All posts by Jacob C. Edwards

Getting my Hydrogeology BS in Reno, NV. I enjoy writing short stories and procrastination.

Pandora

Elizabeth let out a ragged sigh of exhaustion as the men retired to the study. She backed out of her seat and began stacking plates. Reginald had just returned from India. She had not even gotten a chance to talk with him before he invited his friends over. The clatter of porcelain drowned out a roar of laughter from the dinner party. She paused in her duties for a moment and listened in. As much as Elizabeth hated that they were all at her house, hogging her husband, she as was curious about his adventures as they were.

“Elizabeth dear? Please come in here!” A voice echoed from down the hall.

She was shocked at the invitation. The men never asked her to join once talks started in the study. She cautiously strolled down the oaken hallway and swung the door open to a half circle of gentlemen around the fireplace. Her husband took a mighty puff from a cigar while tapping on a leather bound book.

“Do you know what this is darling?” Reginald inquired.

“No.” Elizabeth replied, looking around at the attentive men around her. “I have no idea.”

Reginald held the book by it’s spine and flipped it open to a random page. He took one more puff from his cigar before setting it down. He cleared his throat.

“My dear wife. I know you were classically educated, I am going to tell a story pertaining to that. Please bear with me.”

“Of course” She obliged.

“This book comes from a small mountain tribe on the border of India and Afghanistan. Now these tribesmen are a curious people. They claim to be related to Alexander the Great of Macedon. I trust you know of him?”

“Y-Yes, I do.” Elizabeth stammered. The mood of the room was darkening as her husband and his party stared at her intently. The fire crackled intensely in the background.

“Well. As you know Alexander the Great conquered everything from Egypt to India.” He continued. “What this tribe claims is that when Alexander was done conquering he visited the most remote village in his empire. It was then that he charged the tribe’s ancestors with a sacred duty.”

Reginald picked up his cigar nonchalantly and took a deep puff. His friends around him leaned in as the flickering flames illuminated half his face. He cleared his throat and lowered his voice.

“He told them that this here.” He shook the book in his hand softly. “This book- was Pandora’s Box. And that it should never be touched by a woman, else it would unleash a new wave of demons upon the world.”

Elizabeth stood there shaken. She glanced around at the men sitting around her for any traces of a practical joke. In their eyes, solely fixed on her, she saw only a solemn sincerity. She jumped at the touch of her husbands hand against hers.

“Dear?”

“Yes?”

“Will you open it?”

Elizabeth’s heart beat rapidly. Something inside her chest screamed for her to run, but she stood her ground against it. Her curiosity would not let her leave.

Reginald held the book out to Elizabeth with both hands. Her fingers trembled as she hovered them over the ancient binding. With a swift motion, she snatched the book from her husband. The party gasped. Only the fire broke the silence of expectation.

Nothing happened.

The men around her guffawed and laughed heartily, elbowing Reginald joyfully. He smiled and shrugged playfully. Elizabeth narrowed her eyes at her husband. It seemed she had been nothing but the night’s entertainment. Multiple conversations splintered off around her, but Elizabeth drowned them out in her head. She brushed her hand along the cover, and then thrust her fingers into the pages of the book.

She flipped it open.

Her eyes widened. She stared down at the page for a few seconds in a fear that paralyzed her entirely. Her body allowed her to shriek and she did so as loud as she could. The guests fell silent. Fat tears welled in her eyes, rolling down onto the pages of the ancient book. Onto the faces of demons writhing disturbingly on the pages in a frenzy.

The book shook violently with an otherworldly energy. Pages tore themselves out and flew onto the floor. Illustrations of eldritch creatures scrambled to life in the confines of the papers. Snapping, scratching, and gnawing viciously. While the men sat in their chairs, holding their feet up, Reginald took charge.

“We need to get out of here!!”

He scrambled out of his seat and raced for the door. In his haste, he stepped onto one of the pages carelessly.

A creature of pure black, with dull blue eyes wrapped it’s arms around the passing foot. In a blink, the thing had attached itself to Reginald’s shoe. Thrown off balance, he dropped onto the carpet. Close to more of the pages littered all over the floor.

He screamed in agony as the creatures crawled out of their ancient prisons and onto his pathetic body. He twisted with every latch, bite, and gouge. From every wound, a black bubbling ooze spilled from his contorting body onto the ground. Elizabeth and the party watched in horror as the things swarmed his face like insects. She was so utterly terrified that she could not muster a scream. Instead an icy chill rippled through her body, rendering her incapable of anything but watching as her husband squirmed wildly on the floor.

In his final seconds of life, Reginald thrust a pained finger past Elizabeth. Her heart sank as she followed his gesture to the fireplace.

The piercing sound of a final page ripping from the spine of the book stole the attention of the room. All eyes fixed on it as it floated lazily in the air, twisting peacefully before plunging itself into the embers.

With a rush of air, the light of the fire was extinguished. Elizabeth remained where she was in darkness. Standing with an empty, open book in her hand, surrounded by nightmares incarnate. She forced her eyes shut with all the might she could muster from within. Preparing for the same fate as her husband. Praying to God that her death would be quick.

Her pulse gradually slowed from it’s erratic beat, settling into its normal cadence. A soothing, crackling rhythm came to life somewhere in the room. And with a ragged breath, she opened her eyes.

The fire was back, and with it the unholy scene surrounding her seared itself into Elizabeth’s mind. The semicircle of cushioned chairs were plastered with the corpses of her husband’s friends. Backs arched, and mouths twisted. Frozen in their torment by a hardened black sludge. The pages once laid out on the carpet were returned to the book, now closed in her trembling hands. She let out a yelp as she dropped it unceremoniously and ran to escape the study.

Elizabeth caught one last glimpse of her husband’s blackened remains before slamming the door shut.

She felt a deep pang of guilt as she phoned for help. She hated that was not plagued by the death she had experienced. Instead while the dial tone rang she wondered selfishly, if the police would believe her when they arrived.

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Banzai

Toshi dove face first into the mud, narrowly dodging the hail of machine gun fire flying from out the dense brush of the jungle. As the rounds splattered into the ground, chunks of displaced clay and grass flew up into his face. A hand from above grabbed Toshi by the collar of his uniform, dragging him up and over a nearby crater.

“We need to get out of here!” His savior screamed.

Toshi took a moment to wipe the mud from his face. At first he could not concentrate on anything other than the hissing of hot lead zipping over the crater wall. The man yelling at him was his friend. Yukio Kitano.

“Why are you still sitting there?!”

Toshi took a deep breath and tried to push the noise to the back of his trembling mind. Bullets crackled from all sides, shrapnel shredded through the trees, planes raced above them menacingly. The Americans were finally here.

Yukio shouldered his rifle and loaded a clip of rounds into the breech. He gave Toshi a quick nod, signalling that it was time to go. Toshi gripped his weapon tight, looking for any comfort it could provide. He shuttered out an anxious exhale as he ran his finger down the cool steel barrel.

The pair burst into action. Leaping out of the crater and sprinting with shoulders hunched through the tall grass. Shots crackled past their ears, but they kept running.

“This way! Follow me!” Yukio exclaimed.

He led Toshi down a game trail to a narrow creek. They splashed through the water, slipping on the algae covered river rocks. They kept trudging their way against the flow until the gunfire was reduced to gentle knocks in the distance. Yukio pointed at a cement staircase and they scrambled up the steps. Back into the lush jungle foliage.

“Stop! I need to stop for a moment!” Toshi shouted.

As he gasped for breath, Yukio drank greedily from his canteen.

“You know.” Toshi labored. “I never wanted any of this.”

Yukio grunted in agreement as he capped his canteen. He cocked his head to the side.

“You know the only reason I enlisted was-“

A single shot reverberated close by. The pair flinched, throwing their hands protectively over their faces.

“What the hell are you doing?” An imperial officer climbed out from the brush, a hand on the hilt of his sword. He holstered his smoking handgun, awaiting a reply.

Surprised, Toshi tried to formulate an excuse. But could only seem to muster a collection of broken syllables.

“If we didn’t need men, I would cut you down where you stand.” The officer continued.

With a gloved hand he reached into his satchel to reveal a pair of white strips of cloth. A red dot bled through the center so as to resemble the Japanese flag.

“Here. Take these.”

Yukio looked over at Toshi nervously as they folded and tied the flags over their foreheads. The officer directed them to a clearing where a large group of almost fifty men stood at attention silently. All of them with headbands knotted around their heads. An unspoken tension built as the popping of machine gun fire inched closer. The officer cleared his throat with the same mechanical tempo.

“It has been a great honor to lead you up to this point. I have asked a lot of you, and now I will ask even more.” The officer drew his sword and held it above his head. “Defend the homeland at all costs!

The soldiers around Toshi and Yokio echoed his sentiment with fanatical cheers. The two friends swapped worried looks as the officer charged through the jungle, pointing his sword in the direction of certain death.

TENNO HAIKA! BANZAI!!

*Long live the Emperor! Ten thousand ages!*

Midguard

When humanity finally united, it was under the flag of Midguard. It was only when they created their own Ragnarok with nuclear fire that realized they needed to work together despite their differences.

On June 16th 2121, the clouds trembled forcefully with the birthing of the MS Valkyrie. A ship carrying the future of Midguard’s new life into the stars.


Richard Bly woke abruptly to the beeping of his comm unit. He reached groggily over to his dresser and slammed his hand down on the device.

“This Commander Bly.” He answered in a lazy croak.

“Uh- Commander, this is bridge. Sensors picked up an object… Made of some alloy we have no record of.”

Bly flew out of bed and ripped through his closet. His uniform stretched noisily as he hastily threw it on.

“Commander?”

“I’ll be there in 3.”

The door to bridge slid open to chaos. Officers scrambled from console to console. Spilled coffee and crushed Styrofoam cups littered the floors.

A woman in a dirty uniform rushed to Bly and managed a dignified salute.

“Sir! Foreign object on a course for interception. The second shift tried to shake it but the object seems to be adjusting it’s course to intercept us!”

“Thanks for filling me in Colonel. Now, why don’t you take a seat at your station.”

She complied and scurried over to a flashing monitor. Bly strolled over to his chair and plopped down. The frenzy on the bridge melted almost instantaneously, as if they could feel the Commander assuming control over the situation. He gestured at a digitally zoomed blotch of pixels on the central screen.

“So that- That’s our boogeyman?”

Bly chuckled.

“Okayyy. That’s going to hit us. We need ordinance on that ASAP.”

A few notes chimed from a succession of keystrokes from the the weapons control station.

“Missiles away!” A helmsman exclaimed.

Four projectiles rocketed from the MS Valkyrie. All eyes fixed on the screen. Bly controlled his breathing as his nerves wreaked havoc.

BOOM

The crew cheered at the bright yellow flash. But Bly refrained from premature celebration.

As the sparks from the blasts glittered out of existence, Bly squinted his eyes. To his dismay the blob of pixels was still on course, and had gotten closer. The positivity of the crew died down. Bly took the initiative to maintain control.

“Alright, so nukes are out of the question. They seem to have no effect.” Bly spun around in his chair so as to address the entire bridge. “I need everyone to remain calm.”

The lights flickered for a moment, forcing the bridge into reserve power. A flash of white from the central screen illuminated the bridge. Bly shielded his face from the disorienting brightness.

WELCOME TO THE GALAXY

Bly took a moment to take in the message and laughed heartily. All of human history had prepared them to fight. It didn’t occur to him or anyone that they would get a warm welcome.

Hangman

It was a quiet night on Park Avenue. The swirling snowflakes falling from the clouds muffled the noises of traffic. Only the occasional car horn broke the melancholy silence.

He had chosen this street as his courthouse because the townhouses were built before 1944. Aside from being mostly abandoned and slowly decaying, they had basements and walls made of brick. Perfect for keeping sound from escaping out onto the street.

Although good bones were necessary in choosing a house, he had also taken every other precaution. Nothing was getting in or out until deliberation was complete.

He threw his trademark white plastic grocery bag over his head and gently cut out holes for his mouth, nostrils and eyes.

8 O’clock. It was time to begin.

He strolled down the hall and swung open the door to the basement, releasing a blast of desperate screams for help. With an outstretched finger he flicked on the florescent lights. They buzzed angelically to a horrific display.

A man with a pin striped blue suit stood shaking on a construct of wood. His hands restrained behind his back, and a noose of coarse rope around his neck.

Facing him was a captive audience. Twelve men and women from all over Clearwater County. Strapped to sturdy wooden chairs with zip ties and duct tape, they looked equally distressed.

He stepped up onto his wooden structure and ran his finger along the sweaty face of the well dressed man.

“You bastard!” The man retaliated with in an unbridled fury. “Do you know who I AM?! You’re DEAD!! DEAD!!

He chuckled at the man’s attempt at a threat and then turned to the crowd. With a swift stomp of his foot, the cries died out and with a twitch of his head he began the proceedings.

“Hello. My name is Gallow.” He began in a gravely voice. “Or at least.. That’s the name you need to know.”

His plastic mask crinkled as he scanned the room. Making intermittent eye contact with every single person. He held up three fingers.

“Now there are three parts to the modern justice system.” He continued. “As you can probably guess by my whole vibe, I am the executioner.”

He paused to let the captives yell in the horror they must have experienced at that statement. As they struggled and looked at each other with terrorized expressions, Gallow glanced at his watch.

They usually come to a realization after about 5 minutes. He thought to himself. In this case, the realization that screaming isn’t going to change anything.

As per his prediction, the last voice hushed.

5 minutes and 17 seconds. He rolled his sleeve back over his watch face and resumed.

“As I mentioned previously, I am the executioner.” Gallow clapped his hands once and jumped from the wooden platform. “But you! You all are the judge and jury. I only carry out your will. And I DARE not question your final decision.”

A woman with tear smeared mascara shook in her seat.

“If you’ll do as we wish then LET US GO!!” She beckoned.

Several men yelled in agreement.

“All in due time madam.” Gallow cooed calmly as he paced in front of the jury. “But first! You must do your civic duty!”

He paused.

“And remember!” He pointed up playfully. “God is watching.”

The man with the noose against his throat struggled violently on the stage.

“So you brought them all to judge me?! IS THAT IT?!” Saliva burst from his lips with every word. “And what if they all vote me innocent?? You’ll let me and them go unharmed?!”

With a lively crinkle, Gallow returned to his deliberate pacing.

“Well to put it plainly, yes. Yes I would.”

He could feel the relief of tension in the cold basement.

BUT” He held up a finger once more. “You wouldn’t want to do that without hearing more about the accused.”

The jury clamored in protest, but Gallow peered back down at his timepiece and waited for their outbursts to expire.

He hopped back onto the platform and gracefully stroked an iron lever connected the floor of the wooden stage. He continued with a more somber cadence to his hoarse voice.

“Steven Wyatt.” Gallow’s bag rustled as he threw a piercing glare at the man on trial. “CEO of Wyatt Enterprises. Anyone heard of him?”

A short Asian man with a sweat-soaked maroon shirt raised his hand cautiously.

“Yes! You!”

“Well, uh.” The man gulped with a nervous energy. “They’re the guys making groundbreaking cancer research right? I hear about them on the news all the time.”

“Correct!” Gallow beamed beneath his grocery bag mask. “Actually- half right. Wyatt Enterprises also dabbles in another business venture.”

He let silence reclaim the room for a dramatic effect.

Human trafficking.

Gallow took a moment to absorb the faces of the jury, but was still met with resentment towards him. The big reveal didn’t seem to work.

“His company literally buys human beings and uses them for chemical trials.” Gallow stressed. “He treats people like cattle! Most die. VERY painfully. And the police- They just turn a blind eye because of his political connections. Steven Wyatt is all that is wrong with America! Sure he appears to have good intentions. But in the end it’s all about money, and trampling over everything in his way! Including the laws of God and of this country!”

He looked around to see if he had swayed any opinions. His audience held the same expressions of hatred as they had before. None directed at the man restrained next to him.

HA!” Mr. Wyatt spat. “They won’t fall for your little speech! YOU are a hypocrite!! YOU are the one with no regard for the law!!”

Gallow sighed and turned to the seated individuals.

“I’ll be taking your votes now.” He stated monotonously. “Keep in mind the verdict must be unanimous. Also that outside of this room, Steven will never face any consequences for his actions. Whatsoever.”

He started from the left and worked his way down the line of chairs. Pointing with a meaty finger to coerce a vote.

“Not guilty.”

“Not guilty.”

“Let him go and let us go. Not guilty.”

“Not guilty.”

“Not guilty.”

“You’re a monster.. Not guilty.”

“Not guilty.”

“Not guilty.”

“Not guilty.”

“Not guilty.”

“Not guilty.”

YOU LOSE. Not guilty.”

Gallow’s bag crinkled as he shook his head. The people had spoken. He mused.

“And I was getting all excited to pull that lever and watch him squirm.” He whipped out a pocket knife and put it in the greasy palm of an teenage girl, no older than 16. “As I said, you’ll be freed. And the accused will be spared.”

The girl squealed anxiously as she sawed her way through her plastic bindings. He watched patiently as she finished and passed the blade to the woman sitting next to her. The woman was in her mid-thirties. Frantic. Crying. Pregnant.

Noticing the violent sentiment growing in the room. Gallow decided to make his exit and strolled up the stairs. Towards the door leading back into the hallway of the townhouse. A few steps in, he snapped his fingers and spun around. The woman cutting the last of the zip ties around her arms froze mid-action.

“One last thing I forgot to mention!” Gallow slapped his hand against his forehead comedically. “Stupid me! Of course the jury is out on Mr. Wyatt, so as per our agreement, my hands are tied. But it would have helped if I had brought up some evidence during the trial.”

He shook his head playfully and gestured to the teenager shaking in her chair, trying to unwrap the duct tape from around her legs. He proceeded with a grave tone.

“Why don’t you go ahead and check under your seat for me sweetie.”

She stared at him with wild eyes. Slowly reaching beneath her seat while keeping her eyes on Gallow’s swaying figure. She moved her fingers around randomly until she grasped a large vanilla envelope. She picked it up and curiously dumped the contents onto her lap. She riffled through until she held up a white sheet of paper.

Her eyes widened. A new breed of fear rose from the bottom of her chest.

“Wha- What is this?!” She demanded. “WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS?!”

Gallow chuckled. His mask rustled as he brushed the thin plastic over his scalp.

“My dear girl. THAT is a bill of sale. Note your picture at the top and Mr. Wyatt’s signature there at the bottom. You see I-” He took a deep breath before finishing. “I found you all unconscious in a lab at Wyatt Enterprises.

The man with the rope around his throat turned visibly pale. For the first time he stopped fidgeting and stood deathly still. All of his earlier confidence had vanished.

“I knew he wouldn’t recognize you because frankly- He’s a monster.” Gallow chimed. “But like I said, my hands are tied.”

Gallow stood at the doorway at the top of the stairs. He swung the door open, shot a wink, and closed it behind him.

The second he released the knob, muffled noise exploded from the basement. He methodically pulled off his mask and brushed up his sleeve to look at his watch.

After 5 minutes and 33 seconds the emotional, panicked screaming ceased.

After 5 minutes and 46 seconds he felt a satisfying *THWUMP* vibrate through his shoes.

Gallow leaned back from the door and cracked a wry grin. He ran his fingers through his hair and casually strolled out the front door and onto the snow laden Park Avenue. He was in no rush.

It could take up to twenty minutes for Steven Wyatt to die of strangulation. And Gallow knew that the jury would stay until justice had been served.

Friday Fictioneers- Book Club

Photo Prompt Provided by Priya Bajpal

100 Words


“Alright, Greg is here- this book club meeting can commence.”

The murmurs of the living room died down and all eyes focused on me.

“The first order of business is to look at the suggestions from last week. We have.. A lot. Hope we don’t have a coup on our hands!”

As the chuckles bounced around, I dug my hand into the jar and drew a yellow paper which I gingerly unfolded.

Things will get better

With teary eyes, I looked to the faces of my friends.

I thought I was struggling in silence.

I guess they could read me.


This was written as part of Friday Fictioneers. Click here for some amazing takes on this week’s photo prompt!

Sleep

I opened my eyes reluctantly, hoping to hold on to my dreams a little longer.

While I slept I would roam the endless plains of North Dakota. Back to the freedom I once knew.

When I woke, I knew I would be returned to this nameless hellhole. My whole world was everything a 60 watt bulb could illuminate. My freedom, restricted by a chain link fence hooked up to a row of car batteries.

A pure darkness laid at the periphery of everything in my existence. Occasionally I could hear water dripping, but I tried not to fall into its hypnotic rhythm. Lest I slip into madness.

I never found out who had trapped me here, how it had happened, or why.

The only escape was to make it disappear. I tried- Forced myself to sleep.


REAL TALK

Depression is something I struggle with. Sometimes when I am content a voice from inside tries to convince me that it is just a dream, and I am destined to wake up to the reality that all the hope in the world was never real to begin with. I know that’s not true- but I can’t seem to escape it sometimes. The battle, at least for me is to remember that depression is the dream. It’s not real. And at some point I will wake up.

Friday Fictioneers- Weathering Minds

Photo prompt by Russell Gayer

100 Words


“Robbie I’m scared” Rebecca whined.

The cryptic patterns of the hillside seemed to shift in our dehydration. As if they were living, writhing like tentacles.

“Calm down babe,” I cooed. “It’s just weathering on the sandstone.”

I looked back at our wreaked minivan. It was blurred in the heat haze on the horizon.

“It looks so alive!”

It’s all in your head!” I shouted.

I wasn’t entirely sure though.

The squirming dune to our left was non-relenting. A burst of wind howled through it’s winding creases. I grabbed Rebecca by the hand.

“It’s not real, but walk faster.” I whispered.


This story was written as part of Friday Fictioneers. Every week there is a prompt that is accompanied by story 100 words or less! Click here to read more amazing stories inspired by this photo prompt!