The Ranger

James’s Note: This is one of my older poems. In fact, it is probably the oldest one I will admit to writing. It was born of my love of western heroes and ghost stories. It was also influenced by the couple of Texas rangers in my family line.

Five horses pounding thunder,
throwing dust up in the scrape.
They're riding hard for Mexico
and desperate to escape.

They had shot a Texas ranger
when they busted out of jail
and ever since they'd swear to god
there'd been someone on their trail.

Every night when they made camp
they'd shiver in their skins,
'cause in the distance they could hear
hooves pounding in the wind.

They finally made the Rio Grande.
Mexico looked safe and warm.
Then like wrath of an angry god,
there came a thunder storm.

Their horses spooked and bolted;
they threw them to the ground
and when they looked up they could see
a rider coming down.

Lightning forked behind him
like a fearsome demon's horns
and the wind was screaming murder
as he rode out of the storm.

His horse was throwing moonlight,
white fire filled his eyes,
and a golden star shown on his chest
like it had fallen from the sky.

The pair of pistols in his hands
roared liked beast from hell.
The world was filled with thunder
and five screaming outlaws fell.

No one knows what really happened,
those outlaws were never found,
but there's a place on the Rio Grande
they say is still cursed ground.

But you can bet the scores got settled up
for each and every one
because you can't kill a ranger
with a desperado's gun.

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Nightmare: Redacted Part 1

Sharon’s note: This is my attempt at a creepy pasta, broken into parts because . . . well, because. Warning: Some language and blood. Possibly some guts. Possibly Chuthalonic horror. I haven’t decided yet. If you like this, please leave a comment.

“Are you Ok?” Katy poured fake sympathy into her voice like spoiled syrup. She knew very well I had a headache, just not for the reasons she thought.

“Go to hell.” I growled, holding a glass of ice water against my forehead as I tried to leave the breakroom. 

She moved to block the doorway and prevent me from leaving. “Have you ever considered not binge drinking the night before you come to work? Maybe you were misinformed, but a hangover is not actually mandatory for coming in on a Monday.”

“Oh, really?” I put the hand not holding the water over my heart and gasped in mock surprise. “Thank you so much, Katy. I would have never have known if you hadn’t of told me. For your information, I didn’t drink at all, yesterday. I’ve had this same headache since Sunday morning. I barely slept last night.”

My coworker eyed me suspiciously, peering into my eyes as if she could catch me in a lie. Good luck with her on that. I wasn’t lying. “Did you hit your head or something?”

“I don’t know. Maybe? I did go out Friday. I had a few drinks, but not that many.” Catching the disgusted disbelief on Katy’s face, I corrected, “Not many for me. Anyway, I remember meeting this guy and a little after that, I don’t remember anything until I woke up in my apartment Sunday morning.”

Katy’s eyes went wide. “Holy crap, did he rape you?”

I shook my head. “I don’t think so. When I came to, I was still wearing the same clothes, and everything was still, you know, in place. I felt fine, except for this bitch of a headache.”

“He didn’t rob you or anything?” Katy hadn’t been this interested in my affairs since we’d stopped being friends. 

“My cell phone was missing.” I admitted. “He could have taken it. I also could have left it at Mike’s. It’s happened before. I’m going to swing by after school. Hopefully they found it when they were cleaning up.”

Katy hesitated for a long second before asking, “Do you need a ride?”

I laughed, then winced as it felt like someone was stabbing me between the eyeballs with an ice pick. Lacking my planned enthusiasm, I groaned, “You don’t have to come with me just to find out what happened. I’ll fill you in tomorrow, when I find out what happened.

Frowning, she thumped me in the side of my head with her index finger, and I whimpered. “You’re in no state to drive. I’ll take you.”

“You are a scholar and a gentleman.” I gave her a wan smile, and her frown deepened as she waved me away.

“Go in the back and receive those boxes we just got this morning. I’ll watch the register. Looking like that, you’d scare all the customers away.” She sulked, but I could swear there was genuine concern in her eyes.

“Bless you lady.” I went to make an exaggerated bow, but as soon as I went to lean forward, a dizzying wave of pain shot through my head. I straightened up, and slinked off to the back. Kelly laughed at my misfortune, but I couldn’t really blame her. I’d have done the same in her position.

A trickle of moisture slid onto my upper lip, and I swiped the back of my hand under my nose. It came away smeared with blood. Oh, great. I totally needed a nose bleed on top of everything else. I hooked a right to stop by the bathroom to wash my hands and hold my nose with a paper towel. The blood was trickling down in a steady stream, and I was starting to taste it. My headache intensified, and between that and the copper taste, my stomach started to churn. 

I groaned, and gripping the edge of the sink, I leaned forward to rest my forehead on the mirror. In headaches past, resting my head against the cool glass had brought relief. This time, the pain of the pressure made me yelp, and straighten up. Dizziness washed over me, and I would have fallen if not for my hold on the porcelain. My eyes fluttered open, and I beheld, among the river of red now flowing freely from my nose, there were individual threads of black.

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Unlikely Heroes: The Devil in The Deep Blue Sea

James’s Note:
This is a micro fiction inspired by the historical fact that a Victorian gentleman, a disgraced Samurai, a wild west gunslinger, and an elderly French pirate could have all lived at the same time, and possibly gone on adventures. If you would like to read more about them, leave us a comment.

Emerson Battenburg III was sweating profusely under his top hat as his hands flew back and forth between the vault door and his roll of thief’s tools spread out before him. His lock picks twitched and jiggled inside the doors complicated mechanism.

“Sooner would be better than later, Emmy,” Cherokee Jack remarked cooly as he braced heavily against the barred door that he and the samurai, Masaski Kenshin, were vainly trying to hold shut against the battering ram being applied for the other side.

“Well , Mr. Jack, I have informed the tumblers of your haste, but they are quite rudely refusing to pop themselves open in spite of that fact,” Emerson responded, his voice prim, although his face showed intense concentration. After all, he fancied himself a proper English gentleman, and that meant never losing one’s cool.

As the door began to splinter, Masaaki took a step back and drew his katana. “Let them come. A hundred of them will die by my blade before I fall.”

Cherokee Jack rolled his eyes, and continued to brace the door. “While I would never dream of questioning your martial prowess, you will forgive me if I have no particular desire to test it.”

“If you had thought of an escape plan, we would not be currently stuck in this room, with no means of egress, trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea.” Emerson shot over his shoulder.

“While I do beg your pardon, even a stunning intellect such as myself cannot rightly think of everything,” Jack grunted, the door finally starting to give away.

“Will the two of you stop blithering, the guards are almost through,” Masaaki spat disdainfully as Jack was thrown to the ground, his cowboy hat knocked from his head, displacing the eagle feather he wore in it.

Jack didn’t bother to rise, but smoothly drew both his revolvers from where he lay.

Just as the two warriors were preparing to face down the overwhelming force of guards, the corridor outside the room was rocked by a series of explosions, forcing them to cover their ears

After a brief pause, the broken door swung open easily to admit the pirate captain, Jean-Luc La Croix, his hat perched jauntily on his long silver hair.

The old pirate quipped in his thick French accent, “I’m sorry I’m late, but you all seemed to have been having a bit of a problem. Luckily, it was nothing a few granados couldn’t solve.”

As he sashayed in, a pistol on one hip and an ornate rapier on the other, he had to step over one of the many strewn bodies that littered the corridor.

“Explosives are a coward’s weapon. It would have been more honorable to face them with your sword”, Moussaka said haughtily.

“I piss on your honor, boy. I am far too old for that nonsense. Although making men explode does give me an exquisite thirst.” Jean-Luc then proceeded to pull an enormous flask of wine from his voluminous coat and began a heroic effort to drain it.

Jack laughed aloud, rising and holstering his pistols. “I for one don’t give a damn what you piss on, I’m just glad to see you. Emmy here was just remarking how we was caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.”

La Croix scoffed in a very French way, and waved his hand dismissively. “Don’t be silly boy, I am the devil in the deep blue sea.”

The samurai seemed about to respond, when he was cut off by a loud clicking noise and Emerson’s whoop of victory.

“I’ve got it! Now if you all are done fooling about, I propose that we get what we came for and vacate these premises before more guards arrived.”

“Hell, Emmy’s got my vote,” Jack smirked, and with that, the four of them, weapons drawn, entered the vault.

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I Think That You Might Be a Tiger

James’s Note: This is a poem I wrote for Sharon, my lovely wife, who is indeed the bravest person I know. The style is a little Shel Silverstein, which is one of the many dissonant styles you can expect to enjoy here.

I think that you might be a tiger.
I think, but I really don't know.
Your fur isn't orange as the sunset,
or striped and white as the snow.

Your teeth are not sharpened like sabers.
Your claws can not scale a tall tree.
Your tail doesn't lash like bullwhip.
In darkness your eyes can not see.

You never have hunted the arctic.
In tree tops you never have laid,
but I think that you might be a tiger,
because tigers are never afraid.

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