Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Long Hike - short stories online

Jane Serell was an attractive young brunette police officer for the Los Angeles City Police Department. She was twenty-five years old and single; a very stubborn and strong young lady. She had always wanted to be a police officer ever since she was a little girl. After much proving she had finally shook the ‘rookie’ status with her fellow officers after having been on the force for over three years. She, unfortunately, had to work extra hard because she was a female. The other officers were reluctant to let her into their ‘boy’s club’ of sorts. But, Jane was tough and could hold her own in a fight, so she earned their acceptance. She loved the outdoors and especially the woods. Hiking was one of her favorite activities and she went as often as possible when she had some time off She normally hiked the trails near her house. Since it was somewhat dangerous to hike alone for fear of both mountain lions and the two-legged predators who like attractive young ladies, Jane always carried her personally owned Beretta 92FS 9mm. The pistol was perfect for her since she could easily handle the mild recoil and liked the 15 round capacity. She usually carried two spare magazines along with a medley of other items like a cell phone and other emergency provisions, just in case something should happen and she would become stranded. Jane had cunningly swapped shifis with her fellow officers and manipulated her schedule to allow her to have off four days in a row. She had planned an extra long hike with a two-thy campout in between. Finally, the thy arrived and Jane hit the woods walking along the familiar winding trails. However, she was not going to take her usual route on this trip. She veered off the path once she had gotten a mile or so into the forest. Her compass would keep her from getting lost as she explored the exciting new terrain. After an hour or so of walking, the brush became rather thick so she pulled out her machete and began cutting a new path. She got through about a hundred yards or so of the thick vines before discovering a rather well hidden natural cave etched in to the mountainside. Jane knew there might be a bear or mountain lion that had claimed the cave first so she drew her Beretta in one hand and her Maglight in the other. Her eyes slowly began to adjust to the darkness as she crawled into the narrow opening. The cave opened to a larger cavern once she was several feet into it. Jane gasped at the beauty of the natural formation. She could readily stand up completely since there was so much room. It appeared that the cave had not been disturbed in a very long time. There were no traces of modem civilization anywhere in sight. No beer bottles, no trash, no junk — nothing. The brown limestone walls did not contain any drawings either, at least, not yet. Jane continued deeper into the cave, stepping over large rocks and winding passages looking for a suitable location to set up camp for the night. Some of the passages got quite narrow and she had to slither through them. Unfortunately, she had lost her bearing long before realizing that she should mark her path so she would be able to get back to the entrance. Deciding to go back to the larger first cave at the begimiing, Jane turned around. She did not recognize any of the openings behind her and just chose one. Jane knew she would be all right even though she was apparently lost in the labyrinth. She had four days worth of food and water and an extra set of batteries for her flashlight. However, she did have an uneasy feeling in the back of her head about the current situation. She pressed on through tight passages and winding areas until the cave opened up into a small room. However, this one was very different from the other room at the entrance. It had some rather strange drawings on the wall. Jane wondered how or why someone would go this deep into the cave to make the drawings. She shined her Maglight along the wall to tiy to make out the weird pictures. Something was different about these images — strange little quirks that made the picture bizarre. One of the pictures contained three moons above a strange looking people. All the beings were lined up in rows praying or bowing to a much larger being. The creatures were definitely not human but had some of the same basic features. A noticeable difference was the creature’s heads. They were much larger and had a weird ‘bug eye’ look to them with large black eyes. She also noticed that the brown limestone that was at the begimiing of the cave had been replaced by a more gray colored rock. Jane wondered at the strangeness of the room for a while then continued to search for the exit. She was definitely lost because the she did not recognize any of the formations. Eventually, Jane saw a dim light illuminating an area just ahead. Turning off her flashlight, she headed straight for the light. It seemed to be moonlight streaming in through a small opening. Jane looked at her watch and saw that it was only 4:00 PM. She had been lost for a while, but not long enough for it to be nighttime outside. She was barely able to slip her body through the tight opening — something she prided herself in knowing that most of the men on the force could not fit through such an opening. It seemed to be almost an overcast day with all of the reflected light that the three moons were throwing back to the nighttime alien world. Jane stared into the night sky at the three moons. “Where the heck am I?” she wondered, attempting to assess her surroundings. She was high up on a mountainside hundreds of feet above a tree line. The combination of the alien plants and the heavy moonlight sent chills up Jane’s spine. It was tmly an eerie sight to behold. She sat down for a minute to try to figure out what to do next and how she got where she was. “There has got to be an explanation for all of this,” she thought, “I must have hit my head in the cave and am dreaming this.” Jane pinched her arm to try to wake herself, but she knew she was not dreaming. She stared into the alien sky — all of the stars looked different. She could not find a single familiar constellation anywhere. The only possible explanation was that somewhere in the cave she had passed through a wonnhole in space-time and ended up in a cave on this alien world. Unfortunately, she did not even realize she had passed through it, since she had gotten lost. Jane’s mind wondered as she pondered the possibilities of what had occurred. She thought about going back into the cave to try to find her way back, but her adventuresome side wanted to go down the mountain and explore the area before going kme. She stood to her feet and began down the massive peak. After what seemed like forever, she reached the edge of the tree line. A most spectacular array of alien plants and trees greeted her. She held her Beretta at low-ready by her side just in case there were any hostile alien creatures about. Jane slowly crept into the midst of the alien trees. Most of them were of a bizarre variety that had three main branches coming off a center trunk at 120-degree angles. Then each branch had three sub-branches in the same fashion. Strange three spiked leaves covered the ends of each of the branches. Every once in a while, Jane heard a buzzing noise followed by a zip noise. At first, she did not know what the source was, but soon noticed the small flying creatures zipping around the trees and close to the ground. They moved so fast that it was hard for her to make out what they really looked like. However, they did not seem to mind that Jane was there, so she did not feel threatened by them. She continued down the mountain admiring all the strange flora and fauna as she went. With her pistol ready, Jane came upon a small village of mushroom shaped huts covered with strange diamond shaped leaves. Several creatures were moving around in the little village. It was the same creatures whose pictures were on the cave wall that came and greeted Jane with their spears in hand. One of the creatures began emitting a high pitched tone and dozens more of the creatures began to emerge from their huts. They were considerably shorter than Jane, only reaching her waist in height. Their bodies were a pale gray color with large black bug eyes. Jane backed up while pointing her gun at the aliens. There were many more creatures than she could possibly kill. She would mn out of bullets long before all of them would receive one. The creatures quickly surrounded Jane. She decided that she was going to wait to see what their first move would be. While it was probable that the loud pistol would frighten the aliens, it was also possible that the noise would cause them to attack. If they attacked her, they would almost certainly quickly overwhelm her. The aliens held her at spear point, as the village slowly became silent. A path opened up like a zipper in the a of aliens and a very large alien could be seen approaching. It looked similar to the smaller aliens but it was at least 2 V2 times larger. Several of the smaller aliens were carrying the larger creature on a strange platform. Once they got within fifteen feet of Jane they stopped and set the big one down. Unintelligible gibberish poured from what seemed to be a sideways mouth on the large alien. Then, all of the smaller aliens backed away from Jane and put their spears down. Several of the small beings brought a bowl of green glowing worm-like creatures and set them at Jane’s feet. The rather gross looking worms slithered in and out of each other in the alien bowl. It seemed as though they wanted to be friends and had made a peace offering to her. Jane pretended to accept the offer and knelt down next to the bowl. The creatures seemed pleased at her actions and began speaking to each other in a strange language. They prepared a grand feast and had a bizarre festival of sorts in honor of their newfound guest. Jane would not eat any of the weird food for fear of poisoning herself Instead, she pulled out a can of beef stew and ate that. She gave tastes of her stew to several of the aliens who seemed to like it. Hours passed and the three moons barely moved. Jane looked at her watch — 11:00 AN’l for earth time. She figured the day must be a lot longer on this planet. None of the aliens were getting tired, but Jane, having apparently stayed up all night, was exhausted. Finally feeling more comfortable with the little gray creatures, she found a soft spot in the leaves of one of the huts and fell fast asleep. The aliens watched her in amazement perplexed by her strange behavior. Jane woke up much later to see that the moons were still in the alien sky, although they were considerably lower. Her watch read 10:30 PM. She knew she needed to get back to the cave and find her way back as soon as possible. Jane tried to communicate to the beings that she had to leave, but they did not understand her. She walked out of the village and slowly headed up the alien mountainside. Somehow, the trek seemed longer on the way up, but eventually she was able to find the small entrance. Slipping through the hole, Jane clicked on her trusty flashlight. She began to look for the earth entrance by trying to take the most familiar looking path although she mostly guessed. Once again, Jane got quite lost in the winding labyrinth of endless rocky walls. Eventually she found the earth side entrance and made her way back to her home in California. Unfortunately, she did not mark the trail and was never able to find the strange cave again. She dared not tell anyone on the force of her bizarre adventure after finally gaining their trust. Even though, she continued to search for the cave for most of her career, she was never able to find it again. The Machine “Boy, this thing really does give you quite a workout, man,” Carl’s friend Dan said as he pulled against the massive spring on the new Workmaster II prototype. Carl was an inventor and a sort of jack-of-all-trades. His latest and greatest invention was that of the Workmaster II workout machine. Carl was excited that it worked and that it worked very well based on his guinea pig’s reports. Finally, he had constructed a viable product that actually might have a demand. Though he had been disappointed before, Carl hoped he could make some money this time for all of his endless effort. He had spent several months developing and designing the machine. This one had hope though, unlike some of this past attempts, such as the toilet seat warmer and the electric tape dispenser. His friend Dan hopped off of the contraption with sweat pouring off of his brow. “Hey, when you get this thing off of he ground let me know, I might buy one myself!” Carl smiled from ear to ear after hearing such positive feedback from his buddy. “Glad you like it. I’ll send you the first production model free of charge.” “Great, thanks,” Dan replied, “Look, I have to be going, but you keep up the good work.” “Thanks, see you later.” Carl was left with a sense of accomplishment as he excitedly contacted his financing business partner and let him know it was finally complete. Carl set up a demonstration of the new contraption with him for the next thy. Fortunately, he was very impressed with Carl’s machine and signed a contract with him to mass-produce the invention. He felt lucky that he had caught his backer on a good thy. Carl walked out of the meeting with a check for ten thousand dollars and a contract that allotted him 20% all sales thereafter. Finally, Carl had hit the jackpot. He was elated as he strolled into his bank to cash his fat reward for a job well done. He deposited his check except for $500.00 cash so he could celebrate with a grand night on the town. Several months later, Carl was watching T. V. late one night. An infomercial came on for his invention, the Workmaster II. Carl watched with excitement as the skimpily clad models exercised on his machine. They had almost perfect bodies with large powerful muscles. Every few minutes a toll free number popped onto the screen telling viewers to send $99.95 in and they too could look like the models did. Carl was delighted to see his unit being sold on national T. V. even though it was rather late at night. Carl became excited as he realized that he might actually make a fair amount of money in the coming months. At almost $20.00 a unit for his profit, he would be raking in the money. The next month, Carl received a check for $20,000.00! His infomercial was on almost every night now and even some Sunday’s during the day. He could not wait to see the next check. Carl called his business partner to inquire how thing had been going at the factory. Fortunately, he explained to Carl that the units were selling like hotcakes. They were having trouble keeping production up to match the tremendous demand for his new machine. Needless to say, Carl was floored. He had never in his wildest dreams thught that one of his inventions would do so well in the marketplace. Over the next six months, Carl’s bank account swelled to over a million dollars. He invested most of the money wisely so if future inventions were a flop, he would be covered financially. With that much money to spare, Carl took some time off He had finally made the big time and could afford not to have to work for a while, although he never dreamed of retiring. Carl loved to invent too much for that. One day, Carl’s new cell phone rang while he was enjoying a round of golf with his old friend Dan. It was his business partner on the line and he was somewhat upset. “What is the problem?” Carl asked. “Well, it seems that we have had a complaint from a customer that may present a problem in the future. It turns out that the customer was injured by the Workmaster II he had just bought last month. The main power spring snapped at its juncture with the sliding joint causing it to slam full force into the customer’s forehead. Unfortunately, this crushed his skull with relative ease causing instant death. Now, we haven’t had any more complaints as of yet, hopefully this incident is isolated, but you might want to get some advice on how to proceed from here from your lawyer.” “My lawyer? What do you mean my lawyer? I don’t have a lawyer. I signed over the production rights to your company. It is not my fault that one you your customers died,” Carl argued sensing that he may be in trouble. “If you will refer to your contract under section two, paragraph four, line 3, it reads: The original designer retains all liability in any case of design flaws whether perceived or real and agrees to hold J. K. manufacturing harmless. Like I said, Carl, you better talk with your lawyer. Hopefully, this one will go away though.” “I will have my lawyer call you. Goodbye!” He quickly hung up on his business partner of the past. Carl was notably upset over the situation. The next day he brought his contract to a local lawyer and retained his services. He left copies of all the documents and a $1,000.00 retainer fee. The lawyer promised to read over the legalese and call Carl with an English translation of his actual limit of liability at the end of the week. Two days later Carl started getting calls from angry relatives of customers who had bought his machine. J. K. manufacturing had started to refer the calls directly to Carl. Before the day was out, Carl had referred nine more people to his lawyer about injuries resulting from broken power springs. Unfortunately, several of them were complaining about fatalities. Carl began to get extremely worried. He tried to think of how he could have overlooked such an obvious design flaw when creating his machine. Carl immediately called his lawyer and inquired about the situation. Basically, his lawyer said he was screwed legally. He also demanded more money to defend the multitude of cases that had presented themselves. Carl coughed up ten thousand more dollars for him to do research and gather evidence in his defense. Over the next three months, Carl was served with twenty-three separate lawsuits by the local sheriff A recall of the units had already been set into motion by J. K. manufacturing but it was too late for many of the poor customers. Carl lost all of his newfound fortune on the defending and settling of the suits. Unfortunately, he had to claim bankruptcy before it was all over. A few weeks later, a giant body builder whose girlfriend had been killed on the Workmaster II assassinated Carl. It is always good advice that one should completely read the fine print carefully before signing anything at all. Unfortunately, Carl did not heed such advice and he was ruined as a result.


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