Saturday, September 15, 2018

Lonely Roads

Lonely Roads
By Michael Cannata

The hum of the tires was like a low whisper that gave voice to the lonely road he drove. The radio stations faded in and out over these long stretches between cities and civilization. Music was always welcome, but he didn't mind the silence. Alone with his thoughts, he preferred listening to the song of the road.

The highway was the path he followed as he crossed the country delivering the loads he carried. His home was a cramped space behind the cab of his rig. He had a family once, and a house that gave him a place to call home, but that was years ago. The long stretches of time between his visits had made them strangers. The last time he made it home it was empty. All he found was a note from his wife explaining why they were gone. He never did learn where they went. Eventually, he stopped even trying to find them.

Long hauls were his livelihood.  He drove coast to coast as easily as people drove across town. Loneliness wasn't something he experienced anymore. After twenty-five years he learned how to cope with the solitude. He grew to relish the isolation and silence that he lived in. Tonight the miles seemed to fly by. His truck moved easily without the drag of a container and he was making good time. He would have some time to kill at this rate.

Truck stops provided comfort and the occasional chance to interact with other drivers. Weather and road conditions made up most of his conversations. The stops were places filled with friendly strangers. The stops gave him a place to shower and shave. He loved the smell of the engine exhaust and the dust of the road, but he hated smelling his own sweat. Once groomed, he would stock up on the meager supplies he needed and start driving again.

The constant crackle of the chatter over the CB radio had grown silent. There were two more waysides where he could pull over for a quick rest before he reached his next destination. He slowed down as he approached the one he liked best and pulled into the darkest corner. It overlooked a deep chasm where a small river ran past. It was a beautiful spot that he knew well. The troopers that patrolled the highways never bothered the truckers that stopped during the night to rest 

He parked his truck and went into the back of his rig; He stood looking at the girl hanging limply from the chains holding her. She'd stopped talking about 300 miles back. She didn't even scream when he approached her naked, bruised body. He considered just tossing her into the ravine now.

Still, it would be days before he could find a new companion. He preferred women that would fight and beg him to stop. But quiet company was better than no company at all.

           Besides, he had some time to kill.

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Perfect Day

The Perfect Day
By Michael Cannata

The sky was a shimmering, crystal blue from horizon to horizon. There wasn't a cloud to be seen. The sun hung above him as he walked in a daydream at a slow summers pace. He meandered aimlessly, the way he did as a boy on the sands of the Florida beach he grew up on.

He loved the ocean weather. Standing alone by the surf as the perfect sun set over the gulf waters, he savored the sensation of slight breezes washing over his skin. He reveled in the rain and power of nature's fury during hurricanes. He knew perfect weather when he experienced it. There was no doubt about it; his entire experience had been one endless perfect day!

Exotic and alien flora and fauna dotted the flat landscape. Clusters of vegetation spread out forever into the distance. Their roots reached depths that seemed endless. Wherever it was that they found the water, if it even was water, that kept them alive, it was too far for him to reach. Familiar looking rocks lay sprinkled across the sand in every direction. The faint line of an ancient high tide mark ran erratically off into an arid landscape.

This planet had all the beautiful features of his beach… except for an ocean.

He peered off into the brilliant daylight, searching for shapes or shadows that would suggest a destination, somewhere or something worth walking towards. The surface was an endless dusty shore. Small, inch high ripples of dry sand, formed by the slightest of breezes stretched in every direction. No mountain silhouettes that would suggest a change in the landscape appeared on the horizon. No uphill slant that might lead to high ground. No trees… just the short thick clusters of hard skinned shrubbery that indicated that life existed at all. The planet had no changing weather. He never saw clouds or felt wind on his dry chapped face. No mist or fog or hint of rain. The temperature never changed more than a degree or two. Even stranger was the sun. It was yellow and was larger than the sun on earth but it hadn't moved at all. It registered an eternal high noon for the 150 earth days he had been stranded.

He lost the three other members of his crew along with everything that was crucial for any chance at long term survival when his ship crashed. Despite his best efforts his rations were dwindling. All the technology he had still couldn't keep him alive without food. There was no way to get to the water deep below him. He'd dug twice his height deep into nothing but dry, powdery sand.

Consigned to an inevitable, thirst-filled fate, he wandered aimlessly deep in thought.

The agonizing beauty of the perfect daylight overwhelmed him again. He stared into the sun, almost blinded now by its sheer brilliance. It was a "Perfect Day." It was always the SAME Perfect Day! An endless Perfect Day. There was a time, when he was young he believed he would be happy to live forever, surrounded by such a day, by such beautiful weather. He would have been glad to never see a rainy day.

The very idea terrified him now.

He had prayed for rain every day after he arrived. He knew that he needed it if he was to live. Now, as he realized that he would never see a rainy day again, He just prayed for an end to this Perfect Day. Dying wasn't unwelcome any more. The thought of living without weather was inconceivable. He'd decided he missed the rain too much to live without it any longer and he hated the sun too much to live with it.

It was a perfect day to die.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Reality Star

The Reality Star
By Michael Cannata

            They called him, "The Survivor." He was the latest and greatest reality TV star in America. As he was driven through the crowd into the spotlights, his fans had to be restrained in their rush to be near him. The hugely vocal crowd roared in support and acclimation. Their thunderous ovation washed over him. Approval! Applause! He lived for it. He soaked in the crowd's unfettered expression of admiration.

            The monster had become a celebrity. His legacy of murderous insanity was a wildly popular headline story that wouldn’t die… so to speak. Anyone with a semblance of sanity would recognize him for what he was; a madman that murdered for delusional causes. .The mass murderer had an adoring public. Fervent fans with a penchant for worshiping evil.

            To a small but passionate organization of lunatics that had tracked his rise to infamy, obsessed fans of his reputation for carnage, he was a freedom fighter. A survivalist who declared war against a government he believed was set on taking away his rights and liberties. He had considered himself a soldier ready to fight for his cause. Yet, to inspire the army he needed to fight with him, the battle had to start somewhere. He had decided it would start with him.

            On a beautiful spring day he walked into a post office and killed everyone inside. He lined them up and shot each one while declaring them enemies of the union.  He killed them in a demented effort to interrupt government communications and disrupt troop deployment. He considered the innocent civilian victims collateral casualties in a war he had personally declared.

            He slaughtered over two hundred people in government offices in a cross country spree of senseless hate and violence. He waged a personal war that lasted almost two years. He managed to avoid capture by using the survival skills he learned as a soldier. Living in the mountains and wilderness was something he did all his life. Using those skills he managed to avoid capture by the authorities desperately trying to apprehend him. His close calls and daring escapes gained national attention.

            Soon he became a prominent figure on the evening news broadcasts. As the media attention grew, the public couldn’t get enough. Debating whether he was a martyr or murderer was a media theme played out in every detail and from every point of view on the daily talk shows.

            His reign of carnage spawned several major news series and late night news specials devoted to the search to capture him. Local officers, sheriffs, state police, federal and military officials and government spokesman became recognized faces as they appeared in the nightly news wrap-ups. The nationwide effort by law enforcement to apprehend him was subjected to daily scrutiny on every news program on the air and in print. The manhunt was going nowhere.  Something that was bad for the general public, but great for ratings.

            A number of news anchors, rally organizers, fund raisers and promoters owed their living to him. He was a freedom fighter set against preventing the government from destroying his country from the inside.

            In the end, he never did get caught. Rather, in a last ditch attempt to become the hero he longed to be, he surrendered. He had grown tired of having others tell his story. It was time he spoke directly to the people about the dangers that the deep state posed.

            Once he had the chance to talk with the people, to warn them with his own words, he would be able to bask in their praise and take solace in their judgment. They would revere him as a true hero. But reality often changes in ways we never fantasize  

            Rather than have his name immortalized, once he was a prisoner, no longer the outlaw that made him the focus of the media, people quickly forgot his name. There were plenty of other madmen willing to keep killing for their entertainment. All the public had to do was change the channel.

            On the day he was executed only a handful of his followers' were there to send him off to hell. His crimes would be revisited on crime shows regularly. He would live on as an infamous celebrity serial killer in TV specials that are run in an almost annual rewrite of his bloody trail.

             On the occasion of these media specials the murderer’s devotees would gather to sing his praises. They held rallies and sold trinkets, bumper stickers, T-shirts and such. The insanity of his actions helped his followers profit from his notoriety while waiting for the next madman to call to them.

            In the beginning, he was an unreal American reality figure. In the end, he was as real as any American hero ever got to be.