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Hidden Auditorium

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  • May 05, 2015 04:32:04 AM

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A collection o short stories, poetry, and fictional snippets, covering an assortment of genres, from urban fantasy to horror and science fiction.

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Nano-bit: Guardians of the Sahara

Part VII is still a work in progress. It’s hard to find a balance between writing and…well, life. Lately, I’m finding my way back into my craft, and I’m hoping to finish Part VII soon. In the mean time, here is a glimpse into Micah’s and his cyborg friend’s journey into the depths of the...

Part VII is still a work in progress. It’s hard to find a balance between writing and…well, life. Lately, I’m finding my way back into my craft, and I’m hoping to finish Part VII soon. In the mean time, here is a glimpse into Micah’s and his cyborg friend’s journey into the depths of the Eastern Desert.



“It’s no use!” Micah screamed over the sounds of rushing sand—it sounded like the world’s largest hourglass, tipped over on its head—and grinding stone, like a million teeth being ground together, endlessly, until they were nothing but a powered pile of calcium. “There’s no way out!”

“Fuck that!” his companion shouted in return. “I’m not giving up without a fight. Not after everything we’ve been through to get here.”

The two spun in circles, their backs pressed firmly against one another, their dirtied boots tracing a furrowed ring around where they stood. Above them, an army of shifting shadows loomed, gathering, closing in.

“Well then, if you have any bright ideas, now would be a great time to share them.”

The man with the glowing orange eyes peered upward as a band of living—well, perhaps not living, that was still to be determined, but they were certainly moving, and fast—stone figures surrounded them, forming an ever-tightening ring as they pressed forward, trapping them, swallowing them. The man continued moving in a circle, his feet shifting effortlessly in a grapevine motion, his face as stony as those he was now analyzing. His mechanical eyes buzzed and whirred—silently, too faint to be heard over the onrush of their assailants—as he scanned the statues from head to toe and back up. Pixelated numbers and letters danced across his vision, a snaking, slithering tickertape of information. There were seven of them, each more than fifty meters in height. They were naked except for a pair of carved sandals and a skirt with its “hem” floating above their sculpted knees. They were human—humanoid. Their bodies were immaculate, chiseled to male perfection. Each was an Adonis in his own right, with a detail so fine their lithic exterior looked almost like skin, the rosy tint of the crimsonite giving their hides a lifelike sunburnt tint. But from the neck upward, they lost all relation to Homo sapiens. Each donned the head of a different animal: a jackal, a cat, a vulture, an owl, an ibis, an ox, and a fish, all prominent symbols of Ancient Egyptian culture.

But most curious of all was the light. At every joint—at every line and curvature of their bodies—were thin slits emanating a sharp red light. It was as if the stone was but a guise…a suit of limestone armor concealing something much more intricate and sinister underneath.

“Still waiting!” Micah shouted into his companion’s ear. He gripped at the pocket of his cloak and felt a moment of reprieve as the outline of the hexagonal crystal pressed against his palm. But it was cold. So cold. A shocking sensation in the intense heat of the dunes. Why wasn’t it awake? Why weren’t its light and heat and color there to reassure and protect them? Why? He looked up as more than a dozen sandaled feet lumbered toward them. Each was larger than a tank, sinking beneath the sand upon contact, then lifting up, up, up, leaving a gulping sinkhole in its wake.

They were surrounded. Blockading them were seventy immaculately manicured stone toes, the smallest pinky toes larger than an adult human. Micah’s cyborg companion ripped the sidearm from the stained leather holster dangling at his waist, a rusted-over junk scrap scavenged from the trash heaps outside Ravenpool. A third-generation OmniCo photon concentrator, an outdated piece of shit, decades old and not worth a bucket of warm spit, according to the man who’d swiped it. But beggars can’t be choosers, he’d also said. Turns out, there was still a bit of charge left in the thing, and it was the best they could do with the Flatfoots hot on their heels during their escape from the Alcazar. The only thing Micah came away with was a tarnished dagger, the blade dulled and dented.

The cyborg lifted the piece to eye level and flipped the detonator switch. Nothing. He slammed his palm—all metal—against the barrel of the gun and tried again. Nothing.

“I thought you said that thing still had a few shots left in it?” Micah shouted above the din.

“That was fucking weeks ago,” he snapped back and tossed the gun aside. Even if it had worked, best-case scenario, it would have left a few dents in the shin of one of the giants but nothing more.

The cyborg waited, watched. Zeroes and ones danced across his field of vision. Slight movement as the man-ibis shifted to the right.

“What do we do?” Micah shouted. “What do we do?”

The cyborg waited, watched, did not respond. The man-ibis leaned to the left, the weight of the statue shifting, causing the thing’s left sandal to sink lower into the roiling sand.

“Are you fucking listening to me? Some advice would be really great right about now.” The man was here to protect—it was the only reason he’d caved to Xen’s advice, to let him tag along as his sidekick. He’d done it for her. And if he wasn’t going to do his job, then what use was he to him?

The cyborg waited, watched, did not respond. And then it happened. Just as he’d calculated. The right foot shifted, and then lifted.

“Aw fuck,” Micah grumbled and, in a panic, broke from their back-to-back embrace.

“Wait,” the cyborg commanded, throwing his arm out and practically clotheslining Micah with the weight of his artificial arm.

“Are you insane?” Micah struggled to free himself, but the cyborg held tight onto his cloak, his grip too powerful for Micah to overcome.


Micah tensed, and then relented. He collapsed into himself, his shoulders hunched and caved inward, succumbing to the whims of Fate. He clutched the pocket of his cloak, the imprint of the crystalline shard calming his nerves just enough. But it was cold, even through the thickness of the fabric. Too cold, considering the intense desert heat. It wasn’t right. Something was wrong. Very wrong.

“Wait,” the cyborg said once more. The right leg of the man-ibis was directly above them now, the bottom of the sandal blocking the glare of the afternoon sun. “On my command, you go right, I go left.”

“Go right where? There’s nowhere to go. We’re blocked in.” For just a moment, Micah felt a reprieve from the feverish heat as the foot of the man-ibis cast a dark shadow over them. But just for a moment, because then the foot was coming down, down, down.

“Now! Go!”

Micah cut and ran to the right. The limestone appendage plummeted into the cushiony bed of sand like a torpedo. The impact set off a detonation that blasted Micah’s eardrums and sent him sailing through the air. A shower of sand blasted his exposed skin, rubbing raw his exposed skin. He scrambled onto all fours, pushing himself free from the blanket of sand covering him. The atmosphere was filled with a series of echoing thuds. The ground rocked beneath him and shadows danced around him. A sudden wave of nausea overcame him and his body tensed, ready to vomit.

Then he was floating. No, pulled. His friend was there, dragging him to his feet, and the sickness passed. The cyborg was yanking at Micah’s arm—Too hard, you don’t know your own strength, Micah thought, feeling as if his humerus would be pulled free from its socket at any moment—and shouting. But he couldn’t understand a word. His companion’s pleas were nothing but a stream of vibrating muffles that tickled his numbed eardrums. But he was pointing franticly in one direction, and that was all that Micah needed. The man-ibis was in the center of the ring now, scrutinizing its escaped prey. A gap in the cincture has appeared. But it was shrinking as the ibis’s two flanks—the owl and the fish—closed in.

They ran.

And then they were free, fleeing across the desert, a yoke of oxen driven by an army of animate, anthropomorphic skyscrapers.

But their attempt was futile. It took but a few bounds for their pursuers to catch up with them. The man-ox—all muscle—crouched into a squat and threw down a clenched fist to their right. The ground rippled outward, like a pebble tossed into a pond, and brought the pair quickly and easily to their knees. They were toying with them. A game of cat and mouse—knowing your prey didn’t stand a chance, but why not have a little fun while you were at it? No sense in ending things too quickly. No doubt these fellows encounter few, if any, trespassers—this was a feared place. No man’s land. Anyone with half a brain—regardless of what you actually believed in, if you believed in her or not—steered clear of the Eastern Desert. Life was a lonely existence out here.

Didn’t your mother ever teach you not to play with your dinner! Micah thought as he scrambled to his feet.

They were barely stumbling forward again when the man-cat was upon them, crouched in a predatory feline stance, looking as if it were ready to pounce at any moment. In a swift blur—looking very unnatural for a stories-high stone statue—it lanced one arm forward and above them. Down it came, its fingers spread as they pierced the sand and raked backward in a brisk motion. Micah and the cyborg, caught up in a wave of sand, were swept between its fingers and nearly buried alive.

The cyborg, with his unnatural strength, burst free from the ridge of sand and, grabbing Micah by the collar of his cloak, pulled him—with seeming ease—along with him. Micah, choking on sand, faltered.

“Get up!” the cyborg commanded. Maybe they could have made it. Or, perhaps, they never stood a chance at all. But Micah’s hesitation cost them dearly. In but a moment, they were surrounded again, this time with the man-jackal taking the lead. With its knees bent, it raised one arm above it. Micah craned his neck upward, using one hand to shield his eyes from the glaring sun. For one brief, comical moment, he thought the creature was begging for a high five from one of its pals.

And then its palm was coming down, down, down.

And then, only darkness.

Stick ‘Em Up: What Goes Around Comes Around

Here it is…Part 3 of the three-part series. Read them all together and you’ll discover the predicament our protagonist has found himself in…

Here it is…Part 3 of the three-part series. Read them all together and you’ll discover the predicament our protagonist has found himself in…

What Goes Around Comes Around

Stick ‘Em Up: Early Bird Gets the Worm

This one is a continuation of the last Stick ‘Em Up entry–part two of a three-part series.

This one is a continuation of the last Stick ‘Em Up entry–part two of a three-part series.

Early Bird Gets the Worm

Stick ‘Em Up: That Which Lies Below

Happy Friday the 13th!  

Happy Friday the 13th!


That Which Lies Below

Stick ‘Em Up: Flight-or-Fall Response

Flight-or-Fall Response

Alvin’s Eulogy

Last week, my grandfather, Alvin, passed away. The below text is the eulogy I wrote and read at his funeral. He was a special man. A great man. A man like no other. And I want to share my words not just with the friends and family who were present last weekend, but with everyone....

thumb_DSC_0295_1024Last week, my grandfather, Alvin, passed away. The below text is the eulogy I wrote and read at his funeral. He was a special man. A great man. A man like no other. And I want to share my words not just with the friends and family who were present last weekend, but with everyone.


I need to start this speech off with a disclaimer. Any good eulogy isn’t complete without including at least a few of the person’s better-known catch phrases. And, let’s be honest, here. You all know Alvin. Needless to say, this is going to be an R-rated speech. So, my apologies right off the bat. And, parents in the room with kids, get ready to earmuff.

For those of you who may not know who I am, I’m Bradley, Jim and Sharon’s son. And the man we’re here to celebrate today was my grandpa.

Alvin. I’m not quite sure why, but it seems as if the grandkids collectively called him by his first name more often than we called him grandpa. But it was never from a lack of love that we did so. In fact, it was quite the opposite. The name simply endeared us to him more. It pulled us closer. It signaled the unique relationship we all had with this very unique man.

Alvin. Without a doubt the feistiest, most fiery, foul-mouthed man I have ever met. A smoker. A drinker. A farmer. A fisherman. A traveler. A friend. But, above all else, a family man. You may never have guessed it from his rugged, gruff exterior. But beneath the façade, there was nothing but endless, unabashed love for those closest to him. My mom told me something once, long ago. Something I’ll never forget. She told me, growing up in that white, ranch-style house on Grandview Drive, it was a life full of love and happiness and laughter. A day never went by when her father didn’t tell her he loved her. Al and Reta, they were the “cool” parents—they made that house into a place where all their children’s friends wanted to hang out.

And the same was true for me, growing up. There was never a dull moment in the Mardis household, that’s for sure. And it’s true, Alvin was one badass dude—we weren’t ever ashamed to be caught hanging out with our grandpa. In fact, we were proud.

Spending time with him, he taught me so many things. How to fish. How to plant corn. How to play dice and Chinese checkers. He also never shied away from sharing with us (regardless of how young and innocent we may have been) a handful of his favorite rhymes. This included two-peckered Billy goats in pepper patches, and a dog named Jack taking a big shit on the railroad tracks, and old King Cole’s rubber asshole, just to name a few. It goes without saying that I’ll most certainly be passing on his wise words to my kids, when that day comes.

I may have grown up. I may have moved away. It may have gotten to the point where I only saw Alvin during the holidays. But that doesn’t mean he was any further from my heart than during those days when we’d be bouncing around in the back of his brown Ford while he hurtled down College Avenue going 20 miles over the speed limit.

Every single memory I have of him, it’s permanently singed into my brain. A man like Alvin, you could never forget a day spent with him, even if you tried.

Sitting next to him in front of the campfire at the campground in Decatur. Eating fried chicken with him at the Grand Hotel. Seeing him toil away in his garden, harvesting rhubarb and gooseberries for Grandma to make pies with. Sitting out on the back deck, watching him feed chipmunks from his mouth. Sneaking around to the side of the house so Tyler and I could toss tomatoes and water balloons at moving cars, with Grandpa close by, pretending not to notice. Watching that rubber Joe Cool cactus bounce from the rear view mirror as he drove us down the street to McDonalds. Laughing until our sides hurt as he danced around in his whitey tighties.

With his passing, a legacy has ended. Before long, I’m sure the house will be sold, placed into the hands of a stranger, and our time spent there, making memories, will be over. I’ll miss that house. But I’ll never miss the memories, because I’ll always have them with me. Tossing basketballs into barrels. Rolling around on the floor with Patches. Packing the whole family into the house on Christmas day. Playing hide and seek in the basement with all the lights off. Tossing jarts in the backyard. Tyler and I using the old phone with the rotary dial to prank call people. (Side note: There’s clearly a trend here of Tyler and I getting into plenty of trouble.)

But the best memory of all is probably the final memory I have of him. Last Christmas. A late night of dice followed by a morning filled with home-cooked bacon and eggs. I don’t what it was, but his bacon and eggs were unmatched. And I wanted to share that with Dana—a piece of my life, of my childhood, that to this day still resonates inside my head. It seems so small, so trivial, but in the end, these are the things we remember most. These are the things we hold closest to our hearts.

It would be impossible to forget these moments in time. It would be impossible to forget him. And that’s because he’s inside each and everyone one of us in this room—and in those who couldn’t be here with us today. He was the patriarch, and he instilled a piece of himself within all of us, whether he meant to or not. Traits we share with him. Habits we learned from him.

Inside my mom, Sharon, I see his goofiness. Inside my brother, Nick, I see the constant gardener. Inside Tyler, I see that mischievous twinkle in his eye. Inside Junior, his son, I saw his intelligence. Inside Dusty, I see a leader and a desire to be the best father he can be. Inside Sally, I see that feisty, smart-ass sass. Inside Debbie I see his smile and the way his face would light up. Inside Scott I see the fisherman and outdoorsman. Inside Grandma I saw the love he possessed for his family. For me (and he wouldn’t be too happy if he heard me saying this), I got his big ears…and I couldn’t be more grateful.

If I didn’t mention your name, please don’t think it was intentional. The names I listed are just a few of the many—we could spend all day and all night going through each person here, unveiling the impressions Alvin left on us.

After Grandma died, Grandpa seemed to mellow a bit. He got quieter, more subdued. Oftentimes at family events, he’d fall to the sidelines. It was so uncharacteristic of him—and it broke my heart. At first, I thought, with Grandma’s passing, that a piece of him had died and that we’d never get it back. But now, I see it differently. That fire…that gritty, spirited, ornery son of a bitch we all know and love…he was holding it in. Saving it. For her. For Reta. And now he can unleash that fire once more. Because he’s with her now. They’re together now—somewhere—looking down on us. And smiling.


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