And It Came to Pass

The Christmas season is upon us with the new year just around the corner. Another year has bitten the dust. In life nothing is guaranteed, including seeing the next sunrise. Often times we plan, set goals for our lives, only to find all of this work is for naught. Many wonder if our individual futures are already written, and we are only discovering this planned future day by day. All of us are guilty of looking back and thinking, “if only I could have known, or maybe changed this or that, then what I’m experiencing now would be as I had seen my futue, instead of what is actually taking place.” Yet no one can go back, no one can change the past, let alone know what our real future holds.

And the protagonist of this story asks these same questions as he sees his life presently. He wonders if there is a way, even now, to change his direction. For those who haven’t read my Christmas stories, be aware that they do not follow the normal “feel good” story. I try to deal with different lives and directions, and look at situations that are outside of what we see and expect. It is such here. The season doesn’t hold joy and happiness for all. This might give you a chance to see life through different eyes and begin to understand. So please be prepared for a different experience as I present: And It Came to Pass.

Faron sat at the counter of the coffee shop dressed in a ragged suit that was much too large for him. It had been cast off by someone else and he had found it. The suit replaced the clothes he had been wearing, which were not much more than rags, with too many holes, including places that made it almost impossible to hide any part of his body. It had been much too long since his last bath, let alone having a roof over his head. It was cold outside and before entering the coffee shop he had been shivering from the winds that were blowing. And he had looked, with envy, on the brightly lit stores and restaurants, the decorations that proclaimed the holidays, and even the lights that lit the front of homes where families lived.

It was always difficult making these decisions as to whether he wanted to dig into his paltry reserves of money. Generally coins that he had found on the ground, or in the streets, or on the sidewalks – lost by someone, or because of the minor value of the coin, who didn’t feel the need to bend over and pick the coin up. For him it was like gold. But these coins were few and far between, and it took much too long to get enough of them to be of any use. So when misery, or the cold penetrated too deeply, he always had to weigh heavily the cost of doing exactly what he was doing now. Before him was a cup of coffee, heavily sugared and creamed, since it was all he could afford, and meals in such a place as this were well beyond anything he could afford, even though it was a simple coffee shop.

In rare incidences someone would buy him a meal, and he was always thankful for those times. But, for now, times were hard for most, and those times, those gifts had become even rarer, as others who had more than he, didn’t have enough to give or help. They had their own problems, their families, and even now on what would have been a day where this coffee shop would have normally been full of patrons, talking their small talk, speaking of their plans for the future, or even of today, and what had to be accomplished, were not here at all. In fact, other than him, there were only a couple more individuals. Looking up at the waitress behind the counter he could see a bored individual, since there really wasn’t much going on or much for her to do. At the same time he could hear a bit of laughter coming from the kitchen as the cooks idled away their time.

He wondered, for the millionth time, how’d he gotten here, and what did his future really hold? He had no answers, and the passing years hadn’t been kind, or would the future years – judging by his past – appear to offer anything that could help him out of his present dismal life. He could only count on now, and hoped that he could stay awhile, here inside where it was warm, continuing to drink the coffee, with a cost that had wiped out his small cache of coins. He knew tonight would be rough. He’d been kicked out of his last place that at least had kept the winds off of him. And as such was on the move once again. A bad time of year to do this, as fall was just about over, and winter arriving fast, with a chance of snow always on the horizon. In fact it was only the calendar that pointed to the change of seasons. The weather had disagreed and there had been snow on the ground for weeks.

He wondered, once again, why he ended up where he was. If there had been a way to head south, then what was transpiring at this very moment – the snows, the cold – wouldn’t have been an issue. But, for whatever the reason here he was, and most likely, here he would stay. Looking down he could see that his cup was almost empty and he looked over at the waitress signaling a refill. With no look of friendship she came over, grabbed the coffee carafe and refilled his cup. Once done, returned to her place of vigilance to watch for any entering. But it remained quiet, and when he glanced through the glass front, there were few out and about. It was another sign of the bad times.

Christmas was just around the corner, and if he was very lucky he would be able to get a hot meal at the homeless shelter. He wasn’t sure. He had tried to get some room there, to get out of the biting cold, only to find that it was filled to overflowing, with “no room at the inn”. He had been too late. So here he sat, not wanting to face what lay ahead of him, but knowing he had no choice.

* * *

He was back on the streets with the icy winds blowing the loose snow into small clouds of white that stung when it struck his bare skin. He shivered. The clothing was too little to keep his body warm, and the lack of anything that could be called food had left him with too little reserves to be warm. He needed to find shelter and it had to be now. Otherwise he would become another nameless victim of the cold unforgiving winter. Even though it’s not yet winter, he thought bitterly. Once again he looked around, with envy, at the cheerful lights and decorations, but it brought no joy to his heart. How could it? They spoke of hope, of survival, of warmth, of happiness, of family, and he knew none of these at this time in his life.

Eventually he found a place out of the winds – an old broken building that had once been a business. But fire had destroyed most of it, leaving a skeleton – a shell. And since it had never been rebuilt, or torn down, it was as forgotten as he. In one of the corners, this was close to another building, providing a partial wind block, he set up for the night. Faron shivered, and leaned against a shaky wall, and tried to get comfortable. It would be a long night, one with little sleep. Still, with the partially burned scrap that was here, he had built a small fire in a container, and reveled in the small bit of warmth it gave him. Fortunately his location and his fire were hidden so no one could come in to roust him or admonish him about his small fire. It would be the only reason he would survive the night.

He itched from being dirty, and his dirty beard showed heavy streaks of gray, giving away his age – showing that he wasn’t a young man. And he laughed a bitter laugh when he thought about his past and the fact that this was the very last place he thought he would ever end up. Yet, here he was, and that past seemed more a dream than reality. For now this reality dominated, and controlled his life, as miserable as it was. All he could do was shake his head and ask, why had it gone so bad, why had things changed for the worst, and why was he here? Again, questions he asked himself all the time, but he could never find the answers. And eventually, even though he had blamed others, he knew deep inside he was here because of his own actions.

Knowing didn’t mean that one could change the results, or go back and move in a different direction. If only there was a way to go back and correct those horrible mistakes, the angry retorts, the direction that all of this led, then, just maybe, he wouldn’t be here now. But, there really wasn’t a way to know, to find out. For all he knew what he lived now was what he was destined to live. As he put his bare hands to his small fire, it felt so good, all he could do was shake his head. He would have laughed back then at such a thought, such a thing as this small fire being the most important thing in his life, in the world. He had personally looked down on those homeless, those bums, those in that shabby underworld that was a different place, a different culture, a different way of life and of survival. He was on his way up, and these many forgotten people meant nothing to him at all.

How many years had he lived this life? How long had he been part of this culture? The very one he had turned his nose up and away from so many years in the past. Well, it didn’t matter now, he was part of the homeless, part of their world, and the other life was so far in the past it no longer mattered. He wondered, again for the “nth” time why, and if there was a way out. Again, he had no answers.

He knew that the change of direction had happened when he had been drafted, and had gone to war. Before this he was advancing quickly, with a bright future. He spent a couple of years in that war zone, learning about the fears, stress, and depression that was part of such a life. It was there he had begun to drink, and while he no longer did, the alcohol became a means to an end. He became, as so many others, an alcoholic, which led to a dishonorable discharge, and the loss of any chance of returning to his place of work. Soon after that his wife left with their one and only daughter, and he continued to blame everybody for his personal failures. But now, these so many years later, he truly knew where the blame lay. Was it too late to make a fresh start? Would any trust him? He had no answers, and nothing to offer. So at this moment he stared beyond his small fire into the ink black darkness where the only light that penetrated was the light from his small fire.

At least he had the hot coffee earlier so his stomach wasn’t complaining too much. Taking a deep breath he covered up with a couple of threadbare blankets that he had rescued from a dumpster. It had been close to where a family had been moving away to who knew where, and they were throwing away, as far as he was concerned, treasures. Yes most were well-worn, but when you had nothing, then you looked at such things differently. He remembered watching, hoping that others were not doing the same thing. And when night fell he rummaged through the dumpster recovering things he could either use or barter with to get something he really needed. Had that been a year ago? Yes, it had because it was coming on to winter at the time he picked this stuff up.

Shivering when the cold winds found a way into his makeshift shelter he fell into an uneasy sleep and hoped to see the morning.

* * *

He awoke with a start. It seemed strange, and considering the cold, it felt warm and comfortable. How could this be? He slowly opened his eyes to find that he was in a big bed, and he was on his side turned towards the wall with a curtained window. At this moment in the twilight between asleep and awake, it felt right. At this very moment thoughts came unbidden into his mind telling him no, this can’t be right. Wasn’t it last night that he lay shivering in an abandoned burned out building? Yet, at this moment he didn’t care what his mind told him. He looked at his hands and they were the same ones he had seen the night before. Not young, showing the years of labor, of being outdoors, not a life of offices.

It was at this moment that he heard someone turn over and sigh. He froze for a moment. There was a woman in this bed with him. How long had it been since such had been the case, let alone being in such a bed? He was afraid to turn over and see who it might be. Then he heard as well as felt her shifting in the bed and coming closer to him, snuggling up to him and putting her arms over him. She asked him a question, “So why is it that once a weekend comes around that we can’t sleep in?”

Sleep in? What’s she talking about? Weekend? He hadn’t considered days as any more than days for years. It was then he realized that the body that was up against him was naked, and that was another shock. Again, this was something that hadn’t happened, well, since he and his wife had divorced too many years in the past. Yes, there had been brief encounters over the years since that time, but none of them were in such settings.

Again she sighed, kissed the back of his neck, stretched and said, “Why don’t you go push the button on the coffee. I need to take a quick shower. Then we can talk a little before the day really begins and the kids show up with all their chaos and demands.” She hugged him and wrapped her legs around him in a teasing way slid away from him to her side of the bed and he could hear her get out of bed.

With all that had been happening he had been afraid to move, afraid that what he was feeling, what he was experiencing, it had to be a dream. But it felt too real. He slowly turned over and watched as she retreated from the bed, naked as a jay bird, as the saying went, and disappeared into the bathroom. He could feel his body reacting to the situation, and yet he was incredulous to all that he was feeling, witnessing. He looked around this room, and while it seemed strange, at the same time, not. Letting out a slow breath he slipped out of bed only to realize that he was naked also. So that meant they probably had made love the night before. Was this her house, her home?

He found his clothes beside the bed, on a chair, got dressed, headed out the door into a hallway that extended in both directions. He automatically turned right, which said to him that he knew this place, and sure enough he found himself at the top of a set of stairs, headed down through a living room into the kitchen, found the coffee pot, and pushed the button. Through the kitchen window he looked out on a different scene than he expected. When he had fallen asleep it was coming onto winter. Yet, looking out of this window spoke of spring. Why did this house, this home, feel right, feel comfortable? And why, for all things, did you know which way to go and where the kitchen was located? And what happened to winter? Time doesn’t shift like this.

The scene before him was a backyard. It had a grass lawn, with a few trees that moved in the wind. Towards one corner was a swing set, speaking of the children she had mentioned. He noticed and to his surprise, expected a door to be to the left, and it was there. He unlocked it and stepped out on to a deck, a beautiful morning, with the perfume of the flowering plants wafting through the air. It was a little cool, but there was a promise of heat in that coolness. Again, what he was seeing, what he was feeling, seemed right, seemed comfortable, appeared to be familiar. He heard the coffee maker finishing its job and turned to go back in and fill a couple of cups only to hear the woman say, “I’ve got it. I’ll join you in a moment.”

He heard the cupboard being opened, followed by the refrigerator, and then the cups being filled. He turned as she came out with her hands full and saw a beautiful young woman smiling at him and offering him one of the coffees. He didn’t understand. He had to be at least twice her age. Yet, there was a look of love, of closeness that only is there with strongly committed couples in a healthy, Godly relationship. He stared, not sure, only to see her shy look, looking down briefly and asking, “What?”

He smiled, and shrugged. “Oh it’s not you, it’s me. Must have had a nightmare last night, and I think I’m still living part of it.” He laughed when he saw her reaction, and he put out his arms in denial stating, “No, no not you, but what I’m remembering. And for some reason this seems out-of-place, out of time, and I feel that I’m still asleep and dreaming. Looking down at his cup he found that it was fixed just the way he liked it, which spoke volumes. So was he dreaming, or what he thought he had been living a dream, and this was the real world? At this moment he had no answers. Suddenly her name came to his mind, she’s Kate, and he would tease her, calling her Katie, knowing that she hated that name. How’d he know this?

It was at this point that he noticed that both of them were wearing wedding bands, and they were not new. Now he wondered if this reflected the two of them, or they were actually married to someone else, and were having an affair. Again, this didn’t fit. No, they were a couple, they were husband and wife – they were a family. But how was this possible? In that other life – he was calling it that now – it was the time of Christmas, which was only a few days away. He was quite alone, had been for years, was poor to the point of having literally nothing, and had fallen off the grid too many years in the past to even remember when it first happened. So which was real? The one he remembered vividly or this one that had a familiarity, but at the same time seemed out-of-place, and out of time.

Saying nothing, as she came up beside him, he found that he put his arm around her, and it seemed natural, felt right. Was this how it was supposed to be? It seemed as the breakup had gotten close that all the two of them – his ex-wife from his previous relationship and he – did was fight. And after all this time, he had to admit that he was probably the cause, and most likely the instigator of those fights. Is this how it is supposed to be, he wondered again. He only remembered the pain, the anger, the fear when she thought he was going to strike her. And then the time came when he returned home to find it empty – he was alone. This was followed by the divorce papers and the final spiral into the worthless life that led up until this very moment. Again which one was a dream and which one was real?

The two of them heard some stirring within the house and Kate sighed, shook her head and said, “I guess our quiet respite is over. Sounds like at least one of the kids is up, which means the rest will follow shortly.”

The rest? He only remembered the one daughter. He watched as she pulled away from him, and with a reluctance headed back into the house. He remained trying to understand. It was at this moment a stranger stood in front of him – where he came from or how he got here was an unknown. He felt no fear, and knew that whoever this was, there was no harm here. At first there was only silence – then the stranger spoke. “I’m your guardian angel who has followed you throughout your life. I was told that I could show you this. What you are seeing, what you are feeling, what you are experiencing, this is what God had planned for you. A loving companion throughout your life with a strong faith in God, raising Godly children, and while not an easy life, one that would help your love and faith grow. Instead the enemy found a way in and destroyed all that was there, all that was to be. Yet, through the years, you still mentored to others, talked of your faith, and unknowingly brought lost souls back to God and Christ.” He smiled once again, finally saying after a long silence, “It’s time to come home.”

* * *

The lights flashed on the police cruiser, and the loud speakers were spouting road conditions, and situations that the dispatcher sent out. The ambulance sat silent with the engine idling, but the lights were not flashing as there was no one to save. The two officers returned to the cruiser with one of them picking up the mic and contacting dispatch stating, “Looks like the weather has taken another one. No, I’d say he’s been dead for at least half the night. Stranger, no one has recognized him, and he has no ID of any kind. The ambulance will take the body to the morgue, and, oh yeah, Merry Christmas.”

Slowly the scene returned to normal, as the vacant burned out business became empty once again. The ambulance left to deliver the stranger to the morgue, and the police cruiser returned to its patrol. For the one who had come here to seek shelter – a shelter he would no longer need – has left, only to return home.

 

* * *

I hope you enjoyed this year’s Christmas story, and it touched you, immersed you, in this fictional world. Allowed you to see into places you’ve never been. If I succeeded, then I’ve done my job as a writer. If you would like to read others, again they are available in the sidebar under Short Stories. Next week we are heading into the new year – 2015. For a while I will be leaving short stories and heading into a 2 part series on relationships. I hope that 2014 has been a good year, and the new one will be better. God Bless! (fdbrant.com)

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A Christmas Wish

God Bless All! It is the time of family, of remembrances, of watching the magic in the eyes of children as they anticipate Christmas morning. It is the traditional time to celebrate the birth of Christ and all that this event represents. It is the reason for the gift giving, for all the traditions that have developed over time, from the Christmas trees, to St Nick. And the gift giving is also a representation of the Gift God gave to us that first Christmas.

May this time of year be one of love, joy, and peace. And may the new year, which is only a week away, be one of promise. Again, God Bless! And I’ll close this with a link to a Christmas song from the Piano Guys. F. D. Brant

Published in: on December 25, 2014 at 6:44 am  Comments (2)  
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And The Sun Will Rise – Part 7

This week we reach the conclusion of the short story. Again, because of the way it is written, the ending begs for more – just like those old serials. It concludes with mysteries unsolved, and possibly leading to further short stories in the future, or maybe even a full length book. That’s not to say that there’s no closure, or it’s left unfinished because that’s not the case. The neat thing I find when either I read or write a story is the empathy I feel for the actors in the story. They appear to be real, seem to be trying hard to deal with whatever issue they are facing. And this is no different from you or I, but, and here’s the real kicker, they are not real, never have been real, and will never be more than those words on a page.

Still, as readers, we find ourselves returning to those pages to read about one of our favorite characters. And I’m no different. I’ve read some books at least a half-dozen times, and even though I know the story intimately, I still return. What is it about these fictional worlds that makes us want to return? I guess for each of us the answer would be different. Yet, if that author, that writer hadn’t put those words down we would never have had the chance to meet these fictional characters living in their fictional worlds – places for us to go and escape our own reality for a while. And since I’m a writer I can hope that my fictional worlds and characters leave you wanting to return, wanting to read more. (Again if this is the first time to this story I suggest that you go to the sidebar on the right to, first November 2014, and then December 2014, or go to my webpage (fdbrant.com) to read the story from the beginning.) And with this introduction, here is the conclusion of: And The Sun Will Rise.

He reached for the other doorknob, and this time when he turned it he pulled the door towards him and like the other one it didn’t budge. What’s going on here? With a firm grasp he decided to push like he did on the first door, and this time it moved easily away from him. It dawned on him, at that very moment, that the doors were designed to swing away from a room. To his mind this was stupid. It meant if someone was on the other side they would get hit with it, so why? With only he here there was no one to ask, so he quietly moved into the next room. He looked back and on the wall next to the door was a sign that stated, STAFF ONLY.

Looking back into this newly discovered space he found a room that was unbelievable in its size. It was like one could put at least one if not two of the biggest houses from the village in here . . . and possibly more. He had to admit that he had never seen a single room this size. He saw what he assumed were chairs sitting in rows, and what looked like one long counter where one could stand, but for what purpose he didn’t know. And there appeared to be many places along this counter where there were small access points for people to do something. He noticed that most had small signs that stated, CLOSED NEXT WINDOW PLEASE. Closed? Next window please? What’s this all about? And why are these openings called windows? Behind, on the wall, there appeared to be a large sign that stated in bold letters, Welcome to Helm’s Deep. A valley in middle earth from the fantasy series by J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings. In this valley lay a fortress, a place of last refuge, built into the mountain and an appropriate name for this place where you are presently standing. Even though there was a brief description of this “Helm’s Deep”, he hadn’t a clue to what the sign was referring to, or who J. R. R. Tolkien, or what The Lord of the Rings was all about.

Looking down he noticed that the floor, which was similar to the one in the room that he had just left, seemed to be covered in a thick layer of dust. And there were no tracks, no marks, nothing, showing that there hadn’t been anybody here in a long time. Looking back he could plainly see his tracks in that same dust. “What is this place?” He whispered. “And why am I whispering?” He didn’t know why, only that it felt right. Quietly, so not to disturb anything, he moved across the area to one of those “windows”, as the signs said, and looked behind. He noticed that against the back wall there were places for people to sit and work. He hadn’t ever seen anything like them, but the ones who had made the trading runs had described what he was seeing. If he remembered right, he had been told these things were called desks. In his mind, in the past, he thought desks were more like tables but now knew he had been wrong.

Going further down the counter and away from the STAFF entrance he found a couple more doors – three actually. Two had strange symbols, one looked kind of like a male, and the other he assumed had to be a female, but it was a guess. Even though there was no one around, he decided that he would only be allowed through the door with the male symbol. But the door had no handle, only a rectangular piece of shiny metal. Shrugging, he pushed on it and found, with some effort that the door swung open, and as soon as he released the pressure the door closed. This was novel. What made it do this? None of the doors he had ever gone through would close themselves like this, unless closed by the wind. He pushed it a number of times, released the pressure, and watched it close. Who are the people who had created such a thing?

Before entering, he wondered if there was a way out, since this side didn’t have any knobs or handles. It was a good question because he didn’t want to get stranded behind a door he couldn’t open. So carefully he pushed it open far enough that he could see the other side, and to his surprise it did have a handle. He reached around and awkwardly grabbed it and found that it felt solid. So with some confidence he entered what seemed to be a darkened room, only to jump when the light suddenly came on. It startled him enough that he let the door close with him on the inside. This wasn’t quite his plan, but there was nothing he could do about it now. He stood very still for a short time, and the lights went out and he found himself in absolute darkness. This was almost worse than the surprise light. He turned around to grope for the door only to have the lights come on again. What the heck is going on?

Carefully he worked his way further into this area; past a wall that seemed to keep anyone from the outside seeing what was happening in this place. One of the first things he noticed was the walls were partially covered in some type of small, well stones came to mind, but wasn’t sure if that was accurate, and they were cold to the touch. Going around the wall he looked into a large room that looked similar to a privy, more or less. Although, he had to admit, he had never seen anything like what was here. On one wall there appeared to be basins with reflecting glass above them and the opposite a place where males could stand and relieve themselves, plus closed areas with many swinging doors that were partially open. Going to one of them he pushed the door all the way open and found, in gleaming white, something that could easily pass as a privy. He assumed that the other side or door was for girls, females, alone, as this one was for males. And from the size he figured it could handle his whole village, if such had been necessary – not all at the same time, of course, but it wouldn’t have taken long for everyone to use what was here.

He wondered how it was that the area where he was would light up, and then when nothing moved, turn off. He was still in awe of the lights anyway. He couldn’t discern what was making the light. He was used to candles and lanterns and the smells associated with them. But there was no smell, there was no flame that he could see, there wasn’t anything he was familiar with at all. In fact it was more like bringing the sunlight inside. He exited this; well again since he wasn’t familiar with what it was called, he would call it a privy. He stood looking back across the room to where he had entered and saw that he had left that particular door open. He thought maybe it would be a great idea to close it, but shrugged instead. As far as he knew he was it. There was nobody else around, and besides, it would be an easy way to know that he had already been there.

So with a decision made he decided to explore this large room some more. As he looked around from his vantage point he could see other doors and at this point he remembered the third one, walked over to it and directly on the door was an attached sign stating, SUPERVISOR. So, what was a supervisor? He hadn’t a clue. He tried the doorknob and found that it didn’t budge. Trying harder it refused to give in to his attempts. Finally giving up he then saw another door on the other side of the room to his left. This one, like some of the others, had a lighted sign above the doorway stating, SECURITY. Again the word was unfamiliar but curiosity drove him on and he went to the door and was able to enter here. Once inside he found a smaller version of the counter here and on the other side of this counter was what appeared to be a partial glass wall. Between the wall and the counter were a number of desks like he saw behind the counter in the larger room.

Again, it appeared that he was the only one here. He noticed that the counter ran the full length of the room and there was no way around it. So he decided to jump over it instead. It wasn’t something that would be difficult. Heck, he’d scrambled up rocks there were more of a challenge than this. So vaulting over the counter he worked his way back towards the partial glass wall, which seemed to be frosted with something. Off to his right was an open doorway that held no door. Going through it he found he immediately entered a hallway that moved him to the left and then another open doorway that led him behind the frosted glass. Only on this side it wasn’t frosted and he could see clearly everything that was happening on the other side. How is this done? He asked himself. Of course there was no one here who could answer.

It was at this moment that something else caught his attention. Behind him was a wall of, little windows? He didn’t know what else to call them. Curious again, he moved closer to them and froze in his tracks. In each of those windows there appeared different scenes, which at first he assumed were paintings. But the images changed, and moved, and did impossible things. There were chairs here and he grabbed one only to find that it moved easily and rolled back on what he had to assume were wheels. Wheels on a chair, who’d have thought it? Not sure, he gingerly lowered himself into it and stared mesmerized by what he was seeing. It was then he realized that he was pivoting back and forth in this chair. Wow, he thought, I’ve never sat in anything like this! He didn’t know how much time had passed as he stared at the ever-changing scenes. Only that suddenly he heard his stomach growl and he felt hungry.

He had set his backpack on the floor next to the chair, grabbed and opened it, taking out another travel ration, and with his supply of water, ate and drank, not really paying much attention to his eating. He realized that one of the windows was showing the area outside in the desert where he had been earlier, with another showing where he had entered the cave. And the window next to this one was showing the very cave where he had spent the previous night. How is this done, he wondered. The rest of the windows showed different things including the large room he had exited to get here. Much of what the others showed was well beyond him, and where or what they might represent he didn’t know.

Suddenly movement grabbed his eye and he looked back at the window that showed the desert. In the distance it looked like someone might be approaching. Still he or she was too far away to do any more than say that it was an individual, yet there seemed to be a familiarity to whoever this was. Fascinated he stared, wondering how this was possible. He had to admit he hadn’t a clue. As the image got closer he realized that the individual was female, and she was without clothes. He immediately was shocked that it should be this way, and found his body reacting to this revelation. Even though he was alone it still embarrassed him, but there was nothing he could do about it other than stare. Even though this female, this girl was still in the distance, something continued to tug on his mind. It was like he knew her. It was something in the way she moved, in the way she walked.

It suddenly dawned on him that the person he was seeing, the girl who was approaching was his younger sister, which made him feel a little ashamed with the way his body was responding. But, once again, he couldn’t help it. Then he saw, as she became more visible, dirt and filth covering her body, as well as what appeared to be wounds, including a large bruise that stood out on her face. She seemed to be caked in blood, and he could see it covering her in a number of places. She was also barefooted. How had she made it this far, and in her condition? He watched, fascinated by what he was seeing – still not sure if what he was seeing was real or not. He saw her stumble and could tell from her ragged steps that she was barely standing and at the end of her strength. Not waiting any longer he retraced his steps back out through the doors, back into that cave, avoided the hidden hole, and headed back out into the desert.

Once back outside, he had to wait for his eyes to adjust to the daylight, and he adjust to the heat. It was cool inside of the cave and the building. Now he had to figure out how to work his way around the drop-off he had dropped down to find the entrance to the cave. First he headed further down the ravine and found a way around, headed back towards where he had last seen her in that window, and found nothing. Had he imagined the whole thing? Taking a deep breath he looked around desperately and could see where the sand had been disturbed, and began to search. Shortly he came upon her prone figure. Somewhere between the time where he had last seen her in that window to now, she had passed out. And if he wanted to be honest, probably close to death.

She looked like hell. It was obvious that she had been severely abused, and how she had escaped this abuse or her captors was an unknown. He had to add to this going this far into the desert in her condition and those visible wounds without anything to help and to have survived long enough to reach this point. Now he worried that she may have been followed. He quickly, but carefully, picked her up. He could feel her flinch, and moan in pain. All the exposed skin was reddened from sunburn, and there was a deep cut on her scalp. He needed to move quickly and get her inside of whatever it was that he had discovered. At least he had some extra clothes that she could wear until they could find something else. That’s, of course, if she survived, and there were no guarantees there.

With the extra burden it took him much longer to get back inside that large room. He propped her up in one of the chairs so that he could go get his backpack. And once back to where she was, laid out his sleep sack and placed her on it. She hadn’t moved and it was only the rising and fall of her breasts that let him know that she was still alive. He needed to clean her up and tend to her wounds, but didn’t know where he could get water unless he retreated back to the tank. Then he remembered the privy and immediately went inside. There were those basins there. Standing in front of one he could see that they were made to hold water but didn’t have a clue where the water was stored. There were no pitchers here, as they used back in the town, so how did the water get here?

Frustrated, he leaned on the basin, and ran his hands everywhere he could think. In one of his passes he ran his hand under the silver thing that extended out over the basin, jumped, when water came pouring out. After a brief time it quit. He did it again, and water was produced again. He’d never seen anything like it. Quickly soaking down a large rag he had brought with him he returned and began washing her down, carefully cleaning the wounds, and cleaning her up. It took a few trips back inside the privy to rinse, clean, and return to her to get the job done. It was an uncomfortable job, but it had to be done. Other than a brief attempt to keep him from touching her, and some moaning from pain, she never awoke. Eventually she almost looked like Elsa who was only a year and a half younger than he.

He carefully checked her over once again to be sure that none of the wounds were infected, opened up his sleep sack , placed her inside, and let her continue to sleep. Of course she had been unconscious, otherwise what he had to do would have awakened her. Now all he could do was wait. Knowing personally his condition when he found this place, he knew that shortly her need for water would be overwhelming. But until she awoke, he felt it better if she remained unconscious, or asleep.

* * *

It was five days later, and Elsa was better. She still seemed to be haunted by what had happened to her, and she remained abnormally quiet. He could see the fear in her eyes, and her pleading that he remain in her sight. Because of this, he hadn’t been able to do any more exploring, but right now her needs outweighed his curiosity. He returned to the security room a number of times to watch those windows, but no one showed. So, as far as he knew only the two of them had escaped. Although, his sister hadn’t escaped unscathed as he, and he knew that it would take time for her to overcome all that had happened to her. He knew the physical wounds would heal in time, but she was a long way away from her fun-loving self. She was withdrawn, and seemed to jump at any shadow. Time might be the only thing that could heal this. At least one could hope.

So he would put off his exploring, his discoveries for now. To bring back the sister he knew and loved was more important anyway. And once she was back, then they, together could learn more about this place, this mystery that he had discovered here in the middle of the desert. And maybe it was a place where they could start over, but that was an unknown, for the future. And for now, until she returned to whom he knew, this would be their private oasis from the rest of the world, and the horror that both of them faced and left behind.

* * *

And there you have it! Mysteries still to solve, but responsibilities are a priority, and must come first. I hope that you’ve enjoyed this and I promise that in the future there will be others – maybe something more within this fictional world (I’m actually working towards this end presently). For those who are new to this blog understand that in a sense this has been rare. Two months of short stories with no other commentary. And on that subject, next week will conclude December. On the 27th, next Saturday, 2 days after Christmas, will come my annual Christmas story. And on Christmas day I’ll be sending out a short post, kind of a Christmas card to all of you out there. Have a great time of family, of faith, and of friends. Merry Christmas, and I hope to see you here next week, next Saturday, for my annual Christmas story. God Bless! (fdbrant.com)

And The Sun Will Rise – Part 6

Before we get into this week’s post I want to update all of you on the status of the E-book, A Taste of History Past (ISBN 9781483544052). After a number of delays it has been sent out for distribution and will be available in the epub and mobi formats at your favorite E-book retailer. Shortly I’ll be adding a page to my webpage for this book.

* * *

While the story isn’t necessarily heading in this direction, Jay learned the importance of staying on those trails and the value of knowing where the water sources lie. And if anything is obvious, he’s lost. He doesn’t have a clue whether if he went in circles, changed directions a number of times, backtracked towards his destroyed home, or anything. All he is aware of at this point is he found water, and it saved his life. What is it that his future holds? With his inexperience in life, will he survive? All good questions, and all valid. (If you are picking this up for the first time I suggest you go to the sidebar on the right to the subtitle November 2014, December 2014, or my webpage (fdbrant.com) and pick the story up from the beginning.)

If we go back to our youth (some of us anyway) and those old serials that were popular, we will remember that at the end of the weekly program was always some kind of cliff hanger where the hero was in over his or her head, and it appeared that the end was near. Of course, if we really wanted to be honest with ourselves, we knew that somehow the hero would survive – they always did. After all, if the hero died then the program would be done, the story at an end. But at the time, we never thought about such things, always wanting to come back to see how our hero fared, and survived, from those impossible circumstances. So, in the static world of books, like those serials, we know that until that last page is read there is a greater chance the protagonist will survive, otherwise the story would be at an end. In a sense this short story is a serial, and each segment bringing us closer to closure – although each segment didn’t necessarily end with a cliff hanger. Instead where the story ends each week is a natural place to stop, to break (mini chapters for a better word) before continuing. And here’s a lesson to all you new writers out there, and maybe to other writers who have been doing this awhile. If you want to make the reader mad at you, kill off your protagonist, unless, of course, your story is a tragedy. And after this rather long-winded introduction is: And The Sun Will Rise – Part 6.

He had never had anything that tasted as good as this water. He almost jumped in and let his parched body soak in as much as he could absorb, but thought better of it. Carefully he laid down and sucked up as much water as he could hold and immediately regretted it. He felt sick, and wondered if there was something wrong with the water and he had made a mistake. It was then he realized that it was him being greedy and drinking too much. So he carefully slid back and leaned against one of the walls, closed his eyes, and concentrated on his queasy stomach, and willed himself to keep it down. After what seemed too long he felt better and realized that he was still thirsty but refrained from drinking any more until some time had passed. Then he returned to the pool of cool water and drank sparingly.

He didn’t know how long he had remained there, but suddenly realized that it was becoming darker in this, well he wasn’t sure what he’d call it, maybe cave? But there were a number of cracks and openings that allowed light in, and he always thought a cave would be dark. Still, until he came up with a better word, cave would have to do. It meant that night must be approaching and he had been in here much longer than he thought. It also meant that at some point he had probably fallen asleep and was unaware of that fact. The candle he had lit had burned almost all the way down. At first he thought that he should head back outside, but changed his mind. There was enough room here to lay out his sleep sack, and as he looked around he found an old abandoned nest made by some desert rodent. And with all the small openings to the outside he could build a small fire, keep warm, and know that the smoke wouldn’t build up inside forcing him out. “Better get to it,” he said.

* * *

Waking up the next morning, cold and shivering a little, he grabbed some of the old nest material and quickly built a small fire. The wood was so dry and old that it hardly put out any smoke, but at the same time burned and turned to ash quickly. The supply was limited, so he decided to use it to get warm, and eat a travel ration instead of trying to cook something over the fire. He found that he was still thirsty and between bites of the travel ration, which seemed overly dry, he drank vast volumes of water. In fact his thirst was greater than his hunger, and he found that he had at least half of the travel ration left when he felt full.

Going back in the direction that he had originally came he took care of nature, although his bladder didn’t seem to hold much. No surprise there, with the lack of water he was sure that there wasn’t much to get rid of. He couldn’t tell the time of day only that it was daylight and some of the light was streaming in through the cracks. He remembered hearing running water, but this tank seemed to be filled by water dripping from above – at least that’s how it appeared. So where was the running water? He went back to this small tank and remembered to refill all of his containers. For now he was reluctant to return outside. Honestly he had no idea where he was, and through those days without water he was sure that he probably had been turned around a number of times.

Besides, if he wanted to be honest, there was enough mystery here to keep him busy. And again, if he wanted to admit it, there wasn’t any place he needed to be. His home was gone, his family was gone, and as far as he knew, everybody he had ever known was gone. So why not spend a few days and discover what was here? At least he still had plenty of food, and while the tank had dropped a bit in water level, it appeared to have already refilled. But, it didn’t appear to overfill and run off somewhere. How was this possible? And from what he could determine, while water was dripping into the tank, it wasn’t enough to refill it this quickly – another mystery. Standing there and trying to determine how it refilled he found he needed another drink of water. Was he ever going to quit being thirsty? Taking another drink from the tank, once again he found that he couldn’t get enough and felt his insides stretched just about as far as they could go. Shaking his head he thought, really?

Getting up he wondered if this cave ended here. It was something to think about. Initially it was all about the water, but now curious, he wondered how the water got here. Yet, in front of him was what appeared to be a solid wall, but he had to admit he hadn’t done any real exploring. So with care he skirted the pool of water and was rewarded when a portion of the wall curved out of sight. From where he had been the whole area was in deep shadow and revealed nothing. The curve became more of an “S” curve and when he completed the last portion of this curve he stopped and stared in awe. The walls glowed in a faint luminescent light making it easy to see. But what added to the surprise was the fact that there were stair steps carved into the floor leading one downward. And it appeared the walls had been worked and were not natural. “What is this place?” He asked himself.

There seemed to be a natural downward direction and after a while the tunnel twisted again. He suspected that it had been slightly curved anyway, but the curve was so subtle that it was almost unnoticeable. Yet this twist to the left was major and like the first turn into this tunnel there was a second turn in the opposite direction. Suddenly the tunnel ended. There appeared, of all things, to be a door. A door? Really? This seemed so out-of-place here. He ran his hands over it and it felt cold. It was then he realized that the door was metal and not wood as he expected it to be. Still why would a door be here at all, let alone a metal one? He reached out for the door knob and hesitated. He wasn’t sure if he was ready to face whatever was on the other side. Things, since finding his way into this cave, had been strange enough, and he wasn’t sure if he was ready to face whatever danger there might be. Standing there undecided, he felt his curiosity rising. So, once again he reached out and this time turned the knob.

To his surprise it turned easily, how could that be? As far as he knew he was the only one around here. He had seen no sign or tracks, no footprints, no fire pits, nothing to indicate that there was anybody around at all, so why did the doorknob turn so easily? With no answers he pushed the door only to find that it didn’t budge. This brought a nervous smile and a bit of frustration to him. Why didn’t the door open? He leaned harder into it and once again nothing happened. With his hand still on the knob he leaned back ready to put all of his weight into the door only to find that it swung outward easily. And because he wasn’t expecting it he lost his balance and fell hard, feeling it in his bruised tailbone. Really? He thought.

Rolling over, rotating around, and propping himself up on his elbows he looked into the space beyond the now open door. Why did it open outwards? All of our doors open to the inside. It made no sense to him at all – and there was light streaming through the doorway. Pushing himself up, he dusted himself off, took a deep breath, and with a growing nervousness carefully peered inside. He had to close his eyes from the bright light that seemed to be shining from inside of this room. The soft glow on the cave walls didn’t come close to this. In fact he couldn’t remember anything inside a home that was this bright. Only being outside in the bright sunlight came close.

In what he figured took much too long, his eyes finally adjusted to the light. He rubbed his eyes and wiped away the tears that had formed, blinked a couple of times and then looked around carefully. It appeared to be just a small rectangular room with nothing in it. No windows to let in light, although if he wanted to admit it, where would the light come from? After all, this room was inside a cave, so windows wouldn’t be something that would be necessary. As he continued to study the room, other than the bright light it seemed ordinary. Yet, he couldn’t find the source of that light other than it seemed to be coming from the ceiling.

Looking down at the floor he found that it was covered with something that was hard, almost like sheets of stone that some of the better homes had back in his village. At this point when he thought about the village it choked him up, as once again, he realized that it had been destroyed along with everyone that had ever lived there. It was then he saw another door with a sign above it, and while it was a word he was unfamiliar with, it was close enough to the one they used to understand what it meant. The lighted sign stated, ENTRANCE. Thinking about it he wondered where this could lead, and if he wanted to continue. Still, being young, and being curious it drove him onward . . .

* * *

Indeed! What’s the old phrase? “Curiosity killed the cat.” Yet when a mystery presents itself, do we stop, turn around and leave, only at a later time begin to wonder what we may have missed? Or do we see what’s on the other side of that closed door? The answer would be different for every individual. Some wouldn’t hesitate, while others would contemplate and “what if”, themselves to death. Still questions cannot be answered until you travel beyond that closed door. Knowledge won’t be gained, or the danger known until it is opened. Next week the story concludes, and we, as readers, discover the hidden mysteries along with Jay. Have a great week, and may you be here Saturday for the conclusion. God Bless! (fdbrant.com)

Published in: on December 13, 2014 at 7:50 am  Leave a Comment  
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And The Sun Will Rise – Part 5

Part 5? Really? Are you kidding me? Isn’t this writer ever going to finish this story? Yes, but we aren’t there yet. As it stands right now it will have 7 parts to complete the story. In truth, as I stated back at the beginning, this is one of those stories that has potential to become a book sometime in the future, or maybe another short story. In this first presentation it works out to be about 38 pages long if it was part of a book. If you are finding this for the first time, I suggest that you either go to the column on the right under the subheading of November 2014, or my webpage (fdbrant.com) and pick up this story from the beginning. That way what is happening to the protagonist of this story would make better sense, and bring you up to date as to what is transpiring in his world.

We left Jay, in part 4, preparing to make his first trip into the desert. He knows literally nothing about it, other than what he has been told. So this week his general knowledge becomes personal knowledge as he heads deep into this tortured land. And with this brief introduction is part 5 of the short story – And The Sun Will Rise.

Jay was on his third day in the desert and wasn’t sure at this point whether the decision to escape into the desert had been such a good idea. He’d been warned of the dangers, and the importance of remaining on the trails. But he felt that it was something that he couldn’t do with the raiders still in the area. Once daylight had arrived, on that first day, he could see the raiders working the desert’s edge and sending patrols deep into the surrounding areas. And he found that it was close to impossible to hide. There wasn’t anything here to block one’s view for vast distances. The only thing in his favor had been the fact that he had traveled all night to get as far away from the destroyed village as possible, and he felt it was the only reason he had escaped.

Now he wasn’t so sure. Yes, remaining off the trails had prevented him from being discovered by the raiders, and if captured, whatever they would have done to him. But now he was lost and the heat of the day was beginning to build. He thought he had brought plenty of water with him, but found with the heat being generated that he had gone through it twice as fast as he expected. There was just a bit sloshing in the bottom of his last portable water container and nothing visible giving him any idea of where he could replenish his depleted supply.

The heat waves were beginning to dance, distorting the surrounding landscape, causing mirages to form, tempting him to chase lakes of water that retreated as he approached – something he had been warned about. He had headed east towards the rising sun when he had left, of course it had been night, and with what water he had remaining he knew that there was no way to backtrack if he had wanted anyway. Besides, not that it wasn’t obvious, death awaited him back there also. So why not let the desert take him instead? He needed to find shade, but where? Everywhere he looked there was open barren land with those wicked plants that had those barbed thorns and needles that seemed to reach out and attack. He had learned early on and the hard way to keep his distance.

As the heat continued to build, he felt the sweat begin to drip down and into his eyes, burning them from the salt, he looked to his right and saw an old wash that might hold some promise of shade – even if it was simply a high bank that was high enough to cast a shadow. He had been heading generally east so this change of direction moved him in a southerly direction. The sun wasn’t to the zenith yet and was a couple of hours off, but it was almost too hot now. He headed down the wash, which deepened and became more of a ravine, narrowing and deepening significantly so that the sides were above his head. Here he found some deep shadows that for the moment were cooler than the surrounding land.

Taking a deep breath he sat down in the sand that covered the ground feeling the coolness that it provided. He knew that this was only temporary. Soon the sun would be overhead and this respite would disappear. At that point in time he didn’t know what he’d do. He’d been searching desperately to find some place to wait out the day, but had found nothing – once again, now what? As he leaned against the wall of the ravine his breathing eased and he drifted off into a troubled sleep reliving what he had found when he had returned to the village that fateful day so many days ago. It haunted not only his sleep, but many times, when awake, his tired mind would drift off, reliving what he had discovered. Could he ever get away from those horrible images and memories?

* * *

At least two more days . . . two days or more without water . . . trouble, deep trouble. He couldn’t think, his vision was blurring . . . His mind wouldn’t work . . . his mouth was so dry that it hurt. His steps were uncertain, and he truly had no idea where he was. He found himself lost inside a number of broken canyons that held the heat but no vegetation. He had, at one point, thought he could work his way back to one of the major trails . . . He’d been warned that it meant death if one left them in the desert. But somehow he had become turned around, and somehow had missed any and all that might have existed. He never realized that there were mountains and canyons existing in the desert. Shaking his head, as he tried to clear his clouded mind, he thought, Well stupid, what did you think? Did you think that it would just be a flat sand covered area where nothing grew? This drew a weary smile. Of course you did.

He didn’t know when it happened but somewhere along this time he awakened and it was night. He must have passed out. The cool night air was a relief from the heat of the day. But he had learned that it was also a curse, because once the sun was gone from this tortured land it became unbearably cold. And because he assumed, yeah assumed, that the desert was hot he hadn’t added any real items to keep him warm at night – not that it would have been easy to do so. Soon it wouldn’t matter anyway. He was close to death and knew it. He wondered how it felt to die and knew honestly that he didn’t want to. Did he have a choice? And once again those words from his now dead uncle entered unbidden into his mind, “And the sun will rise”, probably true, but would it rise for him, or would the previous day be his last sunrise?

As these thoughts were going through his mind it was then that he realized that he smelled water. It was subtle and seemed to appear and disappear with the soft down canyon breezes. At this point he realized that he was sprawled in an awkward position and his arm was aching from being under him. He rolled over on his back, barely conscious, and stared into the clear night sky. Again those stars were so bright and the night so clear, it was like he could reach up and touch them. It seemed that he couldn’t focus for very long on anything and thought that it was probably from the lack of water. But that smell said it was close. Still, with the coolness of the sands under his body, he felt that it was impossible to move. Just let the sands and the desert take me, he thought.

He must have drifted off once again because the next time he became conscious the moon was full and overhead adding its light, creating an eerie landscape bathed in shadow and soft light. Again, that subtle smell of water – tempting, out of reach, where was it coming from? He slowly pushed himself up off the sand, stood up and immediately fell back down. He began to laugh hysterically, and found that once again he was lying on his back staring up at the moon and stars. Have to be more careful – didn’t think about being dizzy.

More careful this time, he stood back up and leaned against an embankment that was close by, waiting for his head to clear and to get his balance back. Once this was accomplished he began a slow methodical search for the source of the smell. But it eluded him as it continued to drift on the night breezes. A few times he thought he had to be close only to lose the scent once again. He could feel anger rising in him and the unfairness of the water to remain out of his reach, and then realized that the anger wasn’t helping. With his clouded mind he was having difficulty remaining on task, but knew if he didn’t it would be over, done, and like his village, he would be no more.

After what seemed to be half the night he had finally narrowed his search area down but had yet to locate the water. The smell was tantalizingly strong but still remained out of reach. Eventually he could hear what he thought was running water, but immediately doubted it. After all, this is a desert; there shouldn’t be running water here, right? Honestly he knew next to nothing about deserts so he really had no idea if water ran in the desert. In the uncertain light of the full moon he tripped over a large rock that was hidden in the shadows, fell hard, hit his head, and was unconscious once again.

When he climbed back into consciousness dawn was breaking, and before him at eye level was a raised portion of a rock layer. It sat above the sands and was probably only a couple of inches wide. It was here that he could both hear the running water, and smell it. Turning his head and trying to peer into the space he found it too dark to do so. Looking at the layer of rock he could see that it was slowly rising in height as it turned around a corner and went out of sight. He also noticed that the ravine that he was presently in began to run downhill and continued, like that rock layer, out of sight.

Crawling and following the ever-widening crack around the corner – it remained much too small to be able to climb into – he felt his frustration grow. Then the ravine suddenly dropped off. He slid up to the edge, looked over and down and saw that it was a little further straight down than his own height. Carefully he lowered himself over the edge, hanging by his fingertips, finally letting go, had a rock roll under his foot, and as he slid further down the ravine he began losing some skin off his arms and hands in the process, which burned. This was followed by his sitting down hard with a feeling that he had just bruised his tailbone. With the rattling of falling sand and stone he ducked and protected his head but none of the debris hit him. Well, if it had, not hard anyway.

Looking to his right, with the sun just about to rise, providing plenty of light to see, he noticed a large crack running parallel to the drop off that he had just descended, and it appeared to be wide enough that he could squeeze through. Although he had no idea if it ran very far into the hillside, was a dead-end, or whether it was just another false direction. He found the floor of the wash or ravine at this point was solid rock with loose debris making it a slippery dangerous surface. He had to be extra careful. Leaning against the rock wall he turned sideways and pushed into the crack, found himself wedged for a moment, let out his breath, making himself thinner, and pushed into the darkness and stopped.

He crouched down and pulled in the pack that he had removed before attempting to slip into the crack. When he crouched down it let in more light, and as his eyes adjusted, he opened the pack, grabbed a candle out of one of the emergency packs, lit it, and looked around. One of the first things that made itself known was the fact that right in front of him appeared to be a large drop off. How far it went down, or how dangerous it was he didn’t know. Had he continued he would have found out the hard way. Taking a deep breath he noticed that it was cold. So much so that he involuntarily shivered. He saw that there was what appeared to be a slight trail that went back in the direction where he first smelled the water.

He was finding that his strength and reserves were gone and felt if he sat down now he would never get back up. Carefully and using his will alone he worked his way back, now inside the mountain, or hill, or whatever. The sound of the running water was becoming stronger as was the smell. It pushed him onward. Then rounding another corner, and in the shadows, there before him was a large pool of water. He couldn’t believe his eyes. After all the mirages and illusions he wasn’t sure it this was real or not. So with care he approached the small tank, felt the air cooling further, leaned down and touched the surface of the liquid and was rewarded with the feeling of wetness and seeing ripples run across the surface – it’s real!

* * *

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the desert, it is a place of stark beauty, and a land that is unforgiving. Make a mistake here and it could easily mean your life is forfeit. As large an area as deserts normally encompass, it is the location of water that determines one’s way through. And thusly it changes the size. We in our modern world drive along our freeways and roadways never thinking about the dangers that are truly there. But even now people still perish here. Next week we move on to part 6 of the story. May it be a great week, and I hope to see you here next Saturday when, And The Will Rise, will continue.  God Bless! (fdbrant.com)

Published in: on December 6, 2014 at 7:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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