Dennis Spielman

The real and imaginative adventures of Dennis Spielman

The Herculaneum Coin

During an archaeological dig, Hyria found an unusual coin that she shared of photo of on social media. By doing so, she attracted some unwanted attention, forcing her dog to reveal he can talk.


Snuggled warmly in layers of blankets, Hyria released a happy yawn. Her mother’s friends were gracious enough to provide her with a place to sleep while working on her research project nearby. She couldn’t have asked for a more picturesque location than the countryside house they had outside Naples, Italy. Plus, they were awesome enough to let her bring Ace, her black Labrador Retriever.

Hyria couldn’t bear to be without Ace. He was her “Ace up the sleeve” and always there to protector her. As for their origin story, she found him when he came to her aid when someone tried to mug her. She looked around the tiny, cozy guest room for her precious old boy.

“He must be outside,” Hyria shrugged as she flopped back on the bed.

For the first time in ages, her plans for the day were going to be laid-back. She needed the chill day. Following her mother’s career path, she had received a grant that allowed her to join the archeological dig at Herculaneum. The ancient city was on the western base of Mount Vesuvius, which was destroyed—together with Pompeii, Torre Annunziata, and Stabiae—by the Vesuvius eruption of 79 CE.

She didn’t find much during her excavation–mostly household items–but yesterday, she found a purple coin depicting a muscular man on both sides. Although she knew she shouldn’t, she pocked the relic. In her defense, she believed it was modern due to its mint condition and intricate detail. Still, to be positive, she shared a picture on social media, asking for background information. With the grant depleted, she hoped she would discover some great local food and wine during her free time before going home.

Curious if she had gotten any replies about the coin overnight, she stretched her arm out to her cellphone on the rustic seashell white wooden bedside dresser. Without sitting up, she woke up her phone. On the notification was a comment from her mother on the coin post.

“Delete this photo and call me ASAP!” the message read. 

Before she could swipe open her phone, Ace leaped on her bed, purposely stepped on her stomach, and got in her face.

“Okay, Ace,” Hyria groaned. “What do you want, boy?”

“Sorry, I know this is out of nowhere, and I thought we had more time, but we have to go.”

“Did-did, you just talk?” she stuttered.

“Yes, and we need to get going.”

Ace bit on the blankets and pulled them off Hyria. Hyria tossed on the clothes she had already set out for the day from the night before.

“Have you always been able to talk?” she questioned as she put on her jeans.

“Yes.”

“Why, just now?”

“Your father didn’t want me too.”

“Wait,” she paused as she dropped her shirt over herself, “you mean my step-dad?”

“No, your biological father.”

“Henry? But he’s dead.”

“That’s not,” Ace started to correct but then stopped. “We need to get going.”

Hyria tied her shoelaces and stood up. “Lead the way.”

“You know that coin you kept for yourself?”

“I was going to return it,” she immediately defended.

“If you didn’t take it, I would’ve put it on your bag.”

“Oh.”

“Now grab it and keep it in your hand. You might need its power.”

Ace ran out the door. Hyria pocked her cellphone and keys and grabbed the coin, which she held onto as requested. She chased Ace down the quiet wooden steps into the living room.

“There’s a lot you’re not telling me.”

“In due time,” Ace whispered as they ran to the front door.

They were alone. Hyria assumed her host family had already left for work or the market. Everyone came and went without much communication, which was kind of annoying but also kind of refreshing compared to her mother’s constant contact. Though now, she was starting to wonder what her mother hadn’t been telling her.

Hyria opened the front door. Ace bolted toward the car parked beside the house while Hyria closed the door behind. Locking the door wasn’t a concern. After all, they were in the middle of the countryside.

She ran to the car while Ace started to bark at the sky. Confused, she looked up as the wind raced around her. Floating down on a flying motorcycle, a humanoid shark-like alien landed between her and her car. Decked in a neon blue suit and wrap-around sunglasses, Hyria felt tiny as the colossal creature stood up and marched toward her. Ace growled, signaling to Hyria this wasn’t a peaceful alien.

“Give me the coin,” the alien calmly demanded.

“Sorry, but it’s not for sale.”

“I’m not here to buy it.”

The alien lunged at Hyria. Ace tried to attack his legs, but the alien kicked him with his black boots, sending Ace flying, hitting the side at the house. Hyria screamed out in rage and punched her attacker in the gut, sending him back several meters down the hill.

“Holy shit,” Hyria cussed. “How did I do that?”

“That’s the power of the coin you possess,” Ace explained as he approached her side, uninjured. “Your father made that coin after losing a bet, but it was lost when Mount Vesuvius erupted nearly two thousand years ago.”

“Wait,” Hyria interrupted. “Who in the hell is my father?”

“Hades.”

Hyria soaked in what Ace revealed. “Like… the Greek god?”

“The very one.”

“Anything else important you want to drop on me?”

“Well, we’re out of the canned dog food.”


This week’s short story was inspired by the writing prompt: “You wake up one day to your dog sitting besides your bed. He’s suddenly speaks and says, ‘Sorry, I know this is out of nowhere and I thought we had more time but we have to go.'”

The Pacific Northwest Podcaster

A serial killer mistakenly targets a true-crime podcaster.


Whitney’s heart fluttered. Male, late 20s/early 30s with an alethic build? Check. Shaggy, blond hair? Check. Thick, black plastic sunglasses resting on a curved, wedge-shaped nose? Check. A prominent crescent scar on his right cheek? Check. She was positive the stranger jogging behind her matched the police sketch of the Noon Slayer.

Whitney kept a steady pace as she traversed the dirt trail at Stewart Memorial Park. The summer weather in Washington state never got uncomfortable for her noon jogs. The tall, western hemlocks and various evergreen trees provided ample shade with the fresh rain bringing its petrichor fragrance.

She tapped on her headphones, which weren’t playing music. They never did. They were only on her ears for the same reason a worm would be on a hook. The serial killer caught up to her. Whiney smirked. He took the bait.

As the Noon Slayer was about to grab Whitney, she spun around and tased him.

The Noon Slayer’s eyes fluttered open. Directly in front of him was a podcast microphone complete with a pop filter attached to a boom arm. White, nylon rope strapped him tight on the metal chair.

“You’re awake,” Whitney joyfully greeted. “Don’t say anything. I need to hit record real fast.” She took a seat on her RV kitchen bench behind the matching microphone she had set up for herself and pushed the record button on her audio recorder. “Hello, crime-heads. I want to start off this episode by thanking my guest. I’ve gotten in pretty good shape since I started jogging about a month ago to get you on my show.”

“Where am I?” the Noon Slayer grumbled.

Whitney pushed the red button on her pop-out kitchen table, sending him a painful electric shock. It wasn’t enough to kill or do any serious harm, but it was enough to say, “I’m the one in charge.”

“Hey, I’m the host here,” she playfully scolded. “This is my podcast, so I’ll be the one asking the questions–until the end when I let my guests ask me a question before I let them go.”

He looked around the cozy fifth-wheel travel trailer that held him captive. Everything was clean and neatly organized. His gaze focused on a massive cork bullion board the size that was as long as him, pinned with newspaper clippings of all his killings. He nodded toward the murder board. “You a fan of mine?”

“You can say I’ve been tracking you. Oh, wait. That was technically a question.”

She pushed the button, shocking him again. When he settled, she took down the murder board from the easel–revealing another board covered in clippings about a different serial killer–laid his board on the bed next to him so he could see it, and then returned to her seat.

“What do you think?” she inquired.

He reviewed the large board. In addition to the newspaper clippings, there were crime scene photos, a copy of the police sketch, and a pair of gold foil business cards with the word, “Congratulations.” 

“How did you–” he stopped, catching himself. “I mean, I’m impressed you have my calling card. Two of them.”

“Thank you, but truth be told, one is a replica I made. I managed to sneak a photo from one of my sources that’s been investigating you. The public doesn’t know about your calling card. The other is the one I pulled out from your wallet, Trent.”

Trent tried not to laugh at his carelessness. “I knew I shouldn’t have kept my wallet with me.”

“Don’t be too hard on yourself. In all my years of doing this podcast, I’ve learned that nobody is perfect. On the subject of mistakes, how accurate is my board about you? Are all of those yours? Am I missing anyone?”

“You’re missing my first one.”

Whitney sat up and leaned forward. “I am? Do tell.”

“It was different.” His eyes drifted up as he reflected. “I did it with my car. It was an accident–a complete accident. I wasn’t paying attention to the jogger when she ran in front of me. It was a hilly road. I thought I was going to get caught. But I didn’t.”

“Then let me guess, the thrill of not getting caught become intoxicating.”

“It did.”

“This happened around noon, just like all of the others?”

“Yes.”

Whitney nodded. “That’s what the psychologist Dr. Miller suggested when I interviewed him in episode 215. Well, Trent, you’ve answered all of my questions today. Before I let you go, as per tradition, I like to let my guests ask me a question.” 

Trent didn’t say anything. Whitney added, “Don’t worry. I won’t shock you.”

Whitney pulled out the chef knife from the cutlery drawer, walked over to Trent, and brushed the blade along rope behind his back.

“Who are you?” he asked.

She sawed the rope just long enough to give him a false sense of hope before she stabbed him in the back. “I’m the Pacific Northwest Podcaster.”


Inspired by the writing prompt: “A well known serial killer has been following you through town. He seems to be has been targeting you for a while now. But you’re not scared, in fact, you’re thrilled about it. Finally, you have a new target.”

I realized I hadn’t set any of my weekly stories in Washington state, where I grew up in my grade/middle school years. I got inspired by the writing prompt to have a serial killer stalk one of the woods there. Since it had been forever since I visited that area, the only park with a hiking trail I could think of was where my parents found a golden ticket for a radio contest. I texted my Mom for the name of the park. She asked why I was asking about it and I told her the premise of the short story. She asked me if I was going to incorporate a golden ticket into it somehow and I said I’ll see what I can do. Then she suggested it should be the killer’s calling card.

That’s the origin of this week’s short story. Thank you for reading!

Me at Norman 1 Million Cups

Earlier this week I was honored to be a guest speaker at the Norman chapter of 1 Million Cups to speak about my business, The Show Starts Now Studios! After some introductions, I gave a short presentation about my studio project and the various shows I’m producing, followed by a Q&A session. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the monthly event was held online via Zoom. They were kind enough to record the meeting and post it online, which I’ve embedded above.

Thanks to the Norman 1 Million Cups for having me! I had a great time sharing my story with everyone.

Winchester Drive-In Theatre

Keeping the tradition alive started by the Shanbour brothers in 1968, The Winchester Drive-In in Oklahoma City brings families together for a night under the stars and a giant movie screen. Austin Edwards, Jeff Massad, and Erich Massad give advice for those that have never experienced a drive-in before, what to expect, and their food offerings.

In regards to COVID-19 precautions, the Winchester Drive-In is only showing one movie, requiring masks when visiting the concession, and partaking in social distancing and strict sanitary guidelines. For the latest guidelines, visit their website or Facebook page.

Pizza at the Winchester Drive-In Theatre - photo by Dennis Spielman

As for my “reopening” plans at Uncovering Oklahoma, I’m carefully easing back into filming new episodes. With all of the uncertainty, especially with businesses closing temporary or permanently, and with me taking on more freelance work, episodes will be less common for the time being. I plan to focus on outdoor places and retail shops, less on restaurants and bars (unless they have some strict COVID policies in place).

I am holding off on doing guest host videos, which sucks because I had so many great segments planned for this year. One of the guest host ideas I had planned was to start featuring in the Spring were places where English isn’t the owner’s first/best language. In addition to new collaborations, I had planned on doing more volumes of past collaborations throughout the summer. We’ll see how the fall looks.

On the topic of my other shows, Jeff and I recently recorded our first episode for Tales Unveiled since we stopped due to COVID. Still aiming for a fall release for the third season. I’m hesitant about starting the next seasons of Art & Victory and Yes! Science! We’ll see how the fall looks but those might be a next year thing.

While I haven’t been filming as much, I have shifted gears to write more. I’ll be dropping new beta versions of my books in July for those who support me on Patreon. I’m really excited about those!

With the importance of streaming and having videos, I’ve started to pick up more freelance work. I got a big project coming up that’s going to take up like half a month of my time doing a series of educational videos for various local arts organizations in OKC. I’ve also been live-streaming the Sunday Twilight Concerts series so check those out on the Arts Council OKC YouTube channel.

That’s all my news for you today. I wanted to loop you all in on my “reopening” plans with this new video. Thank you so much for your support!

The Oak Tree Box

After months of dreaming about a mysterious figure burying a box in front of a gnarled oak tree, Sydney stumbles upon the same oak tree during a jog. 


Ripped away from the loving embrace of the comforter, Sydney fought to hold onto the dream as she tried to get a clear look at the mysterious person who had been regularly haunting her. She thought this would be the grand reveal. The faceless stranger would develop a face. This time she would succeed! But when that cover came off, Sydney drifted out of the dream, dragged backward by a giant invisible hand from her answer.

For the past few months, her dreams would start randomly (or be inspired to replay something stressful or embarrassing like dreams tend to do), but inevitably, the plot would shift toward her witnessing a small box being buried under a gnarled oak tree by a hooded figure, wrapped in red. Whenever they noticed her, it was dream over. 

Sydney groaned, and she opened her eyes to her girlfriend, Chloe, standing beside her. Chloe sported a pair of bright, purple leggings (with the most enormous pockets she’s ever found on workout pants) and a tank-top with a creepy purple eye from some weird podcast she loved.

“Adventure!” Chloe declared as she tossed Sydney’s running pants in her face.

“I was so close,” Sydney mumbled with the pants on her face.

“To beating me in a race?”

Sydney tossed the pants on the floor as she sat up. “To getting a good look at the stranger burying that box.”

Chloe pitched a tank-top that read, “Adulting is Hard,” at Sydney, which she caught.

“That’s what you said last time.”

“And you woke me up early then too,” Sydney stated with a yawn. “Perhaps I should solve the mystery of how you can function this early without any coffee.”

“I’m freak like that,” Chloe winked. “Now, come on, adventure!”

Sydney did enjoy her morning jogs (and cycling on the weekends) with Chloe. They had been running together before they started dating. It was during one of their jogs when Sydney confessed her feelings for Chloe. She peered over at Chloe, who was wandering around in her imagination. She smiled, thinking of how happy she was with her.

Chloe tended to take random routes while jogging, cycling, car drives–it didn’t matter–she would get lost on purpose. “Adventure!” she would often proclaim as her excuse and defense. Today was no exception when she took an unannounced sharp right through a prairie grass field.

Sydney followed, making a mental note to check for ticks when they returned home as Chloe plowed forward. Shortly through the field, the ground dipped down to reveal a creek.

“A creek,” Chloe cheered. “This is so picturesque. Syd, you want to follow it up?”

Sydney shrugged. “Sure.”

Had Sydney known the path would lead them up a steep hill, she would’ve said no. Had Sydney known that the top of the secluded hill had an abandoned cemetery, she would’ve said hell no.

“Let’s see who can find the oldest tombstone,” Chloe challenged and raced to the nearest one.

There weren’t that many tombstones to inspect. Sydney’s best guest was 20. None of the grave markers stood out, but the gnarled oak tree off in the corner made Sydney freeze. Chloe shouted some date as she moved to inspect another, but Sydney drowned it out as she focused on the tree from her dream.

“No fucking way,” Sydney mumbled.

Chloe popped her head up. “What? What did you say?”

Sydney pointed. “It’s the same tree from my dreams.”

As Chloe turned to look, a person wrapped in a red cloak stood from the tree, coming into their view.

“No fucking way,” Sydney mumbled, again, louder this time for Chloe to hear. The stranger noticed them and ran off. Sydney bolted after them, shouting. “Hey! Stop! Who are you?”

Sydney chased them into a patch of prairie grass. A windowless, metal red door stood in the middle. The stranger was fast, faster than Chloe even. The stranger opened the red door and went through. When the door closed, it blinked out of existence.

Sydney stopped where the door once stood, with Chloe caught up. 

“You saw that, right?” Sydney asked.

“Yeah, I saw that. That was the person from your dreams, right?”

“I think so.”

“Do you think they left that box behind too?”

Sydney paused. “You know what, we should go check.”

At the base of the gnarled oak tree was a patch of freshly moved soil. Sydney dropped to knees, declaring, “Fuck it,” as she started to dig with her bare hands. Without hesitation, Chloe kneed down and joined in.

After digging a foot deep, they unearthed a rustic wooden red box the size of a person’s head. Sydney lifted the lid off. Inside were a pair of red fabric facemasks and an index card. Sydney grabbed the note while Chloe took out a facemask.

“This handwriting looks like mine,” Sydney commented.

“What does it say?”

“You’ll both need these in three years for 2020.”

The red metal door opened. The stranger ran through, closed the door behind themselves, and took off their hood. It was an older version of Sydney by about five years. Together, under the night sky in an empty field, was a tall, slender man in a pink suit she knew as Loki and a woman named Raven with a similar slim build, but a little shorter and in a red dress. Behind those two was a door the same color as Loki’s suit.

“It’s done,” Sydney stated before she rapidly deteriorated into ash.

Raven tossed Loki a gold coin, which he ceremoniously caught. She tapped notes into her tablet.

“You won that round,” Raven graciously conceded. “She was willing to alter time, knowing it would cause her death, just to create a future with Chloe.”

“Don’t worry,” Loki teased as made the coin disappear from a sleight of hand trick. “You’ll get more opportunities, especially since those two live longer now.”


Inspired by the writing prompt, “Every night, you have the same dream. A small box being buried under a knarled oak tree, by someone you don’t recognize. The dream always ends when they notice you there. You don’t think too much of it, until one day, you spot the tree from your dreams, in the centre of a local graveyard.”

For this story, I decided to feature Sydney and Chloe from The Spiral Staircase in the Woods, to see them together as a couple. I struggled to decide what to put in the box. One of my first ideas was one of those personality cards from the Little Shop of Personalities, but then the whole face masks and 2020 warning came into my mind and I couldn’t think of anything else. I re-read their first story to make sure I didn’t anchor it at any time and then I ran with the idea. Originally I was trying not to feature Loki and Raven (and perhaps a new end-timer), but I liked that nice callback twist at the end I came up.

Thank you for reading!

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