Siberian Waste: journal entry 3

How a man found truth by chasing a myth.

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JOURNAL ENTRY 3

Pop seemed suddenly hesitant, but he continued his story. “Alright. I’d been hunting in that sweltering ravine all day but hadn’t lowered my sights on a damn thing. I was losing light fast so I decided to call it quits. While following a game trail back to my rig I heard my footsteps echoing. I thought it was just some queer trick of the canyon until I noticed the thumps had gone out of sync with my steps. That’s when I spun around on my heels and—”

“A giant elk attacked you?”

“No, something far worse. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a huge blur ducking behind the treeline. Even though I couldn’t see my stalker, I could hear the hot jets of its breath nearby. I knew I should run, but I couldn’t get my legs to budge.”

“No way!” I blurted

“There was a smell hanging in the air worse than ten dead skunks crammed in an outhouse. I spotted a mound of heaving, hairy muscles and my blood went cold. The thing was close. So close, I could have thrown a pine cone and hit it squarely.”

“What was it?” I asked, inching to the edge of my seat.

“An unholy beast, blacker than a moonless night. I couldn’t tell what side of it I was looking at until it opened a pair of shining, yellow eyes.” Pop put his hands on my shoulders and stared at me. “Son, that glare cut through the dusk right into my soul.”

“Bigfoot!” I said with a gasp.

My grandfather’s face stayed stern as he nodded.

I lifted an eyebrow. “Nuh-uh.”

Pop leaned back in his easy chair. “You calling me a liar?”

My pulse was racing, but I pretended to be tough. “Come on, you’re just messing with me. It was probably just a black bear.”

“A black bear might not look like much, but one could rip you to shreds in a few seconds without a glimmer of regret. Even so, a bear attack would have seemed like a supreme act of sweetness compared to the world of pain I was about to enter.”

“Did you try to shoot it?”

“I did. I lifted my rifle and took a shot but I couldn’t keep my hands from shaking. All I did was enrage the beast and cause it to shriek. I say shriek, not roar, because no worldly animal makes a noise so utterly strange. It was the same kind of anguished howl I heard coming out of wounded soldiers back in the Battle of Inchon–”

My grandfather went quiet, all drama fading as he stared at the corner of the room. After a long moment, he snapped himself back into his story. “Where was I?”

“Bigfoot was attacking you!”

“Right. The monster leapt toward me off a fallen pine, breaking it in half with a thunderous snap. An arm wider than a barrel hoop hit my chest so hard I flew out of my boots. The last thing I remember was colliding with the canyon wall. I woke up with my leg smashed in five pieces and my pack missing. I might have ended up in the thing’s stomach if not for the jerky and dried fruit I was carrying in my rucksack.”

“Was that the only time you saw it?”

“I don’t have to see the big brute to know it’s around. It followed my scent all the way here and took to the hills surrounding the farm. It’s not just some animal; there’s intelligence in those fiery eyes.”

I started shivering. “It’s here?! But if you haven’t seen it, how do you know?”

“I can hear those mournful howls coming down the hills late at night, carrying over the property and into my little window. An untrained ear might think it’s wolves or coyotes, but I know better. After hearing that voice I’ll never forget it.”

I crossed my arms and leaned back, feeling a chill. “No way, Pop.”

“Before ol’ Pete Jacks drank himself to death, he boasted about shooting a sasquatch near Oxbow bridge with his thirty ought six. He carried around a vial full of black earth he claimed was soaked in the thing’s blood and we all thought he was crazy. Not me. Not anymore.”

“You think it’s the same one that attacked you?”

Pop shrugged. “Could be. Or maybe Pete killed somebody in the monster’s brood. Whatever the case, the thing’s gone blind with rage and it’s targeted me for revenge. It’s hiding up there in the hills, waiting for the right time to come strew my slippery entrails from one end of the valley to the other.”

“Stop!” I begged.

“If you ever hear a howl like this, you best get home as soon as you can and hide under your bed.” My grandfather released a wail—resonating somewhere between a baying bloodhound and an alarmed cougar.

“Stop it!” I couldn’t hold back my tears. I tried to run out of the room but Pop grabbed me by the wrist.

“Alright, alright. Easy boy. I made that last part up to put a little thrill in you. Don’t get all bent out of shape. I’m sorry.” Pop dropped my wrist and my scrawny arm flopped to my side. “I didn’t mean to upset you. Forgive me?”

I wiped my tears and gave him a reluctant nod.

My grandfather smiled. “Good, were just having a little fun. Now, let’s go sneak a few cookies from the kitchen.”

“Wait,” I said.

“What is it?”

My eyes went wide again. “You said you made that last part up. Just the last part?”

“Let’s go get those cookies.”

 

To be continued:

yeti-sm

Artwork by Skinner
http://www.theartofskinner.com/
Used with permission. © 2017 Skinner


Underneath its pulpy trappings, Siberian Waste is a story about conservation. Consider donating to one of the following Earth-friendly organizations:
Natural Resources Defense Council: www.nrdc.org
Environmental Working Goup: www.ewg.org
Friends of the Earth: www.foe.org

Siberian Waste: journal entry 2

How a man found truth by chasing a myth.


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JOURNAL ENTRY 2


 

After bonding over sparks, I spent many hours in Pop’s room listening to him tell stories among the stacks of pulpy westerns and thick nonfiction books he had collected over the years. For all intents and purposes, he had become my best friend.

My grandfather knew I loved eye-witness accounts of the paranormal above all else and went out of his way to terrify me with his “true” stories. Eastern Oregon is brimming with dense, dark wilderness, making it a ripe environment for the supernatural. I was eleven, watching black and white reruns on Pop’s snowy television when he abruptly turned off the set.

I glared at my grandfather. “Come on, Pop! I was watching that.”

“Do you know how I broke my leg?” The twinkle in Pop’s eye let me know I was in for a tale.

“Mom said you slipped on some rocks in the canyon while tracking an elk.”

“That’s what she wants you to think. The truth…well, it’s too shocking for a boy your age to hear.”

The old man knew how to hook me. “Now you have to tell me!”

My grandfather leaned closer. “I didn’t slip on any rocks. And I wasn’t doing the tracking…I was the one being tracked.”

The hairs on my neck bristled. “What do you mean?”

“Well, do you recall the time we stumbled upon that big bull elk when we were out hiking? You about wet yourself when it came crashing through the trees.”

“Yeah, I remember. It was so huge. I mean, I see ‘em out behind the house all the time–and their heads are hanging on the walls and stuff–but being surprised by one was scary.”

“Imagine something five times bigger, and five times more frightening.”

I swallowed. “What? Tell me what happened.”

 

To be continued:

yeti-sm

Artwork by Skinner
http://www.theartofskinner.com/
Used with permission. © 2017 Skinner


Underneath its pulpy trappings, Siberian Waste is a story about conservation. Consider donating to one of the following Earth-friendly organizations:
Natural Resources Defense Council: www.nrdc.org
Environmental Working Goup: www.ewg.org
Friends of the Earth: www.foe.org

Siberian Waste: journal entry 1

How a man found truth by chasing a myth.


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JOURNAL ENTRY 1


 

I suppose what happened next has already been covered ad-nauseam by the press. It’s probably best I start from the beginning. After all, there’s plenty of pages left in this journal.

Career building was the furthest thing from my mind while growing up in rural Oregon. I was the youngest of three boys, which meant I was ignored, bullied and attention-starved all at the same time—a combination leaving me listless and directionless. I spent most of my childhood constructing ill-defined monoliths out of the leftover, rusting scrap metal that littered the 6.3 arid acres of the family farm. My remaining hours were devoted to losing fights with my brothers. When I was too bruised or weak for a fresh match, I’d take refuge in a stand of lodgepole pines just beyond our property line, usually toting a book from my grandfather’s limited library. My favorites were the “Time/Life: Mysteries of the Unknown” hard-covers he had ordered from a television commercial an eon ago. Mystery was something I craved and leaving the dreadful familiarity of minuscule Halfway, Oregon, was my only goal.

My parents didn’t seem to care what else the world had to offer. My father repaired farming equipment until he lost the use of his legs, which reduced him to tinkering or playing poker with his drinking buddies in our various out-buildings. Mother was an English tutor and teacher–keeping herself busy in her office to avoid coping with three wild boys and a disabled, bitter husband. I eventually forgave my mother’s distance, appreciating the rare moments of tenderness she managed to provide. My father offered up emotion only unwillingly and I quickly learned I was better off leaving him alone. If not for twice daily meetings in the kitchen for meals, my parents might as well have lived on separate ends of the state.

My mother insisted my grandfather, or “Pop” as I knew him, move in with us after he broke his left leg severely during a hunting trip. Wanting to be unobtrusive, he asked to be set up in the smallest room of the house while he convalesced. His leg never healed properly and the resulting pain left him isolated for many hours of the day.

I began to brave my grandfather’s sanctum to avoid my brothers’ fists. Always stoic, Pop never let on how lonely he had become but I could see the truth behind his eyes. The increasing frequency of my visits seemed to open him up more and I realized I had never truly appreciated his intelligence.

At age ten, I began to fool around with my father’s old oxyacetylene welding equipment. Knowing he couldn’t stop me, Pop decided to teach me how to use the rig without setting myself or the property on fire. After many patient lessons, I developed a knack for metal work. The sculptures I welded were much larger and more stable than the ones I had simply lashed together with chicken wire. For the first time in my life I felt a measure of pride.

Inspired by “Mysteries of the Unknown,” I created a life-size scrap metal effigy of Big Foot. When I unveiled the assemblage to Pop it startled him so badly I instantly regretted creating it. Pop laughed it off but I could tell something about the statue bothered him.

 

To be continued:

yeti-sm

Artwork by Skinner
http://www.theartofskinner.com/
Used with permission. © 2017 Skinner


Underneath its pulpy trappings, Siberian Waste is a story about conservation. Consider donating to one of the following Earth-friendly organizations:
Natural Resources Defense Council: www.nrdc.org
Environmental Working Goup: www.ewg.org
Friends of the Earth: www.foe.org

Siberian Waste: journal entry 0

My grandfather gave me this empty travelogue before he died and I’ve resolved to fill every page to honor his memory. There’s so much to tell but I’m not sure where to begin. I’m just going to scratch out the first memory that flashes in my head and keep writing from there. If I end up with word salad, I’ll tear out the pages and start again. Hopefully my jumbled recollections will find some cohesion once I’ve completed a few paragraphs.
I don’t know why, but if someone else should be reading this, just know this journal will tell the tale of how a man found truth by chasing a myth.

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JOURNAL ENTRY 0


 

Blagoveshchensk is still fresh in my mind.

Being holed-up in a windowless shack had frayed my nerves. I convinced myself something was wrong out on the air strip. The door scraped open on the concrete floor and I jumped to my feet in alarm. Was it more mercenaries? Mafia thugs? The FSB?

“Jesus, relax…it’s just Liu,” said Amanda, her voice muffled by the wool blanket she had cocooned herself in to escape the incessant draft.

I was thankful to see Liu’s gold-plated grin but my relief quickly faded. His jovial poker face never gave an indication of how much danger we were facing. “Liu, is everything alright?” I asked, knowing he wouldn’t answer.

Liu lumbered closer to me with an outstretched hand. He was a man of few words but I knew exactly what he wanted. I piled all the cash I had left into his pudgy palm, hoping it would be enough to bribe the next round of corrupt local officials. Seemingly satisfied, Liu pocketed the bills and slapped me on the back. I wondered if I had just paid for his next gold tooth.

“So, once you dole out that cash and the plane finishes fueling we’ll be clear for takeoff…right?” I asked in futility as Liu turned to leave. The stout man hacked out a laugh and stepped out of the shack. It had taken him less than an hour to charter a DC-3, but making arrangements to get us out of the country under false pretenses was apparently a steeper challenge. Although anxious, I was happy to remain ignorant of Liu’s criminal methodology as he arranged the final leg of our journey.

“I’m freezing my ass off,” complained Amanda. “What’s taking so long?”

I was so tense I could barely feel the chill. “I’m sure Liu has everything under control.” I desperately wanted to believe my own words.

Our secret cargo was already on the plane, languishing inside a massive crate with a false bottom. With Liu’s help, I had stenciled “Fecal matter samples: for scientific use only,” in bold Russian, Chinese and English letters on the box then filled it with manure from a local farm. No one in their right mind would confiscate 500 pounds of shit, but Liu had doctored our cargo manifest just in case. I just hoped it would be enough. If we were caught smuggling our true prize out of Russia we’d wind up in a “corrective colony” for the rest of our lives.

A few minutes after he had left, Liu stuck his head back inside the shack. He held a finger to his lips in a hush motion then slammed the door again.

“What the hell?” I whispered.

“Someone else is out there,” said Amanda. She slipped out of her blanket and crept next to the wall. I moved beside her and we peered through a small crack in the siding.

A nosey politsiya officer in a black uniform had come back to sniff around after his initial pay-off. He ended up in a shouting match with Liu that made my heart crawl up my throat. As the officer neared the shack door, Liu released a bellow so fierce it made the cop back down and shrink away. I returned to my seat, knowing it wasn’t the cold making me shake.

“Negotiations involve a lot of guttural screaming in this corner of the world,” said Amanda, wrapping herself in her blanket again.

I nodded. “Liu must reserve his voice for intense bursts of verbal abuse.”

The wind began to howl outside the shack, rattling its aluminum shell. The weather had to hold. If a storm kept the DC-3 on the tarmac until morning we’d be no better than a lamb among hungry wolves. Bribes had been doled out to a multitude of shady people–one of them was bound to realize we were in possession of something valuable.

Our pilot, Oskar, eventually joined us inside the shed. A drunken pilot would have made me nervous in normal circumstances, but I found the man’s alcoholism strangely comforting. He was too dulled by vodka to be effectively devious.

Amanda didn’t share my confidence. “This guy’s a lush!” she whispered to me while Oskar sang a shanty to himself.

“If he manages to get us off the ground, the bit in the sky will be easy,” I whispered back.

Amanda sneered. “Yeah, what about the landing?”

“Right. I forgot about that part.”

Liu burst back into the shack. “Go, you go now!”

I quickly collected our duffels as Liu and the pilot hurried outside. “Wait!” I shouted, but they were already sprinting toward the plane through a haze of swirling snow. I ran with Amanda down the runway toward the sound of the rumbling rotors. I finally saw Liu waving at us next to the ramp.

The urgency of our departure made me fear for Liu’s safety—and ours. “Are you in danger?” I asked him as we stopped in front of the stairs.

Liu displayed his usual smile and signaled for us to keep moving. I shook his hand and thanked him for his help. Amanda kissed him on the cheek and we hurried into the plane.

I felt Amanda’s hand grip my thigh as the plane began to taxi. I did my best to keep my negative attitude in check and remain patient. We had navigated through an atlas of insanity but there were still untold miles to go.

Amanda could sense my tension. “Hey, relax…we’re nearly back on American soil. After we pay-off the customs official the rest should be easy. This ordeal is finally about to pay off.”

“We shouldn’t count our chickens before they hatch,” I told her. “We’ve been burned before.”

“Go ahead and count the damn eggs,” said Amanda, looking out of the window into the darkness. “Anything to take our minds off this plane trip.”

I smiled and kissed her cheek. “You’re right.”

The plane lurched into the sky and I bid farewell to my engineering career.

 

To be continued:

yeti-sm

Artwork by Skinner
http://www.theartofskinner.com/
Used with permission. © 2017 Skinner


Underneath its pulpy trappings, Siberian Waste is a story about conservation. Consider donating to one of the following Earth-friendly organizations:
Natural Resources Defense Council: www.nrdc.org
Environmental Working Goup: www.ewg.org
Friends of the Earth: www.foe.org

The Chthonic Device (short story)

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The invaders offered no explanation for the swath of destruction they were cutting across our world. No demands had been leveled. No spoils were ever taken. Their wrath was as merciless as it was mysterious. The beings were not extraordinarily strong or fast, but their advanced technology had rendered the Earth’s strongest nations powerless against them. What populace remained after the initial attack had been left cowering in the dark, waiting to die. I was once among them.

A military rescue unit discovered me unconscious but alive next to the smoldering corpses of my family. My wife and sons had been left burned and blackened alongside thousands of other poor souls. I awoke weeks later in a hospital bed. My burns had healed but my soul was left fractured.

More cities had fallen while I slept. I managed to track down the rescue team who had pulled me from the ashes and volunteered my services, hoping it would distract from the growing emptiness inside me.

I excelled in my new position. Whether pulling survivors from the rubble or stuffing the dead into body bags, I remained coldly efficient. As the weeks wore on, my emptiness transformed into a smoldering hatred of the invaders. My supervisor took notice of my pragmatism and nominated me for a spot in a new experimental military program. I packed my things and hitched a ride to the outskirts of a refugee camp where several bigwigs from the armed forces had been stationed.

After taking lengthy personality and IQ tests in the back of an armored truck, I was interviewed by Lieutenant General Toschgold of the US Air Force. She told me participation in the program carried a high certainty of death, but could provide a chance to strike a decisive blow against our enemies. I signed the paperwork without hesitation.

I was assigned to a unit under the purview of the USAF’s scientific division. During my initial briefing, I was told the AFSOC had managed to successfully recover some of the invaders’ tech from a crashed warship (likely due to pilot error–no weapons we possessed could take down the invaders’ aircraft). After careful study, the stolen machine was theorized to allow interdimensional travel via a telepathic link. I was among 50 men and women whose psychological profiles indicated their minds could withstand the strain of operating what had been dubbed the “Chthonic Device.” The eggheads warned us their research was incomplete–failure to maintain a proper psionic link with the device could prove deadly. No one quit the program.

After some basic low-gravity training, our unit was transferred to a carrier frigate in low orbit above Earth. I refused to participate in any team building exercises, knowing we were more sacrificial lambs than soldiers. I remained isolated, spending many nights staring through a porthole at the curvature of the Earth. The landmasses below were barely visible behind a choking, brown cloud of smoke. As the shadow of night fell, long amber lines of wildfires could be seen burning across the continents.

The Chthonic Device was unforgiving. If a stray thought entered the operator’s mind while lingering in outer-dimensional space, their atoms had a tendency to shred themselves apart. One by one, the other 49 men and women in my unit died attempting to harness the portals created by the alien tech. My compatriots cowered and wept over every fresh disintegration, but my eyes stayed wide open. Watching every failure. Observing the faces of those about to die. Learning from their mistakes. From the beginning I knew I was more qualified than the others. My mind had been consecrated in a baptismal font of pure rage. I was ready.

On the eve of Earth’s ruination, I became humankind’s final, desperate salvo. The invaders’ unspeakable atrocities had sharpened my mind into a white-hot blade of unquenchable hatred, capable of cutting through the fabric of reality itself. The time for retribution was at hand. The bastards had brought this upon themselves.

The eggheads reiterated all their trite warnings as I was placed inside the Chthonic Device. I emptied my mind as the teleporter hummed to life. My observations taught me emotions outweighed logic when it came to operating the alien tech. I didn’t think about where the invaders’ seat of power may be, but about how much I wanted it to crumble. I didn’t focus on who ruled their society, just my desire to watch them die. A singular anger guided me as I created a rift between dimensions. The circular edge of the breach frayed with electric arcs while the inside remained black as a moonless night. As the portal stabilized, I instantly became aware of where it was leading and who my target was. I had become the invader.

My vengeance would not be delayed. I sank my arms shoulder-deep into the swirling void, groping blindly until something squishy glanced my fingertips. I grasped at the mass and tugged hard, pulling a sentient phlegm ball into an envelope between dimensions. My vile prisoner screeched in pain, thrashing in my tightening grip. The invaders weren’t expecting a human to tear into their world like they had torn into ours.

Tentacles lined with sharpened spines emerged from the creature’s body and jabbed into my flesh, injecting lethal poison beneath my skin. I knew the venom would kill me in a matter of minutes but I was only concerned with the next few seconds. I had fractured reality to pluck the invaders’ slithering overlord from its gelatinous throne and nothing would deter me from my grim work.

My enemy’s gurgling language was unknowable, but it hardly mattered–the panic in its single, slit eye said everything. It sent a telepathic broadcast of its fear and pain into my mind, but its desperation only fueled my resolve and strengthened my grip. The thing’s insides slowly shattered in my clenching fists, feeling fragile as bird bones. Long strings of black gore slopped from my hands and fell apart in the void.

Before the mission began, Lieutenant General Toschgold assured me the death of the invader’s leader would bring chaos to their world. With my task coming to fruition, I imagined their execrable society falling apart and it made me smile. I was instantly punished for my brief flirtation with satisfaction. A deep, sharp pain began radiating throughout my arms as I vacated the Chthonic Device. I collapsed and the world went black.

I awoke in the frigate’s medical bay. General Toschgold (no longer a Lieutenant) was hovering above me, her uniform laden with medals. Before I could ask how I had survived, she informed me the battlefields on Earth had gone quiet for the first time in years. With the invaders’ leader dead, the war had swung in our favor. I attempted to salute the general but quickly realized I couldn’t. I had lost both of my arms, just above the elbows.

After General Toschgold left, a timid doctor walked into the room. She explained how the dismemberment of my limbs by the collapsing portal had kept the gelatanoid’s venom from spreading throughout the rest of my body. Although I had survived, my weakness left me disappointed. I silently vowed to never abandon my anger again.

A few hours later I was fitted with advanced prosthetics as a reward for my service. My young doctor hailed me as a hero and I did my best to remain patient as she sung my praises. While finishing the installation, she informed me with great sadness that although my new arms had full range of movement, they lacked the capacity for sensory input. They would always feel numb. I smiled and told her it didn’t matter–anyone I cared to hold had long been taken from me. I watched with curiosity as a tear slid down her cheek, knowing I’d never shed another of my own.

The invaders’ ruling class may have been crippled, but the war was far from over. During my time between dimensions I had experienced a vision–a way to eradicate our enemies using the Chthonic Device. Upon discharge, I arranged a meeting with General Toschgold. She initially rebuffed my plan, but acquiesced upon realizing I was the only one capable of using the alien tech. I thanked her for understanding my vision and began training for the second phase of my extended mission.

There wasn’t much time to prepare. The invaders had already resumed their attacks and were regaining the ground they had lost. During my brief stint of training, I discovered I could choose where portals appeared–even far beyond the confines of the device. I also learned I could set them in motion. The revelations changed my plan of attack. I kept General Toschgold in the dark, worried she would delay the second phase in order to test the expanded capabilities of the Chthonic Device.

The day of the raid had arrived. I stepped into the teleportation chamber with complete confidence in my abilities. I cleared my thoughts for the final assault as the technicians readied the device. When mission control gave me the go-ahead, I focused my anger and activated the alien machine without delay.

Based on my first experience, I knew exactly how to locate the invaders’ homeworld. Retapping my great hatred, I tore a fresh rift above their planet. The next task proved more challenging. I struggled to maintain my second portal after sending it hurtling toward a precise set of coordinates given to me by mission control. The breach faltered until I imagined an intense heat burning away my enemies as they howled in agony. When my rage hit its apex both portals finally stabilized–one stationary and the other rushing though the darkness at incredible speed. I broke out in a cold sweat and prepared for the grand finale.

I traveled through the first portal I had created and immediately began plummeting through the atmosphere above the invader’s home world. Despite my flight suit and oxygen mask, the gasses of their bizarre green sky immediately started to choke me. I was ready to die, but I hoped to survive long enough to enjoy the show.

A great city revealed itself as I parted the cloud cover. Gleaming structures reached to the edges of the horizon, each topped by coiled spires. Unlike the concrete expanses of Earth, the megalopolis beneath me seemed to be in perfect harmony with nature. A forest of blue trees zigzagged between the buildings, some taller than the most soaring towers. Dropping further and faster, I observed strange, undulating birds circling above a series of emerald lakes brimming with whirlpools. I coughed violently as I marveled at the wondrous sights below. The invaders’ world was beautiful beyond reproach. I couldn’t wait to watch it burn.

The planet’s incredible gravity pulled me faster toward the ground, but I knew I would run out of oxygen long before I hit the surface. The pain of the ice-cold air penetrating my suit became almost unbearable. I begged the sky to reveal my parting gift to this amazing world before I died.

An intense buzz filled my ears and I blacked out. I woke up disoriented inside one of the city’s shining towers. My suit and oxygen mask were gone, as well as my new arms. I gasped for breath and fell to my knees as dozens of gelatanoids surrounded me. They were several times larger than the one I had crushed–their emperor had been no more than a child. Lacerating tentacles wrapped around my body and held me aloft. The invaders’ telepathic hive mind flashed images in my head, showing me how they had sent their own portal to pluck me from the sky before I impacted the ground.

I grinned and gasped at the same time as I began to lose consciousness. With my last breaths I told them what was about to happen, not caring if they understood my words or not. I explained how I had sent a portal careening through space toward Alpha Centauri A. As soon as it made contact with the star, it would teleport a cylinder of 30,000 degree plasma through the same portal I had fallen through. I smiled through my rage and pain, knowing a blazing spear a thousand miles long would soon arrive to tear their planet apart. Earth’s victory was mere moments away.

The instant my gift filled the sky with scorching light, the invaders sent another telepathic burst to my brain. As my body burned away I realized the horrible truth. My second portal hadn’t found its way to some distant star, but Earth’s own sun. Puncturing its core had unleashed a massive hydrogen explosion, obliterating the entire solar system.

I should have known better. My emotions were key to setting the portal’s path, not some vague sense of coordinates to a faraway galaxy. After all, the sun was the only star I had ever truly known. My world and the world of my enemies had been extinguished in one fell swoop as my hate blossomed across dimensions.

Had I another instant to live, I might have laughed.

END

Mournful Howl (an excerpt from “Siberian Waste”)

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My grandfather knew I loved eye-witness accounts of the paranormal above all else and went out of his way to terrify me with his “true” stories. Eastern Oregon is brimming with dense, dark wilderness, making it a ripe environment for the supernatural. I was eleven, watching black and white reruns on Pop’s snowy television when he abruptly turned off the set.

I glared at my grandfather. “Come on, Pop! I was watching that.”

“Do you know how I broke my leg?” The twinkle in Pop’s eye let me know I was in for a tale.

“Mom said you slipped on some rocks in the canyon while tracking an elk.”

“That’s what she wants you to think. The truth…well, it’s too shocking for a boy your age to hear.”

The old man knew how to hook me. “Now you have to tell me!”

My grandfather leaned closer. “I didn’t slip on any rocks. And I wasn’t doing the tracking…I was the one being tracked.”

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