Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011: Dump Year in Review

Hobo Dan: So where the hell have we been? It’s been a busy fall, let me tell you. We organized a 5K run, attended some sort of gathering every weekend starting in mid-October, both have been sick (the Wife twice!), field dressed a cat, had another car problem (on the first day at my new job!), got a PS3, learned that my suit jacket (which I’ve had for two years) has real pockets and that they just sew them shut for packaging, avoided mowing the lawn one last time, fought with the Wife about jack-o-lanterns, fought with the Wife about everything else, apologized to the Wife about being wrong in all the fights, threw caution to the wind, had caution blown back in my face, ate a lot of holiday food and (if you can believe it) completely forgot/was too lazy to even think about blogging over the last few weeks. Our sincerest apologies.

The Wife: Again, sorry for the lack of posts as of late. Like many of you the holidays are an extremely busy time for us. Pesky sinus infections don't help with blogging either! First off, we've failed to review two awesome movies that we've seen this month. Sadly, our collective favorite movie of 2011 will not receive it's own separate review due to time constraints. But, we will discuss it briefly! I know, I know, you are BURSTING with anticipation!

The new Muppet movie, The Muppets, is without a doubt the BEST movie of the year! We saw this when I was feeling under the weather, but at the same time had cabin fever and desperately needed out of the house! Well, this film proved to be excellent medicine! It perked both of our spirits right up. Growing up always loving the Muppets, made the nostalgia of the movie particularly great. It even brought a few tears to my eyes when they sang the infamous "Rainbow Connection." So if you haven't yet done so, plan to see The Muppets! It delivers laughs and is just plain fun — something we all need every now and then! We also saw Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, and it too, did not disappoint. It was much like the first film, clever, witty and action packed. If you can't make it to the theatre to catch this flick, give it a view when it comes out on Blu-ray and DVD in a few months.

Hobo Dan: I was not kidding when I proclaimed on the Facebook that The Muppets is my favorite movie of 2011. There is nothing to dislike about this film. If you don’t like it, you have no soul. After a year of being beaten to a pulp by the economy and society and idiocy and reboots and sequels and everything else, The Muppets truly energized me and made me feel good, young and happy; even if for only a short time.

The Wife: We suppose we should discuss our Christmas celebrations too. As usual our holiday was great, despite the aforementioned pesky sinus infection. We both got a lot of great gifts, had fantastic food, including quite possibly the BEST turkey ever that WE cooked for Christmas Day dinner, and of course, enjoyed new and old traditions with family and friends. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Festivus, we hope your holidays were a blast!

So now for the burning was our 2011? Well it's been quite an interesting year filled with new events and exciting change. For a year that started rather rough, it has ended quite well for both of us. The beginning of 2011 was filled with too much snow (funny now that we are complaining about the lack of snow where we live...grass is always greener right?). The winter months also brought the start of our Best Picture Project. Yes, we know it's been quite awhile since we last did a BPP review, but don't fret, more will be coming your way in 2012! In March we had quite a bit of fun on St. Patrick's Day! Gimme Da Gold! Then spring time brought about Easter and of course, my (the wife) birthday celebrations! Yes, celebrations, plural. Didn't you hear? My birthday is basically a month long holiday. FACT. Thanks to Charlie Sheen's insanity of the year, the slogan of this year's birthday bash was "Winning" as the tiger blood runs deep within my veins! On the day of my party, we also ran a 5K together and I took home a first place win! With my win, I got a $50 gift card to can we say...wait for it...wait for it...WINNING!

The spring also brought a personal accomplishment for me as I finally scratched "run a half marathon" off my bucket list. I successfully completed the Flying Pig Half Marathon in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was a challenge, but a great experience. It provided me with a sense of accomplishment in regards to my running that I had not had since college. To read all about my experience, check out my half marathon post! While the spring did bring many positive moments, it also began the start of some very challenging months, which continued into the summer. The stressful time and late nights of work often put a strain on our sanity. To help ease the stress, we relaxed by seeing multiple movies over the summer. We also met one of my goals of 2011, a goal that I never really thought would come true! Yes, we visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida. Click here for a full recap of our magical experience. It was fitting that we got to visit the Wizarding World this year, as it was basically the summer of Harry Potter! While the books are my favorite, the Harry Potter film series will always hold a special place in my heart! Luckily I now own all of the films on Blu-ray, but it isn't the same knowing I won't get to anticipate a new movie anymore...that is until the emo reboot in twenty years. We also visited Walt Disney World, my favorite place on earth! Here you can find all of our mini summer vacation blogs. We can't forget that we also celebrated SHARK WEEK over the summer as know otherwise known as the greatest week in television.

The end of summer and beginning of fall started to bring many good things to the DUMP family. I accepted a new job, which I love, and the husband accepted a promotion about a month later! Now that we are adjusting to our new positions, we hopefully will get back into a regular blogging rhythm for 2012!

So that brings us here. Despite the challenges, I think 2011 proved to be quite a great year. We hope to make 2012 even better! As we mentioned previously, we saw several movies this year...some good and some bad. Below we will each rank our top five movies of 2011. If you would like to further discuss our choices or tell us yours, please comment!

The Wife:
1. The Muppets
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
3. Captain America
4. The Hangover Part II
5. X-Men: First Class

Hobo Dan:
1. The Muppets
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
3. Thor
4. Captain America
5. Sherlock Holmes

We wish you all a very happy, healthy and safe new year! Be sure to look for our first Movie Monday post of 2012, set to publish Jan. 2. We will be sharing our thoughts on the recently released The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Hobo Dan: And finally, because I know you all have been waiting patiently, the most viewed Dump the blog post of 2011 was... Statesticles with a huge 466 hits!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Relay: Episode 12

Season 1 final! Cliffhanger alert! Remember you can find all of the episodes here! Please let me know in the comments what you think of this episode and the combined work.  Thanks so much for reading. Enjoy! Also, more is coming, but you'll have to wait...

Episode 12

Julia moved quickly through the market, keeping low to avoid recognition. The mud made it difficult to advance too fast. She rounded a corner and snatched a piece of fruit from a vendors table before ducking into a near by ally. Thunder cracked high above; a storm. Julia caught her breath before continuing slowly down the ally. It soon opened into a wider walk way filled with trash and refugees. Julia looked up through the giant towers of Echelon to see heavy, dark clouds ready to burst. She turned down another ally and arrived home; a storage container made of sheet metal. Rain began to beat down. Julia hated being wet, but at least the rain muted the constant smell of garbage a bit. She knocked lightly on the door. Lilana opened it and Julia entered. She removed her soaked shoes and sat by a burning candle. Then she unloaded her pockets. Fruit of all kinds appeared from them. Lilana looked it all over.

“Fresh?” She asked.

“Most of it, yes.” Julia removed her hood and flipped her hair. Lilana smiled while gathering a few items for dinner. Julia removed the rest of her wet cloths and toweled off. She dressed in a long, hand stitched robe and approached a basket in the corner.

“And how are you today?” Julia reached into the basket and picked up a new born child.

“Pissy.” Lilana said.

“I really wish Byron wouldn’t teach you those words.” Julia held the child close. “Have you decided on a name yet?”

“No,” Lilana chopped the fruit. “I like Daniel. Byron says people will call Danny? Says knows too many douches called Danny?” The processed fruit entered a pot.

“Lilana, soon you and I are going to have a long chat about Byron’s vocabulary. I won’t have my nephew growing up calling everyone douches.” They both laughed. “How are you feeling today?”

“Better,” Lilana idly stirred the pot of fruit. “Still very sore.” Julia stood as someone knocked at the door. She passed the child to Lilana and cracked open metal panel acting as he door. Byron pushed his way in. He sat a pack on the floor and kissed Lilana.

“Byron?” Julia said condescendingly as she inspected the contents of the pack. “Did you forget something?”

“No. I went to the medical bay. Dr. Riley hasn’t been seen in three weeks! They told me if we wanted anymore meds you and Lilana would have to come in person.” Byron took the baby from Lilana and rocked it in his arms.

“Both of us in person?” Julia tossed the pack aside. “Not a risk we can afford.”

“Sis, it’s been six months. Maybe it’s safe. He’s never made a move on me.”

“He wants both of us. Killing you would only push me further into hiding.” Julia paused. “This just feels like a trap.” She sat on her bedding and thought. What would Avery do here? Nothing came to mind.

The next morning, Julia left early. Her daily routine involved visiting three or four open air markets. They were all situated at the bases of the huge towers of Echelon. She tried to avoid the same market two days in a row as she went about her looting. The vendors never noticed the small amount of food she stole. It had rained all night long. The streets were a slick mess and very few shoppers were about. The small crowds made Julia more noticeable. She had a feeling today would be a lean one.

The first market yielded nothing. Julia moved quickly to the next one. A small horde of creatures milled about the shops there, so Julia moved closer. She walked by a vendor sitting cross legged on the ground. She walked by him again and noticed he wore dark glasses like those of a blind man. On her third pass she attempted to get his attention with a wave. He did not respond. Julia went around the market again, returning to this man’s shop after some fifteen minutes. His wares were strewn out on blankets in front of him. A tarp hung from some poles protecting it all from the rain. The man himself had long pointed ears and an odd protrusion from his chin. Other than that and his gaunt frame, he seemed quite human. Julia took a deep breath and reached for a small cucumber looking vegetable.

“Stop.” The man said. He did not move. Julia froze and thought of something to say for cover.

“How much?” Julia had no money. The man reached out and grabbed Julia’s arm. His cold skin took Julia’s breath.

“That is my lunch.” He let go of her arm. “You seek Mabry.”

“What? How do you know that?” Julia stepped back and scanned the area for Wasalt.

“You told me.” The old man smiled. “Please, sit with me under the tarp.” Julia cautiously sat by the old man.

“Have we met?”

“Just now. I am Jon.” Jon poured a hot liquid from a pot into a ceramic cup and handed it to Julia. “Mabry is hard to find, but not impossible.”

“You know him?”

“No.” Jon poured himself some of the hot drink. “I know because you told me so. Your touch.”

“How do I find him?”

“The natives know where he is. One visited me last week. When we shook hands he told me so. I think he regret it.” Jon sipped the drink. Julia drank as well. The warmth of the liquid rushed through her.

“What are the natives?” Julia felt much better after the drink.

“The native people of Echelon.” Jon said flatly.

“I thought they were all dead.”

“That’s what Eada would like you to believe.” Jon sat down his cup. “The natives are alive and walk among us. They continue to grow in numbers and plot to take back their world. Mabry works with them, I think. That is what the native man believed at least.”

“He told you this?”

“No, I felt it. I feel many things.” Jon took Julia’s hand again. This time it was warm. “Seek my good friend Naz-ark. He knows where to find natives. You can find him in tower 38, level 101.” Jon released her hand and seemed to stare into space. Julia stood and stepped back out into the rain.

“You love him.” Jon said.

“Who?” Julia gasped.

“You know.” Jon sat quietly and answered no more questions. Julia walked slowly through the rain. She passed shop after shop, but had no energy to steal food. As people crossed in front of her she scanned their faces for Wasalt. She hadn’t seen him since their medical bay escape. Dr. Riley’s information seemed to be true, Wasalt did not venture down to the slums. Julia began to think over what Jon just said about natives. Bullshit or truth? She had trouble believing an old man on the streets could know such things. Then again, he knew about Mabry. She lost focus and ran into the back of a large alien. It cussed her and went on with its day. As it moved away Julia’s eyes focused on a man across the market. Avery? In the blink of an eye he vanished. Julia ran to where she saw him standing. Nothing. She twirled around and around looking for him. She even went so far as to shout his name once. Gone, if he was ever there at all. Her imagination? She thought again about what Jon said.

Before going home empty handed Julia stopped by an information kiosk. She accessed the city map. Tower 38 was the same tower as the medical bay. Level 101 had to be very close to the level they arrived on. It was most certainly up in the relay districts. On floor 101 a single room was leased to a Naz-ark. That room contained a relay. Julia thought it was very odd that someone could lease a relay room.

Julia took cover from the rain under a crudely constructed metal shelter and weighed her options. Stay on Echelon indefinitely and hide from Wasalt or use the advice of the old man and seek out this Naz-ark. When she put it that way it seemed clear. Hiding from Wasalt would get her no closer to Mabry or Alexandria. The rain continued to beat on the metal shelter and Julia thought about Avery. As the incident slipped into the past, Julia became less sure she actually saw him. Why would she want to see him? Why would he want to seek her out? The rain let up. Julia began to trek home. As she did, she confirmed in her mind that they had to take this chance to find Mabry. She decided they would drop Lilana and the baby off at the doctor for a check up. Then Byron and herself would find Naz-ark and question him about the natives and Mabry. Julia explained this to Byron and Lilana when she arrived home and they set out for tower 38 within the hour.

Lilana was just happy to get out and see the world. Since their arrival and her pregnancy she had mostly been confined to the small storage container they called home. She cradled her unnamed child as they walked among the shoppers and merchants toward tower 38. Her comprehension of things had improved since meeting Byron and Julia, but she still could not understand how people could build such tall structures like the towers of Echelon. Byron seemed happy that Julia agreed to take herself and Lilana to the doctor. Julia cautiously lead them into the tower lobby and onto the elevator. Her heart began to pound as other aliens flooded into it with them. This would be perfect conditions for an ambush. They arrived on the medical floor and found their way to the doctor’s office without incident. Julia kept her eyes on the crowd just outside the medical bay doors as Byron spoke with a purple doctor.

“Sis?” Byron gently took Julia’s arm. “You first. I’ll keep a look out. When you’re done they will check Lilana and the baby. We can go to Naz-ark’s then.” Julia shook her head and entered the curtained area with the purple doctor. The exam was quick and to Julia’s surprise the doctor did not even have to touch her. It was all done with gadgets and scanners. He gave her a clean bill and sent her out. Lilana and Byron kissed and then Byron kissed the baby before Lilana vanished behind the curtain. Byron and Julia turned and made for level 101. A hooded figure watched them leave, but instead of following, it entered the medical bay and made for Lilana’s curtain.

Julia and Byron made their way back to the elevator and traveled up a few more floors to get to level 101. They were high enough now that the building’s windows became more open. Byron hated being this high up and hated even more being able to fully view it. Julia quickly checked the registry and found the name Naz-ark attached to unit 42. Byron watched for blue colored people while Julia counted door numbers. Traffic was light, but they traveled against it, which made for the occasional awkward moment with any number of strange creatures. After walking further than either of them were comfortable with, they reached door number 42. They stood in silence for a moment.

“Do we knock?” Byron asked.

“I don’t know, is there a doorbell?” Julia stepped towards the door and it whooshed open. She jumped back, startled. Inside was a small room very similar to the one they landed in when they arrived. At the back of the room hovered a relay ring. Julia and Byron entered.

“Hello?” Julia said, not that there was anywhere for someone to be hiding in the small square room.

“Hello.” This voice came from behind them. They both whirled around to see Wasalt standing behind them. He held a small pistol in hand. “I’d grown inpatient. Mabry wasn’t sure you’d make it here,” Wasalt smiled. “I’m glad you did. He pays very well for completed tasks.”

“Listen buddy,” Bryon stepped forward. Wasalt raised the pistol and shot Byron. The bullet put a small hole just above his right eye. Julia screamed but before she could go to her brother’s side, Wasalt pointed the gun at her. She stopped and watched as Byron stumbled forward and then backwards. Then he fell back so far his arms reached through the relay ring at the back of the room. A quick flash of light later and Byron’s body was gone. Julia, shocked, began to cry. A crowd formed outside the room, no one stepped forward to help.

“Just do it!” Julia screamed at Wasalt. He aimed, but just before he could apply the proper amount of pressure to the trigger, a hooded man came rushing through the crowd. He yelled Julia’s name just before tackling Wasalt. The two wrestled on the floor as Julia stood in shock. Wasalt punched the hood off the man, revealing Avery’s bloodied face. Avery took a swipe at the gun in Wasalt’s hand, but missed. Wasalt kicked Avery down and took aim at Julia again.

“Julia! Go!” Avery screamed as he took out Wasalt’s knee. “Through the relay! I’ll find you! Go!” Wasalt pulled the trigger as he fell and white hot pain shot through Julia’s arm. He was off the mark. She turned and leapt for the relay. As she passed through the ring she tried to concentrate on her clothes as the white light surrounded her and took her away.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Top Ten Christmas Movies

The Wife: Well here we are once again...It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year! Merry Christmas everyone! Sorry for our lack of Monday posts and movie reviews, it has been quite a busy fall for us! To make up for that we have an early holiday gift for you, our Top Ten Christmas Movies! These are the films we like to watch over and over and over and OVER again every holiday season!

Please note that all of these movies are so close, and with the exception of numbers one through three, it was very hard to rank them! So let's get started, shall we?

10. Die Hard — YES THIS DOES SO COUNT! Die Hard is a movie set at Christmas that brings the awesomeness of Bruce Willis and Carl a COP, of course! This film also has a young Snape in it. Basically Bruce Willis saves Christmas just like Rocky defeated communism. Win!

9. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (cartoon) — You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch! This flick doesn't need an explanation. I have watched this every Christmas since I was a tot!

8. The Santa Clause 2 — Not as good as the original, but still cute and funny. It just "feels" like Christmas in this movie and Tim Allen once again shines as Santa. This film paints a perfect picture of how I always dreamed the North Pole would look like as kid.

7. Jingle All the Way — I seriously LOVE this movie. I don't get the hate it tends to receive. I think Sinbad is hilarious in it and I love how it realistically portrays the crazy greed that the holiday season brings. Not to mention this movie is so unintentionally funny, and that makes it even more awesome! You would think that they would have given Arnold's kid in the movie a name that he could pronounce. Instead they named the kid Jamie, which sounds like "Chamie" in Arnold speak. "Chamie, get ya muddah on da phone please!" I would say that the little boy who plays Jamie is the only annoying aspect of this movie. George Lucas, did you not bother to watch this movie before casting this kid as a young Anakin Skywalker?

6. The Santa Clause — I wish I could put this movie higher on the list because I love it so much, but alas, I can't have a tie. As I mentioned earlier, Tim Allen is awesome in The Santa Clause movies. I credit this film for making me spell "Santa Claus" wrong for SEVERAL years. It also taught me that hot cocoa tastes best when "shaken, not stirred." The Santa Clause is simply wonderful. It's kid friendly, but has jokes that adults can enjoy too. As a child I was fiercely defensive when it came to the question of Santa's existence, so much so that I would argue with kids at school about it. I WANTED to believe and wasn't ready to let the magic of Christmas go. That's why I love this movie; it shows you that you can "believe" in Santa at any age. "Seeing isn't believing, believing is seeing."

5. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York — I absolutely LOVE this movie! When I was younger I preferred this over the original, however, due to nostalgia and my "older" taste, the first Home Alone is now my favorite. However, this movie is almost just as good. I credit Home Alone 2 for beginning my obsession with New York City. I still have yet to experience NYC at Christmas time, but it is on my list of things to do. Sure, people gripe that it's a carbon copy of the original movie mixed with more harmful traps, but I say why ruin a good thing? Home Alone 2 delivers just as many laughs and of course, gives you that warm and fuzzy Christmas feeling.

4. Elf — How can you not LOVE this movie? I could watch Elf year round! I love Will Ferrell and I love Christmas, so this is the perfect combination! Along with my sister-in-law, I can pretty much quote this movie word for word. Elf is a hilarious, fun Christmas movie. In fact, it has become our traditional movie of choice when we celebrate Christmas with the husband's dad and stepmom. "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!"

3. Home Alone — Another favorite and probably one of my most constantly watched movies during the Christmas season. I LOVE Home Alone! This movie never gets old and I still laugh now just as much as I did when I first watched this at age five. I come from a rather large extended family, so it always reminds me of that. It also feels "Christmasy," so that's another reason why it's so good. When I watch Home Alone I find it necessary to have "a lovely cheese pizza just for me." I also always question if Kevin ever ate that awesome looking macaroni and cheese after his defeat of the wet bandits. Watching in 2011, I love noticing how dated this movie is and I love knowing that it couldn't be duplicated in the technology-savvy world we live in now. Home Alone simply makes me happy and it's not Christmas until I've watched this over and over, yes, and OVER again!

2. A Christmas Story — Many of you might be shocked that this isn't number one, but believe me it comes in at a very CLOSE SECOND to the number one Christmas movie. Again, I LOVE THIS MOVIE! A Christmas Story is just one of those classics that never gets old. It has so many great scenes and it's not Christmas until I watch this. While I own this movie, I still make sure I tune my television to 24 Hours of A Christmas Story starting on Christmas Eve evening. The dad is probably my favorite character. "Fra-gi-layyyy, must be Italian!" So many other great quotes come from this film as well. I love little brother Randy, especially when he is dressed in his snowsuit and "can't put his arms down!" Ralphie and his quest to get his perfect Christmas present, a Red Ryder carbine action two-hundred shot range model air riffle, is classic! It reminds us of when we were little and desperately wanted our perfect Christmas present. The Christmas dinner at the Chinese restaurant is, of course, one of the best scenes. So politically incorrect, but hey, that makes it all the more funny. "Ra Ra Ra Ra!" I want a leg's a major award!

1. Christmas Vacation — If you know me or my family at all this shouldn't come as a surprise! Christmas Vacation is my absolute favorite Christmas movie of all time! It's hilarious and every year it just gets better and better! I always feel like I notice something new and funny with each viewing. Much like the jelly of the month club, my family quotes this movie all year because it is the gift that keeps on giving the whole year! Our quote fest really heats up on Thanksgiving! Clark Griswold's quest to have the perfect fun-old-fashioned-family-Christmas and all the obstacles it takes to achieve this equals awesome comedy. Cousin Eddie is at his best in this movie as well! To keep the blog clean, I won't do Eddie's famous quote from Christmas Vacation, but I am sure all you Christmas Vacation fans know it by heart! Clark's angry rants are another great aspect of this film. I should also mention that I love Rusty's facial expressions throughout this entire movie (by the way Big Bang Theory fans, Rusty is a young Leonard!). Aunt Bethany and Uncle Lewis are great too as are all the grandparents! Christmas Vacation gives me that holiday feel with laughter and, like many other movies on this list, it wouldn't be the holiday season without watching it several times. "And WHY is the carpet all wet, Todd?!" "I DON'T KNOW, MARGO!"

Before this post is wrapped like a perfect Christmas present, here are some honorable mentions: The Polar Express, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, A Muppet Christmas Carol, It's A Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, Holiday in Handcuffs (yes, I know this is an ABC Family Original...but it's really cute), The Preacher's Wife and Merry Christmas Charlie Brown.

There are several other Christmas movies that I love, but it could take forever to mention them! Let us know your favorite Christmas movies! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Relay: Episode 11

Episode 11
Julia landed softly on a glossy white floor. It was so clean she could see her refection in it. She was not pleased with the sight. She was pleased to be fully dressed. Byron landed beside her and caught Lilana before she landed belly first beside him. They were in a relatively small room with one dark entry arch. A strange glow illuminated the room; none of them could locate an obvious source. Julia fought off the urge to vomit and stood. Byron helped Lilana to her feet. They all looked at the arch way as a light began to materialize before it. Soon they realized it was the form of a person. Byron wanted to comment on how Star Trek it all was, but didn’t. The image formed into a generic woman. It did not necessarily resemble a human or any other race, but seemed female.
“Welcome to Echelon.” It spoke in a soft monotone voice. “Is this your first visit to our world?”
“Yes, it is.” Julia said in wonder.
“Excellent! My name is Eada and I will be your guide for the next few hours.” Eada turned and the dark arch blinked open. At first the light blinded them. As they adjusted a massive city stretched out before them. Towers of the city reached high enough to touch the dark blue clouds. They themselves seemed to be on a very high level of a tall sky scraper. Small vehicles zipped and zoomed in between the towers like lightning. Directly beyond the arch, beings of all kinds came and went along walk ways wrapped around the tower. Some were following holograms like Eada. Others were alone and seemed eager to get places.
“Echelon is considered the core relay world. It is estimated one in every forty relay jumps leads you to Echelon. Echelon also contains the highest concentration of relay entrances and exits of any yet discovered world. Echelon is home to the Trans-Relay Trade Union and the main recruiting center for Vanguard. Any questions so far?”
“I have one.” Byron studied Eada. “This exit relay is way up in this tall building. What happened before the tower was built?”
“A common question. Prior to the establishment of the collection towers, a great many visitors to Echelon perished as a result of the long drop to the planet’s floor. The now extinct native population of Echelon built the first pillars reaching up to the relays. Several memorials have been erected to remember those who died from such bad luck.”
“Bad luck…” Byron said. “How high are we?”
“Judging by your language, dialect and tone I estimate you originate from Relay 11281984. Locally known as Earth?” Eada stood plainly without inflection. Byron shook his head yes. “Using your system of measurements, that puts us 8708 feet or 2654.21 meters above surface.”
“That’s over a mile…” Byron took Lilana’s hand. “I hate heights.”
“I have taken the opportunity to scan your vitals.” Eada began again. “You are all malnourished and the young lady is carrying a fetus. Might I suggest your first stop be the medical bay?”
“That sounds like a good idea Eada, thank you.” Julia put on a fake smile.
“Excellent, follow me.” They all followed Eada as she floated out of the small room and began down the walk way. Byron was very carful to stay close to the wall, staying far away from the edge of the building even though there was a guard rail. The horizon was filled with other towers. Many of them flashed time and time again as more travelers arrived on Echelon. Byron thought they looked like bulb flashes at the super bowl half-time show. Lilana grew a smile at the wonders beheld. Never in her wildest dreams could she have imagined such a place. Julia followed behind, seemingly oblivious to everything around. Her mind remained elsewhere. Eada lead them to an elevator and they all packed in with a variety of other strange creatures. The door to the elevator almost shut when a blue hand thrust its way through to stop closure. The rest of the blue figure pulled the door back open and stuffed into the chamber. The figure flashed a toothy grin at Julia from under his hood. Then doors shut and the elevator began to descend.
Seconds past and the doors reopened. Julia never felt movement. Eada moved off the elevator and they followed. Julia noticed the blue man also exited on this floor. He quickly disappeared into a crowd. This level of the tower was much more closed off from the outside. Only a few windows reminded them they were still hundreds of feet in the sky. The halls of this space were wide and filled with beings from every corner of the relays. Eada lead them through all of this and down a long hall. They eventually reached glass double doors which whooshed open to reveal the medical bay. The area was full of curtains. Eada took them all to their own curtained off area before disappearing without notice. Moments later a tall yellow skin creature fumbled through the curtains opening. It had a small beak for a nose wore a white lab coat.
“Afternoon,” it said in perfect English. “I’m Doctor Riley and Eada tells me you have just arrived. I’ve looked over the scans she did. I bet you’re all really hungry?”
“Very, now that you mention it.” Julia realized just how little they’d all eaten other the three week boat journey.
“Understandable.” Doctor Riley sat on a stool. “I would like to examine her.” He pointed at Lilana. “Jumping can be tough on the unborn.”
“What are you going to do?” Lilana said. Julia and Byron stood dumbfounded. How could she have learned their language so quickly?
“Just a routine check up. I gather you didn’t get many of those on your world?”
“No, not really.” Lilana stopped. “How do you understand me?”
“Ha! Eada forgot to mention the translator!” Doctor Riley laughed. “That explains the white faces of your friends here then. These curtained off areas offer a small translation zone. It’s all very complicated but it basically manipulates sound waves.”
“It only works in here?” Lilana seemed depressed.
“You can buy portable versions, but they are rather expensive.” Riley took out a handheld scanning device. “Would you two step out for a moment while I look her and the baby over?” He looked at Julia and Byron. Julia stepped out of the curtain. Byron went to follow but Lilana clutched his hand before he could.
“He can stay; I’d like to talk to him a bit before we have to leave the translator.” Lilana smiled at Byron. Outside Julia stood watching all the other curtains. Figures moved around behind them. She began to think about Wesley and Avery. The whole turn of events happened so fast. It almost seemed like a dream. This seemed like a dream. She hugged herself as she realized how cold the air was. Julia turned and looked out the door of the medical bay and spotted the blue man. They made eye contact quickly before he ducked away around the corner. She knew he’d been watching her. Julia walked across isle to an empty curtain and hide inside. She pulled it open just slightly so she could see the entrance of the medical bay. After a few moments the blue man returned. He moved slowly by the door and looked in. Not seeing Julia anywhere he passed inside and took a seat in the waiting area. Julia stood back from the curtain and breathed heavily. Adrenaline began to pump through her veins as she realized this man was after them. She needed to get back to Byron and Lilana without being seen.
Julia looked out the curtain again. The blue man was looking at a magazine. She stepped out the back of the curtain and dropped to the floor. She crawled across the floor to the other side and stood behind the curtain. She checked to see the man, who was still looking at the magazine and then ducked back into the curtain. She found Byron and Lilana passionately kissing. Doctor Riley sat on his stool. He looked at Julia and rolled his eyes. Julia cleared her throat.
“All done here?” Julia glared at Byron. He jerked up and looking embarrassed.
“Everything looks good with Lilana and the baby.” Byron said. Lilana just smiled an held Byron’s hand.
“Good. Doctor Riley, is there a back entrance to this place?” Julia feigned calm.
“There is, but it’s employees only. Is something wrong?” Riley stood.
“We are being followed. A blue man in the waiting room.” Riley walked out of the curtain and looked into the waiting room. He checked a chart at another curtain and walked back to them.
“That is Wasalt! Are you sure he is following you?” Riley seemed very concerned.
“I’m sure of it.”
“Eada?” The doctor spoke into thin air. “Eada?” He growled. “As I feared, Wasalt must have hacked Eada to find you. It seems you are right.”
“Who is he?” Byron said as he snuck a look at Wasalt.
“Wasalt is an assassin. A hired gun. If he is after you there is only one reason for it.” Riley took a handheld device out of his pocket. He furiously typed on its screen until he was satisfied. Then made an upward pulling motion with his fingers and a map was projected from the screen into 3D space. “We are here.” He pointed. “This is the back door and the nearest elevator is here. Your best bet is to head for the slums on the city floor. It’s easy to hide down there and a lot of people know and dislike Wasalt. Another option is to head up and grab a relay off world. I’ll go cause a distraction while you get away.” Riley produced a vial of dark green liquid from an over head cabinet and drank it down. His face cringed at the taste.
“You’re too kind.” Julia kissed Doctor Riley on the cheek.
“I wish I could do more.” Doctor Riley left the curtain and marched to the waiting room. Julia watched as he approached Wasalt and began to speak with him. Wasalt seemed to be telling to Doctor he was just waiting for someone and did not need any assistance. Then without warning Doctor Riley keeled over and began to violently vomit in Wasalt’s lap. The green liquid had done its job. Wasalt jumped from the chair and began to rage at Doctor Riley. He wiped the regurgitation off and looked back through the infirmary. The curtain Julia, Byron and Lilana had been in was drawn back and empty.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Relay: Episode 10

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope it's a great holiday for you! Please don't fall asleep while reading from all the Turkey. Only two episodes left!

Episode 10
Avery woke to the sweet sound of Julia’s laughter. Before opening his eyes he let her voice pass over and through him. A smile slid across his face. The smile subsided when he did open his eyes and saw the source of her laughter; Wesley leaned in close to her ear muttering something. Avery shifted his weight and grimaced in pain. The last of Lilana’s salve had completely healed the arrow wound. Unfortunately it failed to remove the arrow head lodged underneath. He laid back and felt warm noon sunlight upon his face. After three days of darkness, the river tunnel gushed into a deep ravine. The sky and clouds were all visible through the narrow opening at the top of the ravine high above. The shear cliffs all around prevented them from going anywhere but down stream. Almost a week had now passed since their escape from the ruined city.
In the other boat, Byron sat in the stern dutifully guiding the rudder to keep them off the walls of the ravine. Lilana sat in the middle eating some sort of canned meat they managed to snatch from the metal shed just before escaping. Avery had yet to eat on this trip. The combination of the arrowhead and the rocking boats made him sick and irritable. Wesley made his way to the middle of the boat and began to inspect the lashings holding the two crafts together. Julia sat back and seemed to fall asleep. Avery looked up at Wesley and opened his big fat mouth.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“I’m checking the lashing so Byron and Lilana don’t suddenly float away.” Wesley shook off the rudeness. Avery had been most foul since the arrow wound.
“No mate, I mean with Julia.” Avery sat up. “The flirting and the hand holding; you realize you’re just leading her on, right?”
“I don’t think it’s leading her on when I feel the same way Avery.”
“Prick.” Avery looked him in the eyes. “You know at some point you and Julia will be separated. She saw you on earth. So do her a favor and don’t get attached. It will only make it harder when you’re gone.”
“You’re out of line Avery. For all we know she could have been there too, just not with me at that moment. There is no way to know…”
“Out of line? There is no ‘line’ on the relay, only chaos.” Avery moved again and grunted in pain.
“That’s enough.” Julia said from behind them. Avery’s face went white. “Avery, this subject is none of your business. You think this idea hasn’t crossed my mind?” At this point everyone in the boats turned an ear to listen. “I’ve chosen to take the risk. So please just leave it!” Avery shook his head and climbed into the other boat. He sat at the front and played look out for Byron. Wesley returned to sitting beside Julia. Lilana aimed a questioning shrug of her shoulders at Byron who, used to seeing men fight over his sister, just hoped that was the end of it as he steered the boats around a tight bend in the river.
As the sun began to set that evening, Avery took control of steering from Byron. Wesley and Julia sat in the front of their boat to spot for Avery. Lilana and Byron slept as best as possible in the small life boats. With the suns light gone, the ravine became cold and soon Julia moved as close to Wesley as she could get.
“Do we have any chance to catch Mabry?” She asked him.
“I think so. He does have a weeks lead on us, but he is alone and has to stop to sleep. We don’t.” Wesley put his arm around her for warmth. Avery, watching from the stern, spit into the river and pleaded with unknown deities for tobacco to appear before him. It did not. That night grew into a new day and repeated the cycle. Two weeks quickly passed without incident or sign of Mabry. Around noon at the end of the third week on the river, Byron stood to stretch. He considered jumping in the water to cool off and relieve himself when he spotted another boat. It was pulled up onto a sandy shore; empty. He alerted the others and they slowly guided the boats to this shore and got out. Remnants of a fire still smoked a few feet from the waterline. Byron helped Lilana out of the boat and for the first time noticed her pregnancy showing. Avery inspected the rocks around the area and soon found a path into the ravine wall. They all began to hike up this trail. Avery began seeing foot prints and picked up the pace. He soon went to an all out run. He seemed to feel something the rest of them did not.
Avery soon gapped the others as he ran. The trail wound up and down through the rock. Avery pushed harder until he whizzed under a low hanging wall and arrived in a large open to the sky cavern. At the far end of the chamber sat a relay ring. Walking towards the ring was a man dressed in a dark brown robe; hood up. Avery began to run wildly after him. The man heard his foot steps turned removing his hood as he did.
“Avery!” Mabry sounded almost happy to see him. Avery ignored the greeting and continued the sprint. Mabry held out his hand. The relay behind him began to glow white. Quickly a beam of white light shot out from the relay and pulsed through Mabry. The light rushed through his out stretched arm and began to form a bubble around Mabry. This all happened so fast Avery had no time to stop himself before hitting the bubble. He smashed against the wall of light and it threw him backwards. Avery landed on his back, nose bleeding, head thumping.
“I really wish you’d be civil.” Mabry dropped his hand and the shield dissipated. “You look rough.”
“MABRY!” This scream came from Julia who had just entered the cavern and was running to join them. The others followed. Julia bypassed Avery still on the ground and got right in Mabry’s face. “Where is Alexandria? Where is she!”  Mabry grabbed her arm before it struck his face and began to twist it in hand. Wesley stepped forward to stop it but suddenly could not move. Mabry twisted Julia’s arm behind her back, bringing her to her knees.
“Julia. It has been a while.” He looked at Wesley, still unable to move. Mabry smiled at him before noticing Byron and Lilana. “Byron! No need to freeze you I guess. You never stood up for her before, why would you now?” Byron said nothing. Mabry pulled Julia to her feet. “Are you traveling with this man?” He pointed to Avery still sorting out his thoughts.
“I am. He’s been a great help.” Julia could smell Mabry’s rank breath. “Please, tell me where Alex is!”
“You never were a very good judge of character Julia. I suppose Avery told you little to nothing about himself. I can oblige. Did he tell you he too is, or was, a follower of Ullur, as I am? Did he tell you he worked as my closest confidant for years? He is a murderous, thieving, traitorous, world killer!”
“Can you say any better of yourself?” Julia replied. Mabry smiled to himself.
“No, I can’t. But the only thing you two have in common is a hatred of me.”
“Seemed to be enough up to this point.” Julia wriggled her arm free and moved back to stand with Wesley. “Just tell me where Alex is and we will leave you alone.”
“Alex is safe.” Mabry looked them over. “I can’t say the same for you. Goodbye.” Mabry winked at Julia as the relay began to spew white light once again. The light engulfed Mabry and then in a flash he was gone and the relay sat dormant. Avery climbed to his feet and tired to talk to Julia but she would have none of it.
“Julia please let me explain!” Avery seized Julia’s arm, spinning her around. Wesley separated them and pushed Avery away.
“She doesn’t want to hear it Avery.” He commanded.
“She needs to.” Avery said flatly as he stepped forward again. Wesley pushed him back with more force this time. “Wesley this doesn’t concern you.” Wesley shoved him back once more.
“If it concerns Julia It concerns me!” He stepped into Avery’s face. “She doesn’t want to see you right now so back away!” He pushed Avery, knocking him to the ground. Avery’s face went red with rage. He jumped up and ran at Wesley putting his shoulder forward and slamming into him. Wesley flew backwards and before anyone could catch him, he ran into the relay ring. His midsection leveraged on the ring, flipping him through. The relay flashed and Wesley was gone. Julia stood stunned. Avery approached her but she backed away. She began to cry.
“Julia I… I didn’t mean…” Avery had nothing.
“Tell Byron what we need to know to travel alone. He, Lilana and I will be going forward without you.” Julia walked to the relay and sat beside it. Byron walked up to Avery and put an arm around him.
“Sorry man, she’s the boss.”
“It’s okay Byron.” Avery turned and walked away from where Julia sat. “To keep your clothes just concentrate on them. The moment you pass your hand through the relay is the most important part. Focus on your clothes and you’ll keep them. That’s as simple as I can make it.”
“What about following Mabry?” Byron looked back at Julia who was being comforted by Lilana.
“Now that he knows we are after him, there is no way to track him with the relays. He’s far too powerful.” Avery put out his hand for Byron, who shook it. “Tell her I’m sorry and I can explain.”
“You think I can get through to her?” Byron laughed. “If she listened to a damned thing I said we would be home having never met you.”
“I’m glad she didn’t listen to you.” Avery turned and walked away from the relay and his companions. The pit of his stomach turned. Avery felt sick and alone. A few moments later he saw the tell tale flash of light and when he turned, they were gone.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Relay: Episode 9

Episode 9
Wesley knelt beside Quincy’s body. It looked no different from its living form, save the large gash in his throat. Wesley repositioned Quincy’s arms to form an across his body and gently pulled his eye lids shut. Lilana sobbed in fear on Byron’s shoulder. Julia stood quietly next to Avery, who seemed unfazed by the death. The torch, which turned out to be an old florescent beacon, poured harsh artificial light over the events. It provided luminance in a very small radius around them. Beyond its glow the darkness was absolute. Wesley blinked away some tears before standing to speak to Avery.
“What happened?”
“When I landed the light was on. I waited for Lilana like as discussed and when she arrived we swam for the light.” Avery looked at the body. “I got close enough to see the bank of the lake before the light shut off. I double timed it to the shore and felt my way up here. I found the switch to the torch; that’s when I found Quincy’s body, he was already dead.”  Wesley put his hand behind his head and sighed.
“Help me carry him to the water for burial?”
“Don’t you drink and get food out of that lake?” Avery questioned.
“The eels will take care of the body. It’s how we dispose of the dead here.” Wesley took Quincy’s head and Avery his feet. They slowly made their way down the narrow steps of the ruined building to the city floor. They walked the body to the shore and stood on the high embankment they all climbed moments earlier. Wesley did not hesitate to swing the body into the water. He and Avery retreated back to the roof top. Quincy’s body began to sink into the cold water; soon the eels would come to consume it. Wesley sat in shock underneath the torch controls. Everyone one remained quiet to respect his feelings. Avery constantly peered out into the dark city, attempting to see something. It was an utter failure. Lilana, finally calm, sat beside Byron shaking in her cold wet clothes. Julia wanted to say comforting things to Wesley, but she had none.
“Alright Wesley, enough!” Avery stood at Wesley’s feet. “We need to move! What ever killed Quincy is most likely still here.” Wesley just looked up at Avery with disgust. “This is not a safe place. You said so yourself!”
“Wesley,” Julia broke in. “He’s right.” Wesley met Julia’s eyes and shook his head.
“Okay. Yeah, okay.” Wesley pulled himself up. “Down stairs there should be a room with flashlights and a map. The guards use this building to store survival items incase they’d ever get stranded. We need to get those things before we leave.”
“Excellent, take Byron and get them. We will meet you on floor level.” Avery took lead of Julia and Lilana, who followed him into the darkness. Byron slapped Wesley on the shoulder.
“Lead on then!” He said and Wesley walked forward. They stopped on the second level of the building and passed through a dark doorway. Wesley quickly disappeared into the room, Byron soon found himself alone by the door. He noted the extreme silence of this place. A light flashed in his eyes and Wesley returned with the flashlights, three of them.
“The batteries are probably not full. We should only use them when absolutely necessary.” Wesley made for the door. From the darkness behind them the sound of shattering glass sliced through the quiet. Byron nearly jumped into Wesley’s arms.
“What the hell was that?” Byron composed himself and realized he looked ridiculous so close to Wesley. “Sorry, don’t tell Julia?”
“Sure.” Wesley flicked on the flashlight and peered down its beam. There was no pronounced explanation for the sound. “How about we meet up with the others and get moving?” Byron was already out the door and heading down the steps. He attempted to approach the others confidently. Avery saw right through it.
“Please tell me you didn’t shit your bloody pants?”
“Shut up Avery.” Byron said as he stomped by him and took hold of Lilana’s hand tightly. Wesley followed close behind and came to stand beside Julia.
“We are being watched.” He handed Avery a flashlight. “Two of the creatures are watching us; likely the ones who killed Quincy. As long as our numbers are more than theirs we should be okay.” Julia stepped closer to Wesley as she scanned the area. Avery groaned.
“Can we just get going? Where’s that map?” Wesley held out the map to Avery who snatched it from his hands, clicked on the light and studied it. “Seems simple enough, I’m guessing it’s not?”
“A long walk through a dark ruined city? What could go wrong?” Wesley smiled as Julia snickered just a little. “Shall we?” Avery took the lead and they began to walk due south from the lake side building. The light from the beacon remained highly visible. From what they could see of it, the ruined city looked very much like what Julia and Byron knew from Earth. Derelict vehicles sat along the street. There were even signs of a sewer system. Rubble from fallen structures blocked their path occasionally, but for the most part the path was easy treading. Byron stumbled a few times on large rocks in the street, which made Lilana laugh. She laughed ever more when he swore under his breath. He had no idea if she understood him. The fourth time he tripped he actually fell, taking Lilana with him. Avery marched to them and helped her up.
“Do you think you could be more careful?” He grabbed Byron’s hand and pulled him up with much less care than he did for Lilana. “Just pick up your feet, you walk like you’re ice skating.”
“Sorry.” Byron smiled at Lilana who was obviously holding back laughter. Avery muttered in a foreign language and return to the lead. Julia slapped Byron on the back of the head and smiled.
“Be good brother.” She whispered. Julia looked back to smile at Wesley. Wesley was not smiling. His eyes were fixed upon a point in the darkness. Julia looked, but saw nothing. Avery noticed they were not moving and spun around to scold them all. Before he could, he also caught a glimpse of what had captured Wesley’s gaze. Marching slowly through the darkness, a large group of creatures made their way toward them. They made no sound. Avery aimed his light at them. The ugly, short creatures wailed. Their heads resembled hairless dogs with long sharp teeth. Their bodies looked like mere skeletons wearing loose grey skin. Avery turned to the others and shouted.
“We need to go!” They all agreed and began to run through the dim, ruined streets. Avery burned his flashlight’s battery so they could move quickly. The road began to fill with more and more rubble as they traveled down it at break neck speeds. Wesley hovered at their rear, occasionally looking back with his flashlight. For now they seemed to be losing the horde, but Wesley knew they were not safe. Avery jumped a large fallen wall and stopped. A fork in the road presented two different paths to follow. Avery couldn’t find this on the map. The group huddled behind him waiting for Wesley to clear the wall. Avery studied the map furiously but could not find this fork. Wesley finally vaulted over the wall and glimpsed the predicament.
“Do you recognize any of this?” Avery asked as he shoved to map into Wesley’s hands.
“No, this is new.” Wesley shook his head. “This road should go straight to the river!” He studied the area. “Dear god they must have moved all the rubble to block out the street!”
“Where does that lead us?” Julia scanned the darkness around them.
“Over!” Avery was already moving. “Come on! The road has to pick back up on the other side of the pile.” They all began to slowly pick their way up the pile of rubble creating the fork. Avery reached the top first. The rubble was piled all the way to the caverns ceiling, leaving a very tight gap to the other side. Avery went to his belly and began to squeeze through the gap. The others followed. Avery rolled out of the gap and stood. He swept his light down the other side. Just as he caught sight of the road again, he heard a whistle as something whizzed by his leg. He knew the sound from countless other worlds with primitive intelligence. Arrows.
“Wesley, Byron! Turn off the lights, they are shooting at us!” Avery commanded in a whispering yell. He helped Julia to her feet and called to the others. “Come on!” Everyone wedged through the gap and began down the other side of the rubble pile. Now Wesley knew where he was and took the lead once they reached street level. Avery followed in back and soon heard arrows splintering as they stuck the ground. Wesley drove hard and soon gapped Julia and Lilana. Byron surged to catch him and slow him down, but only ended up gassing himself. He soon fell behind Julia. The run went on for a good ten minutes before Wesley stopped and waited. When everyone caught up he pointed to a small metal shed positioned next to a large rock wall. They made their way to it, catching their breath as they did. Upon reaching the shed Wesley tugged on the door. It seemed was rusted shut. He enlisted Byron to help pull it open while Avery watched for the oncoming creatures. Soon Avery heard their muttering and sensed arrows being strung.
“Please get that door open!” He shouted, forgoing any hushed voice. “Gentlemen lets go!”
“Just about there!” Wesley said as he managed a good hand hold on the door and began to peel it back from the rusty hold. “Okay! Everyone inside!” Byron ushered Lilana and Julia through the door. Wesley went next followed by Avery. Inside, the shed contained a few old row boats. To the right a large opening in the rock face showed them the river flowing rapidly into more darkness. Avery began to pull the door shut when an arrow flew from out of the darkness and dug into his left shoulder. He made little noise and pulled the door fully shut. Julia screamed when he turned and she saw the arrow sticking out. She ran to Avery and put her hand around the wound.
“Tell me what to do.” Julia said to Avery who had slumped to the floor.
“Wesley, get the boat ready. Do we have any supplies?”
“There should be some in back.” Wesley took Byron and they began to prepare two of the boats.
“Avery!” Julia grabbed his face and held it to face her own “How can I help you!” Before he could answer the metal shed began to shake. A noise that reminded Julia of hail stones hitting a school bus deafened them. The tiny fists of the creatures outside began to tear through the aluminum walls of the shed. Wesley and Byron shoved two boats into the water and held them from being taken by the current. Wesley tried to yell for them, but the noise drown everything out. Wesley took a rope and lashed the two boats together. Julia helped Avery to his feet and loaded him into one of the boats. She got in that boat with him and Wesley jumped in as well. Byron and Lilana got in the other boat and Wesley shoveled them away from the dock just as the creatures crashed through the walls of the shed. They stopped at the bank of the river and shrieked, but did not follow.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Relay: Episode 8

Only four episodes left after this one! Here is Episode 1 if you're new and here you can find all the episodes in one place! Enjoy!

Episode 8

The group sat quietly around the fire, watching the dancing flames.  Smoke from the fire smelled slightly sweet caused by the burning seaweed stalks they used for fuel. Nonhumans of all sorts and shapes passed by as they waited. Some of them stopped to welcome the group to the community. Avery was able to understand a few of them, but the majority of the well wishers spoke unknown languages. Byron suggested everyone employ the smile and nod tactic, which seemed to be working until a large green creature took Byron’s smile as a proposition. After a few awkward moments the creature, which they all assumed was female (no one would swear to it) seemed to comprehend the misunderstanding and left, begrudgingly.

Moments later Wesley strolled into their field of vision and sat on an empty chair beside Julia.

“Can everyone swim?” He asked. Julia and Byron shook their heads yes. Avery nodded and spoke to Lilana. She seemed confused for a moment then, without warning said:

“Err, ’es. Yes!” She seemed excited at the accomplishment. She looked at Byron and said, “Iyron?”

“Close enough,” Byron put his arm around her.

“Lovely,” Avery said dryly. “Can we get on with this?”

“Yeah,” Wesley stood. “One of the waterfalls in the main chamber empties into the lake below. From there we will be able to swim to the ruined city, bypassing the guards and the door. It’s going to be dark, wet and cold. Quincy will go first. He swims faster than us and can see well in low light. He’ll make for the city and light a torch so we know which direction to swim when we get to the lake. I have a rope to get us most of the way down. The rest of the trip will be free fall. Think of it like a large rocky water slide.” Wesley smiled at Julia. “Once in the city we will hold up for an hour or so to dry off and get acquainted with the locals. They may not be happy to see us.” Wesley passed around small, three inch blades.

“I’m not sure how effective these will be for self defense.” Avery pressed the small blade against his thumb. Dull.

“If you’d rather fight them hand to hand be my guest.” Wesley turned and looked down the corridor. “Okay, everyone up, it’s time.” They all stood and followed Wesley through the maze of caves and tunnels. Julia was sure they took a different path than earlier. They ended up in the same place; the large waterfall cavern with the circus tent in the middle. They walked slowly around to the opposite side of the cavern where they saw Quincy standing next to a large boulder. Wesley led them to an even larger adjacent rock where they took cover. Wesley walked over to Quincy and shook his hand. They spoke some of the odd gurgling language and hugged before Quincy began to rappel down the hole. Water also rushed down this fissure and looked to make this descent much more challenging than Wesley described.

Wesley moved back to the cover and watched the rope. For a time it moved slightly, back and forth rubbing along the rock ledge. The cavern remained dead quiet. Then at once the tension on the rope let up. Wesley looked at Avery.

“Who’s first?” He whispered.

“I’ll go.” Avery said. “I’ll tread at the bottom. Send Lilana next, I’ll swim with her.” Avery stepped out from behind the rock and took hold of the rope. In moments he was gone. Another tense wait ensued before the rope slacked and it was time for Lilana. Byron walked her to the rope and held her hand as she got in position. She began to tear up; obviously scared.

“Shhh, it’s okay. Avery’s at the bottom and I’ll be right behind.” Byron hugged her and wiped away a tear. She stayed in his arms until Wesley moved forward and urged her to go. Lilana slid down the rope and disappeared into the void. Byron and Wesley moved back to their rocky cover. This wait seemed like forever. The rope swayed back and forth much longer than it had for Quincy or Avery. When the rope did go limp, Wesley gave Byron the signal and he quickly went forth. Julia couldn’t believe how different Byron had been acting since meeting Lilana. She commented to Wesley about how he normally would be whining like a baby about this task at hand. Wesley smiled.

“The relay has a way of changing people.” Wesley did not smile. He seemed all too introspective. “There, rope is clear, you’re up.” Wesley followed Julia out to the rope. “You good?”

“Yes. Do you want me to wait for you?”

“No, just head for the torch light.” Wesley squeezed her hand and let her go. Julia began to lower herself down the dark hole. Wesley’s face became fainter as she did. Soon she was in total darkness. Cool water from the falls splashed and sprayed her. Her hands began to burn from holding onto the rope even though it felt ice cold. Julia tried to keep a steady pace even though she couldn’t see anything. The sound from the falling water also made it impossible to hear. She bounced off the wall of the cave occasionally; it felt slick. Before she knew it the end of the rope presented itself. She hung there for a while looking down into the black nothing. At this point cold water was fully showering her. Julia looked up and saw the faintest little pin point of light, then she let go of the rope.

Julia did not fall far before hitting the rock wall as it turned slightly horizontally. She slid down this incline very quickly before it vanished beneath her. Julia remained in this free fall for seconds before splashing into the cold, black lake. The sudden fall took her breath away. When Julia realized she was underwater she opened her eyes to try and find the surface. She saw nothing but black. She quickly began to swim in the direction she deemed up. Her muscles and lungs began to burn for lack of oxygen. She continued to frantically swim; desperate for a breath. Finally she found the surface and took in a long gasping breath. For a time all she could do was tread on the water and breath. When air finally began returning to her brain she started looking for the light of the torch. She figured it would be easy to find a light in such darkness, but she failed to find it. Julia cried out for Avery with no answer. She hesitated to swim away from where she landed. A splash erupted behind her. She screamed and swam away until she heard Wesley’s gasping as he surfaced.

“Wesley! Where is the light?” It took him a moment to answer. Julia swam over and grabbed his shirt so not to lose him.

“I can’t see it! Oh shit…” Wesley turned and turned. “I don’t see it, something isn’t right.”

“What do we do?”

“Hold on and let me think.” Wesley, still breathing violently tried to calm himself. Julia suddenly screamed.

“Something just swam past my leg!” She propelled herself into Wesley’s arms.

“You’re going to sink us both!” Then something touched Wesley’s leg. “Oh, holy crap what was that?” Wesley felt another creature swimming around them. “Wait, it’s just the eels!” This idea didn’t make Julia feel any better. The eels continued to swim around them and rub up against them. “They don’t bite, we’ll be okay.” In the distance Wesley spotted a light that just appeared. He made Julia aware and they both began to swim towards it. The eels, unhappy with the movement, left and returned back to their normal patterns. Wesley and Julia had to stop and rest several times to reach the light. The cold water slowing began to nub their bodies. After what seemed like forever Wesley made out the shore line in the distance. That’s when they heard the screams of a woman: Lilana.

Wesley and Julia began to swim as fast as possible. Wesley reached the rocky shore first, with Julia close behind. They pulled themselves out of the water and started climbing the high rock wall to the torch. Wesley saw the torch burning on top of a ruined building. Wesley reached up and found the top of the rock wall. Suddenly a hand offered itself and Wesley took it. Avery helped him and then grabbed Julia and pulled her up. They both caught their breaths for a moment before Avery spoke:

“Quincy is dead.”

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Relay: Episode 7

Hey everyone! Hope you're all enjoying so far. If this is your first time reading Relay, this link will get you to Episode 1.

Episode 7

Wesley guided Julia, Byron and Lilana all around the cave complex. Creatures of all sorts walked up and down the halls with them. Julia was overwhelmed by the assortment of nonhumans. Suddenly she and her problems felt very tiny. Wesley led them to the market place they’d passed on the way in. Its crowded isles were filled with goods from across the relay worlds. Wesley had no explanation for how they got there. One vendor selling necklaces caught Lilana’s eye and she drug Byron over to it. Julia and Wesley followed. Lilana picked up a beautifully simple twine necklace with a single cut purple stone hanging from it. Byron smiled at her as she tried it on.

“We can’t pay for that.” Byron tried to make her understand.

“Here,” Wesley handed Byron some brown coins. “These should take care of it.” He looked at Julia. “Anything for you?”

“No, thank you.” Julia walked onto the next vendor. “You seem to be doing well.”

“Zachander rewards faithful service.” Wesley joined her at the other vendor as Lilana hugged Byron over the necklace.

“So how does this work? Is he a dictator?” Julia moved her hand across some fabric being sold by a very odd looking yellow alien.

“Zachander is elected by the tribes. He holds final authority over every decision made here; the tribe’s have the muscle to keep him in power if outsiders resist.” Wesley walked forward. “They also reserve the right to kick him out if he gets too greedy. I came into his service a year ago when I arrived. There aren’t enough humans here to have any real tribal power so I sought protection from Zachander. That’s how I met Quincy. We were sorted into the same tent and have been solid friends ever since.”

“It sounds like Zachander can get away with just about whatever he wants, as long as he doesn’t cross the tribes.” Julia looked back to see Byron and Lilana following slowly behind; Lilana fawning all over Byron.

“True, but he doesn’t. He is one of the fairest beings I have ever met. His priority is the protection of this community.” Wesley bought a drink from a stand and offered it to Julia.

“Protection from what?” Julia took the drink and had a sip. The taste of the sea weed was evident, but masked by a much sweeter after tang than the beer.

“The former residents of these caves,” Wesley got his own drink. “They were driven into the ruined city centuries ago and remain our main threat here. They are the reason you must speak with Zachander before traveling to the relay. To get to the relay you have to pass through the city.”

“Is this going to be a problem?” Julia sipped her drink. Wesley downed his drink fast and pretended not to hear to question. Quincy rounded a corner and Wesley quickly waved him over.

“Quincy has offered to cook dinner for us tonight. A treat indeed!” Wesley put an arm around the fish man and smiled. Quincy shrugged him off and spoke more of his gobbity gook language. “No man not yet. He’s asked if I showed you the wind generators. Quincy helped repair them a few months ago and has developed a big head since. We can go there tomorrow.” Wesley laughed as Quincy spoke to Julia. “Ha! Julia, he said he thinks you are too pretty for me!”

“Well he may be right.” Julia laughed with them. Later that night Quincy served Julia, Byron, Lilana and Wesley a meal of eel and bread which was far better then the food they’d had the night before. They stayed up late after dinner, returning to their tent long after Avery had retired. Avery seemed not to notice their arrival. The next day Wesley took them to see the wind generators. This hike took most of the day. A long tunnel cut through the roof of the caves and lead all the way to the top of the cliffs. There everyone strapped into harnesses to keep from blowing away in the intense wind. The generators stood hundreds of feet high with their blades spinning rapidly in the high altitude breeze. All the power in the caves originated from these generators.

The grandeur of the wind generators was followed by a brief jaunt through the upper caves. They used them for storage of goods scavenged from the ruined city deep below. After that they ate a small lunch at a local restaurant before traveling to the catacombs. The catacombs, Wesley explained, were a large network of smaller caves that the tribes used for housing. Unlike the large commons cavern full of tents they had been staying in, the catacombs felt much more homely with most of the dwellings having solid doors in place of tent flaps. Here Julia felt much more on display. In the commons creatures of all sorts walked about, but in the catacombs they were segregated by species, making Julia and friends stick out. Wesley moved them quickly out of the catacombs and back to the market place for dinner. After dinner they returned to their tent to sleep.

Wesley arrived early the next morning and got everyone up and moving. They ate very little before setting off down a corridor they had not traveled down before. This corridor was much wider than most. Julia heard the sound of rushing water as they traveled down this passageway. Soon Quincy joined them from an adjoining corridor and began to strike conversation with Wesley.

The corridor soon opened into a large cavern with waterfalls gushing from the walls. The water crashed down through naturally cut holes in the floor and fell into the abyssal darkness of the caves below. To fall down one would most certainly lead to becoming lost in the darkness, or death upon impact. At the center of this giant room the residents had erected a large tent. To Julia it looked very much like a circus tent from old cartoons. It was stitched together with many mismatched pieces of cloth. Two sizable light bulbs hung from the entrance. Everyone but Quincy stopped at the light bulbs. Quincy went inside to announce their arrival. Wesley stood by the door and gave a few brief instructions.

“It’s best if just one of you speaks. I’m guessing Avery wants that honor. I should also note that Zachander is a Quitarian.” Wesley paused to note Avery’s disgust. “So… Don’t back talk him and don’t stare his forehead. When he is speaking be quiet, he has this thing about being interrupted.”

Quincy stuck his head out the tent and gurgled something to Wesley, who then pulled the flap open and ushered them all inside. The same large light bulbs ran around the interior of the tent casting strange, long shadows off of everything. In the center sat Zachander. He stood to greet them. Quitarian’s were bipedal like just about every other creature Julia had seen thus far and generally man like. He had deep black, white-less eyes that reflected no light. As she gave him a once over she noticed the color pattern on his forehead Wesley had warned about.

“Sis,” Byron leaned in and whispered. “That guy’s forehead looks like a butterfly!”

“Shut up!” Julia whispered back at Byron and stamped on his foot.

“Welcome friends!” Zachander said as he held out his hand to embraced Avery. “It is always good to see new faces. What has brought you here?”

“Thank you for your hospitality.” Avery spoke in a much different tone and voice than Julia had ever heard from him before. It seemed, refined. “I have actually been following a great criminal. I have tracked him here.”

“Following a criminal you say? You don’t look like Vanguard.” Zachander sat.

“I was. He is responsible for my unwarranted expulsion from the order. Capturing him would certainly clear my name.” Avery sat in a chair opposite Zachander. Julia looked at Wesley who was looking back at her. He seemed pleased with himself for his accurate appraisal of Avery.

“And what is this criminal’s name?”

“I don’t know what alias he’s using these days, but in the past he has gone by Parthor, Arthur Teasley and most recently Mabry Sager.” As Julia heard the name roll from Avery’s lips she was overwhelmed with emotions. Many she did not understand, but the anger, she understood that plain as day. Byron held her hand and instantly regretted it as she squeezed down. They both worked hard to remain quiet in accordance with Wesley’s instructions.

“A man of your species or there abouts did pass through a week ago. He called himself Mabry.” Zachander called to one of his assistants.

“Did he travel with a young girl?” Julia asked and stepped forward before realizing it.

“You’re out of turn miss.” Zachander took some papers his assistant brought forward. His black voided eyes pressed into her. “But he traveled alone.”

“Forgive her Zachander.” Avery said as he gave Julia a questioning look. “She doesn’t seem to understand the rules.” Zachander seemed to let it go. “Did he make for the relay?”

“He did. He came to me and I granted him access to the lost city. His presence in the city begrudged its inhabitants. They began attacking the gates not long after he departed. I had the city sealed off for the time being.” Zachander looked at Julia and then to Avery. “You wish to pass into the city to find the relay. I know this. Many wish this. But it is too dangerous. The gates almost fell after the last attack. I cannot risk the safety of this place again.”

“Zachander, I beg you. I have not been so close to him in years.” Avery was very sincere.

“I’m sorry. This colony is my responsibility. We will make you quite comfortable and when it is safe to leave you will be allowed. I foresee some of you will like it here enough by that time, you may decide to stay.” Avery knew when to stop talking. Julia did not.

“You bastard! You have to let us go!” Julia held back by Byron and Wesley began to sob. “Please!”

“I cannot.” With that Zachander stood and embraced Avery. His endless eyes torn through Julia once more before he turned and left the tent. Avery looked to Julia and frowned at her behavior.

“What the hell is wrong with you?”

“Mabry Sager is my step father!” Julia raged. “He has my sister and we must get to him!”

“There are many reasons we must get to him.” Avery forcefully took Julia by the arms and held her close. “But there are rules to be followed. Getting in the good graces of a man like Zachander would have helped us. Now, it could be months before we get through that door.” Avery let Julia go and gave Byron a quick pat on the back. “We will just have to look for another way to the relay.”

“Avery!” Wesley walked to the group followed by Quincy. “Maybe we can help. Zachander won’t like it, but since we’re coming with you, who cares?”

“You’re coming with us?” Julia whipped the tears from her eyes.

“I knew it the moment I saw you, Julia.” Wesley put an arm around her. “You and Byron gave me hope I can get home. So, follow Quincy back to your tents, get rest, get food. In a few hours I’ll be along to explain and get us on our way. It will not be easy.” Wesley looked at Liana. “She will be a hindrance.”

“We aren’t leaving her if that’s what you mean.” Byron spoke up.

“I never suggested it.” Wesley said as he made for the exit.

“Can you give me any idea what your plan is?” Avery asked. Wesley smiled and walked away. The group stood silent, only the sound of the waterfalls outside disturbed the quiet.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Top Ten Halloween Movies

The Wife: Happy Halloween everyone! Since today is Monday I am sure that many of you celebrated Halloween over the weekend. I hope it was a great "spooktacular" time. <-Yay for holiday cheesiness! We had a pretty good Halloween. Thursday was Trick or Treat where we live, so that was the day my work had a Halloween costume contest. I got to dress up as a zombie with some of my co-workers as we were "The Working Dead," a play off of The Walking Dead TV series. It was pretty much epic. I didn't think I had it in me to dress scary, but my zombiness was quite frightening! We also attended a Halloween party over the weekend and I dressed as a "Hocus Pocus" witch, while the husband went as Oscar the Grouch. Yes, Oscar the Grouch.

Now that you've all had your fill of candy corn and other Halloween candy treats, it is time for us to countdown our Top Ten Halloween movies. Now, this list is going to be bizarre to some of you Halloween hard core folks. Halloween the movie is not on here as I have never seen the ORIGINAL Halloween all the way through...just bits and pieces. Our movies are ones that we truly find scary or simply convey a Halloween feel. Let's get started, shall we?

10. Underworld series — These movies really aren't scary, but they are awesome! The werewolves and vampires aspect can allow it to be included in our top Halloween films. The storyline and action are awesome. We must note that we can't wait for the next installment of the Underworld franchise, which is coming out this winter!

9. The Amityville Horror — This one has been re-made several times. The latest version, which stars Ryan Reynolds, is pretty awesome. I was on the edge of my seat the first time I viewed this movie and was truly freaked out. It was just so creepy! I've read that the movie is based on true events too, which make it all the more scary.

8. Halloweentown — Ok, here is the first "kids" movie on the list. Halloweentown is a Disney Channel Original Movie that first aired in 1998. Wow, that seems so long ago now! I love the general feel of this movie and it is really cute. I still enjoy watching it to this day. I think the plot is pretty good and well, like I said, it's just cute. Several sequels to Halloweentown have since aired, but the original is the best. Halloweentown also gets the edge over The Amityville Horror because I usually only get to watch Halloweentown during the Halloween season.

7. Psycho — This movie is amazing! If this wasn't just a top ten Halloween movie list, Psycho would be ranked much higher. I need to note that I am talking about the original Psycho film before I continue. Psycho is beyond creepy and very scary! Just writing about this makes me hear the famous music score in my head, which always gives me chills! "I'm Norma Bates!"

6. Silence of the Lambs — Like with Psycho, if this was more than a top ten Halloween movie list, Silence of the Lambs would be ranked much higher! It is probably one of the best films I've ever seen! It is crazy creepy and it is scary in the way that I believe something like this could actually happen. While I find Hannibal Lecter creepy, Buffalo Bill is one of the scariest movie villains of all time! For the sake of keeping this blog clean, I will not even write his famous quote, which haunts my dreams! I am sure you all know what scene I am referring too! Silence of the Lambs, the only Best Picture winner on the list, is just an amazing movie. "Hello, Clarice!"

5. Scream series — I am a huge fan of the Scream series! I love these movies and I can't really explain why! I think most people either hate or love Scream. I find the movies to be hilarious and they are super fun to watch in marathon format this time of year. The latest in the franchise is great and even though the husband doesn't care for the series, he took me to see it when it came out on my birthday in April! If you've never seen any of the Scream films, you should really give them a shot!

4. It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown — Does this even need an explanation? Seriously the Peanuts gang is just awesome as is this movie. This movie truly makes Halloween. I love it just as much now as I did when I was a tot!

3. The Rocky Horror Picture Show — LOVE THIS! One of my favorite musicals by far. It has a creepy vibe but is super fun. I love the soundtrack and keep the songs on my iPod year-round! Tim Curry is just amazing in his role as Dr. Frank-N-Furter! He is so good that every time I see him now in Home Alone 2 all I can picture is him singing "Sweet Transvestite." Scienceeee fictionnnn, doubllleeee feature! Yes, that was me just singing as I typed. Winning! This movie is especially great if you watch it at midnight like tradition calls for. My goal is to see a performance live at midnight, and of course, attend the event in costume. I think I could rock the Magenta look!

2. Trick 'R Treat — This is a relatively new movie to the Halloween classics. The atmosphere of this film and the creativity of how four separate Halloween stories connect is really good. Sure, this movie is cheesy, but it is still a favorite tradition of ours. I think all Halloween fans will like or at least be mildly entertained by Trick 'R Treat. The way the town that the movie is set in celebrates Halloween is awesome. I always wished that my area would celebrate Halloween like that. Trick 'R Treat also teaches us to be respectful and follow the rules of Halloween...or else!

And finally...the number one Halloween movie...

1. Hocus Pocus — My favorite Halloween movie of all time! It's not Halloween unless I watch Hocus Pocus! Sure it can be classed as a "kids" movie, but honestly it never gets old! Like I discussed in the paragraph above about Trick 'R Treat, the atmosphere of Hocus Pocus makes the movie! The film is set in Salem, Massachusetts, where the famous witch trials took place. The halloween spirit and celebration in this movie is amazing. I always wished my neighborhood would go all out for Halloween like the town in this movie does. I also love the crisp fall feel of the film. The acting is great too. Bette Midler knocks it out of the park as the head witch, Winifred. Sarah Jessica Parker never looked better. Thora Birch, who is only a child in this movie, was a good actress even back then! I always loved Binks the cat and wanted my own talking cat as a kid. I remember having a crush on the kid who plays Max when I was little too. I also remember asking my mother "what's a virgin?" when I was younger and would watch this. Oh the innocence of youth! My favorite scene in the movie is when the Sanderson sisters sing "I Put a Spell on You."

So before we wrap this post up we give you the following clip... yes, thank you, Max, for that MARVELOUS introduction!

Please share with us your favorite Halloween movies! We'd love to read all about them. Happy Halloween! Remember to start thinking of your favorite Christmas movies as we will be posting our top ten in December!