General Order No. 1

by Joseph DeRepentigny


The commander looked over the new recruit with some amazement. He was a squat little guy with orange hair and three eyes. He’d seen this type before in the vids and knew they were a large part of southern society. Mostly farmers and basic laborers, they’d recently won the right to better themselves. The commander didn’t care. He wasn’t a fan of the caste system himself. He was born to the military life and often dreamed of being just a simple merchant; he looked at the recruit with wonder, this was the first southerner he’d ever seen up close.

“New to the Martian Defense Fleet?” he asked.

“Yes, sir!” the recruit replied with the typical southern Martian treble.

The commander nodded with approval. Most new recruits, northern or otherwise, gave a less than enthusiastic reply. For them it was mandatory to spend two standard years in the service.

“So, are you ready to become a space hero?”

“I am ready to serve the Martian Empire!”

“Then tell me General Order Number One!”

The recruit opened his mouth and then closed it.

The commander smiled and nodded. “They don’t teach that.”

“They don’t, sir?”

“No, it is something you only learn out here in space.”

The recruit nodded and looked at the commander for the answer.

Grinning, the commander said, “General Order Number One is, ‘When in doubt, kill all humans.’ If you follow that out here you cannot go wrong.”

“Are we at war with them?”

“No, but remember: We may be green but we aren’t Earth friendly.”


Ya Think

by Joseph DeRepentigny


Life would be so much easier if I were a cartoon character. Then the pain of injury would be passing at best. My recovery time could vary from instant to momentary. On top of that, I would not have to work ever again. Yeah, right!

Look people, I am a cartoon. Now like most of my kind I do heal quickly and the pain is short lived but I do have to make a living. I am not one of the big names with a show or even a main character I am a supporting figure or a background fixture. My time is spent going from show to show, appearing in the backdrop. Sometimes I have a line or two, but mostly I get beat up by the villain without ever saying a word. Doesn’t that sound glamorous? Well let me show you my typical day.

I live in a decent show. It is not like the old ones from the ’50s or such but the housing is cheap. Just like the drawings. In the old days, every door led somewhere. In this show, you’re lucky if the door opens at all. Now the old places did have their drawbacks. For instance, you never pushed the red button. You also had to put up with those pinheaded robots. They would scurry around at breakneck speeds and build or tear things down at random. “We are the future!” They would chant. Thankfully, that never happened.

Anyway, early in the morning, I along with a thousand other “Supporting Characters” make our way to the casting call. Now you may have guessed that I’m not a morning person, but hey you gotta do what you gotta do. Here they pick the characters they need for the next episode. Now you have to understand even if you live there, you might not be in the show. Budgets are tight, the stars need the extra money to pay for their new mansions, and keep the swimming pool filled with champagne. Luckily, for the rest of us, housing is provided according to union rules but work is by the whim of the directors and the main characters. In addition, if you’re not in an episode you run the risk of finding your house squashed by a monster or such. Mind you it takes only a minute to fix it but it is a nuisance.

“All right,” the director shouts, “we need humans only today. All non-human characters can go now.”

This is good for me. In the old days, the animals had priority. The big studios did lavish features with animals as the main characters. Heck even the shorts were dominated by rabbits and ducks. Back then I had to make ends meet doing advertisements or comic strips. You might have seen me. I was the model for that shirt company. The guy with an eye patch. No? Oh well, anyway there was even a time I did some comic books. The grown up kind if you know what I mean. Hey, I am not ashamed of that, after all I had to eat. Nowadays as a human looking cartoon, I get regular work. I guess it’s what you call karma or such.

Now picture this, inside the studio are the writers and the chairs the main characters sit in lined up on a stage. I say chairs because a big time character does not need to show up this early. In fact, some don’t show up until after 1:00 p.m. The director nods his head and his lackeys start sorting out what they want or do not want based on appearance. For reasons unknown to me, fat people do better than skinny guys. Another advantage for me, middle age has given me an edge over the competition. After they are done I am one of the dozen or so they are keeping.

“OK, today we are doing a different type of show.” The Director says to us. “We are going to do a comedy based on the lyrics of a 1960s rock band. Every line of dialog will be either the title or line from one of their songs. Now if you get any lines, they will have to be said with a straight face. Anyone chuckles and you won’t work for a month!”

“Sounds like someone didn’t want to do any writing!” I said louder than I planned. A couple of the guys around me chuckled. The director frowned in my direction. Not a good sign. I might have blown my chance to get the big money. Still, I am working.

Once the main characters showed up, we began shooting. My scene was simple and of course wordless. I stood with my hands in the air being robbed by one villain while one of the other villains climbed a ladder. Ten seconds and I get enough money to keep me in food and drink for a week. Unfortunately, one of the characters playing a villain could not get his lines straight. The so-called professional needed his motivation. I got your motivation. How about not having to eat dog food, huh? Therefore, ten seconds of airtime took two hours to shoot. Finally when everything was finished, they paid us and sent us home.

Unfortunately after that gig, I did not work again for a month. Apparently, my outburst annoyed the director and some of the more important people. Some of these big guys take delight in seeing us nobodies suffering. They must have had a field day with me. I looked around for a season or two and had to move several times. As I said before if you are not working, the monsters have a tendency to step on your house. Try being there when Gargantua steps on your bathroom. Anyway, I was about to go back to the comic books when a remake of a classic came up.

So now, I live in Gotham. There is more work and I get lines to say. The writers love my sarcastic tone. Am I sarcastic? Anyway, this is drama not comedy so the scenes are dark. That means working after sunset and I hate working the night shift. I mean, what’s life if you can’t have a few with your buds after work? Therefore, I say life would be so much easier if I were not a cartoon character.



by Joseph DeRepentigny


His description was easy. Pale skin, so pale it was almost transparent. Dark lips and blackened eyes like you would see in some zombie movie and hair badly in need of combing. Top it off with an odor like rotting potatoes and you had this man to a “T”.

Walking into the medical offices early in the morning, he saw no other patients. This was as he planned. He had grown tired of the stares and the children saying things like “what’s wrong with him Mommy?” Knocking on the glass, he got the attention of the twenty-something girl in charge of the appointment book. Her reaction was standard.

She gasped and stared for a second before regaining her composure. “Yes, may I help you?” she asked with a fake smile.

“My name in Larry Johnson. I have an appointment for 6:00 a.m.” Larry said in a hollow voice.

The young woman looked at the book and saw the name. It was annotated as self-insured. This meant fast money for the doctor’s office. No paperwork or long fights with his provider for pay out, this guy would pay that day with cash, check, or credit card.

Gushing not at him but the idea of a profitable day, she said. “Have a seat, sir, the doctor will be right with you.”

Larry figured the wait would be a minute or two. He was wrong, it was several seconds. The door opened and a man in a smock appeared.

“Mr. Johnson, please come in,” he said. Then he stared for a second and smiled. “I’m Dr. Baum.”

Ushering Larry into the first examination room he asked him to take a seat.

Opening the file he smiled and looked at Larry. “Mr. Johnson, you have been diagnosed with narcolepsy.”

Larry shook his head and said, “No, doctor, I have necrolepsy.”

“What? I thought that was a misspelling.” Dr. Baum said. He turned toward a nearby PC and typed in the word as it was spelled in the man’s records. The PC was on a website that maintained all known ailments. In a few seconds it came back with “definition not found.”

Turning back, he said, “I have no medical definition for any such disease.”

“Of course not. None of my previous doctors had the nerve to enter the affliction into your database,” Larry said smiling. “I was hoping you were different.”

Dr. Baum nodded, “What are the symptoms of this ailment?”

“Let me explain… Narcolepsy is a disease that has a number of symptoms. One of them is when the patient becomes nervous or shocked they become catatonic. Necrolepsy is similar. When I become agitated I die.” Larry said matter-of-factly.

Dr. Baum made a face. “What is this, a joke?”

“No, let me finish. I die for short periods, anywhere from five minutes to an hour. Then I self-resurrect.”

“Yeah, right. This is one of those hidden camera shows right?” the doctor said, looking around for a hidden camera.

“No, I’m serious. Doc, help me, the situation is embarrassing. I can’t remember how many times I’ve come back in the back of a coroner’s van or on a morgue slab. One time they were preparing to do an autopsy on me,” Larry said with tears in his eyes.

Dr. Baum saw the tears and thought that this guy was a good actor. He decided to do a standard interview for paperwork’s sake. No need in incurring the wrath of this guy’s lawyers. Just in case he was for real.

“Alright, sir. I’ll try to help.” Dr. Baum said smiling. “How often do your attacks occur?”

“Randomly, doc. Whenever I get angry or scared.”

“Do you feel anything when it is about to happen?”

“No sir, I just blank out. When I come back I am confused as to where I am.” Larry said calmly. “It’s like watching a bad video and it suddenly skips forward. One minute I’m here the next I’m somewhere else.”

Nodding, the doctor asked, “How old are you?”

Larry made a face. “Are you asking how long since I last died or how long since I was born?”

That was it as far as the doctor was concerned. This had to be a prank. “That should do for now, Mr. Johnson. Go to the receptionist and make an appointment with her for a full examination.”

After Mr. Johnson left the doctor said aloud, “Very funny guys.” He was certain his old frat brothers or some TV show was behind this gag. Whatever it was he was sure to be rid of Mr. Johnson after he saw the bill.

Then he heard a scream. Rushing out to the lobby, he saw Mr. Johnson lying on the floor clutching a piece of paper.

“What happened?” Dr. Baum asked.

“I heard these stories but I never believed them,” the receptionist said between tears.

“What?” Dr. Baum asked.

“He took one look at the bill and dropped dead.”

Fifteen minutes later a stretcher arrived to take the corpse to the morgue. Dr. Baum had issued the death certificate himself. As they were rolling it out a voice came from under the sheet: “Where am I?”

After all the confusion, Dr. Baum had his patient back in an exam room. He cancelled all his appointments and gave Mr. Johnson every exam he knew. When he was done, he asked his patient a simple question.

“What is it you want me to do? I can’t stop you from dying, everyone dies.”

“I know doc, I want you to stop me from coming back.”


The Chest

by Joseph DeRepentigny


Dexter was everything he wanted to be. He was successful, rich, and handsome. His life was the dream others wished for and he knew it. Dexter lived in a $100,000 a year apartment in the most fashionable district of Atlanta. He drove a different car every day of the week and wore suits to match the color schemes of his cars. In a word, he was the paragon of new wealth in the new south. He’d come from somewhere else and built a company that bought land and built tract housing. He was the most powerful land developer in the state, if not the entire south.

On this bright sunny day in Atlanta, Dexter had a mission to accomplish. Dexter had only dealt with the tax assessor over the telephone or through meetings at his midtown office. At first, he planned on having a flunky do all the legwork but his lawyer insisted that the work be done privately because the situation, though legal, was questionable. The plan was simple, Dexter remembered from that last meeting with the tax assessor—a young man named Nathan.

Nathan was a tall skinny man in his late twenties. He spoke with a slight southern accent that was subdued by years of elocution lessons. “No, I got the old man over a barrel. His taxes were a few cents short thirty years ago. With interest and penalties he now owes the county $15,000. I am allowed to sell the debt to a broker for ten cents on the dollar. That, by local law, would give you ownership of the property and the old man would have thirty days to move or go to jail,” Nathan said with a grin.

“What if he pays off the debt?” Dexter asked.

“He can’t. He was given the chance by mail several times over the last year, but he never responded,” Nathan said, smiling broader. “Almost like the letters were never sent.”

“So, what do I do?” Dexter asked.

“Sign the papers and write the county a check. When the check clears, you own the land.”

“And what do you get out of this, other than an increase in tax revenues?” Dexter asked, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

“Ten percent of the home sale and a small kick-back from your construction company,” Nathan said with a wink. “All of this is legal in this county. Our ethics laws are real liberal.”

That had been a week ago. Now Dexter found Nathan and another young man in a police uniform leaning against a police car. They were parked in front of a rusted old mailbox. Dexter looked around; the place didn’t look like much to him—weedy old-growth woods and an old tar and gravel road. A stream meandered through one side of the property. Shaking his head, he thought to himself, “What a waste of perfectly good real estate.”

“Hello, Dexter!” Nathan shouted. He walked toward the car, waving the cop to come along. “The deputy is here to ensure legal enforcement of the eviction. Your lawyer insisted he be here.”

The deputy smiled and nodded at Dexter. Then he went back to a businesslike scowl. Dexter immediately liked the man. An underling that didn’t talk unless spoken to, the perfect servant in Dexter’s mind.

The three of them walked up the driveway toward the old tin-roofed shanty. The house, if it could be called that, was a single-story affair badly in need of painting. The deputy indicated to Dexter and Nathan to stay behind while he served the notice. He knocked on the door and announced himself. No one came to the door. The deputy then looked in through a dirty window and swore to himself. He turned and spoke quickly into the walkie-talkie he had on his hip.

“What’s wrong?” Nathan asked.

“Old man Hill is dead,” the deputy said curtly.

“What, are you sure?” Dexter asked. “Maybe he just passed out.”

“Take a look for yourself,” the deputy said, smiling evilly.

Dexter climbed the three steps and looked through the dirty window. Inside he saw a bloated fly-covered corpse. Even from outside, he could smell the rotting flesh through the closed window. He nodded and walked back to the deputy. “He’s dead alright.”

A little while later, an ambulance and several police cars arrived on the scene. Dexter thought it was odd that they brought an ambulance. After all the rushing around and interviewing, the local sheriff told Dexter to stay in town until a cause of death was determined.

Dexter left the scene and went to the best hotel in the area. A franchise operation noted for appearing in episodes of that reality police show. Still, after the day’s events, Dexter welcomed any rest. He lay down in bed in a room that was slightly smaller than his bathroom back home and went to sleep fully clothed.

He awoke the next morning, hungry and confused. He looked around and saw the tan telephone on the nightstand. “Room service,” he said, after dialing the front desk. A voice on the other side politely informed him that they didn’t have room service. Dexter slammed the telephone down, swearing to himself. He did not look forward to dining with the local rabble. Cleaning up best as he could without his shaving kit, Dexter went outside to a local diner that was across the street. Inside were just three other patrons, gathered at one end of the lunch counter. That suited him fine. He could sit away from them and have a cup of coffee and a danish.

The waitress smiled and said, “Hello, sugar. That end’s closed but I can take care of you down here.”

“I need a little privacy,” Dexter said, feigning weakness. “I found a dead man yesterday.” The corpse was in fact not the first one Dexter had ever seen or was it the most decayed. Dexter often boasted to his friends about finding his mother and father dead after coming back from a trip to London.

“You just sit over here and we won’t bother you too much,” she said.

He was served plain coffee and a freshly thawed pastry. He took a sip and frowned. Probably a blend of cheap and cheaper coffee, he thought. While he was forcing the coffee down, he listened to the general conversation.

“They say old man Hill passed on last night,” a man in coveralls said, sipping his coffee.

The waitress tilted her head and looked at Dexter funny. “Did you say you found a dead man mister?” she asked.

Dexter was not in a mood to talk to illiterate scum. Still, he knew he was out-numbered and his cell phone was back in the room. “Yes, I did and he was not freshly dead either. He’d been laying there for a week or more.”

“Serves the old man right,” one of the other patrons responded. “He was never right with Jesus. Besides, all that money and he never spent a dime on his wife or boy.”

“What did you say?” Dexter asked.

The waitress smiled, “Oh, there’s a silly old story that Ben Hill came back from the gulf coast when he was around twenty and had a pirate chest full of gold coins.”

“No, not that, the wife and son you spoke about,” Dexter asked again, his irritation showing slightly.

“He has a boy who lives in town. Works as a janitor for the hospital,” the patron wearing coveralls said. “Neither Hill or his son was ever baptized. Never went to church either.”

“His wife died years ago,” the other man said, nodding. “She was a good Baptist to the end.”

Dexter paid his bill and rushed out of the restaurant. He knew that an heir could mess up his plans. The whole tax issue could be brought to court and the kid could have millions entitled to him for a mere $1500. He called Nathan on his cell phone and asked to meet him at the hotel.

Nathan showed up, wearing a simple suit and tie. He looked haggard. “What’s so important that you called me this time of day?” he asked.

“Hill had a son,” Dexter said quickly, a little annoyed that this hillbilly was being gruff with him.

“Yes, I know about Benny. He’s a simpleton that cleans toilets at the local clinic,” Nathan replied.

“Well, that simpleton now has the right to appeal the eviction. He owns the property, not me,” Dexter said loudly. “He can have us both over a barrel.”

“No, he won’t. I already talked to him. He’ll give up the land for $300 cash,” Nathan said, smiling. “I have the money here. You want to come along?”

They met with Benny at a small pool hall in town. The sign out front said billiards but there was only one table. The establishment had six booths and a bar along the far wall. The light was dim and the room smelled of stale beer and cigarette smoke. A jukebox was playing softly in the background.

Benny was a squat man with mottled skin. He looked like a leprosy victim. His hair was a greasy brown mess that needed combing and delousing. He wore a single filthy brown jumpsuit that was designed for the dirty work he did. He was eating a sandwich with grimy hands that left dirt prints on the white bread.

“I works nights because no one likes to see me,” he said in a wheezy voice.

“Your daddy died you know,” Nathan said to Benny.

“Good for him,” Benny said, smiling through brown teeth. “I never liked the old coot. He hit me all the time.”

“This man is willing to buy your daddy’s property for cash money if you’re willing to sell,” Nathan said.

“Good enough!” Benny said loudly. “Just promise you burn the shack down to the ground. I can’t go in there or near the place.”

“Too many bad memories?” Dexter asked, speaking for the first time.

“Yeah, that too. I also still ain’t allowed in there,” Benny said looking directly at Dexter. “You gotta promise to burn the house and barns down. They is bad and awful dangerous.”

Dexter looked Benny in the eyes. These were the bluest eyes he’d ever seen. It was like looking into the depths of some primordial sea. Dexter shook his head to clear his mind and said, “I promise, by next month you won’t recognize the place.”

Benny patted the table asking for the money. Nathan handed the young man a brown envelope filled with money. He also pushed a contract toward Benny and told him to sign it. Benny scrawled his signature along the bottom line. Dexter called the bartender over and had him witness for twenty dollars.

“Benny, aren’t you concerned about the treasure?” the bartender asked, looking at the contract.

“Oh, there ain’t no treasure in that there chest,” Benny said as he took a bite of his sandwich.

Outside, Dexter looked at Nathan, “Why is he so blemished?”

“No one knows. His daddy was a pale white man and his mama was normal. There aren’t any other people around here who look like him so we know Mrs. Hill was faithful to Mr. Hill,” Nathan said. “Anyway, she died giving birth to Benny. That’s why the old man beat the kid to idiocy.”

Dexter nodded. “I’m going back to my room. Call me on the cell when the autopsy is done. I want out of this place as soon as possible.”

While walking, he thought about Benny’s last words. He had said that the chest was empty. That didn’t shock Dexter. He expected as much from a simpleton. The others at the diner seemed certain the money was there. Dexter shook his head. There probably was no money on the farm. Yet he feared some migrant laborer or a menial in his own firm would find something of value and keep it for themselves. The contract said that the land and everything on it was his. Dexter decided that he’d explore the property before any of the locals or the cops had a chance to poke around and steal what was rightfully his.

Dexter drove out in his Aston Martin to the old Hill place. He expected to see a cop car watching the place. Instead, all he saw was a strip of yellow tape across the driveway. Dexter didn’t want to break the tape and alert the cops to his presence. Therefore, he parked a little ways up from the driveway. He figured that they would assume someone was fishing in the stream.

Dexter then cut across the pasture to the old farmhouse. The door was sealed as well. Dexter cut the tape and opened the door. Inside it stilled smelled of rotted corpse. It took Dexter a minute to get used to the smell. He smiled and thought to himself that his parents’ home smelled a lot worse when he found them.

He poked around the house, surveying it quickly. There were four rooms in all—a living room, a kitchen, and two bedrooms. The house was immaculate, very different from the outward appearance. Dexter wondered where the bathrooms were, and then he noticed a small outhouse through the kitchen window. He chuckled and shook his head. He was truly in the dark ages here. A quick search around the house showed no place for hidden panels or even a secret door. Dexter was beginning to think that the trunk didn’t really exist after all when he noticed a small door in the kitchen near the sink.

The door was a simple affair with a painted white knob. It looked like a fuse box panel. He opened it slowly, expecting a trap. Instead, inside he saw a simple key on a hook. Taking the key he looked around for the padlock it went to.

Nothing was padlocked inside the house so Dexter went outside, searching. He cringed, hoping that the outhouse wasn’t the location of the chest. His luck held. Going around back, he saw a basement entrance on the side of the house. It was a wedge of two red, rusted steel doors. They were locked with a simple padlock. He examined the doors closely. They hadn’t been opened in years. Spider webs and debris covered the doors. Dexter tried the key and it fit perfectly. It took a few tries but he eventually unlocked the old lock.

The doors opened with loud metallic creaks and groans. They revealed stone steps going down to a dirt floor basement. Dexter went down the stairs, brushing aside cobwebs. At the bottom he couldn’t find any light switches and it was too dark to fumble around looking for a light switch. He remembered he had an emergency flashlight in his car’s trunk. So he ran to the car and ran back in minutes. When he got to the house, he was out of breath. This was the most running he’d done since he was a young man.

The flashlight revealed a simple basement filled with various items. An old table, a couple of packing crates, a crib and children’s toys. It looked almost like a nursery from some bad horror flick. Poking around he saw a small chest on one of the tables.

The chest was made of bronze and was sealed with a flimsy silver cord instead of a lock. Dexter smiled. Everyone talked about this treasure chest. Here it was, just an ornament for a child’s room. The chest was around two feet wide and six inches tall. Dexter lifted it up, surprised at its weight. The box actually seemed to shift around when he moved it, telling him that something heavy was inside. Putting the flashlight to one side, he used both hands to carry the box upstairs to the sunlight.

The weight was unbelievable. It took Dexter over an hour to get the chest to his car. As much as he wanted to see what was inside, he figured it was best to open it when he was someplace safer. He rushed back to the house and covered all signs that he’d been there and ran back to his car. When he got to his hotel room, the police were waiting for him.

Figuring they saw him taking the chest, he prepared for the worst. Instead, they had the coroner’s report that stated that Mr. Hill had died of asphyxiation.

“Asphyxiation?” Dexter asked in shock.

“Yeah, apparently he swallowed a peach pit and died a week ago,” the police officer said grimly.

“Then I can go home?” Dexter asked.

“Yes, sir,” the policeman said and left.

That night Dexter was in his apartment in Atlanta. He was going to go out on the town and celebrate his triumph. Still he wondered about the chest. He’d brought it up to his apartment via the freight elevator and set it on his dining room table. The bronze was quite old. It was covered in engraved drawings, depicting hybrid sea monsters. Half-men, half-lizard or octopus, the etchings were hard to concentrate on. Shaking his head he cut the thread of silver and opened the chest.

Inside was a pool of water. Steam started to rise from the water.

Dexter reached in and felt something soft and pliable touch his fingers. A deep revulsion hit Dexter with a might he’d never felt before. It was an ancient, near instinctual fear of what he touched that gripped him. He immediately pulled his hand back. Suddenly a large tentacle darted out and enveloped Dexter. He screamed for a moment and was silenced.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that his lawyer had found Dexter dead in his apartments. Every bone in his body had been crushed. The police suspected that someone he’d swindled in the past had killed him. Nothing was stolen from the apartment, the police had no suspects, and no solid leads.

Benny was sitting in the billiard hall with a new friend when he heard the news. He lifted up his bottle of beer and said quite loudly, “To Dexter.”

The friend who could have been Benny’s twin brother raised his beer and said in a slurred voice, “To Dexter!”