Highjump (excerpt from a work in progress)

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The skiplane landed first needing the room on the snow while the helicopter floated to the surface with a gentle thump. The slow rotation of the Sikorsky’s main rotor the only sound which could be heard either close at hand or in the far off distance. Even my own breath seemed to die as soon as it left my mouth. It was an eerie sort of tranquility. I felt like prey even though no predator could be detected.

Where was the crew? The first noticeable thing was the utter lack of motion from the stricken plane. There was absolute stillness about the scene. The air is so brittle it could snap from our hails as we approached. The radio silence was eerie enough, this lack of human response caused a dread to creep down my spine, as spider carefully leaving a trail of silk.

When we pulled the hatch none of us were prepared for what greeted us. In the dim wintry light of the interior, the crew was utterly still and more than slightly frozen. They could only have been dead for hours. At first glance, the cause isn’t apparent but the chances of them all dying being natural, even in this harsh and unforgiving environment, are remote.

The navigator and radio operator were at their stations. The rest spread along the floor of the cabin, as if in repose. Their still forms perfect in every way.

The mechanics began their inspection of the aircraft, quickly locating the broken line. A repair of this nature under ideal hangar conditions would take three to four hours. This was less than ideal. If the weather held, the crew chief estimated this could easily be a 12-hour job.

We set up under the tent pulled from the stranded crafts emergency stores and unloaded the tools and parts needed for repair. The skiplane is capable of carrying ten passengers. It had carried six, four mechanics and two medics plus tools and supplies to the location of the ill-fated flight. The Norseman would ferry six of the ill-fated crew on its return to Little America. The S-52 would carry the other four. A new crew would return on the Norseman to pilot the aircraft once it was repaired.

The medics performed a cursory exam of the crew as the bodies were evacuated to the skiplane. While evacuating Reeves body, his nickname had been Curly because of his premature bald spot, a small hole was found in the crown of his head. Upon noticing this abnormality, the crew was reexamined. A hole, about the size of a number two pencil, was found in the same spot on each of the men. None of us, could even begin to guess what could have caused this wound, much less, how did they all receive the same wound with no signs of a struggle?

Six of us watch the two aircraft take off, heading back to Little America. The three mechanics and the crew chief, one of the medics and myself temporarily stranded in this barren wasteland of white. So far, at Little America, we have been fortunate to encounter temperatures varying no more than between zero and 20° or 25° above, no more rigorous than a New England winter really.  Here deeper into the continent the temperature on this open plain has already fallen to minus 5°. The rampaging wind from the nearby plateau whips the snow into the air, which even with goggles on is blinding and stings any skin it can reach.

As designated sleep time approached, we realize there is no room in the tent for all six of us with the supplies. The crew had accomplished a great deal in disassembly, they were not quite to the point of removing the faulty fuel pressure line. Preparation to install the new line would still be at least half a day’s work. The replacement, which had to be flexible for installation, could not be allowed to freeze before completing repairs. While none would admit it, none of us truly wanted to spend the night in the R4D. We decided to draw straws for three us in the plane and three for the tent.

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Fairy Tale Noir

Sharing an excerpt from one of the stores from an anthology I am writing.  This is raw draft, no edits yet, hoping it polishes up well.

 

“My family and I arrived on the shores of Draisia in the dead of night. Life seemed simple to me then, life through the eyes of a child always does. Complexity is for the adults who knew this was a calm before the storm.  The eerie darkness of the night we landed will never escape my memory. The milky speckles twirled and danced along the river in various patterns, tugging at the corners of my lips in a way that almost made me smile.

 

The Canso was a veteran of the brine. The old planks retained the fetid odor of fish, though leaky had been seaworthy enough. Her nets had been removed to allow every inch of room and we filled it, many sitting with knees tucked to their chests. When her hull crunched into the mud of the river’s edge, one leg of our trek was complete.

 

Everyone awake. Everyone asleep. Many eyes were bleary, reactions slow, tiredness running in their veins just the same as their blood. Everyone who survived the crossing climbed up the grassy embankment in a mix of emotions. For some relief, some fear, some grieving for the place they left. Ahead is unknown, all we can do is pray for things to be better where they are heading for they cannot know what awaits them.

 

At the top of the embankment we all huddled into the shed. This is where we had been told to wait. On the floor near the front wall sits a woman and child, the kid relaxed into her arms so fully it was like they were one organism, melted together. He has a look of contentment on his face. Now that her son is drifting into sleep her face becomes grave. Without his timid gaze she has no reason to feign a confidence she may not have felt.

 

The tiny window in the shed has its view obscured behind swirls of dried mud. The dawn came with a musical silence. The soul hearing a melody ears could not. A new day had come, new possibilities, a fresh page yet to be written.

 

With it a funny feeling comes, not excitement, though at first it appears that way. Some cry, some look grim, and the children are held close and loved with all the strength they have left in their bodies. My parents gathered myself along with all my brothers and sisters into a circle, hugging us as the first rose tinted rays of dawn glowed through the dried mud of the window.

 

Soon, the sound of a coughing diesel engine came from beyond the levee. A pair of the braver ones peered out. Excitedly they tell the rest of us the bus is coming. We all pour out of the shed, waiting as the old bus trundles up the road, its grumbling old engine spitting smoke like a trail of breadcrumbs.

 

It rumbles to a stop just above us, on top of the levee. An older alligator in a vest and a beret wearing weasel climbed out and motions to us to board.

 

“C’mon, we ain’t got all day.” The weasel called as he pulled the ladder down to throw cargo on top of the bus.

 

“Youse three, help people load their gear. You climb up and move things forward, you get to the top of the ladder and hand stuff ovah, while you, my you are a tall one, hand things to the guy on ladder. You heard Cavan, now get a move on.” The alligator hissed at an Orangutan, a Mountain Goat and a black bear, who took the positions indicated. So we loaded the few belongings while the old diesel pinged and creaked as it cooled. The process did not take long. There were not many belongings among those who made the journey.

 

Soon, we were all aboard the old bus. Rusted and dirty it was but to our eyes, it was a chariot to our hopes and dreams for a better life. The seats were full and those of us who were too big to sit in the laps of others lined up along the floor. After a couple of sputtering failed attempts the old engine roared into life with a mighty belch of exhaust. The decrepit bus lurched forward along the levee road pitted and bumpy with rocks soon to kiss the smooth asphalt to their destination.

 

From my vantage point on the floor I began to see the roofs of houses. Vaughan drove while Cavan stood on a rail at the front. Sometimes staring back at us, sometimes punching the alligator pointing directions.  Then other taller buildings appeared as we passed through a city. The buildings gave way to houses and as two hours passed the houses gave way to barren road.

 

The squeal of brakes signaled our journeys end. In front of us a building stood with a curved roof and corrugated metal walls. There were other similar buildings in the area but the road we had traveled was littered with old machinery covered in dirt and long since scavenged into skeletons of whatever they once were, indicated this place was long abandoned.

 

Cavan had run to the top of the bus while were taking in our surroundings. He began throwing our belongings down.

 

“This is where we part company. Your future lies in there.”

 

As soon as the bus top was emptied Cavan swung inside where Vaughan had kept the temperamental engine idling. We picked up our belongings and shuffled into the structure.”

 

Thank you for reading,

Ernest

 

The Sleeping Hare

This is a rough opening for a work in progress. A short story set in the world of The Three Billy Goats Gruff for an anthology. I think it’s off to a good start. Perspective needs to shift slightly but a good start.

*****

Don’t expect to find dignity in an old bar. Not here. Not at “The Sleeping Hare.”
The sallow light of street-lamps trickled into the darkened room through diamonds of lead panes. The smoke twisted in an artistic way, forming curls in the gloom, illuminated only by the age-speckled bar lights.
The smell has changed over the years. Once it was of cigarette smoke only, the bouquet clung to clothing, skin and furniture alike. Now it is joined by the miasma of stale beer, cheap hooch, body odor and cheaper perfume from the quiff trying to make a buck.
“The Sleeping Hare” was always a den of debauchery, alcoholism and the great unwashed of the town. It still is. No-one comes here with anything wholesome in mind. Probably why the small mountain of a goat sat on the stool by the door. Black, with tufts of grey in his beard, a tight T-shirt highlighted bulging muscles. If he did not look menacing enough, flexing those muscles was often deterrent enough for the occasional trouble maker.
Once upon a time, the place might have had a classy, old world feel. Now nicotine-stained walls, which might have been white, the darkened wood and stained reddish carpet only hinted at what might have been. There are establishments that are more like restaurants now – all clean with waiting staff. Not at “The Sleeping Hare.” Here, you still bellied up to the bar, where along the wall was every hue of amber liquid in their inverted bottles, and caught the barkeeps eye to place your order. Bring your patience though, tortoises are not known for their speed and Tabor is not as fast as he used to be, but he will take care of you.
The thunk of darts and clack of pool balls came from the back of the joint. An addition to the old building the plaster and wood gave way to cinder block walls painted black. Four red felt pool tables commanded the center of the room. They and the dart board lanes in the back of the room brought in almost as the cheap hooch Tabor stocked.
Only one table was in use tonight, a young brown goat crisp white shirt with sleeve holders, thin black tie tossed over his shoulder as he lined up a shot while nearby a ferret in a beret watched, anxiously hoping for a scratch.

Thank you for reading,

Ernest

Its a start…

The majority of my weekend has been spent packing. We just did this just over a year ago, so where did all this new stuff come from? Stuff, it really does multiply. In the midst of it all I have managed to get a start on a new book. Will be the same character as my last one.

“The sidewalk, which in a few short hours will bustle with the life pulse of the neighborhood is quiet now. The concrete oblivious to whether it is midday or midnight. The few scuffling this time of day, the strugglers for whom every waking minute is spent to pay the rent and buy food. Until this morning.

Deep in the belly in the earth, a terrible rumble rose along the street. People fell to their knees, clutching their ears as the pressure built. Three stories of a brick tenement collapsed on the corner a choking cloud of dust flushing the street. Crumbled into its own foundation, trapping the occupants to a grisly, crushing death.

For perhaps a split second there was silence, from the dust, anguished cries arose as the shock gave way to realization of the tragedy.”

Thank you for reading,

Ernest

 

Excerpt – WIP

“Good thinking. Let’s give those flying boats an once-over. Mary, you stay here to watch for Jake.
Joe, you come with Martin and I to inspect the sea planes.”

The three men approached the beached aircraft and one thing became apparent drawing near, bullet holes peppered the length of each plane.
Joe whistled, “Phew, did they land or were they forced down?”
“Let’s take a gander inside.” Directed Captain Hazzard, moving toward the nearest one.
He plucked the flashlight from his vest and peered through the hatch. The interior showed the scars of battle but the craft appeared airworthy.
“Captain! Over here!” Joe called from the hatch of the second plane.
He and Martin trotted to the second plane. Inside a figure was stretched along one of the benches. Captain Hazzard clambered inside the craft and checked the man’s vitals. He was alive though from the looks of the cabin he had lost a lot of blood. On his right hand he wore the stylized lightning bolts of the SS.
The touch caused him to moan. For a moment consciousness rallied behind his eyes but not full awareness. He saw Captain Hazzards blonde face over him he asked if they succeeded.
Captain Hazzard responded in flawless German, “We are here in answer to distress. Dietrich called for reinforcement. What happened?”
He uttered one word in his final gasp, “Huldu”.

 

 

Excerpt from WIP

“It felt good to lie down. Martin admitted frustration not to be going to the museum, he enjoyed the peace and quiet. Captain Hazzard checked in during his inspection of the Silver Bullet II. Though he designed the fuselage and its armor, he marveled at the engines Captain Hazzard built.
He was glad the frustration passed before Captain reached out. This mind-talking still unnerved him a little. The Captain would have worried if the irritation had shown in his thoughts.
When the hangar alarm blared next to his bed, he would sworn he just laid down. A quick glance at his wristwatch belied that. It was 1 a.m. In short order, Martin dressed quickly and pedaling the bicycle purchased for him. The guard at the gate was suspicious of him. Disheveled with the speed of dressing in the dark, and the exertion of a hard ride to the gate, Martin admitted he would be suspicious too. Anxiety mounted as he waited for the guard to decide he had clearance to proceed to the hangar.
His escort, required by Major Svetkov, panted behind him by time they reached the hangar. Martin motioned his escort to ready his rifle, then flung open the access door. He followed the soldier through, but saw nothing. The hangar had no electricity, and in his haste Martin forgot to grab his bag with one of the flashlights. By the ambient light, he located the lantern on the hook near the door.
The lantern held high, he began the search the hangar. Followed by the soldier, he felt foolish. No tampering of the Silver Bullet could be discerned as he performed a walk around. The craft nearly filled the small hangar. Truth be told, it took long enough to get here any panels opened could be easily closed at leisure. A rustling under one of the windows caused both he and his escort to jump slightly. His tension appeared to cross the language barrier with no problem.
Beady red eyes shone from under one of the windows. A rat. Breathing a sigh of relief, Martin began checking the magnetic security locks. The wires from one to its radio transmitter had been chewed. The effect was the same as if the magnets had been separated by opening the window. The circuit opened and set off the alarm. Martin pointed at the broken wire and the rat. It took a moment, but the nickel finally dropped and his guard laughed. A shake his head, Martin made short work repairing the broken wire.”

Novel update!

Wow, that was close. No one knew if that plane could survive that dive including the designer. With a layover in London while the plane is checked for damage and needed repairs, I hope everyone gets a good night’s sleep. If they can stop wondering who was shooting at them.

Today was kind of unfocused, writing in bits and spurts. Still got 2000 words in and 4400 for Saturday and Sunday. Past the 10000 word mark and all of the main characters have been introduced. Hmm, are you wondering what will happen next intrepid reader? That’s ok. So am I.

WIP – Excerpt from Starshine in Storyville

Good afternoon everyone,

Almost finished with this piece and will begin editing  tomorrow. So if you can stomach an unedited bit, read on McDuff.

“…The night air was cool and moist; the light breeze carried the tang of the Mississippi, as Benny walked aimlessly considering all that happened these past months. When he had found Erich and agreed to apprentice with him, Benny thought he was learning new saxophone techniques. The joke was on him, Erich explained to him there was magic and the sounds he produced were magical energies he could shape to his will. Benny thought of it only as ways to please a crowd, perhaps inducing more tips. The things Erich taught him about magic is very few could produce it at will. For that he was special, seems Erich, and now Benny had a hyperpineal gland which allowed them to sense and control magical energies. Others, without a hyperpineal, could practice magic but must use spells, gestures and rituals. Erich explained he had waited long for another to come along with the gland. For Erich had stood Guardian for over two centuries and looked forward to being able to share, and eventually pass on the Guardianship of New Orleans.

Benny had laughed it off as the rambling and fantasy of an old man. Until the night of the Grunch, that night after their practice, Erich had looked at him.

“Benny, you are good, maybe one of the best ever, I have never heard make love to a sax or play like you. And I’ve known them all. Tonight, it’s time you learned the difference between ballads and battles. Pack up and I’ll explain what you will face on the way.”

Benny shuddered and rubbed his arm as he remembered that night. It had all seemed a dream until tonight. He watched a man weave shadows of darkness around himself, warding Benny’s magic. Then he disappeared under Benny’s scrutiny. Just as he thought the world was setting back to normal, it was shaken.

The bell Victory, in St. Louis Cathedral shook him out of the reverie as it chimed midnight. Lost in thought, he had not realized how far down Chartres he had walked. The artists and psychics along Jackson Square were long gone. Or so he thought, as he approached he saw one of the psychics tables still up.

Curious he approached, looking around the area in front of the cathedral, but the pools of light revealed no one. The table belonged to Psychic Mary, an Irish redhead with legs that’d make you dizzy. Even at her age she could make a man’s head spin with her seduction through the very air. She would not have left her table with crystals displayed and cards unprotected.

As the last stroke of the clock faded, Benny paused. Uncertain if he what he heard had been an echo of the bells last stroke, Benny listened more closely. There it was again, a muffled cry and from the direction of Pirates Alley. Benny took off at a sprint for the nearby alley. Upon entering his eyes could not pierce the gloom having adjusted to the well lit court. Reflexively, Benny began to hum and immediately calling upon his magic to see. At the midway point, three figures struggled. One had flaming red hair against two hooded figures that were pulling her toward a swirling circle of shadow. “

Thank you for reading,

Ernest