Archive for the ‘Short Stories’ Category

Olivia Perez’s face scrunched up as she stepped out of the modified armored truck, her boots sinking into the soft earth. Even after two days she hadn’t gotten used to the stench of the volcanic fumes that permeated from the volcano on the north end of the island. There was a low rumble and the ground shook slightly her as her teammate, Abraham Wheeling, joined her.  Unfortunately she knew that quake wasn’t due to the brachiosaur that had just crossed their path. It was because of the volcano that was ready to erupt at any moment.

“Come on, let’s make this quick,” Olivia said with some slight disdain in her voice.  Abraham nodded and the two entered a small building, that was crumbling and overgrown with vines and moss on the outside. It used to be one of the many gift shops at Jurassic World, but now it was a mere skeleton of its former self. Behind them the rest of Gamma team was fanning out into other buildings. The other truck carrying the paleo vet, the raptor trainer, Claire Dearing, and that other boy she couldn’t remember the name of had just pulled out to continue heading towards the bunker where they would access the tracking systems of the dinosaurs on the island.

All the rest of the teams were spread out across the island trying to capture other species of dinosaurs. Gamma team was responsible for checking the buildings of the old park for anything else that may be salvageable or important. Essentially, they were the “bitch” team on this endeavor.  Olivia had tried to make her case to Ken Wheatley, the expedition facilitator; she deserved to be on team Beta. They were covering what used to be the Gyrosphere Valley, tracking some of the larger herbivores. She had enough experience to deserve that much she felt. But he wouldn’t hear it, and actually moved her from Delta to Gamma. She should have just kept her mouth shut.

Olivia’s feet cracked on broken glass from shop windows that had long since shattered. The sound cut through the silence sharply. Stuffed animals and toys were scattered about, many torn to pieces and covered in dirt and mold. The building was dark and hazy, even in the middle of the day.  At the end of her rifle was a flashlight that she clicked on, and the beam cut through the shadows. Abraham did the same.

The two fanned out mechanically in the small store, one going to the left the other to the right. Olivia stepped carefully over fallen shelves and broken toys. Her breathing was even although she could feel her heart racing. This area wasn’t yet secure, and no matter how easy their particular job was supposed to be everybody on this expedition knew the risks they might encounter at any given moment. Bullets of sweat dripped down her face. God, it was hot as shit here. She heard the volcano rumble again. It’s gonna’ get a whole lot hotter, she thought.

“LOOK!” Abraham exclaimed from across the store. Olivia swiveled around quickly, gun raised and ready, only to see Abraham holding a seemingly mint condition Jurassic World toy. The dinosaur figure was in a box that looked like a cage. Olivia lowered her gun slightly, but her eyes drilled through Abraham. He noticed but didn’t seem to care. “We can go now, we got a dinosaur.”

“I think Lockwood is looking for dinosaurs more on the alive side,” Olivia said, unamused at the joke.

“Do you know how much this would go for though? A mint condition Jurassic World Carnotaurus figure? These things are rare as fu-“

“Probably not at much as the real thing. Now shut the hell up and keep looking.”

Olivia turned back around but heard Abraham stuffing the toy into his backpack. “I’m still taking it,” she heard him mutter. “And this too,” he added. “Katie will love it.” Abraham had gone on about Katie, his daughter nearly the whole way here on the Arcadia after the briefing. About how he had used to be a part of the Jurassic World ACU, and had brought his daughter here multiple times during his tenure. How much she loved dinosaurs, and how she was devastated when it closed. Olivia couldn’t care less.

“Why bring her a toy,” Olivia said, not even bothering to look back, “when you could buy the real thing when we get back?”

“Now that’s a good joke. Even with what they’re paying us I’d never be able to bid with the big dogs.”

Olivia smirked a little at that, but it was fleeting. She was pissed again that she wasn’t on a different team. If Alpha team caught that raptor, they’d be getting bonuses- Wheatley getting the most of all of course.

There was a distant rumbling again from the volcano. A toy pteranodon still hanging from the rafters swayed slightly among the cobwebs and vines. Olivia moved forward, walking behind the stores’ main checkout desk. Scattered papers and a Jurassic World Employee Manual lay next to one of the registers, covered in dust. She picked up some of the papers, trying to read them, but it was no use. She let them drop to the floor as she looked back up. As she turned around to head back to the main store area she noticed something on the wall. She brushed away moss and mold that covered it and realized it was a handle to a door that blended in to the wall. She used her fingers to find the crease of the door next to the handle and then used her flashlight to follow the crease all the way around. Yeah, definitely a door.

“Voy a ser condenado,” Olivia muttered to herself.

“Gamma C, sit rep?” her earpiece hissed suddenly. Olivia felt her heart skip at the sudden loud sound in her ear.

“We’re clear here,” Abraham said into his radio.

“Hold on,” Olivia said. “I may have something.” She heard Abraham walking over quickly. I found a door. Unsure of where it leads. We’ll try and get it open.”

“Copy that. Be careful, report in when you have something more.”

“Copy.”

“Must be the storage space! Nice.” Abraham asked.

“So, you’re saying it’s just more of this shit?” Oliva asked while making a brief nodding motion towards the store. “Then let’s keep moving.”

“No, wait! I mean, it’s probably just more of this but I don’t know for sure. Sometimes multiple buildings use the same storage space. There could be something useful inside.” Olivia gave him a doubtful look. “Hold on, let me try…” Abraham cut his sentence short as he took two steps back and then rammed the door with his shoulder, putting all his weight behind him. He gave a soft groan of pain afterwards and Olivia just stared at him.

“Puta estúpida,” she muttered under her breath as she calmly tried the door handle and the door opened easily. Abraham looked at her, face flushed. “None of the electronic locks work if the electricity isn’t on.”

Olivia opened the door wider and the two looked inside. A ramp led down to what was indeed a stock room that looked completely enclosed and quite large. It appeared to be about twice the size of the shop itself. Olivia glanced over at Abraham and immediately regretted even opening the door.

Like the store cobwebs hung everywhere and dust covered the shelves and floor. The air felt damp, and had the pungent smell of mildew and vermin urine. There was no light filtering into the space though; it was completely dark save for their flashlights attached to the end of their weapons and what little light filtered through the open door. Abraham quickly began walking down the ramp and Olivia followed.

“We found a storage room. A pretty big one,” Olivia said into her radio.

“Copy,” said the voice on the other end. “Anything useful?”

“Unsure. Probably not. Just looks like more useless shit.”

“Okay. Stay alert,” then there was a click and they were left in silence again. Olivia heard something scurry in the dark recesses of the space. It sounded small, whatever it was. She and Abraham exchanged looks to one another and continued forward.

The space had obviously been well organized when the park was in operation. But three years of abandonment had left it to become dirty and in disarray. A couple of the metal shelves had toppled over spilling boxes of stuffed dinosaurs across the floor. Many of them were torn to shreds, probably being used for nesting by whatever vermin were managing to get in here. There were a couple of boxes high up that read “Jurassic Crunch Bites.” Something had managed to chew its way through the box though, and flakes of cardboard candy boxes lay scattered with the torn stuffed animals.

“You take right, I got left?” Abraham suggested.

“Roger.”

Olivia carefully walked around one of the downed shelves, and the boxes that had spilled out from it. She scanned the space with her flashlight but already felt as if they were wasting their time with each second. There wasn’t going to be anything of importance here.

Her flashlight skimmed over a bird nest resting between two boxes on the shelves. She could see plush toy stuffing and box bits that had been used to make it. She could clearly make out the fossil rex head of the Jurassic World logo among the bits. Something about the irony of seeing that image in a bird nest itched at the back of her mind fleetingly before she decided he didn’t care and moved on.

Olivia could see Abraham’s light on the other side of the room, weaving in among the shelves. She could also hear him periodically trying to quietly rummage through some boxes. She scanned another shelf to her left. There was a box with a gaping hole in the side and she saw yet another bird nest inside. This one looked like it had at least three small eggs in it, off white with brown specks and markings on them. They were only about an inch or two-

There was a sudden metallic clang as her boot accidentally kicked something on the ground- a ventilation grate that had come off the wall. She examined it, and then looked at the wall. There was an open duct and she could feel a soft breeze flow through it. Well, she thought, this must be how the birds had gotten in. Debe ir afuera.  
She got to her feet once more and saw a couple more feet down was a massive metal double door. Next to it was another key pad, a large map, and several dolly carts. She walked quickly over to the doors and examined them.

To her right, the way she had come, a box toppled off one of the shelves. Olivia’s head snapped back, and she slowly began to raise her gun. Her eyes darted, trying to make out anything in the dim lighting. Something rustled against metal-

“You find anything?” Abraham said, directly behind her. Olivia whirled around, body tense. Abraham gave her a puzzled look, unaware of what had just happened.

“Jesus, don’t do that,” Olivia snapped.

“What was it?” Abraham said, his voice quiet. He now tried to peer past her in the direction she was looking.

“Probably nothing. But I found this,” she said pointing to the map.

“Oh yeah, that’s the tunnel system. It connects all major buildings in the park underground. Even go towards the dock. It’s how everyone received their resupply shipments without having to worry about guests seeing it go on. Disney does something similar I think…”

Cutting through the silence was a sudden low hum and several of the lights in the room began to flicker. Olivia saw the keypad next to the door light up also. With an audible popping sound several of the florescent lights burst and started spraying sparks. Accompanying the chaos was another louder bang, and the room was then plunged into darkness save for only the flashlights and one singular florescent in the back of the room that still flickered with some life.

“Shit,” Olivia said as she ran forward. Abraham was close behind her and nearly ran into her when she came to a sudden halt.

The door they had come through at the top of the ramp was now closed. Olivia sprinted up the ramp and tried opening it but it was no use, the door was locked.

Shit,” she said again.

“What happened?”

“The power is on again.”

“What, how?”

“It’s got to be alpha team – must be at the antenna. They had to start it up so Dearing could access the network to track the raptor it must have kicked on power everywhere.”

“Great,” Abraham said as he walked forward.

“Just, stay calm.” Olivia grabbed her radio. “Gamma leader, come in.” There was silence. “Gamma leader, we have a situation. Ove-“

“Yeah, copy. Gah- damn it! Get that thing back!” the voice on the other end said. Olivia and Abraham looked at one another. “Copy Perez. What’s the situation?”

“Well, it seems as though we’re locked in the store room we found, inside the main shop.”

“Great. It’s going to be a few minutes before we can get over there. We’re a little tied up at the moment with-” the last statement was cut off by the sound of an animal howling in distress, followed by men yelling. “Just sit tight. I’ll radio you when we’re on our way.”

There was a deep rumble, and Olivia could feel the room shake a little. The one light in the room swayed slightly. “Don’t make it too long team leader, I want to get off this damn island.”

“Copy. We’ll be there soon.” Then the radio went silent again.

Olivia sighed as she turned around. The single light was still swaying slightly, casting eerie shadows that moved in the room.

“Don’t remember seeing that when we first came in,” Abraham said. Olivia turned to see him looking towards the right corner of the room from where they were with his flashlight. There was a large stack of boxes all with red lettering on them that said:

            SOS 6/1/2015

            JURASSIC WORLD

            I_REX. PROMO

            T&G , Booklet

Abraham walked down the ramp towards them. Olivia didn’t move from her spot initially, and watched Abraham go towards the boxes. But when he opened the first box he came to and exclaimed “Holy shit,” she figured she didn’t have anything better to do than to see what was inside.

“I can’t believe this,” Abraham said as Olivia walked closer. In the distance of the room she thought she heard a skittering again of something moving in the darkness. She stopped for a moment and scanned the room, her eyes straining against the darkness. She was pulled back by Abraham’s overly excited sounds.

“What is it?”

“LOOK!” he said as he turned around, holding a toy box in his hands. Inside the box was a big white dinosaur figure. It looked almost like a tyrannosaur except that it had long arms, and a bony body with quills running down its neck and back. The monstrosities face was extremely hideous, with bony brow ridges, rows of pointed teeth, and a garish under bite.

“The Indominus rex.”

“Yeah! This is… damn, I didn’t even know we had these made. Wow.” Abraham continued rifling through the box pulling out more stuff. There was a small book that was entitled Mr. DNA Presents: Indominus rex!, what looked like an Operation type game where players had to extract DNA pieces from the board that was of the Indominus, and at least two more of the big figures.

Abraham pulled down another box marked:

             SOS 6/1/2018

             JURASSIC WORLD

             I_REX PROMO

             Shirts, Hats, Booklet

Inside were at least twenty folded t-shirts, more of the same book, and a couple of hats that had quills running down them, like the creature. Olivia lifted one of the shirts and looked at it. It was all black and peeking through the darkness was the horrible maw of the Indominus, just faintly visible. On the bottom it read, Monsters DO Exist. On the back it said Indominus rex, only at Jurassic World!

“Nobody, anywhere, has this stuff,” Abraham said. He opened up his bag and began shoving more of the merchandise inside. Olivia noticed it was already almost overly stuffed with merchandise.

She then scanned the rest of the boxes quickly. Nothing particularly stood out to her other than another bird nest that was resting at the very top of the stack of boxes. It was identical to the others she had seen with bits of debris and toy stuffing. It also contained four of the same small pale speckled eggs.

Abraham grabbed for another box, but as he stood up he brushed against the rest of the stack causing them to sway before finally toppling over.

“WATCH IT!” Olivia shouted, backing up. Abraham covered his head as the boxes fell all around him. When everything settled Olivia walked forward, moving the boxes off of Abraham. “Lucky these aren’t all that heavy.”

“Ah, damn it,” Abraham grunted heaving his body up. “Still hurt.”

Olivia examined Abraham for any signs of concussion, and didn’t notice anything alarming. “We should still probably get you checked out once we get back.” She helped Abraham to his feet. As she did she saw the nest that had been at the top of the boxes had fallen, the eggs inside smashed against the concrete.

As Abraham mumbled something as he collected his belongings, Olivia heard a soft hiss from above. She swung her head and her flashlight up just in time to see something dart away into the darkness again. Eso no se veía como un roedor. Abraham was still muttering to himself, obviously having missed the creature. She could hear the hissing again, coming from the darkness.

“Do you think we should bring-”

“Abraham.”

“Yeah, what?”

“Quiet.”

Abraham was about to ask why when he heard it too. He slowly got to his feet, abandoning his bag. Olivia cautiously pivoted her body from the left to the right of the room, the flashlight scanning the darkness. She hadn’t gone far before she saw a pair of small eyes glinting at her through the cobwebs between two shelves about seven feet away. She couldn’t see what kind of animal it was but at least it was small.

Olivia watched the eyes. They blinked, and then whatever it was jumped to the next highest shelf and continued staring. It didn’t even make a sound when it landed. Olivia saw the eyes move as the head cocked in the darkness and the animal chirped. The sound echoed slightly in the storage room. Finally the animal stepped forward and crouched on the very edge of the shelf, its beady black eyes never losing their focus. It was a small dinosaur, only about a foot or two tall. It was a dark green with light brown markings. It was… actually kind of cute? Olivia’s head snapped to Abraham, questioningly. His eyes were wide.

“Oh s-shit,” he stammered out. Olivia followed Abraham’s light until she saw them too.

On the top shelf of a unit next to the singular animal she had been watching sat four more of the same dinosaurs. They were all crouched on the edge, glaring at the two humans. When Olivia’s flashlight reached them one of them chirped, and another lowered its head slightly giving a soft hiss like a cat.

“What are they,” Olivia asked in a hushed voice.

“Compys.”

“Are they dangerous?”

“I… uh…”

“Simple question, come on!” she spat.

“It’s not a simple answer! Most of the time no, but- AH SHIT!”

Olivia saw Abraham wheel around and swat at his head. His light swirled around, and she noticed that the animals used the opportunity to disappear into the darkness again leaving puffs of dust billowing in the air.

“What?!”

“Something bit me! One of them jumped on me and bit my ear!”

“Let me see,” Olivia said examining Abraham’s ear. She could see the tiny little puncture wounds from the teeth, and blood just beginning to bubble up. “It’s not that bad. Suck it up.”

“Son of a bitch stings though. Gah, damn.”

In the recesses of the store room they could hear the chittering of the small creatures. Olivia grabbed her radio.

“Gamma leader, come in.” There was silence. “Gamma leader, this Perez. We need assistance ASAP.” Silence again. In the darkness chirps and squawks of the creatures seemed to be growing more agitated… and more numerous. Olivia kept swinging her flashlight around trying to find the creatures, but she’d see only shadows and brief blurs as the dinosaurs darted from hiding place to place. “Come on,” she said pulling Abraham after her. Abraham grabbed his gear as she tugged at him and the two began following the wall back towards the large door near the back of the room.

As they passed the shelves the noises seemed to follow them. Olivia looked around, straining her eyes in the dark. As her flashlight passed over the shelves she saw more and more of the tiny nests, all filled with eggs. How had they missed all of these?

Suddenly one of the small dinosaurs leapt out of the darkness screeching and landed in front of them. They stopped and watched the tiny creature as it just stood there on the ground hissing at them. It was almost comical, this singular animal standing off between two larger armed humans. Perez took a step forward, and reared back her other leg to kick the creature.

“Get out of-” but as she took the step closer toward the creature she saw nearly a dozen pair of small glinting eyes staring back at her a moment before a swarm of the small green dinosaurs leapt off the shelf and onto her.

The dinosaurs latched themselves on to her anyway they could. Their tiny claws were dug in to her clothing as they crawled around her body searching for exposed skin. One landed on her cap and she swatted it away. It held on to the hat as it fell, and another animal quickly took its place, burying its sharp claws into her hair and pecking at her scalp and ears. She could feel the dinosaurs nipping at her neck and face, their tiny teeth like razors to her skin. She tried to swat them away and cover her face as best she could. There were faint ripping sounds of cloth tearing followed by sharp pinches of pain on her legs and waist. Some of them had torn through her clothing already.

Between her fingers she the bright beam of a flashlight and then heard Abraham yelling as he rushed the creatures and the animals retreated. They chirped and squeaked as they disappeared into the darkness. Olivia looked down, and one animal had half buried itself into a large hole in her pant leg. She grabbed the creature tightly and yanked it out. She felt a searing pain, and when she lifted the animal up she saw a jagged piece of skin in its jaws. It squirmed in her hand before she threw it as hard as she could across the room.

“Christ, are you okay?” Abraham said. He pushed her back towards the wall. He tried to examine her but she shoved him off.

“I’m fine,” she snapped. Olivia’s scalp and face was on fire, as was her leg where she had been bitten. She lifted her hand up to her head. She could feel that it was damp. Lowering her hand she saw blood on her fingertips. “Let’s just get the hell out of here.”

“How?”

“Perez?” came a voice over the radio. There was a hiss of static and then “P-ez, – hat’s happening?”

“We got company in here,” she said. “The uh-,” she turned to Abraham. He talked into his own radio.

“Compys. We need help right away.”

“Repeat, please.” The voice said. “-ou said compys?”

There was a sudden rumble and then the building shook, violently. Olivia and Abraham braced themselves against the wall. The single flickering light overhead in the room gave way and shattered to the floor. They could hear a few shelves in the darkness topple over, and the dinosaurs chirping and howling noisily.

“Leader, we need assistance ASAP!” Abraham shouted. “We need to get out of here. Perez is wounded.” But there was nothing but static. “Shit.”

“Come on,” Perez said. She continued against the wall. She had hoped that the tremor would give the dinosaurs something else to focus on for at least a little bit. As the rumbling finally subsided she finally found what she was looking for. “Through here,” she said as she pointed to the open duct she had found earlier.

“You’ve got to be-” Abraham begin, before changing his mind. “Screw it, you first.”

Olivia would have protested if it wasn’t for a sudden wave of dizziness she was now feeling. She aimed the barrel of her weapon with the flashlight in first to make sure no creatures were waiting for them inside and then pushed her gun first. Then she got down on her stomach and started to army crawl through the vent. It was a tight fit but they’d be able to just make it. She heard Abraham say something but she couldn’t make out what it was.

Only seven feet into the duct and her head was swimming. She tried to calm her breathing but it didn’t help much. She felt warm blood trickle down her temple, mixing with her sweat and drip down her face. As she pulled herself along she could see multiple pairs of tiny three toed tracks in the dust of the vent.

“Abraham,” she said. Her voice echoed in the small space. “How are we doin’?”

“Just keep going,” he said. “Don’t stop.”  Faintly she could hear the chirping of the compsognathus behind them. She tried to speed up her crawling.

The light beam hit a wall up ahead and she noticed that there was a sharp turn in the duct. The breeze she had felt earlier was getting stronger. When she reached the turn she contorted her body uncomfortably to the bend, and the movement made her feel the bites all over her body again. She heard Abraham yelp.

“Abraham!?”

“It’s fine just go!”

Olivia couldn’t maneuver enough to look back. She shoved her gun ahead and clawed at the walls to help her move around the turn. When she was finally able to straighten out she looked ahead and saw the opening. It was covered with a grate. There was a small hole at the bottom which must have been how the animals were getting through.

As Perez reached the grate she could hear Abraham’s grunts as he was rounding the turn. The sounds of the animals were also getting louder. She peeked through the thin spaces of the metal grate. Beyond the walls and floor was concrete and it seemed to be pretty spacious. She assumed it was the tunnel just beyond the big double doors. She wanted to wait a moment and see if any other animals were there, but Abraham cursed loudly behind her and she decided they’d deal with whatever happens next. They needed to get out of here. She started hitting at the corners of the grate with the butt of her gun.

“Hurry it up, Perez!”

“I’m trying!”

“Get it open- OW!” Abraham shouted. Olivia could hear Abraham kicking his legs against the metal duct. The sound mixed with the rattling of the metal grate and the angry squawks of the small dinosaurs rang in her head.

The grate finally gave way and she heaved herself out of the opening. She stood up, her legs shaky as she did so. She quickly scanned the space, seeing a med kit box on the wall along with a phone. A few feet down were the big double doors. She was right, this was the tunnel.

Abraham was how howling in pain as his hands finally clawed me through the opening. Olivia grabbed them and pulled him through. Compys were latched on to his legs, tearing and biting at them. As Abraham tried to get the dinosaurs off of himself Olivia threw the grate back on the opening of the vent. As she did one of the dinosaurs ran up and bit her hand. Olivia cursed and bashed its head against the side of the wall, killing the small animal. She pressed the grate over the opening. Inside she could see a swarm of the small dinosaurs all creeping their way.

“The med kit! Get a flare!” Abraham shouted as he finally got the last dinosaur off of his body.

Olivia was puzzled for a moment and then remembered the mid kit on the wall. She ran to it. Inside along with bandages and other supplies was a large red emergency flare. She understood. Olivia picked it up and ignited it. A brilliant bright red flame exploded forth and she then quickly tossed it into the grate and put the cover in front of it again. The animals inside squeaked in alarm and she could hear their tiny feet scatter back down the vent away from the bright light.

Olivia let out a long sigh and turned. As she did, she felt dizzy again and stumbled slightly. She went back to the medical supplies and pulled everything she could from it.

“Come on,” she said. “We need to move farther down.” She helped Abraham to his feet, and he took a sharp breath as he stood up. She could see that his pant legs had been torn to shreds on the lower half, and what remained was dripping with fresh blood. She also noticed that he no longer had his weapon. She grabbed hers and the two headed down the tunnel.

The tunnel was lit by yellow bulbs every twenty feet or so. Overall it wasn’t as high tech looking as the rest of the island. They had only gone about sixty yards before she was exhausted.

“I’ve gotta’- ” she began before she almost collapsed. Her grip on Abraham loosened for a second and he slipped to the floor.

“GAH, damn it!”

“Sorry.”

“No no. It’s fine. It just…”

“Let me see.”

She lifted the remains of his pant legs and saw small gaping slashes and bites all over. There were several spaces where chunks of flesh had been completely torn away. They weren’t bleeding horribly, but enough. Mixed with the blood was a foamy substance… saliva. She immediately grabbed the alcohol wipes from the med kit and began cleaning them. Abraham howled in pain.

“What the hell are those things?”

“Compys… they’re…well, there’s something in their saliva. Serotonin. We were told in ACU training that in small numbers they aren’t dangerous. They don’t want to attack anything seemingly dangerous. But piss them off, or get a big group and you’ve got a problem.”

Olivia looked up. She could still see the red light of the flare in the vent, but she could now faintly hear the creatures again. “I think we’ve definitely got a problem.”

Abraham laid, breathing deeply now as she bandaged his legs. He barely even winced anymore. Olivia’s head started swimming again. She rolled up her pant leg and examined the bites she had. As she started to clean them she looked up, and watched as the red light finally disappeared in the vent. Her eyes went wide.

“Abraham.” He groaned. “Abraham, get your ass up.”

“I can’t. I just need to sleep for a second.”

“We don’t have a second! They’re coming. We need to go, now!”

At that there was a sudden loud clanging sound and Olivia looked up to see the swarm of compsognathus spilling out of the vent and running their way.

“Abraham! Come on!” She pulled him to his feet and he made another groan in protest. She had only dragged him a couple feet when the first animal hopped onto his shoulder and bit into his cheek. Olivia tried to swat the creature away, but another one had hopped up and bit onto her hand causing her to drop Abraham. The creature held on to her arm, curling itself around her wrist as it yanked at her skin with its tiny razor teeth. She shook her arm back and forth until the creature loosened its grip and jumped off. That’s when Abraham’s screams filled the tunnel.

Olivia turned to see Abraham writing on the ground and screaming as the dinosaurs completely covered his body. They squawked and tore at his flesh and clothing. Olivia saw one take a bit into the soft flesh of his neck. She was about to try to intervene when a group of the animals started hopping her way and hissing. One of them landed extremely close and she kicked it with all her might, hoping it would scare off the others. It didn’t. Instead more were now advancing, and behind them Abraham’s screams were becoming more like quiet whimpers.

Olivia turned and ran with all of the strength she could muster. Behind her the creatures were chirping and squawking. She didn’t look back to see how many were following her. She couldn’t look back. She was dizzy enough as it is, and if she turned her head it could cause her to lose her balance.

Adrenaline coursed through her system propelling her forward as she rounded a turn. There was a distant rumble sound, and then the ground shook again.

“No!” Olivia shrieked. The lights in the tunnel flickered and then everything went dark, save for her flashlight. She tripped and fell to the ground, skidding across the concrete and hitting her head. She heard a shattering sound and as she opened her eyes she saw the light from her flashlight flickering faintly.  She raised herself to her elbow and grabbed her weapon. She aimed it down the corridor.

In the flickering light she could see the eyes of the dinosaurs as they stalked her way. Their excited calls to one another echoed in the darkness. Olivia Perez gritted her teeth and began firing her weapon in the direction of the animals. A short moment later the light went out and she was left in darkness as she started screaming.

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The Pull

by Joshua Malone

Originally published in SAGA Magazine Vol. 76 Spring 2013

Recipient of Best in Prose Award

 

 

The three of them congregated in the tiny main room of the home, if you could even call it that. The house was more like a small cottage, or even a shack. It had obviously once been a nice place to live, most of the other houses on the street. Nice wood floors and actually a pretty intricate fire place mantle. But now it was falling apart. A think sheet of metal covered a gaping hole in the roof, and most of the top portion of the chimney had since crumbled away. There were only three rooms- the bathroom, the bedroom, and the main room. The latter served as kitchen, dining room, and lounging room all in one. The once nice wood flooring was beginning to rot away in certain spots, giving way every now and again. But such was the fate of every house in this portion of Queens. People living here couldn’t afford the upkeep needed, nor could they afford to move anywhere else. So they just stayed, and continued hating their lives.

Connor, the oldest at thirteen years old, stood facing his brother Jeffery who was sitting in a chair. Jeffery was ten years old.  Their sister Clementine was the youngest at eight, and she stood by Connor’s side. In the chair Jeffery sat, fidgeting and clutching his jaw with tears rolling down his face. For the last week he had complained of a toothache. Their mother had examined him, and found a small hole in one of his back teeth. She promised that she’d bring home enough money by the end of the week to pay for a trip to the dentist… like she often promised bringing home enough money for things. But she wasn’t here right now, in the middle of the day. She was at work, or at least trying to find work. The three of them were left at home, and while typically they may be out enjoying the nice Saturday off of school they had this current problem at hand.

When he had gotten up, Jeffery had went into the main room and sitting on the table was four pieces of tack bread for breakfast that mom had made for them, as was often the case. One for each of them, and one for mom later on in case she couldn’t get any other food to bring home. Instead of waiting for his siblings to get up with him, Jeff went to work on his piece right away. As he ate it though, and chewed the hard dough, he suddenly felt a crack in his mouth followed by a searing pain.

That was what Connor had woken up to.  Jeffery crying in pain. His tooth, the one with the hole in it, had cracked almost straight through.  And for the first hour they had no clue what to do. Clementine suggested a trip to the dentist, and Connor explained that they didn’t have the money. Clem thought that maybe the dentist would be in a helping mood today, and said that they should try anyway. Connor had smiled at her, but just ended up shaking his head. Nobody was ever in a giving mood. Not anymore. Connor debated going out and looking for mom, but he decided against that. They needed the money. Which left it all on him.

Connor stood before his brother with a stone face. Jeffery was sobbing, and hunched over. On the ground was a giant wet spot where Jeffery had spat a thimble of gin out. Connor had gotten it from mom’s “hidden” bottle that she only took out not more than once a week. He figured maybe it would help, but once it had hit the tooth Jeff just howled and let the liquid pour out of his mouth, making a mess.

“Clem,” Connor began in a hushed tone as he lowered himself down to one knee and looking at her. “You love Jeffery right?” She just nodded her head. “Well, when I say so I want you to show him how much you love him by giving in a big hug and not letting go until I say so. Okay?” She nodded her head again. “Make sure you wrap around his arms, okay?” She had a confused look, but nodded a third time. Conner got back up and faced his brother again. As he did he reached into his back pocket. Jeffery looked up and saw his older brother grasping for something behind his back. “Clem, give him the hug” Connor said calmly.

Clementine trotted forward and wrapped her arms around her brother and squeezed him. Jeffery, caught off guard looked down at his sister. Then he heard two loud footsteps and as he looked up Connor was already behind him, putting his hand on Jeffery’s forehead and tilting it backwards while the other hand lifted a pair of pliers.

 

 

ROOM 125

by Joshua Malone

Originally published by SAGA Magazine Vol. 77 Spring 2014 – Page 44

Recipient of the Barbra Anderson Miller Award

 

 

      God, I don’t want to be here.

Benjamin O’Neill walked through the brightly lit hallways. The scent of antibacterial soaps and talcum powder flooded his nostrils. He hated this place. He never wanted to visit. He hated seeing these people; he hated seeing the ugly yellow wallpaper and the even uglier shag rug. Christ, he thought. The south wing got a renovation last year. When will they finally update this wing? At twenty five years old Ben still lived in Bourbonnais, Illinois which is where he grew up. He even attended the local college, where he graduated from a little over three years ago.  As selfish as it seemed, he really had wanted to move north after graduation, but he couldn’t find it within himself to do it yet, and he wasn’t going to move with mom. So he stayed in the area, continuing to make these visits.

Down the hall he could see his destination, room 125. In his left hand he carried three bags of groceries. One bag had a gallon of milk, bread, and soups. The last one had cheese, peanut butter, bananas, apples, and a pack of Oreos. He passed an open area where two elderly gentlemen sat watching an episode of Matlock. Ben saw one of them look up from the television, staring at him as he continued down the hallway.

There was a moment of silence before he heard movement from the other side and somebody finally called out.

“Yes? Did someone knock?”

“Yeah, it’s me, Ben. I brought you your groceries.”

“Come in then.”

Ben opened the door and stepped inside the dimly lit room. The change in lighting caused him to blink and squint his eyes, allowing for his vision to readjust. The room had a fifteen by ten foot area, with a door that led into a smaller room that served as a bedroom. There was also a small bathroom that could be accessed from the bedroom.

In the corner of the room, sitting at a desk, sat a man hunched over a type writer. The lamp on the desk was the only source of light for the room besides the sunlight trying to peek in through the shade covered window. The figure at the desk leaned back in his chair and peered through the darkness.

“Who is that?” the man asked.

“Ben.”

“Flip the light; I can’t see a damn thing.”

Ben reached across the wall beside him and turned on the room light, forcing his eyes to readjust again.  “Then what are you sitting in the dark for, dad?”

Samuel O’Neill, a scruffy looking man in his early sixties, sat at the desk with a confused look, mouth slightly agape as he looked at Ben through the glasses that rested on the bridge of his nose. Ben walked forward a few steps before Samuel cleared his throat.

“What are… oh, Mitch. I didn’t know it was you. What do you have there?”

“I’m Ben, dad.”

“Oh.”

Ben walked towards the small fridge that sat next to a big arm chair facing a TV which rested on a table opposite the desk his father was currently sitting at. He opened the fridge and looked inside. There were at least six partially drank bottles of water, along with three unopened cans of RC soda. Nothing else. Ben set the bags on the chair and started removing the unfinished water bottles.

“You going to finish these?” Ben asked.

“No, just pitch them.”

“Okay.”

“What do you have with you?”

“Same things I always get you dad. Milk, soup, stuff like that. You can make the soup in the new microwave I got…” Ben looked around. Where is it? Sitting behind the TV was the microwave, still in the box. I knew I should have set it up for him.  “I’ll set it up for you in a minute. Do you need more water?”

“No, I still have two cases I think, in the room.”

“I’ll check in a minute. I wish you’d just use that water bottle I got you.”

The old man did not reply, and instead turned towards the typewriter again. Ben looked over as he began to place the contents of the bags he had into the fridge. On the desk there lay a stack of papers maybe an inch thick; Samuel was at least half way down the page he was currently working on. But under the desk a mesh trashcan was overflowing with half-finished pages.

“Dad, I’m going to put the peanut butter, cookies, and bananas in your cupboard.” Along the wall, above a dresser was a small wooden cupboard.

“’Kay.”

Ben finished unpacking the items, closed the door, and walked over to the boxed microwave. He lifted the box and brought it over to the arm chair. As he opened the box he could hear Samuel typing away one letter at a time on his typewriter.

“How’s the writing coming along, dad?”

“Oh, you know. Slowly but surely.” Samuel looked back over at Ben. Ben removed the microwave, and then set it on top of the fridge.  Samuel’s  gaze went to the floor where he saw all of the bottles of water scattered around.

“Dad, all you have to do is turn the dial on this one, remember? You don’t have to press any buttons or anything. Just turn the dial here to the number of minutes or seconds that it needs to be cooked and-”

“What are those bottles doing out? Why are they on the floor?”

“Dad, I just asked you if you want me to get rid of them.”

“No Mi-, Ben. No, please just put them back into the fridge. I – I mean you can see that I haven’t finished them.”

“I know, sorry. I’ll put them away in a second.”

Benjamin got to his feet, grabbing the bottles and headed towards the bedroom.  The bed was messy, which wasn’t abnormal nowadays. Ben could remember when his parents were together; dad always made the bed. Mom would always get pissed if he forgot, since he was stuck at home all day anyway. Samuel had been on disability since Ben was in seventh grade. Mom had been a daily stimulant that helped him remember simple tasks like making the bed, which this “assisted living” facility was supposed to do as well, but that was utter bullshit. They don’t help at all. And Samuel didn’t want to move again, so here he remained. But this wasn’t living. All Samuel was doing day in and day out was sitting at that desk, typing away, trying to remember the past and figure out the present.

Ben looked around the room. On the headboard rested Samuel’s leather bible, collecting dust next to the phone.  That was another thing Samuel used to do all the time, read his bible. But Ben couldn’t recall the last time he’d seen his father doing daily devotionals. He wasn’t sure if it was from lack of faith (which really he couldn’t blame his father for, all things considered,) or if it was because the bible had just become another thing that confused him. Really can’t blame him for that either. I get confused reading it too.

In the corner of the room there was only one case of water left and it had already been opened. He didn’t bother to see how many were left, but made a mental note to himself to get a few more packs of water before his next visit, as he headed to the bathroom with the bottles. Ben heard the typing stop.

“How’s your mom, Mitch?” Samuel asked from the other room. “She find a place yet?”

“Dad, she’s been in Defiance for three years now. You know that. And I’m Ben.”

“Oh, yeah. Well I’m sure she’s good. I wish she’d visit more.” The typing continued.

She placed him here, and that was the summer before Ben started college. She stayed in the area and visited every now and again but after the accident happened she stopped visiting all together.  That was Ben’s junior year of college.  She felt like there was “nothing left to visit.”  He just got worse after that. Samuel had essentially shut down mentally after the accident. That wasn’t true, it was just an excuse to finally divorce herself from the situation… which was her right, Ben guessed. She’d had it hard as well. But it was because of her abandonment that Ben felt he couldn’t leave.

Ben walked into the bathroom and turned on the light. One by one he began unscrewing the caps off of the lids of the bottles and started filling them up. When he was finished he came back into the front room, just as Samuel was standing up.

“I’m taking a break,” Samuel explained. “Writers block, ya’ know. And I’ve been sitting for so long, now I need to take a pee!” He gave Ben a wink and a goofy grin. Ben smiled back and moved to the fridge. “Thanks,” Samuel said, pointing to the bottles. “You get those from the room?”

“Um, yeah, dad. You didn’t have any in your fridge so I figured I’d get you some.”

“Thanks,” Samuel said again as he moved towards the bathroom.

Ben got up and walked over to the desk.  He peered down at the stack of papers, before picking them up. From the bathroom Samuel yelled out, “So you said your mother is back in Defiance?”

“Yeah, dad. Moved there after I graduated.”

“Graduated? Jesus, you finished? Already?”

“Yeah, dad,” Ben said, as he thumbed through the pages. “I’ve been done for three years now.”

“I’ll be damned.”

Ben looked at the pages. He knew that his father had been working on this memoir for a while. Samuel had started it back when Ben was in seventh grade, on a computer that they had owned. Unfortunately only a few years later the computer had crashed and none of it had been saved to any back up disks. Dad had to start from scratch.

Ben skimmed over the first page, and then the second. Then the third and the tenth. The twenty-eighth, and the thirty-fifth. He looked at the page that Samuel was currently working on. Every day he has to start from scratch.

Ben heard the toilet flush, and the faucet turn on for a few seconds before shutting back off. The older man shuffled back out into the front living area groaning.

“Oh, Mitch, it’s heck to get old.”

“Dad you ever read the pages you type?”

“Once in a while. Probably not as often as I should. Why, what’s wrong with them?”

“Well, they’re all the same. Some of the wording’s different but yeah it’s all the same. All talking about the day Mitch was born.”

Samuel smiled and looked at Ben, puzzled. “When you were born, you mean.”

“No dad, Mitch.” There was silence for a long moment before Samuel spoke again.

“Sorry, it’s just, you know you boys look the same. Could damn well be twins. Ya’ know people used to mistake you guys for twins all the time.”

“I know, dad.” Samuel started back towards the desk. “You take your meds today dad?”

“Yeah, yeah. Almost out though, I think. Need more.”

“The worker’s, or attendants, or whatever haven’t gotten you anymore?” Samuel just looked at Ben blankly. “Okay, I’ll get them for you. Mematine now, right?”

“Yeah, mime-a-whatever.” Samuel made his goofy grin again, and acted like a mime pulling a rope back to his desk. “And just pitch those, will ya’? I’ll keep working on the page I have and go from there.”

Ben leaned over and tossed all the pages in his hand away.  Samuel reached out for the chair, but Ben stopped him. “Dad,” Ben started. “Why don’t we go outside for a walk? It’s nice out. Not too cold either.”

The old man stood for a second, thinking before saying “Okay, sounds good. Let me grab my coat.”

Ben’s cell phone rang in his pocket. He took it out and saw that it was Jenny. “I’ll be out in the hall dad, I’m gonna take this call. You get your stuff , lock up and meet me.”

“Okeydoke,” Samuel said as he moved into his bedroom.

Ben left the room and answered his phone. “Hello,” he said as softly as he could. Even so he saw the two men sitting at the TV turn to glare at him and shake their heads. Ben rolled his eyes and turned away from them.

“How’s it going?” Jenny asked.

“So, so. He mistook me for Mitch a few times but that’s all. Hit another slump in his book.”

“He was doing well before, what happened?”

“I don’t know. He may have thrown out all of the other pages by accident and then lost his place. We’re gonna’ go for a walk here in a few minutes. I think it’ll do him some good to get out of the room for a bit today. Nice day and all.”

“Yeah, probably. Sorry I couldn’t come today.”

“Don’t worry ‘bout it. Next time.”

“Okay, well I just wanted to check in. Call when you’re leaving or something comes up. Love you.”

“Will do. Love you too.”

Ben pressed call end, and the phone beeped. He stuffed it back in his pocket and sighed. He watched as an attendant in scrubs walked from the room next to him back to the desk that sat in front of the main entrance doors.  A few minutes passed before Ben heard the faint sound of ticking on the other side of his father’s door. Ben blinked, confused. He entered the room.

At the desk typing away with his coat on, sat Samuel. His eyes were focused on the page wrapped around the platen. Ben stared for a moment, contemplating, and then shut the door loud enough so that Samuel could hear it. The old man turned in his chair.

“Oh, sorry, I wasn’t expecting anybody.”

“Dad, what are you doing?”

“Mitch? Oh sorry, didn’t recognize you for a second. How have you been?

“It’s Ben dad. Do you rememb-… dad, why do you have your coat on?”

Samuel sat there for a second, examining himself, and thinking. He finally responded saying, “I must have been going somewhere. You know my mind isn’t what it once was.”

“Dad, I was just here a few minutes ago; we were about to go for a walk. I only stepped outside for a minute to talk to Jenny.”

“Jenny? Ben’s Jenny? What she want with you?”  Samuel smiled. Ben took a deep breath, and walked forward.

“Dad look, I’m not-”

“How is Ben anyway? Have you heard from him? He doesn’t talk me about how college is going. I hope he’s doing okay. I wish he’d visit more.”

“Dad, I AM Ben. I’m Ben. Mitch isn’t… here.” The two stared at each other and Ben could see that Samuel did not quite comprehend what was going on. “Dad, Mitch isn’t…. Mitch is dead.” Ben breathed. “He’s gone, dad. Five years ago.”

There was a long moment of silence as Ben stood in front of his dad, with his hands stuffed in his pockets. Samuel spun slowly back to his typewriter. His hand moved up to his face and he rubbed his stubble. Finally he removed his glasses and placed them on the desk.

“Um… ho-how? How again?” Samuel asked.

Ben sighed again, and sat down in the arm chair. He looked at his father, his expression soft. “It was a car accident, off fifty-seven.” Ben watched as Samuel began to nod. The old man looked at his son, tears in his eyes.  “I’m sorry, dad.”

“No… I’m sorry, Ben. I just. I don’t know sometimes. It’s hard to… remember. God.

“I know.”

Benjamin sat there, watching his father struggle with himself. Samuel leaned back in his chair, his hands covering his face. The old man growled at himself, trying to hold back the tears and failing. Ben got up from his seat, and walked over to his dad. He leaned over and hugged him. Samuel embraced Ben; the two stayed that way for a long moment. Ben felt his father’s breathing slowly turn from sobbing breaths to deep inhales.  After a while Samuel gave Ben a quick pat on the back.

“Boy, it’s good to see you,” Samuel said, sniffing. “Feel like it’s been forever.”

“It’s good to see you too dad,” Ben said with a smile. “I love you.”

“Well, I love you son,” Samuel replied with a smile back.  Ben raised himself up and took a few steps back. He watched as his father sat there, looking at his son and then around the room blankly. With a nod of his head Samuel turned back to his desk and raised his hands towards his typewriter.

“Dad, wait,” Ben interrupted. Samuel’s head snapped towards Ben. “Do you still want to go on the walk? Remember, it’s a nice day?”

“Oh,” the old man said. He peered through the blinds. “So it is. Nah, I think I’ma stay in right now. I think I went on a walk earlier, before you got here.”

“No, we-…” Ben started, and then stopped himself. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah, positive. Look, it is a nice day out, I’m sure you’ve got better things to do than hang around your absent minded father. Go enjoy it. Besides, I’m getting some headway again on my book. Remember when I started this thing?”

“Yeah, dad. I do.” Benjamin zipped up his jacket, and turned for the door. As he turned the nob he looked back at his father, who was now busy typing away at the sheet of paper. “Love you, dad.” Then he left the room. Before the door closed behind Ben heard his father’s reply.

“Love you too, Mitch.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pull

Posted: January 23, 2015 in Short Stories
Tags: , , ,

The Pull

By Joshua Malone

Originally Published in SAGA Magazine 2013 Spring Volume

            The three of them congregated in the tiny main room of the home, if you could even call it that. The house was more like a small cottage, or even a shack. It had obviously once been a nice place to live, most of the other houses on the street. Nice wood floors and actually a pretty intricate fire place mantle. But now it was falling apart. A think sheet of metal covered a gaping hole in the roof, and most of the top portion of the chimney had since crumbled away. There were only three rooms- the bathroom, the bedroom, and the main room. The latter served as kitchen, dining room, and lounging room all in one. The once nice wood flooring was beginning to rot away in certain spots, giving way every now and again. But such was the fate of every house in this portion of Queens. People living here couldn’t afford the upkeep needed, nor could they afford to move anywhere else. So they just stayed, and continued hating their lives.

Connor, the oldest at thirteen years old, stood facing his brother Jeffery who was sitting in a chair. Jeffery was ten years old.  Their sister Clementine was the youngest at eight, and she stood by Connor’s side. In the chair Jeffery sat, fidgeting and clutching his jaw with tears rolling down his face. For the last week he had complained of a toothache. Their mother had examined him, and found a small hole in one of his back teeth. She promised that she’d bring home enough money by the end of the week to pay for a trip to the dentist… like she often promised bringing home enough money for things. But she wasn’t here right now, in the middle of the day. She was at work, or at least trying to find work. The three of them were left at home, and while typically they may be out enjoying the nice Saturday off of school they had this current problem at hand.

When he had gotten up, Jeffery had went into the main room and sitting on the table was four pieces of tack bread for breakfast that mom had made for them, as was often the case. One for each of them, and one for mom later on in case she couldn’t get any other food to bring home. Instead of waiting for his siblings to get up with him, Jeff went to work on his piece right away. As he ate it though, and chewed the hard dough, he suddenly felt a crack in his mouth followed by a searing pain.

That was what Connor had woken up to.  Jeffery crying in pain. His tooth, the one with the hole in it, had cracked almost straight through.  And for the first hour they had no clue what to do. Clementine suggested a trip to the dentist, and Connor explained that they didn’t have the money. Clem thought that maybe the dentist would be in a helping mood today, and said that they should try anyway. Connor had smiled at her, but just ended up shaking his head. Nobody was ever in a giving mood. Not anymore. Connor debated going out and looking for mom, but he decided against that. They needed the money. Which left it all on him.

Connor stood before his brother with a stone face. Jeffery was sobbing, and hunched over. On the ground was a giant wet spot where Jeffery had spat a thimble of gin out. Connor had gotten it from mom’s “hidden” bottle that she only took out not more than once a week. He figured maybe it would help, but once it had hit the tooth Jeff just howled and let the liquid pour out of his mouth, making a mess.

“Clem,” Connor began in a hushed tone as he lowered himself down to one knee and looking at her. “You love Jeffery right?” She just nodded her head. “Well, when I say so I want you to show him how much you love him by giving in a big hug and not letting go until I say so. Okay?” She nodded her head again. “Make sure you wrap around his arms, okay?” She had a confused look, but nodded a third time. Conner got back up and faced his brother again. As he did he reached into his back pocket. Jeffery looked up and saw his older brother grasping for something behind his back. “Clem, give him the hug” Connor said calmly.

Clementine trotted forward and wrapped her arms around her brother and squeezed him. Jeffery, caught off guard looked down at his sister. Then he heard two loud footsteps, and as he looked up Connor was already behind him, putting his hand on Jeffery’s forehead and tilting it backwards.