June 24, 2005
(Posted early and bumped for 9:00 AM Friday in order to avoid AOHell dial-up induced self-injury, which I understand is not covered by my insurance.)
In the hope of invoking Christina, the Feistiest of the Muses, I offer for your consideration my humble contribution to this week's Take Two storytime. (Be sure to check out the stories of my fellow contributors Liv of Not A Shrinking Violet, Sheila of Sheila's World, Lippy of Wired JAFA and Michele of Meanderings as well.)
Our assignment was to do a short essay developing this premise:
An individual is walking down a street, he/she glances over to an open-air restaurant and sees people enjoying their evening meals. Adjacent to the restaurant is an alleyway. As the individual passes he/she hears a slight wimpering in the darkness. At first, it almost sounds human...
Earlier this week, I noted that I'd decided to chuck an idea I had come up with on the grounds that it was too dark and weird. Well, in the interim, I've changed my mind again and gone back to it. No, I'm just fine, thanks, Mom. It's just that the structure proved too irresistable to abandon. And the weirdness was inherent in the original. You may judge for yourselves whether my decision was worth it. Are you ready? Then here we go:
The Alley of Dreams
“Dear Penthouse Forum. You’re never going to believe this, but I just had to write and tell you why from now on I’m giving Romano’s Bistro three stars. And I do mean “three”. You see, as I was walking past it the other evening, I suddenly heard a soft whimpering coming from the alleyway next door. Curious, I took a few steps in. As my eyes changed in the dimness, I noticed two of the most incredibly hot women I’ve ever seen in my life up against the wall. It wasn’t hard to figure out where that sound was coming from now! As I stood there, they turned to me and with nothing more than the looks in their eyes, invited me over. I didn’t need to be asked twice..........”
He looked around, for an instant slightly dazed. Quickly pulling himself together, he knew that he had only one chance to save the city from annihilation. NSA High Command had confirmed the warhead was somewhere in this alley beside Romano’s - he could hear the clatter of blissfully ignorant diners around the corner - and his mission was to find and disarm it. “Heh,” he thought, “Why do I get all the easy jobs?”
As he stood poised in the shadows, his well-trained senses sought for the telltale signs of the bomb’s proximity. There! His quick ears caught the faint, curiously whimper-like sound of the tiny Chinese-made detonator. Swiftly he moved to the packing crate from which the noise came. Ripping aside the tough wood with practiced skill, he saw the cold, gleaming outer skin of the city’s Messenger of Death. On one side, a digital display counted down the precious seconds left before doom would be upon them all. With cool calm, he quickly unscrewed the plate over the firing mechanism. Knowing that not just his own fate, but that of millions of others as well, was literally in his hands, he gently lowered the tip of the laser scalpel into the guts of the Reaper and prepared to cut the red wire......
“Hmmm? I’m sorry, Dear, I wasn’t paying attention,” he said.
“No, you never do, do you?” hectored his wife, “I said that we’re going to have to find a new regular restaurant soon - Romano’s is getting too popular. I can’t believe the line stretches all the way out to the street! And another thing....”
As his wife settled into another one of her customary snits, he stopped listening again, for his ears had picked up a faint, odd sound coming from the alley. Filtered out of the stream of complaints, it began to sound to him almost like whimpering. Without a word, he slipped away around the corner, knowing full well that his wife, once she got going on one of her rants, would hardly even notice if he were still there or not.
Once in the alley, it took him only a minute to locate the source of the sound. It came from a strange little being tucked away behind a heap of trashbags. If it was human, then it was the most bizarre human he’d ever set eyes on - wizened, hairless and with enormous eyes. But somehow he knew that this wasn’t the case. Cautiously, he moved forward.
Sensing his approach, the little figure looked up. With labored breath and in between short yelps of pain, it slowly gasped, “I...am...Sconos. I am...of a planet...of the star...you call...Betelgeuse. Ship...crashed here ...after...escape...from...Xandar...the Evil. I possess.. ..the... Stone.. of... All Eternity. But... I have... little time.... left. You... must take... the Stone. YOU...are... the Chosen One! Guard it... with your... life... The fate.... of... ALL the Galaxy.... rests... with... you...”
So saying, the little figure held out his closed hand, from within which a beautiful light, of a brilliance never before even imagined on Earth, radiated out....
“Yeah, Officer, I tell ya - it was the damndest thing. I just come from around back where I was deliverin’ produce for Romano’s, ya know? I come up the alley and suddenly - he was jus’ there. One second - nothin’. The next - he’s jus’ THERE, like he’d been waiting for me on purpose an’ jumped out right when I got to da street. It all happen so fast, I couldn’t even stop!”
“Uh, huh,” replied the patrolman as he watched the EMS technicians gently zipping the body into a bag. It was plain that the truck driver was telling the truth. There were no skid marks, no signs of excessive speed or recklessness. Several witnesses had also confirmed seeing the man loitering around the area as if waiting for someone or something, and one had actually seen him suddenly spring in front of the on-coming truck.
“An’ the weirdest part,” the driver continued, “was that just before I hit him, I saw his face. I swear the guy looked happy ....dreamy like, as if he was somewheres else and King of the World. Crazy s.o.b., if you ask me.”
“Uh, huh,” the cop replied again. Perhaps the detectives would come up with an explanation for what had happened, perhaps not. More than likely, the driver had as good an answer as they’d ever get.
The cop shook his head. There wasn’t much more for him to do here. “Oh, by the way,” he said to the driver, “your engine’s making some kind of whimpering sound. Belt might be loose. You probably ought to get that checked.”
Smack!Posted by Robert at June 24, 2005 09:00 AM