Short Story: Wrath of a Universe

A low smoke lay over the sprawling field in the pre-dawn hours. With it were blazing bonfires from bodies piled three-men high, alight to give illumination for those that still lived. The crackle of their flesh and cloth-padding beneath their chain-mail was hidden by the sounds of clanging metal. Thousands of swords from men in both red and blue cloth flashed and shined in the light of the smoking plain.

Behind the Blues a way, the closed draw-bridge of a newly erected castle from the English King gave protection to the royal, inner-guard just inside. The archers atop its walls nocked their arrows together, fired volleys into the Reds’ rear-flanks that had yet reach the swordsmen. A few, Blue knights, their armor blood-stained and their horses fatigued, cut swaths through Red and Blue swords alike to gallop in a charge for the Red Knights that rallied within the chaos.

The charge was met with war-cries from the Red Knights, their immense broadswords heaved overhead ready to smite the would-be invaders. One Knight shouted something about no quarter, but it was lost in the blood-bath beneath him. Not long after, his horse was taken by a Red’s arrow. He tumbled forward, end-over-end atop the horse. He landed either dead or unconscious, beneath the horse, his face pressed into the muck stirred up by the days-long siege on the castle.

The plain was a swamp of bodies, blood, and mud, the pervasive stench of rotting and burning flesh as much meant to burn the dead as to stagger the enemy. The Reds had grown used to the smell by now, but the Blues had been too comfortable in their fresh, clean castle to experience the stench first hand. At that, many of the Blue’s front ranks met the Reds only to wretch and heave out their decadent, pre-battle meals. Most died by the sword, taken advantage of in their moment of humanly weakness.

A second volley of arrows was aimed further inward, fired just as the Knights met one another in the center of the field. Their blades clashed, clamored for anywhere they might draw blood. Instead, they bounced helplessly off thick plate-armor. Most were equally winded by the blows, but fought onward with a breathless, valiant effort. The hail-storm of arrows descended with the prompt of nearby screams and thuds from the dying and dead. A few Knights were caught unawares, saved only by their plating.

Third and fourth volleys were nocked, arced upward through the smoke that strained the archers’ vision for their targets. Each man made a kill, but whether it was an enemy or ally, none could truly be certain. Such was the chaos from atop the ramparts and behind the turrets’ loopholes, that a man could only be certain of his kill by measuring the breadth of the wave that fell as the arrows rained down. If there were a break in the wave at that man’s position, he knew he’d failed.

The morning came with ease, the Reds’ tactic for attacking in the night near impossible to miss by now. Though the cliff’s-edge the English King’s castle sat upon was unscalable, impenetrable from beneath, it was a Western outlook. When the sun began to peer over the hills and mountains of the East, the archers were blinded, as were most of the swordsmen. Their orientation gave them the full glare of sunlight in their eyes, forced them to fight half-blind. They could only listen to the clank of their swords against armored parts to know they were on-target. Otherwise, they were helpless to know whom their opponent might be.

The tide turned in the Reds’ favor. The Blues were pushed back toward the closed draw-bridge and the deep moat carved into the Earth in a half-moon around the castle’s entrance. The blinded archers were forced to fire with lessened accuracy, their waves broken, no longer uniform.

It was then that a streak of fire, as if cast downward from a merlin-esque figure in the heavens, hurtled toward the Earth. Most of the men didn’t notice, but the Blues’ archers were forced to. It was all they could see even through the smog and sunlight. The cowardly and brave alike fled at once, terrified that the Reds had developed some great catapult to rain destruction upon them. But soon even the Reds began to take notice.

The object was ablaze with a firey tail, its trajectory on course to strike the battle-field. Whether friend or foe, the men fled together. The battle waned with only a few that took advantage of the precious distraction to soak their blades or arrows with blood. Soon, even they were drawn toward the figure above. A distant sound like the crackling fires of the dead began to engulf the area. Men of both sides stood to watch in fright, their necks and faces caned upward to see the frantic destruction ready to strike.

At once, the battle ended. It was still chaos, but now arms were cast aside. Bodies formed a sea that surged with erratic movements. Some men shouted about the wrath of God, others cried for their enemy to be slain by him. The rest simply ran, as if compelled to by little more than instinct. Those that chose the latter shed armor, weapons, padding until near-on full-nude to flee more quickly for the trees and distant hills in the East.

As the fireball drew nearer, the low-rumble and crackle of its blazing tail shook the ground and scorched the air. The air atop the trees in the hills caught fire. It spread through the pines and evergreens as if dry kindling. The men there choked, coughed, writhed in pain on the ground from their innards being flash-cooked. The men’s terrified fleeing had stolen away their breath even in those with the best stamina, but the lesser men were already dead. When the others fell to the ground, they writhed long enough to see the last moments of the battlefield itself.

The fireball landed with a bright flash and a tremendous quaking of Earth. There was no-one left to watch from the inside, but from the outer edges of an eagle’s view the destruction was unmistakably total. The great fireball had leveled the castle, the men, and the field, left only a smoking, orange-edged crater. The impact scattered dirt and debris for countless distances, halved the cliff’s-edge so that not a mark of either side’s presence remained.

It was later said the English King had incurred God’s wrath and spite, brought destruction upon both sides equally. As the ages of monarchs gave way to that of reasoned men and their fields of science, mathematics, and astronomy, the theory was changed. However guilty the men had been of immorality– the King among them– their deaths were coincidence. While some outright argued it was not evidence against God’s wrath, others mirrored the sentiment more poetically. It was, they reasoned, a firebolt of anger from the Universe itself mean to dispel man’s wrath, overcome him with humility at his smallness. Whether poetic, true, or not, none at the battle would disagree. Were they not centuries dead, it was certain each of them knew would remark upon their smallness having been witnessed first hand to the wrath of a great, vast universe. Not even the most foolish fools among them would disagree they were much smaller after the battle than at its start.

Short Story: Our Benevolent Friend Part 1



An arid sun baked a desolate patch of sand somewhere between Libya and Lake Nasser in the seemingly endless Sahara. Around it, for a moment, people were scattered like ants tending to the entrance of their colony. Even smaller specks from their equipment and instruments outnumbered them twenty to one in the vast dune of the place. There was but a single anomaly in the uniform flatness and waves of windswept dunes to break the otherwise immaculate, golden sea; a blackness, no larger than a common automobile, in the center of the people and their instruments.

At a near enough proximity, the blackness became a hole– an opening to an underground cavern, where the refraction of light from dust occasionally swirled or spilled inside. The archaeological dig here hoped one day to prove what few scientists and archaeologists believed. These conspiracists, as they were sometimes called, believed they had stumbled upon the oldest, most comprehensive cache of ancient knowledge in existence.

Only time would tell what the diggers might uncover as they shoveled, pick-axed, and brushed their way deeper into ancient catacombs. Speculation and theory ran rampant; perhaps it was the lost library of Alexandria, or perhaps somewhere inside, was the chamber to the lost city of Atlantis. The academic ponderers kept themselves grounded, speculated it might be the tomb of the oldest, first pharaoh. One that predated Narmer, and even still the first Egyptian dynasty, thereby solidifying that the Narmer was not, in fact, he who unified the lands of Egypt in ancient times.

If such were the case, who then might have? The King Scorpion, speculated to have passed unified Egypt to Narmer? Or was it perchance, one yet unknown to the historical community? If so, was the loss of his name due to time’s ravages? Or was it from the tyranny of his rule? Had he decried the population were heretics, struck them down? Was that the reason for this tomb to be so far out of the way, buried where no-one could ever dream to look?

This last speculation had merit, if only for the nature of the catacombs’ discovery– seemingly the most fortunate mishap of man to date. Its serendipitous nature may have rivaled even the great, but wholly misconstrued tale of Newton’s apple and gravitational theories.

While it is common knowledge that both sandstorms and earthquakes are known to occur, their frequency within the deserts and lands surrounding Egypt are less known. Earthquakes are prevalent on the coasts, rare within the confines of the desert. Sandstorms inversely so. But on one particular day, the two seemed to coincide.

An earthquake beneath the Mediterranean sea, felt as far as the Sudan, caused a tidal wave to wash over much of Cairo. It was a terrible thing to happen. Terrible, but revealing. Most of all, it was fascinating. As the ocean swelled, the shock-wave of the most catastrophic earthquake ever recorded occurred. The latter forced the former deep into the desert, threw sand into the air that caused a storm almost equal to that of the Earth’s shakes. The inhabitants hunkered down in their coastal cities, held on until the end might come. For many, it did. Others were more fortunate. The desert though, was soaked by the massive tidal wave that moved inward for hundreds of miles.

This waves destruction walled up sand in its path, collided with the sandstorm to strengthen its reserve. The latter raged forward in destruction where the water could not. After days-long floods, and still more, smaller storms the climactic series of events finally ended.

Clean up and rescues efforts were enacted immediately. Humanitarian aid was sent from all over the world in the forms of food, water, clothing, even helicopters. It was one such ‘copter, diverted from Libya, that was ordered to fly low over the desert and survey the damage. The hole in the Earth was first spotted then. The helicopter’s crew made note of it, continued forward until their fuel forced them back toward the cities.

It is a curious coincidence that a Doctor, who shall go nameless, was searching for a hidden set of catacombs when the seas rose and the dust blew. It was curious, but not altogether uncommon. When he received word of Earth’s peculiar opening, and travel in the regions had been restored, he bee-lined to the site. It took ten, harrowing days before his group uncovered the stones that marked the catacombs’ start, a further two days before the blocks were removed, and the passage was opened.

Gathering their instruments, wits, and their skepticism, the Doctor and his team climbed down into the shaft. They lit their way along with twenty-four hour flares that burned illuminated the passage, threw shadows of a the dozen bodies along its cramped, narrow walls.

At a brick wall deep within the passage, the Doctor and his team were forced to remove more bricks. One-by-one, they gingerly placed bracing devices to stabilize the tunnel, carved out, then heaved out the blocks. With the passage open again, they ventured forth, their shoulders scraping the side walls despite their single-file trudge. They followed the twists and turns for hours, dropped flares every few feet, and headed deeper into the Earth at a gradual slope.

Unlike most tombs and catacombs, these passage ways were unmarked, composed solely of granite blocks arranged in a usual manner. Their fervor was restored when someone speculated this lack of symbology might connect the Great Pyramid to whomever lay buried ahead. The easy air of speculation and banter returned. It was only another half an hour after this that a second brick wall, larger and wider than the last, appeared before them. Again, they placed their braces, carefully removed the bricks, and stepped through.

Nothing less than a spectacular, massive chamber, greeted them on the other side. Flares and headlamps reflected light off golden walls, supplemented a strange irradiation from an even stranger bio-luminescent rock scattered about the room. Again there was no writing, but the presence of stacks of gold coins, gold-plated pottery, and other artifacts bore the unmistakable glyphs of ancient Egypt. Though this dialect was new, or rather so old it was unknown, there could be no doubt of its lineage.

The room’s center was occupied by a most unremarkable slab of stone– at least, it would have been unremarkable were it not for its ornate surroundings. At its head, over-arcing others, was a statue of Nut, the night-time Sky Goddess. Beneath her to the left, Ra, the Sun-God, while at the right, a massive Ankh of life. Someone posited that this pharaoh must have been looked upon as the creator of life, bringing the sun from the darkness.

Something struck the Doctor; the pharaohs were all identified by the headdresses upon which their grave slabs were inscribed. But here there was none. It was not unheard of, but strange given the obvious reverence placed upon this particular ruler. Why had they not included this? Surely, he commanded their respect and loyalty. It was suspicious to say the least.

The Doctor gave the word that they must open the slab at once, an instinct that he would later recollect upon as his greatest compulsion in life. The others would agree.

Together the dozen men and women fought the top of the slab, pried it apart carefully. It slid sideways, was set to rest upon the ground. Shock once more flickered through the faces of those present; they found no discernible identity to whom lie inside the ancient sarcophagus within the slab. Again, not unheard of, but suspicious given the sarcophagus was cast in that same, pure-gold that lined the walls.

What happened next was nothing less than truly mesmerizing.

Slowly but surely, electricity began to arc from the walls of the chamber. Some fled in fear of electrocution, but the Doctor was frozen in place beside the slab. The electrical discharges grew in speed, strength, quantity, but only zapped from the walls to the sarcophagus. The room filled with the buzz and cracks, and blue light of electricity. In the center of it all, was the Doctor.

The ancient coffin began to stir, and with a light click and a hiss, it parted in twain. Its top rose slowly, as if on silent, mechanical hinges. After a moment of unfathomable uncertainty, the electricity stopped. The room was darkened, silent again.

A fine layer of dust and smoke had rose from the innards of the open sarcophagus, while the rest of the team inched their way back toward the Doctor. He led them the pair of steps forward, to look down in bewilderment at the coffins’ contents. It was a man, or rather, something man-like. Nonetheless it was there, perfectly preserved. The bio-luminescent rock shined off of a gray-blue skin, its brilliance metallic, yet leathery.

With a joyous cry, the Doctor exclaimed, “It’s breathing! Look, the chest!”

Indeed, the creature’s chest with a hypnotic, rhythmic motion. Silence fell once more, not a man nor woman dared to breath, fearing they might steal the creature’s last breaths. The eyelids began to flutter on the oblong head, and in an instant, snapped open. Two, bulbous eyes looked out upon the team and the Doctor, as it eased upright.

It spoke a garbled, indiscernible dialect of ancient Egyptian, seemed frustrated at multiple attempts of the same pattern of words. The team engaged each-other in debate of how best to explain their speech. It silenced itself at once.

After a moment, the Being closed its eyes, tilted its head downward. A moment later, its head rose again, and with a fickle gesture its hand, the rocks grew brighter, the room enveloped in a day-time light. It stood promptly. The slab hissed, clicked, sank lower into the ground. The group had frozen in curiosity, terror. The Being stepped across the chamber to a wall, waved its hand. A doorway appeared. It disappeared inside, returned momentarily, clothed in garments of an ancient, ornate fashion.

The group had watched in utter perplexity. Their minds alight with possibility, but their bodies and tongues too stunned and tied to move. The Being stepped for the doctor, its robes trailing behind it, and bowed its head.

It spoke flawless English, “What year is this?”

The Doctor fought his frozen muscles to explain the shift from Egyptian time to that of the Roman system. “It is possible you’ve been here ten thousand years.”

The Being pondered this for a moment. No doubt his species was aware of his presence here, why then, had they not come to check on him, the Doctor wondered.

“I will explain to you in a moment, the fallacy of this expectation,” he said to the Doctor, knowing his thoughts. “For now, I must inform you that I require sustenance.”

Hands went to pockets and backpacks, offered the Being masses of energy bars, sandwiches and other, easily accessed consumables. Someone collected them, handed them over. The Doctor passed forward a large jug of water. The Being sat, gestured for them to join, and promptly devoured each morsel. With the fury of a man denied sustenance for ten thousand years, it shoveled the food in with table manners at home only within the tomb.

It finished, wiped away bits from its leathery skin, and thanked them, “I have not eaten in millennia, I was beginning to feel it.”

Chuckles emitted from the group as an air of elderly storytelling descended upon them from their guest.

“I must confess,” the Being began. “I expected to be roused much longer ago than this. But I am satisfied to be here now. I will relay to you my own history, before I ask that you relay your own.”

The Doctor was satisfied with this, as were the others. Each of them sat in their various ways, looked on the Being with undivided attention.

It continued, “I came to this planet thousands of years ago, from a place even further away than that in light’s time. There was a war on, and many whom wished not to fight were allowed safe passage and sustenance enough to last them their million-year life-span. I, being a social adept, wished not to live alone, but left as such in any case. My ship’s automated scans located a world– this one–, which read that possibility of intelligent life had begun to evolve. As a curious mind, I wished to observe this evolution. I landed here, rather unsuccessfully, and took a detachable pod to look-over the planet.”

It seemed to bear a happiness in its chest that seemed familiar, yet uncanny in its alien features; “I traveled every passing step of it time and again, making observations. Then, one day, appeared an intellect of rather knowledgeable species. I began to teach them, much as you would an animal. As time carried on and their intellects grew, I further advanced their knowledge in all walks of life. In gratitude, they asked for help in construction of a shrine. I wished for no shrine, but granted them the means to build one. In this, they built a massive pyramidal structure, resembling my ship. The technology I had given them however, was not cohesive with the primitive tools they used to construct it. And so, we broke them down, used their parts.”

A note of sorrow seeped into its voice beneath the warmth of recollection, “More time passed and it came upon me that, perhaps one day, I would no longer be with the people I had found here. Either in death, or for some other reason, I might no longer be capable of imparting things to them. So, I had them print the entirety of my ship’s databases onto their scrolls. Perhaps you can answer later, what became of them.”

The note of sorrow became a chord, as if a symphony were harmonizing it together beneath its voice, “Then, one day their came a plague that spread across the planet. Resources in certain areas grew scarce, and other civilizations I had not seen to became envious. In-fighting began, but I wished not to witness it. I also however, wished not to leave. So, I set upon building my freezing chamber. Those who worshiped me, as it soon became evident that some did, aided in the construction of this place. The assumed luxury served a purpose I chose not to regale to them– the electricity might baffle them, but I couldn’t allow that it might one day be used for their warring. And so, after my chamber’s completion, I buried my ship and laid myself to rest, waiting to be awakened by a war-less civilization.”

There was a moment of quiet introspection before its gaze shifted outward with a warm smile and its uncanny face, “And here you are.”

The team exchanged some manner of shame. The Doctor, as with the others, contemplated how best to explain. He did his best to retell the expanse time, Humanity growth, and its ills and deeds. In short order, the Doctor had built a rapport with his ancient acquaintance.

Finally, tired but elated, the Doctor raised a singular question, “What will you do now?”

The Being thought intensely, replied with a succinctness, “I must un-bury my ship–” It hesitated at a slight air of disappointment that rippled over them. Someone asked if it would return. “In due course, of course. It shall only be a year. Our technology is well off enough that even ten thousands of years ago, I was able to make this destination in a few months time. I will update my data-banks, see what has become of my civilization. Then, I shall return to you and your cultures, in the galactic name of peace.”

The Being stood, stretched, its movements curiously human. The others mimicked the motion as the Doctor spoke in earnest, “My friend, you’re a most benevolent being, but may I ask; upon your return, will you reveal yourself to the masses, tell your story?”

It smiled its best smile, “In due course, of course.”

And so, the great ship lifted from beneath that tomb, rocketed skyward and disappeared into the heavens. The Doctor and his colleagues watched, eager for the day it would return and bestow upon them more curiosities than man could quite conceivably imagine. No doubt with a life-span such as theirs, eons of progress had commenced during its hibernation that now required a renewal of knowledge. With each passing night and day, the rumors of its existence spread and humanity slowly glances skyward– searching for our benevolent friend on return from the stars.

Bacatta, Michigan; Where Old Meets New

Bacatta, Michigan

“Where Old Meets New”

Bacatta, a city in the lower peninsula of Michigan, sits less than a hundred miles Northeast of the Indiana-Illinois-Michigan border. Originally inhabited by the Pottawatomi Tribe until the Treaty of Chicago, the land was formally annexed with the rest of the Michigan Territory between August 1821 and March 1822. The still-juvenile US government negotiated with the Pottawatomi, Ojibwe, and Ottawa tribes to seize it and the rest of the groups’ land and force them South along the Trail of Death.

In 1830, nearby Detroit and Grand Rapids’ growing demand for both lumber and agriculture saw the initial formation of Bacatta County. What was little more than a few, massive plots of plains and even greater forests, were quickly cleared and felled to create usable farmland. While the lumber-industry eventually secured itself elsewhere, the empty land it had left behind made for wide, open fields through-out Bacatta County’s borders. By 1835, when Bacatta was officially designated a settlement, the few land-holders there had already sown fields for half a decade. The possibility of high-profits from major tracts of sow-able land incentivized others to the county. The first settlers’ numbers were soon doubled.

By the beginning of the 20th Century, Bacatta’s municipal government had been established in a small, central plot of land between the largest farms on little more than a dirt path. This trodden grassland later became the first, official seat of Bacatta’s government; little more than a few, rickety shacks of mud and fresh pinewood. However, after the downward spiral of the Great Depression, and the resultant, upward rise thereafter, a decades-long industrial-revolution took place. By the middle of the 40’s, industry had taken residence in Bacatta, helped the town expand to those few, unfortunate souls’ land the Depression had claimed.

Not long after, agricultural equipment manufacturing became the town’s mainstay. For the first decade, growth was unprecedented. To support the County and town, more and more land was bought, built on. The rickety shacks turned to brick and mortar buildings, dirt-roads to gravel and asphalt, and settlers to villagers and citizens. While World War II ground the growth to a halt as Bacatta’s multiple, machine-run factories were seized for the war-effort, employment rose sharply. However, the town’s return to normal operations after the war left many unemployed.

Despite this, Bacatta continued to grow. Still more land was purchased from its tillers. Towering pines were felled in swaths, used to build homes and businesses along the stretches of reaped plains that formed its center. Unfortunately, Bacatta’s dwindling farmland also shrank its available pool of farmers, wounding the industry that helped to build it. By the early 70’s, the town’s growth had plateaued and only a single, industrial company remained: Agri-Plus had survived the onslaught by exporting goods across the country, making deals with various, distant hardware and department stores, and offering discounts to local farmers to drive up its reputation.

Though Bacatta began to shift from an industrial economy to a more diverse, functional one, it remained incapable of long-term survival without drastic change. Unemployment crept ever-upward. Homelessness infected small areas of the town, built-up since the war. Civic leaders scurried for answers, solutions, and Bacatta Times’ headlines ranted about a nigh-end to the town.

From the mid-70’s to the mid-80’s the plateau trended downward. The trickle of new-arrivals to dried up, effectively bolstered rumors of the city’s inevitable demise. Bacatta’s already sparsely populated lands watched its inhabitants turn away one-by-one, seek work and new-lives elsewhere. Then, in 1986, Pharmaceutical Solutions arrived with a promise to help bolster the economy. Abbreviated Pharma-Sol, the company set up shop to manufacture and research medicinal drugs near the center of town. Its thousands of vacant positions offered refuge for those hurt by the economic downturn. Various incentives, tax-breaks, and closed-door deals, bribed Pharma-Sol to use its third-party realty and rental corporations to purchase and lord over the land as its benefactor.

Despite these often-seedy deals, Bacatta once more boomed. The sudden growth caused waves whose effects would be felt for decades, but not all of them were positive waves. The next decades left certain, characteristic scars on the land and people, both figurative and literal. The proverbial knife had come down during the ’90s and forever scored the beautiful face of the town.

The cut first pierced skin with an influenza epidemic that spread through the town and outlying areas, crippled Bacatta’s earning power. As per their supposed goodwill, Pharma-Sol responded with a variety of high-priced vaccines to safe-guard the still-healthy. It was hailed as the proverbial, armored-mask against the knife. In truth, Bacatta’s government and health-care providers were given no choice but to pour their last resources into Pharma-Sol’s vaccines. The subsequent, massive financial debts to State, Federal, and Private lenders only further worsened the town’s economy.

Mere months after the fiscal catastrophe, and spurned by an anonymous tip, the FBI began to comb through Pharma-Sol’s operations. The mask it seemed, had been little more than a poorly-applied placebo. Already concerned with the possibility of foul-play, the FBI used the death of one of Pharma-Sol’s head researchers as motive to sleuth through its records, employees, and dealings. The wound left behind was only fully revealed once court transcripts were publicized. Media-fueled lynch-mobs appeared in protest, outraged by the revelation of a conspiracy and scandal that spelled disaster for both Pharma-Sol and Bacatta.

As evidenced by both court testimonies, and recovered information, the aforementioned researcher had been ordered murdered by Pharma-Sol’s CEO, and Board of Directors. The killer was never caught. However, many parties testified openly, assured the court that the man’s death-warrant had been signed by his discovery of the influenza epidemic as a hoax– one engineered by Pharma-Sol’s executives to increase quarterly profits.

In less than a month the scandal shuttered the company. Its CEO and Board of Directors were either jailed, executed, or committed suicide in fear of the repercussions. Investor confidence dissolved overnight. The company’s veinous tendrils, that had snaked beneath all of Bacatta’s economy to nourish it with fluid, green life, withered and died. Bacatta declared bankruptcy months later, and Pharma-Sol’s assets were seized as evidence, and either dismantled or auctioned off for small, Federal gains.

Unemployment, debt, and homelessness quickly ran rampant. Until the early 2000s, large swaths of the town were abandoned, eventually splitting it into two parts; Old Bacatta, and New Bacatta. Though more recent restoration efforts helped to revitalize Old Bacatta, those years saw its red and white-brick buildings tarnished with the dust and grit of a seedy underbelly. The once-strong town remained largely abandoned until early 2004, when Biological-Conventions (aka Bio-Con) opened its doors.

Bio-Con’s CEO, Ronald Jorgeson, a former Navy SEAL turned businessman, unfurled his own tendrils through-out the town and surrounding County. Through Bio-Con’s third party subsidiaries, he purchased, renovated, and reconditioned the land, and continued urban development that had been stalled for more than twenty years. In short, he fought to breathe new life into the city. With Bio-Con’s reputation, soaring stock-prices, and Jorgeson’s own, personal promise to resurrect Bacatta, investor confidence leaned sharply in his favor. Like Pharma-Sol, the supposed pharmaceutical company had brought jobs, hope, and direly-needed money to the near-dead town. However, unlike Pharma-Sol, Jorgeson used effective, economic stimuli to help the town regain its footing and blossom into a full-fledged city.

With his land holdings and subsidiary contractors, Jorgeson built office-buildings, shops, and suburbs, then leased them out or sold them off for low-ball offers to encourage emigration. Through a series of donations and arranged task-forces, Bacatta’s Police Departments were bolstered, began to chase the less-desirable elements out. As Bio-Con grew, Bacatta outpaced it by a wide margin. A new population, attracted largely by the increase in employment security, education, and public safety, formed a cosmopolitan city whose sole industry was diversity itself. In less than a decade, the town that had gasped for air, breathed, once more invigorated.

With most of the gang activity and vagrancy driven from town, the landscape reformed. In only a few, short years after Bio-Con’s initial appearance, large tracts of abandoned buildings were bulldozed, demolished for new, tan-concrete boutiques, shops, and parlors that sprang up through the center of its uptown district. Downtown, municipal and private office-buildings rose behind the height of North Main Street, its rear-half long-since the sole home of the city’s government.

Though certain areas of farmland, and former-businesses, remain abandoned along its outskirts, Bacatta has once more risen from the ashes. With wise investment and cautious remembrance, Civic leaders continue to secure Bacatta’s future. Its people live mostly happy, healthy lives, completely oblivious to its largely sordid history and shadowy benefactors. And, as per its motto, “Where Old Meets New;” Bacatta is where an old world and an new one converge to ensure a long, healthy life for an assuredly interesting future.

Bonus story: Pompeii



To my friend and confidant,

It is in the first months of our new ruler Titus that I relay to you the events of the past days.

A preface then, for the annals of history. In this era, the great ruler Vespasian, whom gave to us the beloved Colosseum, and waged relentless war on Jerusalem, now rests at peace. His son Titus, whom led the great campaign, sits ably upon his father’s former-throne; the first such monarch for our great land. However, I digress, for there is a much more sorrowful, earth-shattering matter– in the most literal of senses– that I must convey.

As you may recall from our discussion several nights past, I had theorized on a principle of scientific-mathematics. Perhaps speculated is the more apropos term. We ruminated on the true effect of those fateful, “earth shakings” some fifteen years ago. Thus we proclaimed, however humorously over our pipes, that these and the recent tremors of the earth were related. As this was your final night in the villa, you thenceforth left with fortune, avoiding the coming onslaught.

I must go into greater detail by returning my thoughts to an earlier time. In doing so perhaps I may better explain my meanings. You remember, of course, that we spoke of the quaking experienced for they days whilst you were within the villa. We also spoke heavily on the false beliefs of the townsfolk that giants had returned once again– awoken from their slumber, as it were. We furthered conversed on the topic of the aristocracy, ourselves included, whom regarded the phenomena as a mild nuisance. Finally, we settled matters of reconstruction over a pipe, in which you wished me good fortune in the villa’s restoration. As an overseer of the great ville of Pompeii, I set to work immediately. As it were, however, disaster loomed.

I will relay, in best of detail as I can, the events of the wrathful days succeeding your departure:

After exchanging formal pleasantries and seeing you out, I returned to rest myself heartily for the tasks of the next days. I awoke with an early sun the next morning, as is an honorable man’s time. The dawn was quiet, more-so than I have heard in many, many years. I remarked to myself on the subject, gathered my thoughts and materials for the day, and made for Council with excellent time. I made preparations for my presentation, then with readiness, spoke to the Council of amendments to the ville. With a hearty welcome, they approved my plans, and adjourned. I thanked them as they filed from those opulent halls, and left hastily with them.

On my way toward the harbor, the great mountain loomed over me as I strolled, but I thought only of the preparations to be made. Then, the eerie silence I spoke of before, overtook me. It was then, as the great God in the sky that shines its warmth upon us was just overhead, that the ground shuddered once more. In the past it has been but a triviality. On this day though, the earth trembled as if up-heaved in a fit. I was knocked to the ground, helpless. My scrolls spilled about. I righted myself while the ground pitched and rolled as though I stood on the deck of some seaward-ship amid a terrible storm. It was then that a sound by the rivers of hell emitted from that great, distant mound that reached skyward.

I stood terrified upon the earth that rose and rolled beneath me. I gazed outward at the great mound, saw nothing. I was unsure what had transpired, but time would reveal that the great tragedy had yet to unfold. Though I was fearful of what might happen next, the earth stilled. Silence befell the ville.

I hastened to my dwelling, passing confused peasants and passersby. Each wore more confusion or concern than the last. When thenceforth I reached my door, I entered and cast my belongings on a table to clutch my pipe. I set myself at the table, hoping to recollect my nerves. Only after ruminating on the events and consuming a bottle of wine, did the vile feeling begin to churn within my soul.

I set to work on my reconstruction prints hoping my wits would return, and after a fashion, I heard passersby speak bits beyond my windows. I pieced together more of the events presently unfolding.

It was said that great plumes of steam rose from the sea beyond the harbor. With concern and curiosity abundant, I laid my plans at rest and rushed for the harbor in defiance of that slow, ethereal churning. It was then that I saw the steam; it rose heaven-ward from a boiling ocean. I swear by the Gods I saw the water froth above a rising darkness beneath the surface. The sea became shallower, lighter; as though its floor rose with each passing moment.

Then, an approximation of seven hours after my fall, and the first tremblings of the day, a second, great explosion shook the earth. This time it was as frightening as any could see. A cloud of smoke and steam rose high into the air and unfurled outward and upward, like the limbs of some great pine. It blended darkness with light, emanated steadily outward as I gaped in horror, frozen in time.

I chanced a look seaward, aghast. Ships burned while their men rushed to put fires out. Others forced their sails upward, fiercely attempted escape. They fought vainly against wind that prevailed at their bows, and forced them further inland.

Driven by the wind, the cloud widened. My wits returned, forced me ’round on-heels, and back toward my dwelling. Glowing embers, and heavy, fiery stones rained upon the ville with the wrath of the Gods’ spite. I rushed to collect my things but ash filled my lungs. My bosom heaved and I heard strikes upon the thatched roof. A glance out my window revealed the ash piling atop the people still frozen in terror. I grabbed what I could, and fled to await an end to the uproar.

The next bits are vague. I remember little. As my feet quickened the rest of me from town, the peasants and passersby I’d encountered before remained motionless. Frightened, they stood open-mouthed. I rushed past with nary a word nor thought but to continue forward. I must have run farther and faster than even the greatest of Olympians.

I made my way toward Napolis, barely passing much further from the villa’s out-lands, before I collapsed in exhaustion. As fortune had it, I was happened upon by a traveler with horse and cart bound for Napolis. He pressed upon me the privilege of transport which I graciously accepted. Weary and frightened, I relayed the events that had unfolded. The traveler, floored by my recollections, told me he had seen the great cloud rise, and had hoped to find all fleeing as I had. We saw nary another soul until we reached the borders of Napolis.

We made our way through Napolis where I met with a learned council whom took me in for an evening. I slept without rest, and awoke earlier than usual. I stepped outside to feel the earth shake violently once more. It lasted mere moments, but felt as though days passed.

My eyes hastened to the direction of the villa: smoke darkened the sky. I hurried to higher elevations for a better view, and as I neared the top of a hill, a terrible sight greeted me. Great, darkened swaths of smoke had been joined by plumes white and red. The villa burned out of control!

I stared outward with more remorse for having fled so hastily than as I have ever felt. The earth trembled once more and again I was toppled, but scrambled up with it still trembling beneath me. It was then that I saw a monstrosity the Earth had created.

In the far off reaches of the sea was a spectacle I feel words might never do justice to; a wall composed thoroughly of water, and taller than that of the beloved Colosseum or any structure I may recall, headed inland from the harbor.

A messenger appeared beside me upon the hill and spoke, but his words were silence to me. I was taken by fear and awe. When he turned to follow my gaze, his face took on the same vacancy of mine. In a moment, the wall was gone. The small plumes of smoke near the harbor, which I supposed were ships, were snuffed out, drowned. The messenger, lost for words, mirrored my silent sentiments.

When the shock had worn off, he relayed word from the ville’s Council that a great, failed exodus had been attempted. Those that remained now surmised that those who had remained through the night were lost. Panic and sorrow were rampant among the survivors. The ships and harbor had burned as I had presumed, and the winds, fires, and clouds of smoke and ash had most escape.

It is now in my conclusion that I tell you I fear for the worst of our small ville. It is now days past, and the refugees of Pompeii wander aimlessly among its ruined outskirts. The town and its inhabitants are buried beneath earthen-ash. Its council, or what remains, is confounded at what to do. We’ve called a meeting in the noon to plan a reconstruction, but it is suggested that we rebuild at a further location, away from the great evil of Vesuvius. Perhaps when the time is right, it will swallow us all whole, but for now I only wish to apprise you of the events that have unfolded.

An acquaintance in time,