Hic Sunt Deos

Here Be Gods

Category: My Stories

Once Upon A Lane – Available Now!

There once was a lane, filled with well-tended lawns and well-fostered friendships, of well-appointed houses all neat and tidy and those that live within, of stories and mysteries that manifest for only fleeting moments for the few who pay attention. This is one such tale. A tale about pleasant people, about the lives they live, about their wants and dreams, about their loves and losses, their joys and hates, about their days and nights in the company of cherished companions in the houses they call home. It is a dance between tears and joy, of young and old, of hopes and fears, of knowns and unknowns, of those who have yet to live and those who never have. In this tale of the happy little lives of blissful simple folk, there are monsters, to be sure. But this is not the story of monsters, this is not the tale of their evil deeds, this is the tale of those they make suffer. In this tale, the monsters have no names. The monsters do not deserve names.

A character driven slice-of-life story that follows the humble lives of the residents of a suburban neighborhood as they live and love, and about the house with the dead yard, a vacant lot, that sits among their homes, inert and immobile, yet intimidating and terrifying to any who look at it too long. The children of the lane are not the only ones who are fearful of the anomaly in their midst. Every adult upon the lane wonders why the structure still stands, with no known owner and no reason to be. The lingering question is not who owns the house, but why no one ever goes in or comes out, and why there are such ghastly noises emanating from within. Day by day, the happy people of the lane go about their tasks and trials, and day by day, the house with the dead yard seems a little more ominous, a little more intrusive, and a little less ignorable than before.

Available now at your favorite online marketplaces:

Once Upon A Lane at Amazon

Once Upon A Lane at Smashwords

Once Upon A Lane at Barnes & Noble

Also available in the iTunes App Book Store

Once Upon A Lane – Coming Soon

There was a hollow in the center of the bushes that lined most of the back fence that connected from bush to bush, and here was the favorite hideout of the youngest Murphy boy and Bobby. It was here that they planned their adventures, it was here that they hid their treasures, and it was here, in the hidden hollow, that they sought refuge from the adults who did not care for their childish escapades. The birds and squirrels had long ago ceded the whole hedge to the two boys. This was their refuge and their fortress. The bushes had served duty as a pirate ship, a castle, an underground cavern, a courtroom, a spaceship, and at all times a tunnel into another world that only they could see and visit.

Once secure in their hide-away, the youngest Murphy boy and Bobby chattered away in whispers, lest they be heard by their imagined pursuer, whispers far too loud to be stealthy, but quiet enough that none listening could possibly discern anything meaningful. Not that they discussed anything meaningful to anyone else, as they excitedly retold the events they had just experienced, misremembering and embellishing every detail, until their latest amusement was of the greatest magnitude with the highest of stakes and the fraughtest of perils. The erstwhile neighbor they had forayed against became a terrible dragon whom they had vanquished with a mighty spell, which happened to take the form of a water balloon, atop a high mountain in the forests of suburbia. Even woeful Leo Tuttle was transformed in their retelling into a mighty guardian troll they had deftly flanked as they crossed a rickety bridge spanning a yawning chasm without bottom that still somehow held a fearsome river filled with piranha and lava at the same time.

The boys stopped their narrative dialogue suddenly when they heard a creak and scrape of wood from the fence next to the hedge. There was only silence, as much as there ever is silence in a world filled with birds and insects and squirrels and other varieties of life. The two boys held their breath and listened intently, suddenly wholly convinced that they had been found out and their secret lair was about to be exposed to the world at last. Long moments of tension and worry held them captive, but the sound did not repeat. Finally, when they could hold neither their breath nor their tongues any longer, they burst into a frenetic whispered debate as to what had caused the sound or if they had heard any sound at all. They came to the mutual conclusion that they had imagined it, then subsequently decided that they had hidden long enough and the world outside was safe once more, so they peaked out of their hole in the bush before creeping out into Liola’s back yard.

Laughing and chattering once more, the pair dashed around the house, not hearing the boards behind their hideaway creak and scrape once more….

 

Excerpt from my upcoming novel, Once Upon A Lane, available soon in your favorite online marketplace.

The Family Curse

When I was a young man, my uncle summoned me, much as I have summoned you today. I went to my uncle, for I was his favorite, indeed I was the only member of the family he spoke with at the time. I found him in the care of nurses, for his health was failing him rapidly. I was conducted into his presence and sat beside him that I might comfort him as he faced the inevitable. He had a crazed look about him, as if he were a man hunted, haunted, hounded by some rapacious and ravenous specter of the past. It was a look I was all too familiar with. Yet, I sat, silently, as he stared frightfully about, looking every which way for some menacing mirage that was all too real to his addled mind. He muttered every now and then, words of nonsense and words of curse, both as meaningless to me as they were purposeful to him. Perhaps they were some form of ward against the coming darkness, some manner of staving off that which all men must meet. However, I knew this was not the truth of it. No, his demons were not of his destiny, but of his antiquity, his madness a malicious and avaricious malady that had grown throughout his life until the man before me had been reduced to grasping at the folds of his robe and the arms of the chair in which he sat, seeking refuge in ephemeral reality from the ethereal nightmare that had been his beleaguered life.

 

While I watched, entranced, his face contorted through fears and emotions as he wrestled with his fading consciousness in order to bring forth some manner of words as to why he had summoned me. At long last, he was able to triumph over his diminishing faculties and while staring deep into my eyes he spoke in a voice both weary and frenzied, “Beware, your father! He is plotting against you even now!”

 

My shock at this pronouncement must not have been evident, or he was no longer capable of discerning such, as a smile of contentment struggled onto his lips as the rest of his visage was a war of other conflicting emotions. However, I could not let it rest at that. I loved my uncle dearly, I was the only one who had loved him in his later years as he descended into his madness. It was not in my nature to hate, but more than that, I pitied the man, for I knew what ailed him, and I feared it. I had to try, one final time, to reason with him, to try to unravel the perplexing animosity he held for our family, and my dear father in particular. Reaching out, I took up his feeble sweaty hand, stealing myself against the chill of his skin, and held it firmly as he instinctively jerked back. The contact had crystallized his face momentarily into a terrible countenance of horror, but that passed as his fond memories of me regained control of his dwindling sensibilities. I spoke, and his gaze snapped from my hand on his to my face. “Dear uncle, why do you say these things about my father, who has ever treated me, and you, with the utmost compassion? What makes you pronounce these heinous charges against your own blood?”

 

Anger now gripped him, and he snarled at me, not in hostility or contempt, but in frustration, as he always did when I rejected his guidance, and he launched fervently into an impassioned diatribe of all the past sins and wrongdoings of his loving sibling, many of them imagined, and most of the rest hyperbolic confoundments of minor slights long forgotten by all but him. He detailed, as he always did, in ever more elaborate invectives, how every possible misfortune was ultimately the consequence of some intricate machination of my father, or occasionally my brothers or some other more distant member of the family. He delved bitterly into long bygone family history of relations long since departed, many before my own time, and how most or all of them had long been plotting against him. I had heard it all before, far too often in fact, which is why I was able to recognize his usual harangue, his tiresome denunciations and accusations against kith and kin, from the babbling sounds that dribbled from his slackening mouth, his words rapidly degrading into a series of zealous noises that few could hope to comprehend. As his capacity for speech deserted him, his animosity swelled, and in the end, as the light faded from his eyes, the malice never left them, and his lifeless husk held fast the hatred which had so defined his sorrowful existence. In the end his demons had consumed him, his animus giving life to naught but antagonism and petty jealousies that had plagued our family incessantly for the majority of his life.

 

You may ask, as well you should, why did I hold such fondness for a man such as this, a man so animated with antipathy toward all others I held dear? I could not help but consider him with sympathy and compassion, for he held the family curse. In the depths of his delusions, he had long ago given leave to reason, he had long since surrendered to paranoia. You see, my father, whom I loved, had died decades before my uncle, yet still the surviving brother blamed the other for every ill that befell him. Indeed, eventually my uncle stopped believing my father was dead, and suspected his hand in every action against him, saw him around every corner, bedeviling his every enterprise. It mattered not what was real, it mattered little how many times I tried to convince him of the truth, all that mattered was his deep seated animosity toward his sibling, and his twisted logic that set all of his ills at the feet of his supposed adversary, and by extension all of the rest of his family, save me.

 

Yes, this was a family curse. My ancestors have struggled time and again with a particular family member, always male, who turns to this poisonous madness as his life progresses, a madness that turns that man into the bitterest of enemies toward almost all of his family, but always in particular against his brother, always his brother most of all. Again and again, throughout the ages, the madness seizes upon the hapless fellow, and he descends into obsession and specious judgment. The family is helpless to prevent it, try as they might, and some diligently attempted to forestall their beloved sons from spiraling into neurosis. Yet, without fail, it recurs again and again, every second generation. My uncle was the last. The next would be of your generation.

 

You see now, why I called you here, why I am telling you of our family curse. No, it is not what you think. It is not your brother who is falling prey to the madness. No, I’m afraid it is you. I know, you think it is your brother, and in the coming years, you will think everything is because of your brother, but it is not, and it never will be. It pains me beyond what mere words can convey to have to tell you, my dear nephew, that you are doomed to fall into an inescapable insanity, one in which you will fear and hate all those you love so dearly. I have seen the signs already, and they are unmistakable. Even now, I can see the apprehension in your eyes, the doubt and the paranoia starting to take hold. You are questioning, now, every word I tell you, as your mind tries to excuse all of the symptoms you yourself have noticed recently, as you try to explain to yourself how none of these are your fault, and all your suspicions about yourself are unfounded while all your fears about us are true.

 

There is no escape, I am sad to say, and even now my warning is too late. I should have told you long ago. But even then, would it have helped? Could this have been abated if you had known before the malady had manifested? I do not know, nor can we ever know. No, I’m afraid it is far too late, my warning far too little, and your future far too predictable. Farewell, dear nephew. Please try to remember me fondly, even as the mania sets in. Please try to recall that I tried to stave off your fate, as vain as my attempt was. Farewell, and may you know happiness in the next life, if not in this.

A Word

In the waning years of the galactic Empire of Man, in a remote archival station on a distant mining planet, a young bureaucrat, twelfth level, rediscovered a word. A single word of power and importance such that it had been removed with great passion by fire and death from human memory over the course of several millennia.

When the great and bloated departments of the Government of Man decayed from within and broke into more primitive forms of tribalistic territorialism, when the Empire ever more irreversibly cascaded from de facto to de jure then through nomine tenus, finally coming to rest in memoriam, the young bureaucrat, twelfth level, learned the word. Spreading it to others he knew and trusted, he soon encountered resistance to its very existence. This did not deter him, as the resistance was sparse and unorganized, as those offering it were much more thoroughly occupied trying to not lose their heads in the midst of the empire’s collapse.

As such, the ranks of the adherents to the word of power quickly swelled, as they latched onto what appeared to be a growing movement of strength in the face of looming chaos and hardship. Many of these new recruits had little understanding of the true meaning of the word, having never encountered it or its fruits in their short lifetimes. Thus lacking a reference to guide them, they often engaged in actions in direct opposition to the true meaning of the word. Yet, even these well-intentioned fumblings added to the power of the word, as their actions served to draw more attention to the word and thus bolstered their numbers against the now strengthening resistance to its return to the course of human events. This resistance was most readily embraced by those who had most directly benefited from the old order, as well as those factions rising up to take its place.

Violence inevitably broke out between these two sides, and the young discoverer perished while championing the word to his followers. The passion with which these same disciples struck back shocked any who observed it. Simple brutality and skirmishes escalated almost instantly into pitched warfare, as both sides elected martyrs and heroes from amongst their own ranks and those of their opponents. Soon, those factions previously not aligned with either side found themselves swept along into the heightening conflict, as the forces of the word and the forces who wished the word had remained forgotten turned world after world into a battlefield on which they tried their best to obliterate their enemies.

As their vague causes turned into far more single-minded crusades, logic and wisdom fled before the unforgiving warzone, seamlessly replaced by fanatical devotion and sacrifice. Those that dared question the intent of their leaders suffered for their lack of faith in manners designed to dissuade others from following suite. Even the higher orders of those who followed the word with blind loyalty dared not speculate on the actual meaning of the word itself, as to do so would be to challenge the now certain interpretation of the word as a weapon uniting them against their foes. So it was that the intent of the word was lost in the swelling wave of its standard bearers.

Eventually, many centuries of bloodshed and destruction later, with their grand civilization, that had taken millenia to build up, in ruins about them, finally those few who remained who were capable of research began investigating this cursed word, disregarding the still not inconsiderable danger this presented to their persons. Against the condemnation of the established priesthood of the word, these rogue scholars presented their findings to the galaxy. The uproar of anger against those who had so fervently co-opted the word for the exact opposite of its defined purpose made short work of the remaining forces of the word. The equally exhausted opposition forces stood little chance of resisting the populist groundswell of the common people, who had tired of both factions long ago as their loved ones died for causes that ultimately meant nothing and served no purpose other than to kill the opposing side.

While this final tumultuous upheaval against the dying movements which had drug mankind back down into destitution ran its course, smaller regional governments began to form, applying the word in its true form to their governance, finding success as they did so. Peace returned as the word of power finally took hold. Mankind recovered gradually, rebuilding what the oppressive empire had so methodically erected before, this time in more gentle and natural forms. And so it was that a word so long obliterated from human memory realized its power to alleviate misery and ignorance wherever it was spoken with understanding and without fear of the consequences.

Once again mankind embraced the word ‘freedom’.

A Brief History of Thought – A Short Story

When the world first asked, “Why?”, it was barely in its inception, newly wrought from the flames of creation. Yet even then men stood up and inquired amongst them, “For what purpose are we here? If all eventually fades, why do we be?” It was from this first thought that myriad lines of questioning arose to confound each other and divide mankind into many divergent camps, all despite the driving central question being the same throughout. It was not enough for any that they had found an answer they believed in, they felt it necessary to prove the others wrong, or at least vulnerable to steel.

Into this maelstrom of bickering ideologies, a few attempted to extricate themselves of the issue entirely by asking “How did we come into being? The why will be answered by the how, surely.” These dedicated themselves to observation and reasoning, and yet even these, once they had reached conclusions in their varied methodologies, decided that the others were wholly inept and had to be ridiculed or even persecuted for this. The argument was born, which in turn spawned more than enough stupidity to reverse all of the previously achieved observations and reasoning.

From this stupidity, many emerged wondering, “When and Where are we then? Surely these must be relevant to the other questions!” Which of course, they were not. The less said of these people the better.

Finally, from the chaos of human reasoning arose those who finally realized the central question of their existence. These chose finally to question, “What are we? What makes us able to ask these other confrontational and unsolvable questions? What are we that we can make war on each other over concepts and theories?” These did much thinking and pondering on this subject. There was, of course, only one probable conclusion that they could come to, and this in itself answered the other questions entirely, if not entirely satisfactorily for the others. The answer, you see, was “We are an anomaly.”

With that, the others set upon the ‘What’s and committed many a justifiable anomaly.

Chai – A Short Story

I was sipping on some tea when I woke up to realize that I was not in the time I imagined I was. That is to say, I realized there was the distinct possibility that I had already woken up at least once already that day, or would in the very near future, at the very least. It was with this rather disturbing, if familiar, realization that I woke up and began searching for the beginning of this most troubling day.

It all started with some chai. Now chai is a particular invention that comes in as many variations as you can tolerate imagining, and appeals to almost as many people for exactly those reasons. I like it because it is, or so I have been told by those who have bothered to notice.

This particular chai was angry. What it was upset about I still have yet to fully understand, but it was indeed perturbed, and was doing its best to make my stomach of the same mind. Needless to say, an angry stomach can ruin the best of days, and I was in no mood to experience such, so I blinked and decided not to drink the chai in the first place. Then I blinked because I had not yet drunk the chai, and was understandably confused as to why, seeing as my stomach had just protested my having done so.

It was at this point that the chai unmade itself and I lost track of what I had done at any exact point of time. So I woke up. Except, I had not yet gone to sleep, or rather had, but was still sleeping, all at the same time.

Incidentally, at some point, I managed to write a working program. Normally this would be of no relevant interest in an increasingly bizarre and interesting day, except that this program survived the experience and is currently working quite well. Nothing else did.

Anyway, it was around the time I woke up for the infinite plus first time when I decided that this was no way to spend my day, and so I woke up again and set about finding a way to reestablish some semblance of order to the events I was experiencing. I settled on a plan of action and woke up again to discover that I had not yet set about creating my plan yet. I am not certain, but I believe I uttered some rather nasty things about time’s mother at this point. When no response presented itself, I assumed that time or its mother had to have heard me and contented myself with this knowledge as I woke up again.

I finally realized my problems maintaining any temporal frame of reference first began with my upset stomach and my wish that I had not imbibed my morning chai. And so I woke up again and set about making my chai.

After the infinite minus first attempt, I was finally able to drink my beverage, and suddenly, it was night, the day had passed, I had a working program, and my stomach was angry at me. I ignored it.

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