Sunday Snippet, Swallowed by Nostalgia by Bill Chance

“being alone never felt right. sometimes it felt good, but it never felt right.”

― Charles Bukowski, Women

Klyde Warren Park, Dallas, Texas

Swallowed by Nostalgia

Craig was never very outgoing, never comfortable around lots of other people. He was surprised when he found himself married with two twin children. Then, all of a sudden, he was alone again, his ex-wife and kids out on the West coast, with a new husband and father.

Still, he had his friends. Not a lot of them, but the ones he had were close. He had his activities, his clubs, his scheduled events. Craig never felt like the center of the crowd, but he was there. He didn’t initiate a lot, but people would contact him, offer up events and activities, and he would go along.

As he grew older, he slowed down a bit, still not outgoing, but not a hermit by any means.

And then the pandemic hit… and it all went to shit.

One day, Craig realized he had not been out of his apartment in almost three weeks. His food was delivered, either cooked or groceries. Every day he’d collect his Amazon boxes – everything he needed and more. It was a reflex to search and click “buy now.” Craig felt like a cave man hunting woolly mammoths with a mouse, keyboard and credit card. After a while he turned the camera off on his work Zoom meetings and would usually nap during the long ones. Nobody seemed to notice.

He ordered blackout curtains for his windows and the highest rated noise-cancelling headphones. Sometimes he’d wear the phones without music, even though his place was quiet – simply to kill off any potential interruptions.

This went on, month after month and Craig began to go mad.

The present became more and more gray and blurred, but the past became crystal and colorful. Events from decades before floated up through his memory and wedged themselves into his consciousness. Especially things he regretted – not stuff that he did, but things that he didn’t do. These errors of omission, vacuums of courage, kept flashing in his mind.

The time a girl at a club gave him her number and he didn’t call… the job offer he turned down… the friends that went to an exotic location and he decided not to go with them…. All these and countless more kept coming back to him. In his mind, though, he went ahead and took the plunge. In his imagination he called the girl, took the job, went along. And reaped the reward.

But then, later, he would realize what had really happened, where he was, and who he had become. Sleep became something he feared, not because of nightmares but because of these triumphant dreams where he corrected the mistakes he had made. And this made the morning even more gray, even more useless.

His health provider kept sending him messages about the vaccine, but he ignored them. Why get the shot? He never left his apartment, was at no risk to himself or anyone else. He didn’t care anyway – if it killed him, it killed him.

Then one morning, after a long vivid dream of driving across the country in a sports car that he had decided not to buy once he woke up and scheduled his shot. It might stop the dreams. He left his place for the first time in months and was surprised at how easy it was to negotiate the paperwork and get the jab in the arm. He actually looked forward to the second, couldn’t wait until the three weeks were up.

It was a beautiful day when he got his second shot – the air with a bit of a chilly breeze but the sun out and hot – cutting through the cold. On a whim, he stopped in a park on the way back.

It was full of people, very few wearing masks. They were in groups, grilling, playing volleyball, kids running around, old folks walking, even a keg of beer next to a boom box (he guessed that the park rules were being bent after such a long time away).

He parked and walked the sidewalk on the circular drive looking at all the people. Live people. Noise. The chatter and music rose up. The smell of charcoal lighter and barbecue sauce. The feel of the cool breeze and hot sun.

It was back. He was back.

Sunday Snippet, Aliens Abduct Cheerleaders by Bill Chance

““You’re the hunter, the warrior. You’re stronger than anyone else here, that’s your tragedy.”

― Anne Rice, The Vampire Lestat

Sunset High School Cheerleaders

Aliens Abduct Cheerleaders

There are a few people in this world that everyone would consider to be a BADASS. Navy jet fighter pilots, gangsters, hitmen, boxers, bullies, Seal Team Six, high voltage repairmen… that sort of thing. Within that world of people that are badass there are a few that are REALLY BADASS. Think of a bell curve representing the amount of badass someone has – that right hand bit of tail and you have the badass people. Spread that out and you get another curve – to the right of it, the second derivative – and these are the most badass of the badass.

If you meet one of these people (and you better hope you never do) you probably would not even recognize their badassness – at least not right away. There is a saying among the super-badass, “They that do the mostest, talk the leastest.” They will never, never, ever talk about how badass they are. No tales of derring-do, no boastful bluster, no bombastic braggadocio. They are comfortable in their skin, confident in their abilities.

This is a small group, but among them are a handful of the most badass of the badass of the badass. These are the people that keep the badass of the badass up at night, send shivers down their spine. I’m not sure I know about all these people but I know six of them and I doubt there are very many more.

Who is more badass than these six? There is only one. He is not only the most badass person on the planet, he is an order of magnitude beyond; he is so badass that the word almost ceases to have meaning; he is made of pure badass.

He is Spencer Bowman.

Bowman carries an old fashioned pager. It only beeps – doesn’t even display the number calling. He may be the only person in a first-world country that still carries a pager like that.

One day, it beeped. Bowman stomped on the pager, shattering its plastic case, then dropped its remains off the first overwater bridge he came to. He drove his perfectly nondescript and average car to a working class suburb outside of DC and parked in front of a Speedometer Repair Shop in a run-down strip mall. He nodded at the middle aged receptionist and pressed a hidden button. A section of wall opened up and a stainless steel elevator appeared. The walls of the car had slits and Bowman nodded at them, knowing that an unseen man with a machine gun was behind each one.

At the bottom, deep underground, Bowman walked down a bare concrete corridor and pushed open a heavy steel blast door. Beyond was an ordinary drab government-issue office, with a bespectacled man at a desk. Not even Bowman knew what government agency ran this operation. It was so secret and dark it didn’t even have an acronym. Bowman suspected that not even the man behind the desk knew for sure who he worked for.

“Bowman, glad to see you again, have a seat,” said the man at the desk.

“What do you need me for?” was all Bowman said.

“You don’t waste much time, do you,” the man replied.

Bowman said nothing, not even a nod. It wasn’t really a question anyway.

“Well,” the man said, “aliens are stealing cheerleaders.”

“Really?”

“Really. Not just here, all over the world, though, of course the United States leads the world in Cheerleaders and most of the kidnappings are here. The total number isn’t huge, but it’s enough to worry… well, worry the people that know you.”

“And you want me to?”

“Find out why.”

“Maybe it is for breeding stock. There was a movie about that.”

“Probably not. They have mostly been taking female cheerleaders. But there have been a few male ones too. Actually, the ratio is pretty much the same as the total cheerleader population.”

“So, find out why. Anything else?”

“Well, it would be nice if you could get some back. If you can.”

The man handed Bowman a tiny, encrypted USB drive. Bowman already knew the password. And that was it.

There was a surprising amount of information on the drive. Enough for Bowman to figure out a couple of starting points. The government had a lot more data on the recent plague of UFO sightings than the public had been allowed to see. After a month of work, a series of educated guesses, and using some of his more exotic contacts, Bowman was able to figure out where the Alien’s base of operations was – an abandoned water pumping station in Dallas, Texas. The Aliens had a complex, subtle, and deep series of security measures protecting their base which Bowman was able to methodically and completely penetrate.

The Aliens resembled human beings in general, and their advance agents had established an odd cult of bizarre plastic surgery that made them able to… if not fit in, at least pass with their origins unguessed. Bowman reached the leader of the Alien mission with a maximum of stealth and a minimum of violence. They faced each other across an odd seven legged table lit by the unsettling greenish light of the Alien’s home planet.

“Spencer Bowman,” said the Alien mission leader.

“You know me,” said Bowman. Again, it was not a question.

“Of course, our knowledge of your society is more extensive than your own.”

“But why cheerleaders?”

“We need warriors.”

“Cheerleaders? Why not trained military? Or ninjas? Or snipers? Or at least gang bangers?”

“We are so very far advanced technologically that your crude killing methods are no longer relevant. Our weapons need a very specific and subtle mix of physical and mental capabilities and proclivities to operate efficiently. The Earth Cheerleading corps possess these qualities in greater accuracy than any other group we have found in any of the major galaxies.”

“But you can’t just kidnap people.”

“Kidnap? Oh you don’t understand. We present our proposal and they come along if they want.”

“But what if they refuse?”

“What if? Nothing. They return to their life.”

“What if they talk?”

“What if? Would any one believe them? Nope, they would end up a joke in the tabloids. And that’s the thing.”

“What?”

“Nobody has refused. No one. The call of destiny is strong. This is their purpose, they are perfect intergalactic warriors and when this is pointed out – the call is irresistible.”

Bowman knew he had the information he needed and it was time to escape. He turned away from the alien leader and fled out the door, taking every element of the situation in and avoiding the obvious traps. He was confident in his ability to get out of the alien headquarters unscathed and deliver his message to the government.

But Bowman was not prepared for what waited for him in the corridor beyond. There was Amber from the San Luis Obispo Wildcats in her red and blue uniform. She carried a Light Antimatter Laser Cannon and a Neutrino Shield. Next to her was Jeff from the Iowa City High School tumbling squad with a Quantum Saber glowing in his palms. Behind them stood their commander Crystal from The University of Virginia with a Superstring Grenade… just in case.

The fight didn’t last long. Withing a few seconds Bowman was reduced to a series of grotesque smears along a few feet of corridor. The Alien cleaning robot immediately emerged from a hidden closet and began scrubbing at the gore.

Spencer Bowman was without peer in the ranks of earth’s BADASS. But he was completely outclassed by Amber, Jeff, and Crystal, Intergalactic Warriors.