Favoritism is a bad practice when raising one’s children, but guilt sometimes makes it necessary. When Daria and Evelina were little girls, they were carried away from their mother country, Russia, by their loving parents. The hope was to leave the cold of Novosibirsk for the opportunities of the United States.
Their father, Mark, was an auto mechanic. Their mother, Kira, was a biomedical research scientist at the Novosibirsk Research Institute. It was not her idea to leave Russia, but her husband insisted. Mark had a cousin who had emigrated to the U.S. and settled in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. The cousin had become the very successful owner of a taxi company. It was that cousin who invited the family to come and live in New York City.
When they arrived in New York Daria was seven, and her younger sister, Evelina, was only four. The first four years in their new country went well, but Kira was becoming increasingly unhappy. The able scientist was now a housewife spending her days raising the couples two daughters while her husband, Mark, found himself not only repairing his cousin's taxis, but he also began driving them to make ends meet. Thus, he was never at home.
Eventually, Kira had enough. She planned a trip back to Russia to visit her ailing mother, and she never returned. Mark was humiliated and dejected. So much so that he began drinking vodka as though it were water. It was the only thing that relieved the pain of his broken heart. There were many nights where the alcohol and the devil made Mark say and do things outside of his gentle character. Including somethings so horrible that he could never forgive himself. But he was determined to keep his American dream alive, and he did.
That was ten years ago. Today the girls, Daria and Evelina, are all grown up. Daria is now 21 and Evelina 18 years old. Mark never remarried, but he did hire a series of babysitters to watch his girls while he continued to work very hard to give them a comfortable life. Ultimately, he began his own taxi garage and did very nicely for himself especially since he didn’t need to employ a mechanic to repair his cars.
Most importantly the single father put away the bottle and replaced it with the fountain of hope, which he found in the local Russian Orthodox Church. The girls grew up under the guidance of the church. Something which likely would not have happened had their mother, Kira, remained in the picture. A woman of science, Kira was also a staunch atheist.
The two sisters born three years apart were entirely different in many ways. Daria, the older one was a beautiful 5’ 10” blond-headed extrovert although she barely graduated high school. Daria’s only goal in life was to break into New York’s glamorous modeling industry.
The younger sister, Evelina, is a shorter homelier version of Daria. Although she too is a natural blond, she is not nearly as attractive as her big sister. However, like her mother, Evelina is exceptionally bright. She graduated early and was accepted on a full academic scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania in the coming year. What she lacks in beauty she more than makes up for with brains.
The two sisters have envied one another to the point of hatred for many years. To compound the situation their father, Mark, favors the pretty wholesome one, Daria, and has done so forever according to Evelina. He gives her whatever she asks for, and only she knows why.
What’s worse is that Daria regularly beats her smaller, younger, and less attractive sister mercilessly. She has always enjoyed slapping, kicking, jumping on, and throwing solid objects at her scrawny sibling. Daria is as vicious as she is beautiful. Today is no different.
“Daria please help me straighten up the living room.” Evelina requested of her older sister,” I have company coming.”
“You have a visitor – who’s that?” says Daria with an air of disbelief.
“It’s a boy.”
“You have a boy coming into our father’s house when he’s not at home. Are you nuts?”
“You’re such a hypocrite Daria. You think I don’t know the parade of guys you’ve had in here. Everyone in the neighborhood knows that you’re a nymphomaniac slut. I just hope papa doesn’t find out.”
That was enough to initiate yet another beat down by the “blond beauty” on the “nerdy little professor.” But today Evelina was saved by the sound of the doorbell, ding-dong.
Evelina picked herself up from the carpet and ran to answer the door. In walked Artem, Evelina’s guest. Artem greeted Evelina with a warm hug, as though they were intimately familiar. At which Daria thought to herself “What is this about?” Artem was a handsome young man. He looked like a Greek god. In Daria’s opinion, he was way too cute to be with her nerdy, unattractive sister whom she had mutual contempt for.
“Artem this is my sister Daria. She was just leaving.”
Daria extended her hand to welcome Artem, but she made sure to do it suggestively and seductively. The young Greek-American man with wavy black hair looked into the blond Russian-American woman’s beautiful face and just grinned back at her with a naughty grin as he imagined what she was suggesting.
Seeing their interaction, Evelina began shouting and screaming at Artem “That’s it. I want you to leave now Artem.”
“What did I do?” Artem asked as Evelina began shoving him toward the door until finally, he was out on the street.
Evelina then turned to face her sister and shouted at her “You no good bitch.”
Daria laughed and unleashed a barrage of blows on Evelina’s oversized head which seemed to have connected with significant effect. Evelina fled into her bedroom and locked the door. Daria stood outside screaming at her in Russian to open the door so that she could continue with her beating.
The front door was not locked when Mark turned the doorknob to enter the house. Returning home earlier than expected, he heard the commotion and said out loud “These girls will kill each other one day.”
On seeing her father walk into the house, Daria taunted her sister in a way meant to really get under her skin. “ You may be smart but you know I’m daddy’s favorite.” With those words, Mark shook his head and whispered: “Don’t talk like that to your sister.”
Mark was just about to say something to his youngest daughter when she swung open her bedroom door expecting to encounter her sister’s flawless face. As if possessed by an evil spirit Evelina shouted at the top of her lungs with pure rage “This is for you. You father fucking whore.” As she hurled the contents of a glass jar filled with disfiguring concentrated sulfuric acid unintentionally into her father's face. Mark screamed in agonizing pain as his face melted into his skull, but he knew he had earned this pain for ruining his oldest daughter when she was just 13.
The Mariana Islands are a territory of the United States. Today is a typically beautiful day there. The weather is 85 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny with a cooling breeze blowing off of the crystal blue waves of the Pacific Ocean.
It’s not so different than where Dr. Tina Chen hoped that she would end up by now after making a monumental discovery three years earlier. She had found a way to communicate with the future and had big plans on exploiting the technology she had discovered. The only difference is that she imagined herself a free single woman, and abundantly wealthy.
Tina grew up in New York City. She is the well-educated only child of professional parents who had immigrated from Hong Kong. Her background in theoretical physics and computer science led her to the discovery of a cloud which is present in cyberspace where time does not exist.
Dr. Chen was able to access the timeless quantum cloud and asked questions of her future self to which she was then able to send the answers back in time by way of what she dubbed time-mail or t-mail. Queries such as “Who will win the Super Bowl?” or “Will the stock market move up or down tomorrow?” The brilliant doctor had found the proverbial golden egg laying goose.
Dr. Chen is a certified genius as are all of her fellow inmates here in the village of Songsong on Rota Island. They were each detained by the government for having stumbled upon DARPA technologies which the U.S. military considered a national security risk. Together they number 13 inmates in all. They come from varying backgrounds in different disciplines of science and engineering. Their ages ranged from 32 all the way to 88 years of age. Tina Chen is the 32-year-old.
The detention center at Songsong is a black site operated by the CIA. On paper, it does not exist. The inmates are all officially disappeared persons. Their families and friends have no clue of what became of them. They are well cared for and free in their movements about an isolated area of Songsong. It is just that they are not allowed to leave the village and are under 24-hour surveillance at all times. In fact, of the 13 detainees, three of them are actually government spies who don’t even know one another to be spies.
Many of her colleagues are very despondent about their fate, but not Dr. Chen. She spends her time learning to fish and tending to her garden. None of the “inmates” are allowed access to phones or the internet, but nearly anything else they ask for is provided to them usually within 72 hours. It is understood that they are not there to be punished, but rather to be controlled.
Dr. Chen was obsessed with keeping track of the calendar and news from the outside. Usually, a copy of the New York Times or the Washington Post was supplied to the unwilling residents of Songsong to keep them aware of what was going on in the outside world.
Tina always remains cheerful. Consoling the others and even discovering that among her intellectual equals she has a keen sense of humor which they all appreciate. What makes it possible for Dr. Chen to go on so carefree is that she knows something about the future which none of the others nor their captors know.
Three years previously, on a frosty February night in New Paltz, New York where she did her research and taught as a lecturer at SUNY, Tina received a response through the t-mail computer she had designed. The question she asked her future self-was “Where will I be in five years?” The answer she received was both puzzling and alarming.
You will be living in paradise in the Mariana Islands in a place called Songsong, but don’t despair because World War Three is about to start and your beloved New York City will soon exist only as a memory. However, you and those with you will be safe.
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The retired old dentist, Dr. Blagojevich, became exhausted as he hurried to climb several flights of stairs all the way up to the top. He knew that the time had come for him to free his most treasured pet “Cat” whom he had kept in the apartment on the fourth floor of his redbrick apartment building for 10 years. His heart was racing. He knew this was the end.
The doctor used to have tenants, but the headaches became too much. The last one moved out twelve years ago. Two years before “Cat” came into his life. Now he had his privacy and more importantly peace and quiet. Much of that quiet time he spent playing with his precious pet on the fourth floor.
“Cat” was just one of many of his pets. More than two dozen furry little creatures were wandering about. He allowed the others to come and go up and down Kent Street as they pleased, but “Cat” was different. He always kept her in the house.
When Dr. Blagojevich and his late wife, Velma, first came to America from Poland fifty years ago, they settled in this neighborhood. Greenpoint, Brooklyn had been a heavily Polish enclave of New York City for many decades. It was a welcoming community where they fit in.
The Blagojevich’s had hoped to raise a family here, but they soon discovered that they couldn’t have children. It was a hard pill to swallow, but with time they came to accept it. That was when Velma began insisting that the couple should have cats. The cats became their surrogate children. Initially, there were only three of them.
As a retiree and a widower, Dr. Blagojevich had been very lonely. He paid little attention to his cats beyond feeding them, as they multiplied and spread throughout the neighborhood like wild weeds. Then one night ten years ago, as he was taking out the garbage, a small child of no more than two wandered up to him.
The toddler was a stranger to the old man, yet she boldly waddled to him with her arms extended upward. The former dentist immediately smiled, leaned forward, and scooped the babe up in his arms. Looking up and down Kent Street he carried her into his abode. From that moment little Catherine Grant became his favorite pet. "Cat" was an abbreviation for Catherine.
The doctor’s days were filled with the joy that comes with raising a child. It lasted until this morning when the detectives from the New York City Police Department appeared at his front door with a search warrant.
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During the late 50s and early 60s, doo-wop was the coolest, most popular form of music in America. Its popularity was nationwide. Talented groups were springing up from coast to coast like an overdue wheat harvest. One group of teens out of Harlem, New York rocked the music world, coming to prominence in 1955. Before then doo-wop acts were usually in their twenties, but these youngsters were only teenagers. Thus, they bore the name Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers.
13-year-old phenom, Frankie Lymon, was the groups lead singer. He had been singing in church since he was only five. His parents had a gospel band called the Harlem Mayors. The band traveled around to different churches giving praise and glorifying God with their music. Satan didn’t like that, and so he launched a spiritual attack against the Lymons. The plan was to conquer Frankie’s soul. He was the second oldest child and the one with the most angelic voice.
Satan knew just how to entice the richly talented precocious teen. On the night when Frankie and the other members of his group had wrapped up recording “Why Do Fools Fall in Love.” Satan visited Frankie in a dream.
“Hello Frankie, do you know who I am?” The evil spirit asked.
Frankie looked into the Devil’s red eyes and could smell the ashes, and he immediately knew the answer to the question.
You’re Satan! Frankie shouted at the top of his voice as if to sound the alarm to the entire neighborhood. “Don’t be afraid of me Frankie. I’m your friend.” Said the devil.
Young Frankie had grown up in the rugged Harlem of the 1950s, which was predominantly an African-American ghetto. He knew not to show fear. Although the thirteen-year-old soprano was at first terrified and could feel his heart racing. He reminded himself that this is only a nightmare and that he would soon wake up tossing and turning from a bad dream.
Frankie, I want you to make your mom and dad proud. I want to give you money enough so that your mom won’t need to clean people’s homes, and dad won’t need to be gone all the time out driving a truck. You’d like that now Frankie, wouldn’t you?
“Why yes, I would, but I trust the Lord. He will make it happen for us.” Frankie responded.
The devil became irritated by Frankie’s response, to which he then replied “Frankie if you read your Bible you will know that I am the Lord of this world. It is written in Luke 4:6. If there is something in the material world that you want you should ask it of me. I am your friend.”
Having been raised in church all his life Frankie also knew that the devil was a liar. Which led him to boldly challenge the devil’s claim. Frankie declared “How do I know that you aren’t bullshitting me devil?”
The devil laughed out loud and smoke emanated from his mouth. “Look here.” Said the devil, as he held out the palm of his rather large right hand. Just then a vision materialized. In the devil's palm, Frankie could see his future beginning with the success of the soon to be released “Why Do Fools Fall In Love.”
The devil also showed Frankie and his mates from the Teenagers traveling the world on tour. They were each dressed to the nines in fine matching suits and performing on stage and on television as throngs of adoring fans cheered their performance. It was a glamorous spectacle. “All this I can deliver for you and then some.” Satan told the youngster.
Frankie was amazed and was ready to agree, but then he remembered that this was the devil, and he declined the tempting offer. But the devil was not deterred. He knew Frankie better than Frankie knew Frankie. “Frankie you drive a hard bargain.” Said the devil.
“Frank, here’s what I’m gonna do for you,” said the fallen angel, “I’m gonna give you more hit records.” The devil then conjured a grey colored record player and began playing songs by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers which Frankie had never heard before let alone recorded. The devil played “Little Bitty Pretty One,” then “Teenage Love” followed by “Tears On My Pillow.”
“What do you think Frankie baby?” The Prince of Darkness asked.
Frankie was too astonished to speak. The King of Hell knew that he had him leaning. One or two more inducements and he would close the deal.
You like girls don’t you Frankie? It was a rhetorical question. The devil knows everyone’s desires. He then displayed three lovely young women. They each somewhat resembled Frankie’s mother in her youth, all fine specimens of womanhood. “You may marry anyone of these pretty ladies you desire Frankie. “Frankie began smiling and rubbing his hands together.
“Hell, I see you can’t make up your mind. I’m gonna let you marry all three of them then.” Satan said in a voice of absolute authority, with the tone of a priest pronouncing a newlywed couple to be man and wife for the first time.
Frankie was now giddy with amusement. He was still just a boy, and the devil knew that for now, his biggest obsession wasn’t necessarily girls or women. Frankie could most easily be swayed with a new bike, candy, hamburgers, and Pepsi Cola. So, the devil produced a large brown paper bag.
Frankie, if I show you what’s in this bag and you like it, you can have it in addition to all my other promises. But that means that from now on you belong to me, and in 13 years I will come to collect what belongs to me. Is that a deal?
The innocent thirteen-year-old nodded his head and said: “You got a deal devil!”
The devil smiled an evil smile as he opened the paper bag showing Frankie that it was filled with candy. He then closed the bag and smashed it over the teenagers head. In the morning when Frankie woke from his sleep his head was filled with lots of great new lyrics, and there was candy everywhere.
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Dr. Elaine LaFlor taught quantum physics at NYU Tandon School of Engineering in downtown Brooklyn. On this particular morning, she was running late. However, she had just enough time to boil an egg, which usually was all that she had for lunch beside a green smoothie which she would buy in the school's cafeteria.
So, she walked over to her refrigerator and counted out seven eggs.
“Good that’s enough for the whole week.” Elaine thought to herself. She then set a pot to boil before adding the eggs one by one to the gently simmering water. The professor used a large wooden spoon to avoid scalding her fingertips. The eggs would be ready in eight minutes, so she set the timer on the stove and left the kitchen to pack her laptop briefcase with the lecture notes she had prepared for today.
Today’s lecture would be a continuation of last week’s class on Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. As she closed the zipper to her briefcase, she heard a voice inside her head. It said to her “You are getting close.” It was loud and clear, and it startled the professor. She had never experienced anything like that before, but after a moment she shook her head and laughed it off. She thought to herself “Elaine, it’s time for a vacation.”
A few minutes later the timer went off in the kitchen. The professor moved swiftly. She would have just enough time to catch her bus if she hurried. Looking down into the pot Dr. LaFlor noticed only six eggs, and she thought to herself “That’s odd?”
She was sure that she had counted out seven eggs. One for each day of the week.
“I don’t have time for this now.” The professor said out loud. Her curious mind would not allow her not to investigate further. She had to know what happened to the seventh egg. The smartly dressed spectacled professor looked at her refrigerator and was convinced that she had miscounted.
She swung the refrigerator door open with enough force to cause a bottle of ketchup to fall from one of its shelves. Grabbing the egg carton and placing it on the marble countertop, she opened the lid. What she saw next forced a confused grimace on to her face. There was only one egg remaining in the carton. It was a purple pastel Easter egg. She picked it up with her right hand and stared at it with amusement.
The doctor turned back to the pot of boiled eggs on the stovetop. Now they were all pastel-colored Easter eggs. One red, one orange, one green, an aqua colored one, a blue one and the purple one, which Dr. LaFlor was now squeezing so tightly in the palm of her hand that it cracked.
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The sun was so bright in the sky that he could hardly see anything at all. There was so much commotion that Randy didn’t know what to think. Machine guns were firing at the top of the Empire State Building as a squadron of Curtiss Helldivers let loose their ammunition on the giant gorilla that had scaled the landmark skyscraper with a young blond who he had taken hostage.
All Randy knew was that he wanted to help her, and so he did when the mortally wounded King Kong lost his grip and dropped Ann Darrow from way on high to the avenue below. It was Randy who caught her in his thick, burly arms. The crowd went wild at his incredible act of heroism, but they soon had to scatter as the fallen hairy giant was accelerating at the speed of gravity right towards them.
Randy tossed the damsel over his shoulder and took off at full speed down Fifth Avenue wearing only a pair of white cotton briefs, his cowboy boots, and his beige 10-gallon hat. Moments later the giant gorilla hit the ground creating an impact crater. Randy had not had time to check on Ann until now. He laid the unconscious beauty on the ground and propped her up as he fanned her with his hat. Randy was from Texas. He was in town for an event at Madison Square Garden. Oddly enough he couldn’t even recall why he was in New York City at all.
“Ann, Ann are you okay honey?” The muscularly built and well-groomed bearded man questioned the passed out beauty in his distinctly Texan accent.
“Where am I?” The young woman groggily responded as she came to.
You’re with me.
Oh, I recognize you. You're Randy Big Tex Morris.
“I am? - Yeah, that’s right. - I am him, ain’t I?” Randy replied to Ann not wanting to tip off that he really didn’t know who he was.
You saved me back there. I don’t know how to thank you enough.
Well, Ann, we can discuss all of that on our first date. I can’t hardly wait to spoil you rotten you pretty thing you.
My name is Faye, not Ann. Remember, we went over that?
Just then Randy’s mother approached the couple from across the street. Suddenly Randy was transformed into a five-year-old version of himself, although he was still barely dressed, wearing the same outfit. The little boy remained silent, as his mother addressed the now fully recovered blond.
Please excuse us Ann. Randy come on now son. We gotta be gett’in back to what you was do’in.
Mrs. Morris, I told Tex to tell you that my name is not Ann, it’s Faye. Ann Darrow was the character's name in the movie “King Kong.” I’m just Faye. Faye just like the actress that played the part of Ann Darrow in the movie. Do you get it?
That’s fine darl’in. I’ll see you at the wedd’in sweetheart.
The next thing Randy knew he was back home in Tyler, Texas in Ms. Humphrey’s preschool learning to count.
Ms. Humphrey was counting out loud slowly and deliberately, “One, two, three, …”
Then suddenly Randy was big again, and a bright light began shining in his face. It was so bright that it was hurting Randy’s eyes. Ms. Humphrey disappeared into the intense glowing light.
Although he wanted to shield his eyes from the glare, he couldn’t move his arms. Randy looked to his left, and there was his mother crying in a sea of rowdy strangers. He then turned to his right, and he noticed Faye. She was dressed in a skimpy white bikini and holding a huge black card to her well endowed bosom. On the card was printed a large white number eight. In her left hand, she was holding what appeared to be a silver colored iPhone. Faye had a shocked expression on her face.
Randy Big Tex Morris was the top ranked contender for the heavyweight title. He had been ahead in tonight’s main event, a fight for the very title he had wanted for so long. His dreams of wealth and fame were now within reach. Randy could taste victory.
It wasn’t until he saw Faye, the dazzling blond card girl from Cincinnati, that he began to lose his focus. Randy had always been a sucker for a beautiful blond. As the seventh round ended and Faye entered the ring to announce the start of round eight, Randy Tex Morris did a double take. He was stunned by her beauty. It was love at first sight. Although Randy was winded, he was determined not to let Faye get away.
Quickly spitting out his mouthpiece, the boxer said to, his cornerman, Evans “Hey, Evans let me get your phone right quick.”
Smooth and fast Randy had Evans hand his phone to Faye as she walked by his corner. “I’d love to take you to dinner tomorrow night if your boyfriend don’t mind,” Randy uttered in his most folksy Texas drawl.
The surprisingly bashful, half-clad card girl in high heels coyly accepted the phone from, Evans.
“But I don’t have a boyfriend.” Faye said smiling back at Randy flirtatiously as she winked her right eye and proceeded to walk on.
“What’s your name. I’ll be calling you soon Darl'in. The code to unlock that phone is 1234.” The smitten pugilist quickly shouted to the blond bombshell. Faye cheerfully nodded her head then turned away and re-raised the sign as high as she could above her head announcing the upcoming eighth round while holding Evan's phone in her left hand.
“My Name is Faye.” She turned back and shouted loud enough to be heard over the commotion in the arena while walking backward and nearly tripping over her stilettos.
“Is that Faye as in Faye Ray from the movie "King Kong"?” Randy asked in his loudest non-yelling voice. The statuesque blond could hardly hear him. Madison Square Garden was packed with 16,000 noisy spectators.
Lowering her card Faye turned and shouted back “That was Ann Darrow, played by Faye Wray.” She pointed to herself with her index finger as she repeated her name “Faye” before climbing down from the ring.
The cornerman was flabbergasted. “What did you just do with my phone Tex?”
Don’t you worry Evans. I’ll have it back to you by this same time tomorrow, or I’ll buy you two more just like it. Besides, I use it more than you do anyways!
Randy was so pleased with himself that he barely reacted when the bell rang. As he adjusted his mouthpiece against the thumb of his right glove, he turned to face his opponent. Expecting to meet him in the middle of the ring.
Randy was surprised immediately by Killer Kong Jackson’s arching right jab. The defending champion had caught him off guard the moment he turned from his corner. Jackson walloped Randy with so much force that everyone in the entire arena could hear and feel the blow as it landed. Randy Big Tex Morris had just been knocked into a different reality. The fight was over at the count of ten.
Doctor Barry Eisenbarth had worked at the Morgan Institute for Biomedical Research in Manhattan for twenty-five years. When he first joined the staff, he was highly regarded as a brilliant researcher who had wowed his colleagues at Yale with his Ph.D. dissertation. His area of expertise was in manipulating the inner workings of pathogenic organisms. He had begun to master the process of turning on and off the genetic switches which made germ cells tick.
Dr. Eisenbarth was a talented scientist, but up until now his work has all amounted to far less than expected. If he were a professional baseball player, he would have been cut from the team a long time ago. No one was more frustrated and embarrassed by this than Barry himself. It was not for lack of effort. He and his faithful research assistant, Rachel Hartwell, had labored for thousands of hours through the years only to achieve interesting yet mundane results.
Refusing to accept a career without stellar accomplishment as his fate, Dr. Eisenbarth spawned a plan that could land him a Noble Prize. He generated a super-virulent strain of the dreaded pneumonic plague, also known as the Black Death of the 14th century. Next, he created an ingenious cure, which required injecting the victim with a lab-engineered virus. The manmade virus would then eat into the cell wall of the Yersinia pestis bacteria rendering it into a harmless state of suspended animation.
To be sure Barry first infected himself with the plague. In one of the labs negative pressure rooms, he inhaled the Yersinia spores which he obtained from the CDC in Atlanta under the pretense that it would be used for some other legitimate purpose. Within 24 hours the symptoms began manifesting themselves. Without delay, the doctor inoculated himself with the curative viral agent. Like magic within four hours, he was feeling well again. These experiments he kept to himself.
Although Rachel did notice Dr. Eisenbarth’s activity in the lab, she did not question him. The following day, however, her curiosity got the best of her, and she asked him about the experiment. The doctor explained partially without incriminating himself. He then instructed Rachel to continue monitoring the flask for 14 days. Then she was to discard the vial of broth and other equipment according to the usual biohazardous materials protocol.
But Rachel was now very curious because of the mysterious nature the doctor had assigned to this particular undertaking. Two weeks later, instead of discarding the experiment, she moved it to a storage closet down the hall. There she continued to observe the vial of deactivated pneumonic plague material not even realizing its harmful potential.
Dr. Eisenbarth waited until the tenth day after he had treated himself with the cure. Then he began his campaign of spreading the air-borne plague bacteria. That night Barry caught several taxis to different destinations around New York City. It was a Friday evening when the nightlife was really jumping. In the backseat, he sprayed the active plague spores into the air using a two-dollar spray bottle purchased at a local Duane Read drug store. By the time the night was done Barry had been all around town and spent almost $400 on cab fares. To be cautious, he injected himself with another dose of the cure.
Within a week people began showing up at several area hospitals. They all had the same symptoms, presenting at the emergency room with severe fevers and coughing up blood as the plague ravaged their lungs. Typical antibiotic therapy was not effective against this “Superflu” as it was being referred to on the news. Nearly 100 people were reported to be fighting for their lives, as thousands more were now starting to show signs of being infected by the unfolding airborne pandemic.
Dr. Eisenbarth showed up at the lab early the next day. It was time for the hero to come to the rescue. He began making phone calls to hospitals all around town connecting with different heads of infectious disease to inform them that he had been working with the CDC on a new influenza cure, and he knew, based on empirical evidence, that it would work against this new “Superflu.” The doctor even went against Morgan Institute’s policy and contacted the media to come in for a press conference before running it by his superiors and the public relations department.
As he hung up from one of the many calls he had made, Rachel interrupted him.
Doctor Eisenbarth, about that experiment you ask me to get rid of a couple of weeks ago.
“Yes, what about it Rachel?” The doctor said just before he began coughing.
I kept it going, and there is something you should see.
Barry looked at Rachel with a puzzled and disturbed expression on his face.
“Show me.” He said calmly.
The two of them dressed in white lab coats walked down the well-polished tiled hall and entered the storage closet. Rachel switched on the light and directed the doctor to the lower shelf where she had placed the experiment days before. By now the doctor was coughing almost uncontrollably.
Dr. Eisenbarth became pale as a ghost when he saw that the Yersinia colony had sprung back to life. It was now growing up from the broth and covering the entirety of the inside of the flask. The cure had failed. The Black Death was back with a vengeance.
Captain Wayne Hightower was a decorated naval aviator who fought in the Iraq War between 2003 and 2010. Like many who served in that conflict, he and his family made tremendous sacrifices in the “war on terror.”
During the first four years, Wayne got to spend less than eight weeks at home with his newlywed wife. Now things were different. Captain Hightower has transitioned to a career flying for American Oceans Airways. As a civilian, Wayne was home at least five nights a week.
During the war, he was responsible for dropping tons of bombs on the enemy. There is almost no doubt that the captain killed lots of people in the process, but the captain has no regrets. He did it to keep the U.S. homeland safe. Captain Hightower never missed his target. Today’s mission is a piece of cake compared to what he was called upon to do during those glorious days.
Today the captain, his co-pilot and five-person cabin crew, will be flying 233 passengers from Los Angeles to New York City. Leaving at 11:15 a.m., they are scheduled to arrive at LaGuardia at 7:50 p.m. local time. For this flight crew, it is a trip home. They are all based out of the airline's New York hub. They have flown together countless times, and they all know each other pretty well.
At 7 o’clock Captain Hightower announced to his first officer, Jeff Skills, that he would be taking a break to use the lavatory. When he was finished, he uncharacteristically took the liberty to fraternize with the passengers. The captain seemed overly jolly. The crew attributed it to his being in good spirits. He had just returned from a two-week break to address some family issues.
He and his wife of 20 years, Crystal, were going through a rough patch. Wayne had insisted that their children take a paternity test, since he was stationed in Iraq during part of the time when both his 17-year-old daughter Cindy, and 14-year-old son Bradley, should have been conceived. Finally, Crystal gave in to her husband’s insistence that the tests be done. Before leaving LA, the lab had e-mailed the test results to the captain.
The captain seemed a bit off base even during the pre-flight test. Jeff, the first officer, had been wondering if the captain was alright, so he paged him over the aircraft's speaker system. The captain didn’t delay returning to the cockpit. He grinned oddly and nodded to each of the cabin crew members as he passed them on his way back to the flight deck.
Upon re-entering the cockpit, he announced his presence lightly tapping Jeff's left shoulder with his right index finger while imitating Arnold Schwarzenegger's voice in the 1984 movie “Terminator,” the captain secured the door behind him and announced with an ominous tone “I’M BACH!”
“Thank God. I thought Ben Laden had grabbed you. “The first officer responded with a half-serious grin.
“No, nothing like that. I just needed to stretch my legs. I felt a little cramped. If you want to take a break, now’s a perfect time for you to go Jeff.” Wayne suggested with a firm, authoritative tone of voice as he reached into his left pocket to pull out a roll of LifeSavers breath mints.
I’m okay. My bladder is pretty strong. I think I can hold it for another hour or so until after we land.
How about a breath mint Jeff?
My breath smells like an angel’s fart. I’m okay Wayne.
Oki Doki! With that Wayne reached into his right pocket and removed the long white cord to his iPhone charger. He then lunged forward standing behind his co-pilot and wrapped the wire around the seated man’s neck and pulled back with all his might.
The co-pilot was at a disadvantage in the struggle because he was securely fastened into his seat by the complicated seat belt harness system used by commercial airline pilots. Before long he began to turn blue and then lost consciousness, but not before he urinated on himself. Captain Hightower continued strangling him for a full five minutes with a crazed expression on his face until the first officer was no more.
At that moment Captain Hightower knew, after all these years of wondering, that he had what it took to kill a man with his hands. In fact, at that moment he realized that the sensation of smelling a fear-stricken enemy’s urine was something he craved. Now it was time to see if he also had it in him to kill a woman with just as little remorse.
Captain Hightower had assigned himself one last mission. He would crash the Boeing 789 into his comfortable suburban home in Oyster Bay Cove, Long Island. Captain Wayne Hightower was a proud man, and his ego would not allow him to accept the truth that neither of his teenage children was his biological offspring. Crystal had deceived him for 20 years. Now she was the enemy.
It was the night before Halloween. Sarah, a sophomore at Columbia University, was up late preparing for her anthropology exam. She had been resisting the urge to raid the refrigerator, but finally, she gave in. Only to find that there was nothing there to satisfy her. The problem was that it was really late now, 1 a.m. She felt like kicking herself for not stopping by the local Morton Williams supermarket earlier when she had the chance. Now she would have to walk from Elliot Hall all the way down to 115th Street and Broadway.
The famished student thought to get someone to join her, but she didn’t want to disturb her dorm mates, because of the ridiculous hour. She was slightly anxious, but she had made runs on her own as late as 11 at night. She convinced herself that she would be alright, and so she ventured out.
Walking down Claremont Avenue the street was deserted and tranquil. As Sarah turned left on to 116th Street, she encountered the full moon Shining brightly in the sky over Broadway. Turning onto Broadway, she came upon a pile of garbage bags that had been left out for collection. There was one orange trash bag that didn’t fit in with the others, which were all black. The other thing was that the orange bag appeared to be moving. Sarah hurried by suspecting a rat was feasting inside the pile of neatly stacked and packaged rubbish.
The supermarket was just ahead at the next corner. The young student breathed a sigh of relief, and thought to herself “That wasn’t so bad.” As the automatic doors slid open allowing her to enter and begin gathering mostly junk food and candy which is what she was craving.
At the cash register, there was a little old lady who rang up her dozen or so items. Sarah thought “Poor thing you should be at home sleeping.” Ironically the old lady was thinking precisely the same thought about Sarah. The two exchanged a smile, and the coed headed for the exit.
As she stepped out into the silent street, the now confident late-night shopper thought to herself “This is not as bad as I feared at all.” Then she came upon the pile of trash bags once again. Only this time the orange one was not just moving, but Sarah could hear a distressed cat’s meow coming from it.
“Here kitty, kitty, here kitty.” Sarah carefully pinpointed the cat’s exact location. Then she used her dorm key to tear open the plastic bag just enough to liberate the cat. The cat poked her little black furry head from the orange bag. Her wide green eyes stared back at Sarah’s smiling face, but for only an instant. The shiny black cat bolted free and raced around the corner like a missile before Sarah could even take two paces.
When Sarah reached the corner to make her way back up to Claremont Avenue, there was no sign of the cat. There were plenty of parked cars, so Sarah assumed that the black cat was spooked and was probably hiding under one of them. Sarah thought “Oh well, at least I did a good deed and saved an innocent creature from being crushed in the back of a garbage truck.”
As Sarah reached Claremont on the home stretch, she noticed a figure on the sidewalk apparently riding a bike toward her at a high rate of speed. At first, she considered crossing the street to avoid the person, but then she thought such an expression of fear might do more harm than good, so she decided to play it cool and stay her course in route back to Elliot Hall, which was now within sight.
Within 10 seconds Sarah found herself face to face with a witch riding sidesaddle on a broom. The witch was hovering about four feet off the ground.
“Hold out your hand young one. “ The green faced old witch dressed in all black and smelling like ashes told Sarah. Sarah was in a state of horror. She wanted to scream, but no sound came out when she opened her mouth. However, she did comply with the witch's request out of fear.
The witch then placed a one-ounce gold Kuggerand coin in the palm of Sarah’s sweating palm. “Thank you for freeing me. Have a Happy Halloween and keep up the good work.” With those words, the witch silently went airborne and took off in an arc up Claremont Avenue and back around 116th street towards Broadway and beyond.
Sarah dropped her groceries and took off running like a track star toward the dorm. She pumped her fist with each stride, tightly clutching the ounce of gold in the palm of her right hand.
Adam was a successful equities trader. A young man of 28 years of age, he was already a multi-millionaire worth over 30 million dollars. His old man helped him out with a million-dollar loan to get the ball rolling, but from that point on it was all Adam’s doing. He had studied finance at the University of Chicago’s School of Business and had returned home to New York City to apply his knowledge.
When Adam was a child, he was very much interested in science. His parents were religious, but somewhere along the line, he had rejected religion for science. To him, religion was nothing more than superstition. Adam existed in a world of numbers, statistical probabilities, and logic. That’s how he made his money speculating in the financial markets.
Today was just another day for Adam. He made money. Lots and lots of it. He wasn’t cocky, but he had become sure of himself. Tonight, he would celebrate with his fiancee by having a steak dinner at the Capital Grille on East 43rd Street at the base of the Chrysler Building. It was one of his favorite restaurants in the city. The staff there knew him as a big tipper, and as such, they bent over backward whenever he showed up.
Three months earlier in August tragedy had been averted thanks to a miracle performed by Chrome Dome, the leader of the Chrysler Cult. The Chryslers were a cult that had recently sprung up in New York. They worshipped by chanting while marching clockwise around the Chrysler building anticipating the arrival of the Messiah.
In August a four-year-old girl named Abigail Richford was hit by a car right in front of the Chrysler Building on Lexington Avenue. The child appeared to have been killed. It was Chrome Dome who restored her back to life with just a touch and a few words of prayer.
When the tires of a yellow taxi had run over Abigail's little body, a crowd gathered around cursing the taxi driver and consoling her grief-stricken mother. Then Chrome Dome and several of the Chryslers, all dressed in white, made their way through the crowd. The cult leader knelt over the child’s lifeless body. He removed his white hood revealing his shiny bald head.
“Fear not only believe.” He gently whispered into Abigail’s little ear. As silence fell over the crowd. With only his words the child’s body was made whole again, and she stood up and ran to her mother. The onlookers were amazed. One woman fainted. A few fled not knowing what to think. The story made the headlines the next day. Chrome Dome began attracting throngs of new converts to his cult from far and near. By October 21st there were 7,000 Chryslers, clad in white robes, following Chrome Dome around the Chrysler building day and night.
So it was when Adam made online reservations at the Capital Grille. He was surprised to receive a call back from Helen, the mai·tre d'.
Hello Mr. Adam, this is Helen at the Capital Grille.
Good afternoon Helen. “Don’t tell me that I can’t get a table this evening. I’ll be pissed.” Adam laughs.
No, no nothing like that Mr. Adam. It is just that we are advising all of our guests that The Chrysler Cult people are parading around the building and that they shouldn’t be alarmed. Everything is okay.
“The Chrysler who?” He replied to Helen. Adam spent most of his time following the business news and rarely paid attention to anything else, not even sports although he was an avid Knicks fan. But then he vaguely recalled seeing some nut job on CNN claiming to be ushering in the age of Aquarius or something.
Okay, Helen thank you kindly for the heads up. I will be there at 7 p.m.
You’re welcome, sir. Party of two, correct?
Correct! Adam then ended the call and returned to his computer monitors.
Chrome Dome had been receiving instructions from God. Today would be a special day. Something truly monumental would happen today. God told Chrome Dome to have Abigail and her mother, who was now a convert, to parade with him this evening. God’s instruction was that Chrome Dome should carry Abigail. The media had given her the name “the Undead Girl”. The puzzling thing is that she was alive although she did look like a corpse. Most people who saw little Abigail were revolted, by her appearance although she smelled like scented primrose.
As 7 p.m. arrived, everyone was where they were destined to be. Adam was seated with his lovely redheaded date. Chrome Dome was parading around the Chrysler building clockwise holding “the Undead Girl”. The local news media were present in anticipation of what Chrome Dome promised them would be a big event.
When Chrome Dome and Abigail reached the window of the Capital Grille, the girl turned her small face to the window and smiled looking directly at Adam, she began to point at him. Adam looking out could see the spooky child smiling and pointing at him. It sent a shiver up his spine.
“There is the non-believer.” She whispered into Chrome Dome’s ear.
Chrome Dome then halted the march. The believers, who now had grown to such a mass that they encircled the entire block, then approached the building and placed their foreheads against the structure. Some faced glass others rested their heads against brick, marble, and concrete. They all chanted the same words. “Fear not only believe.”
Within the blink of an eye, the Chrysler building and 666 Third avenue, the two structures which take up the entire block vanished along with Chrome Dome and all of his followers.
The only things left standing were Adam, the former atheist, and his fiancee. Beneath their feet, a tiled mosaic plaza now covered the entire city block. It featured a detailed image of everyone who had just vanished set against the backdrop of the now missing art deco skyscraper. Chrome Dome and Abigail's faces were pictured larger than life at the center of the mosaic above the words "Fear not only believe."
A teen romance is as innocent as it gets. It is the first time around the block. It’s a beautiful thing, but it can be hazardous too. There are lots of pitfalls. Teen pregnancy is perhaps the biggest one that comes to mind. The other is the intense emotions which accompany such sincere, romantic passions.
Tabitha Banks was 15 years old when she lost her virginity to Raymond. He and his mother lived above Tabitha and her hardworking dad who was their landlord. Mr. Banks was hardly ever around. He operated a one-man tow truck business and seemed to be on the road 24 hours a day. Being a single parent, this left Tabitha at home alone much of the time.
Raymond was a high school senior, while Tabitha was just a freshman. They didn’t attend the same school. Tabitha was enrolled in an all-girls Catholic school. Raymond was a star basketball player at a local Bayonne, New Jersey public high school. He could not have been more popular, especially now that he had been recruited to play at Rutgers on a full scholarship.
Raymond's mom, Thomasina, was a registered nurse. She like Mr. Banks, her landlord, put in a lot of hours working overtime. Raymond understood his mother’s sacrifices through the years had made his success possible. She did everything she could to nurture his ambitions to someday play in the NBA. No one was prouder of her son than she was. Raymond was becoming a rock star in his community. Everyone knew who he was, and who he might someday become, especially the ladies.
As far as Tabitha was concerned, Raymond was spoken for. She paid for him with her virginity on her 15th birthday. She was deeply in love with him and dreamed of the day when he would ask her to marry him.
On one particular morning in early November, Thomasina was rushing to get to work. She counted out her rent money which was always paid in cash, 15 crisp $100 bills. Thomasina handed it to Raymond and instructed him to give it to Mr. Banks, and to be sure to get a receipt as always. Then she left home like clockwork at 6:30 a.m. on the dot. Raymond didn’t need to head out until 8 o’clock. That gave him plenty of spare time, so he sent Tabitha a text message.
Hey Tabby cat
Hi Ray! She replied immediately.
Is Mr. Banks down there?
Daddy? No. He’s working.
Can you come up? I have something for you.
The rent. Bring your receipt book though Ok?
Tabitha came up, but she didn’t bring the rent receipt book, and they were both very late for class that morning.
They usually hooked up in the early afternoon when both of their parents would be at work. In the little more than a year that they had been screwing around, this was only the second time they did it before school. Raymond offered to wait until after class, but Tabitha had no patience for that suggestion. Mainly because of her father, who had enrolled her in afternoon piano lessons. In other words, a pivot to a.m. hookups was in order.
Things went smoothly with their new schedule for about a week, until Tabitha decided to surprise Raymond. He had no idea she had skipped her piano lesson on this particular Tuesday afternoon. She ordered a pizza with all the toppings from the local pizza shop expecting Raymond to show up at any minute, but her man was late. So she called his phone, and he answered.
Where are you, baby?
I’m home. Raymond answered unenthusiastically.
What? Why are you home?
Coach let us out of practice early.
Tabitha hung up the phone and ran upstairs with the pizza. She knocked on the door, and Ray answered with only a towel wrapped around his waist revealing fit athletic physique. Tabitha tried to enter the upstairs apartment, but Ray blocked her.
You can’t come in Tabby.
Why aren’t you at your piano lesson anyway?
I wanted to surprise you, baby. I got us a pizza. You see?
Raymond opened the box and removed two slices.
He then shut the door in Tabitha’s face.
Tabitha began to bang on the door with all of her might. Just then the door swung open, and a beautiful and mature woman stood before her. She was naked from head to toe.
How can I help you? The woman asked Tabitha.
Tabitha was in shock. She dropped the pizza and turned around and headed back downstairs. She didn’t know what she was feeling. Tabitha was so angry that she was numb. The world had gone silent. The next thing she knew she was knocking at Raymond’s door again, but this time she had her dad’s 9mm pistol in her hand. When Raymond opened the door, she blew a hole through his heart.
The fury of a scorned teenage girl can spawn truly destructive consequences.
Leonard was a loan officer at one of the largest banks in the country. He had worked in that capacity for eight years, but he was feeling discontent. Leonard did not know why. One day as he was shaving, preparing to go to work, he looked in the mirror and imagined himself as a clown.
Impulsively he dried his face and applied white powder to it. He then continued to prepare for work as usual. One thing about Leonard was that he always dressed the part of a banker. He was a real clothes horse. In his closet hung over 30 designer suits and more than 100 neckties. Not to mention a pair of meticulously polished shoes for each day of the week, including Saturday and Sunday when he was off.
But today was different. No one said anything to Leonard at the bank, although he did look paler than usual. They all figured that he was sick or something. On the subsequent days, it became apparent that Leonard was intentionally wearing clown makeup. The branch manager called him into his office.
Lenny, how are you feeling?
Jeff, I’ve never been better.
You know why you’re in my office don’t you?
Yeah, you wanted to talk to me about something. What’s it about?
It’s about your appearance Lenny. Have you lost your mind?
My appearance? What’s the matter with my appearance?
You put on clown makeup to come to work, and you are asking me what’s wrong?
Leonard paused and stared calmly at Jeff, his boss, and said: “This is who I am Jeff.”
The clown face banker then stood up and returned to his desk where he greeted his clients who were waiting for their nine o’clock appointment. From that day forward Leonard began wearing full clown face, although his dress remained vintage Brooks Brothers as usual. Nonetheless, soon after that, the bank sacked him.
Leonard's response was to sue the bank, and he won his case in court. After four years the bank was forced to pay him $15 million in damages and to restore him to his position. The judge agreed that Leonard was a clown and that his employer could not fire him just because of that reason.
Furthermore, the judge added to his decision, “We live in interesting times.”
The aliens had arrived on Valentine’s Day. It was the most spectacular event in recorded history. There were media from all corners of the globe converging on the epicenter.
Originally they had materialized 5,000 feet above the Great Lawn in Central Park. They then drifted slowly southeastward before coming to rest above the United Nations headquarters. The frisbee shaped metallic spacecraft spanned from the Hudson all the way to the East River.
In the wake of their arrival, people were fleeing Manhattan in droves as the military took up positions surrounding the worn looking alien craft. After days of absolute silence, the aliens began broadcasting a message in an unintelligible language. Scientist of every discipline started at once recording and trying to decipher its meaning.
On the third day, the broadcast stopped, and the aliens vanished into thin air just as effortlessly as they had arrived. The lead investigator into the meaning of the message was NASA's Dr. Daniel Gregory. He and his team made swift progress into sorting out the signal, which the aliens made as elementary as possible. Within a week, using America’s fastest supercomputer, Dr. Gregory and his team had sorted out its meaning.
It read as follows:
Your planet is doomed. We wish that we could help you, but the limit of our aid comes in the form of plans to guide you in building a spaceship similar to ours. You haven’t got much time. There is an extremely advanced hostile civilization at the center of our galaxy which craves water. They have been heading for Earth from the time you began transmitting radio signals. Once they arrive, they will strip your planet of every ounce of hydration. Thus, life on Earth will come to an end.
We know this because the same was done to our world hundreds of years ago. Your only hope is to build an escape ship and join up with us. We are a 2,000 ship fleet made up of civilizations from across the Milky Way. We are all survivors. Each of our spaceships is home to 70,000 beings.
We believe that Earth has enough of a rare critical element known as blue steleridum to produce only one ship. We urge you not to delay. The "thirsty empire" is sending a vacuum bubble which will engulf your planet and extract all of its water. Every living thing will become dust in the process.
At that moment Dr. Gregory began thinking of who the 70,000 Earthlings should be.
Many people are frustrated at the game of love. Some so much so that they merely surrender and stop looking. They figure what’s meant to be will be. The drama and mind games are too much for them. The healthy thing to do is to let true love find you if it can. Dennis had been in and out of four or five relationships since college. He had taken a break from dating for all of these reasons and more.
The break allowed him to focus on his job and career. Dennis is a hard worker regardless, but now he was absorbed by the routine of his work. Although he is conscientious about his job, like most Long Islanders, he knows how to relax when he's off the clock. During the cold months, relaxation means Islanders hockey and beer, and when it's burning up during the summer, it's the beach and fishing.
Today is one of those dog days of summer in late August where the thermometer is mercilessly hovering above 92 degrees, and the humidity is threatening suffocation. Dennis is lucky to work indoors. He has spent the last eight hours in the air conditioned comfort of the Hempstead Water Plant's testing laboratory, where he is employed as a chemical technician.
It’s Friday night, and Dennis is heading to Robert Moses Beach on Fire Island to do some night fishing. Tonight, he has a little more than beer to help him relax. Dennis has never smoked weed before. However, he’s always been curious about it. Too afraid to purchase it illegally, he bought some marijuana plant seeds online and grew his own in some flower pots in his apartment. He harvested his stash weeks ago, but he had to give the plants time to dry out. Now the herb was ready to smoke. Dennis had rolled two joints, although he only planned on burning one of them tonight.
As soon as quitting time arrived Dennis made a bee-line for the parking lot and jumped into his silver-colored Honda and headed for the beach. When he reached the parking lot at Robert Moses State Park, it was already emptying out. Even on such a hot day like today, there are only a handful of people who hang around as dusk approaches. Dennis and the other regular anglers on the beach come prepared with lanterns or at least flashlights. Many stay out all night catching fish under the stars as the foamy waves crash against the shore. The solitude is what Dennis loves most about night fishing.
It was 7:30 p.m. before Dennis felt confident that he could spark up one of the two joints he had in his breast pocket without being noticed. He had already downed two Budweisers and even caught a fish, a sea bass.
The smell of the ocean was heavy in the air amid the evening's humidity, when Dennis placed the spliff between his lips and lit it with an orange colored Bic lighter which he had purchased especially for this occasion. When he inhaled, he did so with vigor and held it for a good two or three seconds before exhaling.
The active ingredient in the weed, THC, went straight to his brain almost immediately. Dennis had the weirdest sensation. It was as though a part of him was trying to float up out of his body. He looked west to his right and toward the setting sun. He thought out loud “That is so fucking awesome.” Then he took another hit and stared straight ahead into the Atlantic Ocean as it stretched before him all the way to the horizon.
At that moment he spotted what appeared to be someone, a swimmer, floundering in the surf a good thirty yards offshore. It was still light out, but it would be dark in a few minutes. Dennis knew he had to act fast to save the swimmer.
He charged into the waves removing his clothes and then lunging ahead like an Olympic champion. The peculiar thing is that, although Dennis knew how to swim, he was not a good swimmer.
As he approached the frantic victim, he could hear her screaming for help.
Help, Help me, please! Help me, Dennis!
Dennis could hear the drowning woman calling his name, and he thought “Hey, that sounds like Carla, my Ex.” He began swimming faster to try and reach her before it was too late.
“Hold on Carla; I hear you, honey.”
“Dennis I need you, help me, Dennis.”
The woman’s voice was becoming louder. Dennis knew that he was near.
Carla, Carla sweetie, I’m here for you. Dennis yelled as he gasps for air between strokes.
Then he reached her, and they embraced. The two of them vanished below the waves before Dennis realized that this woman was not Carla. She was much bigger than petite little Carla whose heart he had shattered a year ago. It was a sea monster of some form. It had him completely in its grasp and was refusing to let go. Dennis held his breath as he struggled to free himself.
The sea creature had the form of a woman, but the scaly body of a fish from the waist down. It was a mermaid. She began communicating with Dennis telepathically.
I want you to meet my family, Dennis.
Let me go. Please, I don’t want to drown.
Sorry, I can’t let you go, Dennis. You belong to me now.
I am not a Merman. You need one of your own kind. I will die here.
What is love, Dennis?
Love is letting go when you know that it won’t work.
Okay, Dennis then I guess I should release you because I love you so much.
Please do, I beg you.
With those words the mermaid released Dennis and he was barely able to swim back to safety. He swam ashore like a beached whale exhausted, gasping for air, and swearing never to smoke weed ever again.
The average healthy person is happy to give to others. Charity makes us feel good. Thus, we have the old saying “That it is better to give than to receive.” Unfortunately, we are not all wired the same way.
At the early age of 13, Michael found that it was thrilling to take from others, and what always fascinated him was how willing most of his victims were to hand over their possessions at the mere threat of violence.
It began in middle school. Big Mike, his moniker, would take food from the other kids at lunchtime. He had his favorite victims. He was the classic example of a bully. The easy prey encouraged his delinquent behavior. Mike became bolder and bolder as he grew up.
By high school, he was mugging people on the streets of Brooklyn, and for no other reason than that he enjoyed doing so. It was a sport to him. The same way some people hunt and others fish he enjoyed mugging people and being crafty enough to evade the law. He never committed his acts of juvenile delinquency out in the open; his modus operandi was to catch his prey alone and never near his neighboorhood. There were times when he would travel clear across town to look for his victims.
The peculiar thing about Mike was that his stepfather was a police officer, an NYPD detective. His mother worked at a butcher shop owned by one of her uncles in the neighborhood where they lived in Bensonhurst. Mike always had what he needed, and he was well behaved and very respectful at home.
His stepdad managed to get him to straighten up and fly right long enough to attend Brooklyn College and get a degree in finance, before taking a respectable, yet very stressful job on Wall Street as an analyst. To cope with the stress Mike now all of 23-years-old reverted to his old ways.
One night Mike had stayed late at the office trying to complete a report which would be due the following day, he realized it was past 1 a.m., so he decided to call it quits. He considered calling an Uber, but the subway entrance was so nearby his office that he decided to get home the cheap way.
As soon as he got down to the empty N train platform, his radar went off. There was his victim. A short, middle-aged guy wearing eyeglasses, and probably as old as Mike’s stepdad. The man seemed to be tipsy but in control of himself. Mike noticed the man’s watch. It looked expensive. It had to be worth at least $500. Mike thought “I’ll get $100 for it at a pawn shop .”
So, he followed the man on the N train all the way to 4th Avenue and 9th Street, where they both transferred to the G train. Mike thought this is perfect. The G line is one of the most isolated lines in the New York City subway system. The two of them were the only ones in the car when Mike approached the man for the first time.
Excuse me can you tell me the time? Mike asked the startled man.
Yeah! Sure, it’s almost two in the morning.
Hey! That’s a nice watch. Do you mind if I look at it?
The man was not the least bit leery of Mike. He looked like every other young guy working on Wall Street.
No, I don’t mind.
The man slipped the watch from his wrist and handed it to Mike.
Mike grinned as he took possession of his new property.
Hey, this is a Patek Phillip! How much did it set you back?
It was a gift from a client. It’s a $12,000 watch.
What are you a lawyer or something? Mike asked the man.
You are correct. Replied the man, partially slurring his words.
As the G train pulled into Smith Street, Mike stood up still admiring the $12,000 watch.
Thanks for the watch you drunk bastard!
As the doors opened, Mike stepped off of the train, and the half-drunk attorney pursued him.
Mike was careful not to stir up a commotion with the man until the train exited the station just in case the motorman was paying attention.
The man grabbed at Mike's arm to hold him.
Give me back my watch you fucking criminal.
Mike held out his hands and said “ I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t have a watch.”
Mike had already shoved the watch down into his briefs and was determined to distance himself from the man who was completely agitated by now.
I’m warning you fucker. Give me my watch back or else.
Mike halted abruptly, turned around and faced the man. He then gave him a taunting grin.
Or else what? Mike growled at the older man.
The man then drew a pistol from his waistband and aimed it directly at Mikes' face.
Mike panicked and reached to grab the gun. But it discharged with a loud bang echoing off of the subway walls. Big Mike’s brains splattered in every direction when the 9 mm shell struck him in the face at point-blank range.
Even in the jungle, predators sometimes are consumed by their prey.
To read Part I click here.
Brandon stood in a frozen state of amazement. Could this be happening? Is it a joke? He needed to lie down and sort out his thoughts. He began to rethink the other day when he purchased the winning ticket. It was just like every other time before. Two years back he had managed to win a fourth prize payout of $18. But this was the whole enchilada, $275 million.
It occurred to Brandon that he had gone to work yesterday as a multi-millionaire when he should have been out celebrating. He had worked with Angela, who is the head chef, and his immediate boss. He and Angela have an excellent work relationship. She is the one who taught him most of what he knows about cooking. But, it was Scott, the restaurant manager who he would need to talk to now.
After double, triple and quadruple checking that his ticket was 100% authentic. He then called Scott using the speed dial button on his phone.
No, this is Angela
Hi, Angela, it’s Brandon.
Oh! Hey Brandon. How’s it going?
Excellent, excellent. I just need to speak with Scotty for a minute.
Angela didn’t like the tone of the call. It had the cadence of someone about to call out. But then she thought to herself “No way! Brandon? He never calls out.”
Okay Brandon, let me get Scotty for you.
Angela placed Brandon on Hold, and some light music began playing interspersed with a repeating advertising plug for the restaurant. It took Scott two whole minutes to pick up the phone. Scott is an abrupt sort of boss. Brandon has always considered Scott an asshole, but everyone knew that Scott was the reason the show ran so smoothly.
Hello Scott. It’s Brandon.
Wow! Let me stop you before you even start Brandon. You said you would work some OT today, so I put you on the schedule. See you in a few hours Brandon. Bye-bye!
Well, Scott, something came up and I’m sorry, but I won’t be in today.
Something came up like what? Make it Good, because you have got me turning red as a beet over here buddy boy.
At that moment Brandon held up his signed New Jersey Powerball ticket and realized that his days of taking crap had ended. He reacted with silence.
Hello Brandon? I’m waiting for you to tell me that you're coming in son, and don’t try and tell me that your mother died cause I know you don’t have a mother or a father. Even if you did and they both croaked, I’d expect you in here and on time.
Scotty, do you know what?
No, Brandon please tell me what.
Thanks for granting me permission to tell you Scott. You are proof that somewhere in the world today someone is running around without an asshole, because you are nothing but a wild asshole and I quit! Bye-bye.
Luck is like an oven in the kitchen of one of the hundreds of fancy restaurants around New York City. It runs hot and cold. If your fortune has been running good, be concerned. If it has been awful, be patient. The script is about to change in your favor. We each get our fair portion of good and bad luck in this life. Everything in the known universe must balance including good fortune and bad.
So it was that Brandon woke up this cool spring morning. It was a special day on his calendar. It was April 2nd. Still feeling worn out from his work the night before he is slow to rise this morning. The young man works as a line cook in the kitchen of one of the busiest restaurants in Manhattan. In a couple of months, he will celebrate his fifth year there.
His place of employment is the kind of establishment where the bill plus bar tab for four generally covers the 27-year-old cook's weekly salary of $1,000 or so. However, for the time being, Brandon doesn’t complain. It is his hope to one day be much better off, but that will be in the future. In the meantime, he grinds forward through life working hard.
For Brandon, things are much better today than they were when he left the foster care system at the age of 18. He aged out, as they say, with nowhere to go. As a baby, he was abandoned on April 2nd. That's what makes today's date significant. Someone just left him at the doorway to a firehouse in Maspeth, Queens. It was not the worst thing that could have happened, but it was not what anyone would call a good start either.
Brandon rises from his bed and slowly makes his way to the bathroom of his small studio apartment. He lives across the river in Jersey City. From his doorway the Freedom Tower is visible. Five and often six days a week he rides his bike down Grand Street to the PATH station at Grove Street. From there he locks his bike and stops at Starbucks for his morning coffee and sometimes buys a lottery ticket at the corner store, but only when the jackpots are huge. From there it's into the tube and on to work in the city.
On this morning, as he had just finished shaving, while listening to Good Day New York playing on his flat screen television in the other room, the young cook heard mention of a winning $275 million Powerball ticket having been sold in Jersey City. It caught his attention, but he didn’t get excited. Brandon thought out loud “ What are the odds?”
Brandon next grabbed his worn LG android phone, and Googled the winning Powerball numbers. Then, he reached for his wallet, which is where he always keeps his lottery tickets before discarding them. For some reason, before he even looked at the numbers, he got a weird sensation that he was the one, and so he was.
To be continued.
To read part 2 click here.
If you are ever out early in the park and notice a little old man feeding the pigeons, take notice of him. I have and here is what I’ve observed. The man seems not to own many changes of clothes. He has frequently been spotted dressed in the same faded ill-fitting jeans and a limited variety of corduroy shirts. He is known to cover his long gray hair with a blue New York Mets baseball cap, and he always seems to be in need of a bath.
This individual has been given the moniker, Mr. Wonder, because of his modus operandi, which is to appear in the park at dawn with a full loaf of Wonder White Bread. He then begins enticing his innocent victims. Out of hunger, they flock to him by the hundreds. As he has nearly finished dispensing the bait, he usually collects four of our young ones into a cardboard box before exiting the park with them. Those taken away have never been seen again.
It is suspected that Mr. Wonder is a serial killer of young pigeons. By and large the humans of this expansive metropolis have forgotten just how good we pigeons taste. However, occasionally there will be one like Mr. Wonder who realizes that squab meat is tastier and more tender than our cousins the chickens, whom the humans devour by the millions every day. So, spread the word and don’t be baited by Mr. Wonder and his easy pickins. Or, you could end up on a plate beside some split peas and mashed potatoes.
It is illegal to kill a pigeon in New York City unless it is determined to be a nuisance.
Hi, I'm Lester Patterson,