Progress Report: July 30, 2021, from Jeff Baker.

Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

Not a lot of progress on the fiction in the last two and a half weeks. Did just about a paragraph on the anthology mystery due October 31st. Started a story on the spur of the moment—wrote about half a page in a store parking lot in longhand in the spiral notebook. And I worked on the columns.

Oh, yes, the columns. I’m writing two columns now. The one on mystery short-stories (for Crippen and Landru) and the monthly column for Queer Sci fi. I’d been having trouble coming up with ideas the last few months so I brainstormed and wound up writing a bunch of columns in the last couple of weeks. About three or four for C & L are mostly done and I finished (or nearly finished) the QSF columns from August through January 2022.

Also, I proofread and tweaked a story I first started (didn’t have an ending) about six years ago. I sent that one off and also sent off a poem that I had forgotten about. I need to send off more poetry: I have a lot of it on file. And I sent off another story I’ve had around. There will be more of that next month when a market I wrote this one story for a year ago opens up—finally!

Whew!

That’s about it for now!

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“When the Wind Blows” for Friday Flash Fics by Jeff Baker (July 30, 2021)

Note: I grabbed the picture for this week from the old Monday Flash Fics page from before I ever started posting there. Thanks to Brigham Vaughn for posting the original picture!

When the Wind Blows the Cradle Will Rock

by Jeff Baker

Agent Shawnna DuQuesnie stared down at the bundle of blankets in the car trunk. She glanced at the device in her hand, looked at the sleeping child wrapped in the blankets, checked the display of the device and glanced over at the group of agents standing by the van in the field in the twilight.

“Um, Paolo, would you come here a minute?” she said, gesturing.

Paolo Silva broke of his conversation and walked over. The other agent, was busy checking something inside the van.

“What’s up?” Paolo asked. “Kid still asleep? No complications with the transfer set-up are there?”

“Not really,” she said. “But see if you read this the way I do.”

She handed Paolo the device, he scrolled through the readout on the screen.

“This…looks…like…noooooo…” Paolo’s voice trailed off. He glanced over at the van.

“We can send the kid back,” Shawnna said. “He wouldn’t remember anything and he’s in the sleep-stasis mode anyway.”

“Yeah,” Paolo said. “Kidnapping kids from the past and ordering the families to pay ransom is one thing, but I never guessed…”

“We’re just lucky there was so much displacement it showed up on our monitors and we caught the guys. So we can return the kids even before any ransom messages could be sent. And he’s the last one.” Shawnna said. “Should we tell him?”

Paolo glanced at the van again. “I don’t think we have any choice,” he said. “This fits into the idea of not being able to change history because it’s already happened. Even going back into the past is a part of history. But we need to be sure.”

Shawnna cleared her throat. “Craig, could you come over here for a minute?”

Agent Craig Fischmann, tall, young and dark haired, filling out his white t-shirt like the field agent who-could-chase-down-bad-guys that he was walked over to the car they’d grabbed from the chronal kidnappers.

“Sure,” Craig said. “What’s up?”

Paolo held up a hand. “Not too close,” he said. “Check him.”

Shawnna held up the device to Craig and swiped the screen with a finger. After a moment she nodded. “It should be okay. Come over here and look in the trunk, but don’t touch anything.”

“Okay.” Craig said quizzical. He stepped over to the trunk and stared down at the sleeping bundle. After a minute he looked up. “I’ve seen that blanket before. A long time ago. It reminds me of the one that…hey…” He broke into a broad grin. “That’s…not me is it?”

“We think so.” Shawnna said. “Where were you when you were four years old?”

“Wow. I grew up in Oklahoma but that was after my folks split when I was five. Before that, I spent a lot of time at my Grandparents in Jersey City.”

“That’s the time/space co-ordinates we have, along with your own bioscan,” Shawnna said. “It’s you.”

“Wow.” Craig breathed again, grabbing the lid of the trunk as he stared down at his sleeping younger self.

“That’s why we have to ask; do you remember anything like this or anything strange happening back in 2067?” Paolo asked.

“No.” Craig said. “But I do remember that blanket. It had been my Mom’s when she was a kid. I loved that thing back then.” He looked up and grinned. “Then I discovered toy trucks and dumped the blanket!”

“So, what happens to him? I mean, me?” Craig asked.

“We send him back, and according to you, nobody will be the wiser.” Shawnna said.

“Wow,” Craig breathed. “Where’s the transfer team?”

“On their way,” Paolo said. “Just in case, you’d better get out of here.”

“Yeah, we don’t want to risk my getting zapped back twenty years when they transfer, well, Little Craig.” Craig said with another grin. “Even though I didn’t feel so much of a twinge of anything unusual over the past few days.”

“We may be worrying over nothing, but we don’t want to take a chance with either of you,” Shawna said.

“Okay. I’m outa here,” Craig said. “Should I take the van?”

“Sure,” Shawna said. “We’ll call when we get Little Craig back to 2067.”

“Great,” Craig said. He looked down at his sleeping younger self. “You have fun now, Kid. Enjoy it all while it’s happening. Childhood doesn’t last.”

Big Craig wandered over to the van as the Transfer Team vehicle pulled up to a corner of the field.

—end—

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“In a Van By the River” for Friday Flash Fics, by Jeff Baker. July 23, 2021

In a Van By the River

by Jeff Baker

Day Three:

It’s evening. It’s beautiful. I can hear the water lapping the bank, if you can call a rice paddy a bank. My ancestors were here over three hundred years ago. They evacuated when the flooding began. Nobody expected it. Nobody expected the waters to recede the way they did either. Something about the Moon being a little off of its orbit and affecting the tides. That may be all bullcrap. Anyway, I’m here now. For a while at least.

Day Five:

Seriously hot today. And the first cloudless day since I got here. Sun could burn the hide right off of you. Glad I got the tent. Sweat a lot but I got to go over my notes. My Great-great-something grandfather’s letters; he was here with the Marinecor I think he called it (I can barely make out his handwriting.) The story, of course, that he met my Great-something grandmother somewhere in this area. She was evacuated and wound up where he was living across the ocean. Nice story, if it’s all true.

Day Six:

For the record, I am, what did they call it “camping,” in a tent when I have a fully stocked van with cooler and all the amenities. I want to get the feel of it, the way people lived back then. I’m cooking the stuff I have here in the cans for dinner. It’s about dusk, the sky is deep blue and I can see the stars coming out. Jupiter is bright and high overhead. The crescent Moon is following the sun behind the horizon.

Day Seven:

My Great-Something Grandfather wrote about this area and because of the Marinecor’s knack for specifics I have the old compass coordinates so I was able to find the same location and even managed to find a few landmarks Great-Something wrote about even after the landscape being underwater for two centuries. He mentioned a cave that had been used as a temple near here. Well, tonight’s dinner is something true to the historic period; a meat-product they called “spang,” if I read the handwriting correctly.

Day Eight:

Did some exploring and decided to carry the heat shield with me. Hell with historical accuracy, it’s hot! I found the hill which was buried in riverbottom mud and dirt and was hidden, until I almost walked off the top of the hill into a gully created in the interim. I think I found the cave opening, but it is too late and I want to be back at my tent before evening. Read some out of an old-style book I bought that mentions some kind of “cult” in the area that the local monks spoke against. Were the monks using the cave as a makeshift temple during the War? I’ll find out.

Day Nine:

Cleared out the opening to the cave today; am filthy. Looks like it was a temple of some sort. Large supporting columns carved with strange symbols. Will investigate tomorrow when it gets light.

Status Report, Year of the Ox:

Tracked subject from abandoned van and tent to cavern locals warn about, why they stay away from area. Local superstition; they believe the old gods brought about the flood and pushed the water back. Found LiOssah. It was his camp-site. Found him at the edge of the cavern. Identified him by his clothing. Flesh torn from body. Bones yellowed at the edges as if they had been dipped in acid and gnawed by giant rats.

Still have not found skull…

—end—

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Didn’t have a clue where this was going until I sat down to write it with only the notion of a diary or journal. The original entry made reference to “Moons,” and it wasn’t to be set on Earth! Maybe I copped-out by giving it a quickie horror story ending. Sharp-eyed readers may catch a description I borrowed from a Lovecraft story. The title was cribbed from Saturday Night Live and the late Chris Farley. —–jsb, July 21, 2021, 2:55a.m.

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“Mystery at Castle Dracula,” Conclusion. Friday Flash Fics, by Jeff Baker, July 16, 2021

Mystery at Castle Dracula, Conclusion

by Jeff Baker

The Story So Far: Vampire hunters Jessie Skedderis and Shawn Rodriguez have traveled to Transylvania, accepting a mysterious invitation at what may be Castle Dracula. But the servant Wilhelm is a real vampire and has grabbed Jessie, demanding that Shawn remove his holy protection against vampires; the Blessed Star of the Kabbalah, and toss it out the window. Shawn reaches under his shirt, pulls the chain off with a painful snap and tosses it out the open window. Leaving him confronting Wilhelm who is holding the muscular Jessie effortlessly with one slender arm…

“I am,” Wilhelm said, “as you may have surmised, not one of those pitiful beings who may not expose themselves to the daylight.” His teeth glistened.

“But you don’t have your full powers until nightfall,” I said, standing by the window, fists clenched.

“He’s got those powers now,” Jessie said, squirming in the vampire’s grip.

“You are, I take it, the real Count Dracula?” I asked.

Wilhelm laughed. “I never even encountered such a person! I am the last of the vampires who have contributed to the legend of the immortal count. The servants here are under my control. It saves money on paying them salary. But my need to feed is real.” He grinned even broader.

I glanced at where Jessie had left the baseball bat. Wilhelm snarled and tossed Jessie aside. I dove, aiming straight at the vampire. I hadn’t expected to be able to tackle him but grabbing him was all I needed. I clung to his waist There was a sizzle and Wilhelm began to smoke where I was holding on to him. There was an unearthly shriek. With one hand, he pushed me away. I landed several feet away on the floor, watching the vampire stare at his smoking hand where he had grabbed me. He stared at me and snarled again. I had never seen a face more monstrous.

There was a loud crack behind him. A shadowy shape leaped out of the darkness of the room. Jessie. With half of the freshly-broken baseball bat which he plunged between the vampire’s shoulder blades. I did not think the vampire’s mouth could open any wider but it did. Teeth. And a gurgle of shock. I raced behind them and picked up the other half of the splintered baseball bat (thank God it was wood) where it had fallen after Jessie had smacked it against the stone corner of the wall. Rushing in front of them, I plunged the jagged end of the broken bat into the vampire’s chest. I expected a howl or rage, but instead there was a long, shrill squeak like the death-rattle of a huge rat.

I reached out and grabbed the vampire’s arm to push him away, and steam rose from where I touched him and his body felt mushy under his shirt. Jessie and I stepped away as the undead thing sagged and fell apart into a sickening gelatinous puddle. We stared, half expecting the puddle to morph back into Wilhelm but it just sat there.

“I’ll get the Holy Water,” Jessie said in a hoarse voice, reaching for the suitcase and the sealed metal vial we’d brought from Rome.

“Don’t use it all,” I said. “We may need it to get out of the castle, but I don’t think the castle staff are vampires. In fact if they were in his power that’s probably gone by now. But bring the bat. What’s left of it.”

I watched as Jessie sprinkled the water from the vial on the mess of clothes and putrescence. When he was done, I grabbed him and held him close.

“You feel good,” Jessie said.

“You do too,” I said.

I held Jessie for another moment. I fingered the rip in my shirtfront and the spot where I had securely taped the Blessed Star of the Kabbalah to my chest, just in case something like this would happen. A risk but worth it.

“Think there’s a motel near here?” Jessie asked.

“Yeah,” I said. “But let’s call a cab and sleep on the train.”

—end—

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Friday Flash Fics, Horror, LGBT, Mystery at Castle Dracula, Short-Stories | 2 Comments

Progress Report; July 13th, 2021 from Jeff Baker

Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

Got some stuff done! Not what I expected to! Wrote one extra column, worked on another and wrote some on four stories and finished another for a market I’d just found out about (wound up about 1400 words) and fired it off before the weekend deadline AND heard back from the market which wants to publish the story! (Royalties, as usual, some day that will pay off!) Also worked off and on at a story I’d been doodling around with since I wrote the title and a couple of lines five years ago. To my surprise I finished the first draft! I have to read over it and tweak it but it should be about ready to send off!

That’s about it for now!

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The Reidels Investigate in “Looking For the Yellow House,” for Friday Flash Fiction by Jeff Baker. July 9, 2021.

Looking For the Yellow House

by Jeff Baker

(A Donna and Sean Reidel Mystery)

“You take that way, I’ll take this way.”

Donna Reidel pointed and her husband Sean nodded. They were tired, hungry and spattered in mud. The last three days they had been threatened, evicted from a hotel room that wasn’t even theirs and shot at.

“Of course, shot at,” Donna thought as she tried the door of the house on the end. It wouldn’t budge. The long row of houses were about the size of tool sheds and had been built in a long row on what looked like a poor man’s version of a boardwalk. But the little seaside town had been hit hard by the economic downturn; shops were closed, even the local school had been shuttered. From a distance, the town looked alive. Lighthouse beckoning ships into a safe harbor. But closer inspection revealed the boarded-up storefronts and the sealed-off door to the lighthouse, which was on automatic. After three days of tracking down leads, all Sean and Donna had found out was that what they were looking for was hidden “in the yellow house” near where the man had been found on the beach, dead. He’d lived here as a kid. Sean and Donna had been hired to find what he had stolen.

They hadn’t even been told exactly what they were looking for. “You’ll know it when you see it.”

Seeing it was the problem. And it didn’t help that the houses had all been repainted so many times that they all had some yellow paint flaking off. Donna and Sean couldn’t break into all of them. Only one house was important enough.

“We may not have time,” Donna said. “But we have to wait.”

It was warm for early spring, but dusk came early. Donna and Sean stayed hidden in the shadows. When it was dark enough

“Funny thing about a beam of light,” Sean said. “In spite of how it’s drawn in the comic books, a beam of light is usually a bluish-white, like the Moon.”

“But not that one,” Donna said, pointing at the lighthouse.

The bright beam that shone out of the lighthouse was a blazing white as it shown over the sea, but when it swung over the town it suddenly angled down and swept the ground of the town, turning a bright yellow.

“A prism,” Donna said.

“Or a busted lens,” Sean said.

“One that he knew about.” Donna said.

The two of them watched the light repeat its track through the town, making sure it followed the same path each time. When they were sure, they went to the one of the small houses the yellow beam had lighted on and after a few minutes of lock picking were inside. The small room had a painted-over window and a small cot. On the cot was a brown envelope, In the beam of the Reidel’s flashlight, the envelope practically glistened like gold compared to the rest of the furnishings of the dingy room.

—end—

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Battle Crime With The Dustman! Flash Fiction Draw Challenge Story for July, 2021 from Jeff Baker. July 7th, 2021.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The draws for this month’s Flash Fiction Draw Challenge (Thank you, Jeffrey Ricker!) were a comedy set in a car trunk involving a vacuum cleaner. I’ve used a lot of song titles as story titles but I never thought I’d use this one (changing one word!)—jsb 7/7/21

My Old Man’s The Dustman

by Jeff Baker

I adjusted my mask, pushed my helmet down on my head and ran down the row of parked cars in the mall parking lot.

“Pop!” I called out. “Pop!” I wished the noises from the highway weren’t so loud. Then I thought I heard it: a muffled noise.

“Pop?” I moved closer to the sound, a beat-up looking Chevy. I looked in the window. Nope. I caught a glance of myself in the reflection in the car window. Striped trunks, green cape, a stylized letter “D” on my shirt. Pop was the superhero with the powers. Me, I was an unwilling sidekick. Besides I had a business degree. I only helped Pop, a.k.a. The Dustman out when I was between jobs.

And now, he needed my help. Being able to turn into a stream of sentient dust wasn’t much of a power but it meant that he could filter himself anywhere. Last I heard, he was following some bad guy who called himself Kettleman. As long as nobody called me Dustboy. I was 27 and had my own portfolio with an IRA.

This time I heard it clearly; a thump from the rear of the Chevy.

“Pop?” I called.

“In here,” came the faint voice.

“Well, dust out of there,” I said. “Maybe you can’t fit through the lid but there’s got to be a little opening somewhere.”

“I’m already dust,” came the voice. “I’m stuck in here, pop the trunk and get me out!”

I didn’t know how Pop could talk when he was dust, but I was just glad his super outfit dusted with him so he wasn’t naked all the time.

“Captain Kettle or whatever he called himself had a vacuum cleaner,” the voice said. “I’m in that.”

My Pop was trapped. Inside a car trunk. Inside a vacuum cleaner. And this was a guy who’d saved the world with the Crisis Squad. I started laughing. I couldn’t help myself. I got a hold of myself.

“Okay, Pop, what do I do?” I asked.

“Break in the trunk and get me out!” Pop said.

“With what?” I asked. “I don’t carry a crowbar on this silly outfit!”

“Then, break into the car!”

“Hey, I don’t want to get a criminal record!” I protested. “You need a burglar, not an accountant! Hey, wait…”

I was looking through the car window, wondering if I could use a coat hanger. It was an old car, but then I had a hunch.

I tried the door handle.

Bingo! It opened. A minute’s fumbling under the dashboard and I found the lever that popped open the trunk. I was amazed this genius hadn’t left his keys in the ignition. I grabbed the hand vac out of the trunk and pulled it open. A cascade of greenish dust spewed out over me and the ground. I sneezed.

Another moment and the dust whirled itself into my Pop.

“Just like ‘I Dream of Jeannie,’” I said. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” my Pop, Dustman said. “How ‘bout you?”

“Fine.” I said. “Where’s this Kettledrum bozo?”

“In the mall paying a bill. Wanna help me get him?”

“Sure!” I said.

Pop grinned. “Okay, Dustboy, let’s get to it!”

My Pop and I ran towards the entrance, and I didn’t feel ridiculous at all.

—end—

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Monthly Flash Fiction Draw Challenge, Short-Stories | 1 Comment

Progress Report, July 6th, 2021. From Jeff Baker.

Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

Surprised myself by finishing and revising two (count ’em, two!!!) full-length short-stories and fired them off to their respective markets. One being the Saturday Evening Post (Fingers crossed!)

Also worked on a couple of the Flash Fiction stories, and finished one a few minutes ago!

I also need to proofread a couple of columns and work up the monthly Flash Fiction Draw Challenge story for July (which I’d forgotten about!)

Lots of parentheses!

That’s about it for now!

———–jsb, July 6th, 2021, 3:50am.

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Something Is Up in Barracuda Flats, for Friday Flash Fics, July 2, 2021 by Jeff Baker.

Something Up in Barracuda Flats

by Jeff Baker

I inhaled on the cheroot and blew the smoke out the open train window. I stared at the scenery. “Travel” certainly came from “travail,” no doubt about it. I’d had easier rides on horses.

A conductor stuck his head through the door of the train car.

“It’s up ahead, Mr. Murdoch. We’ll be slowing down as soon as we cross the bridge.”

Great. I grabbed my bedroll and headed towards the door. I stood on the platform as the train clackety-clacked across the bridge. Sure enough, the train began to slow down, but not as fast as I’d expected. Well, it was now or never.

I took a breath, gripped the bedroll and jumped. I hit the hillside and rolled in the tall grass. The bedroll helped break my fall, but not by much. I stopped rolling against a bush. If it started burning I could use a message. But never mind. It had worked. I was in and nobody saw me jump off the train.

I ran down the hill, keeping low. The ranch was on the other side of the hill. It was a long walk but I’d get there.

Despite the hills, the place was called Barracuda Flats. I’d gotten a message a few months ago from somebody I used to know who worked there as a ranch hand; the owner, Brewster, who I’d known during the War had run to Mexico. Brewster didn’t have any family and the new owners were claiming to be his nephews. Brewster had been an orphan. He’d joked about that years ago. The new owners kept a tight rein on the hands who were still there. I pulled out my watch and checked. 4:00p.m. The Sun would set soon. I had an appointment at midnight.

In the starry dark I could see the huge tree at the edge of the ranch property. It was, I heard, a local landmark. I crept up closely. It was midnight. I was supposed to meet Old Griggs, the ranch hand. I wandered around the tree. No sign of Griggs. Or anybody. I thought of calling his name. Then:

“Mr. Murdoch. About time.”

I spun around. Then I heard a whistle. I looked up. In the dim starlight, I could make out a face surrounded by a frizz of white hair. Griggs. In the tree.

“Didn’t want to be seen,” he said. When I’d last met him Griggs had been the age I was now; fifty-six. Now he looked ancient, like some gnarled being from folklore who would blend in with the tree. I jumped, grabbed a branch and pulled myself up where we were concealed by the leaves in the night.

I’m glad you came,” Griggs said. “Something bad happened to Mr. Brewster. And these new people, they’re up to something strange. Something bad.”

“Brewster didn’t run off to Mexico?” I asked.

“No. I dunno where he is. These new people, they have us tend to the cattle but they cleared out the old pens and they’re building…something. Something a good God wouldn’t want built on his green Earth.”

“What’s this something?” I asked.

“You need to see it,” Griggs said. “You have a place to stay?”

I nodded. I had my bedroll and there was water on the other side of the hill. Or I could sleep in this tree.

“Come down to the house right around dawn,” Griggs said. “These people aren’t real ranchers. They sleep in. You can see the thing.”

I thought about sleeping on the other side of the hill where I’d be out of sight from the ranch. Instead I stayed awake hidden in the tree all night, glad I’d slept on the train. The next morning, before dawn, I crept out to the ranch. A ranch without a lot of activity around dawn didn’t seem real somehow. I followed Griggs’ directions and found myself by a fence toward the back of one of the buildings, a building that used to house cattle.

I stared at where the pens had been. Instead, there was a wood and steel framework that reminded me of a catapult we’d rigged-up during the War. But there was no spring that I could see. Instead, it seemed like a support for a large metal rod that glistened in the sunlight and was angled so it was pointing just above the horizon, like a spear. I looked more closely; the tip of the spear was translucent and was gleaming from the inside like a lantern.

—end—

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Don’t have any idea where this is going! I’d been watching a few old Westerns on cable and I’d just finished writing a longer western story. I’ll write more on this some other day; I hadn’t planned on this going into steampunk territory but it may be doing that! I hadn’t planned on doing another serial story here either! By my count I have four official serial stories going, not counting series characters in short-stories! ——jsb, June 30, ‘21

Posted in Fiction, Friday Flash Fics, Historical Fiction, Science Fiction, Short-Stories, Steampunk, Western | 3 Comments

“Moon Take Thy Flight” for Friday Flash Fics by Jeff Baker, June 25, 2021.

Moon Take Thy Flight

by Jeff Baker

(A Demeter’s Bar Story)

“I’ve been to the Moon, you know,” the old man sitting at the bar said sipping a whiskey.

Even for Demeter’s Bar that was an off-the-wall statement. Zack, the cute bartender with the long red hair glanced to the side and saw the television, hung next to the month’s poster of a hunky guy in skimpy swim trunks, showing a documentary about the Moon landing. He tried to remember all the astronauts he’d seen pictures of and figure if this white-haired old man was one of them. He didn’t recognize him, though.

“Hey, Mister R,” came a voice from the back booth. “Tell us how you made it up there again.”

The man at the bar waved for a refill and started in.

I was a young Air Force flier in 1959 (the man said.) when I received a communique to report to an office in the Pentagon. I was stationed at a base near D.C., and was told to just drive my car up there as if I was delivering something. When I got to the Pentagon I was quickly whisked to a basement office. In the large room I saw two generals and a figure in a blue suit who I recognized; the Vice President!

After some formal greetings, I was told that they had been keeping up on “my progress” and that I had been selected for a special and very secret mission. I would be piloting an experimental spacecraft in just a few days to the Moon!

I did not know what to say or believe. This was the tail end of the Fifties, remember, and President Kennedy and his pledge to land a man on the Moon were still two years away. Moon flights were the stuff of comic books and movies. And in those days, if they asked you didn’t tell. But I was told that I would not even be the first man on the Moon. The craft I would be flying, the Verne I they called it, was small and sleek like a fighter jet with a bay beneath. It was a sophisticated craft and it would take off like a jet, fly at an angle until it reached the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere. Then it would switch to automatic but still needed a pilot there or it would not be able to either take off or land.

I asked how long we had possessed such technology and how long we intended keeping it a secret, since this was beyond anything the Russians were supposed to have and anything we had. That question was not answered. Instead, I was informed that I would be taking a passenger.

“A co-Pilot,’ I said.

No, this was a passenger, I was told. In fact I would be dropping the passenger off on the Moon!

I had a million questions and was told to ask none of them. I was led from the room and driven to an airfield far out of the Capitol. I was told that the craft would not show up on any known radar and that I would be flying at night. And that my passenger would be traveling in the cargo bay beneath me. The Verne I (as they called it) would pass for a fighter jet at first glance or from a distance. I went into the cockpit to familiarize myself with the controls and got a shock; There was a standard set of aircraft controls to one side and a panel with lights and a small screen on the other side. There was a row of symbols above the lights that looked like no language I had ever seen. I was told that my test flight would be the flight to the Moon and that my passenger would be traveling in the cargo bay!

Two days later, just after one in the morning I entered the cockpit, attired in the usual flight suit instead of some pressure suit, which I was told would not be necessary. A few minutes later, the Verne I made a noise like air escaping from a hot air balloon and rose from the ground, aiming for the Moon and suddenly taking off at an incredible speed! To my astonishment I felt no G-forces, none of the familiar sensations associated with jet travel. Even more astounding was that as soon as we cleared the Earth’s atmosphere the speed increased so in less than a half-hour we were in orbit around the Moon. I saw the grey-blue-white of the day side speed past me and then we were over the dark side of the Moon. I could make out craters and mountains in the near-darkness as the craft slowed down and came in for a landing near the dark bulk of a Lunar mountain range.

I sat there and listened. For the duration of the flight, I had been unaware of my passenger, but now I heard a clunking and clanging beneath me as if someone was walking in metal boots. The craft shuddered and I heard the hiss of escaping air in the bay beneath me and in another moment I felt another vibration as (I assumed) the bay doors closed again. I heard the very definite hiss of tanks filling the bay up with air. I had looked around; there was seemingly no way to get into the bay from the cockpit. Through the cockpit window I could see the Lunar surface lit by the stars.

I stared. In the dim starlight I saw a lithe figure wearing some sort of spacesuit walking away from me. I could make out that the suit was the same gray as the Moon, and the helmet had an opaque panel at front, preventing me from seeing my passenger’s face. The figure stopped and turned and waved with an arm over it’s head. Then it turned and resumed walking towards the mountain. In another moment the lights on the panel flashed a pattern and the ship rose into the air and turned heading towards the Moon’s horizon. For an instant I could see the scene from above and caught a glimpse of a tower in the middle of the mountain range, a tower that looked man-made. I was convinced that the craft was not of Terrestrial origin, something that I felt confirmed when the Verne I landed at the airfield in the dead of night and I was greeted by a small group of military brass, including the Vice-President. (“The President wanted to be here, but he was detained,” he explained.) I was detailing what happened to the brass and the Vice-President had said something about the beginning of interstellar relations when I heard what sounded like a loud yawn and looked behind me as the Verne I shuddered, folded in on itself and crumbled to powder which blew away.

I was sworn to secrecy, so my commendation was unofficial. And I never told anyone, not during two tours of Vietnam and all the years that followed. I never heard another word about the extraterrestrial craft of, what I assumed to be, the alien base on the Moon. But I did notice that none of the subsequent official Moon landings went anywhere near the mountain with it’s tower and unfathomable secrets.

Mr. R finished his story, took a final sip of his whiskey and stepped off the bar stool.

“Which is probably good because after all these years, I don’t think we are ready for those secrets yet,” he said sticking a few dollars in the tip jar.

“Hey,” came the voice from the booth. “If you really went to the moon, did you get a Moon rock or something?”

“Not anything,” he said. “Just the knowledge that I had done something which may benefit our country, or rather, our planet someday. You see, I doubt that whatever base was up there is still there. But they may be back and if they come back they know us. And I hope they saw us at our best.”

—end—

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I had to visit Demeter’s Bar to celebrate my fifth anniversary of doing these Flash stories. I’d published a couple of Demeter’s Bar stories in anthologies before I started writing some of them here. —-jsb

Posted in Demeter's Bar, Fiction, Friday Flash Fics, Moon, Science Fiction, Short-Stories | 3 Comments