A silent moon casts down its light
Touching the earth with steady fingers,
Like the shining owl eyes,
Here beneath the moon lies,
While a hope’s dream still lingers.
A silent star casts down its light
From above in the dark night.
Like the sparkle playing on the softly moving river,
Underneath the tall tree whose leaves shiver,
And love’s wish is a whisper
To those still figures in the midnight sky.
Elizabeth opened the door to the stranger letting her mouth hang upon in surprise, as the woman shouldered her way into the cottage, stooping so as not to damage her plumage on the lintel.
Once inside she looked about her. One room downstairs by the look of it and a ladder to another room above; a labourer’s cottage, plain to see, with its sparse, home-made furnishings. Earthenware pots littered a plank table along with the remains of a meal of cheese, plum bread, sliced apples and beakers of ale. Bill, her younger brother by a year, took a step towards her in surprise. His face looked grey and careworn. Was he only thirty-six?
‘Betsy, is it you? How did you know it was Mary’s funeral?’
‘I didn’t. I had business in Brigg so I thought to surprise you. I have been meaning to come for some time. I am sorry for your loss, brother. I wish now I had visited earlier.’ A polite mistruth as the fact of his recent loss made her plan easier to accomplish.
‘Sit down and take some refreshment. Elizabeth, this is your Aunt Betsy. You’re named after her. Fetch her some ale will you.’ Elizabeth dropped a quick curtsey and left to do as she was bid.
Betsy perched herself on a low, wooden bench and, after delivering further commiserations, she asked Bill the names of his children.
‘Well let’s see, there’s Elizabeth our eldest, then Tom, Hannah, William, John, we call him Joe, and our youngest Uriah. James, the baby died soon after his mother.’ Bill counted them out on his fingers. ‘That makes six, doesn’t it?’
‘If you don’t count James,’ Betsy concurred. ‘That’s the reason I came to visit. I have a proposal to take one off your hands. I have a very comfortable income and I need an heir. The doctor, I kept house for, left me a good-sized house in Grimsby and a respectable annual income.’
Bill did not know what to say. It did not feel right to give away one of his and Mary’s children. He thought for a moment and said. ‘Our Hannah will be a good mother to the youngest, we can just about manage. They don’t go hungry; Elizabeth is in service and brings in a little and Tom works on the farm with me. It’s better now than it was at the start of the war. At least there’s no shortage of bread now.’
‘That’s good. In these dismal times, I wondered how you’d been faring. I wrote to the vicar in Broughton and he told me where you were living.’
Bill looked baffled. To be honest it had been a few years since he had thought much of his sister. Times were hard and he had enough problems of his own to concern him, without thinking of his sister’s situation. It must be nigh on fourteen years since he had last seen her, the day of his wedding.
‘Just consider the advantage for the child. He will have an education and be able to choose any profession.’
Bill continued to look puzzled until he dragged his mind back to Betsy’s proposal. ‘One of my sons then; you want a boy?’ He studied the tamped down earthen floor for a long moment, turning the offer over in his mind. ‘I suppose Uriah will not remember us if you take him.’ Bill swallowed hard; perhaps it would be best for the child. He was barely two years old and it would free up Hannah for service in another year or two.
‘No I want one that’s old enough to be biddable and young enough to learn. What about that one?’ She pointed to William.
‘Not William. He’s his mother’s favourite.’ Her brother checked himself and said ‘was,’ in a way that caused Betsy to pat his hand.
‘He can be my favourite then.’ Betsy liked the look of William and she disliked the name Uriah, an unlucky name, for did not David have him killed to claim Bathsheba? She was indifferent to John. Had not Salome demanded his head on a plate? William, however, was a strong name, a lucky name, the name of their father, another William Holtby. Yes, she liked that. As she studied him, she began to see a likeness to his grandfather, maybe not in his colouring, but in his green eyes which were set wide apart and the long, thin nose and the square set to his chin. He would grow up to be handsome and she was not averse to handsome.
Betsy also noted the way William sat still on his aunt’s lap, not fidgeting like Joe, or picking his nose like Uriah. William appeared to be listening to the conversation going on around him. She could see him thinking. He would do very well and she made up her mind.
‘I’ll give you twenty pounds as a dowry for your daughters. The younger one has an eye that wanders; she will need money if she is to find a husband.’
Bill sighed. His sister had always been bossy but how could he turn down a fortune, more money than he earned in a year? It was true, Hannah’s squint was going to be a burden to her. He rubbed his head as though it would make his thinking clearer, but tiredness, grief and resentment muddied his mind. Why did Mary have to die and leave him with all these problems? He’d been content with his lot but within forty-eight hours his world had blown apart. Betsy tapped him on the arm, impatient for an answer.
He took the safest option. ‘Mary was never one to mollycoddle the children but she thought William special, said he would amount to something. Maybe it’s you who will make that happen, Betsy, because all I can see for the future is more poverty. If the fields are enclosed and we must work for a pittance, how will we cope? Then there’s all this talk of invasion. Tom and I have been called to train for the militia, although we only have pikes for weapons. I often worry what will happen to the children if I am killed fighting. Pray God it never comes to that.’ Bill swallowed hard again and shook his sister’s hand to seal the deal and she passed him a bag of sovereigns, not that suspicious paper money the government had introduced, but gold. More money than he had seen in his life. He would need to find a good hiding place for it.
‘Well if we are to reach Brigg by dark we ought to set off. You’d best make your goodbyes brother. We’ll not visit again; it will unsettle the child.’
An unexpected encounter with a creature of song may have the power to change his fate.
Tribesman Misha is in search of a deer, hopeful of winning the hand of Tiva--next in line for leadership--and determined to secure his family’s prominence. When he finds a small song-bird-woman, who he names Raven, he’s sure fate is on his side. The creature can’t speak, yet her song captures his heart.
But is Raven the gift he thinks she is?
The end of the day nears, and he must bring home a gift for Tiva or risk losing her to the lowly fisherman, Rokkoo, a fate that would undo everything he's worked so hard for.
Fans of Chanda Hahn will enjoy this dark fantasy short story that transports YA readers to an enchanting alternate Earth where wonders are not always as fantastic as they seem.
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.”
AFRICA. Where corruption often rules and human life can be the most worthless commodity. Read the story of Sierra Leone and its people in this bloody, harrowing, and heart breaking suspense thriller.
This is a work of fiction, except for the parts that really happened.
Vast deposits of diamonds and oil are found in land overlapping both Sierra Leone and Liberia. A scramble ensues to secure the mining and drilling rights of both commodities. Leading the race is the Mining Earth & Ocean Corp. (MEO).
To amass and control this wealth, the creation of an illegal state called Salonga is proposed. The nominated ruler, backed and supported by the MEO, is a former RUF commander - General Icechi Walker, known as 'Body Chop' - a suspected mass murderer involved in countless atrocities.
As the battle for control of the land unravels, stories spread of horrific bloody massacres and mutilations in towns and villages, many of them by child soldiers. The capital, Freetown, is threatened by a full-blown mindless rebellion led by the RUF.
To secure power, Body Chop, with the help of the MEO, engages the protection of a private mercenary army. But control will not be handed to him so easily.
Disgraced, virtually bankrupt, ex-Sgt. Alex Dalloway, is a major part of the mercenary brigade. He has a personal quest to locate the Army officer who tortured him and killed his men years ago in the jungles of Sierra Leone. He begins to suspect the former RUF commander's involvement.
His personal life in shambles, Dalloway and his troop goes against Body Chop and his supporters, to avenge the death of his men and all the innocent lives lost at the hands of the RUF.
The old, beat-up Chevy pickup came to an abrupt stop about a foot from the back of Ruby’s prized Jeep. She scowled with disapproval as the driver shoved open the door and dropped to his booted feet before the engine even had a chance to shut off.
"Help you, miss?" he asked, with a slow, deep twang, wiping the dirt from his hands with a handkerchief he’d pulled from his back pocket.
She squinted against the midday sun a little harder now as his voice rang a touch familiar. She watched him for an over-long moment, the mother cat twisting her lithe body around his legs in greeting. Sweat glistened on his tanned, muscular arms as he bent to pick up the kittens that came out to join their mother.
She smiled. There had to be something special about a man who elicited the love of animals. He was at least six foot two, and built like he could lift a hundred pounds straight over his head with no problem at all. A smudge of dried mud followed the line of his strong, stubbled jaw. He could be the most handsome man Ruby had ever seen. Not a sophisticated, city kind of handsome. More a Russell Crowe, gladiator, kind of handsome.
The irritated scowl returned to his face after he put the tiny, tabby kittens down, almost like he’d just remembered he wasn’t pleased about being pulled away from something important. This made him all the more interesting. Part of Ruby was glad she'd been such a bother. The day just became more intriguing.
“They’re adorable. And they seem to like you.” She tried to break the awkward silence.
Curious, soulful green eyes peered out from under his dusty Stetson hat. He gazed first at her well-worn Justin cowboy boots, then slowly up her long legs to the khaki shorts, pausing momentarily at the denim shirt she had tied loosely around her waist, showing just a hint of pale skin. His gaze stopped momentarily at the mess of red-blonde hair she’d pulled away from her face, before he finally met her eyes.
Ruby held her giggle as he finished his perusal, not wanting to make him self-conscious since she’d recognized him. Billy MacCallister. Had to be. My, how he’d grown from the runny-nosed brat who used to follow her around so many years before. He’d been the pain-in-the-butt, kid brother of her best friend.
But, this grown up Billy MacCallister was a whole different creature. Mercy, he’s definitely a full grown man now. Ranch life looks good on him.
"So," Ruby avoided his eyes to keep him at a disadvantage for just a bit longer. She reached down to pet the dogs again, calming them. "How's your sister these days, Billy?"
He stopped wiping the dirt from his jeans and searched to get a better look at her face.
"What's the matter, Billy? Think you're seeing a ghost?" A smile crossed her lips.
"Ruby?" he asked, quietly at first then louder. "Ruby?" This time with unashamed excitement. Billy took two long-legged strides toward her, tilting his hat to get a better look. "Well, look at that, it is you."
Before Ruby had a chance to respond, he lifted her off the step and twirled her around, not caring at all that she now wore half the dirt he once had all over him.
The enticing scent of musk shampoo, salty sweat, and horses swirled around her, drawing her in. How could a man smell that good after working in the mud? It took all her strength to keep from leaning in and making a fool of herself. He smelled like home to her and she had to admit, it felt good to be held.
"Billy, good grief, put me down." She tugged at her shirt to keep it down, embarrassed. The pups jumped up, anxious now to play, as Ruby tried to gain composure. Not an easy task when being twirled around by a handsome cowboy.
"Ruby Lattrell, it’s so good to see you. How the hell are you?” The honest joy in seeing her poured from him. “Oh my God, you look fantastic!" He set her down and brushed the hair away from her face, looking her over now with those same hungry eyes he'd had as a love-struck kid.
She glanced away, self-conscious. When she finally mustered the courage to gaze up at him, she couldn't help but return his infectious smile. There was no worry there, or pretense. The tiny lines around his joy-filled eyes showed only that he knew how to smile. How to laugh. Something she’d forgotten how to do a long time ago.
"Well, that’s certainly more of a welcome than I expected." She stepped back to get some space and a better look at him. He had to be coming up on thirty now. Strapping. Still driving his mom crazy with that unruly chestnut hair tucked behind his ears, no doubt. Same innocent, broad smile that held secrets.
He continued talking and following her every move, anxious to know everything all at once. Where had she been? How had she stayed so perfect? Finally, he realized she hadn’t said a word. He stopped then, smiled that secret smile again, his eyes slowly filling with concern. "Ruby, I'm sorry I'm just going on. How are you? Are you all right? Oh Lord, I'm so sorry about your grandmother."
Ruby flushed when he caught her staring. "Oh, I ah, I'm fine. Thank you, though. I can’t believe she is gone. This place will be really weird without Granny Rube here." She took a step back toward the door, gathering herself, hoping she'd find the key in the usual hiding place so she could make a graceful exit.
"You don't act fine." He caught up with her, supporting her elbow like a real southern gentleman. "Let's get you inside."
Ruby didn't protest. She kind of liked the fuss he made. This was someone she'd known for nearly all her life. It felt good to know he'd missed her.
"Just wait till Claudie finds out you're home. She's going to just die." He reached behind the rusted iron pot for the key and turned it in the lock. "She's not living out here anymore. She's got a place in town. Married a nice city guy who moved here from Arizona, Mike Calloway. They bought old Fike's Market and fixed it up real nice. Doing real well with it. She likes living in town so much better than out here." He kept talking as he closed the door behind them.
The familiar smells of the house hit Ruby first, distracting her from what Billy was saying. Gingerbread cookies, Pledge furniture polish giving off an ever-present hint of lemon.
Ruby stopped in the entry, closed her eyes, and visualized her mother and Granny Rube laughing in the kitchen, handmade aprons tied around their waists, shoving cookies in that old Wedgewood oven, sharing private giggles.
Ruby stood for a long while as she replayed the memories over in her mind, only vaguely aware Billy had gone silent and held a supportive hand at the small of her back.
"Welcome home, Ruby," he whispered, his sweet eyes searching hers.
She didn't know why, but just then she couldn't keep herself from turning and wiping the dust from his cheek, feeling more true compassion from this one understanding look than she'd ever felt before.
"Thanks, Billy." She realized suddenly her eyes filled with tears. "Thanks for making me feel so welcome. I'm glad to be home."
She felt as if she’d stepped back in time. She was just a teenager when she left home almost two decades ago. Nearly everything in the house remained in the same place. The fireplace room still held the same worn velvet couches and mahogany side tables. The faded ivy wallpaper she'd helped Granny hang curled at the corners where moisture and age had gotten to the glue. The heirloom rug passed from her grandfather's family, now worn and fraying around the edges.
The same photos capturing a more innocent time continued to be displayed on the dusty river-rock mantle. Yellowed images of Granny Rube's parents looked too small and frail to have endured such a rough pioneer life. Next to that picture, Ruby saw the photo of her Grandpa Mac, taken only days before he was trampled to death by his prized bull, Heathen.
Ruby picked up the tarnished frame and held it close, realizing only now how handsome a man her grandfather had been, tall and lanky, his deep set eyes full of the devil. Reminded her of her mother.
"Granny used to say it served him right to get taken by the one beast on the ranch that was ornerier than him." Ruby wiped the dust from the frame and replaced it back on the mantle in the exact place it was before. "Momma told me Granny put Heathen down herself with a twelve-gauge shotgun the night he killed Grandpa Mac, but I still don't know if that's true. She had such a flair for the dramatic, it was hard to tell fact from fantasy."
"Your granny was a good woman, Ruby," Billy finally offered, a measure of respect in his voice. "Always remember that. She helped me out more times than I can count."
"I'm just sad I missed so many years with her. All I have are old memories of how things used to be. Silly stuff like, I remember when she calmed Jake and me during those hell-raising thunderstorms, and chased us into the pond when we were driving everyone nuts because we were so bored." Ruby turned away from the photos and took in the room once again. "She always had time for us. I can't believe I let her die alone."
As soon as night fell she showered and put on her Avenging Angel outfit which consisted of knee high black stiletto boots and a black oriental embroidered tunic that hung to her upper thighs and the front plunged in a V-neck to just below her breast. She tied her hair up in a tight bun and headed out to do the Lord’s work. She parked her Harley Heritage Soft Tail motorcycle in a parking lot a few buildings away from the Mountain View Hotel and walked back to the hotel. As soon as she walked in she noticed every guy that was in the lobby turned their heads towards her and checked her out from head to toe which is what she wanted. A small smile stole across her face as she was use to the male attention her appearance garnered. She ignored them all and headed towards the hotel bar. She sat down and ordered herself a rum and coke and started to look around at the crowd that had gathered there on a Tuesday night.
A couple of minutes later she saw her target in a corner booth having an intimate conversation with her date. She watched them discretely for the next few moments trying to decide the best course of action. Angel decided to move to an empty seat at the bar that was right next to the table that her target was sitting at. She made sure that the gentleman friend that was with her target was checking her out as she sat down on the stool and sipped her rum and coke. She made it a point to glance over at her target and the guy that’s with her every few minutes; and she even buys them both another drink. When they found out that it was Angel who bought them their drinks, they invited her to sit with them. After flirting with him for another few minutes, and finding out that his name is Robbie Fergusson, Angel starts flirting with Kassidi as well.
After flirting with both of them Angel decided to take things up a notch. She stood up, looked at Kassidi, the woman who would soon feel the wrath of her justice, and gave her an ‘I want you’ smile and Kassidi motioned for her to have a seat next to her. So Angel went over and sat next to Kassidi, placing her arm around her shoulders and whispered in her ear. She convinced her that they should move this party up to their room for some more drinking and fun. At this point Angel knew she had them right where she wanted them and it was only a matter of time before the target was eliminated. Before she met them at their room she stepped back to bar and bought a bottle of rum and a bottle of coke, knowing that the darkness of the drink would definitely hide the powder if it didn’t quite dissolve all the way. She paid the bar tender, grabbed both bottles and headed up to the third floor. When she got to room three-thirteen, she stood in front of the door chuckled softly to herself and then knocked.
Robbie answered the door with his shirt already unbuttoned and said, “Hello there you sexy thing, come on in we’ve been waiting for you.” The music in the background was low and seductive.
“Well I had to get the good stuff.” She held up the bottles of rum and coke.
Angel walked in and showed Kassidi what she had brought on her way to gather the glasses and ice from the small table in their room. She strategically starts pouring all three drinks with her back to them. Then she glanced over her shoulder and sees that they were distracted by each other so she emptied a vial of white powder into both of their drinks. She stirs it in quietly and then turned to hand each of them a glass. Angel had both of them sit down.
The couple sat on the bed with their drinks and while they drank them, she began to move her body sensuously to music. Kassidi mentioned she was feeling light headed and Angel knew that the drink was doing what it was supposed to do. She wrapped her arms around the woman’s shoulders and helped her lay down.
“It looks like you have had a little too much rum and coke, my dear, just lay here and relax.”
“But I wanted to have some fun.” Kassidi says in a slightly slurred voice.
Angel strokes her hair, “Don’t worry. There will be plenty of fun to be had.”
Robbie leaned over and said, “I’m not feeling so well.”
“I’m sorry, lover.” She said with a smirk
She touched his shoulder then took a step back and placed a roundhouse kick to his jaw, knocking him out. His limp body fell back against the headboard with a thud. She looked down at him and smiled
“We can’t have you interfering now, can we?”
She looked over at Kassidi as she pulled the black gloves out of her evening bag. She slid them on and reached down, pulling her twelve inch dagger from its sheath inside her right boot.
“Now Kassidi, you have the privilege of being the first victim in a long line of victims as I single handedly kill all of the Moon Changers and end this abomination.”
With that she climbed on to the bed, stripped Kassidi of all her clothes and straddled her naked body. Angel looked down at her victim with disdain and plunged the dagger into Kassidi’s chest, burying the entire blade. Angel then raised her head and hands to praise to her God as blood flowed out of the wound. She patiently carved the words “Moon Changers must die” into the woman’s chest. The blade that it was carved with has silver in the blade so like the one before the wound always turns red as it blistered. She stabbed the dagger back into the hole in Kassidi’s chest. Her hands slid through Kassidi’s blood. she used it to write on the bathroom mirror, “This isn’t the end!” She pulled off the bloody gloves, and washed them and the glasses in the sink. When they were safely stored back in her boot she yanked the drawers out of the nightstand and dumped their bags out onto the floor, throwing clothes everywhere, smashing the rum bottle and glasses to throw off the police. She paused at the door to admire her handiwork and then says to herself. “One final thing”
She pulled the dagger from Kassidi’s body and saw that the message carved into her chest had cauterized at the edges. She wiped her bloody dagger on Kassidi’s shirt and then slid it back into its sheath. A quick glance in the bathroom mirror confirmed that she still looked flawless, but her message had started to drip down the glass. She walked calmly back to her motorcycle, hopped on, and headed home
Space Resources, Inc. (SRI) mines asteroids for the riches a populated Earth needs without degrading the planet. Yet there are those opposed to progress in whatever its form such as the Gaia Alliance, a front group for eco-terrorists. During a violent attack on the Moon, the terrorists steal an exploration ship, arm it, and rename it the Rock Killer. Charlene "Charlie" Jones of SRI security is trying to infiltrate the Gaia Alliance's cabal to find evidence linking them to the murder of her fiancé. But a run-in with the law threatens to reveal her identity to the dangerous men of the Alliance. Simultaneously, SRI Director Alexander Chun is traveling to the asteroid belt to bring a kilometer-long nickel-iron rock back to Earth orbit to mine for its valuable metals. Following him and his multi-national team is the Rock Killer. Without armaments, millions of miles from help, Chun must stop those who threaten him and the lives of his crew.
We all know how much joy a happy pet brings to the household. After a stressful day at work and on the freeway, after visiting our in-laws in jail, after borrowing more on our credit cards just to live another week, after beating our kids half to death because we can’t stand their incessant wining because we spend more on meth, crack and Jack Daniels than on wholesome, nutritious food for our loving families, our faithful and devoted pets are there to listen to us and bring us up.
Perhaps this is a good time to introduce the beloved dog Roxie. Roxie is a small unnamed breed of short haired dog, six months old, and playful as a bug in a rug. There is nothing this sweet dog would not do to please her master, Sherry Brandhwhine. (Once a playful pooch is past the teething stage, it takes a protectful stance around the house and considers it “their” territory. Dogs consider us “dogs” like they are, and they belong to our “pack”. So it is easy to understand how well they are able to ensconce themselves in our lives, and how much we come to depend on them. Roxie was this way.) Roxie lived with Sherry in the far North, where snow and ice dominate. This country is populated by moose, polar bear, and Sasquatch. It is also occupied by MAN.
Ever advancing technology has created machinery that makes living in in harsh climates more comfortable. Without the modern conveniences, we would not enjoy the standard of living that is now possible, and which few if any countries now in existence enjoy. These machines are a mixed blessing, as they are sometimes quite dangerous and can cause injury if used improperly or without proper precautions. This is why many of these machines have guards or other protective devices to prevent clothes or limbs from entering into them and being injured. Many times people have been known to ignore these precautions and sustain severe injury as a result. Animals, and especially dogs, are largely unable to receive such warnings and can fall prey to injury as a result of accidents involving cars and trucks on the roadway.
Roxie was confined to the house. Sherry wisely decided to keep Roxie indoors when she noticed that Roxie was very fond of chasing cars and other moving vehicles. Because dogs are not aware of the considerable momentum a car possesses, they cannot be expected to recognize the ever-present dangers of the roadway. In the frozen North, there are other dangers. Huge snow-blowers traverse the roadways, gathering up copious quantities of snow and with the aid of huge blower motors and razor sharp blades, blowing the snow onto the side of the road.
It had just snowed heavily the day before. There was at least four feet of snow on the road. Poor Roxie waited all day for Sherry to come home, an interminable wait. Roxie would lay on the floor, with her head at an angle, seeming to sleep, but with alert ears always listening for the familiar sound of Sherry's car. It seemed that Roxie could almost tell time, because at around six o’clock when Sherry usually arrived, Roxie would get up and pace back and forth, waiting for the sound of the car, a 1963 Ford Fairlane station wagon with collapsed suspension, a leaky exhaust and the radio stuck on an AM station that only tuned in a fire and brimstone Christian station from Anchorage.
Finally, it seemed to be time to get up and pace. Roxie jumped up on the sofa, looked out the window, panting and looking expectantly. Roxie could hear a faint rumble in the background, and it seemed like the sound of her owner’s car. Roxie kept on looking, and slowly something much different came into view. It made a louder sound than usual, and a large white spray came out the side. Suddenly, the door burst open!
Roxie came to life! She sensed that she was supposed to stay inside, but the door was open and in her excitement she wanted to go outside and greet Sherry. She rushed outside, but no car was in the driveway. It was so full of snow. Instead, the world's largest snow blower, the Overaasen TV 2200, was approaching poor Roxie, as tons of fine snow was forced skyward like an icy geyser. Behind the machine was Sherry! Roxie could see Sherry in the car, and Roxie started running toward her. However, the noise from the Overaasen excited her, and she instead turned her attention toward the giant lumbering toward her. It was coming close, TOO close, and soon it was in her territory! Roxie could not allow this intrusion. She ran away from the white spray, into the path of the machine. Sherry saw what was happening and quickly got out of the car to distract Roxie. She called to Roxie at the top of her lungs, but Roxie did not hear.
The snow blower was clearing the roadway so that cars could travel unobstructed. The operator of the machine could see the dog, but could not stop what was about to happen. In fact, he did not WANT to stop what was about to happen. The snow plow operator, nicknamed "Mikey-poo" after a never to be forgotten childhood incident, was liked by all. However, Mikey-poo had taken to reading catalogs featuring gargoyles and other monstrosities that some people are quite fond of. To be certain, nobody could imagine someone wanting to do harm to a kind and loving pet, but sometimes circumstances convene in such a way as to defy all sense of logic and balance. In fact, sometimes the demoniac seems to prevail and nothing but horror and gore result.
Poor Roxie was directly in the path of the snow blower, barking furiously, holding her ground directly in front of HER house. The snow blower now surged forward, and Sherry could not catch up, having fallen in the snow and sprained her ankle. She could only watch helplessly as the snow blower’s 2,000 horsepower engine revved up to its maximum setting. Soon after, Sherry heard a loud CLUNK, whereupon a fine red spray showered her front yard and front porch. The machine lumbered on into the distance, its grisly red spray slowly turning a beautiful rose colored hue, then pink, and finally pure white again.
Horrified, Sherry got up and hobbled toward the front door, having seen something hit the door, bang loudly, and then roll inside. It was poor Roxie’s head, decapitated by the evil, cruel blades of the snow blower. As unfortunate as it was that Roxie got out of the house, in a grisly sense, Roxie had come home.
Horrified at what just happened, Sherry thought fast and took action. The head, which was still fresh from the guillotine-like blades of the snow blower, tried to produce a faint bark, but couldn’t because the dog’s heart, lungs, circulatory system and body were nothing more than a red spray on the front lawn.
Roxie was still alive! Dr. Thluck, a world-renowned animal psychiatrist and surgeon in head transplant surgery, happened to be outside and saw what happened to the unfortunate beast as it was transformed by the snow blower into a mass of red gore fertilizing the front lawn and a barely alive head flying through the air. There was no time to lose...
Dr. Thluck needed to staunch the bleeding which was draining the remaining life force from Roxie’s battered and near lifeless head. He grabbed a pink tutu which was handily lying about and jammed one of the chewed up arms into the carotid artery and jammed the other chewed up arm into the poor mutt’s mouth to keep it from trying to bark, which was impossible. He quickly rushed the near lifeless head into his secret underground laboratory, where he hooked it up to an ingenious heart-lung machine, trying by any chance imaginable to keep it alive.
It was a miracle, but the head lived on. How long it would live was impossible to say. Sherry and Dr. Thluck kept a constant vigil over the unfortunate creature, talking to it, giving it comfort by petting what was left of it. There really wasn’t much the dog could do, as most of the bone and musculature that would allow the head to make any movements was now food for countless maggots and other vile filth that made good use of the unexpected bounty. Actually, this is the way of nature and is good. All the new and exciting insect life resulting from the shredding of poor Roxie’s carcass meant a high-protein food source for birds, lizards, and other of God’s creatures.
As the days turned into weeks, something constructive would have to be done to bring some normalcy into poor Roxie’s admittedly restricted existence. Roxie’s senses were severely restricted. She could not smell, as there has to be airflow through the nasal passages and these were all sewn up now that the heart-lung machine was giving live-giving oxygen. Roxie could still hear, and that was a blessing as she could take comfort in Sherry’s voice and Dr. Thluck’s ministrations as he toiled to keep her alive. It was agreed upon that Roxie should have a voice, and a way was set upon to allow her to speak.
Dr. Thluck undertook very delicate brain surgery on Roxie to insert electrodes into the dog’s stationary head. These would be hooked up to a computer that would actuate a voice synthesizer when the dog wanted to bark. In this way, she could hear herself and feel some comfort in having a formerly lost ability. After much experimentation, the device at last worked, and Roxie would thrill at being able to produce electronic yelps that sounded remarkably real. Ultimately, the barking was becoming tiresome and Sherry and Dr. Thluck agreed to change the barking noise into a monotone “bark” sound, which was actually a man saying the word “bark”. Roxie was understandably upset, but learned to live with the inaccurate feedback.
About the only think Roxie could do was to move her eyes. She furtively glanced about, picking places to look at in the lab, and then glance away to see if anything new was going on outside her field of vision. She became aware of something moving in the lab, but she did not know what it was. She barked furiously, but of course the only sound to come out of the voice synthesizer was a man's voice saying "bark, bark". The object, or whatever it was stopped making noise, but Roxy kept her ears perked up.
After what seemed like hours, she heard the same scratching sound, but now it seemed to be right behind her. She could feel something walking... on her head! Roxie barked furiously, and the synthesizer monotonously groaned out the man saying, "bark, bark," but to no avail.
Something was crawling on her immobile head, scratching around. All she could do was blink her eyes, those huge, bulging eyes that sensed danger as the snow blower approached, those bulging eyes that saw the world turn over and over as she was swallowed by the Overaasen and cut to ribbons, those bulging eyes looking around as her near lifeless head was flying through the air like a carrier pigeon on its way to hell.
Finally, the object of her abject horror came into view. It was more than she could take, more than anyone could take if they saw what she saw...
There was a large group of beautiful wild horses that roamed free all around Mustang Island by the Atlantic Ocean. The wild horses loved to run and play along the beach and in the ocean. They would also run up and down the mountains on the island. The wild horses had been on Mustang Island for hundreds of years. Wild horses are also known as "feral horses." People came from all over the world to see the wild horses. The leader of the wild horses was a beautiful white stallion. The wild horses were mainly mustangs, but there were also a few other breeds.
The wild horses were all different colors. There were two other white horses, a couple of tan horses, a gorgeous black stallion with a white star on his head, several brown horses, some black and white horses, some brown and white horses, a tan and white horse, and a few gray horses.
There was a young girl named Makala that lived on the island with her parents. She had been going to the beach since she was a little girl, and she loved to watch the wild horses. She had been taking photographs of them on the beach and in the mountains. She thought it was so funny when the wild horses would start rolling on the beach. They were so much fun to watch. She was always so excited when there was a new foal born. The herd of wild horses was growing each year. Sometimes, she would bring carrots and hay to the beach with her for the horses. She would spread them out on the beach for them. Then she would move off so the horses would come over to the beach area to eat the carrots and hay. Then she could photograph them while they were closer to her.
Makala's room was filled with photographs she had taken over the years of the wild horses. Makala wanted to become a photographer when she was older.
One evening, her father told her that he had a big surprise for her. He took her outside, and one of the wild horses was inside their fence! He told her that he had paid someone to rope and capture the wild horse. Then he adopted the horse for her. He knew how much she enjoyed the wild horses. Makala walked out to the horse. It was not just any wild horse; it was the white horse that was the leader of the wild horses! He was so beautiful! She was very excited and could not wait to tame her horse. She named her horse Spirit.
The next day, she started working with Spirit to try and tame him. He started kicking the fence. He wanted out of the fence. He was very big and very strong. He did not like being captured. He reared up and started snorting! Suddenly, all of the wild horses came running up to her land! They had all come to see Spirit. You could tell that all of the wild horses were very upset. They were all making very loud noises. Makala started feeling bad for Spirit. She wondered if she should turn Spirit loose so he could run wild and free again with the other wild horses. She told her dad that she was feeling guilty for taking away the leader of the wild horses. He told her that they would have another leader very soon since their leader was gone now.
On the side of a dark and desolate Oregon coast road, Thomas James stood by himself hidden in the shadows. Alone and lost in thought, he felt detached. He eventually crumpled to the ground, his legs giving way beneath his large frame. The previous few hours were replaying in his mind like a bad movie. About two hours prior, he got a phone call from the county police. It took him barely five minutes to get to the accident…she was almost home.
Imagine a place where dreams come true and new ones are born. A place where friends laugh, kids smile and new love blossoms. Where walks on foggy ocean beaches or misty woods become memories that will last a lifetime. A place where people and nature peacefully coexist and enjoy the company of one another. A place where lost love can be reborn and lives made simple and perfect. A place where you can get lost in your future and leave the darkness behind. Find that place in Running Northwest.
Set against the unpredictable Pacific Ocean, on the rocky, forested northern coast of Oregon is a story about heartbreaking loss, rebuilding, fate and love. Running Northwest takes the reader on a journey as an unexpected road weaves its way through the life of single father, Thomas James and his 8-year-old son, Daniel. In Michigan, newly single Stephanie Davis is about to begin her own journey down a path she never expected and never even knew existed which will change her life in ways never imagined.
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