The real and imaginative adventures of Dennis Spielman

Tag: Five Following Planets

Missing Memories - art by Mikey Marchan at Design Pickle

Missing Memories

Rumors are floating around of children having memory loss while playing on their own in the new Star Light District. After solving two mysteries, Haley “The Sounds” Riot and Robin Bee venture to the Underground Zone of Aequus to uncover the truth.

This story is number 3 in The Sounds’ serial, with Body Drop and Testing Predictions on an Abandoned Village being the first two. Be sure to visit the new Serials section to catch up on continuing stories.

Haley and Robin stepped off the elevator as a sasquatch, a minotaur, and bipedal humanoid mechanical got inside. While the sun was shining above ground from where they came, an artificial starry night sky illuminated the Star Light District of Aequus’ Underground Zone.

“Now that we’re here, how do you suppose we find some parents willing to talk to us?” Robin asked her human girlfriend.

Haley pulled out her music player from her pink hoodie. The small, rectangular device had only physical buttons and no holographic interface. There wasn’t a speaker or way for her to listen to the music, but the song titles provided her hints about the future and revealed hidden truths. She felt confident after solving a murder at a concert and a mystery surrounding an abandoned village. Now she wanted to discover why children in the district reported memory loss.

“How do we find affected parents?” Haley said to her music player and then pressed the shuffle button. “‘Guided by Angels.’”

The two scanned the lobby for any artistic interpretation of the mystical and religious winged creature. Haley started with the ceiling, searching for any angel consultations. With no luck, she looked lower at the golden flora walls for any angels but only saw 12-foot tall statues of notable vampires.

“Found one!” Robin said, pointing to a fountain with three statues of angels.

“Great work,” Haley thanked Robin as they walked over to the fountain.

A ghaukvoi mother and her child watched streams of water and flames perform a coordinated dance around the towering angel statues. Haley was dating a ghaukvoi, so she was familiar with their biology and customs. She could tell them apart from tutelagions as ghaukvoi had pointy ears and varying shades of blue skin and hair. In contrast, tutelagions lacked hair and genetic diversity.

“Excuse me, but has your child complained of memory loss?” Haley asked. 

“Yes, but so has practically every child here has lately,” the mother answered.

“You don’t seem concerned,” Robin said.

“We’re pretty sure it’s all some sort of prank or trend the kids are into these days.”

“I think there might be more going on,” Haley expressed politely. “I’m investigating this mystery. You can call me The Sounds, and this is my partner, Robin.”

Robin waved hello.

The mother crossed her arms. “What will this cost me?”

“Nothing,” Haley said, talking with her hands. “I’m technically not an officially licensed detective, so this is more of a hobby right now.”

The mother checked on her child, still enjoying the water show. She sat on the black granite bench with Haley and Robin doing the same.

“My name is Aura,” the mother said. “What would you like to know?”

“Have you noticed when your child’s memory is missing?” Haley asked and quickly added, “Or other children from parents, you know.”

Aura sighed and thought for a moment. “Sometimes, when I would let Uris here go play with his friends, I would ask him what they did, and he would blank out on me.”

“Is there a spot they tend to play?”

“They run all over the district.”

“Have you tracked Uris’ movement with his networker by any chance?”

“I have, but there was no data,” Aura said. “It was like wherever he went when he claimed he didn’t know, his networker wasn’t working.”

“That is weird,” Robin commented.

“As I said earlier, I’m not too worried about it. Uris hasn’t come home injured, and neither have any of the other kids from the parents I’ve spoken with.”

Haley bowed her head. “Thank you for sharing.”

Aura returned the bow. “May the Goddess guide you in your quest.”

The water show ended after a finale involving a large burst of fire and water. Uris clapped. His mother chuckled at his enthusiasm.

“Wait, I just remembered something,” Aura said. “I don’t know if it’s relevant, but the first time I remember this happening to Uris, he came home with a new hat. I asked him where he got it, and he said he didn’t remember.”

Haley nodded. “Thank you. I’ll keep that in mind.”

Uris ran up to his mother, and together they left the angel fountain.

Robin turned to Haley. “So, what’s next?”

Haley held up the music player and asked, “Where should we go next?” She pressed shuffle. “It says, ‘Put Your Records On.’”

Robin paused for a second. “What does it mean by ‘record?’”

Haley shrugged. “I swear, some of these songs are not from our solar system.” She held up her purple networker hanging around her neck in the shape of two beamed eighth notes. “Hey, networker, what are some things considered a record besides information?”

A spinning rainbow holographic ball projected from her networker. It then morphed into a vinyl record with a text box beside the artwork.

“This is the closest match based on your conversation,” the networker answered. “On Earth, they have round black discs called records that contain music.”

“That’s our answer!” Haley exclaimed, putting her devices away as she stood up. “There must be a music lounge nearby.”

Haley grabbed Robin’s hand and rushed over to the nearby information kiosk – a full-body holographic virtual intelligence of the district’s founder. From Haley’s preliminary research, Iris Ironglass built the community seemingly overnight, while Iris reported the project was years in the making. Iris wore a two-piece sparkling white dress with a long trail for the interactive kiosk.

“Wow, look at her dress,” Robin said, admiring how the silky smooth the dress looked against Iris’ dark skin.

Haley stroked the side of Robin’s arm. “That would look good on you too.”

Robin’s cheeks brighten. “Please. I prefer my leggings and sweaters.”

Haley beamed with love and faced the kiosk. “Back to the task, could you tell us where we can enjoy some music?”

“The Star Light District has 16 music venues,” the virtual Iris replied. 

Haley scratched her short rainbow-colored hair. “Hum. Any of them play records from Earth?”

“There is one venue – Celebration – specializing in playing records from Earth.”

“That’s our place!” Haley said. “Send the directions to my networker, please.”

“Directions sent,” the kiosk replied. “Thank you for visiting the Start Light District.”

Haley led the way, taking them down a corridor. While Haley focused on getting to the destination, Robin darted her head from statue to statue. There were no shops or homes in the passage – just the starry ceiling and giant sculptures. Although, she did spot a few static posters featuring Iris advertising affordable homes coming soon. The advertisements lessened her worry, but not completely.

“All of these statues are kind of creepy,” Robin said, walking closer to Haley’s side.

“At least they’re too tall to be real people.”

“Real people?” Robin repeated, shocked.

“Yeah, I read this protector report about a detective who caught a gorgon turning people into stone for an artistic statement.”

“That’s wild,” Robin mumbled. “Never going to look at a statue the same way again.”

The corridor opened up into a hub of small shops of homes. Purple streaks of light dominated the hub, making the area feel more youthful to Haley than the previous hub’s golden motifs. Across the central playground, Haley spotted the wooden sign for Celebrations, between a salon called Sister Golden Hair and the hoverboard shop, Landslide. 

“Found it,” Haley proclaimed. “Let’s go.”

Children of various species ran around, playing tag, climbing over the replica spaceships, and making noise with the neon flower musical lights. As the couple crossed through the playground, Haley hopped on a series of light-up tiles while Robin walked by her side. Each tile flashed and color and played a musical note, bringing a smile to Haley’s face.

“Perhaps we should keep an eye on these kids?” Robin asked.

While still moving forward, Haley consulted her music player. “‘Left Alone’ is the answer I get. Steady the course!”

Upon entering Celebration, the venue positioned itself like a bygone era with wooden walls, seating, and tables. Despite the choice of materials, the calming fire-glow lights glistened against the wood. In one corner, two couples spoke with each other while their kids played games on their networkers. Haley and Robin took a seat at the bar. Haley ran her finger against the countertop.

“Smooth,” Haley whispered, then she spotted the record player on a shelf. “Excuse me. Is that a record player?”

The tutelagion mixologist finished squeezing a lime and handed the drink to a customer. “Yes, it is. The song is Last Friday Night by Katy Perry. But, before you ask, I have no clue what she is singing about. When is Friday and what’s so special about it? I just love collecting records from Earth, even though they are insanely expensive. Anyway, can I get you two anything to eat or drink?”

“I was hoping to get some information.” Haley paused, searching for a name tag. “Aspen. What do you know of the missing memories of the children in the Starlight District?”

“I used to think it was a rumor until some parents nonchalantly brought it up,” Aspen replied. “No one seems worried about it. Maybe kind of annoyed, if anything. Why do you ask?”

“I think there’s something bigger going on,” Haley explained, keeping her voice down. “I just can’t figure out what. Does the phrase, ‘Cowboys Don’t Cry’ mean anything to you?”

Before Haley ventured to the Star Light District, she directly asked her music player who was responsible for the missing memories. The device responded with the song title, Cowboys Don’t Cry. She nearly threw her device across her home in frustration from the cryptic answer. She asked for motivation and got the answer, Mad World. 

Aspen chuckled. “You know, we had Iris Ironglass personally stop by last week for one of our Bloody Orangeritas, and there was this kid. The kid scraped his knee and was crying pretty loudly. She kneed down by that kid, kissed his wound, put some healing gel on it, and then pulled out this weird hat from her purse. She put it on the kid and said, ‘Cowboys don’t cry.’ The kid calmed down.”

Robin awed. “That was nice of her.”

“Yeah, Iris is more approachable than people assume,” Aspen said. “Speaking of which, there’s that kid. He’s still wearing that hat.”

Haley and Robin watched the human child in the tan cowboy hat run past Celebration and out of sight.

Haley stood up. “Thanks. We should go.”

“Enjoy the day,” Aspen said and walked over to a group of customers.

Haley and Robin followed the child. The child ran down the corridor from where they originated. The child disappeared behind a statue. They waited a moment to see if the child would reappear, but when he didn’t, they went to investigate. Behind the stone figure was a large grate for a ventilation system.

“Well, I’ll be,” Robin said. “I knew there was something creepy about this area.”

Haley scanned the area to ensure no one was watching them and then pulled the cover off. She stuck her head and looked down the shaft.

“This looks big enough for us to crawl through,” Haley said as she started to crawl inside.

“Wait. Are you serious?”

“If kids are crawling through this, then this has to be safe.”

Robin grumbled and got down on her hands and knees. “I guess you have a point.”

Haley gently pushed open the grate, crawling out into a construction zone. The two crawled 30 feet before reaching the end. They took cover behind a pile of wood boards and peeked over.

Dozens of children were all wearing various hats and were building homes and businesses. The children operated with the professionalism and skill of adults. Haley looked around for any adults but didn’t spot any, so she checked her networker.

Haley groaned. “My signal is blocked.”

Robin checked hers. “Well, I guess we know why tracking was lost.”

The grate behind them slammed open. Haley and Robin turned around, their hearts racing. Exiting the ventilation was Uris, wearing a black top hat.

“Uris?” Haley asked. “What are you doing here?”

Uris did not respond. His eyes were steady as he stood up, ignoring the couple. As he stepped away, Haley grabbed for the hat. As she pulled the hat off, a pair of shadowy hands from inside reached for Uris’ head and pulled themselves back onto his head.

Haley let go. “What was that?”

“You should leave,” Uris spoke, with an echo like two people speaking simultaneously.

Haley pulled on the child, turning him around. “Not until I get some answers like who are you and what have you done to Uris?”

“My identity was forgotten ages ago, but I mean no harm to this child.”

Haley tightened her grim and raised her voice. “Then why are you possessing this child?”

“We are repenting for mistakes in a past life. We were in the Underworld when we found ourselves floating upward one day where we got caught in these hats at Ironglass’ boutique. We told her our stories, and she came up with this idea to make this area better. We only wish to help.”

Robin placed a hand on Haley’s shoulder. “This whole topic sounds like a wild ethics debate.”

Haley loosened her grip on Uris. “Yeah, but why children?”

Another voice behind them spoke. “Children have a strong sense of good and innocence which keeps the spirits in check.”

Haley and Robin turned around and looked up to Iris Ironglass towering over them. Although she wasn’t wearing her trademark dress, she sported a cropped white hoodie and black leggings with the same class.

“The children are perfectly safe, and I ensure that happens,” Iris continued. “Granted, I did have one rouge spirit temporarily possess me, but they’re gone. Adults with these spirits are not a good mix, but as they help, they find themselves freed. Call it karma, balance, justice, whatever, but everyone gets a happy ending. Take a look.”

Haley and Robin stood up, looking over the construction.

Iris pointed to a large building. “We’re about to have the first school in the Underground Zone. I know it’s a mad world out there, but this whole area is going to be more than just entertainment.” She turned to Haley. “So, how about you let this whole mystery drop, Haley Riot?”

“How did you know—”

“I had an identification scanner installed in the vent,” Iris interrupted. 

Haley took a deep breath. She pressed the shuffle button on her music player. “‘You’ve got a friend.’”

Missing Memories - art by Mikey Marchan at Design Pickle

For this short story, I knew I wanted to write another mystery with The Sounds. The concept of children missing their memories was inspired by the writing prompt: “Mysteriously, children are starting to lose memories. You’re a detective assigned to this case, and you just found out what is causing them to forget.”

As with past stories featuring The Sounds, I asked people to submit songs for me to incorporate into the story. Some of the songs were used as messages given from the music player while others were worked in other ways. The songs were: Cowboys Don’t Cry by Oliver Tree, Put Your Records On by Ritt Momney, Mad World by Tears for Fears, Left Alone by Fiona Apple, Last Friday Night by Katy Perry, Sister Golden Hair by America, Landslide by Stevie Nicks, You’ve Got a Friend by James Taylor, Celebration by Kool & the Gang, and Guided By Angels by Amyl and The Sniffers.

Thanks to Mikey Marchan for the story artwork!

Thank you for reading!

A Forgettable Retrieval - art by Janine De Guzman at Design Pickle

A Forgettable Retrieval

A day in the life story following a skilled thief on the Red Planet whose bloodline has been cursed/blessed to be easily forgotten. 

“Put those back!”

“Sorry, but these belong to your ex,” I explained without making eye contact as I stuffed the last book in my backpack. “Maybe don’t cheat on her next time.”

The sasquatch huffed and marched to his kitchen. Despite the apartment’s open concept, going to the kitchen was enough to put me out of sasquatch’s sight. The moment he stepped on the white granite floor, the sound of his footsteps softened–no longer in a hurry to get a knife, I presumed.

I stood up and slung the backpack on. My standing caught the sasquatch’s attention.

“Hey, how did you get in?” he asked, confused.

“You let me in to get me some water,” I reassured with a lie. The truth was I had knocked and barraged my way inside for the books. “Are you feeling okay?”

“I don’t recall letting you in,” he accused in a weak tone, questioning both himself and me.

“You should go lay down,” I continued. “Don’t worry about the water. I’ll just see myself out.”

Playing my movements calm and casual, I walked over to the front door. That was a mistake. I should’ve kept my eyes on him because then I would’ve been able to dodge the knife he threw at me. I put one hand over the wound the blade made on my arm while I flung open the door and rushed out. I channeled some serious willpower not to slam the door close, but I knew if I left discreetly as possible, the curse made people forget me easier. At least my blood was the same color as my crimson skin—no unwanted attention from bleeding all over myself.

Though I was outside the apartment, I wasn’t truly outside. Though, one could forget they were in one of the Red Planet’s underground cities with all the plants and artificial lights. Still, I preferred the clean, bright underground cities to my planet’s dusty, dark surface.

What could I say about Amber Hallows? This was my home. The whole city was fundamentally a giant building. I practically knew every path, every slide, and every blind spot of the city’s ten levels. Except for the first level, which was well-maintained with shops and tourist attractions, the deeper one went, the newer and more beautiful the level. Currently, I was strolling around the third floor, which was an older, more rustic section with mostly homes mixed with restaurants and grocery stores. Little to none in terms of art to cheer people. 

I took a slide down to the fifth level. Level 5 was my level, right in the center of the city. Upon standing up from the slide, a giant wrapping mural of random shapes warmly greeted me. A short walk later, I was in front of the door to my place. The door automatically slid open for me.

“Greetings, Ronvo,” Ibx welcomed as I stepped inside. “Was the retrieval a success?”

Ibx was the only one who could remember me—not counting my mother, Kira, of course. The anthropomorphic mechanical was explicitly programmed to remember us. According to the story passed down onto my mother, many generations ago, one of our arrogant ancestors was cursed by a god to be easily forgettable. This curse also included fading away from photos and recordings. Instead of being doomed, our ancestors embraced the imprecation, becoming assassins and thieves throughout time. My mother decided to make a pivot for good and only take jobs like retrieving stolen items. Ibx was our liaison for clients since people would forget they hired us.

“I got the books,” I answered as I dropped the backpack on the floor, revealing my wound at the same time.

“I see you’re injured,” Ibx pulled out the medical spray from the first-aid kit on the wall. “Have a seat.”

I sat down on the barstool in front of our kitchen counter. All the dishes had been cleaned and put away. My mother instilled a sense of cleanliness in me because a clean home was easier to tell if an intruder visited. Ibx spayed the treatment on the wound, cleaning and healing the cut with a gentle tingle. Seeing a doctor was hard, for whenever they left the room to get something, they would forget that they had a patient.

“Thank you, Ibx. Is my mother here?”

“No, Kira is currently out on another assignment.”

“Figures. Where do I deliver these books?”

“The client is located on Level 7. I’ll send the coordinates to your networker.”

“Fancy. I wonder what she was doing hooking up with someone on the third level.”

“She confided in me that she was curious.”

I stood up. “If I’m going to Level 7, I bet switch into something a bit trendier.”

“I would support that motion.”

After a quick wardrobe change into a stylish suit, I took a slide down to the seventh level. White and gold was a common motif in the art and architecture of the area. I preferred the more colorful artwork on the fifth level the best, but I liked this area’s cohesiveness.

I found the client, a female sasquatch in a white sundress, waiting on a park bench under a sprawling golden leaf tree. I stopped in front of her, with the books extended out to her.

“I believe these belong to you,” I introduced.

Her face lit up. “Thank you so much! I thought I would never get my books back.” She took the books and flipped through the pages, like revisiting with an old friend. She looked up at me. “Hi, there. Are you looking for someone?”

“Oh, no. I was just curious what you were reading,” I lied.

“Some old books of mine that my ex kept because he’s a cling. I just found them on this bench.”

I smiled. “Lucky you.”

Another happy client.

A Forgettable Retrieval - art by Janine De Guzman at Design Pickle

This week’s short story was inspired by this writing prompt: “A vain, self-absorbed ancestor pissed off a god and was cursed to have his bloodline fall into obscurity. Where ever you go people will forget you, images that capture you will fade, and your name dies on the tip of the tongue. A curse for most but a boon for a thief or assassin.”

For this story, I went on a sci-fi route and wrote about one of the underground cities of the Red Planet, which is part of the Five Following Planets. If I were to flesh this out into a book or write another story, I would revise the backstory to include the line, “My mother did warn that on the rare chance I encountered someone who could remember me to stay away because they would bring nothing but trouble.” I didn’t want to include this trait in the story because you might expect Ronvo to encounter such a person.

Thank you to Janine De Guzman at Design Pickle for bringing this scene to life!

Thank you for reading!

The Case of Statue Trail - art by Janine De Guzman at Design Pickle

The Case of Statue Trail

A freelance private investigator is hired to figure out if a client’s wife was transformed into a statue.

The sun was out without a cloud in the sky, but Psychon’s enormous umbrella protected him from the deadly-to-him UV rays as he strolled through Riverside Park. After his last job solving a missing person’s case, he asked his client for recommendations for scenic spots. They urged him to explore the park and smell the Blue Hibiscus flowers, which only bloomed during the day. He stopped and smelled the mild sweetness of the blossoms as suggested.

“Kay, you would’ve loved this place,” Psychon said aloud to no one. “Maybe I’ll get a shuttle to the Blue Planet next and visit the beaches there.”

Psychon’s networker on his wrist vibrated with an incoming commutation. He pushed aside his jacket sleeve, allowing the network to cast a holographic screen. A Karviná Uvae listed the incoming call as a job request with a nearby location in the park. He tapped on the green accept button, connecting the call, replacing the screen with a video of an ghaukvoi woman. The ghaukvoi were similar to humans but taller with varying shades of blue skin and pointy ears. 

“Detective Psychon!” Color returned to Karviná’s blue face like she had been holding her breath in anticipation. “Praise the goddess. Are you available? I saw you’re one of the best detectives in the Five-Following Planets, and this might be beneath you, but I really could use your help.”

“I’m available. What problem may I solve for you?”

Karviná turned the screen to a statue of a young adult human woman. “I believe someone turned my wife into a statue.”

Psychon started to walk in the direction of the caller’s location. “You know, you could call the protectors and get her cured.”

“I could, but I don’t want to embarrass myself if I’m wrong.”

“Understandable. Every interaction with the protectors does become public record.”

“Exactly! Plus, you see, my wife is part of the arts council. She met with the rest of the council to discuss some public art projects, and I decided to take a jog while she worked. When I finished, I came back here where I found this statue, and I cannot get in touch with her.”

I wonder if she is the kind of person to allow herself to be temporarily transformed statue for art, Psychon thought. No, judging from how worried Karviná is, she would’ve told her in advance so she wouldn’t panic.

“I’m not cheap.”

“Your rate won’t be an issue, especially if you save me from embarrassment.”

“And if your suspicions are correct?”

Karviná paused to think. Her worry shifted to anger. “Then I’ll want you to hunt down whoever did this.”

“Very well.” Psychon chuckled at her sudden enthusiasm. “I think I see you now.”

Karviná waved, and Psychon ended the call. Her outfit was the opposite of his in every way – bright, floral patterned shorts, a matching sports bra, and running shoes. Still, she didn’t have to worry about catching on fire in the sunlight.

The two stood facing the statue of Karviná’s wife. With one hand holding his umbrella, Psychon glided his fingers over the surprised facial expression. The texture of the stone felt like the work of a gorgon, but he had to be sure.

Psychon pulled off his pointy black hat. The detective decorated the outside with an eclectic assortment of patches he sewed, while the inside featured spatial revamping technology. He could store items ten times the hat’s size, such as his umbrella and anything he needed for work. He dug around inside and pulled out a material analyzer. The gray cylinder device was about the size of a flashlight.

After putting his hat back on, he pressed the device against the statue’s neck and tapped the red button. The device emitted three quick, high-pitched beeps.

Psychon glanced at his client. “Looks like you’re right. Your wife was turned into stone by a gorgon–a human one, to be precise. Does she have any enemies, Karviná?”

His client scoffed. “Sometimes she would complain about rejected eccentric artists, but she always made the matter seem like no big deal.”

The detective put his analyzer in his jacket. “Anyone who would want to turn her into stone?”

“I don’t know! You’re the detective!” Karviná took a deep breath. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap.”

“It’s the love of your life. You’re allowed to snap.”

Karviná smiled. 

Psychon looked down the urban wilderness trail, noting the other sculptures decorated along the path. Various species stood with nothing in common other than what he interrupted as an expression of fear or surprise on their faces.

“By any chance, do you recognize any of the other statues?”

Karviná turned away from her wife and studied the others. “Oh. I’ve been so focused on my wife that I didn’t realize someone turned the rest of the arts council to stone.”

“Let me confirm.” Psychon went to the nearest statue and performed the test. “Same result.” He checked another one. “Also, same.”

Karviná pointed to a statue. “I don’t recognize that one.”

Psychon tested the statue. “Interesting. Someone turned this person to stone before the arts council members.”

Karviná crossed her arms. “What do you think is going on?”

“I’m not sure.” Psychon kneed down for a close inspection of the ground, mindful of the umbrella’s location as not to damage the statue or get himself roasted. By the statue’s feet was a golden plaque with the engraving, The Horrors of Corporations. “Curious…”

Karviná jogged to the detective. “What? What did you find?”

Psychon pointed to the plaque. “This statue was deliberate. We should get the protectors out here to get everyone to a hospital for treatment. Once restored, they should be able to tell us what happened.”

“But that process takes time, and whoever did this is still out there!”

Psychon paused. His client had a solid point, and so he constructed a plan.

“Very well,” he announced. “I have a theory, but I’ll need your help.”

* * *

Karviná jogged along the paved trail as the route came out along a river. She hadn’t seen anyone for several minutes. She resisted hard to look over her shoulders constantly, and with the upcoming stretch having no statues, she was on high alert. The detective’s instructions to “act natural” kept repeating over and over in her head.

She focused on the river’s flow, hoping the sight would relax her like the waterfall white-nose she listened to at night. She took a deep breath to center her mind when a human woman jumped out in front of her.

“Hello, there!” the stranger greeted with an extensively cheerful smile. Paint splatter covered her long-sleeve shirt and well-worn white jeans. Only her rainbow pattern beanie cap was free of paint. “Would you like to make some art with me?”

“I’m just out here enjoying a jog,” Karviná stumbled to explain.

The artist pulled out a large knife from her belt holster. “But my project needs more volunteers.” 

The artist’s beanie flicked off her head as several gorgon snakes hissed to life. Karviná screamed, prompting Psychon to jump down from the treetops. While floating underneath his umbrella, he landed directly on the artist, knocking her down. He immediately handcuffed her, which neutralized the snakes.

“I can’t believe that worked,” Karviná said, coming down from the adrenaline rush.

“I already called the protectors to treat those transformed and make an arrest.”

“Why?” the artist cried. “All those people with increasing terror on the faces as they got closer to the big corporate complexes. This project was going to be beautiful. The stupid arts council would’ve seen the genius of my work!”

A pair of uniformed protectors spotted them and rushed their way.

Psychon gently forced the artist up. “Maybe next time, don’t build statues out of people.”

The Case of Statue Trail - art by Janine De Guzman at Design Pickle

This short story was somewhat inspired by the following writing prompt: “A man discovers that a statue in a public square has something strange. She seems way too real. He discovers that there is a corpse inside it. A detective is called to see this, and he figures out that every single statue in this square hides a corpse.”

I thought it would be fun to write a short story featuring Detective Psychon, who is a minor character in my book, The Crashing of Heaven and Hell, and from a TV series I once attempted, but still plan to do. Since I’ve originally published this story, I’ve written more about the detective. You can find all of them in chronological order on his profile page.

Thank you to Janine De Guzman at Design Pickle for bringing this beautiful scene to life. For inspiration, I gave Janine a photo of the Tulsa, Oklahoma rival trails. In my mind, as I was writing this story, I even pictured those trails. If you ever find yourself in Tulsa, I recommend taking a hike or bike ride along there.

The Clock Tower’s Purpose art by Henry Yusman at Design Pickle

The Clock Tower’s Purpose

After the initial chaos of a clock tower falling from the sky, it faded into normalcy with only a reporter keeping tabs on it until one morning when its lights went out.

There were many theories why a clock tower the size of two houses fell from the sky and landed in Whiteridge. The initial reaction to such as large object falling in the village center was that a spaceship had crashed, but when emergency crews arrived, all they found was a violet steel tower with digital numbers the size of a person displaying the current time. There was no way discovered to get inside the structure. Early speculations suggested The Black Dragon dropped the tower; however, when the press inquired, The Black Dragon denied any knowledge of it. 

One of Auceon’s favorite theories was the whole tower was a social experiment by a secret cult. He didn’t have any opinions about what that experiment was. Although Auceon also liked the idea of it being an art piece, he figured the artist would’ve come forward to claim it or had the clock count down to something as part of a statement. After months of the clock running normally and no one taking credit for it, the clock faded into normalcy.

Despite the lack of activity, Auceon kept tabs on it as one of his beats for the newsroom. As part of his commute from work, he stopped by on his hoverboard. All the changes he recorded were beautification efforts to the area, like new flowers, trees, benches, and playground equipment — all of those he received press releases. No mysteries there.

This morning was different. From off in the distance, Auceon noticed the red glow from the numbers were gone. With no time on the clock, Auceon raced on his hoverboard to the scene, his brown fur blowing in the wind as he traveled as fast as he could. Since most visitors came to the tower in the evening, it was easy for him to spot three humans carrying boxes running out from a previously hidden door at the tower’s base. They fled around the corner and out of his sight. Auceon had a choice: follow the people or go inside.

Auceon went inside. Thousands of screens covered the entire room. His jaw dropped in shock.

“Hello,” Auceon called out. “Anyone here?” 

With no reply, he decided to familiarize himself with his surroundings. He rushed up the glass stairs, calling out again, only to find a self-sufficient greenhouse. At the end of the room, he found two doors. One lead to a bathroom and the other a tiny bedroom with three bunk beds. There were no personal belongings or clothing left by whoever resided there.

Auceon trekked back downstairs to study the screens. It didn’t take him long to figure out all of the displays were live feeds monitoring people and places throughout Whiteridge.

“What did I find?” Auceon muttered to himself.

Auceon scanned through the various monitors until he came across a set of static screens. Underneath was an infamous name: Bravak.

As if on cue, Bravak tore through the door. Auceon trembled at the sight of the shark twice his size. Bravak saw the screens as if they confirmed a suspicion he had and then noticed Auceon.

“You,” Bravak bellowed in accusation. “I should’ve known it would’ve been one of you reporters spying on me.”

As Bravak marched forward, Auceon knew it was the end of his journalism career. 

The Clock Tower’s Purpose art by Henry Yusman at Design Pickle

Thank you to Henry Yusman at Design Pickle for bringing this scene to life. For this artwork, the scene depicted takes place before the events of the story, back to when the clock tower first fell.

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