Black Petals Issue #75 Spring, 2016

The Enemy of My Enemy
Home
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
The Big Well-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
The Boxlike Object-Fiction by Charles C. Cole
The Enemy of My Enemy-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Virtuality-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Virtuous Reality-Fiction by A. M. Stickel, Editor
Walking to Class-Fiction by George Economou
Whispering Ghosts-Fiction by George Economou
Churchyard watcher-Two Poems by Chris Friend
August Nights-3 Poems by Dr. Mel Waldman

trilobite.jpg

The Enemy of My Enemy…

 

By Roy Dorman

 

With friends like this, who needs enemies?

 

 

     Stan Albright walked into the bar and waited a few seconds for his eyes to adjust to the dim light. The bar was a few blocks off North Clark Street in one of those areas more likely to open a quickie loan office than a trendy coffee shop the next time there was a business turnover. But Stan now lived in the neighborhood, so here was where he occasionally had a few beers. Sometime soon he figured that Stephen, an ally of his in his fight against the Others, would make contact.   

When he could finally see, he saw just the bartender and one customer. At three o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon, the lack of customers was to be expected. The bartender was hunched over the bar talking right up close and personal to the customer, who appeared to be crying. He raised one finger to Stan with the “be with you in a sec” signal and went back to consoling his customer. Finally, without another word, he showed her two open palms, raised his eyebrows, shrugged as if to say “what more can I do?” and walked the distance of three or four barstools to where Stan was seated.

     Before he asked Stan what he could get for him, he looked back at the young woman. She was still crying softly, but was now holding a small caliber pistol. The bartender, Ted (the name on his apron), held up both hands in a warding off gesture, but she fired three shots, one right after the other, into his chest. All three hit near his heart. Ted fell to the floor, taking a half-dozen long-stemmed wine glasses from behind the bar with him.

     Stan turned to the woman and said the first thing that came to him, “Feeling a little better now?”

     Her frown evened out to a half smile at that, but she then shot Stan twice in the chest—not as close to the area that had caused Ted’s death, but close enough. Stan heard the sound of someone falling to the floor and taking a barstool with him. He remembered reading somewhere that hearing was the last sense to leave you when you were dying. He wondered if the bartender had heard those wine glasses crashing onto the floor around his head.  

     He was puzzling over the idea that he could still hear and think when he heard the report of a single gunshot and then someone, almost certainly the crying woman, land on the floor near him. How long had it been since he had been shot and then heard the suicide shot? Maybe he’d hear sirens soon.

     Stan didn’t ever hear sirens. It had only been about ten or fifteen seconds between the shots directed at him and the shot to the head of the customer. What he did hear was all too familiar: the skittering of hurrying feet racing at him from behind the bar. Something heavy landed on his chest and fastened itself to him like a shuddering vest. He felt himself being dragged around to the back of the bar and, just before he passed out, thought, I don’t suppose these overgrown insects ever heard of 9-1-1….

 

     A little more than a week ago, Stan had been snatched from the comfort of what was supposed to have been a safe house of sorts in another dimension. Without a good-bye, he had left Alicia Goodman, John Doe, and Stephen, and had undergone a time and distance transfer. The trip had ended with him being dumped unceremoniously onto the lawn of a mansion in a wealthy Chicago suburb. Fortunately, no one had been home at the time to see his graceless entrance from that parallel dimension. 

     Stan was getting used to this sort of treatment. Without giving the episode much thought, he had taken a cab to a working class neighborhood near Wrigley Field and had presented himself to the homeowner who had advertised a room for rent in the Tribune.

     “No luggage?” Harry Kowalski had asked.

     “Not carrying it with me; it’s in a locker at the bus station,” Stan had lied. “But I’ll be paying the first month in cash.”

     Over the period of these last two months, a very odd two months, Stan had learned that lying and paying in cash could get him pretty much anything he needed. A still ambiguous “support group” provided him with plenty of cash and the lying had become second nature as a defense mechanism. Now that he had a place to stay he could recharge; that last adventure had tuckered him out. He looked and felt like a twenty-something, about ten years younger than he had been two weeks ago, but felt his battery was low. A recovery period had been needed.

 

     Stan now woke with a start to find himself in total darkness. The darkness was so complete that he thought maybe he was blind…or dead. Material with the consistency of heavy spider webbing wrapped his face and neck. He tried to raise a hand to wipe off the sticky strands and found he couldn’t move his arms. He was secured with what was probably that same webbing, only much more of it. Panic threatened to take over; darkness, being tied down, spider webs—it was suddenly just too much. He took a few deep breaths and thought, Nothing happened to me while I was unconscious, so why should I get all freaked out now. Just wait…wait.

      Stan decided if he couldn’t free himself, he could at least take inventory. He continued the calming breaths and figured that number one, the act of breathing meant he was probably still alive. Secondly, he was lying on his back on some sort of coarse bedding and unable to move. And third, there was something resting on his chest. 

     Flashes of the shootings in the bar were coming back to him now and, when he remembered something fastening itself to his chest just before he passed out, panic started to try and take over again. The thing that had fastened itself to his chest was almost certainly one of those crab-like skittering things. Even though he was totally grossed out by the thought, he reasoned one of the Others’ nasty little beasties was still on his chest. If that was true, for some reason it had acted like a bandage or tourniquet and had probably kept him alive. He moved his chest as much as his bindings would allow to see if he could provoke some kind of response from the beastie. Nothing. It felt lighter than he remembered it being when it had first attached itself. It now felt like only the dry husk of its former self.

     “You awake?” came a voice from his left. 

     Stan opened his eyes as much as the webbing allowed and saw it was still pitch black. He tried to answer the question but his reply was muffled by the webbing. A hand that was surprisingly gentle pulled the webbing away from his face.

     “Better?” It was the same voice only much closer. It was too close. Whatever it had recently been eating was still on its breath and it smelled awful.

     “I’m here on important business with whoever is in charge around here,” said Stan. “So, if you’d untie me and take me to them it would be appreciated.”

     “Are you sure you would like to meet those who are in charge? I’m one of their most trusted helpers and I try to have as little contact with them as possible.”

     “What’s this nasty beastie thing doing on my chest?” said Stan, changing the subject. “Get it off me, would ya?”

     “That’s a trilobite of sorts and it gave its life to save yours. Your body sucked the life out of it in order for you to survive the shooting. Our trilobites are much like your hunting and shepherding dogs; they do a lot of that sort of work for us.”

     Stan shuddered to think that his body had absorbed anything from one of those nasty critters, but at least he was still alive. “That shooting at the bar; was that staged by you to capture me?”

     “No, that was just the usual human drama being played out in what you call a dive bar. We’ve been monitoring your comings and goings, looking for an opportune time to capture you. The careless way you live life was an assurance to us we wouldn’t have to wait long.”

     “Well, suppose I wanted to get caught in order to gain access to your leaders?” said Stan.

     “Which proves my point exactly as to your recklessness.”

     “How about at least giving us a little light? And cutting me loose?”

     “I can see just as well in total darkness as I can see in the light, but I will release you and give you light. Based on your past behavior, I know you almost certainly won’t be cooperative. I do have a stun gun and will use it at the first sign of hostile action from you.”

     A week or so ago, Stan had allowed himself to be captured by the Others with the loosely thought-out plan that he would meet with and challenge their leaders on their own turf. Stephen had killed the Others’ helper that time and the two of them had walked to an Others’ stronghold, meeting up with Alicia and John on the way. Now having been captured once again, Stan wondered whether he should allow himself to remain a captive under the control of this helper or try and dispatch it and explore his surroundings solo. He knew from recent experience that the decision might not be his to make. Stan didn’t often make things happen in his chaotic life; things more often happened to him.

     Gradually there was a little light and Stan was also freed from his bonds. He was not, however, prepared for the first thing that he saw with the new lighting. The Others’ helper who stood before him with a stun gun pointed at his head was wearing the face of Alicia Goodman on its otherwise yeti-like body.

     “Shit, man, what are you doing?” yelled Stan. “That’s just about the sickest thing I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen some sick stuff recently.”

     “Our information gatherers told me this is the face of someone you respect and trust. What better face to wear in attempting to get better behavior from you?”

     “Sorry, buddy, but that’s not going to do it. You’re seriously creepin’ me out.”

     “The gatherers also say when you and she are together your auras glow very brightly.”

     “Auras?” said Stan. “You can see auras?” This was good information to have. He wondered if Stephen’s forces were aware of this.

     “The auras show respect, trust, and also that feeling you beings call affection.”

     “Her aura shows affection?” asked Stan, momentarily losing focus as to what his immediate mission was. “What do the auras of John Doe and Stephen show when they are around?”

     “For you they show respect and trust as well as the desire for male bonding. Since neither John Doe nor Stephen is originally from your society, they only know what they have learned since being on Earth.”

     “What do they project as to Alicia?” asked Stan.

     “There is a hint of affection from them to her, but she only has respect and trust for them. They seem to accept that most of the time but both do sometimes, what would you say, speculate?”

     Stan felt a little uncomfortable pursuing all of this with none of the others here, so he let it go. He decided he would like to follow-up a little more on what the helper had said about John Doe not being originally from Earth.  “You seem quite knowledgeable for a …”

     “A helper? A peon? Yes, I’ve been around the block a few times. I certainly know more about you than my masters do. I’ve taken an active interest in Earth’s people and some of their cultures. I’ve done a lot of reading of your literature. Your science fiction is quite imaginative—off the mark most of the time, but quite interesting.”

     Stan decided this helper was much too valuable to kill. It also sounded like it may have gone native. Maybe he could win its trust and use it to get close enough to the Others to do some real damage.

     “Your aura is showing duplicity. Though I am interested in you as part of my continuing education, I will stun you into unconsciousness at the first sign of trouble.”

     “Okay, okay,” said Stan. “You got me. But you must have seen a little bit of respect mixed in there too. Am I right?”

     “I can’t entirely trust my abilities in this area. The information gatherers are better trained than I am. But I do know that you are one of the most dishonest beings I’ve had one-on-one contact with.”

     “Gee, thanks, I think,” said Stan. “How about you put your own face on and take me wherever you’re supposed to take me. I’ll try to be good as long as I’m not threatened. And hey, what can I call you?”

     “I have no name; I am just called ‘Helper’ by those you call the Others. In English they would be called something like ‘Great Ones’ by those of us they rule.”

     “How about we give you a name?” said Stan. “How about ‘Yeti’?” A yeti is a mythical hairy creature thought to live a solitary life in some mountains on Earth. The name Yeti is much classier than Helper. As to Great Ones, well, we’ll see about that.”

 

     Here Stan was once again on his way to meet with the leaders of the Others. He had a few questions he would like to ask them, one of which was why he was so important to them. Ever since the Norbert Miller Grocery incident, they’d been hounding him—never trying to kill him, only making clumsy attempts to capture him. His new captor/companion, Yeti, had done an excellent, though thoroughly disgusting, shape-shift. They obviously had that power. Though Stan wasn’t sure how he himself did it, he could do it, and he wondered if maybe it was his ability to move in time and space that interested them. But he didn’t know how he did that, either.

     Entering a small stone grotto, probably in another dimension, Stan mentally prepared himself for what was to come. Would the leader or leaders he was about to meet try to get something from him by force or would they try winning him over? He didn’t think they would just kill him outright, having had plenty of opportunities to do that before. But there was the possibility he might have become too much of a thorn in their side and they considered him too much of a threat to let live.

     Yeti opened a solid oak-like door that had been concealed by some shrubs that on earth would be called greenery. Since the shrubs were a bright crimson in this dimension, Stan mused that maybe they were “reddery.”

     As Yeti opened the door, there was a loud whirring noise from within. Yeti threw Stan to the side and opened fire with his stun gun. Rolling on the floor to a place of some cover, he adjusted the beam from narrow to wide and from stun to kill. Stan had also found some cover and watched the stun gun do its terrible work. A large Other and a half-dozen underlings were burned to a crisp in less than ten seconds.

     “I think you’ve just made an irrevocable decision here, Yeti,” said Stan. “I appreciate it, but what were you thinking?”

     “That whirring noise you heard when I opened the door was a death ray. I was told to bring you for interrogation, but they obviously planned to kill you. That they felt it necessary to keep that from me means they no longer completely trusted me and were going to dispose of me with you, which ‘pissed me off,’ as you might say on Earth.”

     “I guess it did,” said Stan. “But all this commotion is sure to bring reinforcements. We’ve got to get out here fast.”

     “You go; I would just slow you down,” said Yeti.

     “I hear them coming,” said Stan. “Here, grab my hand and when I say ‘run,’ run with me as fast as you can.”

     Stan decided this whole business of trying to meet with the Others just wasn’t working, especially since it seemed they no longer wanted to take him alive. He intended to take Yeti back to Earth and find a safe place for him while he figured things out. He had some questions for Stephen, Alicia, and John, but they would have to wait. Stan intended to take a vacation from all of this for a while. If he could.

     “Ready? Run!”

To Be Continued

 

     The beginning of this story is a slightly revised version of a flash piece originally published in Grant Tarbard’s “The Screech Owl,” a wonderful British literary site that sadly closed this past summer.

 

 

Roy Dorman, roydorman@yahoo.com, of Madison, Wisconsin, who wrote BP #75’s “The Enemy of My Enemy…” (+ BP #74’s “Doesn’t Play Well with Others,” BP #73’s “A Journey Starts with a Flower,” BP #72’s “The Beach House,” BP #71’s “The Big Apple Bites,” BP #70’s “Borrowing Some Love,” and BP #69’s “Back in Town” and “Finding Good Help…”), is retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Benefits Office and has been a voracious reader for 60 years. At the prompting of an old high school friend, himself a retired English teacher, Roy is now a voracious writer. He has had poetry and flash fiction published in Apocrypha and Abstractions, Birds Piled Loosely, Burningword Literary Journal, Cease Cows, Cheapjack Pulp, Crack The Spine, Drunk Monkeys, Every Day Fiction, Flash Fiction Magazine, Flash Fiction Press, Gap-Toothed Madness, Gravel, Lake City Lights, Near To The Knuckle, Shotgun Honey, The Creativity Webzine, Theme of Absence, The Screech Owl, The Story Shack, & Yellow Mama.

Site maintained by Fossil Publications