Tag Archives: death

The Trumpets of Jericho: The first letter

Authors note: On September 1, 1939 Adolph Hitler thrust the world into World War II by advancing his armies into Poland. Two days later Britain and France declared war on Nazi Germany. This is a fictional account of a woman from Kansas who was called to help the Jewish peoples residing in Poland. This is the first of many letters she wrote home. Music to Read by: “Barber: Adagio for Strings, Op 11” David Zinman and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

2 September 1939

My Bartholomew,   

   Hello my love, I wish I could bring you wonderful news of my stay here in Poznan, but darling I cannot do such a thing, at least in these dark times. The Germans have done the unthinkable and have entered our beloved country. Last night they came across the border unannounced and certainly unprovoked, Although miles away, we heard planes diving through the sky. The people here are fleeing for safety and I am so very terrified…my Polish is limited, but horror in the eyes is a language anyone can understand. And most of the locals are filled with it, including myself. Oh! How I wish you were very near to me right now my sweet, sweet Bartholomew! I need your strong arms wrapped around my waist, I need you to pray for the safety of these poor creatures. They are still scarred from the first war, I am afraid all the progress they have made these past twenty years is all for naught. The men in  the village have been up all night discussing ways to defeat the invaders without the aid of their own army! They are very brave, but I don’t think they are talking practical. I believe it was a rather serendipitous time for the Lord to send me here to help, the small villages on the outskirts of town are filled with old men and young boys, one young man, the same age as our Thomas, rode all night on his horse to bring us news from the border. What I gathered from my translator is the Nazis have monsters made out of metal (I assume he meant tanks) rolling across the landscape, thousands of heavily armed troops, and blood, oh Lord, how he described the blood and destruction! Those poor souls, my heart is breaking as each hour passes, the boy, Jedrik is his name, is weary from his travels and the women are feeding him bread and sausages. But he is talking in a fury, the peasants are smoking pipes and listening with rapt attention. I cannot bear to look at their downtrodden faces, their eyes are empty, and I think so are their hearts. Some are drunk and yelling retribution, but many men are already defeated knowing the might of Hitlers military. Many Jews are here with us and how I love them so! Bartholomew, they are the most fearful. There is a man here by the name of Ezekiel, he received a letter from a relative in Munich last month, telling him of the dreadful things being done to his people in Germany. They cannot buy bread, or soap, their synagogues are being razed to the ground! Bartholomew can you imagine that happening at home in Kansas? Why, Mrs. Leroy would run those thugs out-of-state herself! But I am afraid it is happening here darling. What can I do for these people other than comfort and pray and bake pies? I know nothing of wars and armaments and peace treaties. If they were to hand me a gun I would be liable to shoot myself, or worse, my host family.

My love, I had to stop writing because we’ve moved from our house to a farm ten miles east. I am scared. Never in my life have I known such dark terror. We had heard horses galloping close by and Mirka and her twin brother Mirek went out to see what was happening, the Germans are coming Bartholomew, they are drawing near quickly so we have fled to a small church. I have come to the realization that you may never receive this letter of mine, you may never see me again my precious husband and how that hurts me so! What will become of my Thomas? Was it foolish to come here to help the Polish resettle? I am not so sure, but as always, I believe His hand will guide my little group. My mind is playing tricks on me, I think I hear gunfire in the distance. Little children are crying, men are dying because of the wickedness and greed of mankind. Innocent boys will go to their graves fighting for this small nation. Pray Bartholomew, tell our friends back home what is happening to the world…now I know I am not going mad, planes are flying overhead, dropping bombs! The noise is hell. I am looking at the people huddled around the dark tables, they are exhausted due to our long journey today. I don’t know where we are, I am too skittish to ask our translator. I feel very much alone now. What was I thinking love? I am a homemaker from a farm in Kansas, I thought I could change someones life. But maybe I am. There is a little girl sitting next to me  Her face has dirt smudged across her forehead, she is wearing a brown dress with a white apron. There’s a blue handkerchief in her hair, she must be no more than four. She is a Jew. How could anyone want to hurt such a precious child because of their heritage? This is madness, pure and simple madness! You know my anger is nonexistent, you know I wouldn’t hurt a fly, but now I want to hurt those Germans. May our Lord forgive me, but I am looking at this child, watching her watch me and I would risk my own hide for her. Do you remember the stray cat that managed to find its way into our chicken coop last year and caused all that trouble? Remember the broom I used to chase it away? That is how I feel now Bartholomew. I want to chase those horrible Nazis away from my roost.

They are such a peaceful people, farmers and bakers and homemakers like myself. They don’t want trouble anymore than we would want it at home. Things are quiet at the moment, but things are very tense, no one wants to make a sound and it is dreadful. The silence is downright dreadful, not that it matters because I could not communicate even if I wanted to. My rudimentary skills would not be appreciated at the moment, I am just waiting and listening. Waiting for someone to tell me what to do, listening for inevitable gunfire to erupt. You know how I bake when I am nervous? It sounds so silly but I wish I could bake something right now. Anything to keep the fear away from this small sanctuary. The men are arguing now over something, I think it has to do with us just sitting around. Luckily the women here are talking some bit of sense into them. I keep hearing the words “Jews” and “Nazis” and “death”. Oh, I think they want to banish the Jews from here! Bartholomew! This is such a devastating travesty! They’ve done nothing wrong! I must go now sweetheart. I must do something because things are quickly getting out of hand and I will not allow this to take place, not while I am here. I love you with all my heart, tell our son that I love him too. I will write as soon as I can…

      Love forever, Gracie 

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One doomsday in December.

Authors note: According to some, the world will end next week. I don’t think so, but I can’t stop my imagination from running wild and writing a what-if short story of something crazy taking place. This account of the End of the world need not happen, I hope it doesn’t. But if it does, at least I gave you fair warning. Music to read by: “Seasons in the abyss” by Slayer.

I was eating wonton soup the day the earth moved for the first time. My kitchen resembled a normal size closet, there was a tiny fridge shoved in one corner and I ate my meals on a small plastic table situated along a wall near a cracked window. It overlooked a crowded street with an overgrown park on the opposite side. I had some money but interior decorating was lost on me, I was single and barely home. I couldn’t have cared less. There was always noise outside, but not now. A quiet had come over the city and was followed by screams of terror when the globe shook again. The world was being called to account for its selfishness and I had a nightmarish view.

It’s funny how time slows when a catastrophe is taking place. When monotony is broken and everyday life is in jeopardy, people become animals and no one can stop the carnage that’s left in their path. I witnessed the anarchy, I watched the elderly get crushed in stampedes and the young abandoned by their parents. Material possessions meant nothing now, important schedules weren’t kept, and trivial arguments were forgotten. My own success as a writer was flushed down the toilet. When fire began to rain down from the heavens I was just another terrified man looking for shelter.

I didn’t sleep the night before. I had stayed up intentionally and after midnight, I figured we were safe. There weren’t any bells or whistles, no gongs ushered in the end of the world. I hadn’t seen any angels or demons, no intergalactic battle between aliens and humans, no warning. The end came like a lion stalking its prey, it waited in the brush for a time and then pounced on humanity, tearing it to shreds until it bled out.

I watched a documentary that week on the Mayan civilization and their take on the apocalypse. A reporter interviewed several “professionals” about the subject. All but one laughed at the absurdity. They mocked the signs and disregarded the ancient people. The doctor who voiced his agreement had beady eyes and a pointed nose. He rubbed his hands together nervously and with mock seriousness, told the camera to prepare for destruction beyond the scope of the human imagination.

I had always walked past the lunatics with signs proclaiming the end of the world and wrote them of off as fanatical drunks. But they had been right. The world as we knew it had collapsed and the government could do nothing to save the people. Oh, I am sure they had reserved a nice spot for the president and his staff deep underground somewhere. The rich and famous were sleeping in disaster shelters. But guys like me, well, I never thought much about it. For all intent and purposes, I had made a “disaster” backpack and kept it in my Jeep. It was mostly protein bars, flares, beer and rope.  I figured if the world ended on December 21, I would relax in the park across the street with a beer in one hand, a protein bar in the other, and I would watch asteroids streak across the sky and hurtle into earth.

I am not a violent man but when gunfire could be heard throughout the city, I reached into my closet and pulled out my own shotgun and began loading it with ammunition. The thought of going to a park and getting wasted never crossed my mind and I forgot about my useless survival kit. I was able to run down the emergency stairwell to safety. I wanted to be on ground level and away from tall buildings. I was going to call Audrey but hesitated. We hadn’t spoken since she rejected my offer for marriage three days earlier. I think she was sleeping with her boss and besides, she hadn’t phoned me to see if I was alive.  I let him worry about her.

A group had congregated near the emergency exit behind my building. I knew these people, we had been friends. But like I said earlier, darkness takes over a person’s heart when their own lives are at stake. They talked quickly and interrupted each other, they threatened and cursed. I walked away when I had the first opportunity.

“Could this be it? You said nothing was going to happen!”

“I never thought this shit was true. Hey, Hey! Get away from my car!”

“Has anyone seen Ralph? Poor little thing must be frightened all by himself…”

“I told you to grab more water! What are we going to do with two bottles! Tommy! Yo Tommy! You have to go back for more! ”

“I have some ammo too. I’m not taking any chances. We should take stock of our supplies and lock up tight. Who knows if the earthquakes are over? We need to worry about our own. ”

“Worry about yourselves, that’s what everyone else is doing!”

The crowd hushed when sirens began filling the air with mechanical, bloodcurdling screams. To make matters worse, a foot of snow covered the sidewalks; massive drifts dominated alleyways and intersections. The temperature had dropped below freezing during the night and remained bitter through the better part of the following morning. People prayed and begged for help but nothing could be done.

My friends were sliding on frozen pavement and plunging into the belly of the earth, cries for help could be heard all over, but many were snuffed out quickly. It was a ghastly sight. The news stand attendant met an untimely demise too. He was taking a bite out of a sesame seed bagel when the earth decided to open up and let off steam. The poor bastard tilted backwards with wide eyes and outstretched hands and went to his grave with cream cheese on his face.

The city I loved was completely flattened. Bloody heaps of human remains littered the streets. Billowing clouds of smoke and fire poured from the crust of the earth. Looters wielded bats and took what they could. I watched a man put a bullet in his own head. A young child screamed. The National Guard stood by helplessly while the evil emerged from their holes and took the city hostage.

And then something happened I could not explain.  The hairs on my neck stood up and every sense in my body was heightened. I told myself there was no such thing as ghosts.  But hell taught me a different lesson that day. Before I died, I remembered hearing very loud chanting. I heard ancient whispers echo into my ears. I could hear drums and wooden flutes and when I closed my eyes, I could see Indians dancing around fires.

It was then that I saw spirits exiting the massive cracks in the ground.

At first they were very beautiful, greens and yellows and reds mixed into one trailing wisp of air. The people in the streets could not fathom this phenomenon. They stood and watched and some defecated themselves. Others approached the ghosts in childlike wonder and laughed. The blood in my veins froze as dead warriors started marching forward, their faces melted into horrible masks. They opened their mouths and revealed rotted tongues. I saw the weapons they brandished, I heard them chant one more time, and then everything went black.


Hello Walter, goodbye Jack

Authors note: I love fiction and have been writing a ton of it lately. For some reason I have been sticking with the romance genre. I hope you guys enjoy this short story of life, memories and lost love. Please feel free to leave some comments. Music to read by: “Claire de Lune” by St. Marks philharmonic Orchestra

The old man hobbled softly towards a bench situated along the mighty Atlantic and took a seat. He held a bag of seeds in his left hand and a rolled up newspaper in the other. This is where he had first met her all those years ago, before cancer took her from his arms. God it must have been fifty, no, sixty years ago if it wasn’t a day. He remembered how she looked on that chilly, February afternoon. Her black hair was tucked into her wool collar and she wore a dark green scarf that accentuated her hazel eyes, her cheeks were rose-red from the bitter sting of winter. It had no effect on her personality because her laugh overpowered the noise of crashing waves and pissed off taxi drivers honking their horns in the background.

He removed a handful of bird food and gently threw it on the concrete sidewalk. The pigeons and crows would come, they always did. Food was scarce this time of year, the flying creatures ate whatever was available. They weren’t picky eaters, they were vultures. But he loved them dearly because no one else did.

He sat down and tried to remember what she had worn that day when she came trotting out of the woods like a lost angel. It was a black skirt, he was sure of it, a black skirt and a grey coat with ruffles on the hem. She was wearing red lipstick and brown buckled shoes. She was holding her school books and heading towards some study group he had long forgotten. She was extremely adamant about doing well in school and in the years to come, she pressed him to further his education. He had no use for school, but because she was the reason his heart beat, he wanted to impress her and in the process, become a better man.

Several pigeons made their way over to the stale pellets and decided hunger was the lesser of the two evils.

“BAH!”  The man shouted and swung a leg to scatter the herd. He laughed gingerly at their purple and silver bodies and tossed more feed on the ground with the hope of enticing other species to come and join the feast. He turned around and looked at the park where he had first encountered her. Two giant oaks to the left, a green cresting hill in the center, two more oaks on the right and the small waterfall cascading down the middle of it all. The town had erected a playground near the park’s entrance some years ago but other than that, not much had changed. She loved feeding the birds and in her memory, he made it a daily habit to befriend them.

He exhaled and a puff of smoke jutted out from his wrinkled jaws. It was cold, colder than he remembered and zippered up his fleece to stay away pneumonia. He laughed at the thought of getting sick because at this moment, and at this time, it mattered not.

His life had grown short and he had come up north to visit this special place one last time. He closed his eyes and pictured his darling in his mind. How precious she was to his heart, how beautiful and sweet and unforgettable. The woman had changed his life, gave him meaning and something to take care of. He cared little about himself and could have lived a bachelor’s life. But when he met her and saw the twinkle in her eye, he knew without a shadow of a doubt, this was a once in a lifetime happenstance. Oh how he loved her!

“Hello Jack.”

Jack bowed his head and sighed.

“Hello Walter.”

“What are you doing up here? You promised me you would stay put. What am I going to do with you?” The man with the devious smile questioned him without any emotion whatsoever.

Jack ignored him. He looked back towards the oak trees and tried hard to remember which one they had carved their names into. They were foolish romantics when they were young, and did silly things kids do when they first fall in love.

“Just wanted to get away for a few days, visit the old neighborhood. See some old sights.”

The invisible man sitting next to Jack reached down and grabbed a seed from the ground and popped it into his mouth. The thing pretended to enjoy it and rubbed its’ belly in mock fulfillment.

“I see you’ve chosen the cheap brand this time. I enjoyed the breadcrumbs you wasted last week. Have anymore?”

Jack remained silent as he pictured her ice skating for the very first time. It was their first date and they both had fallen more than once.

“I didn’t come here to feed you Walter. The birds need food this time of year, it’s cold and they have nothing else to eat. Giving food to hungry birds isn’t a waste. But then again you wouldn’t know about compassion, would you?”

Walter tilted his head skyward and chuckled. He was wearing a short sleeve shirt and dark jeans this time. A pair of sunglasses sat tilted on the bridge of his nose and a devilish smile formed on his whiskered face.

“Nonsense Jack, compassion is another flaw in the human species I will never understand. It’s a waste of time and effort and when it’s all said and done, you are deeper into poverty than you were at the start! And all in the name of helping someone else! Come off it old man, there is no room in this world for the likes of you.” Walter said matter-of-factly as he picked at his fingernails.

Jack thought about the day he purchased the ring and asked her to marry him. It was a happy day, a glorious day. She’d put it on her finger with tears streaming down her cheeks, and with quivering lips agreed to become his wife.

“Walter, if it’s all the same to you, can you just shut the fuck up and get on with it? I’ve been listening to your crap for the last seven years and to be perfectly honest, I’m tired of it. I want to see her.” The old man said with little anger and much hope. Her face was becoming much clearer now.

Walter glared towards his prey and took off his glasses, its’ eyes were pitch black with rage.

“So be it.” With one finger, Walter touched Jack on the neck and the lonely old man began to fade into eternity. Seeds fell to the ground and the pigeons began to fill their stomachs.


Trifecta Challenge: Rebel without a cause

The rebellion began once the fuses were set on fire. A great cacophony of explosions invaded the quiet atmosphere and turned the peaceful town into a graveyard. Great and small alike died valiantly.

Trifextra Week: Forty-Four: For the weekend challenge, we’re asking you to write exactly 33 words about rebellion and/or revolt.  Interpret it as you will, just keep it to 33 words.


Trifecta Challenge: Three copper pennies

An old man walked slowly towards the mysterious well. He carried three copper pennies representing three wishes he had been granted. Without her, riches meant nothing. Life empty, love gone, he jumped in.

 

Trifextra: week thirty-eight: write 33 words exactly about three wishes that come at a high price to the wisher.

 


All ye who enter here…

In my mind’s eye I was taken in the spirit down a marble hallway aligned with brass plated elevators. From east to west they stretched for miles, like war horses preparing to march into battle. Only these machines were not for war. How I knew this remained a terrible mystery to me because after all, this was my first time traveling without a body so I had no idea what to expect. I drifted slowly, observing each monstrosity with terror hoping to find some sort of rhyme because reason eluded me. I noticed how there were no buttons to push or numbers illuminated above the brass frames. They stood silent and waiting, ready to open up at the whim of some hidden master engineer. I am sure this person was behind a computer screen watching my every move with laughter etched in an evil grin.

I continued down the corridor made of marble and stopped abruptly as the walls began to come alive. Ivy shoots split through them, sending out long fingers of green talons like asp’s out of nightmarish holes. They crawled upwards and overtook the ceiling with record speed. If it weren’t for the gong I never would have noticed doors opening towards the west. The sound emanating from the invisible instrument echoed down the hallway and rushed past me faster than light and shook whatever innards resided in this hollow thing I called a body. The ivy drifted down from above and struck out at me as if I offended it. Without hesitation I sprinted towards the opening of this great mystery, some black hole I had never imagined, or perhaps, one I never wanted to. Before I reached the cavity in the marble a long hand came forth from its’ empty darkness and beckoned me to take hold. I retracted mine once I touched the icy flesh. Death waited in this pit. Without a word the thing took its’ smoky finger and pressed a button only it could see. When I dared to, I stepped forward and asked this horror what harm it meant to cause me. What vendetta had it meant to fulfill?

I learned quickly this being had no talent for small talk so I remained hushed as we began to ascend. Several moments passed before the number eighteen lit up high above my head. I inquired of this kind spirit if this was the men’s department. Once the doors re-opened he roughly took me by the cloak and flung me out. I landed with a thud in front of two, massive white doors and looked about only to see people running to and fro in hospital scrubs. I came to the conclusion these were busy people. Important people. I remembered the proverbial cat that ventured too close to curiosity but decided to see what was on the other side regardless. I wanted to be with these people. I pulled the silver handle and swung the door wide and entered. A part o has never left.

Naturally all this ranting is nothing more than nonsensical balderdash. Truth based fiction trumped-up several degrees so you can get an idea of what was going through my mind the other day as I watched a family mourn the loss of a loved one. As I watched this sorrow unfold I thought back to the first day I started working in an I.C.U as a nurse assistant. The trepidation I felt on my way up the elevator was palpable because I had never dealt with sick people. I waited like a dope in my green scrubs like I had any inkling as to what the next four years of my life would bring. When I started out I was the man described above; confused, lost, curious, brave, and ready to take on the world.

But now I am tired. I have aged to the point where I don’t recognize the man in the bathroom mirror. I am full of vain answers to those with painful questions. You never realize how absolutely powerless you are until you witness someone dying in front of you. These finite hands of ours can only care so much, our words of comfort can only heal on the surface, our prayers are left in the winds, hoping the Lord leans over and maybe snatches a few out of the air. When you work in an atmosphere filled with suffering, a piece of you dies. When we go home for the night, a part of us stays behind and I don’t know if we ever get it back. But even if we don’t, I believe something else moves in to the vacant spot in our hearts making it whole again. Kindness. Goodness. Mercy. These come back ten-fold when we reach out to the broken. We earn the satisfaction in knowing we helped a fellow human through hard times.  For me, I have learned to perceiver. I am beginning to understand the meaning of not giving up when the going gets tough. This place will break you, yet mold you at the same time into the people we are meant to be. When you stand above someone ready to walk towards the light always remember you are in a privileged position. When they look in your eyes they are counting on seeing someone who cares for them. For many, we are the last people they will see on this earth. As hard as it can be, it is not without honor.

All ye who enter here know this; sorrow will be found behind these doors. But take comfort, we are waiting here to help lift some of the burden. This is what we were made for. This is our testament to life.