A murderous game of chess

A veteran detective and an infamous criminal meet unknowingly in a coffee shop.

I liked Ben’s coffee and chess. You never knew who you were going to meet. Take this night for instance. I was just sitting there, sipping on some decaf, mulling over a case, when an unsuspecting stranger walks in and sits down.

“Evening friend.” I say to him. He’s sitting behind the black pieces, so I make my opener. “Your move, I’m Tom by the way.”

“I’m Jim.” He says, countering my move. “Rainy day isn’t it.” It’s been pouring since noon, and the sun has long since set.

“Yeah.” I say. “Perfect day to hide a body.” I like freaking people out. I work with death so much that it’s occasionally fun to just get a rise out of people.

“Not really.” The man counters, as he castles to protect his king. “Rain makes backroads slick, and digging holes a lot more difficult.” Only my interrogation experience kept me from swallowing my tongue. Then again, I had started this conversation, so it was only fair I continue it.

“True, but the decrease in visibility is worth the extra toil.” My foe shook his head as he moved a pawn forward.

“Any serial killer who is going to get caught in the rain deserves to be brought in.” I supposed this was true. These conversations never went this far, and I couldn’t think of anything else witty to say. After a few silent moves my compatriot broke the silence.

“Anyway, disposal isn’t the hard part. It’s isolation and clean up. If you don’t leave any evidence with a body, they can’t tag it back to you.” That was an angle I hadn’t considered before.

“Oh yeah? You mean bring bleach and stuff?” He shook his head.

“No.” We were getting some funny looks by now, but most of the people here knew me so it as okay.

“I mean don’t connect yourself to the victim, use weapons on the scene, and don’t leave any fragments of yourself behind. Make it random. If they can’t connect you to the victim then they can’t make a case.” It was true, and this man’s knowledge of crime was beginning to disturb me.

“Do I know you?” I asked. He looked me dead in they eye.

“No.” The game concluded in a few more moves. Don’t connect yourself to the victim eh? Check, this guy didn’t know me at all.

“How do you know so much about murder anyway?” I asked him as he stood up and started to walk away. It was a quick game, but the conversation had been riveting.

“It’s my trade.” He said. “Been working homicide for 20 years now, about set to retire.” I smiled.

“Good for you.” I tell him. He nods to me, says thanks, and heads out the back door. I grab a bottle from my case of beer, and follow him out the back.

Mischievous protagonist

It was then that the hero happened upon the truth forge sword, the legendary blade itself. He knew the legend and approached it reverently to take hold of it.

I mean he raced forward exclaiming ‘dude check out the radical new nose picker’. As this must’ve had some great spiritual significance to his people.

As he removed the sword from itrs pedestal he raised it high to the heavens, and promptly began admiring himself in it.

“Come on now really?” I asked.

“Yeah man, I need to shave bad, ooh and I bet this thing is sharp enough to make sushi.” The hero valiantly dashed to the nearest river to procure fish to um, well, make sushi with in order to, hmm, impress the king?

“Nah man, I ain’t sharing. I haven’t had Japanese in weeks.”

“How could you have Japanese? There isn’t even an island nation in this world!”

“There was in the last book you were narrating.”

“How could you possibly know that!”

Anyway the hero got bored of his quest for fish and was now valiantly picking berries and throwing them at small animals to….lift a curse on some maiden who might have at some point maybe gotten turned into a small animal.

“No dude, it’s just fun.” He responded back.

“Well, I hate to do this, but you leave me no choice.” I informed the impudent little fool.

“What can you possibly do? You just talk about what I’m doing.” He retorted.

“You clearly aren’t familiar with my work.” I took a deep breath and recited from memory.

“Tinky Winky. Dipsy. La La. Po.” Four giant monstrous monocolor demons appeared right behind our hero.

Inspiring Medical Weekend

I wasn’t planning on doing any real life stories, but I figured this was better than anything I could possibly make up.

I was witness to two inspiring moments of humanity this weekend. One was from the accident seen above, the other was from a good friend who had a fairly horrific accident of her own.

The first inspiring moment, that accident was not the first medical incident of the weekend. Saturday morning I hear that a good friend is in the hospital because ‘her foot is facing the wrong way’. Long story short she tripped on a treadmill and landed in such a way that she dislocated her ankle, and broke one of her shin bones in half. The X-ray photos were like something out of ER or House(wish I had the photos to post). The two bones in her left leg that normally form parallel lines were now forming a 20 degree angle around her ankle, and one of them was snapped in half. So naturally when I drove down to see her I expected her to be in a lot of pain. Someone once told me the worst pain you can experience is the thigh bone breaking. My own experience with broken bones tells me the bigger they are, the worse the pain. Both of these facts led me to believe she would be practically incomprehensible when I arrived. To my surprise, when I see her she smiles and gives me a hug, despite having just undergone surgery. Just thinking about it kind of makes me feel like wimp for taking a sick day the last time I had a cold.

The second moment was when I was driving back from seeing her, and ran into the accident showed above. My car is just visible in the bottom right of the photo. I’m fine, one of the persons in the accident was not so lucky. Near as I can tell, the red mustang pulled out of a side street, and knocked the other red car into the woods. Both cars are very obviously totaled. The four people in the mustang are fine(he was at fault for the accident, but I didn’t see it to know this). The person in the car in the woods(who is being extracted by paramedics), was not so lucky. She was awake, and relatively lucid, but judging from the brief description of pain she gave me, and the equipment being used to extract her, she has likely some spinal damage(hopefully minor, and prayers are appreciated). The inspiring moment comes in from when I showed up on the scene. I see the two cars(no EMS yet), some debris, and a lady walking toward the car in the woods. I figure something is wrong so I get out. A couple of passing joggers were responding at the same time I was. One of them was calling 911 the other helped me work with the lady in the car. A few more passersby show up from cars driving either way. One is a combat medic and takes over with the lady in the woods car. The other helps me try and get the mustang out of the road(unsuccessfully), along with the driver. The car was too wrecked to move by our strength. I didn’t put 2 and 2 together until afterwards, but all five people who first saw this scene, stopped to help out. All of us had places to be and could have driven on. I know I at least was made late for a service, and several others were stopped for almost an hour, yet all of us took the time to help these people out. There was a 100% response rate among the first people to see the accident, the driver took responsibility, 911 was called immediately, and everyone got out of the way and let the professionals take over as soon as they arrived.

In a lot of movies people seem to crumble under stress, and only the protagonist is gifted with any meaningful intelligence and tenacity. Yet this weekend, I saw a substantial number of people put through the ringer, and every single one of them did so in an inspiring and responsible way that anyone would be proud of.

I don’t intend to do many of these, but this boosted my hope for humanity, and I wanted to pass it on.

Man Out of Time

“I do not hesitate to impose upon the defendant the following sentence. For the murder of Rebecca Marerro for which I have found you guilty of aggravated murder in the first degree you will serve a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of early release or parole. This sentence will run consecutive to the 48 other sentences already imposed upon you under king county superior court case number 011102070-9. You will have no contact with the family of Rebecca Marerro for that same period of time. You will be required to pay restitution to that family to be determined at another time.”

As those words are spoken by the judge I feel relief wash over me. They can’t bring themselves to say my name, Gary Ridgwy. They hide behind words like ‘defendant’, because to say my name would be to humanize me, and to them I am an animal.

Paperwork is now being filed before the trial concludes. The words of the family of Rebecca Marerro, victim number 49, ring in my ears. She says she doesn’t think they should spare my life. I’m going to serve 1680 years in prison, and she doesn’t know the only reason I went for a plea deal, was because death would be too quick for me.

I was the worst and darkest kind of addict. I knew what I was doing, but I just couldn’t stop myself. I needed to be locked away, and now I would be. I would no longer have to worry about the urges striking me again. The world would be safe from me, and I would have time to suffer for what I had done, 1680 years to suffer. It wasn’t enough time, I had destroyed 49 lives, all of them worth more than mine. They should’ve locked me up for 5000 years, but what did it matter? I couldn’t possibly live long enough to make up for all that loss.

“Cryogenic freezing is the term.” The man in the black suit from the FBI tells me. He’s with a NIH consultant, one of those scientist types. The scientist mostly just stares at the ground. People who don’t work in law enforcement can’t usually bring themselves to talk to me.

“It’s a new technology. It hasn’t been tested on healthy human beings before.” The FBI man informed me.

“Why me?” I asked, knowing little about what he was talking about.

“Because you’re never going to get out of here alive anyway.” The FBI man responded.

“This procedure will halt the progression of your age, if it doesn’t kill you.” He went on. “So we will freeze you now, and wake you up just a few days before your release. It will be like no time has passed. If you survive of course, which is why we are asking you, because you’re basically dead anyway.” The black suit man looked briefly at the scientist to confirm everything he had just said. The scientist nodded.

“So I will be released then?” I asked. The FBI man nodded. No, I thought to myself. No, I had to stay here, this was the only place that was safe for other people. Unless there was some other benefit, there had to be some reason they would be willing to give me a free pass

“You told me what good it would do me, but what good would it do you?” I asked the FBI man. “I would think you were just doing this to kill me, and I don’t blame you. But there’s no way the NIH would go along with it if there wasn’t a good reason. So what’s so great that you’re willing to risk letting the green river killer go free to get it?” The FBI man looked to the scientist for an explanation. The scientist shook his head back and forth vigorously. Civilians really don’t like talking to me. The FBI man gestured in my direction and whispered something about willing test subjects. The scientist sighed, and then took a couple of deep breaths. When he spoke his voice was stuttering

“Because we c-could save people this way. If a disease isn’t c-curable, we can freeze a person until a c-cure develops. If someone is deemed highly important to s-society, we can freeze them during a time of prosperity, and thaw them ag-gain in a time of desperation.” His stuttering stopped as he began to get caught up in what he was saying. “Long missions to other planets could be made possible by freezing the passengers until they arrive. This could open new worlds for us.” For a moment the scientist was looking at me excitedly, like he was actually happy to talk to me. Then he remembered who I am and he went back to staring at the floor.

“I’ll save people?” I ask the FBI agent. The man nods. That’s enough for me. Hopefully I’ll die during the testing. My life will go towards saving others. I had 49 life debts to pay, and if this testing saves at least that many, I will have paid that debt. I needed just one more assurance before I consented.

“If it works, thaw me out 100 years before I’m to be released.” I pause for a moment to think. “As long as that won’t interfere with the testing.” I add on.

The scientist and the agent look at each other. They huddle briefly and exchange a few words. “Why?” The FBI agent returns my own question to me when the huddle is concluded.

“So the world never has to deal with me again.” I tell him. The scientist looks up at me, and without a stutter in his voice responded.

“It will not interfere with the testing.”

“Then do it as soon as you can.”

“He’s waking up.” I heard someone call. The voice was distant and muted. I couldn’t see much, just an iced over plate inches in front of my face.

There was a hissing sound, like gas escaping from a sealed beverage. I was alive, that was unexpected. I had hoped it would be over, but at least I was still in prison.

The hatch covering me pulled back and revealed a small room with a couple of scientists and a couple of men with guns. Men with guns, that was good. They were still taking me seriously. The guns weren’t really necessary. I wasn’t skilled in combat. I was just willing to kill. All of my victims had been defenseless. I never would’ve been able to take them down if they hadn’t been so much smaller and weaker than me. It stung to think of them again. A few violent images popped into my imagination unbidden, and I had to force them down.

Hands quickly pulled me out of the chamber and threw me onto a nearby gurney. That was good, get me cuffed quickly, and put me back in a cell. Except they didn’t. They were rapidly strapping on various monitors and shining things in my eys.

“Pulse is good, internal temperature normal, brain function nominal, no freezer burn.” They pulled the devices off and stepped back. Confusion painted their faces, this was not what they expected.

“He’s…. fine.” One of the scientists commented. They exchanged glances, and began double checking their equipment. One of them pulled out a photo of me, and began comparing it to the real thing.

“No damage whatsoever.” A different scientist commented. “That puts the final survival rate of the program at what, 0.5%?” He asked his compatriots. They all nodded. “So he’s the only one.” They were crowding around me now, looking at me like I was the world’s biggest diamond.

Why weren’t they cuffing me? Why didn’t they look afraid? I looked around the room some more and none of the men with guns seemed to be paying much attention. In fact, they weren’t even looking at me. They were looking at the scientists. What? I was the danger here. Why would they think the scientists were a threat?

“Alright labrats, you thawed him out, now it’s our job to see him safely out of here.” The armed men began escorting the scientists out of the room. “You’ll finish your diagnostics later when he’s had time to rest.” Rest? Who cared about me getting rest? They seemed to think I was some kind of important person, not one of the world’s worst serial killers.

“You’re taking me to my cell aren’t you?” I ask the guards. One of the guards laughs.

“Cell? You? Of course not! We wouldn’t put someone as valuable as you into a cell. You’ve got an apartment laid out for you nearby. We’ve already checked out the neighborhood and taken every precaution for your safety.” I felt a note of panic. No, no, no, they had to keep me in here, away from everyone else. Another violent image flashed. This one takes a moment to shove away. It stays long enough for me to recognize the face. It’s Cynthia Hinds. I remember the name. I remember all their names.

“But I’ve still got 100 years left in my sentence, you’ve got to keep me in here. It’s the law.” I start to sound like I’m pleading.

“Um, your crimes are over 1500 years old sir.” He called me sir. No one should call me sir. “I don’t think anyone still cares.” Nobody cares? How could they not care? I felt like I was going even crazier than I already was.

“Besides, you’re the worlds oldest man. You’re a living historical icon. We’ve got to keep you safe so we can learn about when you came from.” He leaned in close to me with a boyish smile on his face. “You obviously couldn’t know this, but you’re kind of famous, and there are a lot of ladies who are into that kind of thing.” He winked at me.

That was too much, maybe if they kept me only around men it would be alright. I could control myself around men, or at the very least they could defend themselves from me. Several more images flash in front of me, painting the last moments of Rebecca Marerro. She was my final victim.

I grabbed the guard’s his collar. It was a mark of how true his words were that he didn’t try and defend himself, and none of his buddies came to his aid. I couldn’t be around people, but women in particular were completely out of the question. I had been near too many women, at least 49 too many. There would not be a 50th. I would not let my debt get any higher.

“You’ve got to put me away.” I demanded. The guard didn’t even looked scared by the serial killer grabbing his collar. If anything I’d describe his expression as awkward.

“Easy Gary.” He said, trying to calm me down. He was talking to me like I was a friend. “We’ll put you back in your cell if you really want us to. I mean you’re the boss.” I released him and lay down on the gourney. I closed my eyes and felt relief course through me. It would be okay, I had at least 100 more years where I wouldn’t hurt anyone. Maybe future medicine would keep me alive for a while, but I had been an old man when they froze me. I couldn’t have much time left. I would die in a cell, just like I had planned. It would be okay.

“Gary Ridgway, you have dutifully and responsibly served your 1680 year term. During that sentence you have contributed greatly to the medical knowledge base of humanity by your volunteering for cryogenic experimentation. As such this court eagerly releases you, and in recognition of your efforts and sacrifice restores to you your right to vote, your right to carry a firearm, and cleans your record of any criminal activity.” A bowed to the judge, and a couple of armed guards escorted me out, not because they were afraid I would harm someone. They were afraid someone was going to harm ‘an international treasure’.

There were so many things wrong with this. They shouldn’t be releasing me. They shouldn’t be patting me on the back. They shouldn’t be making me a normal member of society. I must be cursed. I had been given a sentence of almost two millenniums. I had volunteered for a medical experiment which killed all of the other participants. I had forced them to keep me in prison for another 100 years, and yet I was still alive.

That last part was my fault. Medical knowledge had progressed greatly in the last 1500 years. The average life span was about 250 years. I should’ve anticipated that and had them thaw me out earlier. 100 years had seemed like a long time back then. Now, being almost 200 myself, it had passed in the blink of an eye. Now here I was again, about to be put back where I could indulge my addiction.

At least they had given me good guards. As we arrived at the gate I heard a crowd outside, and there were several heavily armed men waiting for me. The prison guards exchanged salutes with these men.

I felt a little comfort by their presence. This new set of guards looked like they could overthrow a small third world country if they wanted to. I don’t recognize any of the weaponry or armor on them, but it looks far more expensive than the stuff my last set of guards had. I didn’t know how long they would be watching over me, but at least the world would be safe for a little while.

Then I see her. “Sarah Maxwell at your service mister Ridgway.” I didn’t see her behind one of the guards. She steps out and extends a hand.

I take a step back, look away, and throw up a hand. The last time I had Denise Bush flashed before my eyes. I winced. It had been decades since the last time I had seen one of my victims.

A woman, they sent a woman? This one didn’t even look remotely dangerous. She was unarmed, carrying armor that didn’t look nearly as impressive as the stuff the gun toting men were wearing. Were they crazy? Why was she even here?

She looked at the guards who shrugged. “He’s been away for a long time.” One of them said to her.

“Right.” She said, putting her hand down. “Mister Ridgway, you’ve refused to learn about the outside world for some time. Your doctor’s tell me that you think the less you know, the less dangerous you’ll be.” I look back to her, maybe she understands? Maybe the dangerous men are to protect her, not to protect me. I start to relax a little. Then when I meet her gaze I see she’s smiling. That conjures up Terry Milligan’s face, and I wince and look away again.

“It’s alright Mister Ridgway. I’m here to bring you back into the world. I’ll bring you up to speed on modern technology, politics, and anything else you need to know.” They were giving me a personal assistant, a female personal assistant. Had no one told people those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it?

“For starters, we’re about to head to Mars. You have an interview there with a major news outlet.” That caught my attention. I didn’t follow space exploration, but when I was being put under the thought of colonizing Mars had been lunacy. Now we had done it? That snapped me out of my self loathing long enough to not make eye contact again, but to look curious.

“Mars?” I ask her.

“Yes Mister Ridgway. Your FTL motorcade is waiting just outside these gates.” She tells me. For the first time since I was put away I look around. Over the walls of the prison I can see there are floating houses, flying cars, and people jetting around between buildings.

Sarah sees where I’m looking and smiles again. “The population of the earth is over 70 billion; we had to resort to extreme means to fit everyone. The bottoms of the oceans have been colonized, and we’ve spread out to just about every celestial body in our solar system.” I get a sense of wonder that calms me down. I’m distracted enough that I don’t think about all the horrible things I’ve done for a few moments. I look back at Sarah and the guards. The guards are well trained I’m sure, this will be alright, at least for a little while

“Glad to have you with us mister Ridgway.” She touches my shoulder and gestures to the gate. It opens and there’s a giant crowd stretching as far as I can see. I notice there are no buildings or streets on the ground, just one giant mass of people.

“You’re a celebrity mister Ridgway.” Sarah shouts over the din of the crowd roaring my name, along with several nicknames. I catch man out of time, father time, and several other nicknames.

“Don’t worry.” She tells me as the guards clear a path to the cars. “These are the emperor of the Earth’s own bodyguards. They’re the best in the solar system. You’ll be fine.” She’s concerned for my safety. She’s really concerned about my safety. “Besides, The Emperor has decreed that you’re not to be harmed. Anyone who inflicts bodily or psychological harm upon you gets to serve the same sentence you did, complete with cryogenic freezing.” A death sentence, harming me now carries the death sentence.

We reach the cars and I’m shuffled into the back seat of one, along with Sarah. Two guards occupy the front seats. Good, they’re not leaving me alone with a woman.

“How long are the guards with us?” I ask Sarah.

“For six months, or until your notoriety dies down a bit.” She responds. “After that you’ll be switched over to a private contractor for several years, until your celebrity reaches more normal levels. Then, seeing after your own personal safety will become your own responsibility.” Several years, maybe in that time they’d remember who I was, and decide to lock me back up. “I’m sure you could hire a local security company with your vast wealth.” Sarah says.

“My vast wealth? What do you mean vast wealth?” I turn towards her, confused. “I haven’t had a penny to my name in centuries.” Sarah shakes her head.

“You had a 401K when you were put away, that has now matured to a very sizable fortune. On top of that, news outlets like the one we are going to will be paying you millions for your stories. To say nothing of the book deals, advertising spots, and endorsement deals.” She gives me a sly look. “You are a made man mister Ridgway.”

Advertising spots? Endorsement deals? “You’re telling me people will actually buy a product just because I tell them?” I ask Sarah. “Does no one remember I killed almost fifty women in cold blood?” My voice starts to rise against my will. “I’m one of the world’s worst serial killers! Does no one know that? Didn’t you look up my profile when you agreed to this job?” She looks taken aback, but she doesn’t shrink away.

“I read every file we have on you, and the consensus has been you’re a hero.” That word was physically painful to hear. It was as if someone had punched me in the gut. I couldn’t think of anything to say so I looked out the window. Sarah said something, but I didn’t catch it I just now realized where I was.

Outside the window was entirely black with little white stars in the distance. I jerked my head around and there was nothing except the sun visisble, no Earth, no Moon, no Mars, as far as I could tell the entire solar system was gone except for the Sun.

“Where are we?” I asked Sarah. I had cut her off, but she didn’t seem to mind. They had said something about FTL vehicles. I didn’t know that meant they could go to space! FTL must stand for flying something or other.

“In space of course, we are about halfway to Mars. The Faster Than Light drive on this is pretty good so we only have about three minutes left to go.” Oh, that’s what FTL stood for.

“Is this your first time in space?” She asked me. It wasn’t a sarcastic question, she genuinely didn’t know. They must really not know about the twenty first century.

“Um, yes, very few people from my time have ever been to space.” I responded. I had begun examining the car’s windows. They looked like regular glass, could normal cars survive in space?

“Really? See that’s the sort of stuff that you should talk about during the interview.” Hadn’t this person thoroughly researched me? Didn’t any of that internet stuff make it through? “We have had limited storage space, so a lot of the data from your time has been condensed and trimmed down. We kept a file on you, so we know some medical stuff, and of course the terms of your imprisonment, but beyond some sit coms that we really don’t know a lot about people from your time.”

“Limited storage space?” I asked. “I’m not a big computer person, but I had thought the amount of data that a single computer could store was enormous.” She shrugged.

“When everyone in the world is recording their lives in higher definition than the human can perceive things get filled up, and old files corrupted or just run out of power and forgotten.” That still seemed a bit far fetched to me.

“You gotta realize, you are from a time that’s 1500 years before almost any of us currently living were alive. I mean, how much information did your generation have on people from the year 500?” It was a fair question. There were not many manuscripts from that time even before I was frozen. Something still didn’t seem right about the limited storage space. I remembered talking to a cell mate about how much information he put on his computer, and even if it had been 17 centuries, more should have survived.

I didn’t have time to analyze it further. Sarah pointed forward. “Look, we’re entering Mars’ atmosphere now.” I followed her finger and gripped the seat tightly as we entered the atmosphere.

“Good evening ladies and gentleman of the solar system. You are joining us for a very special edition of The Facts. Here with us tonight is The Man Out of Time himself Gary Ridgway!” The host was a plucky young twenty something girl with a pig tail. The studio audience applauded. I waved sheepishly to the crowd. Were stage lights this bright back in my day? It felt like I was on a surgeon’s table. That was a thought I quickly squelched. It was best not to think of places that had a lot of knives.

“So mister Ridgway.” I had missed something, Sarah had been talking. I was doing a lot of missing conversation recently. Must be because I’m old. “How was life back in 2000? What did you do for fun?” I took a second too long to respond because I couldn’t tell if the second question was a joke or a personal attack. I decided it didn’t matter so I answered her question honestly.

“I think a lot of what you might do today. I read books, watched TV, went on dates.” I paused for a second to see how the studio audience would respond to this. They were leaning on the edge of their seats waiting for me to go on. They weren’t the slightest bit concerned about what my dates usually resulted in. “Took walks in the park, and I had a few hobbies.”

“Well mister Ridgway, I think you’ve missed a lot. We in the 38th century don’t have books anymore. Tell us, did you have to write on reeds with a quill, or had paper been invented?” She asked.

“No, we had paper. Some people had begun reading electronically, but most of us were still dead tree readers.” An excited ‘oooooh’ came from the audience. It was like talking to a five year old, they found the most mundane things exciting.

“Now about these dates mister Ridgway. You had them in person yes?” This was getting weird. Once again the strangeness of the times overrode my concern that these people didn’t find me dangerous.

“Yeah, you’d meet a girl out some place, maybe a bar, and then you’d exchange numbers and have dinner some time.” The audience gasped. How had they thought I had gotten my victims?

The next hour was full of plenty of personal questions about every day life. There were some similarities, dental hygiene hadn’t changed much at all. While others had changed drastically. I had spent an hour discussing dating because how people found ‘The One’ in this day and age was by putting your name into a database, waiting six months, filing the appropriate paperwork, and then showing up at a courthouse to fill out more paperwork when you finally met the other person. More casual encounters were achieved in a similar way, but with less paperwork and much less waiting.

After the interview the woman shook my hand and I was escorted back to the car after signing some autographs. Sarah was waiting there for me, and boy did I have some questions for her.

She told the driver to take me to my apartment on one of the moons of Saturn. I had a great view of the great red spot this time of year. She informed me.

“Sarah, earlier you said that there wasn’t enough storage for people from my time.”

“That’s right.” She responded.

“Why couldn’t you just take a couple dozen computers with large drives, and save a bunch of information from that year, and then lock those away. It could only take a couple hundred thousand computers to cover all the time from when I was frozen until now.” Sarah looked at me like I had just suggested rolling down the windows to catch some nice cool space air.

“Because we don’t have the resources.” She explained. “There are 70 billion people on earth alone, almost a trillion spread across the solar system. Every single resource has to be carefully measured out so there’s no waste.” When I didn’t respond to what she believed to be an obvious statement of fact she continued.

“I mean, physics only goes so far. There are limits to how much data a computer can hold, or how fast a ship can fly. That’s why we haven’t spread out further into the galaxy. It takes almost 4 hours to reach Pluto, and would take over a year to reach the nearest star. We can’t afford to squander the resources necessary to terraform a planet if it won’t help with the population problem.”

“The population problem?” I asked.

“She.” She said, getting mildly exasperated that this took so much explaining. “The population proglem, the ability of the planets to support the population of the solar system maxed out at about the turn of the last millennium. Recycling and energy production both got much more efficient, but we still had to start allocating resources. Vital supplies like rare earth metals that computers need. We couldn’t just use them to keep data we didn’t need for research. We have to be very careful about what we use. It’s why we have a culling every couple of years.” Even before I asked what a culling was, I knew the answer. It explained why everyone wasn’t bothered by my murder spree.

“What’s the culling?” I asked, and my gut already had a sinking feeling before she responded. It was one of the first times that feeling hadn’t been caused by my own actions.

She was slow to explain this. Even with the limited knowledge about twenty first century earth that they possessed, she knew what she was about to say was shocking. “Every couple of years we remove the bottom 5% of humanity to prevent over population and an overburdening of resource allocation.”

“Remove.” I responded, with a note of anger entering my voice. “You mean kill. You kill.” I did some quick math in my head. “50 billion people every couple of years.” She nodded. Now it was she who couldn’t meet my gaze.

“No wonder you people don’t find my kill count disgusting. You must think I was just ahead of my time.” Her silence was confirmation of my assessment.

“Fifty billion people.” I said flatly. “That’s almost the entire current population of the earth.”

“We take them from the dregs of society.” She said in an effort to defend herself. She still wasn’t looking at me, and her voice didn’t have any energy in it. “Prisoners, unemployed, homeless, people who are a resource drain. No one who is a productive member of society gets culled.”

“And that makes it better!” I shouted at her. It felt good to raise my voice. It felt good to get angry, and to get angry for the right reasons. This was genocide of the worst kind, and on a truly staggering scale.

“Do you give murderers gold stars?” I asked aggressively. “Do you pin them up as role models who prevent ‘the population problem’.”

“No.” She said meekly. “Only people who are selected by the culling are viable targets. Unsanctioned killing is still a crime.”

“I get frozen so the world will be safe from me. Now I get thawed out to find out that the world is full of people who make me look like a saint.” Disgust was clear in my voice. I, a person who had slain in cold blood more people than could be counted on my fingers and toes was disgusted. The future was shaping up to be fantastic.

We arrived at my apartment in silence. Sarah hadn’t been able to think of anything else to justify her actions. I paced up and down the apartment. I was no longer concerned with protecting the world from myself. The world was already far darker than I could ever make it.

My debt still weighed on, but my fervor had made it lighter. It was no longer something that anesthetized me, it was something that energized me. I had fame, I had money I could fix this. I just needed to figure out how.

Sarah had been sitting on a couch watching me pace up and down, and when I walked up to her with a gleam in my eyes she flinched. That was not new to me, and I ignored it.

“You said these guards come from the Emperor of the Earth right?” I asked her. She nodded.

“The best in the universe.” She told me.

“Do they have to report to him?” I asked.

She hesitated, sensing that I was up to something. “Yes, as do I. As soon as you go to bed we’re going to report in.”

“And this Emperor has a large say in the allocation of resources?”

“Yes.” She said. “What’s this about Gary?”

“You’ll see.” I told her. “Last question, where’s the kitchen?” She was visibly relieved to answer a more normal question and pointed towards a door. It was time to see if they had knives in the future.

I sorted through the drawers and picked a nice sharp steak knife. As I picked it up my anger and drive faded for a moment, and several faces flashed before my eyes. I remembered what had happened the last time I had held a weapon like this. Could I do this? Well, one more couldn’t hurt. Regaining my determination I slammed the drawer shut and walked out to where Sarah sat.

“Call him.” I tell Sarah. She glances from the knife to my face, calmer than I expected. She should’ve read my case files more closely.

“Call who?” She asks. A couple of gaurds who had been watching from doorways walk into the room, hands going to weapons. They knew what was going on even if Sarah didn’t. It didn’t matter, they were already too late.

I put the knife to my throat. “The Emperor Sarah.” The guards rushed me. I spilt a little blood to show them I was serious and they halted. “Call him right now Sarah. You’ve spent a lot of time and money on me, giving me the best guards and medical treatment. I must be valuable to you. Show me how valuable, call the president, or you get to explain how you let an interstellar treasure get destroyed on your watch.” Her face had long since drained of color and she couldn’t move. One of the guards pulled something small out of his jacket and tossed it to me.

“Stick it to your throat and hit the red button.” He tells me.

“Thanks.” I tell him. “I’ll tell people what a stand up guy you are during my next interview.”

“Who is this?” A voice inside my ear rings.

“Is this the Emperor?” I say out loud. I had no idea how this technology worked. I made a mental note to ask Sarah if I survived this.

“No, this is the head of his security detail. To whom am I speaking.” One of the guards must be eavesdropping because there’s a pause and the speaker begins again.

“Ah, mister Ridgway, one of your guards has informed me of the situation. I’ll link you to the Emperor immediately.” During the pause the guards start looking at my hand and edging a little closer to me.

“I’ve killed before gentlemen, and I assure you it will be far easier to take my own life.” I drew a little more blood and they stepped back helplessly. I’m sure they’d eventually knock me out or something, but I didn’t need long.

“Mister Ridgway, what can I do for you.” A diplomatic voice speak in my ear.

“Is this the Emperor?” I ask.

“Of course, now what seems to be the trouble. We’ve gone through a lot of difficulty to keep you alive mister Ridgway.”

I wanted to snap something about how little life meant to him, but I held my tongue.

“The culling, it has to stop.” I heard someone not very close to the microphone on the other end laugh before someone with more discretion silenced him.

“I’m sure Sarah has explained we can’t do that mist Ridgway.” The Emperor told me.

“Yeah, she’s told me you need the resources of this system, and that you can’t spread out, but I think you’re over looking something.”

“I assure you mister Ridgway we haven’t. We have had every great mind of the last 700 years look into this problem to no avail. What could you have possibly seen that we missed.” The answer was almost too cliché. I didn’t tell him straight off. I’d lead him on a bit first to see if he could guess it.

“You said it takes too many resources to send a terraforming team out of the solar system, what if that team is cryogenically frozen. They could spent the whole journey in the freezer, and then when they arrived they would only be thawed as they were needed.” There was a pause on the other end of the line as no doubt the mic was muted and some hurried discussion took place.

“Even if we could do that Gary, cryogenic freezing doesn’t work. It kills everyone that’s put under.” I’m sure he realized his mistake as soon as he said it.

“Not all Emperor.” I actually smiled. “One man survived. I’m the thing you’re missing Emperor. I’m the thing you’re overlooking. I can’t blame you. I’ve been thawed less than a day.”

“But Gary we’d need volunteers. We’d just send the people we cull, but they would never be able to terraform a plant, and Gary.” His voice lowered for emphasis. “We would need your body for testing.”

“Get me on a few more talk shows and I’ll get you your volunteers.” I lowered the knife and tossed it to one of the guards.

“Then you can have my body.” I had found a way to pay my debt.

The Best Girl

You wake up from a brief coma with amnesia and find out that the hottest, richest bachelorette in the country is your longtime girlfriend.

Audio version, complete with me trying to sound like a girl, can be found here: http://clyp.it/0b01wqtb

“Wake up Neo.” A feminine voice whispers into my ear. I open my eyes and smile to myself, somebody knows one of my favorite movies. I look around see I’m in a hospital room. A hospital? That doesn’t make sense. The last thing I remember I was at Jason’s high school graduation party.

I see the source of the feminine voice, it’s a rather cute nurse whose leaning over me with some sort of flashlight. “Follow the light darlin’.” She tells me in an adorable southern accent. After a few medical diagnostic checks she sits down and starts asking me some questions.

That’s when the bad news starts. At first the questions are easy, thing about my early childhood, basic language testing. When they progress to middle school they get a little bit fussy. I remember my first crush and a surprising amount of history. Then comes high school and things get hard. That’s weird, I’m in high school, shouldn’t it be the easiest to remember?

The nurse doesn’t appear to notice and continues asking questions and smiling as if nothing is wrong. We get through freshman level questions, first basketball game, first dance. Then when we get to sophomore year of high school I can only remember a few bits and pieces, and most of my coursework is foggy to me. Finally we get to summer between Sophomore and Junior year, and I can’t remember anything else.

“Okay sweetie, how old do you think you are?” The nurse asks me.

“Well my birthday is in April, so sixteen right?” If I didn’t already know something was wrong by my foggy memory or the question ‘how old are you’ by someone who has my complete medical history, the fact that I’m only guessing at the answer is a dead giveaway.

“You’re 24.” The nurse informs me. She quickly produces a driver’s license to prove it.

“How?” Is all I can think to ask. She explains all about the accident to me, gently, and with a lot of sympathy.

“Thank you.” I tell her.

“your job has already informed us that they will take you back on as soon as your ready.” She smiles. “Thankfully, master artists don’t have to have really good memories.” She turns to leave.

“You know, you are handling this better than any amnesia patient I’ve ever had.” She tells me.

“Yeah?” I ask.

“Yeah.” She says. “It’s really inspiring.” There’s a pause where I start to feel a feeling in my gut that I don’t need to remember Junior year to recognize.

“Anyway, your girlfriend is here to see you. You are some lucky guy to be dating the richest hottest bachelorette in the country.” She informs me before turning on her heel and walking off.

“Yeah.” I say again, forcing myself to smile. My girlfriend comes in all smiles and enthusiasm, but I can’t help but keep glancing at the door to see when the nurse is going to come back.

Disclaimer: I don’t actually know how amnesia works so I’m sure there are some medical inaccuracies here.

Kiss me ’cause I’m Irish

You are sitting at a bar in an airport, and for your amusement decide to pretend to be some other nationality. You bump into a stranger, who says they are from there, as well. It will be three hours before your flight, and you decide to keep up appearance

Audio for this story can be found here: Now with goofy over the top Irish accents! http://clyp.it/qf1rndbj

It looks like me and that cute girl are both on the same flight from Baltimore to Dublin. She’s got a bit of red hair, and call me racist, but she looks Irish. What the heck, let’s give this a shot.

“Top ‘o the mornin’ to ya’ Lassy.” I say as I sit down next to her at the terminal.

“I believe ‘ya mean afternoon.” She responds back.

“Well as long as the sun is shinin’ my heart’ll be warmed.” She gave me a flat stare. A normal guy would’ve probably given up, but I was not an ordinary guy, and had been shot down way harder before. “We’re only a few hours away from being back in the emerald isle lass. Don’t be making a rainy day of it.” She relented a bit and turned towards me.

“’Scuse me for a second m’lady I believe I’m getting an urgent text.” I pull open my phone and open the Wikipedia page for Ireland.

“Everything alright?” She asks, even going so far as to look a little concerned.

“I believe so, me brother gone and bashed his head in a bar fight last week, and my sister’s in the hospital updating me.” She nodded.

“So whose your favorite soccer team?” She asked. Thankfully I was still looking at my phone. I scrolled around furiously. Soccer team, soccer team,

“Oh saints preserve me they’re going in for surgery.” I said to buy more time to look at my phone. Politics, Geography, Cultre, aha sports! What the heck is Gaelic football? Says it’s the most popular, let’s see if we can change the subject.

“I’m not a fan of the main stream sports. But I do follow Kerry a good bit, have you heard of Gaelic football my bonny lass?” While she responded I also opened a tab on head wounds so i could BS about my imaginary brother`s surgery.

“Can’t say that I have. Guess that’s just me being a city girl who spends too much time among the yanks.” I nodded and smiled. Jackpot!

For the next three hours I flipped furiously between my phone and her, building up the tension and the fun by demonstrating how the game is played with some starbucks cups. We eventually got a whole match going with a high school team that was also on the flight.

By the time we started boarding I put my phone away, and put an arm around her.

“Now m’lady. We are about to be spending a couple hours on a plane together. I’ll see if I can move around to sit with you, but first.” I grinned like a hyena. “Will you kiss me ‘cause I’m Irish?”

Good Morning Earth 623!

Nerds and artists take over the world after everyone is given superpowers based on imagination.

Audio for this story can be found at: http://clyp.it/5ryy2uei

“Thought projection radio is here to tell you Goooooood Morning Earth 623! It is a bright sunny day in this pocket universes biggest city! Let’s get down to news. In politics Eminem, the god of the rap dimension, is stopping by the president of the Universes’ office in order to ‘stop all the haters’. In science Unidan is still cloning himself. The petition to expel him into his own new universe has reached 2 billion signatures, but he’s multiplying faster than we can recruit. Breaking Benjamin has suggested we wait for superman, but that hasn’t worked since all the superman keep dying since all the rooster teeth fans turned the sun red. In sports the new England Bengals have found a way to cheat at Calvin ball. This was not thought possible in a game without rules, but the head coach solved this by making some. Lastly, we would like to once again thank all the babies everywhere for not crushing us with their infinite imaginations.”

Going to hell

Hell is real, and everyone goes there when they die. Audio of this story can be found at: http://clyp.it/pr413b1i Things had gone cold, numb, and dark, and then suddenly reversed themselves. I was laying down, now I was standing up, and it was as bright as summer at midday, and warm too. My closed eyes were opened and I saw a great line of people stretching forward toward a gate. I did it. I had died. Now I was on my way to my eternal reward. I looked up at the heavenly gate, and saw inscribed in gold above it ‘Abandon all hope ye who enter here’. There must be some mistake! I had lived a good life, I had followed the commandments, never missed a church service. I was a good man! I tried to turn around and walk away, but my feet kept taking me forward, and I couldn’t look away. It was like some great hand was pushing me towards this eternal fate. I now saw there were great fires roaring above the gates, and could hear distant sounds and awful sounds. “It’s alright son.” A middle aged man in front of me said. “We are all going to the same place.” “It can’t be!” I shouted back to him. “It can’t!” Did he say we all go to the same place? “Did you say we all go to the same place!” He nodded. “That’s right son.” He sounded so calm! How could he sound calm? Didn’t he know where we were going? “Don’t you know where we’re going!” I shouted at him. Again, he nodded, still calm as ever. The sounds were louder now, I could make them out to be screams. We were over halfway to a burning eternity. Without a hint of fear in his voice he responded. “We are all going together. That’s how it’s always been. That’s how it always will be.” I couldn’t believe this. Hell was here, that means god existed right? Did he have such high standards? Did he think no one was worth saving? “But why?” I demanded of him. “Is no one saved from this.” The man shook his head. How could he not be weeping with terror from this? “It’s not so bad.” The man told me in a level voice. “We’ll all be there together.” He sounded comforted by the thought, and yet. As he said this, my fear lessened, just a hair. Part of me had feared that hell meant being separated from everyone, being alone forever. Now, if what this man said was true, I would have company. Would that be so bad? “Does that mean my parents will be here?” I asked him. “And my wife? And the three children she lost before she could carry them to term?” He nodded. My heart rose. I still dreaded what was coming, but it was more like the fear of getting on a roller coaster. You dreaded the moment, maybe even feared for your life, but it wasn’t the worst thing. We were almost to the gate now, and I could pick out individual voices. In a minute it would be all over. “Have faith friend.” The man in front of me said. Have faith? In what? In god? He had sent us all here. I couldn’t imagine why I should have faith in him. He had forsaken us. “Why has god forsaken us?” I asked my friend. We had reached the gates now, and it was my friend’s turn to step into the fire. He turned around, and held out his hands to me. I gasped. There were holes from nails in both of his hands. I could move my head now, and looked down to see holes in his feet as well, and I knew that face. It didn’t look exactly like it did in the movies, but it was close enough to be recognizable. “Jesus.” I said, my voice low. I felt like I should kneel or something. He had said everyone comes here, and I didn’t realize that included god’s own son. “Come friend.” He told me. I looked into his face. It would be alright. I realized. Here was a man willing to die for me, and then take me by the hand to eternal damnation. “You know what.” I told him, reaching out to take one of his hands and step into the fire. “I think I would rather spend eternity burning with you, then one day in heaven by myself.” Jesus smiled at my words as we stepped forward, and I felt an intense burning sensation that made we want to cry out. This was it, an eon of pain. Then it vanished. I felt a cool pleasant breeze and something soft beneath my feet. I looked down and saw not fire, but a cloud. I looked up to see the face of Jesus again. His smile had broadened. “All those times you went to church. You weren’t choosing between fire or clouds.” He told me. “You were choosing between yourself and me. So when I bled out and descended to the dead. I returned the favor and chose you over me.” He swept his hand outward to show a vast expanse of gold robed figures on clouds that were assembled like a football stadium as far and as high as the eye could see. “And so did all these people choose others before themselves.” I marveled at the expanse of it, and I now felt that the breeze had a spirit to it that warmed me, and there was now an older man at my side putting his hand around my shoulder. “Let us go together.” The old man told me in the most reassuring voice I ever heard. “You chose an eternity with us, and you shall have it. All our family and friends are right this way.”

The choice

Audio version of this story can be found at: http://clyp.it/v0ynxlvd

An individual is given a choice. They are either given a week to live where they are able to explore the most amazingly wondrous things and experiences in the universe. And to do something incredibly meaningful. Or they can continue on with the rest of their life as it is.

Meaning, or life, that was the question. So many people asked about the meaning of life, that was no longer relevant for me. The mysterious white robed individual before me was being very tight lipped about the details. He wouldn’t say where we would go, or what we would do, only that the places would be wondrous, and the things meaningful.

Meaning, or life. A week to live, wasn’t much time. I would never get to meet true love, watch my children grow up, or even graduate college for that matter. What would my parents say? I had two of the most loving people in the world to call mother and father, and they would now be forced to bury their own child. I couldn’t imagine what that would feel like.

But the places I would see! Could it be we would travel to the center of a black hole? Or to another world with an alien civilization? I gazed around at the white mountain top temple I had found this white robed wish granter in. The place was vast and ancient, it certainly seemed to be able to deliver wondrous things. I gazed piercingly at the mysterious figure whose arms were crossed and whose eyes were unblinking. I would get no answers from him.

Meaning or life. I would also do something wonderful, cure cancer, solve world hunger, create a lasting international peace. I would cause pain to a few yes, but so much joy to so many. For that reason alone I must choose meaning or life. My life’s goal was to have meaning, so really there was no choice.

Meaning it was then. The wish granter didn’t need me to speak, he had read my mind, and nodded before snapping his fingers.

The week flew by in a flash, but not how I had anticipated it. There were no scientific wonders or spectacular views. The first place I saw was a California beach. No future technology, no aliens, just a regular beach. I waited for a second to see if Poseidon would rise up for the depths or something, but nothing happened.

The white man and I were sort of hovering halfway out into the ocean like a couple of ghosts that no one could see. I was about to ask him for a refund, until I heard a cry for help from far out in the ocean, and a young man streak out into the waves.

I looked to see where the cries for help came from, and saw a lady about a hundred yards out, being pulled by a riptide. She was losing her strength and starting to sink when the young man reached her, and pulled her up. He could barely keep the two of them afloat, much less bring them back into shore, and the riptide was pulling them further out.

I wanted to cry out for someone to help them, thankfully the lifeguard on duty had seen the whole thing and had sent for help. A small raft was making its way towards them.

Just like the young man the boat arrived just in time. Unfortunately there was only one seat on the boat, which the heroic man gave to the woman. I bit my lip as he began to visibly struggle to stay afloat.

The man continued being pulled further out to sea. By the time the boat made it back, the hero had went under.

The entire week I didn’t see a black hole, or an alien civilization. I saw medals of honor being earned, husbands sacrificing themselves for their wives, wives sacrificing themselves for their children. I saw proposals, births, weddings, and also funerals, and deaths. At the end of the week I knew I had truly seen some of the most incredible things that had ever happened.

I had no regret when the seventh day had passed and I turned to my escort and asked him. “Alright, I’m ready, what am I to do.” For an answer, he snapped his fingers.

I found myself on a California beach, and heard a woman being carried out by a riptide cry for help.

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