The Story Goes On

14th July
2012
written by amber

This is one of my favourite stories to read to an audience. It’s a lot of fun, and has a gun or two.
The Scroll of Jacareacanga

Imagine a circular chamber hewn from ancient rock, without a door. A thin shaft of light dimly illuminates the chamber. Bones of monkeys, lizards and large cats lie in a pile in the middle of the room. Carved heiroglyphs march around the walls.

From above, glowing in the narrow beam of light, a rope appears. It descends, puddles on the floor among the bones, flexes back and forth accompanied by a voice.

The voice says, “I can see the bottom! Eeeu, there’s bones down there. And spiderwebs! Huge spiderwebs!”

The rope jerks more vigorously, then feet appear overhead. Feet in pink flowered gum boots. Feet attached to shapely legs that go on forever. Until they stop at the cuffs of the woman’s shorts.

She’s wearing a climbing harness, descending the rope easily with a simple brake rack. Her waist is thin, her bosom large and generous, her hair a golden blonde mane. When she reaches the bottom, she carefully steps past the pile of bones, batting at skeins of webs crisscrossing the chamber.

“The rope’s all yours,” she shouts into the void above.

After a few moments, a man comes down the rope. His legs are encased in camouflage hip waders. He wears a white short-sleeved shirt with a pocket protector. The thick lenses of his eye glasses magnify his eyes to the size of large eggs, old fashioned large eggs, not the small ones we find in supermarkets now. A garish bicycle helmet is perched atop his unusually large head.

The woman is wriggling in the grip of the webs; she is moaning.

“Come here,” he says, pulling her toward him as he shrugs out of his backpack and removes a futuristic-looking weapon. He shoots flames around the room, incinerating all the spiderwebs.

“Thank you, Evan,” she says, then screams.

From a crack in the chamber’s wall, a spider emerges. A very very large spider.

Evan incinerates it too. “That was regrettable. A wonderful specimen of Araneae Peixoto.  But anything to keep you happy, my dear Mandy.”

She smoothes her hair. “You bet your britches. I’m the one paying for this little expedition. But I don’t see why you forced me to buy these stupid ugly gum boots, and why you’re wearing that fisherman’s condom. It’s dry as a bone in here.”

“This is just the first chamber. We’re going downward from here, along the booby-trapped passage then through an underground river, and last of all we have to figure out the secret code for the final door. Our fun has just begun.”

“And when do we get to the emerald?”

“Oh, that’s in here somewhere. We’ll need it to insert in the door to the booby-trapped passage. According to my notes-” Evan fishes a plastic-wrapped document from his pack and examines it, “-there should be bas-relief carvings of panther-gods on the walls, and the emerald will be hidden behind the testicles of one of them.”

As Mandy begins to dig away at the organs of the ancient sculptures, Evan looks upward, a puzzled expression on his face.

“There’s got to be at least twenty of these stupid cat drawings, and they’re all slimy!” Mandy complains.

“Shhh! I think someone’s coming!”

The rope begins to twitch.

Mandy stamps her feet. “Crap! It must be Faulkland Peary, I didn’t think he’d discover that we snuck out of Manaus last night. What should we do?”

“We’ve got to find that emerald, otherwise this is a dead end trip for us. Literally.”

He steps to the wall, finds the nether region of every cat already excavated. “Mandy, do you have the emerald?”

She hides one hand behind her back, brandishing a small shiny revolver in the other. “Evan, I don’t care about the scrolls of Jaguarkangaroo-”

“Jacareacanga,”

“Whatever. All I want is the emerald.”

He smiles. “Well, you won’t be going up that rope with it, my dear.”

She aims her tiny gun upwards. “You think not? They can only come down one man at a time.”

Evan grabs her by the waist and pulls her against the wall, seconds in advance of a burst of machine gun fire blasting into the chamber. “I’m afraid you’re stuck with me for a while yet. I promise you, Mandy, you can keep the emerald when we’re done. It’s minor. But now we have to get into the booby-trapped passage. Without my notes, Faulkland and his men will perish there.”

Evan scuffs with his feet at the centuries of dust on the chamber floor to reveal a trap door. He grasps the corroded metal handle and opens it to reveal a rock-hewn staircase into deepest darkness. He hands Mandy a flashlight. As she descends, he says “After you, my dear. The door to the booby-trapped passage is at the bottom. Insert your emerald into the mouth of the golden snake. It works by light refracted from the surface, so it needs to be perfectly clean.”

She stops descending and looks up at him, apologetically, as another burst of machine gun fire sprays around the room, puffs of dirt flying up very near to Evan’s feet.

He says, “And I suppose you left fingerprints all over it.”

13th July
2012
written by amber

I Hate Guns

“Try this on for size,” the fellow behind the counter at the sports emporium said.

“Well,” I remarked, reaching out despite my obvious hesitation, “if one is going to enjoy holiday in Texas, why not do as all Texans – maybe all Americans – do and touch a gun?”

He nodded, not sure if I’d just insulted him and his countrymen.

I picked up the gun. I held the gun. I pointed the gun and pretended to pull the trigger.

“Hold on there, little lady,” the fellow said. “Never point a gun like that unless you mean business.”

“Mean business?”

“Mean to shoot something, or somebody. Would you like to try it?”

I put the gun down. “Try what?”

“Shooting her? We’ve got a range in the back.”

I figured he didn’t mean shooting a literal ‘her.’ Guns were female, it seemed. I shook my head to decline the offer. “Oh no, I don’t really believe in guns.”

“Why not, little lady?” He sounded less affable than before.

“I don’t believe in using violence to resolve conflict.” I knew I wasn’t successfully hiding my attitude of superiority.

He frowned, leaning forward. “What if you found yourself caught in one of those situations where a wacko goes postal? If you had a gun, you might be able to defend yourself and others.”

“More likely I’d shoot the wrong person, or myself in the foot,” I laughed, watching him unbend a bit.

“All the more reason to get a feel for it. You never know, you might like it.”

“Well, I plinked cans with my uncle’s 22 when I was ten, and I’ve watched those cop shows on TV – you know, the ones where the female cop turns out to be a dead-eye shot, putting all her bullets in the heart of the paper man-shaped target.”

“You’re a bit tempted, admit it.”

Still, I hesitated. “I’d be wasting your time. You have real customers waiting. I’m just a tourist.”

All the other clerks at the gun counter were busy. The place was hopping.

“Come on,” he wheedled.

“Oh, okay.”

“Do you want to try this one? I don’t think it’s too big for you to handle. Let’s get some bullets for you, then I’ll call Jordan to take you back to the range. But don’t you pick it up until you’re back there, little lady. It is a dangerous weapon.”

Once the bullets were in, Bill stepped up behind me from the spot where he’d been lurking, pretending to look at camo knickknacks.

He took the gun and told the fellow, “This is a hold-up.”

I hate guns. Bill doesn’t.

This is a new story.

12th July
2012
written by amber

Highjack

We’d stopped on an uninhabited planet to stock up on water but before we could take off again, an ungainly contraption of space-worthy alloys, crudely worked metal and even wood galumphed over a hill and was on us before we could get ourselves airborne.

Their weapons were not of the latest vintage, which was our first clue as to how long they’d been stranded on the planet. But weapons are weapons, and we allowed ourselves (our own weapons being foolishly stored in their lockers aboard our ship) to be tied with rough fibrous ropes. My crew and a contingent of the ruffians was left with our ship while I had the unpleasant honour of being conveyed on that rattletrap flying machine which retained scant evidence of its original incarnation as a spaceship.

Their settlement was as haphazard as their vessel. Rough-sawn boards, stretched animal hides, topped with solar sheets and the radio equipment which had no doubt alerted them to our presence. A wooden mast elevated one device to prominence above all else – an ovoid metal egg that I recognized from documentation of the First Keplan War – a cloaking ray. Which was doubtless why we had not detected their presence.

The only planet with water in this forgotten sector. They must have expected rescue much sooner than this. Or possibly they had, in fact, been visited before. Without rescue. Hence their belligerent approach to guarantee our cooperation.

I assured them, “You don’t need the guns and ropes. We won’t leave here without you. The war’s been over for a long long time.” Indeed, very few among them could have been in the original conflict.

As more and more ragged people emerged from the rough shelters, I saw that I had misspoken. Our ship wouldn’t hold that many. But we could take a contingent and send help for the rest. I was about to suggest this when their commander said, “You don’t understand. We’re leaving you here. Just as we were left here five years ago when we came by to perform a mineral survey. And the group who stranded us had answered a distress signal. How you achieve your own escape is no concern of ours.”

This story was inspired by the first line of “Haggle Chips” by Tom Purdom, from Asimov’s, July 2010. I had to jettison the first line, however, as it referred to a very civilized highjack, and mine was far from civilized.

11th July
2012
written by amber

Last summer, I went on an 8 day back-packing trip. I’d written enough stories to have one posted each day in my absence, but my fellow hikers, from Germany and France, knew about my Story 365 project and asked me to tell them a campfire story every night. This is one of the tales I told them, and a gun is part of the story.

Bleached Bones

July 1879

The Englishman was trouble from the start. I knew he would be, even before we left, but some bigwig at the Northwest Trading Company had forced me to take him along on my surveying expedition. The Englishman wanted to take photographs of flowers.

Naturally, he didn’t take to the rough conditions of the trail. He complained that there was no milk for his tea; he complained about the repetitive meals of bannock and rice. When we shot squirrels, he complained about the stew Marie made from them.

The horse boss was especially annoyed with his demands that all his heavy photographic equipment be kept in one pack box even if that made it difficult to balance the load on the horse. The Englishman was brutally critical of the horse boss when six of his photographic plates were broken during a run-away caused by a hornets’ nest.

My two surveying assistants, being young, were impressed with the Englishman at first, his fancy ways and talk of his manor house and all, but they soon saw through him and ridiculed him when we were off surveying and he stayed closer to camp, taking pictures of flowers.

Marie didn’t see through him. She was my woman, I thought, but when I returned after three days away from camp, I found her with him, her head turned by false promises and silly gifts.

George, the horse boss, was beside himself with anger. He told me that Marie was, in fact, his wife, but she had started a love affair with me strictly for the purpose of convincing me to hire them both for the trip.

We were both betrayed; we had both had enough of the Englishman, as had my surveying helpers who discovered he had consumed all their liquor while we’d been away.

We all agreed to kill him and report that he’d died by falling off a cliff. We wrapped his body in canvas and took it to a lonely meadow in a high valley which we’d seen on our surveying trip. A pleasant spot but so remote that no one will ever go there.

July 1979

Joe and me were rebuilding the trail up over Moose Meadow Pass and we dug up these bones. At first we were thinking some kind of animal, but then we saw the skull. It was, like, from a person, and it had two holes in it. Like bullet holes.

Cool, hey?

10th July
2012
written by amber

Pink Gun

The rifle was pink, the girl toting it was tiny, her truck was camouflage and enormous. As she jumped down what had to be five feet from the cab, the muzzle didn’t once waver from its aim at the centre of my chest.

I raised both hands and slowly stepped back from the body on the road.

“Mister, my dog better be okay,” she said.

The dog was tiny. And pink. It panted with shallow breaths, immobile in front of my car. She knelt beside it, one hand on the fluffy body, not once taking her eyes off me.

“I’m sorry, miss. It just ran out in front of me. Is this your house?”

The house was rusty metal, with a tarp on the roof. An ancient, flat-tired travel trailer.

“No way could she get out of that house by herself.”

We both looked toward the screen door banging in the wind.

“No one there to let her out?”

“Booger! You’d better not be in there!” she screeched.

“Do you want me to go check? Or would you rather I called your vet? I’ve got a cell phone.” I reached toward my pocket.

“Keep your hands where I can see them. I don’t think she’s that bad. There isn’t even any blood.”

“Are you sure she’s still breathing? I hit her pretty hard and she’s so small.”

Still the girl’s attention on me didn’t waver, but when she felt the dog’s chest there was no movement, as I’d expected. “Susan! Susan!” she cried, then snatched the limp body up and buried her face in the pink fur.

A moment later she looked up at me, eyes blurred with tears. “Can you help her?” Then she saw my gun. Her own lay forgotten at her side.

“Taffy,” I said, marveling again at the girl having a dog’s name and her dog named Susan, “this is a message for Booger. He’d better pay my boss what he owes him.” And I shot her through her pink cowboy boot.

This is one of the most popular stories from my year of Story 365.

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