Elisabeth of Austria, Daughter of Maximillan I...

By Delbert H. Rhodes 

A dark sun rises to call the men. Urgo yawns and opens his eyes. A big man standing about 300 solid pounds he is fierce and well respected. Urgo also is the reason; at least in part for this whole mess, he is the Queen’s lover. On opposite sides of the battle Urgo’s people, the Horanans have been at odds with the Tulls for years. They hate each other, and for as long as can be remembered, the two sides wanted the other dead.

The reason for such hatred nobody remembers, but the taste of battle suits everybody. Urgo has no love for any of them, but one and she is worth every death every man every moment. She is the only thing on his mind this great morning. Except his hunger to kill every bastard Tull, he sees.

Urgo is a skilled fighter and stands high above his men in battle. He always leads the charge. Never would this Knight lay back in want or wait of the end. Urgo creates it. The time is near and he gathers the men. The ranks are strong and line the valley as far as the eyes could see. The captains rally the call, and the troops move as one unit. The sight is thrilling to witness. The armor gleams and reflections dance across the land. The foot soldiers and horsemen the troops are glorious the battle would be theirs.

Lanto has counseled his captains. The plan is made and the men are ready. The numbers are four thousand strong, and no man is without pride. These are Tull men, and Tulls are proud strong willing to die for the cause and their King. Although a battle borne by indiscretion, the troops love their Queen, and they would never abandon her. Lanto holds disfavor for this type of fight, but he too is Tull.

Broad powerful and mean, this giant signals the captains. The time is here and his men blanket the hillsides. The dark sun would shine bright with blood.

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Mr. Everhardt T. Johnson loves his Mantha and wants the world for her. He taught high school for twenty years and earned a good salary. His wife Nancy died five years ago because of cancer. Things have been tough since then, but life isn’t always fair. The love for his little girl is the thing that preserves him. The desire for her happiness lends meaning to a torn family. In retirement: working helps to keep Johnson on track it keeps him busy.

Johnson, green eyes 5’ 10” gray and fat in the tummy, too was an excellent student. He was high school president and in college belonged to the most prestigious fraternity. Majoring in Chemistry, he earned his teaching degree as a Summa. He completed a combined Bachelors and Masters of Science in a term of four years. Johnson was an excellent teacher and enjoyed his job. The loss of Nancy, naturally, is difficult to bear. Thank God, for Mantha she makes the difference.

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Mantha sits staring out at the night. She thinks of but one thing, something devilish and different. Yes, she is a great student but that (mostly) is the issue. Mantha tires of being taken for granted. Forever the gifted student always expected to do the right thing, never stepping out of the box. Well the box has only four sides, and one would be torn, maybe even ripped off.

“Hey Jerry, what’s up?” Jerry, another student, is a good friend of Mantha’s; he would like to be an even ‘closer’ friend. They have agreed on a plan. They will commit a robbery. The theft would occur at the University, and a valued article would be the prize. Mantha likes the idea and thinks it would cause a lot of attention. Of course, the deed serves also to make her different. She would no longer be (just) a smart student. She (now) would be ‘somebody’.

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War cries permeate the morning. Both side’s race together with rage and blood and hate and more rage leading the charge. Death would live to tell the tale. Hate dwells on this ground and stifles the air. Even the animals take holiday to watch the warring troops. None could be more spectacular none more driven by foolish pride and lust for killing. Every breath draws life from its enemy. Every thought curses the hearts of the other. Mothers would never see sons again. The deliverers of this evil would find darkness. Love never conquers all. Lances swords battle-axes clang. Arrows fly hundreds of yards striking targets. Sweat digs holes and blood runs. The battle lives.

The enemy sword misses his throat. The sword strikes hard to the right shoulder. Lanto defends against the villain who intends to kill him. The Horanan swings his blade once more, this time striking Lanto’s head. Fortunately, his headgear holds firm, but Lanto is knocked from his horse. The Horanan roars and then he charges Lanto. Rolling to the right Lanto escapes the attack. The Horanan makes another pass. Lanto spins and then swings his blade fiercely. The Horanan is struck in the left side. His armor protects against the blow. The Horanan charges Lanto again, but Lanto knocks him from his horse.

The warriors face each other on even ground. The Horanan is quick and powerful. He fights as though he could never be beaten. He moves hard and fast and swings steel as though it is his arm. Lanto faces a worthy fighter. The two men lock arms and grapple to the ground. The weapons are wrestled away, and it is any man’s win.

Something else is happening. Overhead: clouds begin to swell the sky grows blacker. Somehow, the men have lost the taste for blood. They stand motionless almost paralyzed with fear. Thunder roars and lightning electrifies the heavens. The furor has stopped the battle; the men look to the skies.

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The wee hours are waiting. Shelly walks out and into the alleyway. The heels of her shoes announce her, as she strolls toward the street. A cat screeches as she surprises it, and it ducks under a garbage can. The alley is strewn with lots of stuff. Hell, she thinks, maybe I should become a used stuff saleswoman. The money is out there, and people are ready and willing to spend. Give them a fancy line, and a dream and the coins jingle. Nursing is a good profession but too overwhelming. Shelly wanted, and believes she has found, an easier way of making a living, a more exciting one as well. The street is about two hundred yards away, and just then a noise. Behind her, there it is again. Halting, Shelly turns to look back.

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He sits in deep thought. The gravestone staring he wipes tears from his eyes. Placing one hand atop the stone, he says a few words. The man below had been his twin, and they had loved each other. His brother had been killed during a store robbery.

(Leonard Prichard stopped by a neighborhood store for a pack of cigarettes. The need would cost him his life.)

Prichard rolls his shiny black Chevy. The ‘streets’ are quiet. A little while ago, he spent time in a local bar with some friends. Reaching for a smoke, he is out. A store is nearby, and he pulls her over. Before Leonard could pay for the cigarettes and a box of Ring Dings, a gunman bursts into the store. The clerk resists and a gunfight breaks out. Leonard draws his weapon and returns fire. The gunman is hit and he escapes. Leonard and the clerk die at the scene.

Langdon Prichard misses his brother. He visits Leonard’s gravesite each weekend. Without Leonard, life seems useless. Maybe one day Langdon will find his way, maybe he will find something else.

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He rushes into the grocery store with gun in hand. An off duty cop he recognizes stands at the counter. (Idiot, doesn’t he know that cigarettes are bad for your health. Well scum, I got something even worse for you.) Baldwin hates cops with a passion. This one would die if he has anything to do with it. BJ looks at the cop with death in his eyes. “I said give me all your damned money!”

The store clerk moves too slowly, and seems to be buying time. A pro criminal: BJ knows what that means. The asshole has a hidden piece under the counter. The clerk comes up with the gun. BJ pumps two hot rounds into him. The cop at the counter un-holster’s, and the men exchange fire. BJ is hit in the shoulder, but the cop goes down. The killer empties out the cash register, and then rifles the dead cop’s pockets. (BJ spits in Prichard’s face.) The thug breaks back out the door. “I hope the bastard remembers me in hell,” he laughs. Baldwin’s Challenger blows smoke into the night. (“Yeah baby, ‘talk’ to me.”)

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Somewhere in the village as her husband beats the life out of her, a woman struggles to live. She hurts terribly from bruises, swollen muscles, and blackened bones; the Melee continues as the angry brute takes another swing. The force of the blow throws her backward, her body twists and like a confused contortionist, she reels sideward into the wall. Stopping bluntly, she drops limply to the floor.

(Nevertheless) the maniac is not through with her, again he grabs her and throws her violently against the table; a knock at the door and the woman screams out “Help!” “Shut up you bitch,” her husband warns, as he slams her to the floor.

Once more, the knock could be heard, but the door is far away, and between it and her stands six feet two hundred and fifty-two pounds of angry man. Weeping loudly the woman begs him to stop, but her fear, distraught energizes her tormenter, and he moves toward her.

Somehow, she gets to her feet and reaches the kitchen; the battered woman refuses to anymore. “Stop!” The woman’s bravery enrages her husband, infuriates him and the brute rushes forward. She spins and then… “You-u-u Bi-i-i!”

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Standing at the window a woman holds a young child under each arm. Five stories below wait a cold sidewalk and no one to help her. The fire in her apartment has raged out of control and the window is the only way out. Rather than suffer burning and death by inhalation of intensely hot smoke she has no choice. The children scream loudly dreadfully afraid of what is to follow; “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,” she says to them, and then holding them closely she closes her eyes.

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The sun is high in the sky: it is a beautiful day; the day is not so beautiful, however, for the young woman strolling through the “Park.” Jeannette enjoys relaxing in Central Park. Many times, she has taken this path but today would be eventful because today someone waits.

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Somewhere a baby is left alone to predation; somewhere unashamed, a lazy mother hangs out party’s and becomes drunk; somewhere for food, a hungry rat steals into a baby’s crib; somewhere the night is paralyzed by horror; somewhere a baby cries for its mother; somewhere… a baby dies.

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Rounding the corner near the “Park” an Ambulance screams through traffic. Threading the cars as would the crafty needle its cloth, the vehicle finds its way. Looking over her shoulder Gisela becomes appalled by the view; “What is wrong with them,” she yells out, “For God’s sake, don’t they know that they are supposed to let it pass?” Idiots! Quietly Gisela says, “I hope they make it in time.”

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The café is hot and then the door swings open. A willowy figure boasting dark eyes chocolate skin and coal black hair strolls inside. From across the room he is distracted, his conversation halts. After all these years, she is just as lovely; it is Mina. The summer night is fiery and the heat follows her inside. The women in the room obviously dislike her; the looks they give her are unpleasant. Mina and Starling had been children together; twenty-two years had passed. She sits at a table nearby; and exiting the conversation, Starling walks over to her.

Her face and eyes are brilliant. Her smile lives in a poet’s pen; “Hello Starling, somebody told me that you were in town.” “Mina, how are you?” The two hold hands, as Starling sits with her. Staring into each other’s eyes the years race by; time is recaptured, and the moment is right now. They chat, laugh and chat; but Starling becomes troubled. Framing her lovely skin are razor thin lines. They course her face down her arms ending on her hands. Starling wonders whether these lines embrace her body… probably.

Later that night: Starling and another friend meet. Juan Carlos shares a (very) familiar tale. Some time ago: Mina dated a guy from San Augusto; the guy is a brute, and abused her. During an argument, the cretin brushed her with a knife; Mina lives to display the scars. The story leaves Starling sad. In childhood, Mina and he had competed academically; and they won special awards. Mina’s latest award… is not so special.

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The test flight has gone well, and Gina radios the tower for landing instructions. Circling the field once more, she powers her plane into the turn, and then heads for the landing strip. Gina is an excellent flier, and has been in the military for ten years, flying is her passion. Today her passion would get the best of her.

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The night is lovely, and the evening has been divine. A movie dinner and great company: Michelle and Justin stroll down a quiet sidewalk. Chelsea is a wonderful place to live, and they have been here for about three years. Tonight they celebrate something special, something very special.

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His wine bottle is empty. A semi-filled glass rests in his hand. Although deep in thought: he is momentarily distracted; the wine’s purple coloring is beautiful. Raising the glass, he anticipates the thrill. The flavor is sweet and soothing to the palate. He smiles.

Too bad, he thinks, that life is never as beautiful. His wine and his life share a chemical fate, his wine, agents of digestion, his life, agents of time. To what God does wine pray, and no matter the prayers life perishes. He places the empty glass beside the bottle.

This will be his final sleep and he is not sad. To him life has never been a friend, and living always a battle. Time has come and gone; and enough is enough. Tonight Pedro’s blanket will be a dream… his dream; one he has pondered and planned; one where life and living are beautiful fulfilling and friendly; one where (even) he can be special. This night Pedro pulls the plug: this moment eternity is his. No one could fault him; after all, he has tried; tried to live a life scorned by most; to recapture a lifestyle relished by many. Tonight…a dream lives.

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Perched on a mountaintop he waits. Soon, the time comes; he readies for the kill. The ways of human life  abandoned long ago; now, he lives in the wild; now, he is wild.

Born to human parents, Jonathan Argo, by the age of two months, was noticeably different. Even as an infant he seemed different; a difference his parents neither cared to recognize nor to admit. Jonathan never received medical attention. His parents believed that he would grow out of it; well, he grew into it.

The wooded areas called to him; often, Jonathan ventured there. One day he simply vanished never to be seen again. Before leaving his home, the young child had already acquired a nickname; because of his large eyes, head, claw-like hands, feet fortified with talons, and an opposing thumb and strange gait, the name “Gargoyle” was given by Jonathan’s Dad.

Gargoyle has lived in the wild for the past six years; he is now nine years old. His body continues to change; and he grows larger and stronger. Spread, his beautiful wings span thirty feet, the folding mechanism neatly tucks them, Gargoyle ambulates without hinder.  Standing semi-erect the giant is nine feet tall. His stance is slightly bent, otherwise, he towers at ten and one half feet. Whenever in attack mode, a fluffy silvery mane courses from his forid to the base of his skull. The remainder of Gargoyle’s body is hairless. The creature’s bony structure is a dense but hollow composition. The bones are stronger than any substance known to man. A miracle at three hundred pounds Gargoyle is invincible.

A marvel to mystery: the wonder is how humans produced such a creature. The question, one day, to be pondered by scientific minds. Gargoyle’s highly developed brain makes him  immensely intelligent; his strategies and tactics register to higher degrees than the best of mankind’s Militaries. This beast is a devastating machine of war, a Prince of Power.

Human diseases have no affect and injuries heal instantaneously. Gargoyle has one weakness, sustained periods without darkness. Three months without darklight and Gargoyle perishes.

Previously, he fed on smaller creatures of the wild. Fully matured Gargoyle (now) seeks larger prey, and especially human prey. His teeth and jaw are designed for biting, holding and ripping; his fangs are long and razor-sharp; the jaw muscles large and powerful. Gargoyle rips through bone like a knife through butter. The keenly sharp retractable claws and talons serve as highly effective and efficient weapons. The grasping ripping curves of the appendages are masterful in creation.

The musculature is lean smooth and streamlined; the biomechanics are superbly without flaw. A tiny tail with curve extends from the base of the spine, nothing of this creature is left to chance, even the tail acts as a small spear in close quarter combat. -But then, he has no rivals. Although unequalled at the kill, this newborn is beautiful to behold.

Gargoyle is fast agile almost invisible at top speed. His skin consumes darkness making him almost undetectable at night. His eyes: equipped with flawless night vision, reflect light; his senses are superior to every creature; already they revere him; in the wild Gargoyle is master.

Perched atop a mountain: he ponders the kill and the time has come; blood would sweeten the night and forever he feeds on human kind, a kind not his.

________________________________________________________

Deklin Forrester wipes his eyes. Seated at his desk he stares at the ceiling. Though he could not see them, his eyes feel red. The words on the screen peer back at him. The manuscript had been started hours ago. Somehow, it seems like days. This is a tough one he says in repose. The storylines are developing, and right now, he is just tagging along. Each individual suffers his and her personal hell. (Just like the rest of us he thinks.)

The characters demonstrate connection each suffering privately. They tend, he believes, to be driven by hidden conflict. Deklin’s father always said, “Life’s wars occur on many battlefields. Puzzles of life are often difficult to assemble. The truth of living sometimes involves dying. Death is neither easy nor timely.”

Deklin has lived with the statement since childhood. The death of his father solidified the comment: Deklin’s characters display rage, depression, sadness, criminality, secrecy, gloom, and unhappiness. (Sometimes even love has a place.) He too anguishes he too struggles he too loves.

In some ways, the woes of Deklin’s characters are his. Different lives different situations but one impasse: personal conflict. Life forever presents unwanted answers. The problem, it seems, is properly phrasing the questions. On the ‘morrow: The tired writer turns the light off.

Deklin and wife Diana embrace. (The day has been long but good.)

 

Copyright © 2007 Delbert H. Rhodes

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