Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Episode 09 - Lightning Slim and the Swamp Chicks: Part One

Zed stumbled out through the doors of the strip club and into the gravel parking lot, bumping a large man in a black t-shirt as he went.

“Watch it asshole”, the large man muttered. It was a comment that might have set Zed off in the past, before prison, before turning thirty, and before drinking seven bottles of beer on a Tuesday night with a morning shift at the gas station right around the corner.

The gravel crumpled beneath his boots as he searched for this Harley in the dark. They’d turned the neon Lightning Slim’s sign off for the night, and the moonlight was the only source of illumination left on this stretch of highway. Zed was the last customer of the night, and the bouncer had to wake him up to get him to leave.

The chrome of his motorcycle shimmered in the starlight, and Zed felt his way to the seat, throwing a leg over and pulling the back up to a neutral balance. He jumped on the starter, and the bike coughed and weezed but did not start. He wasn’t clear if it was mechanical or simple drunkenness.

Lifting his body to give it another try, he was interrupted by gunfire in the club. He turned his head to the front doors just in time to see a tall, slender brunette burst out the front doors, running in a panic. The light wasn’t good, but a glint in the darkness told Zed the woman was packing heat.

The woman rounded the corner of the building a made a beeline for her SUV. Before she could get very far, two men ran from the back of the strip club and cut her off, causing her to change direction suddenly, skidding in the gravel with her high heels. She ran for the highway, and two more men burst out the front doors, firing a shotgun blast into the air. Zed could see from the burst of light that one of the men was the big guy with the black t-shirt, beard and ponytail he’d bumped into earlier. A real asshole.

“Your dead bitch!”, one of them yelled, and several sets of running feet joined hers in the gravel. She was running Zed’s way.

“Get me out of here, now!”, she demanded, and Zed felt the barrel of her gun press hard into his back as she slung her leg over the seat of the bike.

“Go ahead and shoot”, he said, “I ain’t gettin’ involved in whatever this is”.

Just then, a shotgun blast tore into the night, and Zed heard the scattershot spray the forest behind them. They were gonna kill him too.

The woman dropped the gun from his back. “Please, go”, she pleaded.

“You got it”, Zed answered, and hopped on the starter. The Harley roared to life, and he spun a fast u-turn, spraying gravel onto the approaching men and clumsily breaking traction on the old highway as they tore out of the parking lot. He heard shotgun blasts coming from behind, but they quickly receded into the distance.

“What was all that about?”, Zed yelled over the roar of the motorcycle engine.

“I made a cash withdrawal from Slim”, she yelled back, “He didn’t take too kindly to that.”

“You robbed a strip club? That’s the dumbest thing I’ve heard!”

“I didn’t rob it! They’ve been stiffing my girlfriend for weeks. I took they owed her”.

From behind, a pair of headlights appeared on the highway. The vehicle was approaching fast, and in his drunken stupor, Zed didn’t notice until they were in its headlights. In his rear view mirror, he could see it was the raised pickup truck he’d seen in the strip club parking lot every night for the past two months.

“We’re being followed!” Zed yelled.

The woman turned around and saw the approaching pickup. “Shit!”, she screamed, “Go faster!”

Zed turned the throttle full tilt, and the bike lurched forward. The truck matched their speed and continued to approach.

Suddenly, a set of overhead lights blazed to life on a rack above the pickup cabin, and a shotgun blast pierced the night. Zed weaved, and felt buckshot ricochet off the side of his bike.

“You ok!?!”, he yelled to the woman, but instead of an answer, he heard her pistol fire a couple rounds at the truck. One of them burst a front headlight, causing the driver to sway the truck just as the man in the bed fired another round from the shotgun. Zed heard the scattershot hit the trees to his right.

“Get ready to shoot the tires!”, Zed yelled, and he swerved to the side of the highway and hit the brakes hard. As the truck zoomed by them, the woman fired several shots at the tires, missing the front but hitting the back. Throwing shredded rubber into the air, the raised truck tilted sickly to one side, spraying sparks from the metal rim all over the highway.

The truck skidded into a ditch, and Zed and the woman dodged it, tearing off toward town. He felt the woman’s gun return to his ribs.

“We’re gonna pick up my girlfriend now”, the woman said into his ear. He heard the sound of a cell phone being dialed behind him, and soon, she was talking again. “Hey love, I got the money. You know where to meet me”. Zed felt the gun press against his back a little harder. “Take me down the alley behind the Kettle”.

The bike flew down the highway at top speed, and soon they reached the city limits. The houses became bigger and more stately as they went, slowly giving way to the crumbling brick retail buildings of Main Street. Halfway through downtown he turned at the old sports bar, still brightly lit and bustling with the commotion of old drunk men, and then took a quick left into a dark narrow alleyway. In seconds, they pulled to stop behind the town’s only cafĂ©, the Copper Kettle.

As the bike came to a stop, Zed heard a squeal of delight come from the shadows. A gorgeous blonde woman ran toward them, throwing her arms around the brunette and nearly tipping the bike over in the process.

“I can’t believe you actually did it!”, she said, climbing onto the bike between Zed and the brunette woman. Zed looked back and saw that the blonde was not only facing the brunette, but was giving her a wild kiss. He couldn’t help but smile at the sight. The moment was short-lived, however, as the brunette opened her eyes and saw his expression. Without breaking from the kiss, she jammed the gun hard into his back.

“What was that for?!?”, Zed yelled.

She broke from the kiss, eyes narrowing in a scowl of anger. “Drive us somewhere safe. Somewhere off the road.”

Zed knew where to go. He tore out of the alley with the two women on the seat behind him. They crossed the old highway, watching for the police and any sign of the guys from the strip club, and they fled the town on an old country road that Zed knew of from his youth. Houses gave way to deep forest, and the road wound downward until they were riding alongside the old swamp that skirted the town. Zed watched for the dirt road, and when he saw it, they turned sharply, bumping and weaving down the poorly-maintained path toward the place he used to drink and hide his porn mags in high school.

When he saw the edge of the swamp, Zed pulled the bike to a stop. The women stepped off the bike first, and Zed got a good look at them in the glow of the headlight. The brunette was tall and voluptuous, with big expressive eyes and ample breasts. Her hair was thick and luxurious, and she wore jeans and a low-cut black shirt which showed her cleavage. The blonde woman was thin, with thick straight hair and sharp features. Unlike the brunette- whose breasts and hips were curvaceous- her body was thin and boyish. She wore a belly shirt and mini-skirt, and Zed recognized her from the strip club.

The women backed away from the bike carefully with the pistol raised at Zed. The blonde was the first to speak.

“Let me see the money”, she said, excited.

Without taking her eyes off Zed, the brunette raised a plastic bag she’d been clutching, and the blonde tore into it, pulling out handfuls of cash. She counted it quickly.

“This is way more than Slim owes me!”, she said, looking at the brunette with what Zed interpreted as a kind of awe.

“Call the rest interest”, the brunette said flatly.

“Who’s the guy?”, the blonde asked, looking at Zed for the first time.

“Don’t know”, the brunette said, cracking a smile, the first Zed had seen all night, “But he helped me get away from Slim”.

The blonde smiled seductively, and glanced up and down Zed’s body. “What’s your name?”, she asked.


“I’ve seen you at the club”, she continued, “What’s your story?”

Zed stood silent, not wanting to answer. The blonde stepped forward and gently placed her hand on his cheek, running it down his neck and shoulder. Her deep blue eyes were open and inquisitive, and Zed felt himself soften under her gaze.

“Just got out of the pen”, he answered, “Workin’ at the gas station on the highway, tryin’ to stay outta trouble, make good on my parole.”

“Well trouble found you tonight, didn’t it?”, she said, stepping back toward the brunette and gently pushing the pistol down toward the ground. She smiled seductively, and turned to her girlfriend. “I think we need to thank our little hero here. Can you think of anything we can do for him?”

The brunette smiled back with a sly grin, and she turned to Zed, looking him up and down. “I can think of something…”, she said, dropping the gun to the ground and grasping the hem of her shirt. She pulled the t-shirt off her body, slowly revealing her shapely waist, large breasts and feminine shoulders. The blonde unclasped her mini-skirt, letting it fall loosely to the ground. Underneath, she wore a black g-string.

The two women stepped toward Zed, coaxing him off the Harley. He couldn’t believe his luck, and he stepped off the bike willingly. The women began to undress him, pulling his jacket off and caressing his arms and shoulders. The brunette moved to his back, pulling his t-shirt off while the blonde pulled his boots off one by one and worked on the belt of his jeans. When the belt fell loose, both women worked his jeans to the ground, until he was standing there in a pair of boxers and white socks.

That was when he was tazed.

Intense electricity flowed through his body, causing his muscles to contract involuntarily. He fell to the ground, unable to move. He lost control of his bladder, and his boxers grew wet with his own urine. Before Zed could form a coherent thought, he heard the girls laughing and gathering up their belongings.

“You didn’t think we were that easy, did you?”, the brunette said.

Still too stunned to lift himself off the ground, he watched the women fire up his Harley. The blonde threw his boots down to him, and one hit him painfully in the chest. The bike roared to life, and the back tire spewed chunks off dirt and gravel at him as they sped down the dirt road and back toward town.

“Come find us!”, the blonde yelled as they disappeared through the trees and out of sight.

“Fucking bitches”, Zed moaned, still unable to moan. Without the light of the bike’s headlamp, it was nearly pitch black in the swamp. The roar of the Harley grew steadlly quiet in the distance until it was gone, and he was left with the sounds of the swamp. Insects, frogs, and the occasional splash or flap of wings.

As his muscle control returned, he stared at the sky through the canopy of pine trees above him. Out here, where man-made light was almost completely absent, the heavens were deep and rich with the stars and gases of the Milky Way. He wondered idly what it would like to be out there, when something odd began to happen. The sky, the trees, everything, began to grow bright. The world became bright white and it hurt his eyes. The trees and sky disappeared completely, and he blinked at the illumination, still unable to lift his arm to shield his eyes.

Fuzzy shapes began to appear in the intense glow, slowly defining themselves as his eyes adjusted to the light. Zed was completely disoriented, not knowing where he was or what was happening.

The shapes continued to clear, until he saw that two of the most hideous aliens he had ever seen hovered over him. They were big, and had dark green skin that glistened with a kind of mucus. Their faces were covered in deep wrinkles that twisted this way and that, and their beady eyes peered menacingly down at him. Each alien had a gun trained on him.

Regaining his muscle control, he became aware he was floating on the surface of the water in some kind of tank, with nodes attached to his body. The aliens backed away from him as he pulled himself carefully up to sitting position, nodes snapping off his body as he went.

Sitting up, he saw that he had been laying in what might have looked like a coffin back on Earth. The room was filled with the disgusting aliens, and Zed saw that eight of them surrounded Jim, not with guns but with hoses attached to tanks strapped to their backs.

Without turning its head, one of the aliens yelled out into the room. “The human is awake! What should we do with him?”

The largest of the green aliens turned away from Jim and toward Zed and his guards.

“Kill him”, it said.

(To be continued…)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Episode 08 - Krystos

The saucer descended through the rainbow-hued clouds of Krystos, leaving gossamer streaks of water vapor in its wake. The diamonds that covered the surface of the planet reflected the light of the sun into the atmosphere, creating a constant dance of light.

“Wow”, was all Jim could say.

To Zed, the planet looked like an acid-induced fantasy he’d had in high school. The surface was an ever-shifting sea of sparkling light, and as they flew in closer, he saw a forest of tree-like stalks rising high into the sky… each connected by an intricate web of green fibers which caught the light from all directions. Streams of crystal-clear water ran in ragged patterns through the white rocks and diamonds on the planet’s surface, where tufts of clear grass grew in random clumps here and there, swaying gently in the breeze.

“So we gotta find some kind of animal?” Zed asked Jim, breaking the trance-like awe that they both felt.

“Yeah”, Jim answered, “I used to hear about this place when I was young. Early space explorers claimed to have stumbled upon a planet covered in diamonds… said there were creatures who roamed the surface that digested their food for so long and with so much internal heat and pressure that they literally shit diamonds.”

“Diamonds? Seriously?”, Zed said, astonished.

“We all thought it was some bullshit legend”, Jim answered, “But here we are. The Keepers must’ve kept this place hidden to protect it. I can see why. There’s a fortune to be made here.”

The saucer glided quietly over the crest of a hill, and a large plain stretched out beneath them. The wind caught the expanse of grass-like vegetation, sweeping through the transparent stalks in soft waves. The surface sparkled brilliantly as they skimmed the surface, as billions of diamonds caught the sunlight. On the horizon, a herd of creatures came into view, grazing lazily in the morning light. To Zed, they looked like a cross between a Rhinoceros and a giant slug… long and slender with a thick hide and a small head which rested on the ground as it ate. As they drew closer, Zed could see that their grey, armor-plated bodies hid several pairs of thick, muscular legs.

“These the ones?”, Zed asked.

“I can’t tell for sure”, Jim answered, “But if the size and shape of the tank is any indicator, they look about right”.

“How big is the tank?”, Zed asked.

“Big”, Jim answered.

As Zed and Jim watched, one of the creatures lifted its tail, and a large diamond popped out of its body.

“There’s our answer!”, Jim said, his voice somewhat giddy. “Head down to the cargo bay. I’ll lift one into the ship, and you can coax it into the tank”.

“How the hell am I s’posed to do that?”, Zed asked.

“Don’t know”, Jim answered, “Never done it before”.

Zed hopped on the lift and made his way down to the cargo bay, grumbling as he went, just as the ship’s main portal doors spun open. The cool air of the plain rushed in, and for the first time, he saw the creatures up close. They were huge, at least forty feet long, and he heard the diamond-encrusted ground crumple beneath their feet as they grazed.

Jim’s voice buzzed to life over the ship’s intercom. “Do you see the tank?”

Zed looked across the cargo bay, and saw a large tank with crystalline walls in the shape of a pentagon. One of the walls folded downward like a ramp toward the saucer’s portal, and beside the ramp was a simple control panel with green and red buttons.

“I’m pulling one up”, Jim continued, “Get ready”.

The green beam burst to life, shooting down through the portal doors and encompassing one of the creatures. The creature rose a few feet off the ground, and began writhing and wailing with a high-pitched shriek. Zed could feel the ship sway from side to side with the weight.

“This son of a bitch is heavy”, Jim said, “I don’t think we’re gonna be able to do this the easy way”.

“What do you mean?”, Zed yelled back, “This doesn’t seem that easy to me!”

“I mean, I’m gonna land the ship, and you’re gonna have to go out there and herd one of those things up the ramp”.

“Are you crazy?!?”, Zed yelled back, “They're huge!”

“Zed, you killed an entire ship full of Zanarans. You can do this.”

The saucer descended slowly until it hovered just above the vast, diamond-studded plain… landing gear extending from the hull and touching down gently. Zed felt the weight of the ship settle into the gear, and saw the ramp extend downward.

Grumbling, he walked down the ramp and into the the grass of the open plain. The ground felt soft as his boots sank into the gravel of sparkling diamonds, and the strange transparent blades of grass bent away from him, as if sensing that something alien had stepped onto the surface of the planet.

Approaching one of the creatures, Zed got a clear sense of its rimmense size, not unlike a whale back on Earth. As he walked around the body to its head, It continued to tear the strange grass out of the ground and paid no attention to him. Zed could hear its large jaw grinding the food, and smell the pungent aroma of its breath as it expelled air from a series of holes along the sides of its body.

What do I do now, Zed thought to himself, trying to come up with something.

“AHHHH”, Zed yelled suddenly, waving his arms as menacingly as possible. The giant creature ignored him, continuing to pull at the tufts of grass growing on the plain. Zed tried it a little louder, lunching at the creature’s head. Nothing.

Frustrated, Zed pushed against the creature, but it was like pressing against a stone wall. The creature disregarded him completely.

“Having trouble Zed?”, Jim asked over the saucer’s loudspeaker.

“Goddamned thing won’t budge!”, Zed yelled back, bending over to pull the blaster from his ankle holster.

“Zed, I wouldn’t do that”, Jim warned.

He lifted the blaster and pointed it at the creature.

“NO! DON’T DO IT!”, Jim yelled, frantic.

Zed pulled the trigger, and a burst of blaster fire slammed into the creature’s armored body.

The creature lifted its head, glanced back and forth across the plain, and returned to grazing. Though it had clearly seen Zed, it disregarded him completely.

“Fuck!”, Zed yelled, “Did you see that!?!”


“What do I do now?”, Zed asked.

“Give me a minute”, Jim returned, “I’ll come up with something.”

Zed walked around the creature, looking for a weak spot in the armor. Maybe if I can hurt it, he thought, I can urge it into the ship.

The segmented armor along the sides of its body looked flawless. Zed noticed an open ridge on its back, but the creature was too tall for him to see it clearly. Putting the blaster back in the holster, he decided to scramble up the side of the creature and check it out more closely.

“What are you doing bro?”, Jim asked.

“Looking for a way to motivate this big guy”, Zed answered, pulling himself to his feet on the back of the creature. The creatures back was as hard or harder than the ground, and Zed stepped carefully from segment to segment, looking for a weak spot in the armor. As he approached the open ridge, he heard and felt the creature exhaling through a hole on its back. He also felt a strange vibration that wasn’t there moments before.

“I think I found a weak spot”, Zed yelled, and pointed the blaster at it, “Lets hope this works”.

He pulled the trigger and fired on the open ridge. The creature’s head jolted upright and it let out a tremendous high pitched screech… moving a few steps forward and it glancing backward in a panic. Zed felt the vibration grow stronger.

“I think that’s working!” Jim said over the loudspeaker, “Try it again!”

Zed lifted the blaster again, but before he pulled the trigger, he noticed the other creatures in the herd lifting their heads and screeching as well. The vibration grew steadily stronger, and he heard a barely audible rumble appear in the distance. Glancing over his shoulder toward the source of the noise, Zed saw what looked like a distant dust storm heading in their direction. In the cloud of dirt, diamonds sparkled brightly as they flew through the air.

“What the hell?”, Zed muttered to himself.

Suddenly, the creature beneath him raised its head and let out a low growl. Without warning, It lifted itself off the ground, and broke into a sudden galloping run. Zed fell backward, and grabbed a ridge on its back, barely avoiding a tumble to the ground. The creature moved fast, and in his violent struggle to recover his balance, he saw the Jim’s grounded saucer receding into the distance. Though the creature bounced as it ran, and the wind rushed at his body, Zed pulled himself to a sitting position. A shadow crawled across the back of the creature, and he looked up to see the saucer hovering above him.

“You okay?”, Jim yelled over the intercom, “Those things are fast!”

“Yeah, I’m fine”, Zed yelled back, “What’s going on?”

“I don’t know”, Jim answered, “There’s something big headed this way. I’m going to fly low and try to get your creature to run up the ramp.”

The saucer descended in front of Zed and the running creature until it was only feet off the ground. Once again, the ramp extended downward, and as it touched the planets surface, it skidded and bounced and kicked dust and diamonds up into the air. Zed shielded his eyes, but even the confusion, he noticed the saucer slowing down to allow them to approach.

The ramp bounced as it sent sparks flying in all directions, and Zed and the creature grew closer and closer. He spared a glance over his shoulder to get another look at the approaching dust storm, and nearly lost his balance again.

It wasn’t a storm at all. It was the biggest creature Zed had ever laid eyes on. It was slightly reptilian, with a complex pattern of spines on its shoulders and legs that made the horrendous creature look deadly. It roared through a mouth that opened like that of an insect, revealing rows upon rows of long curved teeth and sending streams of drool slapping against its body and the plain below.

“Holy shit Jim! Get us in the ship and get us out of here!”

Just then, the creature’s foot landed on the deck of the ramp, and Zed and the creature rushed upward a couple steps until the entire platform was ripped from the ship’s hull. The saucer wobbled out of control for a moment, one side skidding against the planet’s surface. The fast gallop of Zed’s creature was interrupted momentarily, putting them in the rear of the tight-knit herd… just feet in front of the tremendous, closing predator.

Zed could no longer afford to stay where he was, and he ran down the length of the creature’s body and jumped from its head onto the tail of the creature before them. As he landed, holding on for dear life, he heard the sound breaking bones and ripping flesh behind him. The monster had struck, and Zed had barely escaped being devoured!

Scrambling up the creatures back and getting to his feet once again, he scanned the surroundings for any sign of Jim. There was no saucer in sight, but what Zed did see caused his heart to leap in his chest.

The herd, still frightened and running blindly, was headed straight for the edge of a deep ravine. In a panic, Zed fired a couple shots into the air-hole on the creature’s back, but it was too little too late, and the herd of creatures plunged over the edge of the cliff and into an impossibly deep canyon. Zed felt his stomach leave him, and suddenly, he was in open air, tumbling uncontrollably as the air rushed up to greet him. He lost his grip on the creature, and the two fell side by side as the remainder of the herd tumbled beneath them, one hitting the cliff wall and spiraling into the others. Before Zed had time to think about his situation, the saucer appeared suddenly, flying straight down into the ravine. The familiar portal doors spun open, and the green beam pulled Zed and the large creature sideways into the cargo bay.

As soon as the cargo doors spun closed and the gravity returned, Zed fell toward the floor, and it became quickly apparent that something was wrong. The saucer continued to plunge, and Zed could feel that it was out of control.

“Zed, you in?”, Jim asked over the intercom.

“Yeah, what’s happening!”

“The creature’s too heavy for the ship!”, he answered, “We gotta get it in the tank. The Keepers would have planned for this!”

Zed ran toward the open crystalline tank, and saw that it was lined with the transparent grass that the creatures fed on. He pulled a tuft out of the ground, and held it up to the creature, who went from a state of panic to interest in a few seconds.

Zed led the creature into the tank, walking backwards into the cage as it followed. At the door of the tank, the creature glanced around suspiciously, and paused.

“Zed, get out of the way!”, Jim said, and the saucer tilted sharply, causing the creature to tumble headlong into the tank.

Untold tons of armored flesh tumbled toward Zed, and he jumped upward as the creature’s head slammed into the crystal walls below him. He scrambled up the long body, making his way toward the door of the tank while the creature wailed in panic, flipping its body dangerously. Just as he approached the door, the creatures tail whipped across the tank and slammed Zed against the wall. He heard several of his ribs snap, and fell to the ground, struggling to breath.

“Zed, get that tank closed, now!”, Jim pleaded.

Zed crawled out of the tank, and hit the green button on the control panel. The tank lit up brightly as the door slid closed, and he saw the creatures body lift a little as if floating gently off the ground.

The ship regained control, and Zed could feel the ship pull out of its downward spiral and begin an ascent.

“Yeah!”, Jim yelled in victry, “We did it!”

Coughing suddenly, blood sprayed out of Zed’s mouth and splattered against the beautiful walls of the crystalline tank. Through the blood, he noticed that the creature had stopped writhing and began eating the grass which seemed to grow from thin air at the end of the tank.

Zed laid his head on the floor of the cargo bay, and as he did so, two large diamonds fell out of folds in his clothing.

Jim’s voice reappeared over the intercom, panicked. “Zed, you’re bleeding! You okay?!?”

“The creature shit on me”, he said, coughing through his words.

The world began to fade to brown, and Zed lost consciousness.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Episode 07 - The Keepers of the Light

Zed felt his muscles go weak, and he swayed to the side, nearly losing his balance.

“Amber? Zoe?”, he stammered, “You were dead! I saw you both dead!”

Amber stepped toward Zed with a worried and inquisitive expression on her face. “Does our presence here not please you Zed?” Zoe looked equally concerned.

“Looks like he’s pleased to me”, Jim said, motioning to the tent pole growing in Zed’s pants.

Zed grew angry suddenly, dropped the beers and pulled the blaster from its ankle holster, pointing it at the tall man with the mustache.

“And who the hell is this guy?” he yelled at the nude women, pointing in his direction with the blaster, “You told me I was the only man you’d screw!”

Despite the threat of blaster fire, the man smiled gently, and stepped toward Zed. He spoke in a clear, calm voice. “I have come in the image of Jim Croce for the benefit of the Jim organism”.

“Told you bro”, Jim said from across the room.

“These two have chosen the images of Amber and Zoe in an attempt to please you Zed”, Croce continued, “They felt it would comfort you in your time of loss.”

The news caused a fresh surge anger to well up inside of Zed and he stepped forward, pressing the end of the blaster against Jim Croce’s face. “What the hell are you saying? These chicks aren’t Amber and Zoe?”

“That is correct”, Croce said calmly.

“Then who are you?”, Zed snarled.

“We have no name for ourselves”, Croce replied, “But we are known by many names and concepts throughout the Universe…labels such as the Creators, the Makers, and most commonly, the Keepers of the Light”.

Zed heard an odd noise coming from behind him, not unlike the sound of a flat car tire rolling on pavement, and he spared a backward glance to catch Jim approaching. It was the first time Zed had seen Jim move from his chair, and he noted that Jim’s body simply rolled across the floor. The dark circles that Zed had thought of as eyeballs floated just under Jim’s transparent skin, and seemed to remain suspended in place while the rest of it’s body rolled along… like the nucleus of a cell.

“I’ve heard the legends”, Jim said, coming to stop next to Zed, “A race of beings old as time and powerful as Gods. How’d you help us get away from the Dor’Ahkans?”

Amber stepped forward, joining Jim Croce at his side. “We created a rip in the fabric of space and time and allowed you to slip through. From the Dor’Ahkan’s perspective, you simply blinked out of existence.”

“Where’d you bring us?”, Zed asked, blaster still pressed against Jim Croce’s face.

“We are in a secret place”, Zoe said, stepping forward to join her companions. “Your computers cannot determine your location because we are hidden within a dark nebulae. No one will find you here. You are safe”.

“Why’d you help us”, Jim asked, “The Dor’Ahkans have caught and killed millions of creatures. What makes the two of us so special?”

Jim Croce smiled, and spoke softly. “It is simple. We need your help. We feel you possess the correct blend of qualities, both personal and situational, to aid us in our search for a valuable object”.

“How valuable?”, Jim asked.

“If this object is not retrieved and returned to its proper location, the fate of the Universe is in question”, Zoe answered.

“What’s in it for us?”, Zed asked, blaster still pressed against Croce’s face.

“With this object”, Amber said, “It is within our power to recreate what you have lost. Your wounds will be healed, and your worlds restored to their former glory.”

Zed studied the three figures standing shoulder to shoulder before him. He could not detect a shred of animosity in their pleasant, smiling faces… nor did he sense a double-cross. He let his blaster arm relax, and the barrel of the gun slid down Croce’s face until it fell toward the floor.

Zoe stooped to pick up the Miller Light he had dropped on the floor, and Zed watched as a layer of frost coated the bottles in her hands. Amber moved forward and embraced him, and he felt waves of warmth and comfort move through his body.

Zoe took his hand. “You are tired Zed. Let us refresh you.” They moved toward the stairs leading to the living quarters below the main deck. “You should make your decision with a clear mind and a well-rested body”.

As they made their way down the stairs to the sleeping quarters, Zed heard the sound of “Time in a Bottle” being played softly on the guitar.

So Jim’s getting his too, he thought, good.


Several hours later, Zed, the women and the two Jim’s met in the ship’s lounge. It was the first time Zed had been in that particular room, and the arrangement of levitating seating and entertainment devices might have impressed him in another time and place. At the moment, however, he was filled with thoughts of the pleasure he had experienced with the new Amber and Zoe. His permanent grin betrayed his experiences to Jim.

“Had a shitload of fun, didn’t you?”, Jim asked.

Zed smiled widely in response. He was too relaxed to speak, and even if he were able to utilize those particular muscles at the moment, his mind was too clouded with a fog of euphoria to form coherent words.

Amber spoke to Jim Croce by telepathy. “Has the Jim organism agreed to help us?”

“Yes”, Croce answered, projecting his thoughts to the two women, “And the Zed organism?”

Zoe smiled. “Yes”, she said, “Several times”.

Amber, lounging nude in a recliner which hovered several feet off the ground, was the first to speak openly. “It seems you have agreed to help us”, she said, directing her attention to Zed and Jim, “This is a joyous occasion!”

“So what’s this object you want us to find for you?” Jim asked, opening a compartment in the arm of its chair, pulling a can of Bud Light from it, and pushing the can into its body.

“Let us begin with a story”, Zoe said, waving a hand toward the center of the room. As she did so, a three-dimensional image of the Universe appeared, rotating slowly. “For ages stretching into the infinite reaches of the past, the Universe has struggled against the Darkness which surrounds it. While the Universe is composed of material and order and time, the Darkness which lies outside is composed of pure Nothingness. There is no time, no mass, no energy… one cannot claim the Darkness even exists, for how can Nothingness exist?”

Jim Croce stood and walked toward the center of the room. “At the center of the Universe lies a very special particle”. He waved his hand, and the image of the Universe began to expand. Galaxies sped past them and through them, disappearing through the walls of the lounge. It became apparent they were zooming toward the center of the Universe, and as they arrived, a speck of light appeared. It was an orb, roughly the size of a golf ball, and it glowed with a brilliant white light that hurt Zed’s eyes. Croce walked up to the glowing orb and cupped his hands around the faux particle with love and awe. Light streamed through his fingers and lit his face with an intense glow. “This particle is known as The Light. It is the Spark which ignited an infinite number of Universal Cycles. It is the source of all order, and by extension, all life in the Universe, for it is the particle which illuminates the Darkness, and pushes it to the far edges of our physical domain.”

Amber approached Croce, and waved her hand. The image began to zoom outward, until it became apparent that a planet-sized temple was being built around the Light. Though transparent and crystalline, the temple was impossibly ornate, and revolved around the Light like a glass jar around a lit candle. It was the most beautiful thing Zed and Jim had ever seen.

“After the last Big Bang”, Amber said, “Our race was the first to evolve to self-awareness. Our planet lay closest to the Light, and it’s influence guided our understanding of the Universe. Slowly, we learned its secrets, and divined our purpose as sentient beings”.

“You see”, Zoe interjected, “In every Universal Cycle, the Universe evolves to perfection. That is its purpose, to illustrate that order will prevail over chaos, that life will prevail over death, and that the Light will illuminate the Darkness. When a cycle ends, when the beings that compose the self-aware aspect of the Universe have evolved to a perfect understanding of the role which they have played, the Universe begins to contract once again, and a new cycle is born”.

The euphoria Zed felt had begun to fade, and he felt this lecture strayed uncomfortably close to church talk. “So what does all this crap have to do with me and Jim?”, he asked.

Amber turned her attention to Zed. “We will show you”, she said.

Jim Croce waved his hand, and the the impossibly beautiful temple began to shrink. They were zooming outward again, and soon the galaxies that had retreated moments before came back into view. They were countless, and dotted space like stars in the sky.

“Our race came to understand that our purpose was to guide evolution on other worlds”, Jim said softly, and streaks of light began to emanate outward from the center of the Universe, touching the galaxies like the delicate silk of a spider’s web. “The Light had chosen us for this work, and had given us the understanding to travel the Universe and choose forms which suited our new environments. We could be found on every planet supporting life, gently guiding the evolution of creatures large and small, nudging them toward intelligence and wisdom.”

“At one time, we could be found on your home worlds, Zed and Jim”, Zoe said, “We were there when the algae coated the oceans of Earth, and when the porous slime pits of Sichonia belched their first nitrogen bubbles into thick atmosphere. This was the Great Work the Light had bestowed upon us, and we reveled in it.”

Amber waved her hand, and a transparent orb formed within the three-dimensional model of the Universe like a perfect balloon. The vast majority of Galaxies were within its walls, rotating lazily. A few lay outside the orb, scattered randomly. One galaxy lay on the surface of the orb, with half of its mass inside, and the other half on the outside.

“We soon found that there was a Zone within which the Light had influence over the development of life. Within this Zone of Influence, the Darkness was not present, and life developed in a perfect and predictable manner. On the rare occasion that life took hold outside this zone, it soon destroyed itself with its own will to survive, rendering its home world uninhabitable. This was the influence of the Darkness, to weaken the power of life… to twist it, and imbue it with sickness and despair and death.”

“So again”, Jim said, a note of irritation present in his voice, “What are we supposed to retrieve for you? Where do we fit into this story?”

“One planet lay on the edge of this Zone of Influence”, Croce began, “It was the home world of the Dor’Ahkans. For the much of their evolution, the planet drifted safely within the zone, and life on the Dor’Ahkan planet evolved a beautiful interconnected rhythm that exceeded our expectations. Eventually, however, the spiral arm of their galaxy took them out of the zone, and they were robbed of the Light’s influence. Soon, life on the Dor’Ahkan world changed as it has on your own planets. Animals began to devour one another, sickness and death began to creep in once again, and soon the Dor’Ahkans were scrambling to protect themselves and their short lives against the ravishes of this imperfect and unpredictable environment.”

Zoe waved a hand, and a crowd of brilliantly illuminated beings appeared in the three-dimensional image. “Our council met to discuss the issue of the Dor’Ahkans, and it was decided that we should wait for the planet to pass back into the Zone of Influence rather than risk travelling outside the zone to help them. It was felt that beings of our knowledge and power should not subject ourselves to the influence of the Darkness, that unpredictable and horrifying results may occur.”

“Despite this decision”, Amber said, waving an arm and showing a solitary being slip through a rip in the space-time continuum and out of existence, “A being of our race decided to ignore this decision and visit the home world of the Dor’Ahkans. His love of life outweighed his logic. His need to address the needs of the few outweighed his concern for the safety of the many. This being was named Mata Cana , and he was never seen or heard from again”.

“The plot thickens”, Jim joked to Zed, “Wanna beer?”

“Hell yeah!”, Zed replied.

Jim Croce continued the story.

“Around 3 million years ago”, he said, “The Light was ripped from its place at the center of the Universe. With no comprehension of violence and deceit, we stood helpless as a race of warriors stormed the temple and took the Light. In a matter of minutes, the Universal Cycle- the Holy and Eternal pattern of order conquering chaos- was dealt a deadly blow.”

“You see”, said Zoe, “The Light draws energy from the Universe, even as it gives. At the center of the Universe, this exchange is in perfect balance. Take the Light away from the center, however, and the balance begins to shift. As it moved toward the edge of the Universe, the Light began to dim. It’s Zone of Influence- weakened and unbalanced- allowed the Darkness to seep into the Universe, introducing sickness, decay and death- and all its trapping- to living worlds… planets such as your own. If the Light is not returned to its proper location, it will eventually dim and go out completely. When that happens, the Darkness will decay the Universe from within, and the Great Universal Cycle will be broken forever.”

“For the past 100,000 years, our race has been imprisoned within the Temple. Though the Darkness has begun to affect us as well, we have remained relatively healthy due to the residiual energy of the Light. The forms you see before you were created in the Temple. We are projecting our consciousness through them.”

“If you can do that”, Zed asked, “Then why do you need us? Why can’t you go search for the Light yourselves”.

“We have tried”, Amber said, “Though as we have stated, we do not understand violence and deceit. Many of our projected bodies have been brutally murdered in the pursuit of the Light. We have managed to find clues to its whereabouts, however.”

Jim Croce waved his hand, and the three-dimensional image zoomed into a galaxy, eventually resting on a gas giant with a large moon. The moon was blue and covered with swirling clouds, not unlike Earth.

“We believe Mata Cana orchestrated a plot to steal the Light. His mind and body twisted by the Darkness, his soul yearning for a connection to the Light, he sought the aid of a race of warriors to help him steal it. We held the place of Gods on their world, which had only recently felt the influence of the Darkness, and Mata Cana used his power and influence to trick them. They thought they would inherit the role of Keepers, but when Mata left their planet with the Light, they knew they had been deceived, and the entire race committed ritual suicide.”

“On their world”, Amber said, waving her hand and causing the image to zoom toward the planet until a pyramid-like mountain came into view, “There is a mountain containing an ancient machine. We believe this machine may help us find the location of Mata Cana and the Light. The Zanara found this machine several thousand years ago, and stole artifacts from it. We think one of these artifacts may be the key to using this machine. They are keeping this artifact in their asteroid fortress in the Mueronian Belt.”

Jim laughed “It’s in the Zanaran Fortress? How the hell do you expect us to get it outta there?”

“We will give you an gift”, Zoe said softly, “Our hope is that you can trade this gift for the object we desire.”

“The Zanarans don’t trade”, Jim said, “They take.”

“They may make an exception in this case”, Croce replied, smiling. “In a few moments, the sun will rise over the world of Krystos. We have been orbiting on its dark side for the past 11 hours.”

“Krystos!” Jim scoffed, “You’re joking!”

“We have created a special holding tank in your cargo bay that will hold one creature. Take no more than one, or it will die within hours. These creatures only thrive in special conditions”.

“Are you telling me these creatures are REAL?”, Jim asked, flabbergasted, “They actually exist!?!”

“Yes”, Zoe replied, “Unfortunately, we can no longer remain on the ship to aid you. We can only project for a short time, and I’m afraid we are too fatigued to continue. We will be watching, however, and will assist when we can”.

The two women, who had been levitating in lounge chairs, worked the controls in the arm and the chairs settled to the ground. They stepped out and walked to Zed, who was busy reading the label on his beer can. They sat on either side of him, and Zoe pulled the beer can gently from his hand and placed it on the floor.

“Hey, what are you doing?” Zed yelled.

“Zed, we have enjoyed your company”, Amber said, “We believe you will be successful in your quest for the Light, and we wish you well on your journey”.

“You’re leaving?”, Zed asked, surprised.

“Yes Zed”, Zoe answered, “We’re leaving”. The two women leaned in and gave Zed a kiss on the cheek, and then disappeared in a flash of light.

“I must leave as well Jim”, Croce said, and like the women, he disappeared from the lounge.

Zed leaned forward and picked up the beer. “What happened man? I lost track there at the end.”

Jim’s chair settled on the ground, and the creature rolled out the door and up the stairs toward the control room. Zed jumped up and ran after it.

“Jim!”, Zed yelled, “Wait up! Where’re you going?”

“If we’re orbiting Kyrstos”, Jim yelled back, “I gotta see this sunrise.”

Zed caught up with Jim in the control room, where it was already sitting in its chair and working the control panel. The wall above the console became transparent once again, and in moments, a sliver of light appeared around the edge of a planet.

The edge sparkled and shined in a million brilliant colors. As the light of the dawn crept across the surface, the light danced and gleamed in a display that dazzled the eyes.

“Wow!”, Zed said, leaning in for a better look, “The whole planet is sparkling!”

Jim stared in amazement, “It certainly is”.

“Why?”, Zed asked.

“Because, my friend”, Jim replied, an expression of awe on its face, “It’s covered in diamonds”.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Episode 06 - The Dor'Ahkans

The fighters were closing in fast.

Jim took a sharp turn toward the Earth’s moon and raced toward the surface, the fighters following suit. Just as they reached the ground, Jim pulled up, and the saucer skimmed the surface, kicking up a plume of dust.

The squadron launched thousands of missiles, and an alarm sounded in the control room. Jim spared a tentacle to flip on the rear viewing screen, and Zed finally saw what they were up against. An almost incomprehensible cloud of missiles were racing toward them like a swarm of locusts.

“Holy shit!”, Zed yelled, “Is that meant for us?”

Jim nodded the affirmative while it furiously prepared the ships defenses. Zed watched as a mass of bright flares burst from the back of the saucer, scrambling the heat seeking capabilities of the missiles and sending a large number of them in erratic flight patterns. Hundreds of the missiles exploded, crashing into one another and the moon’s surface. Zed cheered at the sight, but more than half of the missiles flew through the debris unharmed, and they were gaining distance.

Jim banked the ship hard to the right, and flew over the lip of a deep crater, clearing the edge by mere inches. Only three of the remaining missiles were able to reproduce the angle. The rest exploded on the lip of the crater, creating a ball of fire and sending moon dust high into the starry black sky. The saucer continued to skim the floor of the crater, and as they flew up the other side, Jim curved the ship upward until they were heading straight back the way they’d come… face to face with the fleet of fighters.

“You might want to close your eyes Zed”, Jim muttered, and thrust the ship forward, gaining speed. The three missiles had managed to stay behind them and close distance. They were only seconds from impact.

“We’re playing chicken with these assholes?” Zed asked.

“Something like that”, Jim answered.

A wall of well-organized fighter ships stood before them, and when the saucer came within range, they began to fire their laser cannons. Jim swerved the ship delicately through the bursts of light, seeming to presuppose where the ships would fire next. The wall drew closer, and closer still, until they plunged into the giant squadron of fighters. Jim flew the saucer in complex patterns through the enemy fleet that Zed could scarcely understand. The missiles, unable to follow, crashed into the armada, sending fighters crashing into one another as the shockwaves blew through the fleet. Up, over, side to side, spin, pull up… the movements on the view screen made Zed sick to his stomach, and he did as Jim suggested. He closed his eyes and hoped for the best.

As Jim flew, he left mines in the small gaps between the fighters, and they crashed into them. Explosions racked the armada, sending ships flying into one another and imploding violently. The fleet was in utter chaos, struggling to maintain flight order while tracking the impossibly nimble saucer.

The saucer burst out of the rear of the fleet and sped into deep space. Zed yelled out in victory, but Jim seemed as worried as ever, taking the wind out of his sails.

“Why so glum?”, Zed asked, “We got away!”

“We’re far from getting away”, Jim answered grimly, and he was right. In the rear screen, Zed saw the gigantic ship looming behind them, keeping pace. The fighters had recovered as well, and regained formation.

“If that ship catches us in a magnetic beam”, Jim said, “We’re as good as dead. These people don’t fuck around”.

Zed watched as the ships in the rear monitor grew steadily larger. They were catching up with the saucer.

“Who are they”, he asked.

“They’re the Dor’Ahkans”, Jim answered slowly, “They’re the ones responsible for what happened on your planet.”

“The zombies? How the hell do you know that?”

“Cuz”, Jim answered, “They did it to my planet once, a long time ago. It's what they do. They target a planet, they send a disease that causes life to devour itself, and they rob the planet of its resources."

Before Zed could contemplate the news, the saucer bucked violently, throwing him the ground once again.

“What was that?”, he exclaimed.

“They fired the magnetic beam”, Jim said, trying to squeeze every last bit of speed he could out of the saucer. “We’re still too far out of range for them to get a lock on us, but it was close.”

The giant ship and the armada of fighters grew still closer, and Zed could sense there was no way out of this situation. A feeling of doom crept over him.

“What are they gonna do to us?”, Zed asked.

“You don’t want to know my friend.”

That was when everything flashed. The saucer’s control panel began to glow a soft yellow. Zed scanned the room, looking for the source of the illumination, but saw nothing. The glow grew in intensity until everything- the saucer, Jim, even his own skin- flashed a brilliant white.

Then it was gone. Zed could see that everything else was gone as well. The huge ship. The fighters. The Earth. The moon. Even the stars. The view outside the ship was completely black.

Jim was as fervent as ever, tentacles racing across the control panel.

“I don’t understand it”, Jim said, “It’s not possible…”

“What happened?”, Zed asked, getting up from the floor where he’d been thrown only seconds before.

“I don’t know! The Dor’Ahkans are gone. There are no familiar galaxies out there. The computer is unable to tell us where we are."

"So we escaped?" Zed asked.

"I think so", Jim replied, "But I don't know how.” Jim continued to work the console, trying to determine their location. Zed, still laying on the ground, put his hands behind his head and smiled broadly.

"Well who gives a crap! We're alive ain't we?"

Jim slowed his efforts until he stopped altogether, slumping in exhaustion. "I can't explain it Zed", it muttered, "But you're right. We're alive".

“Want a beer?”, Zed asked, pulling himself to his feet and walking toward the lift.

“Hell yes”, Jim answered, seeming to deflate as the anxiety left its body.

Zed boarded the lift, but before he hit the button, he asked Jim one last question.

"When those bastards showed up, you said it's cuz they 'knew what you were/", Zed asked, "What'd you mean by that?"

Jim turned and looked at Zed. "I'm one of the last Sichonians in existence", it said, "We experience time at a slower rate than most organisms in the Universe, and can generally move and react faster than the average rate of perception".

"I've noticed", Zed said.

"It was for this reason that we were sought after as pilots, especially by those who did not wish to be caught. As the Dor'Ahkans grew in power and influence, they pronounced the Sichonians a threat, and they destroyed our planet. Since then, those of us remaining have been hunted down and turned over to the Dor'Ahkans for reward. I wouldn't be surprised if the Zanaran's planned to turn me in rather than cough up the money they owed me. Bastards."

"So the Dor'Ahkans might've shown up to collect you?", Zed asked, "Why'd they attack us?"

Jim chuckled, "Cuz they'd rather kill than deal".

"That how they found Earth?"

"I'm afraid so."

Zed thought about that for a moment. "Life's a bitch, ain't it?", he said, and hit the button to the lift.


The elevator descended into the bowels of the ship, and Zed stood impatiently, running his fingers through his black hair. For the first time in what felt like weeks he had time to think, and he found himself thinking about Earth… about Zoe and Amber.

I had to kill Zoe, he thought painfully. She was eating Amber- not in a good way- and she would’ve done the same to me if I hadn’t shot her.

The memory made Zed, angry, and he punched the wall. Blood came from his knuckles, but he didn’t notice. He’d lost the only two people he’d ever loved.

Those chicks saved my life, he thought, I might’ve drank myself to death if it weren’t for them.

The thought that he never got an opportunity to give his women a proper burial infuriated Zed. If what Jim told him were true and these Dor’Ahkans were responsible, he would have to take them down. Way down.

Zed grabbed a 12-pack of Bud Light and a couple bottles of Miller High Life from the loading dock and boarded the elevator. On his way up, the thought that he would never see Amber and Zoe alive settled over him. Zed didn’t know how to feel. He couldn’t cry, and he couldn’t kill anything.

Maybe I’ll find what I’m looking for at the bottom of these bottles, he thought glumly.

As the elevator reached the control room, Jim came into view. It looked as if it were waiting for him.

“What’s up Jim?”, Zed asked, throwing it the 12-pack of Bud Light.

Jim caught it- deftly as usual- and set it on the ground. “There’s someone here to see you”, it said slowly, and motioned to the far side of the room with its tentacle.

Zed turned his head in that direction, and his eyes fell upon the glorious visage of Zoe and Amber, stark naked and holding hands. Their thick hair fell about their beautifully sculpted shoulders and perfect breasts. Their flawless skin- Amber’s an almost translucent ivory and Zoe’s a deep olive- seemed to glow with an odd kind of light. They smiled when they saw him.

Behind them stood a tall man with a thick mustache wearing bell-bottomed jeans and loose collared shirt that showed some of his chest hair. He smiled in a similar fashion, making Zed feel uncomfortable.

“Hello Zed”, Amber said musically, “It is good to see you."

(to be continued...)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Episode 05 - Zombie Apocalypse

“Brains!!”, Zoe screeched in an inhuman voice that chilled Zed to the bone, even as he tried to fight her off. She had become insanely strong, and clung to his clothing as he shoved her off his body.

Unfazed, she jumped at Zed again, hissing grotesquely and gnashing her bloody teeth. This time, he managed to roll back and get his feet under her. He kicked hard with both legs, launching her backward through the air.

Zoe landed headfirst into the metal bed frame, cutting her head wide open. By the time Zed had stood and pulled his pants up, she was running down the hallway at him, the fresh cut on her head spilling blood into her eyes.

Zed was in the kitchen, and he reached into the sink for something- anything- to defend himself with. As she closed in, he wrapped his hand around the handle of a frying pan and swung it hard. It connected with her head, sending her sprawling into the kitchen counter, hitting her head and falling to the floor.

Zoe lay motionless, and Zed backed away from her carefully, expecting her to jump up at any moment. Suddenly, Zed’s heels hit the edge of their couch, and he fell backward into it. His feet hit the flimsy coffee table, flipping it over and sending bottles and shot glasses crashing across the floor. The sound seemed to rouse Zoe, who raised her head slowly and rested her insatiable eyes on Zed.

Zed reached for the blaster in his ankle holster, and aimed it at Zoe. She began to crawl in his direction, raising her body to all fours.

“Braaiiinnnsss”, she hissed.

“Zoe”, Zed said, his gun hand shaking. “Zoe, I don’t know what’s wrong with you, but you gotta stop. You gotta stop or I’m gonna have to pull this trigger.”

She continued to crawl toward him, sneering. Zoe reached the broken glass, and it sliced her palms and her knees as crawled through it, leaving a trail of smeared blood behind her. Zed noticed she was naked for the first time, and her lack of concern for the pain of the cuts scared him. Zoe was a wuss when it came to pain.

“Zoe, I mean it. I’m going to shoot.”

She continued to crawl, getting closer…


She jumped to her feet and dived at him, screaming violently. Zed pulled the trigger on the blaster, and a burst of light filled the trailer. Her momentum brought her on top of him, and he threw her off in fear. She rolled over, and Zed saw that she’d been shot in the head, her hair blackened and smoking from the energy of the blast.

“Goddamn it Zoe! What the hell’s gotten into you!?!” He bent down and tried to shake her and slap her face to rouse her. No response. He checked her pulse. Nothing.

“Shit, SHIT!”, he screamed.

Zed lifted her limp body off the ground and ran out of the trailer, tossing her over the gas tank of his Harley and firing up to the engine. He ripped out of the clearing and onto the highway with a speed he’d never managed before, not thinking so much as acting on instinct.

The familiar landmarks that appeared relatively normal from the air only minutes before looked strange to him. Cars were smashed against trees or abandoned on the highway. The windows of the houses he passed were broken and the doors pulled off their hinges. Zed weaved through the stalled cars on his bike, and ran over the body of an old woman before he had time to swerve. Her arm had been ripped off and he could see that her skull had been cracked open an her brain missing completely.

“What the hell is going on?!?”, Zed yelled, once again speeding full tilt toward town. He could see the smoke rising from Main Street in the distance, and remembered the burning building. He wasn’t going downtown, though, he was headed to the hospital uptown. It was the only hope for Zoe.

Zed ripped up the hill toward the emergency room. He noticed there were none of the usual cars on the road or pedestrians on the sidewalk. It was as if the whole town had gone missing.

Pulling his bike into the roundabout outside the emergency entrance, he let his idling bike fall to the ground behind him as he carried Zoe into the hospital. The doors zipped open automatically. There’s still electricity, he thought to himself as he approached the check in counter.There was a woman behind the glass.

“Lady! My girlfriend needs help!”

The woman- middle aged and wearing a set of scrubs with overly-cute teddy bears and balloons in a gaudy pattern- looked up at him with the same dead eyes that he’d seen on Zoe. She lunged at Zed, banging her face hard against the glass pane and breaking several teeth. Momentarily disoriented, she picked herself up off the counter and threw herself at him again, smashing her face even worse and screaming, “Braaainnns!” at the top of her lungs.

Zed threw Zoe over his shoulder, and drew the blaster from its holster. Ignoring the receptionist, he ran through the double doors into the emergency room, where he encountered a large group of men and women feeding on the corpses of the unfortunate patients and staff members that had succumbed to their violent attacks. Zed stopped, and heard the doors swing shut behind him. The men and women- no, the zombies he thought- looked up from their meals and hissed at him. Within moments, the entire hoard were running at him, bloody faces twisted into grimaces of hunger and rage.

Zed opened fire, sweeping the blaster back and forth across the zombies with a continual stream of energy. Despite zombies in front dropping to the floor, faces melted off from the heat of the blaster, the zombies in the back kept running toward him, at times tripping comically over the bodies of their counterparts.

Backing through the double doors, Zed spared a moment to weld them together with his blaster, as the crowd of zombies piled violently against the doors, sneering at him through the glass windows. Zed heard a hiss behind him, and spun just in time to shoot a zombie in the chest and face as it closed in.

That one was just a kid, he thought to himself, what the fuck happened here?

Zed’s bike was too damaged to ride, so he ran to the ambulance, opening the back doors, shooting the zombie EMT inside, and throwing Zoe in the back. She was dead. He knew that now. He’d come to his senses and made the decision to get the hell out of town. He’d give her a proper burial out in the country, and when he got some goddamned help, he’d do the same for Amber, laying them in the ground together like they were meant to be.

The engine in the ambulance roared to life, and Zed took off toward Main Street. It was the only real way out of town on the old highway, and he was curious about what was going on down there. He wondered if there was anyone normal left, perhaps fighting zombies the way he was now. He decided to flip the ambulance alarm on to try and draw their attention, if they were out there.

The ambulance tore down Medical Avenue, screeched around the corner to Main. What Zed saw their caused him to stop the van.

There before him, wandering aimlessly down the street in every direction, stood a crowd of thousands of zombies. The businesses along both sides of the street were smashed open, and merchandise was pulled out on the sidewalks, mingling with broken glass and pools of blood. The zombies, sensing that some form of intelligent life must be driving the ambulance, stopped in unison and turned to look in his direction.

Zed’s eyes narrowed, he grinned, and he revved the ambulance engine.

“I’m getting through town one way or another”, he said, “Might as well be through you”.

With that, he slammed the ambulance into first gear and rammed the accelerator to the floor. Zed had reached fourth gear by the time he hit the crowd, traveling at a healthy fifty-six miles per hour. The sound of the first couple zombies smashing against the grill made him laugh, but soon, the hoard became too much for the ambulance, and it lost speed. Zombies bounced up and over the van and piled up sickly against the grill. Every other second, the van lurched upward as a pile of zombies slipped beneath the wheels of the vehicle. To Zed’s surprise, the front of the ambulance was caving in from the constant barrage.

Mere seconds after he’d begun his campaign to plow through the zombies on Main Street, the van came to a stop in the middle of the crowd, front grill smashed in and hissing clouds of steam and the front wheels twisted in different directions.

“Fuck!”, Zed yelled.

The zombies crowded up against the sides of the ambulance. Zed locked the two front doors just as zombie fists began smashing against the windows. The back doors of the van swung open, and zombies poured into the ambulance from behind. Zed blasted them easily, flinging them backward into the crowd with the force of the blasts. More zombies climbed in to replace them, and Zed moved toward the doors, sweeping the blaster back and forth across the crowd to keep the ambush at bay.

Behind him, the driver and passenger side windows were broken inward, and zombies began to clamber into the vehicle through the broken shards of glass. Zed knew he couldn’t hold them off on both fronts, so he blasted the crowd outside the back door of the van until he had enough space to climb on top of the vehicle without being pulled down.

Once on top, he spun around, and saw that there were still thousands of zombies surrounding him in each direction. It was as if the entire town had wound up here. Zombies climbed up the vehicle, and he shot them one by one. He didn’t know of the blaster had much energy left, and he intended to stay alive, so he spared as little fire as it took to kill.

The vehicle began to rock back and forth as the zombies on either side pushed. I’m not gonna make it if this thing tips over, he thought, and he shot the zombies along the sides of the ambulance. More zombies raced up from behind them, and their momentum raised the ambulance to rock even more dramatically.

That’s not gonna work, he thought, I’m fucked.

More zombies clambered up the side of the ambulance. Zed spared more blaster fire. The van rocked back and forth, and he could barely keep his balance. In one sickening lurch, the vehicle tipped over. As if in slow-motion, the ambulance rolled onto the zombies below him, and he heard their bones breaking as he himself was thrust out over the hoard of zombies like a crowd-surfer at an ass-rock concert. He saw their blank eyes and their bloody mouths open wide as their next meal descended on them.

Only Zed wasn’t descending. He was being pulled upward by a green beam of light. One zombie in the crowd had been caught in the beam with Zed, and he spared one blast from his laser gun on it, sending it spiraling down into the crowd in his place.

The familiar cargo doors spun open above him, and he was back on Jim’s ship.

“That was too fucking close”, Jim said over the intercom, “Get your ass up here”.

Zed rode the lift up to the control room, and there sat the tentacle-laden protoplasmic green blob that Zed had begun to think of as a friend.

“Jim!”, Zed laughed, “Why the hell did you come back?”

Jim turned toward him as he came out of the lift. “Jim Croce appeared on the ship and told me I had to go back and get you.”

“What?”, Zed asked.

“Don’t make me explain bro, I don’t understand it myself.” Jim's tentacles whipped across the control panel, and the ship began to move down main street toward the town’s only grocery store.

“We’re not going up?”, Zed noticed, “Where are we going?”

Jim grew angry. “You were right about those goddamned heads”, he said, more angry than Zed had ever seen him, “Those little fucks got into my beer downstairs and exhausted the entire supply. I went down to grab another six-pack, and there they were all drunk and rolling around. It’s enough to make you sick.”

Zed laughed, but Jim remained serious.

“We’ve got to pick up some more beer and get the hell off this planet in a hurry”, he continued, “I just haven’t worked out how we’re gonna get that beer outta the store with all those zombies running around.”

“Leave that to me Jim”, Zed said, “I’ve got an idea".


The saucer hovered over the street outside the grocery store parking lot, and the cargo doors spun open. Zed, knelt down and peered at the parking lot. There was a group of zombies randomly criss-crossing the parking lot, peering in cars and hunting for human brain-flesh.

This should do the trick, Zed thought to himself, and pushed the bag full of live human heads out of the cargo door. They fell to the street below, and the net holding them together burst open, sending them rolling in every direction. One of them looked up at Zed, yelling, “We supported you!”

Zed shifted his attention to the zombies in the parking lot and yelled, “Here’s your brains assholes! Eat up!”

The zombies from the parking lot broke into a run toward the heads, and the heads flailed their necks in a vain attempt to get away. The pile of heads was a zombie smorgasbord, and Zed knew it would keep them busy long enough for him to get the beer they needed.

Jim flew over the entrance to the grocery store and Zed rode the green beam down to the ground... pulling his blaster out and running into the store. He knew the layout well, and ran straight into the back room to grab a large box cart, rolling it directly the the beer aisle. A stray zombie or two jumped out at Zed, but he made quick work of them with the blaster while loading the cart to the hilt with Bud Light, Miller High-Life and a variety of the fancy micro-brews he loved to blow his paycheck on. Running out of the store, Zed saw that the crowd of zombies out on the street had grown exponentially, but they weren’t in the least bit interested in him or the flying saucer. Not with the pile of easy brains right beneath them.

The green beam pulled Zed and the beer into the ship, and without a second to spare, it rose through the clouds and into space, picking up massive amounts of speed as it went.

Zed reached the control room, and sensed that Jim was frantic about something.

“What’s going on man? Why are you so freaked out?” Zed asked.

“When Croce told me the Earth was suffering a zombie apocalypse, I knew what we were up against. I’m hoping we can get the hell out of dodge before they show up.”

“Who? What are you talking about?”

“Just sit tight and let me fly us out of here”, Jim said, “I’ll explain later.”

Zed sat in one of the chairs and watched Jim work. It’s tentacles were crawling over the complex control console, performing the tasks of an entire crew of pilots.

“Is there anything I can do man?”, Zed asked.

“Yeah, you can shut the hell up”, Jim replied.

The saucer buzzed out of Earth’s atmosphere and continued to pick up speed. They were approaching the Earth’s moon, when it appeared suddenly, as if blinking into existence. It was a ship nearly a fourth the size of the moon. It looked like a flying city to Zed, and the intricacy of its sleek black towers and brilliant lights transfixed him.

“Shit!”, Jim yelled, “This is what I was afraid of!”

Jim elbowed Zed in the chest with a tentacle to get him out of the way, and Zed’s chair fell backward, spilling him across the smooth metallic floor. He was about to protest when he got a look at what Jim was doing. It’s body had spread horizontally, and it’s tentacles were a blur, working every machine in the room.

“Hold on Zed”, was all it spared.

The saucer took a sudden and sickening u-turn, pressing Zed into the floor despite the artificial gravity correction. He could hear the alloys of the saucer groaning beneath him.

In the view screen, Zed saw thousands of fighters pour out of the impossibly large ship and head in their direction.

"What the hell are those?" Zed yelled.

"They're fighters!"

“Why so many!?!”, Zed exclaimed.

“I don't know!”, Jim answered, despite the blurred movements of its extremities as it controlled the ship. "They must know what I am!"

“What the hell are you?”

“At the moment”, Jim replied gravely, “I’m fucked.”

(to be continued...)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Episode 04 - You Don't Mess Around with Jim

The slimy creature piloting the saucer had the blaster trained on Zed, it’s tentacle having stretched nearly 30 feet to disarm him in a matter of milliseconds. Zed marveled at the speed on the alien, which from its appearance looked slow and stupid and cumbersome. It was no more than a bag of gelatinous goo, moving tentacles in and out of its body at will like a gigantic amoeba.

"I'm not your friend", it said, "But I could be". .

The creature loosened its grip on the gun, and it rotated forward until the barrel was pointed at the floor.

“Take it”, the thing said, offering the grip to Zed.

Zed reached out tentatively, suspicious at this strange turn of events. “Why?”

“Because bro”, the creature said as it shoved it into Zed’s hands, “I don’t need it. If I did, I’d just take it from you again.” The creature motioned at the security screens with a free tentacle. “Besides, you did me a favor.”

Zed took the blaster and bent down to shove it in his ankle holster. It fit well.

“How’s that?”, he asked.

The creature looked at the security monitors and reached a tentacle to a nearby button on the console. As it began pressing it, the screen showed view after view of broken and mangled grey aliens.

“These dead bastards owe me money”, it said bitterly, “Been holding it over my head too, trying to blackmail me into flying this heap longer than I wanted to.” The alien continued to flip through the security screens until it reached a view of the surgical room, where it was suddenly confronted by piles of dead alien bodies and exploded human heads. Zed saw a visible ripple pass through the creature. Was it revulsion?

The creature turned toward him. “How the hell did you kill all these Zanara?!?”

Zed was taken aback. “Uh, well, I shot some… and I turned the gravity off and on till the rest were dead.”

The creature just stared at him blankly for a moment, making him nervous. Suddenly, it burst out laughing, and hooked Zed with a tentacle, pulling him into the chair next to it.

“You’re alright man” it said, still laughing. "I got it TIVO'd, so to speak, but it ain't like watching it in the moment." It turned Zed’s chair toward the security monitor, Flipping through the scenes, Jim was greeted with a view of a live soldier alien hiding in some kind of munitions room, strapping weapons to its body. “Looks like you missed one buddy".

Zed began to bend over to grab the blaster from the holster, and a tentacle swept across his chest, stopping him.

“Nah, don’t sweat it”, it said, “We’ll just take care of this one from here.”

In a blur, the creature’s tentacles swept across the console, and Zed saw a cargo door begin to open behind the soldier alien. Cargo from the store room began sliding toward the open door, and he watched the alien on the screen panic and grab at the floor and walls. It didn’t work, and as the door continued to open slowly, Zed watched the contents of the room, soldier alien included, sucked violently out the door.

“Blew it out the airlock”, the creature said. This time, they both laughed out loud.

"The name’s Jim”, the creature said through its laughter, holding out a socked tentacle.

Zed grabbed it and shook. “Mine’s Zed.”


Zed and Jim made a deal.

Jim would take Zed to Earth, as long as he cleaned up the dead bodies. Jim would fly him right back to where he’d been abducted, let him down, and the two of them would go their separate ways, forgetting the whole thing ever happened.

Zed thought that was just fine, and he felt the ship make a deep u-turn before he’d even reached the stairs to head back down to the surgical room. This whole clean-up thing would be nasty work, but it wasn’t much different than the shit jobs he’d done back at home… especially the one’s in prison.

Walking down the stairs, thinking about Amber and Zoe, Zed was suddenly confronted by the sound of cheering as the bottom of the stairwell came into view. There, below him, lay a small crowd of human heads, clustered together awkwardly. Some of the heads were still struggling down the hallway, necks flailing desperately in an attempt to roll themselves toward the stairs. Zed had completely forgotten about them.

As the cheers subsided, Zed stepped into the sea of heads and began to wade through on his way to the surgical room, a chorus of conversation floating up to his ears as he went.

“Hey man, where were you?”

“Como estas amigo!”

“What were you doing up there?”

“You’ve been gone so long!”

“Why didn’t you take us up there with you?”

Zed grimaced as he made his way through them, and upon breaking free from the hoard, he noticed a head clinging to the cuff of his jeans with her teeth. With some difficulty, he wrestled her off.

“Wait! Don’t leave me!” she yelled after him as he walked down the hallway, “I love you!”

As soon as the doors to the surgical room slid shut behind him, a hatch spun open in the floor at the center of the room. Jim’s voice came on over the loudspeaker.

“Just through the trash in there”, it said. Zed could hear the faint sound of “Time in a Bottle” playing in the background, and then it was gone. He began pulling bodies across the floor and throwing them awkwardly into the hatch. There were a few body parts here and there, and he just tossed those in nonchalantly. Jim’s voice was back.

“Don’t worry about all the blood and shit”, it said, “The cleaning robots will get that”.

Zed made his way to the outer hallway, and began dragging bodies into the hatch from there. Before they even appeared, Zed could hear the semi-rhythmic thump-swish, thump-swish of the heads making their way slowly back to the surgical room.

The first head appeared around the curve of the hallway as Zed pulled the last mangled body into the surgical room.

“Hey, there you are!”, the man-head yelled to him, “I think you forgot to take me with you!” It struggled toward Zed, lurching and lolling its way down the hallway. “No worries though! It’s cool! Just so long long as its not like a trend or anything…”

“Hey, Jim”, Zed called out, “We got any more stiffs to dispose of?”

The intercom buzzed to life. “Yeah, there’s a few more down in the galley and in the living quarters”. The hallway next to Zed began to sink downward and become stairs, revealing a lower level he had not seen before.

Zed made his way down, and Jim guided him to each body, instructing him to throw them in a similar hatch to the one above.

“Where the hell am I throwing these bodies?”, Zed asked, tossing the last dead alien through the hatch.

“It’s a digestion chamber”, Jim answered, “It’s where the ship gets its energy.”

Zed chuckled, “The treehuggers back home would love this shit.”

Just then, he heard the distinct sound of a head tumbling down the stairs. It was the same man-head he’d ignored in the hallway.

“Dude!”, it began, “We fucking help you kill the aliens, and all you can do is ignore us? You owe us man!”

More heads tumbled down the stairs, piling up randomly at the bottom. Many landed with their faces against the floor or wall, and the sight of them flailing their necks in an attempt to find a better position turned Zed’s stomach.

“Don’t you appreciate everything we’ve done for you?” one of them asked.

“I thought you were cool”, said another, disappointed. The intercom buzzed to life again, and Zed was happy to hear Jim’s mellow voice.

“Zed, get up here! You gotta see something!”

Zed started up the stairs, when Jim’s voice reappeared. “Oh, and grab me a six pack from the galley behind you. Second compartment on the left”.

He slid the compartment door to the side, and found a large cooling unit full of Bud Light. Zed grabbed a six-pack for himself and one for Jim, and tried to make his way up the stairs. The heads had piled up substantially in the last couple moments, forming a rough pile at the bottom of the stairs which completely blocked the doorway and the first couple steps going up.

Zed couldn’t deal withy the heads any longer, and he attempted to scramble over the pile. It wasn’t easy. The heads were angry, and squirmed rigorously, causing him to lose his balance and fall once or twice. Each time he fell, a head or two would latch onto his sleeve or bite his hand. “Where do you think you’re going?”, one of them yelled, and Zed tried to ignore it, finally reaching an actual stair. There were a couple heads latched on to the cuff of his pants, and he swung the six pack down, beating them until they let go. “That was a dick move”, one of them said.

At the top of the stairs, a couple heads were still trying to make it to the stairs, and Zed helped them along, kicking them down the hallway like a soccer ball until they tumbled down to join their friends below. The last thing he heard was a head calling him an asshole as it bounced down the stairwell.

“Those goddamned heads are driving me nuts!”, Zed yelled as he scrambled up the stairs. Once there, he threw himself into the chair next to Jim and tossing it a six pack.

“Don’t worry bro, I’ll take those shitheads off your hands and sell em’ on the black market.”

Zed began to pull a beer off the six-pack he grabbed for himself, when a lightning-fast tentacle swept the whole thing out of his hands.

Jim looked slightly irritated. “Who said you could grab a six-pack for yourself? This is premium shit!”

“What, Bud Light?”, Zed asked.

Jim ripped a can off the plastic rings and shoved it through it’s thick mucous-laden skin. Zed could see the can dissolving inside until beer began to spill out in a cloud through a hole in the aluminum. Jim shuddered as the beer dissipated through it’s body.

“Ahhhh”, it said, “Nothing like a cold beer and some Jim Croce. Best shit Earth has to offer.” With an extra tentacle, Jim tore a beer off the rings and tossed it to Zed. “I guess I can spare ONE”, it said, “For cleaning up all those damned Zanara”.

Jim turned his attention to the console, and its tentacles began to crawl across the controls. “Now to show you what I called you up here for”.

Jim pressed a couple buttons, and the entire wall above the console became transparent. The planet Earth spread out dramatically before them, filling the Zed’s vision completely. The sight of the glistening blue and green planet nearly took his breath away, and he suddenly realized how tired he was… how much he longed for Amber and Zoe.

“How long before we reach the surface”, Zed asked, “I gotta get back to my chicks”.

“Won’t be long now”, Jim answered, “I’ve got us on a course to the spot where we picked you up”.

Already the planet loomed larger than it had moments before, and before Zed could comprehend the transition, the landscape began to look like a broad flat surface rather than a globe. Layers of clouds whisped by, and when they broke, Zed recognized the landscape below. It appeared to be midday, and as they flew over town, Zed noticed smoke billowing from one of the old buildings on Main Street.

“Shit, I wonder what’s going on?”, he wondered out loud.

Following the highway out of town, Zed recognized the houses and landmarks that were so familiar to him. Soon, the saucer had come to rest over his property… a small clearing in the woods with his trailer resting off to the side.

“Here we are bro”, Jim announced. It turned to Zed and offered a socked tentacle, and he took it, shaking. “It’s been interesting”, Jim continued, “I’ll be telling the story of how you killed all that Zanaran scum for years!”

“Thanks for the ride back man”, Zed said, and he walked toward the lift that would bring him down to the cargo bay. The lift began to lower, and Zed spared a small wave in Jim’s direction.

The lift buzzed down to the cargo bay, where the green beam of light suddenly took over, lifting him up while the cargo doors spun open beneath him, and letting him down slowly. Inches from the ground, the beam switched off, and Zed fell the remaining distance.

Above him, the doors on the cargo bay spun closed, and the saucer moved silently away over the treetops. Zed watched until it disappeared, and then dropped his eyes to his trailer.

There it was. His Harley was parked off to the side, and the girl’s SUV sat next to it. They’re not at the strip club, he thought excitedly, they’re home!

Zed burst through the front door, yelling, “Hello ladies, I’m home!” There was no response, and the smell in the trailer almost knocked him out. “What do you girls do when I’m gone?”, he asked loudly, “Let the garbage pile up?”

The bedroom door was open slightly, and Zed could hear the sound of soft moaning and the gentle smacking of wet flesh. Sweet, he thought, they’re doing it right now!

“Hey, wait for me!”, he announced, unbuckling his pants and letting them drop to his ankles as he burst through the bedroom door.

Zed stopped in his tracks, and it took him a couple seconds to comprehend what he was seeing. The bed sheets, the walls and the floor were soaked with blood, and Zoe lay on her stomach with her face buried in the open abdomen of Amber, eating her entrails.

“What the fuck is going on?!?”, Zed yelled, and Zoe looked up from Amber’s dead body slowly, blood dripping off her chin and eyes lost in a deathly haze.

She rose off the bed, and lunged toward Zed, one arm stretched out in front of her. “Brains”, she moaned, “BRAINS!!”.

Zed’s pants bound his ankles as he attempted to dodge her, causing him to fall on his back. She was on top of him then, gnashing her teeth and snarling wildly.


(to be continued...)