Category Archives: Short Stories

Apparition Taxi

 

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Music crooning softly, Samuel Walters continued his journey west. The truck headlights slicing through the darkness of the cool, summer night. His left arm hung out the window. Right thumb tapping the steering wheel in time with the old rock ‘n’ roll.

He drove this road every night on his way home from work. And he enjoyed every second of it. Typically, he was the only driver at this time.

The beat up work truck rose and fell with the road as it moved with the uneven land.

One particular dip took him through a blanket of fog. His hand outstretched to feel as much of the cooler air as possible. He smiled. Once the truck emerged out the other side, he checked the rear view mirror. Glanced over his shoulder. “Did we pick up any hitchhikers?”

Nothing answered him save for the tires crunching on the worn asphalt.

This had gone on for a year and continued for another month. Windows down, arm slung out, music playing, enjoying life. Nothing out of the ordinary. Then he drove through the dip filled with fog. Checked the rear view mirror again and looked over his shoulder at the bed of the pick-up. “Did we pick up any hitchhikers?”

“Yeah.”

Samuel glanced at the passenger seat. Staring down the ghostly barrel of a 1930s Tommy Gun. He couldn’t help but smile.

The apparition tried pressing the gun at the driver. Frowned when it phased through him. “I need ya to take me somewhere.”

His foot came off the pedal so he wouldn’t miss any possible turns. “Anywhere you like.”

“Gang’s held up at the Thompson Cemetery. They’re supposed to be puttin’ holes in a guy who crossed us. Take me there, and I’ll let ya walk another day.”

“Sure thing, Boss.” Samuel made a left at the next intersection. Wove through the country roads with the ghost riding shotgun. Dropped the passenger off at the cemetery. Shook his head when the ethereal gangster phased through the mausoleum.

The next few nights proved uneventful. Then he picked up the ghost of an 1800s woman who wanted to visit the orchard. The following night was the ghost of a lady from the 1950s who babbled about window shopping. The next night found him hauling the spirits of a family in the bed of his pick-up, taking them back to their farm. Then the spook of a fisherman who demanded to be driven to the lake.

On and on, it went. Every single night.

Even when the weather didn’t allow for natural fog, there would always be a cloud of it at the bottom of the seventh–and deepest–dip on his way home. Many of the apparitions returned for pleasant chatter, recalling how they died. Some, he helped to their final resting place.

But the ever-present one was the mobster named Charlie. Charlie never had a lot to say, and he always wanted to be taken to the Thompson Cemetery.

It had been six months since Samuel Walters first picked up Charlie. And when Charlie entered the truck tonight, Samuel came to a stop in the middle of the road.

The ghost turned to him, his form flickering. “Why ain’t you takin’ me to the cemetery?”

Samuel sighed. “None of the other phantoms repeat the same request over and over. Yet, you do. That mausoleum isn’t your final resting place, is it? And don’t go on about that gang of yours, because I know they’ve already passed on.”

Charlie remained quiet for some time. “Why weren’t you scared of me when I first appeared to you?”

He shrugged. “I’m an easy-going kinda guy. But you’re not evading this. Tell me what’s going on, so I can help you find peace.”

The apparition flickered some more, going in and out of focus. “The gang isn’t held up there. It’s someone else. My girl, Loraine. Her spirit left a long time ago, but I still like to visit her.”

Samuel softened. “Then why don’t you be with her?”

“I can’t. My body is at the bottom of the lake. They thought I stole some money, so they tied a bag of bricks on me. Let me sink to the bottom. I never took any money.”

He put the truck back in drive. Headed to his house. “Then let’s get you back. So you can be with Loraine.”

Once at his home, he went into action, hitching up his boat and grabbing the materials required. The night was still young, and he had more than enough time to exhume a body. It was the only time he was thankful he lived alone. That way, he wouldn’t disturb anyone in the middle of the night.

The old pick-up was driven like it hadn’t been driven in years. The john boat in tow. But he made it to the lake in record time. Once the boat was in the water, Charlie guided the still-living to the part where his body was dumped all those years ago.

It didn’t take long for Samuel to bag the remains and haul them into the boat. Nor to hitch it back up. The trash bag of soaked bones rattled around in the truck bed as the pair traveled to Thompson Cemetery in silence.

And it was actually Samuel who placed the remains in an available space next to Loraine’s coffin, while Charlie remained in the truck. When the living man returned, the ghost hovered. “It’s done?”

“Go be with your girl, Boss.”

The ethereal mobster flickered for a few moments. Nodded his thanks and phased through the mausoleum.

Samuel Walters couldn’t help but smile. He knew it was the last time he’d see Charlie. But he was pleased the spirit finally found rest. His trusty pick-up carried him home. With music playing low and windows rolled down. Waiting until the next night when he could escort another ghost around town.


The Fall

The water thundered over the side of the cliff, tumbling down below. The mist roiled skyward. But such was the ways of waterfalls. A peaceful yet violent force of nature.

She stood atop the falls, surveying the land below. It had taken her three hours to climb to the precipice, and it had been worth every second. The serene atmosphere gave her plenty of time to reflect. And nothing in her mind had changed.

Recently, it had occurred to her what life really meant. How futile human existence was. Their purpose was to make the world a better place. And how miserable they failed. That’s why their lives were less than a hundred years. Why would they live longer lives? They were only selfish beings who honestly deserved less.

It was why she climbed to the falls. Her life had been nothing but a selfish disaster. A selfish disappointment. She would make the world a better place by returning her body to fertilize the earth. It had been something that filled her with fear, but no more. It was something she came to terms with. Something she wanted.

Her eyes closed as the waterfall breeze mingled the spray with hair. It was time. Holding out her arms, she leaned forward. Felt the rush of the wind against her face. Tingling every nerve.

Ten.

She had no regrets.

Nine.

No fear.

Eight.

No more reason to live.

Seven.

This was her wish.

Six.

Her peace.

Five.

Her freedom.

Four.

She smiled.

Three.

No one would ever see her again.

Two.

Her body hit the water.

One….


Goodbye, Alice

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Alice woke to the pleasant humming sound of her alarm. Rubbing her eyes, she looked to her white robot plugged into its charging station on the other side of the room. “Thank you, R.B.B.T.”

The robot’s white, glowing eyes flickered to life as the sound ceased. Ethereal voice sounding. “Good morning, Alice.”

She watched it rise with the grace and fluidity clearly not based off human movement. The exotic android was sleek, built for speed. As per the alien race that inspired its design. Why it was her household robot, she wasn’t sure. But she had it ever since she could remember.

“Morning request, ma’am?”

“The usual.” She performed her morning ritual of stretches as the tint of her windows changed from black to almost clear, letting in the simulated sun. Then she moved to her bathroom. The door slid open in response.

R.B.B.T. entered the bedroom. “Breakfast is ready.”

Alice braided her light hair in a ponytail. Paused. Studied the mirror. Tilting her head, she ran her fingers down her neck. Her brows furrowed at the faint bump and discoloration that traversed around the middle of her neck. Something she never paid attention to before.

The android shifted. “Breakfast is ready, ma’am.”

She leaned closer to the mirror. “I know, but how did I get this? I don’t remember doing anything that could cause this. It’s like a scar.”

The robot’s eyes turned red as it sent a beacon to its true master.

There was a flash of light in the front room of the virtual house. The feminine voice of the home echoed. “General Cooper has arrived.”

Alice poked her head out of the bathroom, running to the front room. “Dad!” She threw her arms around him. Then frowned at his stern face. “What’s wrong?”

He sat her down. “R.B.B.T. has notified me you discovered the scar around your neck.”

One of her brows lifted. “Yes? What is this all about?”

Sighing, he sat across from her. Put a hand on her knee. “Do you remember you’re an agent for me and the government?”

“Yes…I just went on a mission not too long ago…”

“Well, last rotation, you were assigned to a highly sensitive mission. One I didn’t even know all the details for. Our greatest enemy traveled back in time to rewrite the future to her design. You were sent after her, you being our top agent. With its impressive shifting abilities, R.B.B.T. was sent along with you.”

Alice glanced at the exotic robot.

General Cooper continued. “Our enemy had been there long enough, she killed the king and placed herself as queen. We didn’t know at the time. We sent you straight in to explain a pre-scripted situation to the king. She had you beheaded on the spot. Thankfully, R.B.B.T. is equipped with the most advanced in medical science. It killed the queen and saved you simultaneously. It was able to fuse your head back on. Our damages team handled the rest.”

She sat in silence, blinking. Not given enough time to process the information. “This doesn’t make any sense…why don’t I remember any of this?”

“The queen, the enemy, was your mother.”

Her eyes lifted, realizing why her memory had been wiped. “How many times have we had this conversation?”

His expression stiffened. “About three times a week. There is so much we keep you from remembering. It’s why we keep you in constant surveillance at this facility. Your world that you think exists no longer does. You loved those Wonderland myths so much, your mother wanted to emulate them. In a way, I think she succeeded.”

“Why are you telling me this now?”

“Because your memory will be wiped once more. Goodbye, Alice. I’ll see you the next time this happens.”

“What? That’s it? You incredulously deceiving person!” She rose from her chair. Only to be forced back down by R.B.B.T. She screamed and kicked, but nothing set her free.

General Cooper transported out of the virtual house to monitor the rest from a station in the corner of the simulation room.

The last thing she experienced before she would forget was seeing the android’s white eyes blending into one piercing light, blinding her vision. And its mellifluous voice growing more distant as consciousness faded.

“Goodbye, Alice.”


The Abandoned Light

Abandoned stairs

The sky turned a gray he had never seen before, causing the forest to dim; something inside him whispered to find shelter. His eyes scanned the moss-covered trees. He paused. Fully turned in all directions.

He didn’t know this part of the woods.

An over-grown trail led west. He almost missed it, it hadn’t been used in so long. Moving branches and foliage out of his way, he traversed in silence. In fact, this whole region of the forest was quiet. Not a single animal or insect sounded their respective calls.

He stopped. A set of stone stairs lay before him, leading to a black doorway. His heart raced. Causing him to breathe in quicker. Moist earth permeated his nostrils. Putrid algae and decaying trees followed. Then…ash.

Studying the sky once more, he looked back at the door-less entry to a stone building forgotten in time. Left to the clutches of nature. So much so, he hadn’t noticed the rest of the structure at first. And as much as common sense screamed no, something pulled him inside.

His right foot mounted the first step. Dust, leaves, and ash being stirred in who knew how long. He wasn’t positive the staircase wouldn’t crumble beneath his weight. But he had to know what was inside.

He stepped on the second stair.  Then the third, the fourth. Careful to avoid the jagged stone that somehow survived years of the tender care of the elements. Fifth, sixth, seventh. The toe of his hiking boot caught a thick root, sending him down onto the final two steps.

On hands and knees, he lifted his head. The darkness of the doorway was much closer now. He swallowed. Why did he feel so compelled to enter this dilapidated place? Yes, he sought shelter from what he assumed was a storm, but certainly, there was a better place than this.

However, he pushed himself off the wet stone. Wiped his bloody palms on his shorts. Mounted the eighth step. Then the ninth. Finally stood on the landing taken over by fungi and ivy. He still couldn’t determine the building, but he assumed it was an old home. Built so someone could find solace among the silent trees.

One deep breath prepared him to cross the threshold. Two paces, and he was enveloped by the inky blackness. It took three seconds for his eyes to adjust. And in the distance, he saw a light. Light that must’ve streamed through a gaped hole in the ceiling.

He held his breath. Slowly placed one foot in front of the other. The wooden floors creaked and moaned, clearly unhappy about being disturbed. He prayed there were no missing boards.

A wet, acidic stench clogged his throat.

The ray of light was within reach, and he paused. Thick particles floated in the air. What had he been breathing in? The ancient debris of this abandoned home? It seemed like something more. He coughed and choked, stepping into the light to see if he hawked anything up.

A surge pulsed from the stream of light.

This part of the forest returning to its undisturbed state.

The light had claimed another victim.

And added more ash to its home.


Elephants and Dragons

When I was a child, my mother used to tell me about the traveling circus and their elephants. I used to ask how they managed to keep such beasts in the circus, and she replied, “They chain them.” Now, I grew up thinking elephants were dumb. How could I not? I saw these massive creatures being held back by a collar on one of their front legs and a thin chain. How could the elephants not free themselves?

It wasn’t until I was older that I realized the circus workers chain the elephants since birth. The young spend every ounce of effort trying to get free. But they can’t free themselves that early. Even as fully grown adults, they believe that thin chain won’t break, so they don’t even try. It’s conditioning.

Today, I’ve learned the elephants are rather intelligent beasts. A tribe of colorful nomads were kind enough to give me a lift as I traveled to a neighboring kingdom for information regarding their new mounts for knights. The tribe rode on the backs of elephants to get around.

My mount was a grand female named Tu’kash’i. The nomads won’t tell me what it means. They fear it will disrespect the elephants if they reveal name meanings. I decided that Tu’kash’i meant “clever soul” because she was, indeed, intelligent. She took great care with me, and the wisdom in her dark eyes astounded me.

At last, we arrived at the kingdom, and I bid the nomads farewell. The king received me eagerly. Nearly jumping off his throne at my approach. I swept low in a bow. “I come from the north to observe–”

“Yes, yes,” the king exclaimed. He clapped me on the back. “I have been expecting you. What I have to show you is marvelous. My brother–your king–should be most impressed.”

I was hurried away before properly introducing myself. Led by the king out the back to a private courtyard. How could I protest? But what I found left me speechless.

Multiple dragons rested on the ground. Every single one of them chained.

The king laughed at my face. “Do not fret! They cannot hurt you. They are as hostile as a mouse.” He proceeded to approach the nearest one and smack it on its flank.

I must say I was rather shocked the ginormous beast didn’t eat him on the spot. But I studied the dragons harder. I had seen dragons in the wild before. Magnificent creatures that could have serious attitude problems.

The dragons I had seen before were solitary, territorial. They were might and eager to display how fierce they were. Their scales shimmered. Their wings glowed. And their eyes reflected the fire within their bellies.

These dragons…these dragons were lackluster, their colors dull and faded. They appeared sickly. Not anything like the robust, wild dragons. They were chained five feet from each other and didn’t pay one another heed. Their wings were limp and useless. Not a single one seemed interested in what was going on.

Needless to say, I was extremely horrified. “A-are these the mounts?”

“Nonsense! These are my pets.” The king broke into laughter. “I have a new breed of horse for the mounts. Sturdy, fast, and full of endurance. They are perfect for knights.”

I couldn’t take my eyes off the tamed beasts. No. The conditioned beasts. It was so sad to see them this way.

The king returned to my side. “I see you are more curious about them for the time being. Well, allow me to tell you a story. When I was but a wee lad, my parents would let me watch the traveling shows that frequented our kingdom. My favorites were the elephants. Do you like elephants?”

“Yes,” was my absent response.

“Well, I learned the masters would chain the young until the young gave up on freeing themselves. Then I learned that the adults were traumatized enough to know not to fight the chains. I thought to myself. If such a strategy works on intelligent enough beasts as elephants, why not try dragons?”

He clapped me on the back again. “Obviously, it worked. I have three generations so far that are this tame. Maybe I should start my own traveling show, eh?”

I didn’t answer. I couldn’t answer. What would I say? Other than I felt like vomiting.


The Legend of the Hakino

Not many know about the legend of the hakino, but I know every story available.

That was why I currently resided in a small village in the heart of Africa. Every year at this time, there was always one who reported traces of the legendary creature. No one had come to me yet, however, and I had been in the village a week.

I flipped through the old notes I had scribed myself. Modern mythology ignored the hakino for whatever reason. Well. There were only a few visual references of the great beast. The majority—which were five in total—had been found in various caves across the globe. All dating back to the cavemen era.

Another visual was a silk painting from ancient China. It depicted something resembling the traditional unicorn, but the lore behind the piece was of the hakino. Though, historically, unicorn only meant “single horn.” The final visual was a banner from medieval England. But they got the hakino’s form wrong, too. Whoever created it mistakenly put a hawk on a rhinoceros’s shoulder.

Breathing in deep, I looked up at the relentless sun. Turned to the native tribe. They had been kind to me for many years as I continued my research. My translator was a village man who acted as liaison between his people and the modern world. Though they rejected modern conveniences with the exception of medicines. It was fascinating to see them preserve their culture.

But the poachers plagued them every year during hunting season.

A commotion started when the scouting party returned. Two men were on either side of a third, helping him hobble on one leg. Blood poured down his useless one.

My translator rose from his seat. Dark eyes taking in the situation of his people. “They have come.”

I didn’t waste any time. Ducking into my hut, I grabbed everything I needed for travel and threw them in my pack. Checked my rifle. Putting binoculars around my neck, I headed out.

“Taylor,” the liaison called, “be careful. Do not get yourself killed.”

Trotting backwards, I couldn’t help but smile. Even if my body died, my soul would never be killed. I followed the blood trail as far as it led. Rifle trained at the ready. The tribe had become my second family, and the poachers had shot one of them. This, I would not brook.

I moved down wind. Crouching through the tall, dry grass. Set up behind a rock. I thought I had heard voices. I listened. The afternoon insects added much ambiance, but I learned to tune them out. I held my breath.

There it was. Laughing. Drunk laughter if I ever heard it.

Creeping onto the rock, I laid flat and the lifted the binoculars to my face.

The camp was approximately sixty yards in front of me. Five men around a fire. Two standing, three sitting. A flask was passed around. One of the standing men held a gun, though he waved it around as if imitating something.

My nostrils flared. They were making fun of shooting my friend. I slowly slid my rifle in front of me. Not wishing to give up my position yet. Looking through the sight, I lined up a perfect head shot. Held my breath again as my finger moved over the trigger.

The ground suddenly shook. My gun fired, but who knew where the bullet went. The poachers were yelling and grabbing guns. I set up another shot. Again, the ground violently shook. So much so, I was thrown off my rock.

I heard the poachers continue screaming. They fired multiple times. But when I tried scrambling to my feet, I was knocked down. What was this? A freak earthquake?

A strong call, of an animal I didn’t recognize, answered me. The yelling subsided. Then, there was silence. Even the insects ceased. All I could hear was my heart thumping in my chest.

Finally, I was able to claw my way back on top of the rock. Came face to face with a vision full of white. Felt hot breath on my back. I swallowed. Daring to look up, I slowly lifted my head.

Piercing copper eyes behind a rhinoceros horn bore into my soul. The abnormally large beast stepped back many paces. Spread large hawk wings.

“The hakino,” I breathed. Moved to the seat of my pants in almost disbelief. This was it. The moment I had waited for, for so long. Before me stood the legendary creature. A white rhinoceros with the gaze and wings of a hawk.

The great beast stared me down in a questioning manner. Intelligence glimmering in its eyes.

I rose to shaky feet. “You’re the hakino. The Great Protector.” I blinked away tears of joy. “God’s Last Righteous Unicorn.”

The hakino bowed on a front leg.

“Wow…after all my years of searching, I’ve finally found you.” I ran a hand through my hair. “You’re the only one of your kind. Have been since the day of creation.”

It nodded and stepped forward. Seeming to evaluate the honesty of my soul.

I remained still. Not from fear but respect. This creature had been around since the beginning of time. Protecting those that couldn’t protect themselves. Including those hunted by poachers. It rarely revealed itself to people. Why had it chosen to reveal itself to me?

The hakino pawed at the ground. Its horn glowed as it unfurled its mighty wings.

Brows furrowing, I searched it. My confusion grew when a hollow horn materialized in my hands. I studied the horn. It had a small hole in the tip. So it wasn’t a drinking horn. Was it to signal? Eyeing the legendary creature, I held the horn to my lips. Blew into it.

The hakino crooned, matching my horn’s pitch.

I took a leap of faith. “Does this call you?” When it nodded, I smiled. “So you really are a unicorn, aren’t you?”

A loud snort was the reply.

Laughing, I gazed upon it some more. Couldn’t resist the temptation. I held out a hand.

The Great Protector put its snout in my open hand. Rumbled in a friendly manner. Then it stepped back. Using its wings for assistance, it reared. Landed on the ground hard enough to shake it.

I stumbled back to the dirt. When I recovered, the hakino was gone. As swiftly as it had arrived. But it was real. The horn was still in my possession. I had been chosen to also be a protector. I stood in silence for some time. Running what had transpired over and over in my head. Then made a mad dash to the village. I had to record everything.

For I—Taylor Rosate—had been part of the single greatest event in a lifetime.


The Legend of the Hakino: Intro

I wanted to introduce my next story as it was commissioned from me. It is the first story I have ever made money from. Thankfully, the person who asked me to make it for them enjoyed it, and they were gracious enough to let me share it to my blog. The hakino is a creature they created and wanted to see brought to life. This story is a tad longer than my normal stories I post on here, coming in at 1,130 words, so expect for a longer read. Please enjoy!


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