Thursday, January 21, 2016

Underground animal meth lab found

FORT WORTH, Texas (TS) -- Denton County officials uncovered a massive methamphetamines production facility specifically catering to animals.

The former Texas Express Company rail hub was a hub of a 
different kind -- animal narcotics. (PHOTO COURTESY OF 
Originally baffled, officials said they now believe several tons of meth were being shipped out daily to farms, zoos and wildlife sanctuaries in Texas, Colorado, Florida and South Carolina.

Martin Sasquall, wildlife caretaker at the Dallas Zoo, said it has become apparent that the meth lab was using mules to cart the dangerous drugs from the Dallas hub to caves and fields thoughout the distribution area.

"We wondered why there were so many mules wandering into and out of Forth Worth," said Denton County Sheriff Chester McRedhaw. "We just thought there were on vacation or something."

Eventually, one of Denton County's finest followed one of the mules to the meth lab, the former Texas Express Company rail hub. Once inside, Deputy James Cavanaugh noticed that several mules were huddled in the corner, "huffing," -- or breathing in the fumes -- of the dangerous chemical soup.

Also found in the abandoned rail building were several gangs of armadillos, monkeys, and kangaroos -- most of whom appeared to be under the influence of the drug.

No arrests were made due to the fact that the assailants were literally animals. However, they were shipped to zoos throughout the southwest in hopes of breaking up the animal drug cartel.

The actual impact of the animal meth trade is not yet known. Officials expect further announcements in the coming weeks and months.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

My Friend Death

The governor-elect stood at the podium ready to address his supporters. It was a hard-fought election, but Stan knew that he would win. Actually, he had no doubt in his mind that he would win. He had it on good authority that he was a shoe-in to become the next governor of California.

Now, instead of just Stan Goodwin the Lafayette High School head custodian, he was Governor Stan Goodwin of California. He still found it hard to believe that it was only a year ago that he was pushing a broom while those snotty little bastards made his life miserable.

He wanted to use his new-found power to exact revenge on a lot of different people, but he knew that he wouldn’t be able to do that. He raised his hands to ask for quiet and then leaned forward to address the huge crowd that had gathered.

“I just want to thank Senator Constantine for a great campaign and wish him the best of luck! But as for me, g I’m going to Sacramento!”

The crowd went crazy as they started to kick around the balloons that had fallen from the ceiling only an hour earlier when Senator Franklin Constantine had conceded the race for governor of California. In his address to the media, Senator Constantine said he was “mystified by the choice of the people,” but he admitted that he had to do what the people of California wanted.

Governor-elect Goodwin waited for the crowd to quiet down again, and then he finished his acceptance speech to his supporters.

“I want to thank my family, especially my wife, for their love and support. I want to thank my staff and everyone who made this possible. Now it is on to Sacramento to make the changes that you asked me to make!”

More confetti fell from the ceiling as “We Are The Champions” blared over the sound system. Stan wondered if anyone asked Queen if his campaign could use that song, but then he realized that it really didn’t matter.

The first person to meet Stan as he got off the stage was his campaign manager Albert Young. Albert was an ambitious guy, but he wasn’t Stan’s choice for the campaign. Everything to do with Stan’s campaign was hand-picked by Mr. Ankou. Albert approached Stan and handed him a towel. Then Albert leaned in to tell Stan that Mr. Ankou was waiting for Stan in the back office.

Stan’s demeanor suddenly got very solemn. Now it was starting to sink in that it was time to pay the piper. It was time for Stan to keep all of the promises he made to Mr. Ankou in exchange for becoming the most powerful man in California. Mr. Ankou promised Stan that the Presidency of the United States was next, but that would have to wait a couple of years.

As Stan opened the door to the back office, Mr. Ankou was sitting behind the desk with his hands folded in front of him. Stan slowly walked into the office and closed the door behind him.

“Stanley. Please, sit down.”

Stan sat and then started to sweat a little bit. He wasn’t really sure what Mr. Ankou was going to do next. Stan stammered out the question that had been burning into his mind for weeks.

“Okay, so, now what?”

“So articulate Stanley! That is why I chose you! Now you just need to keep doing what I tell you and I will deliver you to the White House.”

“When we first met, you talked about bringing your people back. What does that mean?”

“Stanley, the less you know right now, the better off you will be.”

“Are you really over 1,000 years old?”

“Yes, Stanley! I am. Well over. And now that I have you in a position of power, I am going to show you exactly how I managed to stay looking so young all of these years.”

"I don't suppose that it has anything to do with banging twenty-year old, college co-eds?" Stanley muttered.

"Please, Stanley, some decorum. You're a professional. Of course no co-eds, despite your best attempts to prove otherwise. You're lucky you haven't been caught. Or maybe you have and the right people have been paid off. At any rate, Stanley, it's time to learn my secrets."

"I'm not sure I'm ready for this," Stanley replied. Mr. Ankou poured a glass of cognac for himself and another for Stanley. He handed it to Stanley and then sat down on a couch in the center of the room. He motioned for the governor-elect to sit at the matching couch across from him.

"Well, Stanley, it's a little too late for that. Why don't you finish your drink, then please remove all your clothes."

"Excuse me?"

"Strip. Naked."

"Uh…I'm not really sure that I feel…"

"Please, Stanley. Don't flatter yourself. It's just all part of the process." Ankou watched as unease filled the face of the new California governor. Stanley slowly set down his glass on the table between the couches and loosened his tie.

"I'm not sure…"

"Of course not. Please. Remain dressed. I was merely demonstrating the power I have over you."

"Who are you?"
"As an educated man, I'm sure you realize that 'Ankou' is Gaelic for 'Death.' Well. that's who I am. Death. I have many names in many tongues, but I am best known simply as Death."

"Am I going to die?" Stanley stammered. He reached for his glass and finished off the rest of the glass. Ankou smirked from behind his own glass.

"Yes. We all are. Even me. Which is why we're here right now."

"I mean, am I dying right now?"

"Let's not to get too far ahead of ourselves, Stanley. My body is starting to wear out. I am immortal…"

"You're the devil?" Stanley asked sheepishly. All the bravado of the man who had just clinched the election for governor of the state of California was gone and replaced with the uncertainty of an adolescent boy on his first date.

"No. I said my name meant 'Death,' not 'Fiendishly Handsome Harvester of Lost Souls.' Just listen to what I'm telling you." Ankou said with a bit of impatience.


"As I was saying, my body is starting to wear out. I'm looking for a new body to take over to continue my duties as Death. I've chosen you as my next incarnation," Ankou continued.


"Stanley, Stanley, Stanley. There's nothing you can do about this. You are going to die. In three years, at your next physical, the doctor will find a tumor in your brain. You will die in office. And then I will take over your body and continue with my existence. You see, these bodies only last about 1200 years. After that time, the body rapidly begins to disintegrate and die."

"You can see the future? I'm sorry for all the questions. I'm having a hard time with this."

"I cannot see into the future. I am immortal, even if my body is not. As an immortal, time is eternal. I can pop in and out of various epochs in your past, present and future. Every once in a while my other incarnations meet up at the same event in history. Which, of course, is how we got the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It was the one time that four of us showed up at the same place. It's the end of the world, for God's sake! Who wouldn’t want to see that? Especially Death? In those days I still rode horses. And the poor writer of ‘Revelations’ who had the vision mistakenly called us by these other names, which has stuck. I lose all the credit."

"You rode horses? What do you ride now?"

"Yes. I used to ride a flaming steed. It used to burn my ass. With new human technology, I have upgraded my horses to a Fat Boy Harley."

"With flames on the tank?" Stanley asked. He walked across the room to refill his glass with cognac. He took a pull from the glass and topped it off again.

"Yes, with flames on the tank. And let me tell you, when I show up to take the dead away, chicks really dig those flames. Hey, would you fill me up?" Ankou held his glass out to Stanley. The governor-elect served his benefactor a second drink and headed back to the couch.

"It's a beautiful machine," Stanley commented.

"It is. And now we must get back to the matter at hand. You are going to die in three years. I will make you the most powerful governor in California history in the time we have left. Well, maybe second most powerful, but you'll do it without steroids. I will even pave your way to the White House, just as I promised."

"What is going to happen to me?"

"Well, that's a very interesting story," Ankou answered.

“As I told you,” Ankou continued, “on the occasion of your next physical, just before you take office, your doctor will find a tumor in your brain. You’ll be given just weeks to live but I’m going to hold off from reaping you for another two years and 10 months after that.”

“What? Why?”

“Stanley. Would you kindly shut the fuck up and listen for a change?”

“Yeah. Sorry, I …”

“Really. Just shut up.”

Stanley and Ankou both took a sip of their cognac and stared intently at one another for 30 seconds. Stanley wanted to talk and Ankou wanted to exert his influence of the humble-janitor-turned-governor-elect.

“Thank you,” Ankou continued. “You see, I am immortal. But I am not omnipotent. I have only one real gift. I can choose how and when people will die. Or how long they will live. I have some other minor abilities, mind you, like convincing people to do my bidding in exchange for certain favors. It is how you have ascended to the role you have now.”

“Okay …”

Ankou stared intently at Stan, silently reminding him to keep quiet.

“I have made you the poster boy for hope in the world. If a lowly janitor can become governor of California then anyone can do anything. You may think this a good thing for humanity, but truly there is no greater evil than hope. People will attempt all sorts of irrational and stupid things. Just tonight, for example, with the knowledge that you have pulled off the impossible, hundreds of men across the country will take it as a sign to ‘go for it,’ and finally ask the girls of their dreams to dinner or drinks or whatever. They’ll all be shot down. Every one of them. For hope is a fool’s game. It convinces people to believe in the impossible.”

Ankou sat back in his leather chair and swirled his cognac in his glass. Taking a sip, he unleashed a smirk the size of San Andreas Fault.

“People will run red lights, play chicken, try to jump over cliffs on bicycles. Your winning tonight will bring about more deaths in the next three years than the Third Reich. Your ‘hope’ will actually bring chaos unseen in centuries.”

“But I …” Stanley attempted to interject.

Shooting up from his chair, Ankou shouted, “Shut. The. Fuck. Up. This isn’t about you. It was never about you. And you should consider yourself lucky that I’m not only allowing you to keep your meager existence but promoting you to something so much greater than you could ever wish to be. If you open your mouth one more fucking time before I am done, I will strike you down right here and now. No governor. No wife. No kids. No fucking co-eds. Just me. Death. Now. Do you under-fucking-stand?”

Stan’s eyes stood as wide as saucers, but he dared not speak.

“Your election tonight brought hope. The announcement of your brain tumor will be seen as a setback at first but my allowing you to live for years past the doctors’ diagnosis will actually make you a heroic character, able to fight through all odds. Your legacy will near that of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and many other people whose lives I’ve ended only when I felt it appropriate.”

“After your brain cancer diagnosis, you will take time to ‘consider your future,’ after which you will announce that you will press on. In a year, you’ll announce that you’re running for president. You’ll win. You’ll die in office and when you’re buried, I’ll take over your physical form. With some alterations, mind you, so I’m not mistaken for you. I’ll get a ‘new lease on life,’ if you will, and you’ll have the legacy your parents always wanted you to have.”

“Now. Do you have any questions?”

Stanley was a little hesitant, but when Ankou shot Stanley a slight smile with an inviting nod, Stanley knew that he could speak.

“Ok, yeah. I have a question. Why don’t you just take over my body instead of all of this commotion? I mean, why did you make me governor just to eventually kill me?”

“That, my dear boy, is a very good question. I like games. Do you like games, Stanley?”

Stanley looked blankly at Ankou and then just nodded.

“Of course you do. Hope is a game to me Stanley. I give the human race hope, then I take it away. It is what I do. Your ability to live on past your diagnosis will give people hope. Then I will take that hope away. It helps me to create the sense of disparity that I need in order to feel comfortable on this loathsome planet. I create hope by using a figure that beats the odds, then I take that hope away. It is what I do. Abraham Lincoln was one of my greatest achievements. The world really thought he was going to change things, and then I took him away.”

Stanley looked solemn for a while and then slowly stood up.

“Look, Mr. Ankou. Is it okay if I just . . .  go for a walk?”

“Of course, Stanley. Just be back in one hour. We have appointments to keep. Oh, and Stanley. Don’t try to run. I may not be omnipotent, but I do own your soul. If you run, I will find you. And when I find you, the deal is off and you are dead.”

Stanley slowly wandered out the back exit of the hotel where his victory rally was being held and started walking down the street. Some people recognized him and wanted to have pictures taken with him. But no one really bothered him. He always thought that being a celebrity would be different.

He wasn’t really paying attention, but he suddenly found himself standing at the archway entrance to a park.

This park looks familiar. Stanley has seen this park on television before. Isn’t this the park where Santa Claus was killed? Or something twisted like that? Some little girl was killed here too. He remembered that story from a year or two ago.

It was a pleasant enough evening and there were people walking through the park just minding their own business. Stanley walked towards the fountain where some street vendors were packing up after an evening of selling their wares.

Stanley just watched them pack up their tables. He started to wonder what life would be like with a brain tumor. Then he wondered if his wife really loved him, or if Ankou has her under some kind of spell. Stanley was contemplating the foundation of his marriage when he heard a female voice answer his unasked question.

“She loves you, baby. You just have to be patient, that’s all. Come talk to mama, I know what’s on your mind.”

Stanley turned around and saw what looked like a homeless woman sitting on one of the park benches next to a shopping cart that had an array of goodies in it. She was older looking and, much to his surprise, she actually looked rather pleasant.

“How…how did you know what I was thinking?” Stanley asked.

“Baby, you don’t have to do what that man says. He is lying to you. He is not who he say he is.”

“What? What man? How do you . . .”

“Look, mama knows everything. That man is a deity, but he is not no god of death. Think about it baby: Wouldn’t the god of death be all-knowing? Of course he would. That man ain’t all-knowing. He isn’t who he say he is.”

“Well, who is he then?”

“He’s Loki, baby. And you need to stop him before he uses you to kill millions of people.”

“Millions of people?”

“He’s not going to wait until you are dead to try and possess your body, baby. He is going to wait until you are inaugurated as governor. Then all hell’s gonna break loose.”

“What do I do?”

“You need to find my boy. He wanders this park and he is the only one who can defeat Loki in a fair fight.”

“Your boy?”

“Oh yeah, baby. I gots me one helluva boy!”

Stanley awoke with a start and sat up in bed. Next to him, his wife's sleeping form never stirred. Maybe it was all a dream and I'm still just a janitor and a crappy city school rather than the governor-elect. Maybe it would be just as easy if it all was just a dream.

"Sorry Stan, but it's not a dream," a voice called out of the darkness. A match flickered and burst into flame before being put to cigar. It was Ankou sitting in the chair in the corner. Stanley leaned back into the pillow that was propped against the headboard. He glanced over to his wife a second time.

"Don’t worry about her. She won't wake up for this. I guarantee it. Though I do have to admit, the victory sex was definitely something to see. I didn't know you could still do things at your age."

"Y-y-you were watching?" Stanley stammered.

"Stanley, please. It's hard to get dates when you only show up when they're dead to take their hearts to be weighed. You disappoint me, Stanley. Talking to strange, homeless women in the park? That boy of hers wouldn't think twice about ripping your arms right off from your torso if the mood hit. And really, a crazy homeless person? They can't be the best character witnesses."

"She said you were no God. She said you were Loki."

"Again, Stanley, are you going to listen to that old woman or to the one who brought you to the position you now hold?  You must remember, Loki often appears as an old woman to the people he torments. And I must apologize for my outburst earlier. I generally am a much nicer guy. Sometimes, it does get frustrating to deal with only dead or dying people, though. Sometimes I just want to be the free-loving, all-around good guy that deep down, I really am. And I'd like to get laid," Ankou waved his cigar nonchalantly as he spoke.

Stanley glanced out the window. Rain ran in rivulets down the hotel window. Occasional flashes of lightning streaked across the darkened sky. Ankou remained in the chair, blithely blowing smoke towards Stanley.

"Let me set your mind at ease, my friend. Of course I'm not omnipotent. There's only one cat daddy who holds those cards. It ain't me, but I think you know who I'm talking about. I also don't need your body until you're already dead. I may be Death, but I can't actually kill people. There's a timetable, you see. I can't change that. Once your name comes up, I show up. Sure there are people who have tried to cheat me, but I always win."

"I don't understand. You're like two different people. Sometimes you're really a great guy, like now. And other times, you're just plain evil and mean," Stanley questioned the apparition in the corner. He was still frightened of the man, if he really was a man, but the relative ease of Ankou's present personality gave him a little more bravery.

"Yeah. Sometime when I don't take my meds regularly, I get crankier than normal and just get a little nuts."

"Wait. What? Meds? You're Death. A demi-god. Why would you need meds?"

"Because I'm Death. I deal with dead people day in and day out. All the time. You try to walk in my shoes for a day and I guarantee you'll max out your insurance-approved psych visits. It's not easy being me. I'm bad ass. But I also have feelings. You want to know something? There's someone else who needs meds. I mean, have you actually ever read the Old and New Testaments? Yahweh is on one hell of a bender in the Old Testament."

"Oh, my God." Stanley muttered.

"Yeah. Mine, too. Listen, Stanley. I like you. You're a good kid. I really don't want to see you die, but you're on my list," Ankou pulled a tattered notebook from the inside pocket of his jacket. He opened it to a random page. "See right here, Stanley Horowitz Goodwin."

"Stanley Horowitz Goodwin? That's not me. I'm Stanislaus Henri Goodwin."

"What?" Ankou said with obvious doubt and surprise.

"Stanislaus Henri Goodwin. I have no idea who Stanley Horowitz Goodwin is."

"Well, fuck me. That's never happened before."

“Okay, Stanley,” Ankou said after a long pause, “Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to go find the right Stan Goodwin, make him governor and … Shit, no. Wait. That won’t work. We’re going to … I have no idea what we’re going to do.”

“So? You’re kind of an idiot,” Stan said. “You pulled the wrong strings and got the wrong guy elected as governor and now WE have to fix it, is that it?”

“Well, aside from the idiot part, yeah, that’s pretty much accurate,” Ankou said back sheepishly.

“And yet, here’s me thinking that I don’t have to listen to a word you say,” Stan said. “Your contract is null and void. You didn’t even have my name right.”

“Oh, Stanley,” Ankou chimed in, the sheepishness replaced by force, “No. Our contract is good. The dates might just be a little off. But I made you. And I can still break you. And you still belong to me.”

“Except, if I’m not going to die by the time you shrivel up, what good does that do you?” Stan asked, having thought about their earlier conversation. “Seems to me that you better go find some other body to inhabit. It also seems to me that I know your big dark secret and in fact, I own YOU.”


“So here’s what YOU’RE going to do. You go off and kill some people - or whatever it is that you do. I’m going to wake my wife up for round two. And you leave me the hell alone.”

Stanley looked over at his wife and back to Ankou. In that brief moment, Ankou was gone.

Cue Barry White.

The next morning, Stanislaus Henri Goodwin woke up feeling like a million bucks. He wanted to tell his wife everything that had transpired in the course of the last 12 months but thought he’d better wait. Or just not. She might think he was crazy. Hell, he thought he was crazy. Maybe he was crazy. But he’s free. And he’s the governor-elect of California.

A knock on the door rips him from his pleasant thoughts.

“Stanley Goodwin?,” the man at the door asks.

“I’m Stan Goodwin, yes. How can I help you?”

“Mr. Goodwin, I’m Karl Forte. I believe you know my boss Mr. Ankou.”

“Let me stop you right there,” Stan interjected. “Ankou and I no longer have a business relationship. He forgot to dot his i’s and cross his t’s and our contract ended last night.”

“Oh, I know. Believe me, I know,” Forte said. “See it’s not so much that Mr. Ankou didn’t dot his i’s and cross his t’s it’s that I may have misled him. By which I mean, I misled him.”


“Yeah. I’m sick of his games and I’m sick of his plans to take over the world. And I’m sick of that stupid motorcycle. And I’m tired. And I just want to die.”

“Well, that took a morbid turn,” the governor-elect said.

“So,” Forte continued, I was hoping that since Mr. Ankou was so willing to screw up your life, you might be willing to exact a little revenge.”

“I don’t know,” Stan said.

“Here’s what I’m hoping we can do. I want to run out the clock. I want to make sure my boss spends the next few years searching for - but not finding - a new body to inhabit. And once his current form degenerates to the point at which he’s weak enough, we can kill him.”

“Wait a minute, here,” Stan said. “I don’t know about killing. That. That just doesn’t seem like the type of thing I’d be capable of.”

“First of all, Mr. Goodwin, he was going to kill you. Secondly, in case you missed the memo, you’re the governor elect of California. One of the most powerful men in the country. You can do whatever you want. And third, if we kill death …”

Stan really did contemplate the possibility of killing Death, but then the logistics of not having the rules of Death apply just did not sit well with him. Besides, Stan had other ideas.

“No, I am just not interested.”

“I don’t understand. Why would you not want to exact revenge on the man who set you up to die a painful death?”

“Because,” Stan said as he walked back towards the couch in his room and lit a cigarette. “You are not Death.”

At that statement, the form in the doorway morphed into Ankou and he had a large smile on his face.

“Well Stanley, you certainly passed the loyalty test. But I am afraid that you are wrong about who I am. I am, most assuredly, Death.”

“You know, Loki.”

Ankou stiffened at the sound of his real name being spoken by a mortal.

“I believed all of your little stories, but a lot of things just did not make any sense. Why would Death need a human form? That bothered me from the moment you said it.”


“Shut the fuck up until I am done! Do you understand Loki?”

Loki looked reserved as he stood in the hotel room doorway. “Of course, Stanley. Can I at least come in and sit down?”

“No, just stand there.”

Loki leaned against the door frame and tried to maintain his composure. Then Stan continued.

“No, none of what you said made sense. The only person who made any sense was the old lady in the park. You see, Death IS omnipotent and Death does kill people. It is his job. You know how I know that?”

Loki shook his head with a puzzled look on his face.

“Because Death told me so. I went back to that park yesterday afternoon and talked to that old woman. She has a lot of friends in some very high places. Death actually looked a lot like G. Gordon Liddy. Which I thought was odd. But Death apologized for everything I had been through. He said he could not interfere because, well, he just doesn’t interfere with lives. He only takes them. But when the old lady convinced me of who you were, Death felt compelled to apologize to me, in person.”

“Well Stanley, you can’t believe…”

“Have I said it in a language you understand? Shut the fuck up!”

“Yes, of course.”

“When Death was done apologizing and after he had left, I did NOT shake his hand by the way, the old lady introduced me to her boy. He’s a cute kid and he just loves to play.”

At that moment, Loki sensed that there was something hulking behind him. He could hear it breathing and he could feel the breath on the back of his neck. Loki did not dare turn around, but he also knew that running was a really bad idea.

“Play chase?”

Stan smiled and Loki turned to address the old woman’s “boy.” He was a huge monster with horns on his head and hands that could palm a beach ball. Loki found himself looking straight into the boy’s face. The boy was smiling, with trails of slobber coming from the corners of his mouth. Then the boy spoke again, with a gravelly voice that Loki recognized right away.

“We play chase. You have head start.”

Loki turned back to Stan with a look of fear on his face.

“This isn’t over Stanley! Not by a long shot!”

Stan just closed the door with his foot and waved to Loki as the door was closing. Once the door was closed, Stan heard the boy roar, Loki scream and the sounds of the chase being underway.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Continued Tales From Beyond the Door

I live in the old tenement on Mulberry. You know the place. It's the one that never has to be decorated for Halloween. In the five generations that my family has owned it, it probably hasn't had a fresh coat of paint brushed across the rough and warped clapboards. The roof of the porch, growing its own field of moss, sags under the weight of sadness and neglect. As long as I can remember, grass has never grown in the front yard and a lone, stunted pine tree leans terribly into the wind. Every year, some kids from across the city find it hilarious to knock on the front door as some sort of rite of passage. Every year, my mother answers the door just in time to see several pair of boots racing down the steps and across the street to safety.

I would probably know those very kids if I were to actually attend the local high school, but my mother thinks it to be in my best interests to be taught at home. Especially after dealing with the heathens with no manners who knocked on the door and then rudely ran away. So, my only social interaction is with my parents, my younger brother and my senile great grandfather who lives at the end of the hall.

My great grandfather, third owner of the tenement and the grandson of the original family owner, was born and has lived in the old place nearly everyday of his life. The exception was during the four years he was island hopping in the Pacific with the Marines during the Second World War. He is a spry, old man. Well, his body is spry, but his mind is almost permanently stuck in 1942 under attack by the dirty Japs.

There were two rooms at the end of the hall on the third floor where great grandpa lived. Neither were likely to be entered by anyone in the family. One was by choice. No one was sure what would happen if you entered great grandpa's room. He could be attacking a fortified position or engaged in a knife fight with the enemy. No one wanted to take the chance of being mistaken for the enemy. If you absolutely had to go in, you hoped that he had tired himself out and was tucked into a dirty blanket on the floor next to the pristine, immaculately made bed.

The other room was the great mystery. Practically from birth, we were warned to never enter that room. Partly due to the fact that it was next to great grandpa's room, that rule was easily enforceable. However, I remember one time with absolute clarity, the only time my adventurous older brother decided that he was man enough to step across the forbidden threshold. My little brother and I stood a safe distance away as Steve strode confidently toward the door. He had barely reached for the knob when great grandpa stormed out of his bedroom door screaming an incomprehensible stream of words directed at Steve. He grabbed my brother and flung him into the wall across from the door.

"Are you ready to die?" great grandpa asked, nose to nose, after he had stopped screaming. My brother peed his pants and squirmed away from the old man's grip. He hid in his room for the rest of the night. It was shortly after his eighteenth birthday that Steve moved out. Actually, it was more like he disappeared in the night. I haven't seen him since. I'm not sure if my parents have or not, but I know my mother gets a letter a couple times of year on what looks like expensive stationary or letterhead. She reads them alone, never to anyone else, then holds them to her chest and sighs. I've never figured out where she keeps them despite a great deal of snooping between me and my younger brother, Seth.

So you see, my family is just as strange as the house I live in. An absentee father who pops in to pay the bills before disappearing on a job that takes him God knows where to do God knows what, an overbearing mother who is afraid to let her children out of the house, an older brother who disappeared half a decade ago, a younger brother who is content to be ruled by his mother, and a crazy, old great grandpa who is still fighting the enemy seventy years later.

But it's the door that has my attention now. My father, in a surprise visit for my eighteenth birthday, has asked to speak with me in his library. My father has a private sanctuary on the first floor that is a full two stories high, reaching its ceiling to the floor underneath great grandpa's room and whatever lies behind the other door. Book after book, moldy with disuse, lined the shelves all the way to the ceiling. Whenever my father is home, he has a fire crackling in the fireplace even in the height of summer.

When I stepped into the library, I was shocked to see great grandpa sitting in my father's usual wing back chair, while father relaxed against the credenza behind the chair. He directed me to sit in the lone chair in front of the great desk. A fire burned hungrily in the fireplace, heating the room almost to the point of being unbearable. Great grandpa leaned forward, his rheumy eyes suddenly focused and full of mystery.

"Miles, you've reached the age of manhood. It's time you learned about our family secret. All the men of this family for five generations have followed the same rite the day after their eighteenth birthday." Great grandpa's voice was full of vigor, belying the fact that he was well into his nineties. It was also the longest I've seen him coherent in a very long time. I nodded, not sure what exactly was happening.

"Listen carefully to what your great grandfather has to say," my father muttered.

"Miles. tomorrow morning you will enter the room at the end of the third floor hall next to my room. And we will close the door behind you. You must not leave until the following morning. To do so will cause your brain to revolt against reality and you torment you until all futures have ended. Do not leave the room early. We cannot afford to lose another man in this family."

"Once you are inside the room, you are to sit on the chair in the center of the room. You will not stay there, but it is the beginning. Close your eyes once you've sat down. The visions will come. Do not fight them. Let them flow into you. And from you."

"I don't understand," I whispered. Despite the fire, I was suddenly chilled. For so long, we'd been warned away from that door and that room. Curiosity gripped me and part of me could not wait until the morning to see what was behind the ancient wooden door. The other part of me was terrified by what my great grandfather was telling me.

"Listen, boy. You will experience a series of visions that will show you possible outcomes in your life. I must warn you, you cannot control what you see. Some may be disturbing. However, your own death nor that of anyone else can be shown in these visions, either. If someone dies, they simply will not appear. Violence is extremely rare in these visions. They can show you the love of your life, the birth of children and seemingly mundane daily events. Despite this, no matter how insignificant the experience of each vision, they can have a lasting impact on the direction of your life."

"These visions show only a possible outcome of your life. They are not the only outcomes. Ultimately, the choice lies with you. Are you ready for this?"

"I guess so."

"Good. Meet your father just before sunrise tomorrow morning. He will let you into the room. Just remember not to leave before sunrise the next morning."

                                                         *   *    *
It was still dark the next morning when I met my father in the hallway. The house seemed abnormally quiet. Even the constant creaking of the old tenement settling seemed subdued. My father pat me on the shoulder and unlocked the door. It seemed to catch on the threshold and moaned as it opened to a darkened room. My father flicked a switch, flooding the room with light. He gave me a slight push into the room, patted my shoulder again, and shut the door behind me.

The room was musty. Yellowed and grey wallpaper with a dust covered design was peeling back from the plaster in long strips. A decaying rug covered the floor in the center of the room under the lone wooden chair. A chamber pot sat in the corner. The windows were covered with sheer curtains that we just starting to show a rising sun outside. I moved toward the chair and sat down. 

And waited.

After about 20 minutes of waiting in the chair with no visions, I was certain that my father and great grandfather were putting me on. I stood up and looked around the room. After 18 years of not knowing what was in it, I thought it seemed absurd to simply sit in a chair and not investigate a little.

Book shelves were covered with old dusty books, very similar to those in my father’s study. Trinkets and doo-dads sat on top of the book shelves. None of them were familiar. And it looked like none of them were from this century. This was the room that time forgot, it seemed.

One book shelf had a box filled with letters - my brother’s letters he had sent to mom! Another box had letters from “Miles Smyth” addressed to “Rose.” Miles Smyth was my name, but I hadn’t written these. Rose was my great grandmother’s name. So maybe these were from my grandfather - my father’s father - to my grandma. My father never talked much about his dad. In fact, he literally never uttered his name. Which makes me suspect - but not certain - that these might be from him.

I pushed the box with my brother’s letters to the center of the room and grabbed a handful of them, sitting in the chair to read them. Maybe this is what I’m supposed to do, I thought. Maybe the “visions” bit was just a joke and I’m really here to learn what has become of my older brother and my grandfather. Maybe this is the real family secret.

I opened the first letter, dated August 17, 2008, just three days after my brother’s 18th birthday.

“Dear mom, The doctors tell me I will never see you again. My episodes will only get worse as time goes on, they say. But I’ve been told that I can write you regularly. They asked that you not share these letters with anyone. Not even dad. It will simply cause too much pain. The food here sucks. What I wouldn’t give for a decent pork chop and some mashed potatoes. I have to go in for my treatment now, but I’ll write again soon. I love you. Love, Steve.”

I was floored. My brother wasn’t off backpacking through Europe or living in New York or on an island surrounded by girls in hula skirts. Or any of the other things that I’d imagined all these years. He was in a hospital. And now I knew he was never coming home again.

Stricken by sudden grief, I sat in the chair and reached for another letter.

That’s when the rite took hold.

I was no longer in the room on the third floor. I was in a big city. Los Angeles? San Diego? I’m not sure. But I felt like I was in California. Standing next to me was a beautiful woman. And next to her was someone who looked a lot like me when I was seven years old. It was me. But I wasn’t controlling my own actions. I called the woman Clara. And I called the boy Steve. We walked down a boulevard lined with expensive shops. We were wearing nice clothes. And I felt important. I even walked like I was important. We turned the corner and I was back in the chair in the room on the third floor of the old tenement on Mulberry.

I freaked out a little and jumped out of the chair. I was scared. Excited. Confused. I wasn’t really sure of what had just happened. But I wanted more. So I sat back down.

Again with the waiting. Again with the impatience. Again with the boxes of letters.

This time I took one of the ones from my grandfather to my great grandmother. It was dated Feb. 29, 1952.

“Happy Leap Day, Mom. I hope all is well at home. I wish I were there. The doctors let me go outside for a bit yesterday. It was a treat on account of the fact that I hadn’t had an episode in a whole week. They say if I go another week, I can go outside again. And if I can go a month without an episode, I can come visit. That would be nice, wouldn’t it? Tell dad I’m sorry. I should have stayed in the room like he told me to. Love, Miles.”

So it was true. If you leave the room, you go insane. That’s why my father never talks about his father. And why Steve can’t come home. I decided then and there that no matter how bored I got or how weird the visions were, I’d sit in that room until the sun rose the next day.

I sat back in the chair and once again, the rite took hold of me.

I was flying a plane over Paris, shooting missiles at other planes. A man sitting behind me who I called “Checker” was screaming his head off about “fucking up those God Damn Torries.” The planes I was shooting down had British flags on them. There were also planes from France, Italy, and some other places whose flags I didn’t recognize. My plane had no instrument panel. Only a big LCD screen. When I touched it, it seemed to just do what I wanted it to do. Our plane was hit and we ejected. I landed back in the chair on the third floor of the old tenement on Mulberry.

Adrenaline rushed through my veins. I was sweating. Breathing heavy. My heart was pumping 4 million beats per minute. But it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle. I looked around the room for a clock, hoping to determine how much longer I had to stay there. No luck. No clock. Just the letters and the chair.

I picked a letter from Steve’s box. September 4, 2008.

“Dear Mom, I really screwed up. I had a bad episode last week and stabbed a nurse with a steak knife. They tell me she’ll be okay but I have not been allowed out of my room since it happened. I’m hoping maybe tomorrow. I love you. I miss you. I’m sorry. Love, Steve.”

My brother stabbed someone. He’s crazy. And I will be too if I don’t stay in this room for another … I have no idea how long. But I’m staying. I glanced out the window. The sun had barely moved over the horizon. This was going to be a long day.

I sat back in the chair. I had barely touched my ass to the seat when the rite took hold.

I tried to gain some kind of control over this one but it was really no use. I found myself in a tent in the jungle, somewhere. It had to have been some time in the 1960s or 1970s. Wait a minute. A jungle? The 1960s or 1970s? Holy shit! I was in Viet Nam! But where was I? Why was I alone? Why were there no sounds going on outside the tent? For that matter, how did I know I was in a jungle and it was the 1960s or 1970s? I hadn’t even looked outside the tent yet. 

I decided that I was not going to let this vision happen to me, but that I would reach out and try to interact with it. The problem is that every time I interacted with a vision, I wound up back in the chair and in the room. Screw it. I was going to see what was out there. 

I went to pull down the zipper on the tent door when a knife suddenly cut through the side of the tent and a screaming man grabbed my wrist. What the hell??! I screamed and tried to see who it was, but the vision suddenly disappeared and I was back in the room again. 

This time, however, I was not in the chair. I was standing in front of the painted over window in the back of the room and I was facing the window. The hand that I had tried to use to unzip the tent door was still outstretched as it had been in my vision.

The hand that cut through the tent was still holding my wrist! I panicked, but I didn’t move. I could hear someone breathing in the dark corner of the room and I knew it had to be the person who owned this hand. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know if I should scream, or run, or throw a wild punch into the darkness. Suddenly I start hearing the breathing being intertwined with what sounded like someone speaking Chinese or some other Asian word over and over again. I could have sworn that the voice was saying the word “get,” but I couldn’t be sure.

It was freezing in the room, but the sweat was running down the back of my neck and all over my body. I started trembling, but it wasn’t from the cold. I could hear the sound of the figure rustling for something in what sounded like a pouch. It sounded like he was sifting through a bag full of metal as I could hear small metal objects clanking against each other. 
The breathing was getting heavier and the voice was getting raspy and goddamned spooky. Suddenly, the voice switched from an Asian word to English words being spoken with a thick Asian accent. 

“Joe?” said the voice, with a long, drawn out “O” sound at the end. 

Suddenly, I could see the unmistakable silhouette of a knife blade slowly making its way towards my wrist. That was the first time I started to struggle, and the hand closed its grasp on my wrist to hold me in place. 

“Joe? You still wanna knife gook, Joe?”

With that, I screamed and turned to confront the voice but nothing was there. The hand was gone, the knife was gone, the breathing was gone and the voice was gone. I was drenched in sweat and close to shitting my pants. I decided to sit in the chair for comfort this time, even though it did not have a history of offering comfort.
As soon as I sat down and let out a sigh, the chair started to vibrate slightly. I thought I was supposed to just have visions. Why was all of this stuff happening? The vibrations started to get more pronounced and I realized that they were actually footsteps in the room. I could hear Steve’s voice calling my name, but that didn’t make any sense.

The room itself seemed to spin. Footsteps and voices that couldn't be there echoed in my head. I whipped around in my chair expecting to see Steve striding towards me. The room was empty, mocking me in its sudden silence. I glanced down to my previously empty hands. One of the letters was crumpled in my hand.  I unclenched my fist and released the pressure on the paper. As it smoothed out a bit I could see that there were actually two letters stuck together.

The first letter was from my father to his mother about an experience he had while in Viet Nam. The second was yet another letter from Steve.

“Dear Mom, They say this new medication will make me better, but I can still see those things that aren't really there. You know, just at the edge of my vision. Whenever I turn my head to look, it’s gone, but I know it was there.  They've followed me from the house. Maybe Miles can be saved from this torment now that they’re here instead. I've pulled them out of that dank, old room and made them mine.  Love Steve.”

I dropped the letters. They drifted gently to the floor in slow motion. I watched them carefully as a dizzying sickness took over. I grasped the edge of the chair to keep from falling to the floor. It seemed so far away.
The sky was a brilliant blue and the trees in the park were lush with leaves. It was a beautiful day. It was  a place I had never been before, or even seen. Still, I felt comfortable like I had been here many, many times.  I walked alone along a pathway toward a pond and creek. Other people were enjoying the day. I watched a homeless woman bring her cart from under the bridge by the pond. She wasn't filthy like some of the homeless I've seen around here. She seemed almost grandmotherly and caring to those around her. I smiled at her and she smiled back.

Suddenly a man ran past me screaming. The other people on the path parted before him as he rushed through the park. The next thing I knew, I was on the ground. It felt like someone had pushed me, but I was alone on that part of the path. I must have tripped over my own two feet while enthralled with the visage of the screaming man. I pulled myself up to me knees. That’s when I saw her, the most beautiful, most elegant…

I was back in the chair in the room. My world continued to spin for a few moments and I stayed still to catch my breath. Everything was happening so fast. I couldn't keep track of what was going on. Who was that woman? My heart lurched into my throat when I first saw her. Was she to be someone special in my life?

I had never really thought much about dating. Well, I have, but when you’re home schooled and nearly forbidden from ever leaving the house, the social skills required to date are severely retarded. It’s not like I have seen very many girls waltz through the front door of my house. Instead, I've found myself staring out the window at the end of the school day to watch the kids walk home. I guess you could say I’m a stalker. So to meet a woman as beautiful as the one I saw in my vision, I must have spread my wings a little. Probably much to my mother’s chagrin.

With my heart rate finally settling down, I stood from the chair and paced the room.  The marble mantelpiece above the fireplace was coated with dust. I traced my initials into it.  They could very well still be there in a few years when my younger brother visited the room for his own rite of passage. The fireplace was cold and dark, not having a fire in it for a very long time. There were stale ashes and bits of wood in the crib from a distant fire. A chilly breeze blew down the open flue. I reached for the knob to close it when…

The bricks were warm to the touch, almost hot. The fire had been burning for awhile. Aside from the glow from the flames, a single lantern on the mantle cast long shadows through the darkened room.  The chair in the center of the room was gone, replaced by a sectional couch occupied by the same woman I had seen in the park vision. A flash of lightning and an immediate clap of thunder resounded outside the windows. The power flickered on once, twice, then remained as dark as when I first awoke in this vision. She was wrapped in a blanket with her legs pulled up underneath her and maybe a few years older than when I had seen her previously. Her hands rested on the lump of a pregnant belly. She smiled as I focused on her beautiful face. She let the blanket drop to invite me in and…

I steadied myself against the cold mantle. The fire was gone and the room returned to loneliness and dreariness. These visions were sapping my energy and my thoughts. I barely got used to what I was seeing before I was pulled away. There had to be a way to stay in the vision state for a longer period. I had to figure out a way. The constant tearing from reality to fantasy was scrambling my brain and settling my heart on fire, ready to explode from my chest. I was going to die before the day was over if I couldn't find away to control what was happening to me.

I tapped my forehead roughly and said aloud “Think. Think. Think.” It occurred to me that I was impersonating Winnie the damn Pooh. This made me laugh for a second. I still had my wits about me. For now.

I thought to myself: Do I let the visions flow, as dad told me to do? Or do I try to interact? I’ve tried both strategies and neither seems to have worked. Should I read more letters? Or just wait? I feel like this room should come with a manual. Or dad and great grandpa could have better prepared me.

I was suddenly awash in anger. Yeah, dad and great grandpa should have definitely prepared me better instead of just throwing me to the wolves.

I was in another forest. But this one felt different. I wasn’t in ‘Nam. I was in … Wyoming? Again, I had no idea what made me think - or rather realize - that I was in Wyoming. These trees looked just like any other trees. But something inside me told me I was definitely in Wyoming. Alone. In the woods.

What could this possibly show me about my future? Just then I saw it. Staring at me. Drooling. A wolf. A North American Gray Wolf. Staring me down. And then he stopped. In fact, everything stopped. The wind stopped. The trees stopped moving. The noises in the forest stopped. I think, in fact, time stopped.

I walked over to the wolf and touched it. It was real. The trees were real. I was really here. I thought. Or not. Maybe I was just slipping into insanity.

I decided that if time restarted, I wanted not to be in front of a hungry wolf so I walked through the forest touching everything I could. To assure myself that I was not, in fact, insane.

But why would I appear in Wyoming in front of a wolf right when I was thinking about dad and great grandpa throwing me to the wolves? I mean, that’s too coincidental to be a coincidence. And I wondered if time was stopped here, was it stopped everywhere? Was the sun moving across the sky back at home? Or was I stuck in one position living between the ticks of a clock?

And just like that, I was back home. Back in the room on the third floor.

So can I control it? I thought wolves, I got wolves. I thought home. I came home. It was time to try another letter. This one from my brother’s box. April 11, 2009.

“Mom, I know it’s been a while since I’ve written. I’m sorry about that. I’ve really been deep in my own head. As big a change as it’s been living in this asylum for the past eight months, I have a strange feeling that the biggest changes in my life are yet to come.

“I fear that these changes are not good at all. I want to escape. But I’m not sure if that’s a literal thing or figurative. Whatever I may do, please know that I love you.

“Love, Steve.

“PS - Miles. Run. It’s a trap. Get out now.”

Um. What? I did a double take a read it again. “PS - Miles. Run. It’s a trap. Get out now.”

What the hell did that mean? My eyes widened like saucers. My heart raced. And sweat immediately began to pour from my forehead.

Was this a joke? A premonition? Was this a vision? A trick? I can’t run. I can’t leave. I’ll go crazy like he did. Right? And yet here’s this letter talking about escaping. And closing with a note to me that I need to get out now because it’s a trap.

I went to sit in the chair to steady my thoughts and stopped myself. If I sit in that chair, I’ll end up somewhere else. Somewhen else. And Steve just warned me. I went to look out the window to try to discern what time it was. I wished there was a clock in here.

As I looked out the window, I’m watching a basketball game. The New York Knicks are playing the LA Lakers. I’m at Madison Square Garden. Sitting next to me is the woman from the park, and next to her is a young boy.  Next to him is my brother Steve.

“Thank you so much little brother for getting me out for the day,” he said to me. “I don’t remember the last time a hot dog tasted so good.”

“Yeah, of course,” I replied. “That’s what family’s for.”

“So Stevie,” my brother turned his attention to the young boy, “What’s your old man told you about your crazy uncle?”

My son - I’m guessing it was my son - looked at me with fear in his eyes, obviously not knowing how to answer my brother.

“It’s okay, Stevie,” my wife said. “You’re uncle’s just pulling your leg. He’s not crazy. Right, Steve?”

“Obviously,” my brother said back. “You wouldn’t name your son after a crazy man, would you Miles? Would you, Rose?”


And just like that, I’m back in the tenement.
“Ok, screw this” was the first thought that fired into my head. I had enough of this back and forth. My brain hurt. My brain actually hurt.  What was the point of showing me all of this? Why did Steve warn me to run? Then it occurred to me that maybe things are not what they appeared to be. I started to wonder if Steve was part of something much bigger. I started to wonder what my father and grandfather were really up to.

It felt good to have coherent thoughts again, but the problem was I was having these coherent thoughts while sitting in the chair. Suddenly I felt a cold blast go up my spine and the rite took hold yet again.  At least, I think it did. I was still in the chair and, as far as I could tell, I was still in the room. No parks, no basketball games, no forests in Wyoming, and no crazy Viet Nam guy trying to stab me. But why was I here. 

“You’re here because the night is over and you can leave.”
Wow, that voice sounded really familiar. I could see someone coming from out of the corner of the room, but he was in a wheelchair and looking old. Even as old as the person appeared to be, I knew right away it was me. I reacted with the first thing that popped into my head. 

“Well, great. Now I am literally talking to myself.” 
“Very funny. It is time to get us out of here. Time to leave.”

As my older self was talking to me, the face shifted back and forth between my face and my grandfather’s face. It was almost like getting bad reception on a television and then having the picture snap back into place, but I never knew which face I would see. 

“Time to leave, eh? So who are you supposed to be?” 

“I’m you. You aren’t that far gone to recognize yourself, are you?” 

As my older self was saying the phrase “recognize yourself,” his face quickly snapped to my grandfather’s face and then back again.

 “No, really. Who are you?” 

The figure in the wheelchair sighed, stood up, took off his glasses, and his face suddenly completely changed to Steve’s face. All at once, the whole figure changed into present day Steve. He reached out to shake my hand, but I just didn’t trust it.

“Now you don’t trust your own brother?”

 “What the hell is going on?” 

“It really is time to go Miles. The night is over and you can leave the room now. You made it buddy! You did something I could never do!”
No, no, no. That did not make any sense. My grandfather said that he and my father would come get me. That is when I started to freak out. 

“No! You’re wrong! I have to stay in here or else I will go crazy! Like you did! I can’t leave yet!”

 “Miles, listen to me . . .”

But the voice trailed off and now I was very afraid that I had officially lost my mind. Was it really time to go? My father and grandfather didn’t say what would happen if I stayed in too long. They just told me not to leave early. Maybe they lied. Maybe that was the test. 

My mind raced. I didn’t know what to do. Suddenly there was a knock at the door and a female voice saying my name. I didn’t recognize the voice. Was it real? Was it another vision?  I started to sweat again. I decided that I had enough. I decided I would come out now, whether it was time or not. I knew what the consequences would be. I didn’t care. I couldn’t keep doing this.  I grabbed the doorknob, but it wouldn’t turn. I started pounding on the door, but nothing happened. I kept trying and trying to turn the doorknob,  but it just wouldn’t go. I pressed my body up against the door and pushed as I turned the knob one last time. The knob turned, and I burst out into the hallway and fell to the floor. 
I looked up and instantly recognized the woman and boy standing over me with looks of concern on their faces. 

“Rose? Stevie?”

“Honey, what were you doing in there? Ever since your father died all you do is spend hours and hours in that dark room.”

"What? How? When?" I stuttered. I thought I had it all figured out, but now I was just as confused as before. I glanced down at my hands. There were no letters but it was not my hands I was looking at. They were older, lined with years of work, and lassoed by a gold ring which was biting into the skin around it. It was as though years had passed since it had first been placed there. I was eighteen years old. I wasn't married and I wasn't old.

My wife, that woman, whoever she was, helped me to my feet, whereupon I immediately sank back to the floor. The reality, or maybe in this case, the fantasy of what was going on around me was unbearable. I could smell the sweat dried on my body, and the underlying stench of decay from a forgotten and ignored room in a forgotten and ignored tenement.

"How long have I been in there?" I asked.

"Since your mother went back to Florida after the funeral three days ago. Is everything okay?" Rose asked kneeling in front of me. The boy scurried behind his mother's skirts, reminding me of my younger brother.

"Just sitting in there?"

"Yeah. Reading letters. You keep that big box of them in the closet in that room," she motioned toward the open door behind him. "I used to like that room, but when your great-grandfather died, you went off the deep end and made up some hauntingly bizarre stories about it. And then you closed it off to the rest of us. Some of your stories are great, but those about that room scare me. I'm very proud that you've made a wonderful living for us with your stories, but I wish you'd just stop those ones about this place. This is our home."

So I was a writer? When did that happen? Writing was one of the things my mother used to punish me with whenever I disobeyed or failed to complete one of my assignments. By far, writing was my last favorite of activities. This was definitely a vision and I was still sitting in the chair in the middle of the room. I stared past my "wife" to the wall beyond her.

Strangely, the hallway seemed brighter than I ever remembered. The drab, off-ugly wallpaper was gone, replaced with that chic, faux painting. Obviously, Rose had taken a keen interest in redecorating the tenement after we were married and moved into the old place. A ceiling light appeared at this end of the hallway outside the doorway of great-grandpa's room and the forbidden room where none had ever been before. This new brightness gave this part of the house a much warmer, lived in feeling than before. I sort of liked it.

Still, this was all a vision. What was it trying to tell me? Was this my future? I made it out of the room, retained my fragile sanity, met this beautiful woman, and fell in love? If this was where my life was heading, I was in for the long haul. I just didn't want to miss all those experiences in between. I scooted on my but back into the room.

"Call my brother. I need to talk to him."

"You know as well as I do that Seth is somewhere in Africa on a mission. There are very limited options to get a message to him, and it could take days for him to get back to us. He hasn't responded to the message about your father yet. What makes you think this time will be different?"

"No. My older brother, Steve."

"Steve? What are you talking about? You're Steve."

I cocked my head in confusion. Steve? My name was Miles. That was the most basic set of facts about myself. I was Miles Patton. I had an older brother, Steve, who had been through all of this. Insane or not, he would have some answers about what was happening. By this point, the vision should have changed. I retreated further into the room. Rose looked at me with something between pity and genuine fear. It hurt me to see that in her eyes. I backed into something solid that tumbled backwards. I looked behind me.

A stack of hardcover books was in disarray on the floor. I saw my face staring back at me from the back covers. I grabbed one and turned it over in my hands.

The Continued Tales From Beyond the Door.  A stylized picture of the room I was in appeared below the title. At the bottom was my name: Steven Miles Patton, III.