured with duct tape. He seemed to be alive, but frozen in place.
“Call nine-one-one, call nine-one-one, call nine-one-one! Oh shit. Oh shit.” Evelyn trotted around in a small circle, her arms tucked at her sides and her hands flapping up and down on her limp wrist. She was not sure what to do, so she vacillated in place.
“No, I have not been drinking, ma’am!” Edna barked with extreme irritation to the emergency operator. “You tell the emergency boys to get here and get here quick. This boy doesn’t look so good.”
Finally, after thirty minutes, the Myrtle Beach Police arrived in their normal, less-than-rapid response to strange tourist sightings. The miniature train with its naked patron made ten more trips around the track before the first police car rolled into the parking lot. The officer eased one leg out of the car, and the rest of him struggled to follow. He carefully cradled a hot Krispy Kreme between his thumb and index finger. He reached back in the car to retrieve his coffee before moving his attention to this early-morning emergency.
Thirty minutes later the park manager arrived to turn off the ride. Lights were flashing, and sporadic sirens broke what was left of the early-morning calm. A small command post had been set up to support all the rescue teams, including policemen, fire trucks, firemen, an ambulance, and three EMTs. Two-dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts, a coffee thermos, and a small tarp were brought to the scene, while police gathered evidence.
The process was slow, and the mild enthusiasm decreased as the doughnuts disappeared. Sea gulls hovered, squawked, and looked for crumbs. Bored with the official disinterest and lack of progress, Edna went home to get ready for work. Evelyn went to take a nap before her weekly grocery-shopping duties.
The victimized young man, a first-year summer worker, was employed at the park. He had only been on the job for three weeks. He was confident, cocky, and considered a cool dude in his western Kentucky hometown. The teenager’s prayers had been answered with a summer job at the beach and a chance to get out of his nothing town for the summer. He was in heaven with girls, the beach, girls, pot, and girls. He relished the nightly parties that were easier to find in this town than a hamburger. He loved the crowded bars.
His small beach pad was a room in the Hutches Apartments located behind his new favorite bar, the Frisky Rabbit. All of these things created his perfect domain. He had met a pot dealer staking out new turf and had negotiated the rights for a small franchise to supplement his meager, ride-operator income. It was all good.
The young man had a bag of pot stuffed in his mouth and a note written with indelible black marker ink across his chest and duplicated on his back, saying, “Go Home.” The next day, he did.
The victim could not identify the assailant who perpetrated this weird crime of assault and harassment. The police report recorded the description of a thick, muscular man with a ski mask and gloves. The young man did not want to talk. He was scared, close-lipped, extremely anxious to go home, and of course, he did not claim the pot; it must have belonged to the attacker. At least, that was his story. He told the police he had no idea what the message was about, but he was not sticking around to help find the guy. His adventure in paradise was over.
From his front porch, Eddie watched the morning activity at the Swamp Fox Amusement Part with mixed feelings of disdain, regret, and satisfaction. He was weary of the unrelenting surge of unruly summer workers and overwhelmed by the continuous, unabated onslaught of tourism.
Eddie and Vera Rondell were lifelong residents of Myrtle Beach. They lived in the same house where Vera had grown up. For many years they had lived in an apartment over the detached garage, but after her parents died, the couple moved into the main house. Sixty years ago the modest white two-story frame house with gingerbread trim had been built on a quiet street near an isolated stretch of beach. It had been a quaint beach cottage.
Eddie had worked for thirty years at the Georgetown paper mill. Five days a week, he had endured the thirty-mile drive each way, first to save on rent and later to care for Vera’s parents. Moving from this paradise had never been an option. The resort town had grown up around them without their concurrence.
The vacationers were like an infected wound that healed during the winter months, only to have the scab scraped away each spring and the wound grow deeper. Tourists would blow into town, raise hell for a week, and then go home. The arrogance of each year’s crop of summer workers was overwhelming and caustic. These punks thought they owned the place for the summer season. To Eddie, these unwanted trespassers were infuriating, and he weathered each year’s crop with an increased anger and boiling anxiety.
The Frisky Rabbit bar was less than one hundred yards down the street from Eddie and Vera’s house. Cottages rented exclusively to summer workers were nestled between the bar and Eddie’s property. A scattered row of palmetto trees mixed with an eight-foot-high waxed-leaf Ligustrum hedge to visually isolate the co-ed cottages that were filled with loud, rambunctious, college-aged summer workers.
And if the bar and the cottages weren’t enough, a fast-growing lifeguard business had built an office and lifeguard dormitory across the street. The guards raced to check in at the office each morning before eight o’clock and raced out again two minutes later to set up their stands, tires squealing on both entry and exit. The same loud chaotic process took place around six o’clock, but with music, drinking, and loud profanities added to the irritating mix. Some guards who lived in the guardhouse raised the noise level late into the night.
Eddie and Vera had a clear view of all of this activity as they attempted to enjoy the summer evenings on their porch. The loudest and most obnoxious, late-night party hounds of all summer workers surrounded the couple’s quaint beach cottage.
Each summer developers discovered new space to squeeze more hotels on beachfront lots. Each new business required more workers. Eddie wished all workers could be handled like many hotel maids and maintenance workers, who were collected each morning from surrounding communities, transported into Myrtle Beach, and shuttled back to their homes at night.
Eddie saw the hotels, tourist trinket shops, fast-food restaurants, and arcades as an overgrown forest sorely in need of a vigorous thinning. He could relate to the words of a Joni Mitchell tune, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” But in his version, they put up another tourist trap. The last big hurricane to hit Myrtle Beach was Hazel in ’58. Eddie thought it was time for another one. Too bad Hugo hit so far south; another fifty miles north, and he would have had his wish.
“Vera…honey…oh, Veeeerrraaa! I’m going fishing for a while down at the pier. You need anything before I go?” Eddie set two surf rods and a bait bucket in the back of his pickup truck.
“No, darlin’. What’s all the noise over at the park? My goodness, there’s police cars and everything. Was someone hurt? Do we need to help?” Vera stepped out from behind the screen door and onto the front porch.
“No, sweetie, if Myrtle Beach police officers, EMTs, and firemen with all their vehicles and gear can’t help ’em, we sure as hell can’t.”
“Now, Eddie, no need for you to be swearing. You just go on and fish a spell, and forget about all that. Don’t be gettin’ all worked up. I love you. Now get along, or those fish are all going to be done with their breakfast.”
Vernon was a tall, lanky, chain-smoking, nearsighted, hip mountain man with a bad haircut. He was pissed. With this kiddie train catastrophe, he had lost three bags of pot and a new salesman who had been located in a prime sales location. It had taken two weeks to recruit the right guy to put on the job. The kid was new in town, young, and not extremely perceptive. The temptations of the promised reward of money and girls attracted more potential sales agents to build this marketing pyramid than a free recruitment breakfast at a Mary Kay Pink Cadillac Convention in South Florida.
Vernon was the new self-proclaimed pot sultan for the summer in south Myrtle Beach, a territory stretching from Central Avenue south to Garden City and twenty miles inland to the town of Conway. He had worked hard to establish this position, and he would not relinquish this claimed turf easily. And someone was messing in his business.
During the previous summer, Vernon halfheartedly stumbled through numerous jobs but had learned the ways of Myrtle Beach, the hot nightspots, the restaurants, the amusement parks, and the way of the summer worker. He was really not all that smart, but his subconscious was a keen observer of the facade.
Vernon had worked jobs in three amusement parks, the go-cart track, two restaurants, two bars, three hotels, a T-shirt shop, a gift shop, and a water park, and was typically fired from each job shortly after he was hired. He was lazy and a natural screw-up, showed up late, spent more time trying to pick up female customers than selling, took a little cash for himself, came to work stoned, and once got caught having sex with a questionably young girl while riding the Tilt-a-Whirl. Vernon was not what you would describe as a model employee, but during the summer, few employers checked resumes for work history or references. If you could walk and talk, not necessarily at the same time, you could get a low-wage job serving the tourist industry.
Vernon and his two undaunted thugs stood in front of the Frisky Rabbit waiting impatiently on Booney, the bar owner, to arrive. While the trio waited, they watched the emergency response team help Vernon’s mentally tortured young dealer recover from his naked night ride on the small train.
“Son of a bitch! Harley, I thought I told you to keep an eye on that boy! What the hell, man?” Vernon barked, exasperated with his young thug.
“I was watching him, boss. I watched him almost all night, and I was getting bored, man, and then this bodacious hot girl with gigantic hooters sort of distracted me. It wasn’t my fault, man.”
“Did you get any?” Vernon asked sarcastically with obvious rhetorical intent.
“Naw, she ran when I tried to talk to her, started yelling for the cops or something, but then when I came back, the guy was gone, so like, you know, it wasn’t really my fault or anything.”
“You dumb ass, you just don’t get it, do you? David, what about you? I mean, dammit, there was two of you idiots to watch one guy selling dope. How friggin’ hard can that be?”
“Yeah, like, it wasn’t me, man. I was on break, man. I tested some weed from one of the other new dudes we hired, you know, just checkin’ to make sure he wasn’t cuttin’ the stuff too much, and then I sorta jumped a ride on the roller coaster ’cause a guy I knew was running the ticket booth, and—”
“Shut the hell up! You losers have got to be two of the biggest idiots ever. Jesus H. Christ! What were you thinking? Never mind, I don’t want to know. All I know is you assholes owe me three bags of weed.”
Vernon turned away from the rescue and pointed at a disheveled, troubled, young dude staring out through a small barred window on the front of the Frisky Rabbit bar.
“And this idiot, when we get his ass out of here, no more beer chuggin’ for him. Jesus, you turds are more trouble than you are worth.”
With a disgusted look on his face, Booney pulled into a reserved parking spot next to the front door of the Frisky Rabbit. Last night Vernon had misplaced another one of his new lifeguard pot dealers; Shoots McCoy. At the time no one cared where he was.
Shoots’ cell-phone alarm had roused him to an early-morning consciousness. He had opened his red eyes to find himself lying under a pool table next to a naked girl he didn’t know but maybe should have remembered. It took him a few minutes to figure out where he was and more time to find his clothes and then finally to discover his dilemma of being locked in the bar.
The owners always bolted the doors of the Frisky Rabbit from the outside. Shoots had thirty minutes to be on the beach, or he would be fired. The guard had already been warned twice about late arrivals. He called Vernon for help.
Shoots now had five minutes to hit the beach, or Vernon would lose another well-placed dealer. Booney opened the four padlocks securing metal bars and unlocked the two dead bolts. The liberated lifeguard emerged on a run, heading back to the guardhouse to get his gear before making his way to the beach.
After a quick check for damage in the bar, Booney emerged from a back poolroom with a young girl who squinted at the bright light of day, buttoned her shirt, and staggered to her car. She opened the door and crashed down in the front seat. Booney pushed her feet in and shut the door. Complaining to himself, he locked the front door to the bar and walked over to Vernon.
“Hey, man, you and your boys are going to get busted, or somebody is going to get hurt. You might want to stifle the crazy shit for a while, dude, or it ain’t gonna be cool around here, you know what I mean, man. And Murph, he’s pissed too, man, so you need to chill.”
“Sorry, Booney. I’ll talk to the boys, see what I can do. Here, dude, take this for your trouble.” Vernon slipped Booney a plastic bag with four fat joints, and then he looked down the street at the running guard, who caught his flip-flop on the curb and fell headlong into an eight-foot camellia bush in Eddie’s front yard.
“Jeessuss H…get in the van, boys, he’s never gonna make it in time. See ya, Booney. We gotta get that sorry asshole to the beach. Stay cool, man, stay cool.”
Captain Olly Johnson has twice used his stolen Bussard ram jet, the Longboat, to blackmail human colonies into giving him large amounts of gold. That makes him humanity's first interstellar pirate, even though his ship travels slower than light. One more profitable raid, and Johnson thinks he, his family, and his First Mate John Larsen can retire, and never have to worry about money again. Approaching a third star system after an eight-year (ship's time) journey, the pirates have found mysteries they cannot solve: an entire population of a human colony missing and an unknown, alien-looking ship in orbit. When the alien ship comes after them and they can't outrun its superior technology, they have to decide to fight or surrender. And Johnson isn't the type to surrender. Have they stumbled into a galactic war, or are they about to start one?
The Russian state of Sverdlosk was the Soviet Union’s center of fringe military research during the cold war. There, terrifying biological weapons, capable of inflicting unspeakable horror, were intensively researched and developed. Every single medium and long range armament in the Soviet arsenal was repurposed to deliver these lethal agents to anywhere on the globe. The cold war eventually ended. The research did not.
Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.
Sun Tzu – "THE ART OF WAR"
They live among us. We know they are there. No government can control them; no authority can stop them. Some are evil. Some are good. All are powerful. They inhabit our myths and fairy tales. But what if they were real, the witches, wizards, and fairy godmothers? What if they were called "adepts" and an ancient evil stalks them? An assassination attempt on the head of the American Meta Association guild sends adept Peter Branton looking for who wants him and his leader dead. Finding the beautiful, shape-shifting assassin leads him to his real enemy, an enemy that is much worse and much more dangerous: living gods of Atlantis. Branton must team with up with his would-be killer and a mysterious warrior to defeat the gods of strife that are intent on starting a war that could devastate all mankind.
“Let him go! No! stop! Pull him back in! Pull him back in!” yelled Jemma. She struggled but was firmly pinned against the rock face by Bollo. Jemma was up against the back wall of the walkway behind the waterfall. She watched helplessly as Todda and Jud held her best friend under the white torrent of water. Each of them was holding an arm and Gonga was spluttering and struggling to breathe, desperately trying to get out from under the force of the water. Todda and Jud were older and much stronger, so Gonga’s struggles were in vain. Bollo laughed even louder as Todda yelled, “Let’s see if we can wash this stain off once and for all!” referring to the white splash of hair in the centre of Gonga’s chest. He was the only gorilla in the entire band that had one, and was tormented mercilessly for it by Todda and his gang.
After school, Gonga met Jemma and they were enjoying a leisurely stroll past the three big boulders, under the old tree they affectionately knew as ‘Old Bow-Legs’ and up to the walkway behind the waterfall. It was easy to see why they nicknamed the tree because if you looked at it quickly out of the corner of your eye, it looked like a bow-legged old man. The walkway behind the waterfall was about halfway up the cliff, and enjoyed a good view over the pool and river at the bottom of the waterfall far below. As they were halfway through the walkway, the gang closed in – again! Todda had blocked the exit in front of them, while Jud and Bollo blocked the entrance behind them. As the three advanced on them, Todda yelled, “Time to wash you off, freak!” and grabbed him by the arms.
Now Gonga spluttered and gasped as the monumental force of the water knocked almost all the breath from his battered body. Gonga clung desperately to the ledge with his toes while Todda and Bollo stood laughing. Gonga was leaning back precariously, his chest, shoulders and face taking the full weight of the waterfall. Every time Gonga tried to pull himself back in, he was pushed backwards under the curtain of water again. Looking up, he could see the water falling down onto his chest like a relentless, white-water guillotine. He could vaguely hear yelling and laughter coming from the other side of the water curtain but was too scared to take much notice. Just as he thought he was about to die, he was yanked back through the heavy, stinging water and shoved up against the rock wall next to Jemma.
“Leave him alone, you cowards,” she screamed. Gonga’s legs felt like jelly, but Todda held him up, a vice-like grip around his throat.
“No boys. It looks like it’s permanent after all!” shouted Todda above the roar of the waterfall and punched Gonga on the white spot in his chest. Gonga slumped to the ground as Todda let him go.
Gonga ambled through the thick undergrowth down to a pool at the river’s edge. As soon as he arrived, he sat down and studied the water. He was the first to the water this morning, so he had to be extra careful. A few months ago a small gorilla had been caught by a crocodile, never to be seen again. Gonga sure didn’t want that to happen to him, so he scanned the water very carefully for any signs of movement. The adults had built a fence and placed it underwater at the back of the pool, but that was no guarantee of safety. He stood up and moved toward the water, but a movement in the trees above caught his attention and he stopped. He thought he had seen something grey coloured, and was just peering up when he glimpsed it again and a branch came crashing down into the pool. Just then, a huge crocodile jumped up out of the water, snapping its jaws loudly at the intrusion. The croc settled slowly back into the water, until only its eyes and snout were visible. It watched Gonga for a short while before turning around and heading to the back of the pool, where it swam straight out into the river and disappeared downstream.
Gonga waited until the pool was calm again, and thought about how lucky he was that the branch had startled the croc, checking his hands to see if they were still shaking. He threw a few pebbles into the brown, murky water, and said “the fence must be broken”, to no-one in particular. Once he was satisfied it was safe, he walked in up to his waist and, shivering slightly, started washing his face in the chilly water. “I wonder where my friends are?” Gonga thought to himself. “They’re normally here by now.”
Just then the water next to him exploded and he was absolutely drenched! Gonga jumped sideways and screamed loudly, thinking that the big croc had returned. He scrambled toward the side of the pool and looked back to see Todda in fits of laughter. Todda had swung out over the pool on a jungle vine, and bombed Gonga, landing in the water right next to him. Jud and Bollo were hiding behind a tree and howled with laughter at Gonga, who was still trying to wipe the water out of his eyes.
Todda and his two friends started pelting him with mud, saying to each other, “Aim for the white target, boys!” Just as Gonga was getting pelted, his friends came to his rescue. Splat! Splat! They peppered Todda and his gang with some of their own medicine. Thonk! Bollo howled as he was hit in the ear by a hard piece of mud.
“I didn’t know there was a stone in it! Honest!” said Jemma, but a sly little smile afterwards told Gonga and his friends otherwise. Jemma was always up to some sort of mischief!
“That’s enough!” shouted Mrs Brackengood, freezing everyone with her stern voice as she walked into a chaotic classroom. Everyone went silent, waiting to see what would happen next.
“Okay,” said Todda, casually throwing the hairpin over Jemma’s head, and out of the classroom.
Jemma’s eyes widened and, stepping on a log, launched herself high into the air to catch it, before it was lost forever. She caught the hairclip, but landed awkwardly on the side of a log. This sent her flying into the railing at the edge of the classroom. There seemed to be a split second where it held, but then the wooden posts shattered spectacularly, and Jemma dropped out of sight down the side of the cliff!
“No!” yelled Gonga, scrambling to the spot where Jemma had just disappeared. “Don’t go near the edge!” shouted Mrs Brackengood, but it was too late. Gonga was already flat on his belly, peering down the cliff face. He saw Jemma a little way down the cliff, her eyes wide with fear, clinging desperately to a narrow ledge with both hands. The broken railing made a nasty scraping noise, as it swung back and forth across the cliff face next to Jemma.
“Jemma, Are you okay?” yelled Gonga. Jemma nodded shakily as she clung to the ledge.
“Can you reach the railing?” called Gonga.
“No!” she grunted, breathing hard from her efforts. Gonga grabbed the broken railing and tried to swing it back and forth to reach Jemma. It was heavy and difficult to swing with just one hand. No matter how hard he tried, he was just not able to get it to swing close enough for Jemma to grab. The rest of the class was shouting encouragement, but it was just a vague background noise to Gonga and he was tiring out quickly. Just as he put all his effort into one last swing, he saw a grey arm appear from a crack in the rock face and give the railing an extra push in Jemma’s direction. Gonga was surprised, but only had time to think about it very briefly before the railing reached Jemma. She grabbed at it with one hand, the other still clinging desperately to the ledge. The wooden post snapped almost as soon as she grabbed it, sending the railing swinging wildly in the opposite direction. She scrambled and clung to the ledge again with both hands.
“Grab the leathervine part, Jem!” shouted Gonga. As the railing swung back toward Jemma, she grabbed one of the leathervines and wrapped it around her wrist. The railing jerked as its swing came to a sudden stop, almost pulling Jemma from her grip on the little ledge. She tested it to see if it would take her weight. There were loud cracking noises as the rest of the railing threatened to pull free from the cliff face.
Everyone in the classroom yelled, and Gonga shouted, “Help me! Grab the railing!”
Jemma looked at the mist-covered river below them and found that she couldn’t see the other bank. The mist enclosed their rope about halfway across the river.
She eyed this warily and said, “I’m chickening out. You go first!”
“Okay,” said Gonga with an adventurous twinkle in his eye. He climbed onto the vine, hanging upside down by his hands and feet. “Be careful!” said a nervous Jemma, but Gonga had already started across, their rope bouncing as he moved along. He was soon over the middle of the river and disappeared from Jemma’s view into the morning mist. All she could see was the bouncing of the rope. It gave a few big bounces and then went still for a while. Jemma’s heart almost stopped, but she heard no splash. The leathervine soon resumed its normal, gentle and rhythmic pattern of bounces. She waited anxiously for some signal to know that it was her turn. It was only once Gonga had disappeared into the mist that she thought about the fact that he didn’t have a safety rope in case he fell into the river.
Gonga’s heart was pounding as he moved hand over hand across the leathervine, despite his show of bravado in front of Jemma. Once he reached the middle of the river and was swallowed up by the mist, he found the vine even more wet and slippery. It was harder going now and he was straining to see through the mist. Suddenly a bird flew right past his face. It was such a shock that he instinctively put a hand up to protect his face and caused his other hand to slip off the wet vine. The vine bounced wildly up and down as he held on with his feet. He was hanging upside down over what he could only assume was the middle of the river, unable to see anything except for white mist. It had been great to see the mist over the river in the mornings, but now the mist was not so pretty anymore. Once the vine was still again, he slowly reached up and grabbed the vine with his hands again and started moving. He inched across through the mist, gripping the leathervine much harder than he probably needed to. He was relieved when he finally exited the mist, seeing that he was almost over land already. He sped up slightly and was soon in the branches of a large tree where he found the hook neatly lodged in the crook of two branches. Relieved, he sat there a short while, his chest heaving until he caught his breath.
Jemma waited anxiously on the other side of the river. There had been no splash and the leathervine had stopped moving now. She wondered if Gonga had reached the other side safely. Just then she heard a small splash. She couldn’t see anything except the ever-widening ripples where something had landed in the water below her.
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In the Dark by Chris Patchell Narrator: Corey Gagne , Lisa Stathoplos Series: A Holt Foundation Story #1 Published by Audible Studios on 09-27-17 Genres: