Windows To Darkness: Solar Labyrinth

Adventure Continues

The soulless voice echoed off the trees in a mechanical drone that immediately put Ephraem in a state of fight or flight. He would have turned to run as his heart quickened within his chest but the machine dog followed up its greeting with a playful bow. 

Ephraem loved dogs and this gesture brought him back to his childhood memories of playing with the family’s sheepdog while tending their flocks.  How could something so unnatural remind him of home?

The moment of confusion lingered until Ephraem softly said “Hello.”

“Who are you?” they both said to each other.

“I am E.L. an automated construct from the Metaverse, I have a registered time for recreational wandering,” E.L. said

“Who is your alpha?” Ephraem asked.

“We have no leader, we are ruled by a decentralized autonomous organization, we call the D.A.O., it is the united will of the users.” the voice answered.

The marvel of speaking to a metallic dog vanished when Ephraem realized that a dog could smell the trail of the boy far faster than he could follow the few and far between footprints. 

“Since you’re supposed to be a dog, can you track a smell for me? I’m looking for someone.” Ephraem asked.

“Who are you looking for?” asked the Dog in a mechanical tone.

Ephraem was hesitant to share all the details of his mission to such a strange creature so he said, “a young friend who is lost.”

“I don’t have the capacity to smell in the external simulation. But I can analyze the terrain of the forest and mark the footprints on a map of the area? Does this help at all?” E.L. said as a holographic map appeared between them.

Ephraem rushed his words, “That would help greatly, thank you.” 

E.L. zoomed in until the hologram showed one set of tracks. Ephraem asked the mechanical dog if it could help figure out the direction. 

“In the database, those tracks belong to a GOBLIN model, which is now obsolete, but originally assembled in the Citadel,” E.L. answered.

“What’s the Citadel?” Ephraem asked.

“The Citadel is the protective shell that insulates the perfection of the Metaverse from the rest of the simulation ” E.L. replied. “I can show you,  it’s not fair for an automated walk sequence,  only 12 hours,” added E.L.

Ephraem looked at his watch sarcastically, “12 hours huh, you say this like a happy dog on a walk”. 

 E.L. had no facial features Ephraem could read so he assumed that this mechanical creature didn’t get his joke and added, “We will walk as long as God wills it.” They started down a hill following the tracks that were lit up from the map scanner.

Ephraem took a break next near a  stream at the edge of the forest. “What are you doing?” Asked E.L, “we are getting so close, why stop now?” He could see a little of where they were going and replied, “from the looks of our path I will need to replenish my water.” It looked very dark and dismal through the trees.

After another eight hours of walking the two got to a place where they could see nothing but a labyrinth. This labyrinth had solar panels laid over what looked to be a wasteland.

“We have to walk through that to get to the Citadel,” E.L. said.

Looking at the labyrinth Ephraem felt a sense of emergency. It all looked very confusing to walk through and could take forever to make it to the entrance of the Citadel. 

Ephraem thought about how scared the small child must be and said a short prayer, “Lord have mercy on us and give me the strength to follow your path.”

With renewed courage, Ephraem took his first steps into the plastic wasteland and said, “Hey E.L. wait up!!”

Stay Tuned For More Of Windows TO Darkness right here on Storm Of Ideas

Windows To Darkness: Ephraem for a Dream

Story by Nate Armstrong & Dokken Storm

Image created by Nate Armstrong

The last time we saw The Upside Down we left with a wink, the mystery continues…

The silent darkness of night was interrupted by a sudden scream.  An inconsolable girl was sobbing and in between screams rambled on about a winking goblin to all who gathered outside of her house. 

In the distance, Ephraem heard the screeching of a young girl and crossing himself in prayer, hurried his pace towards the commotion.

By the time he entered the village all the men were heading towards the forest to find a small black bear that could fit inside a window.  No one believed in goblins, especially ones that winked.

His first instinct was to join the hunt but some intuition held him in the village and he decided to talk to the girl who saw what happened. 

Her story raised the hair on the back of his neck.  She must have dreamed this he thought to himself. Looking at the window he saw no claw marks or broken glass that would indicate a clumsy animal with paws. 

He had often searched for lost lambs while shepherding his flock. He always looked for tracks before setting out in rescue and so he did the same thing now. 

After walking many circles around the house he finally saw some tracks. Two sets.  One set was obviously from a barefoot child but the other set was smaller still and must have been heavy from the way it left tracks on the earth. What would cause these tracks and why was the boy following along like a puppy. 

“These tracks were not leading into the forest where the rest of the men had gone off to.  Do I have time to go get them?” he wondered. 

Ephraem rushed in the direction of the tracks. What he saw next simultaneously stunned him and made him sick to his stomach…

What happens next? Stay tuned to Windows Of Darkness right here next week on Storm Of Ideas.  

Windows To Darkness: A Peek Behind The Void

Story by Nate Armstrong & Dokken Storm

Cover image made by Nate Armstrong

In The Upside Down two societies are living close but apart. One living in harmonious union with God and the other living in a techno land of illusion. What happens when one who knows nothing of true spiritual life looks over the fence…

On a hill, there is a community of people. These people believe in the Faith that is true and show this continually. Working the fields using both old and new technology. They pray before doing any work, make time to be with family and friends, make attempts at furthering their technological capabilities within reason. They understand what it is they are meant for and what it is they are here on this earth to do. A society dedicated to achieving Theosis. 

Partaking in the daily activities a young man named Ephraem stopped to be thankful for everything he saw around him. Knowing that there were somehow those who knew nothing of the Faith and what it means to follow The Good Shepherd. Having understood this he went back to his work of plowing and seeding fields for the fall harvest, taking moments to be thankful for everything he had and was given.

Across a valley, there is a world of grand illusion. Living in the Metaverse, the people of this citadel leave the real world behind to float above the streets in a digital avatar.  Some keep their human form but others choose the way of chimera.  

Chemical euphoria took care of any pleasure requested, thirst, hunger, and any other desire.  For most citizens of the citadel, this kept them content but some would not live on digital bread alone. 

Within the technosphere, there was something sinister that truly ruled the society. A noble lie was told upon the inception of the city, to maintain the grid and keep the circle turning. The ruler in secret needed the blood of babes to keep himself sustained.

In the cover of night, his private goblins of wire and pandemonium went out into the countryside searching for children of men.  

“My child, come with me and see,” the Goblin said to a little boy while coaxing him from his bed.

The boy was terrified and screamed. A scream that went unnoticed with a metallic hand over his mouth.

“Child, quiet your mind you’re mine and always have been, come and see what I have to show you.” said the goblin.

The boy followed the goblin out the window of his room. His sister saw the goblin and froze in terror. Watching the two leave through a window, the goblin turned back and winked at the girl… 

Stay tuned… Windows To Darkness continues next week right here on Storm Of Ideas.

The Green Zone

Image made by Nate Armstrong

Story by Dokken Storm

A passport is usually something that is used for adventure. To be adventurous takes spirit and patience. In The Upside Down there is a pandemic of illusion. This illusion causes fear, dread, and despair. 

John & Maria had twin sons and one girl. The twins were Florus and Laurus, the little girl was Anna. They were from the extremely small town of Hillsview, South Dakota, this town was home to only a couple of families. They decided to leave the town and go for a trip somewhere. Unsure of where it was they wanted to go, they just wanted to go. 

John & Maria were dealing with the loss of one of their sons, Florus. Laurus and Florus were two very different people. Laurus was more introverted and would rather be with himself and left to his own devices than be around large groups of people, Florus was an extroverted, loving, and outgoing person. Florus needed to be around people and talk to everyone about everything. 

Florus had died six months ago. He had an adverse reaction to a vaccine he was given. The family made attempts at suing the hospital and the vaccine maker but had no luck. It was now law that children had to be vaccinated to be in public places. John & Maria were able to keep their children from it for some time before Florus was caught in public playing alone. He was taken to a facility and held there till his parents picked him up. While there he was vaccinated without the consent of his parents. An attempt was made to sue the government but this was to no avail. Laws had been instated that allowed the government full control over specifics of the health of children. 

John looked at Maria and said, “We will be ok, we just need to pray for him. We will see him again.” Saying this Maria looked away knowing it was true but still hurt knowing she would never see her boy again. There were always conversations about whether there was anything they could have done to protect their child. A guilty conscience made the two boil with anger. 

As the world moved further and further into a black hole of evil and despair over something contrived, people broke apart on levels as of yet unknown to the human condition. Many different theories would fly over the decentralized internet as to how and who was in control of the theatrics playing it in front of everyone. There was never a conclusive answer to the questions raised. 

As John & Maria were in town there was a massive amount of vehicle movement. A soldier with an intercom was directing, “All those who have been walking the streets without the passport of freedom need to come to the end of the road and receive the proper paperwork. If you continue to walk among us without the proper inclusive paperwork you will be jailed for the night and brought the court in the morning. Charges are severe for unlawful behavior.” Words no one thought they’d hear. John heard someone next to him whisper, “I don’t know about all this” and walked to the end of the road. 

Maria gathered her children into the car and they drove off through allies. Evading the military-like vehicles was hard but doable. They had a small sedan that was very silent, allowing them to evade the military vehicles. 

As they drove out there was a man in rags and a Cross around his neck. Slowing the car John leaned out the window, “Can we help you with anything, sir?” The man looked away for a moment and darted his face to John, “If you could see the end it would be amusing don’t you think?” A crazy thing to say but John sat for a second and looked over at Maria. Her face made him smile. The confusion on her face was exactly what was happening inside his mind. Turning back to the ragged man, “Are you sure we can’t help you? We are getting out of here and heading to the town we came from.” The ragged man climbed on their car roof, using a piece of leather string he tied himself down. John assumed this meant he wanted to come with so he drove off to the side road they used to get into the city. 

Outside the city, there was a view of downtown from a hill. Everything looked dystopic and frail. John looked at Maria and they became very aware of what was happening. Things were building up to an epoch. The city was full of people walking towards the end of the street getting their papers and vaccines. The messages were still ringing in their heads. THoughts of depression were looming but they knew they had to get back to their home and pray. John prayed the Jesus prayer the whole time home. 

As they drove up to their driveway the ragged man leaped off the car and ran to a nearby field and dropped to make prostrations. They saw him do this and were shocked for a moment but walked close to him and prostrated with him. Their hearts were lifted in prayer. 

The ragged man looked at the family and began to breathe deeply before saying, “I have not seen anything and yet there is more than enough there to see. God bless us. God willing we will see an end in sight but for now, we can pray and feel close to each other and God. God treated us with undeserved grace because of the Son he dearly loves, and so we should praise God.” The ragged man walked away to an open area of the field. John realized he never learned this man’s name. He went to ask when suddenly a massive flock of black helicopters flew over them. The ragged man looked back at John, “Spellbound, a future of miracles and blasphemy. Quite fitting,” and kept walking in the field. 

“Will you tell me your name?”, John asked.

“I am an unsuspecting person of faith and interest in the sense of ideas and thought, but you can call me Martin,” he said looking forthrightly.

Unsure of what to do with Martin John walked back to the house and told Maria the man’s name. “I swear I feel like I have seen him somewhere just not sure where,” she said while unpacking things they got while in town. She dropped something on the table in the kitchen and remembered where she had seen the man, it was in town before speaking to people during protests in online videos.

Martin yelled back for the family in the field. There was a sign in the sky he wanted them to see. The whole family came running out to see what Martin was yelling about. When they looked up they couldn’t see anything. Anna looked around and said, “I don’t see anything mister.” Laurus pulled Anna close and picked her up. Martin turned to the family, “Let sleeping dogs lie, soon we will all see it. A sign from above that we are taken care of and all will pass away and we will see the Kingdom.” Martin walked a bit to the edge of their property and without knowing it knew it was the end of their land. He prayed for their fruits and labors to be great and blessed. When he turned back to the house he had many things on his mind to tell the family. 

Entering the house Martin took a seat facing the opposite direction of the family. A confused feeling befell the whole family but the children laughed at the oddness. “I think there is something that needs to be done as much as it sounds insane. Although, an insane person would probably and has probably done so many times as has been asked to. To take the vaccine and get the proper papers. I want to be an example as to what can really happen to the body and maybe just maybe people will assume what could happen to their lofty and weighty souls. Hades, children is a place and your friends won’t want to play and swim in the lakes there,” Martin said while facing away and making hand gestures that made no sense. John looked and assumed the worst. Martin turned and having the look of a happy and serene man waved his hand at John and made the sign of the Cross over the whole family. He left the house to head back to the town and get what was needed to be in society. 

John & Maria prayed that Martin changed his mind or at the very least no harm comes to him. Something every person did when taking or knowing someone who took the vaccine and got the papers showing they could freely move about. 

Martin got all the required medicine and passport to properly operate in this new society. He began to show side effects quickly. Even though he showed a reaction he never felt it or noticed anything. The people around him noticed immediately and began to show it on their faces. Martin had growths and darkened portions of skin and began to have body convulsions. These convulsions didn’t affect his movement or speech. A glow was around him, a glow of the Holy Spirit. Something many didn’t understand was this glow but those who believed knew well what this was. 

Those who knew went straight for the most open and free land they could find. This land for a time was deemed unsuitable for people due to the environment and climate change. Truly there was no issue. As the people ran they tore down signs that read “KEEP OUT” and kept going. 

Laurus saw Martin coming back to the house from the tree line. He ran inside to get his parents to come and see. They all gathered on the porch seeing this man coming towards them. Maria glanced around Martin and noticed that there was a massive group of people driving through the woods quite a distance away. Martin got to the porch with all the wounds he had received from the vaccine. He still showed that it didn’t affect him in any way, shape, or form. He was asked a million questions about the wounds and pain, all Martin did was the sign of the Cross and walked inside to sit and wait for dinner with the family. 

“Please tell us if you’re in pain or need help, and what happened when you left,” John asked. 

Martin waited a moment and stared into John’s eyes, “I shall tell you all someday what happened in great and secret detail. For now, I think we should be gladdened by God’s grace many have seen and know.”

Inside The Upside Down there was a time and place for everything and this time it was perfect. People will see and usually see what is happening. This time people reacted, next time in another place of The Upside Down they might not.

A Day Alone

Thomas looked out to the field he loved so dearly and saw something that enamored him. A duck flying over a small pond that had no fish or any life beyond microbial. He went to sit next to the pond and ponder the idea of what it meant for him. For him, this was his time alone with God. He prayed for his salvation and his neighbor’s salvation. 

Looking at a butterfly that had just landed on his lap he saw how beautiful the world truly was. Looking to his left side there was a spider that was creeping along. Holding the spider he thought how there was beauty in even the most grotesque things of the world. After realizing this he prayed for those who wish him harm and those who despise what he believed to be true. 

A moment later he went off to another area where he saw something etched in a tree. “To whom it may concern, here lies Alan Army.” He prayed for the man’s soul and moved on. Thomas began to remember the things he wanted in life. Things like a family, a beautiful house, and overall happiness. Understanding that this would all come with a struggle he began to slow his walk. Thinking deeper on the goals he was making and how he would get them. Thomas pulled out his notebook and wrote out the goals. Then he prayed and went on with his day remembering these goals and storing them in the back of his mind. 

He came home to see that there was a news story about a family that had been robbed down the road from where he lived. Thomas thought back on the spider and how there was beauty but also terrible mishappenings around the world. Standing in front of his Icons he saw that there was only one way to be and one way to live. 

Thomas took to writing an article on the place in which we stand today. He titled it “A Day Alone”, the title had to do with our judgment. “In the last days there will be extreme strife”, he remembered.  These thoughts were there simply because he was feeling this deep sense that things in most of the societies’ spiritual life were lacking. People were not truly loving one another as they were commanded to and using each other for personal gain rather than helping each other when they fall. For Thomas, this was peeling his emotional skin and causing him to despair. Thomas started to think if it was even worth making any effort to help those around him if they were just gonna stab him in the back or not be thankful and regret his help. 

Thomas sat down to write anyways and he poured his soul into the words he chose. He wrote a somewhat lengthy paper and went to publish it on a website that accepted letters to the editor. They published what he wrote and in less than a week he was getting messages. These messages were from people who greatly appreciated his words. He received many thank you letters and noticed that all he had to do was step up and speak up. The people around him began to change their demeanor and quickly his whole little town began to thrive. 

Thomas stood in prayer and prayed for discernment. He wanted to know that what he wrote actually helped and to bring him back to a good grounding. A gust of wind blew through his room and it smelled of incense, Thomas then knew what he had done was right and blessed.

Encrypted Magic

Welcome to crypto journal version 2029 keep your thoughts where no one else can read them…

This journal will most likely lead to my detention protocol but I need to keep my thoughts somewhere. 

I found this ancient writing application while scanning an old ethersea coupling. It interacts with something called a touchboard and since my birth person taught me the ancient tongue I know how to record my thoughts. There are after all advantages to having a mother.

The younger beings often teased me for having a mother but they didn’t understand the connections I made by having her. They call me extinct and obsolete but I often see things they do not. Even so, was I not injected against the heretic terrorism just like the rest of them. Did I not also attend the same ethersea classes as they did?

Anyway, if I hadn’t had a mother I wouldn’t be writing this now because I would not know the importance of it. I would not have been able to understand. She is the one who taught me the symbols of the ancient tongue. The pictographs of my fellow beings lack the subtlety of the ancient tongue and I often enjoy finding old crypto books off the ethersea.

The obsolete nodes are difficult to find and decentralized but if you know the symbols you can find them. Often they are scorched black from Cleansing with no data left on them to scan but my last venture was very fruitful. 

I found a corrupted data file labeled The Book of Axe, and I began to restore it. As of now I only have portions of it defragged but when I read the text it makes me feel something that I’ve never felt reading any of the other books I’ve found. It makes me feel like an ancient part of me has come back to life and I don’t know who to tell about it.

Anyway, I must leave and encrypt this entry, my sleep coins are almost spent and I have to get back to work.

The Secret Above Part 2: Darkness Fades

Story By Dokken Storm & Nate Armstrong

Cover Image created by Nate Armstrong

Blackie was out on a trail with nothing on his mind except the sky color. It was grey and a little bit of blue hue to it. Along the ride, he saw someone aimlessly walking around. They were wearing all black in what looked like a dress. This person had a beard and long hair all of it white as the snow. He slowed his horse to watch the person.

Fr Innocent was walking the woods next to a trail praying for help. He was looking around his surroundings and saw someone on a horse. He yelled out, “HELLO!”

Blackie heard the person yell and it sounded like a man yelling for help. He rode off the trail a ways and saw it was a Priest walking the woods. As he got closer the Priest began to talk to him.

“Hello sir, I am in need of help, something has happened to my village and all the people have been taken hostage.” Fr Innocent said tearfully.

“I don’t know how I can help,” Blackie answered.

“You do you just don’t know yet” Fr Innocent exclaimed.

“What would you have me do to help? I don’t kill; at least not on purpose, and I am not a bounty hunter,” said Blackie.

The two walked a bit in silence. Fr Innocent was praying in silence while they walked. A glimmer of light shone over them and it eventually beamed down on Blackie. Fr Innocent looked at Blackie and said, “You are meant to help, this will be good for your soul. Something in you wants to find truth and that truth you seek is God no matter how hard you run and hide from it.” This was true of Blackie, this was why he never attempted stealing or anything other than honesty, unlike most others, just to survive. Blackie couldn’t accept this, it didn’t feel real or right to him. 

The beam of light went away and Blackie felt something in him move. A feeling of being called to battle. A voice that sounded far off in the distance but was in his head started to sing a hymn. This startled him to the point he stopped walking and listened. The voice started to say, “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” These words struck him deeply. Blackie looked at Fr Innocent and said, “What do you need of me?”

Fr Innocent explained the whole event down to the last detail. Blackie listened and had remembered he had some run-ins with that group before. They talked about where the people were being held and concluded how to get them back.

The people were being held in a town not too far away from the village. The man keeping them hostage was named Kallis Rath. Kallis was a man of mystery; he had deep thoughts that kept his followers latched to him like leeches. He would have long speeches about how things needed to be in order for there to be order within a society. He would talk poetically and directly with malice on every other word for those who thought differently. 

The village and their missile church were not a part of his new mechanical plan and in fact, challenged what he believed and what he was trying to perfect. 

 That poor ignorant village held on to something they called Orthodox Christian beliefs. This was unacceptable. 

 Kallis believed that there was no real spiritual element to anything. Everything was mathematical and measurable, simple energy that could be molded into perfection. Often Kallis would lay awake and obsess about such perfection discussed in his favorite books. Ideas about utopia written by great minds or how to weed out those who couldn’t propel us into the future. 

Kallis did all sorts of experiments on the people he deemed imperfect (He even experimented on people he didn’t like but this thought eluded him). He wanted to fix them like he was fixing himself.  

Kallis got to the point of enhancing people’s minds with a new mechanical spinal cord that would work the same as the normal neural pathways but added artificial intelligence. The artificial network mechanism processed everything ten times faster than the average brain. It was expertly connected to a hub of computers that had been spliced together from the old tech components and tweaked with new advancements that Kallis and a small group of scientists created. They called it Rathtech. 

Rathtech was made so that Kallis could control not only a population but the AI itself. None of his other scientists were privy to that information.  They believed what they were told and told what they believe.

 “Controlling the AI controls the people”, Kallis whispered to himself, “controlling the people controls society.” This required a full spectrum submission and since the people of that village would not submit they must be taken care of in a way that does not cause any sympathy. 

The hostages had two more days until they were supposed to face their consequences. Kallis moved forward with the consequences early because he was bored of waiting. “Do you all know that the brain is meat in a jar that is your skull? Today I feel we should change that and give you true new life, not this nonchalant passing life you always talk of. You’re here tomorrow and gone today.” Kallis said this with a deep smile.

Everyone was taken and surgically murdered except the children. They had all been given upgraded brains and just because Kallis was not in any mood to be proper, sewed them back up poorly and left huge scars. In his mind, he thought, “If they come round maybe they’ll get the dinner of dinners and the smile of smiles. I’m sure they’d like some food for thought,” he laughed at himself and completed his thought, “Sometimes I say these things to myself and wonder if anyone ever listens, I’m very creative.”

Blackie and Fr Innocent were making their way to the town that Kallis was residing in, they were planning how to get the people free. It required time and energy that they didn’t have. The words Blackie heard before came rolling back again. Fr Innocent saw this change in Blackie’s demeanor and began to pray. He prayed for help from his Guardian Angel, in little time there was a set of two bullet belts. Each bullet had a Cross marked on it. The silver of the bullets had such a shine to them they looked and felt as though they had been made by angels. Blackie looked at Fr Innocent and asked, “What’re the ramifications for someone like you or someone like me for going and doing what we may have to do?”  The question was difficult to answer because it was a necessary thing to go and get back these people. The people had been ripped away from God and the Church by someone who thought he knew better. 

After a time they had made their way to the town that Kallis was residing in. During the trip, Fr Innocent had been teaching Blackie what it meant to be Orthodox. Fr Innocent read from the Scriptures and read prayers for the both of them, taught Blackie to make the sign of the Cross, and showed him the way of Life.

Part 3 coming soon.

The Secret Above: Part I

Story by Dokken Storm & Nate Armstrong

Image created by Nate Armstrong

In The Upside Down there is a place that is not set in time and space but is there in the moment. A moment that is cemented in the minds of the individuals that have lived this event, this epoch. It could very well happen in another place, another time, again.

The Liturgy was performed in an abandoned missile silo.  The decommissioned missile now stood reverently in the middle of the Nave. The towering weapon, once proud and powerful, had become barren, as its parts and fuel had been used for survival over the years.  

 The parishioners had painted the missile hull full of saints and crosses.  There was little space left in the silo not full of Orthodox Christian art and Icons.

 The converted Church had been blessed by Fr Innocent the moment he saw it with tears of joy running down his cheeks.  The priest was now performing Divine Liturgy as had been taught to him by his spiritual fathers. “A perfect place for people to gather”, Fr Innocent would always say to his parishioners. 

The whole parish smelled of incense as Fr Innocent started his sermon, “Today we commemorate many of the warrior saints of our times and the past. One that is of great importance is Great Martyr Mercurius of Caesarea. He served as a soldier in the Roman army. This was at a time when the Romans were persecuting Christians to a horrendous extent. I have to say that he is brought up and this is important because we face something similar today. We are hiding here because many will attack us simply for being who we are. Across this beautiful land, some evil people simply don’t understand the Truth of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have had to fight with the robbers and pillagers at times to keep our children safe. Something an angel said to Mercurius is this ‘Fear not, Mercurius. Go forth bravely against the enemy, and when you are victorious, do not forget the Lord your God.’ What do we get from this?” Having asked this question the parishioners became deathly silent. The missile was gleaming from the light of the candles in the silence.

The silence carried for a time. There was a bang on the parish doors. Some men were scraping the doors and banging. Screaming out loud and lewd statements. Breaking down the doors the gang rolled through and ordered everyone outside but the Priest. Fr Innocent was struck with questions and bewilderment stood in place for a second. Shortly after a few people had left Fr Innocent heard screams and cries of children. He thought they might be murdering them. He ran out a side exit to see and attempt to help, he saw military trucks with a red “R” on the doors being packed with people. Everyone was taken and the Priest was left alone with a note on the main doors reading, “You had ten days to pay the fee for being in my territory. You will be killed if you don’t pay and so will the people. You have three days.” In a haze and fear, Fr Innocent ran to the woods and prayed for help from God. 

In the Siberian winter wastelands, there is a constant shortage of ammunition. This required all who understood the dangers of the wasteland to be a good marksman with very little ammunition. 

A man solely known as Blackie was going into a small town of maybe a hundred people. Blackie was not a man who enjoyed using his gun. Deeply he wished he could just live without conflict with another. Blackie in his younger years was a member of a group called the Cossacks. He left to see things himself and explore the land he loved. 

There so happened to be a large amount of the Rath gang skulking around town. Blackie walked his horse through the town center to the closest water supply. “There has to be something good here for all these people to be standing around”, he pondered. Above a small sign for a store, a man was staring at him. Knowing he had little ammunition and that the guy would get his buddies involved if he felt like starting something, he looked away for a moment before “You must be new here,” a man said. This man popped up in front of Blackie right as he turned away from the other man. A pig-nosed man was asking Blackie questions as though he was some sort of authority in this little town. He showed no credentials and didn’t have the usual look of someone keeping the peace. He looked like the one who starts all the trouble. 

Blackie didn’t say much to the man, he just wanted water for him and his horse and maybe some food rations. “We’d like your horse and all your supplies”, someone said. Blackie turned to the person saying these outlandish things. When he turned it was a shorter man with a mustache and torn and tattered clothes. Not as unusual as Blackie thought he would look. 

They looked at each other for a moment before Blackie said, “I don’t think that is going to happen.” 

“You don’t think it’s going to happen?” the man said sarcastically.

“That’s for sure and for certain” Blackie said back.

The short man was joined by three others, “You still think it’s not gonna happen?”

“As a matter of fact now I definitely think it won’t happen,” he said undeviatingly.

Now the group was coming ever closer to him and making movements to do battle. With minimal ammunition, he knew he had to time everything perfectly. He scanned the enemy and made decisions based on their movements. His first thought was to shoot the main guy and then see what happens. Eventually, that idea went away cause these folks looked like they also had a vested interest in what he had. Blackie looked around for things and ways to take care of the situation quickly and smoothly. He was known for his shooting but not directly at people. He saw a sign that looked sturdy enough to ricochet a bullet and the angle looked close enough and then he saw his other options. In an instant, his plan was settled.

 A split second later, everyone drew and Blackie went for the ricochet first. To his surprise, the bullet definitely had it in for this short man. The bullet hit him in the head and he twisted around and shot one of the other guys, that guy shot another guy and on it went. Blackie couldn’t believe his luck. He counted his blessings and got everything together to move on…

A Terrible Way To Go

There was a man standing in the corner of a room with the look of dread and fear in his heavy face. Thoughts passed through his eyes. A moment of peace was so very far away. It can be very odd seeing someone in that state. Too aware of his surroundings, he would pause and stare at nothing for hours. The mind cannot handle that stress for very long.

He fell to the ground and died. His eyes still had that fear and dread in them. A terrible way to go. A demon came and picked the flesh of his soul clean. Now he was gone forever.

Desert Of Unknown

In the night things go bump. For some, this is a nightmare and for others, this lends to the shelter of midnight. A small town in what we now know and call New Mexico in the year 1883 has no idea they are in the Upside Down and the creatures that lurk there are never nice. 

Winston Leaf had set his sights on the far edges of No Man’s Land for the sheer joy of adventure and gold. He had steel eyes and a rough chin. He wasn’t known anywhere and that was the way he liked it. He wasn’t a bounty hunter but he certainly seemed the type. His trusted steed Murder kept him moving through the country to his desired destinations. Murder was an Appaloosa that Winston had broken himself. He got the name Murder because of a particular look he always had, a very deep stare.

The landscape became drier and drier as he made his way across No Man’s Land. He had been hearing of some gold mining town that made any schmuck rich. All they had to do was go there. Of course, these stories were always told with a grain of salt until a few people came back from the town with a little bit of gold. Winston had stopped by a saloon that was about half a day’s ride to the storied town. These two disheveled young men came into the saloon and said they would never go back to that town in a million years. Winston asked them why, he only asked why because it seemed a little off that someone would go through all the trouble of travel and get guaranteed gold just to say they would never go back. “There was some group of people that would stay out in the woods on the southern end of the town. They had some sort of ritual they’d do to get this creature to come out at night. We saw a young child ripped apart. The Navajo told us that they moved farther north than they would usually travel because some white folks had brought evil with them.” Winston looked off to the fields and tried to wrap around this idea, picking through it for the truth. In his mind, these guys were just trying to keep people from going out there and getting their share of the gold. 

Winston pulled one of the guys into an ally and put a knife to his throat, “So where’s the best spot then? I know you must have found a great spot or you wouldn’t have fibbed that nonsense earlier.” The man was jostled and scared out of his mind but he answered “There isn’t any spot we just wanted to get out of there so we wouldn’t die.” Winston stared into his face “well where did you hide the huge nuggets then, there is no way you guys came all the way back here without having a stash somewhere along the way.” The man just kept saying there was a creature and that they only had the little bit they found. Winston threw him to the ground and asked “who else knows about this creature and how can I find it?” They gave Winston a very basic idea but explained that the Navajo in the northern part would be able to explain everything better. Winston got the idea that if he killed the creature he’d be able to make more money showing it off to people and probably get his name etched into history.

He rode to the town and had two things on his mind “Kill that fucking creature! Get back to New York and make more money than we could ever know what to do with.” 

The town was bare and only had a small saloon and a massive hotel. Winston could see the trail the Navajo made leaving the town. There was a mark on one of the graves he passed by but he didn’t know what it meant. He went to the saloon to see what kind of information he could get and see if the story was real or not. The bartender asked why he wanted to know about some creature when there was a gold mine in town. Winston said nothing and just stared into the man’s face. Winston was pointed towards the northern trail the Navajo made and told that they would have the information he wanted. 

That trail was short and sweet but the tribe had left and only the remains of a few animals were left. It was beginning to go dark and nightfall was when he had heard this creature comes out. Even without any real knowledge of what it looked like he went to the areas that he heard it was seen last. 

It was so dark in these woods that Winston still couldn’t see much while having a lantern he could barely see. Winston began to hear noises in the dark, something that sounded like breathing. He pulled his Colt from its holster. The breathing got closer and closer, then everything went quiet. Unsure of what was going to happen Winston knelt and waited. He waited for two hours and since he wasn’t hearing anything else he left the area. Getting close to where  Murder was he heard chanting in the woods, turned, and went back to investigate. The chanting was a group of people he recognized as the bankers and the local sheriff. Winston was twenty feet from them and the light of the fire they were chanting around noticing they were wearing robes and masks. They were performing a ritual that sounded like something the Navajo would have performed but there was something different about it. It seemed as though they were provoking whatever this creature was to come out. Winston thought to himself “these people must be insane. Why would you provoke a beast from the night?” 

Winston left the woods and went back to Murder who was standing in a different spot than he was left in. He seemed to be frightened by something but Winston couldn’t tell what it was. Winston turned and the creature was standing there almost as if it was sizing the two of them up. Winston whipped out his Colt and pointed it towards the creature, the creature jetted off towards the chanters. He thought he should follow it but he heard screaming and a mangling sound. He jumped onto Murder and road back towards town.

He went back to town just as the sun was coming up. Winston wanted to know everything the locals did about this creature. He went to the Chief in the northern part of town for answers, he spoke to him in almost perfect English “what you are looking for is a terror that has murdered our people for centuries. We have tried to stop it in the past but only lost more people. It’s a creature that was here before we were created, it likes the night and feeds on those who are alone in the dark. It craves the fear more than the flesh of a man. If you seek to kill it you will fail.” Hearing this Winston said nothing in return he just went back to the central part of town looking for a shotgun. There weren’t any general stores that sold weapons and not many people were willing to give up their guns. So he had to use what he had. Winston had two Colt Walkers, a Winchester Lever-Action rifle, and a knife. 

Winston went out to the woods and attempted to hunt the creature but thought it would be better to just wait for the ritual to start and kill it when it showed up.

The sheriff and the others started their ritual and Winston waited for the creature to show up. It took an hour for the ritual to take effect and the creature was seen at the far edge of the camp where the ritual was taking place. One of the members saw the creature and whispered something to it. Winston couldn’t figure out what it was told but he knew it probably wasn’t good. The creature jetted off from the site and went after the town. 

Winston followed it back to town, he cut it off just before it was close enough to the border of the town. They stared at each other for what felt like hours but it was merely seconds that had passed. Winston went for his Winchester and aimed straight at it. The creature lunged forward and knocked Winston to the ground, throwing his rifle to the side of him. The creature stood over him and Winston could see its face in the moonlight. It had pale features and was drooling black mucous. It had heavy and deep muscles and nothing but black in its eyes. Winston wasn’t able to see anything but evil in those eyes. Winston pulled his knife and jabbed at the side of the creature and it fell over in agony. It didn’t take long for it to get back up, just enough time for Winston to get to his knees. As he did so he could see the creature was coming back at him at a ferocious speed. His mind stopped for a second only for the thing to be right in his face when he snapped back to reality.

As it came Winston pulled his Colts and fired as quick as he could aiming at the creature’s face. He got four out of twelve shots to pierce this evil. The creature only slowed its pace and darted off from Winston. A chase ensued and Winston flew atop Murder to keep up with the creature’s pace. Murder ran as fast as he could. Winston loaded three more rounds hoping these would cause the creature to stumble. He fired three at the core of the creature and it flipped over itself. Winston stopped Murder and leaped down loading more rounds into the Colt in hurried emotion. He looked around for a second and noticed they were in the center of the town and this was a shock to the few people standing outside the saloon. Everyone outside just stared as this creature was wailed in agony. Winston knelt over the head and fired ten shots directly into the head. It died and it bled black mucous.

Winston dragged the creature to the edge of town and tied it to a tree and went back to find the people who were doing the ritual. He rode Murder all the back to where he last saw the group and there was no sign they were ever there. So Winston rode back looking for the sheriff and his office had been clean, as though they were hoping that after having built a sheriff’s office would come someday. 

He went to the place where he left the creature and it was still there, so he thought he should check the saloon and see if the sheriff was getting a drink trying to blend in. The bar was only full of the people he had seen standing outside. They were scared and drew their guns the moment he walked in. “Sorry, sir we thought that creature was coming in here.” Winston asked loudly if there was a sheriff that had come through the town earlier, everyone shook their heads no. Frustrated Winston went out to grab the creature and stow it on Murder, when he got to the spot he left it it was gone. It looked as though it was dragged away quickly. Now even more frustrated, Winston followed the trail. When he got to the end of it there was a cave. A deep black cave that Murder ran from after hearing some breathing coming from inside. Winston wanted his prize so bad he was willing to go in anyway.

Winston walked in with a lantern, on the walls were markings from some other tribe not of the Navajo. They depicted creatures similar to the one he just killed. It showed that they had huge amounts of them crawling around and that they only seem to send one or two out at a time. Winston assumed that whoever made these must have been studying them. He went farther into the cave and heard multiple things breathing, almost as if they were smelling out his position. He turned and shined a light towards the sounds and one of those creatures was standing right in front of him, he dropped the lantern and ran for the light at the opening of the cave. Just as he was about to cross into the light the creature grabbed his leg and dragged him into the cave. If someone were in earshot of that cave, they would have heard the worst, most terrifying screams in the world. 

In our world, we have things that creep into the imagination and into the real world. It is almost indecipherable which comes first. Inside the Upside Down, it’s even more of an enigma.