A rainy August afternoon, the early ‘90s. The 1990s. Meet Cooper Mewes – frozen yogurt store clerk by trade, grave robber by circumstance. Cooper has fallen on hard times of late: his credit cards stolen, his apartment burned down, and lady problems to boot. But Cooper has heard tell, through the usual channels – an uncle of a friend of a friend – of an ancient enchanted lamp buried here, in the cemetary of Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow, that could make all of those problems go away.
You've heard of the axiom “be careful what you wish for?”
Well, sometimes “careful” isn’t enough.
Cooper Mewes rested the shovel over his shoulder, breathing hard and staring down into the grave. The rain poured down harder now, plastering his hair to his forehead, running the dirt off his clothes, pooling in a puddle of mud at his feet. Cooper threw the shovel to the side and hopped down into the hole he had cleared.
Kneeling atop the bottom half of the coffin, Cooper began prying open the upper part. With a terrific wrench and the sound of splintering wood, he ripped the casket open. He was immediately hit with a gust of mildewed death. Instinctively, Cooper turned his head away, swallowing back vomit.
The young man closed his eyes and set his stomach, thinking back to the two girls with whom he had shared a single bathroom in college—he had endured much worse than the stench of a hundred-year-old dead man. He leaned forward again and gently pulled apart the brittle arms of Herman Adlersflügel. The man’s decomposing skull staring back at him, Cooper looked the rotting suit jacket up and down, searching for the tell-tale bulge of hidden treasure. He found it. He flipped open the remains of the jacket, then reached in and pulled free the oil lamp from where it had nestled in Herman’s cracked and deteriorating ribs.
Lightning crashed in the distance, illuminating the grave like a supermarket. The lamp was bigger than Cooper thought it would be—nearly a foot tall, four inches wide. There was a lot more glass than he had been expecting, as well. Still, a magic lamp was a magic lamp. Carefully, Cooper placed the lamp on the muddied ground above, then began to pull himself free of the grave.
As the young man started to haul himself up, he felt something grab his right leg. Thunder boomed overhead. Cooper, turning slowly and doing his best not to soil himself, saw it was just a twig stabbed into the fabric of his jeans. With a smile and a relieved sigh, he leaned down and freed his pants from the wooden assailant.
Cooper once again started to pull himself up, and once again he felt something grabbing at his leg. This time, though, the young man saw that it was Herman Adlersflügel himself clutching onto his jeans.
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IN THE VALLEY OF FIRE, you can detect Black Ops impending arrival before you can actually detect their vehicles. It starts in the dead still of the summer night. No sounds. Nothing moves. Then gently in the West, the distant rustling of sagebrush begins. The rustling grows progressively louder and closer to the fixed observer. Said observer might wonder what disturbance is this that approaches. Within thirty seconds, just as the first vestiges of the breeze reach the skin, the distant roar of a 737's engines emerges from the same direction. The sagebrush all around the observer is now clearly agitated and swaying back and forth, the breeze on the skin growing progressively stronger.
Then you see the lights pop up from beneath the distant horizon, rising ever higher. The 737 is operated by Key Air, a defense contractor that works hand and hand with EEG (now URS Corporation.) What the observer can't see is that all the windows on the plane are blacked out, so no personnel on board can tell where they are going.
Poem of the Week
who have experienced
on a large
i tell raif
i think my
might be dead
haven't seen her
& her car hasn't moved
for two weeks.
you would smell it
passing me a plate
of triangular shaped bread
slathered in jam.
Story of the Week
DARLEEN SQUEELED into the empty spot as soon as the gleaming white Mercedes pulled out. "We got lucky," she told Montana. "Even on a Monday night, this lot is killer."
Montana rolled her big blue eyes. "Whatever."
The eleven year old had better things to do, like text her friends. Incessantly, as if she had a tic. The kid hadn't wanted to shop tonight, but Darleen insisted. This was their first Christmas without Paulie and the girls needed to stick together. Darleen's ex had been nasty lately and mediation had hit a cement wall. Montana wasn't aware how dangerously close they were to losing access to Paulie's vast and unreported wealth.
Montana sighed dramatically as she yanked open the door of the Porsche Cayenne and tumbled out. She didn't pause in her texting.
Darlene checked her face in the rearview mirror. The most recent fat transfer had been wildly successful. She loved her new lips. Grabbing her Gucci bag, she hopped out of the front seat.
Her daughter trailed her into the mall, thumbs flashing on her phone keypad.