July 29 2021

3D Portal Adventure – Chapter 1

This is our first attempt at an audiovisual production. The video file is here:

3D Portal Adventure, Chapter One

Either within or without, it is hotly debated, the vast multitude of universes and existence possibilities, there is said to be a forest that exists in none of them, but it connects them all.  At the back corner of this forest between is a café where certain folk gather and socialize, with no visible impact upon their life stories…well, for the most part.  This place is the Cross Time Cafe


Their reasons and causes for being there vary as greatly as their number, but for a few, it is a respite from duties elsewhere.  But ultimately, duty calls, and those bound to it must answer.


The first to answer this call is Lady Bethelynn the White Guardian, formerly a unicorn princess of the Blue Mountain Blessing, now the proprietress of the Café, along with her great-grandsire, White Pony,

[Picture of White Pony]

 a seemingly merry and mischievous old stallion, content to live a happy-go-lucky lifestyle, in contrast to her serious tone of life.  Indeed, one would not immediately recognize them as being related, aside from their white fur.  For starters, while he was completely equine in form, she was anthropomorphic, half-human in fact, standing upright at 8 feet 6 inches.  Her forelimbs were arms, ending in hands with two fingers and an opposing thumb.  Further, her alicorn, the spiraled horn from which unicorns project their magic, was no more.  Lady Beth had been the victim of a magical catastrophe that had left her in this half-human, half equine shape.  The accident has cause her alicorn to melt, burning a distinctive scar on her forehead, leaving her with a reminder of what she believed was her guilt in this accident.  No less embarrassing, her equine mammary glands, once abdominal and fairly flat, had become human mammary glands, thoracic and anything but flat, causing her to gain unwanted attention, mostly from males.  It did not take her long to become familiar with the phrase “my eyes are up here, if you want to keep on living”.

[Lady Beth in the blue body suit]


No longer able to project magic through her missing alicorn, she uses a pair of bracelets of a shiny silvery metal, given to her by an arch-mage who taught her how utilize magic in her humanoid form.  Thus, did she become a warrior-mage, a protector, the White Guardian.  It is that duty that now summons her.  Away from her respite as café proprietress, and back to her duties as a protector.

[Lady Beth in armor]


In one the basements of the Café, Lady Beth stands before an archway, seemingly leading straight into a blank wall.  She commences an arcane ritual, and a trans-dimensional portal begins to form with the archway.  If she had hoped to do this unnoticed, her hopes were futile, for it wasn’t long before she had a small audience watching her.


[PGA picture 1]

Turning to her audience, she issued a caution. “You have no experience here. Now Go!! If you follow me, I cannot guarantee your safety.”


A boldly striped royal tiger named TigerT spoke up.  “I’d like to be of assistance, but I trust your abilities and judgement of risk. Still, wouldn’t it be more safe to take someone with you, than to go alone?”


A fairly leonine figure with stripes covering half his body named CatDude, who was also in the audience, climbed the stairway to stand beside her. “My lady, life has only one guarantee for me, that it will someday end. Much as I wish that day to be far in the future, the importance of life is not derived but its length, but the quality with which it is lived
You once asked us how brave we were, and I dared to say, “as brave as you need me to be.” Time for me put up.
On last thought before we enter. I do not come to follow or to lead. Be it your pleasure, please let me walk beside you.”


[PGA Picture 2]

Lady Beth gave a barely perceptible nod, saying  “First…I will wait here. For one hour. For you to gather your equipment and survival supplies. If you are not here this portal is closed.  Second…this is not a vacation. Or a date.  Keep your emotions in check. I need you to help protect my arsh, not stare at it.”


A voice from the back of the room muttered “Apparently Lady Beth has to take on a speech impediment when using vulgar language!”


“Understood, Lady Beth!” Replied TigerT. He ran off immediately to gather what may be of help, returning after a couple of rushed minutes with with a medium sized backpack, filled with: a few bottles of water, some high density food bars, a one gallon lightweight pot, a first aid kit, a small tent, a pocket knife, a lighter and a towel.
“I got my sturdy cargo-pants and jacket too!” he grinned, wearing a belt with a folding spade attached to it.
Donning a basecap, he said  “Okay. I think I’m ready to go.”


The Catdude busily donned his “Dragonscale” vest and trousers, muttering “That brand never let me down. Excellent protection with minimal sacrifice to agility.”

Then set about inventorying gear:

M-41 pulse rifle with grenade launcher, check

600 rounds ammo, 30 grenades, check

BlasTech DL-44 pistol, check. While I do subscribe to hokey religions and use ancient weapons, a blaster at your side is a still a good idea.

5 power packs, check

lightsaber, check. I’m a green blade myself.

adamantium dagger, check. Forged by dwarves, enchanted by elves, always have final backstop.

Runestone collection, check. Foolish mages may mock at runestone magic, until they run out of reagents and spell components.

Letterman multi-tool, check

multi-adaptive breathing mask, check. works underwater or in toxic gases.

first aid kit, check. It is as much for you as for me. Relying on magical healing is probablematic. I can receive healing magic from others, sadly, in my own usage, I can only heal myself.

500 meter para-cord, check

30 days energy rations, check

4 liters of water, check

a couple changes of underclothes and socks, check. Some lessons from mothers never do leave us.

Towel, check. Never leave home without one.


Strapping on his backpack, he met Lady Beth at the gate with two minutes to spare.–

“I know, cutting it close. Always did give my teacher anxiety that way.

My lady, about the last few things you said, I understand this is serious and I will conduct myself accordingly. I will keep my emotions in check as the Jedi have trained me to do. And I promise, I will keep my eyes where you need them.

Let us proceed.”


Catdude, offering a paw to TigerT for a pawbump, said “Well, mein guten Herren, I guess it’s pretty obvious who is the camper and who is the soldier in this motley crew of ours.”


TigerT, accepting the pawbump, replied “I’ll let you know I can wield a pretty mean folding spade, Mister.”


Catdude nodded “Glad to hear it, hopefully we won’t have to put it to use.

“ That brings back some RL memories from ROTC, Sgt. M ends class with “What is the spirit of the bayonette?” Class responds with “Kill! Kill! Kill!” Then I pipe up with “What is the spirit of the e-tool?  Kill! Maim! Mutilate!” Class burst out laughing, Sgt. M is not amused, orders “Class dismissed” with a “get the hell out of here.” tone to his voice. As we walk back to barracks, Cadet Okie, big smile on his face, says, “____, sometimes you have one seriously demented imagination.” I respond by reminding him of “All Quiet on the Western Front” and the use of spades and entrenching-tools there. He nods and says I’m right.–

But back to our journey.

On a lighter note, it seems our group stands at three:

A lion, a tiger, and mare.

Oh my!”


[PGA Picture 3]

Lady Beth casts a scornful look at the pair and says “Seriously?!”

“sigh” Alright …. T, you’re in charge of setting up base camp and food prep….. CD’s in charge of security.  This should provide us with the best arrangement of our resources.

And gentlemen… if either of you become ill or injured – – tell me immediately. As long as you keep me alive, I’m the best first aid kit you’ll ever need. But I’ll warn you now… I have terrible bedside manners.


CatDude earnestly replied “My lady when I am thusly geared up and attired, rest assured, I am serious. Unless that was a commentary on my punnery.

I’m pretty certain your bedside manner can’t be any worse than that Andorian nurse on Sigma Lyra-d. I mean, when does a shrapnel wound to the shoulder require a…umm…uhh, never mind.

By your command, I assume camp security and rearguard on the road.

And my lady, I apologize if an earlier remark I made sounded like I was making light of coming events.”

He ponders….CD? haven’t been called that since………


TigerT grinned and said “I agree – hope we don’t need the spade!”

You’ll have to excuse us Beth, but I guess puns are one thing you’ll have to bear when we travel together. 😉

(I’ll try to keep it down)

Camp and Food. Check.

It is better to stay in good health anyway, but I’m glad we have you around if that option isn’t available.

But now I’d say: Let’s not waste any more precious time.

TigerT clicked his heels together and followed Beth onto the portal stairs.


A noble cheetah-lioness, Mooncat, waved from the sidelines. “Have fun storming the castle…or whatever.”


McClaw, a white tiger in the audience, offered Beth a small device.
“I have duties here, but activating that should generate a signal I can home in on. And if there isn’t too much interference, it’ll act as a transceiver so you can request special equipment or resupply, too.”


A grey Chakat, Kryslin, also waved at the trio.  “As much as I’d like to join in, I can’t, for various reasons.  Have fun storming the Castle!”

[PGA Picture 4]

Just as they were about to enter, Lady Beth turned to the pair and spoke. “There’s one more thing I should forewarn you about. Unless we’re in any danger – I prefer to sleep in the nude. This armor is not very comfortable.

But if this makes either of you uncomfortable, then I will continue to wear my armor for sleep.”


TigerT blushed deeply, and muttered  “We.. We’re all adults here.

So.. I guess we can ignore this.

No need for you to be uncomfortable. Right, CD?”


CatDude responded “Dragonscale* is not comfortable to sleep in either. So however you sleep is how you sleep. My armor is also coming off at night. But if it’s all the same to you, I’m keeping my shorts on while I sleep. I know, a silly human modesty some have said I should discard, but having so much of my humanity stolen…

Also, I have been told I snore like a chainsaw, so I won’t be offended if either of you don earplugs. Although, if we’re are sleeping on the ground instead of bed, it won’t be an issue, the snoring only occurs in a bed, if I end up on my back. Maybe that’s why most complaints occur when I snooze on a chaise lounge or an easy chair.”


A note from your humble narrator: * Dragonscale is not to be confused with the controversial failure called Dragon Skin. While superficially similar in appearance, Dragonscale was created three centuries later when the necessary nanotech needed to make it work came about.


“No problem there, CD.”, said Tiger_T “I’m sure I have a pair of earplugs somewhere in my pants’ pockets.  As a half-cat you can always say you’re just purring.   I too usually go with shorts for sleep.  *shrugs* 


The Catdude thanked his friends for the well wishes and then climbed the stairwell to stand at Beth’s side. “Well, my lady, it truly seems to be just the three of us. Let’s go forth.”  Tiger_t also gave his thanks and joined the pair at the gate.


[PGA Picture 5]


Before stepping through the gateway, Lady Beth gave one last caution, “I hope nither of you are afraid of heights.  Where we’re going—one wrong step…and you’re bye-bye.”


NOTE from your Narrator: yes, the word “nither” is a word. It’s a Scottish dialectal variant of the word, “neither.”


“Not to worry, my lady, I do not fear heights that will kill me. It’s the heights that will merely injure me that annoy me, because if it happens, then it is time wasted healing the injuries.” Said CatDude, “Hey Tig, is it wrong of me to be amused that Lady Beth is worried about a pair of felines having height anxiety?


“It’s a valid concern, I guess.” Said Tiger_T, “I do not fear heights.  I just have a healthy respect for them.  I think of that as a good thing as it keeps me alert in situations where they matter. Although.. My hope is that we won’t need to climb any vertical mountain-sides, even if I do have inbuilt spikes to help keep my grip.”

 “At least we always land on our feet.” Said CatDude with a chuckle.


End of Episode One

Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns



July 29 2021

The Isle of Xee – by Xee – narrated by Asclepius

The Isle of Xee, by Xee

Background music by Smartsound

The Isle of Xee was discovered in the early Earth year 2016 by a crew of pirates and their Captain, named Xee.

Konahrik, Embys, Talimar, Reinkur and Sir Xee aboard the Dark princess locked up their manor on the Island in the Bay of Oracle Oasis and set out in search of the famed mines of gold and silver.

It was a dark night with wind blasting the sails, and swells as tall as towers ensured that the Dark Princess and her crew didn’t see the ominous island in the storm. It was then that the Dark princess crashed into an uncharted island off the coast of Xenos.

The ship lay in a wreck, smashed on the rocks and scattered on the beach.

As days passed with no hope of rescue, the crew, led by Sir Xee, began to trek the island to see if they could discover any semblance of life. It was during their scouting that they came across a dark cave leading into a cavern not far from the beach.

Sir Xee and the crew, with rope in hand, lowered themselves into the cave.

In the cave a glimmer of light could be seen as they ventured intyo an open area, where they were greeted by a winged imp!

The imp, standing in a mystic circle, smiled and introduced itself as Kruel, the island’s keeper. It explained that this island had been expecting us and that the storm drove us here.

We sat and listened to the tale Kruel weaved into our minds. We soon learned that we had discovered something more exciting than gold or silver. The island was alive with magic, and guarded a secret that would see us all prosper beyond our wildest dreams.

We took shelter with Kruel and learned the rituals which I dare not write in this journal, and will keep the secret to those that we trust.

Days, weeks and years passed as we started to settle here on the island. We brought what remained of the ship ashore and started to rebuild. Using supplies we had brought along with our tools, we soon decided to make this our home.

It was thus that the Isle of Xee was born on this day. We settled in our first built houses of stone near the dock we had built.

The great city keep we decided to build above the caverns and sealed the entrance in a crypt so that others who land on the island would not discover the secrets.

Years passed, and we started to travel the sea by longboats, finding our way by star to the nearby city of Xenos. It was there we ran into a merchant who built these flying machines called hot air balloons. We found these were a much safer way to travel between Xenos markets and the isle. It also helped keep unwanted travellers from landing on the island.

We learned from a local in a tavern in Xenos of the rich mine that we had originally searched for. Soon the crew and Xee had riches flowing back and forth to the island, and the construction of a few houses turned into many.

It was not long afterwards that the group decided to make a planned trip back to the homelands of Oracle with the purpose of conscripting more women and men into their ranks; this to help expand the hamlet into something bigger.

As the years passed more people started to hear of the wealth through stories and word of mouth, and the isle started to grow.

One night, while visiting the Guild leaders, Xee sat down with scribe Tila, who convinced him that he should look into the magic of her scrolls, promising that through the mystic arts this would allow transport to and from the isle. Xee liked magic, and was enraptured by this amazing concept; he immediately agreed to allow her to host a shop so that all may come and go at a faster pace.

In the years that followed, the Isle of Xee grew quickly and was soon a village full of life. The Keep grew from a hall into a castle. Kruel the Imp had not lied to us with the promise of wealth.

Soon every tavern was talking about this mysterious place, and many other like-minded adventure seekers came to visit the isle.

The locals of the island started to open many shops, and their masterworks spread through the land, bringing even more wealth.

Sir Xee soon became a Governor, as the numbers grew faster than imagined.

Today the Isle of Xee is 20 strong as of October 28th 524 PC

I must end this chapter here as guests are arriving soon for a feast on the island. We look forward to sharing with each other all the things we have learned.

Perhaps you who are reading this will one day live here or have already done so.

The island takes care of its own, and all that live here under its rule will prosper.

We give thanks to Kruel and the island’s magic for providing



Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns


July 29 2021

The Death Cake – by PhoenixWolf – narrated by Asclepius


The Death Cake

By PhoenixWolf, aka Alexander Huffman

Background music by Smartsound


Jorib padded up the ramp into his spaceship, a white box bouncing in his hands with his excitement. Behind him a human male in his early adulthood years stood wide eyed, gazing at a large stack of green sheets of paper in his hand. Jorib didn’t have any idea of how money worked on this planet, but he figured fifty thousand units of the human’s currency was more than enough for this purchase.

The ramp closed and Jorib felt the inertia buffers turn on as the ship ascended into a safe orbit.

“Norgat!” He squeaked out as he broke into a run down the corridor. “I got it! Come see quickly!”

Jorib made excited giggling sounds as he entered the dining hall. Just as he placed the box on the table, Norgat shuffled in rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. Norgat was a short and stocky example of his species, just like Jorib. His head stalks, which usually stood straight up from the top of his head, were askew to one side, and dark lines creased his grey skinned face. The telltale signs of his most recent nap being deep and way too comfortable.

“What?” Norgat said drowsily.

“I got that human food item that I was telling you about! The confection that was named for bringing death upon those who dare eat it,” Jorib said with a dramatic wave of his stubby hands.

Norgat stifled a yawn, ‘Okay…so, what are we going to do with a deadly dessert?”

“What else! We’re going to eat it!”

“What??” Norgat was definitely awake now.

“I have prepared everything we need. We will not only brave this deadly confectionery, but survive to document its effects for science and posterity!”

“By we, you mean me, don’t you?”

“Not this time! I plan on consuming this human creation too. Just after I document your experience with it first.”

Norgat stared at his companion for a silent moment. “You just want to see me suffer.”

“No! Your physical health is important to me. How else will I learn from these humans without your expert assistance and experimentation?”

Norgat’s stare turned into a dark glare. Not that it mattered much, once Jorib got an idea in his head, he was very difficult to dissuade. Jorib started to lift the lid of the box, but its corners caught part way, causing him to struggle and grunt as he tried to wiggle it free. Norgat watched this struggle for a few moments, enjoying Jorib’s growing frustration.

Norgat grew bored waiting, he grabbed the lid with Jorib and helped lift. It came free and slid smoothly off its base with a satisfying rush of air filling the space the lid occupied. They immediately jumped back with their nose holes wrinkled at the smell that filled the room.

“Uhg! That’s horrid!” Jorib cried out.

They retreated to the furthest wall away from the open box and waited for the smell to dissipate.

“If I start smelling like that after I eat it, my clutch-mate will replace me when we get home!”

“She still hasn’t forgiven you for bringing that Durian Fruit home?” Jorib asked.

“I had to sleep in the bog for a week!”

Jorib shuddered in sympathy.

“I think the smell is mostly gone now.” He motioned for Norgat to approach the box again.

Norgat rolled his eyes, but walked up to the box again. He took a cutter tool and carefully cut the corners of the box, letting the sides fall down to reveal the contents in all their glory.

“Oooh!” They both exclaimed at the sight. The cake was dark brown, almost black. It was also very tall, the top being made perfectly smooth, with dark brown flower-like embellishments arranged around its edge.

Jorib reached out with shaking hands toward the cake, but stopped short as if touching an invisible barrier. “Wow. Norgat, feel the power!”

Norgat gave him a sideways glance and eye roll. “Okay, let’s begin documenting. What do the humans call this?”

Jorib carefully enunciated the human words, “Death by Chocolate Cake.”

“‘Death’ meaning ‘the expiring of life,’” Norgat began speaking into his handheld computer.

“‘Chocolate’ being a substance created from the offspring-seeds of the cacao tree, and ‘cake’ being a special confection of layered bread substance held together with a sugary paste. The implication of the name being the chocolate cake brings death to anyone who eats it.”

“You take all the mystique and drama out of everything! Can’t you see this is a very artifact of human daring and death-sport?”

“Your romantic fascination with human death-sports does not bode well for posterity.”

Jorib dismissed the warning with a hand wave. “Nonsense, I have prepared the antidote in case the worst should happen.”

He grabbed a tray with two glass containers filled with a white liquid from the cooler. Norgat immediately began shaking and backing up quickly at the sight of the liquid.

“Is…is that…cow milk?” He said, the look of shock apparent on his face.

“No, it comes from a different animal! The Almond. I tried it myself earlier and no profuse leaking occurred from any of my orifices.”

Norgat’s shock turned quickly to horror, “you didn’t follow safety protocol! And you sampled human food without alerting me first?”

Jorib ignored Norgat this time. Why let pesky things like protocols and assistants get in the way of true discovery?

He continued speaking, “while cow milk is the superior antidote, the almond milk should still prove adequate.”

Norgat just stared, gobsmacked, at Jorib.

“Now,” Jorib continued as he pulled a long dissection knife from the drawer, “If you would do the honors, we must make exacting dissection cuts from the center point to the edge of the cake, creating a wedge shape. We will then extract it for our first sample.”

Norgat glared as he grabbed the knife a little more forcefully than usual. He carefully lined the blade up to the cake, making sure the tip was centered.

“Carefully!” Jorib said as the knife began to cut into the upper layer of fondant.

Norgat took his eyes off the cake and glared daggers at his companion as he let the knife slide through to the bottom. Jorib nibbled on his stubby fingers in anxious horror as Norgat made another perfect cut.

“Tray,” Norgat said, as he carefully slid the knife beneath the cake slice and lifted it out. Jorib held a clean tray at the ready as Norgat smoothly transferred the four-layered slice of cake off the knife.

“Oooh!” They both exclaimed again as they inspected the pristine goo-marbled layers of dark chocolate frosting and sponge.

“It still stinks really bad, but it looks amazing,” Norgat said. Jorib could only nod, his mouth was agape in total, dramatic awe.

Carefully, Jorib handed an eating utensil to Norgat, never taking his eyes off the slice. This was the moment Norgat was dreading the most. He took the utensil with an audible groan and forced himself to take a bite-sized portion of the cake. His hand shook and he whined pitifully as he painfully drew his portion toward his mouth.

“Courage, Norgat,” Jorib said, “we are on the frontier of real science!”

The encouragement did little for Norgat. His hand inched toward his face, but his mouth kept moving further away. Jorib finally took hold of the utensil and Norgat’s head stalks, wrestling the cake into his companion’s mouth.

There was a stifled scream as Norgat’s eyes widened in shock. His mouth made large chewing motions. An exaggerated gulp followed a moment later.

“Well?” Jorib asked impatiently.

Norgat didn’t move a muscle, but his skin started taking on a strange dark shade, spreading steadily over every inch of his exposed body. Jorib panicked when Norgat began convulsing and turning a dark shade of chocolate brown.

“Antidote! Antidote!” Jorib grabbed the glasses of almond milk, spilling most of it, and splashed the rest into Norgat’s gasping mouth. When the convulsions didn’t stop, Jorib ran around the room in a panic, knocking shelves over and throwing things in a hasty attempt at finding something to help his dying companion.

He made it back to Norgat’s body with an armload of items in time to see Norgat’s final shudder and stillness, a foamy gurgle of almond milk pouring out his mouth in a ghastly final death sigh.

Jorib cried out in horror, dropping down to sob on the lifeless body of Norgat.

“No! Norgat! You *sob* were so *sob* young and full *sob* of promise!”

A gurgle bubbled out of Norgat’s mouth. Jorib looked up with bloodshot and goopy eyes in time to receive a faceful of chocolate cake.

He fell backward trying to wipe the deathly confection from his face and eyes as Norgat let out a hearty squeal of laughter and began rolling on the floor.

“You’re alive?” Jorib asked in disbelief as he rubbed the cake out of one eye. Norgat still just rolled around in laughter.

“You’re still alive?” Jorib yelled angrily, realizing he was now the butt of a very messy joke.

Jorib, dripping in gooey cake, dashed madly for his own fistful of cake. In a few moments, the dining hall was covered in a gloppy mess of cake and frosting as the two aliens enacted another great human tradition: the food fight.

Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns


July 29 2021

Six Short Scary Tales – by Lyla Starflare – narrated by Asclepius

Six Short Scary Tales

By Lyla Starflare
Background music by Smartsound

1. “This New Old House”, by BatoutofHell821
We bought an old house, my boyfriend and I. He’s in charge of the “new” construction – converting the kitchen into the master bedroom for instance, while I’m on wallpaper removal duty. The previous owner papered EVERY wall and CEILING! Removing it is brutal, but oddly satisfying. The best feeling is getting a long peel, similar to your skin when you’re peeling from a sunburn. I don’t know bout you, but I kinda make a game of peeling, on the hunt for the longest piece before it rips. Under a corner section of paper in every room is a person’s name and a date. Curiosity got the best of me one night when I researched one of the names and discovered the person was actually a missing person, the missing date matching the date under the wallpaper! The next day, I made a list of all the names and dates. Sure enough each name was for a missing person with dates to match. We notified the police who naturally sent a crime scene team. I overheard one tech say “yup, it’s human”. “Human? What’s human?” “Ma’am, where is the material you removed from the walls already? This isn’t wallpaper you were removing.”
2. “I hate it when my brother has to go away”, by horrorinpureform
I hate it when my brother Charlie has to go away. My parents constantly try to explain to me how sick he is. That I am lucky to have a brain where all the chemicals flow properly to their destinations like undammed rivers. When I complain about how bored I am without a little brother to play with they tried to make me feel bad by pointing out that his boredom likely far surpasses mine considering his confined to a dark room in an institution. I always beg for them to give him one last chance. Of course, they did at first. Charlie has been back home several times each shorter in duration and the last. Every time without fail it all starts again. The neighbourhood cats with gouged out eyes showing up in his toy chest my dad’s razors found dropped on the baby slide in the park across the street, mom’s vitamins replaced by bits of dishwasher tablets. My parents are hesitant now, using “last chances” sparingly. They say his disorder makes him charming, makes it easy for him to fake normalcy, and to trick the doctors who care for him into thinking he is ready for rehabilitation. That I will just have to put up with my boredom if it means staying safe from him. I hate it when he has to go away. It makes me have to pretend to be good until he is back.
3. “Guardians”, by DarkAlligator
He awoke to the huge, insect-like creatures looming over his bed and screamed his lungs out. They hastily left his room and he stayed up all night, shaking and wondering if it had been a dream. The next morning there was a tap on the door. Gathering his courage, he opened it to see one of them gently place a plate filled with fried breakfast on the floor, then retreat to a safe distance. Bewildered, he accepted the gift. The creatures chittered excitedly. This happened every day for weeks. At first, he was worried that they were fattening him up, but after a particularly greasy breakfast left him clutching his chest from heartburn, they were replaced with fresh fruit. As well as cooking, they poured hot steamy baths for him and even tucked him in when he went to bed. It was bizarre. One night, he awoke to screaming. He raced downstairs to find a decapitated burglar being devoured by the insects. He was sickened but disposed of the remains as best he could. He knew they had just been protecting him. One morning, the creatures wouldn’t let him leave his room. He lay down, confused but trusting as they ushered him back into bed. Whatever their motives, they weren’t going to hurt him. Hours later, a burning pain spread throughout his body. It felt like his stomach was filled with razor wire. The insects chittered as he spasmed and moaned. It was only when he felt a terrible squirming feeling beneath his skin that he realised the insects hadn’t been protecting him. They had been protecting their young.
4. “My Daughter Learned to Count”, by RealScience87
My daughter woke me around 11:50 last night. My wife and I had picked her up from her friend Sally’s birthday party, brought her home, and put her to bed. My wife went into the bedroom to read while I fell asleep reading a book. “Daddy”, she whispered, tugging my shirt sleeve. “Guess how old I’m going to be next month!” “I don’t know beauty” I said as I slipped on my galsses. “How old?” She smiled and held up four fingers. It is 7:30 now. My wife and I have been up with her for almost 8 hours. She still refuses to tell us where she got them.
5. “He Stood Against my Window” by sabethook
I don’t know why I looked up, but when I did, I saw him there. He stood against my window. His forehead rested against he glass, and his eyes were still and light and he smiled a lipstick-red, cartoonish grin. And he just stood there in the window. My wife was upstairs sleeping, my son was in his crib, and I couldn’t move. I froze and watched him looking past me through the glass. Oh, please no. His smile never moved but he put a hand up and slid it down the glass, watching me with matted hair and yellow skin and face through the window. I couldn’t do anything. I just frozen, feet still in the bushes. I was pruning, looking into my home. He stood against my window.
6. “The Happiest Day of my Life”, by recludus
I watched as my soon to be father-in-law held his daughter’s hand as he walked down the aisle. Tears streamed down his face as the wedding march that played in the background reminded him that, in a few minutes, he would be watching me hold his daughter’s hand and slipping on her ring. He walked up to the altar and I took hold of her hand, grinning from ear to ear. It was the happiest day of my life. My bride’s father got down on his knees and started begging. “Please, I did what you asked. Just please give my daughter back.” I glared at him. “Shut up and stop ruining the moment. If you sit back down and enjoy the ceremony, maybe I’ll tell you where I’ve hidden the rest of her body.”

Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns

July 29 2021

Heart of the World – by Finrodel – narrated by Asclepius

Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with a great story from a new author Finrodel, aka Alexander Huffman, entitled

Heart of the World

Background music by Smartsound

The morning light glittered off the pendant as it hung on the lamp. Lexi had woken up before her alarm again. She didn’t want to get out of bed, so she laid there, gazing at the heart-shaped locket her mother gave her before she retired.
“It is a link to the past. It’s easy to forget where we came from,” she said. “Everything changed when the whole started hearing the voices. Before we had the implants to protect us from the maddening sounds, there was a world of color, life, and feeling!”
Lexi could still remember the look on her mother’s face when she described her childhood. It was like looking at long forgotten pain, yet she wanted to experience it again.
“It was a time when joy and sadness had meaning. Now they’re empty memories, words we tell ourselves we’re better off without.”
Lexi touched the locket. A strange sense of longing pulled at her, though she could not describe why. Perhaps just beyond that pull, something whole existed, like a real home.
Her alarm rang, the impression interrupted by the mechanical sound and following automatic rhythms of her morning routine. Her phone rang shortly after. It was her supervisor, he always called at the same time each morning.
She connected her phone device to the implant and answered. Her foreman would always ask the same three questions,
“Are you healthy?”
“Yes.” Not that he cared how Lexi really felt, but an unfit worker was a liability and slowed down the workflow.
“Will you arrive at 0730?”
“Yes.” Punctuality meant production times were kept.
“Will you report any delays or production failures for your shift?”
“Your responses have been noted. Goodbye.”
Minimum interaction, maximum efficiency. She finished her morning preparations.
As expected, the workforce commuter bus was on time to each stop. The people that rode with her were almost always the same, sitting in the same places with the same clothing and expression. The color of work uniforms was the primary difference between each person. Lexi’s uniform was white, utilitarian, and indicated her position in food services. Her hair was cut short, it was more efficient that way. Practicality had little use for style, and she could not recall the last time she saw someone with long hair.
The bus dropped Lexi off at her usual stop. She was often the only person to come down this corridor in the morning. Today, she was not alone. A man in a grey uniform was leaning against the wall, staring at a stream of water dripping from above him. He was mumbling something.
He didn’t seem to notice her as she approached, but she was able to hear what he was saying.
“302203, 900556, 30220…”, he kept repeating over and over.
The grey uniform meant he worked in transportation across the complex. He was a long way from where he should be and his behavior was far from normal.
“Hello?” Lexi said, stopping near him.
“556…The water drops, they keep repeating the numbers. What do they mean?” He said, confusion filling his voice.
Lexi cocked her head and listened, but only heard the water dropping. “I don’t hear anything.”
“It’s there! See, 2, 2, 0, 3…” he continued to the sound of each water drop.
She heard about rare cases where the interface negatively affected perceptions, but she had never seen it happen before. She looked at the implant slot on the side of his head. The slot was empty, no communication device, no data drive. It didn’t matter if he wasn’t part of her work crew, she had been trained to provide help to people if they needed medical aid. Besides, it didn’t feel right to leave him in this state.
She gently touched his shoulder and started pulling him away from the dripping water. “I think your implant may be malfunctioning. Let’s get you to Medical so they can help” she said. He didn’t struggle or speak during their walk.
The production room was quiet after the end of shift notice. The sterile silence after the constant noise of machinery and workers felt soothing to her ringing ears. She walked between the workstations for her final inspection of the night. Beneath one workstation, a single piece of paper had slipped partially under a panel and gone unnoticed. She pulled the paper out and went to discard it in the trash when she noticed the writing. On one side a series of numbers were written multiple times in three columns before the writer ran out of space.
302203N 900556W
In a moment of intense clarity, she realized that the numbers were the same ones the man in the grey uniform was mumbling when she saw him that morning. A surreal feeling tingled down her spine, a sensation she was very unfamiliar with. She held still for a long moment, waiting for the sensation to pass.
“Lexi, something wrong?” A familiar male voice spoke from behind her.
She spun around a little too abruptly to face her supervisor, the look on his face showing a wary suspicion of her behavior. He was a bland faced man in his 40’s. The only distinguishing feature was the pipe whistle he kept in his uniform pocket.
“No, boss. I just found a piece of notepaper someone must have dropped earlier,” she said, regaining some of her composure.
“What’s written on it?”
“Just some numbers, I’m not sure what for,” she said, handing the note to him.
He looked briefly at the numbers written before looking back at her. “You sure you don’t know what they’re for?”
The intensity of his gaze was surprising. Was he testing her?
“Yes, boss.”
He looked at her for a few long moments. “I’ll talk to you in the morning.”
She nodded and left the production room, trying not to break into a run, or even a swift walk.
Lexi awoke early again. The sunlight cracked through her window, glinting off the heart pendant and into her eyes. That same strange fascination with the locket absorbed all her attention as she stared into the reflected light. Her thoughts again drifted from her memories of her mother to the strange events of the night before.
The thoughts and feelings filled her mind completely as she felt pulled into that light. Without thinking, she let herself flow into a dreamlike trance. All around her were pathways of light flowing along channels that curved, split, and angled away from some massive central point.
She looked into that nexus of branching pathways, her vision adjusting to its brightness. She realized then she was seeing a massive tree, its branches reaching upward and outward, carrying the light into distances beyond.
A small vine of light grew from the ground beside her until it touched her outstretched hand. The warmth of it filled her body with a sensation like she belonged there. She gazed into that thread of light that now gently curved and grew up her arm and saw something in its brightness.
Numbers. A message.
30.2203°N -90.0556°W Return home
She recognized the numbers as coordinates. The message is simple enough. She must go wherever the coordinates indicated, and soon.
Her phone rang, ripping her from the vision and making her jump. It was her supervisor, on time as usual. She couldn’t work today, she had to find what this all meant.
“Hello,” she said tentatively.
“Are you healthy?” The voice asked in his usual dry tone. She knew she would have to lie, but this was important and she needed to do this.
“No,” she answered, but felt her voice sounded weak and unsure.
There was a pause before he answered. “You’re not the only one.”
“I’m sorry?” She asked, not sure what he meant.
“It’s the numbers, right?”
She breathed in sharply. Another lie to keep him from reporting her to medical seemed prudent, but she dismissed the idea. He had never caused her any grief when she had issues or problems, even if they were her own fault. She owed him the truth, especially since he knew something was going on.
“I can hear them in the tones of your voice. What does it mean?” He asked.
“I don’t know yet, but I think I can find out.”
“Okay, please let me know? If you find it?”
“I will, I promise,” she said. She hadn’t felt the need to make a promise before, it felt right.
She grabbed her locket, placing the chain around her neck. It was time to go.
The trees rose up all around her, their branches reaching overhead like a tunnel of emerald green. The coordinates lead here, down a long forgotten road and past buildings nature had claimed decades before.
She would have found it beautiful if it weren’t for the buzzing noise in her ears. The further she walked, the worse it became.
Her head began to pound in rhythm to her footsteps and she slowed to a shuffle.
An eternity of head splitting noise later, she collapsed to the ground. Why was she here? What was she meant to do? The thoughts disappeared into the drowning static of her current existence.
“Help, please”, she whispered, a plea she knew would not be heard, but she didn’t know what else to do. She felt as if the noise and pain would kill her.
“I can’t do it. I can’t.”
Tears flowed freely, both from the despair she felt and the pain in her head. She was about to give into the pain in hopes of dying, when the light hit her face. Her covered her eyes as a new wave of pain washed over her. Through the cacophony of her senses, she began to hear something else. A faint whisper reaching out to her, touching her mind.
She opened her eyes again and saw her pendant laying in front of her, the light once again reflecting from its surface. In the tiny lances of light, she could see the numbers and message once again.
“30.2203°N -90.0556°W Return home,” she whispered and repeated each time she saw the light carry it across her vision.
Like a mantra, she spoke the message again and again. She crawled toward the source of the light. The plants and brush thicker with each movement, tangling her hands and legs. Within moments, she became impossibly entangled in the vines. The more she struggled, the faster it caught her. The light disappeared, and she felt fear.
“No! I can’t breathe!” she gasped, but struggled in vain.
As soon as her vision went black, the world exploded out in front of her. The tree from her vision was before her, reaching into the earth and sky. She saw its roots and branches touch everything in the world. It was not just a tree, it was a nexus of all living things in the world. She looked all around her and saw the world as it was, and with her now a part of it. She was home.
She could see the rest of humanity collected in massive cities. They were suffocating behind the walls of their implanted minds, unable to hear the call to come home. A longing sadness filled her as she saw what humanity had become.
She awoke wrapped in a soft cocoon of vines which fell away as she arose. She pulled at a dense vine that was lodged into her implant. The vine came free, the sensation causing a momentary shudder.
She could hear a voice whispering in the breeze and rustle of the leaves. Nature found a way to integrate with technology. The world’s voice bypassed her implant and gave her the ability to hear it again. She thought of everyone who still wasn’t connected like she was, and the sadness welled up again.
“How do I help them?” she asked the world-voice. It answered.
She knew what she had to do. It was time to bring everyone home.

Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns

July 29 2021

Interview with Death – by Womby – narrated by Asclepius

Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with another great story from Womby, entitled

Interview with Death

Background music by Smartsound

It’s not often that I get to interview a genuine celebrity, but recently I heard that none other than Death himself was in New Britannia inspecting the ubiquitous resurrection ankhs scattered throughout the land. We caught up with Death and his lovely wife Morticia where they were staying at one of the delightful cottages in Kiln.

”Good afternoon, Death. First let me say what a rare privilege and honor it is to meet you.”

”Nonsense. I get to meet everyone eventually.”

”Quite. If it isn’t too much trouble, I’m sure my readers would greatly appreciate it if you could answer a few questions.”

”Sure, no problem. Ask away.”

”Many in New Britannia are curious as to why outlanders are apparently immortal. Frankly, they’re more than a little miffed about it. Is there anything you would like to say to put their minds at ease?”

”Ah yes. ‘Project Groundhog’ I call it. Technically they are not immortal. They die just like everyone else. The difference is that in their case they do it more often.”

”Oh, I see. But why?”

”The Oracle and I have a bet. She thinks that if outlanders are given multiple chances to correct their mistakes, they will eventually become virtuous. I disagree, so we have a little wager going. We’ve agreed to give each outlander a set time to become simultaneously virtuous in Truth, Love and Courage, and to facilitate that I have installed resurrection ankhs to bring them back to life every time they die before their time is up.”

”What exactly is the nature of this wager?”

”I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”

”Never mind, it’s not that important. On another subject, Rumor has it that you are contemplating retirement. Does this presage an imminent end to mortality?”

”You wish! No, my son will be taking over. A real go-getter that one. I’m sure he’ll be setting out to impress his old man and make a name for himself.”

”Hmm. Will that be happening any time soon?”

”Probably right after I win my bet with the Oracle. She’ll no doubt be somewhat annoyed with the avatars and withdraw her protection. That would be the ideal time for my son to take over.”

”Well, thank you so much for the interview. I hope you enjoy your stay in New Britannia.”

”No problem. I look forward to our next meeting.”


Echoes From the Caverns

Echoes From the Caverns