Lost Treasures of Akhmun-Ra

We woke up before dawn, excited to be reaching the last stretch of our long walk across the jungle. It was only Jacob and I now, Matilda had turned back the day before. We packed up our things and started hiking up a steep hill the natives called Ugara Dan, which roughly translates to Broken Neck.

To say hike is a bit of an understatement, as it is to call Ugara Dan a hill. These treacherous mountains are what has kept the ancient city of Akhmun-Ra lost for ages. You cannot drive a jeep up here, you cannot fly a helicopter in, and you cannot just walk up there. In fact, we had to climb a lot of the way up Ugara Dan. The place was so foreboding that even the native guides did not want to accompany us and they turned back a few days ago, at a charming little place called the Cliff of Death or something like that.

At least the views were great. From up here, you could not see the poisonous snakes, spiders, and ladybugs. All you could see was a calm canopy of green, sometimes shimmering in a gentle breeze, and above you nothing less than the most beautiful shade of blue you could imagine.

After nearly seven hours of arduous climbing, I heard Jacob scream and whoop above me.

“Is it the top?” I asked.

“You bet your ass it’s the top,” he shouted. “Come on, slowpoke.”

I mustered all the strength I could to get to the top. One of the last moves I had to make was jump up to grab a ledge and I almost fell all the way back down. But I made it.

When I finally reached the upper ledge, I rolled onto my back and fell asleep.

I woke up when the sun was getting ready to set. Jacob was resting next to me and we talked for a minute in low voices, recapping the hardships of the climb. Finally, he said:

“Are you ready to see it?”

“You can see it from here?” I sat up.

“Yeah,” Jacob got up and walked to the other end. I got up and followed.

Below us, in a shaded valley, lay the ruins of old buildings made out of white stone. A massive city with towers and a pyramid at the center. Jacob’s back was turned to me when he said:

“We should be there by noon tomorrow.”

I raised my hand to push him. One shove and his skull would surely crack on the rocks below. Just one shove and the priceless artifacts of the city would be mine and only mine.

I would tell Matilda he died trying to save me, give him a hero farewell, and take her to Venice to examine the findings. It would take her a while to get over Jacob, but she would get there eventually, and I would have been alongside all the time. Able to give her the luxuries she deserved, and finally being the man she deserved to be with.

I hesitated. The man she deserved to be with, I thought.

I put my hand on Jacob’s arm. “Tomorrow, my man,” I said, “Tomorrow we change history.”

Shoes Tied and a Pocket Full of Bills

Josh was walking down the street, looking for something to do. There was a clothing store, so he went in to try a few things on. He liked himself in a red-and-yellow Hawaiian shirt, it looked goofy enough for him, so he bought it. He then went into a diner and ordered a cup of coffee. He looked through the paper.

“Maybe I should get a job?” he said out loud.

He picked an ad and called the number.

“When? Why, I can do it right now. Where are you guys? Okay, I’ll be there in twenty minutes.”

During the interview, he said all the right things and the interviewer did not care he came in dressed in a Hawaiian shirt. He got the job on the spot and was told to show up a 9 AM the next day. He nodded politely and said his goodbyes.

That night at his apartment he was bored, so he called some of his friends, told them to come over and bring more friends. Next thing he knew, it was a party. He was sitting in his backyard with a beer.

“What are the goals in this game?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” said his roommate’s voice, “I guess you make your own goals.”

“Pffff, dumb. Let’s play Call of Duty.”

Spiders Are Everywhere

I was bit by a spider. It was round and chubby, all red with black spots. Quite small, but the bite was painful. I walked across the trading post to see the nurse, but she was not there. Two men were standing in front of her office, talking.

“Do you know when the nurse is going to be back?”

“Not sure,” said the taller of the men, “She did not leave a note or anything. Why, do you have an emergency?”

I was holding my wrist the entire time. I let it go now. “No. It’s just a spider bit me and I’m not sure if it’s a big deal.”

“That looks pretty bad,” said the shorter.

“It was all red. With black spots. The spider. Is that bad?”

The taller man shrugged and the shorter said “Well, you never know. There’s some pretty crazy stuff in this jungle. They say we don’t know ninety percent of the species out there.”

I looked at my wrist. It was red and swollen and the bite mark was so red it was almost black, but I had seen worse. And it did not hurt anymore. “Where is that nurse?”

The shorter man pointed and I turned around. She was making her way through the busy crowd. Her hair was golden, her plump cheeks were rosy, her skin so, so white against the dark skin of the natives. She had a mysterious smile on her face. She looked like some kind of evil angel.

The Glory of the Milky Way

It was winter, so I was not very keen on going outside, but Jacob wanted to speak to me and he wanted to speak to me outside. I climbed down the stairs into the back exit and out into the garden. It was night time, I must have lost track of time, and there was not a cloud in the sky. The sky was a veritable spectacle of stars.

I wobbled across the garden, now all covered in snow, opened the small door in the fence to get into the street, and walked down the street almost all the way across town. The stars were bright enough to light my way so I did not need a lamp or flashlight.

Jacob was standing on the bridge, looking up at the sky.

“I can tell by Ursa Minor,” he said, “That winter will soon be over. See how clear she is? How low over the horizon at this time of night?”

I sniffled.

“Don’t you think the sky is beautiful?” he said, “The Milky Way shines so bright.” I could hear he was smiling as he spoke. However, I did not feel like humoring him. I was cold and I was mad at him because Edith liked him more than she liked me. Not that it mattered, but still, I was angry.

“You know, in the past,” he said, “People could not see the stars if they lived in a city like this because there were too many lights on the ground. Street lights, and cars with lights, you know?”

“So what?” I said, even though I had resolved not to speak.

“They could not enjoy the Milky Way like we can.”

“Before that,” I said, “People did not use light either. They could see the Milky Way and they did not know it was a bunch of space junk. It could have been anything, as far as they knew, so it was awe inspiring.”

Jacob looked at me for the first time that night. He said:

“Isn’t it awe inspiring now that we know what it really is?”

Party Prep

Jill was chopping up the vegetables, and Jack was frying up the meat. They were preparing food for the party.

“Hey Jill, can you make them finer?”

“From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee. For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee.”

He did not smile. He put some more oregano on the meat.

“You’re making them too big, I’m gonna have to redo them.”

“Tread carefully,” she said, “For you are treading on my dreams.”

I Had a Great Time

I walked her to the porch.

“Well, I had a great time,” she said. “Will you call me?”

“Yeah,” I said eagerly, “Yeah.”

And then we stood awkwardly for a few seconds, and I was wondering whether I should kiss her. Maybe on the cheek? When I saw somebody in the window, just for a glimpse, before he let the curtain fall back into place. I think I saw a lumberjack shirt and a lumberjack beard.

“Oh hey,” I said casually, I think, “You live with a guy? Who is that? Your roommate?”

She looked around, surprised, and then said: “Oh yeah. He is my brother. That’s my brother.”

“Oh cool. So your brother moved here with you? From Seattle?”

“Yeah, he came a little later than me. We kind of figured it’s cheap and convenient to live together.” She ended nodding several times.

Awkward silence again.

“So anyway,” I said, “I’ll call you.” Then I leaned in for that kiss, but the kind of flinched, so I aborted and just said “Good night.”

When I was back in my car, I looked at the house again and I could see her in the well-lit living room window. She joined her brother, and he put his arm around her and kissed her in a husbandly way. Why would she lie?

The Actor

The actor was alone at home. He just got back from a meeting with his agent who told him the actor would now work on the set of a major film that would bring the actor even greater fame and millions of dollars. Also, the actor’s new singer girlfriend looked even better in real life than she did on screen. To top it off, the queen herself would take time out of her busy schedule to knight the actor the following week.

Yet somehow, the actor was not happy. He got up from the couch, took off his fashionable scarf, then his designer sweater which he wore over nothing and stood in front of a mirror, looking at his exposed torso. The chiseled chest, the well-defined abs, and the bulging muscles were all staples of an actor. A requirement, really, and one which had cost him a lot of work and even more money. He stood there looking at himself and said:

“This is not me.”

Then, the actor contemplated the unthinkable. His muscles tensed at the very idea, but he could not get it out of his head. He knew his reptile brain would not stop until it made the body do the act. Through repetition of fantasy, the reptile part of his brain would finally ebb away his iron will and he would do it. ”

Why fight? Why not just give up?” he said.

The actor went into the kitchen, and opened the fridge. It was empty, except for one item he had procured in secret. A big fat muffin, rich in sugar, gluten, and carbs beckoned him. And he heeded the call.

“You cannot stare into the abyss without the abyss looking back at you,” he mused, as he consumed the confectionery in front of the kitchen mirror.

She’s Not Pretty

Gil and Deb were sitting at the bar, having some beers after work.

“Look at that waitress,” said Gil, “I wouldn’t mind…”

Deb’s face turned into a mask of hatred for a second, and then she said with disbelief: “What? Her? I don’t see it. Why do guys always say a girl looks nice when she has big tits. Yeah, she has big tits, but all they are is huge and gross. Can you imagine her in a few years? Forget about it.” But then perhaps Deb thought that was not cool, so she looked around for another waitress, “Now that girl, you see that? She’s pretty. She has those delicate features. And don’t think I dis every girl with big tits, see, this girl has nice firm breasts too. Only they are not so in your face, you know what I mean?”

“Whatever,” said Gil, “Forget it.”

Then the first waitress approached, “Will there be anything else?”

“Well,” Gil tried to act manly and nonchalant, “How about another round.”

The Library

After the war, Everett made it a habit to go to the library every day. It had free WiFi, magazines, and movies, plus there were usually no other people. But Everett always went there because of the books.

Presently, he was sitting in the reading room over a tome on ornithology and he looked up at the librarian who was sitting behind the counter, some distance from him. She was a pleasant-looking woman in her fifties.

“I think,” he said, “It was Virginia Woolf who said the breath of freedom was the very spirit of libraries.”

“What was that?”

“Nothing.”

Confessions of a Monster

The viewers held their breath as the face of the criminal came into focus again.

“I also had a hook in my apartment in one of the rooms, hanging from the ceiling on a chain. But I never dared use it. You see, I only did the things the kiddies liked. I never meant to hurt them. I heard them laugh, didn’t I?”

He sobbed for a few seconds.

“Well, to be completely honest, sometimes it’s hard to tell whether they are laughing or crying.”

The viewers gasped.