That time is here again. Monday morning- well, its already Monday afternoon and I suddenly find myself in the throes of dilemma. What am I going to write about? Nothing pressing comes to mind. Self promotion seems too…nah… to get into here. So maybe I’ll just fill this post with blah blah and let it ride.
C’mon, you and I both know I can’t do that. I figure that the holidays are now in full swing and I am getting closer to having an aneurism from all of the blinking/flashing Christmas lights I should regal you all with a tale of pure randomness. I got the idea from an old Jimi Hendrix song when I was a kid- Strange Things- I even heard it as a cadence from a really old Staff Sergeant when I was a brand new private in Korea back in 19….nope, not going to tell that part. Just know that I was young and it was really cold that day.
So here goes- my take on the song Strange Things. Enjoy and, as always, read on my friends, read on.
(Oh and just so you know- these books would make awesome Christmas presents for those readers in your life…. http://christianfreed.wixsite.com/christianwarrenfreed )
Christian Warren Freed
Bored. Tired. Feeling cheated. All of these things went through my mind as I slipped into my leather jacket and headed out the front door. This was the worst party I had ever been to and I was done. It was time to go home. Fortunately I only lived a couple of miles away, across the mountaintop. Fall was here but it was still nice enough to walk. So I did.
The night air felt good after the stagnant party air. The road was rough under my boots but I’d made the walk a hundred times before. Only a hint of moon hid behind wispy clouds. I’d either drank more than I thought or just wasn’t paying attention.
Soon enough I was across the street from the old Civil War cemetery that hadn’t seen a new soul in more than a hundred years. Mist clung to most of the old tombstones. There was nothing special about it but tonight it felt…different. I paused, staring into the graveyard. I couldn’t place where the odd feeling came from.
I froze, furtively looking around for the sound of the voice. There wasn’t anyone nearby. My heart quickened. A puzzled look crossed my tired face. Someone was playing a joke on me. Hiding in the darkness. “Who’s there?”
Again, “Hey boy, come over here.”
The harder I looked the less I saw, until the alabaster form of an ancient skeleton came into view. The mist parted just long enough for me to catch a glimpse of him. I’d never seen the like. My stomach churned, threatening revolt. The old skeleton was sitting in a rickety old rocking chair, gently rocking back and forth.
My first thought was someone was playing a joke on me. Halloween was only a few nights away so it made sense. Then I saw the skeleton’s jawbone open as it called me over. I don’t exactly recall what made me do it, but I soon found myself ambling over.
“Are you talking to me?” I asked, dumbfounded. Then I realized just how dumb that question was.
The skeleton grunted. “Don’t see no one else around here do you? Folks must’ve gotten dumber since I died. Course my eyes ain’t been too good for some years now.” He broke out in quiet laughter. “Sit down boy. It’s been a spell since I had company.”
I had trouble accepting the fact that I was standing in a graveyard talking to a skeleton. Maybe my brain had finally tipped over the fine line between sanity and straight up crazy. Who knows? I wondered what size straight jacket I wore. Internal deliberations aside, I had nothing better to do so I sat down in an empty chair that hadn’t been there a moment ago and patiently waited for the skeleton to get on with what he meant to do. I didn’t think I was drunk, but the possibility of the beer being bad certainly entered my mind.
Just as I was about to explore all of the logical and illogical possibilities the old skeleton reached under his rocking chair and produced a deck of beaten up playing cards. Seriously? They looked three times as old as he was.
“You and me are going to play a little game. You win, you get to go home,” he stated matter-of-factly.
I swallowed hard. “If you win?”
“I take your body and you stay here.”
How did he know I wasn’t any good at cards? His deal was all but a nail in my coffin. I knew there was no way I could win, even against a dead man. Unspeakable malice radiated off the bones, forcing me to realize I had no choice. Reluctantly, I agreed.
He laughed again as daftly began shuffling the deck with his bony fingers moving so fast I was pressed just to pay attention. This wasn’t going to end well but I didn’t see any way out. When he finished he slapped the deck against his knee and handed it to me with what I interpreted to be a broad smile. Nervous, I reshuffled just to be on the safe side.
The five cards slid from my hand faster than I wanted but Fate seemed to guide my hand. He picked up his. I picked up mine. I’d watched poker on television and heard all about tells and what not. What sort of tell did a skeleton have? He didn’t have a face! I began to wallow in misery. Then I looked at my cards. All I had was a miserable pair of sevens. Crap. I was going to die.
He laid three cards down, as did I, and I gave us each three more. Without any money, the hand went fast. He slapped his knee again and laid down two pairs. Fives and jacks.
Leaning forward, he said menacingly, “Beat me.”
I stole a peek at my cards before laying them down. A king, a three…and three sevens. My eyes popped wide. The skeleton growled and knocked the small table over. I did it. I won! I jumped up and raised my hands to the star filled sky. I won!
The skeleton rose. His bones grinding in an unholy sound. I thought for sure he was coming for me, but instead he tipped his head and turned away. Was this a trick? Did my eyes deceive me? No. He walked back to an old cross shaped tombstone and disappeared. The mist evaporated and I was alone in the cemetery again.
An uneasy chill filled my bones and I decided it was time to leave before something bad happened. No dummy, at least I didn’t think I was, I knew when I wasn’t welcome any longer. Pulling my jacket up around my neck to keep the wind out, I headed back to the road. It was past time to go home. My merry journey back to my house, still more than a mile away was to be interrupted once again. Another half mile down the road I came upon my second strange thing of the night.
I was looking up at the crystalline sky, amazed at the twinkling stars as they added a touch of beauty to an otherwise drab world. As I gazed I noticed that one of the stars had more than one, large blinking lights and was steadily getting larger. I couldn’t believe what my eyes were showing me. A cloud of dust erupted from the nearby empty corn field. I shielded my eyes to keep the debris from blinding me. When the dust cleared my mouth dropped open. A large, silver ship had just landed in the middle of old Farmer Brown’s field. I had definitely had too much to drink.
The main hatch hissed open and the darkness was violated by faint yellow light. Three lizard looking aliens strode confidently down the steel ramp and came to stand in front of me. They had big eyes, really big, and no noses. Their heads reminded me of balloons and they all looked like they needed to go to the gym. No living being should ever be that skinny. It wasn’t healthy. Their leader stretched his arm out to shake my hand. I swallowed hard and struggled to introduce myself without sounding like a blathering idiot. I half expected to die or get kidnapped at the very least. Despite the immense fear coursing through my mind, I managed to think about all of the things I had read in the tabloids or seen on television. As I came to learn, I had no need for my apprehensions. The aliens were extremely friendly and actually offered to take me aboard their ship.
Maybe I am a fool, but I agreed and soon found myself walking up the ramp into the remarkably comfortable interior of their ship. Besides, I’d just finished playing cards with a skeleton. How bad could these guys be?
The ship, while extraordinarily large on the inside, was relatively small and soon blasting back into space. The crew was around twenty and all of them were just as friendly as the first three. We zipped around the universe at blinding speed. A complete orbit of the Earth only took a few minutes before we were out and about the rest of the solar system. Planets came and went. Planets that scientists struggled to understand whether they held life or not. I could have given them all the answers but who would believe me?
Instead I decided to enjoy the ride. A few of the lizard-like aliens took me around and showed me their ship. I stumbled like a five year old in a candy store with my mom’s credit card. I’d been on planes, boats and even trains but I’d never seen anything so intricately designed. I could easily see myself living on board for a very long time. The cushioned lounge seats alone were worth the ride.
We completed my brief tour and they led me over to a porthole, gave me some food- I passed on the squiggly things still crawling around in the bowl- and I sat alone watching the universe speed by for the rest of the ride. No living man, or any dead one for that matter, had witnessed the sights I was and I felt privileged having been chosen. The ride was over before I was ready for it to be and we were setting back down in the same corn field.
I was kindly escorted back down the ramp by the same three who had greeted me. We shook hands and I was just about to leave when one of them laid a gentle hand on my shoulder. I turned with a questioning look and waited while the lizard man whispered into my ear. No one would ever believe what came next and I’m hesitant to say it now. These advanced beings from a different galaxy had just asked me where they could find some dog food. Seems they used it for fuel to power their ships. Who was I to call them liars? I gave them the directions to the nearest Walmart and watched as the ship roared off.
Alone again, it was time to hurry on home. Stuffing my hands in my pockets, I headed back down the road, hoping nothing else was going to happen. It’s been years since that incident and I still have trouble believing any of it really happened. But then again, it’s not up to me to believe. It’s up to you.