Monday, June 19, 2023

The Stained Glass

Hello Everyone,

This story was written for a short story prompt called "Stained Glass". Unfortunately, the competition closed before I was able to get it submitted, meaning this is the first time I've ever shared the story. I would enjoy any feedback on whether it is any good.

Hope you are all enjoying these last weeks of Summer!


The Stained Glass
by James J Meadows III

                Lady Andrea ran her fingers along the smooth red stained glass window. The dark crimson tint discolored the sunlight streaming through it, giving an eerie feeling to the room. Further, a strange energy radiated from the glass, tickling her fingers as they brushed across it. Yet, most disconcerting of all, were the images she beheld as she gazed into its surface. 

                “It is beautiful, isn’t it?” A voice asked from the doorway behind her. “Do you like it?”

                Andrea spun around, raising the knife in her hand and pointing it at a tall man, whose robed figure formed an intimidating silhouette against the entryway.

                “Stay away from me,” she shouted, backing along the wall away from him.

                “There is no need to react like that,” he replied, in a casual manner. “I mean you no harm.”

                He entered the room, striding toward her without the slightest trace of fear. Andrea continued backing away, trying to keep as much space between them as possible. The knife, which she really didn’t know how to use anyway, shook violently in her sweaty hand, probably not helping her attempt to keep him at bay.

                “Keep back,” she warned. “I don’t know what you’re doing but I won’t be a part of it!”

                “Of course you know what I’m doing,” he replied. “You asked me to do it, didn’t you? You all did!”

                “You were supposed to protect us!” she cried. “We came here for protection.”

                “Yes. You wanted to escape the plague ravaging the kingdom. And so you are. I provided you a safe haven, a place where no plague can touch you, a place where you can stay safe until the plague is past.”

                “Where are my friends?” She said. “What have you done with them?”

                “Some are in the blue room; others are in the green room; some are in the purple room; still others are in other rooms. Some of them are in red rooms, just like you!”

                He continued advancing toward her at a casual pace as he talked. She, in turned, kept backing away, sliding along the wall. The odd-asymmetric shape of the room with its various angles made it hard to avoid getting cornered. Fortunately, her antagonist appeared to be making no attempt to actually corner her. He was merely following her, walking along the wall, tracing her own steps as she moved.

                “What have you done to them?” she demanded.

                “I protected them.”

                “Liar! I saw the faces in the glass! I saw them shouting at me from the panes, screaming and pounding to get out. You trapped them inside the windows!”

                “What could be a better way to protect them? As long as they are in there, they are safe. No plague can reach them. No infection touch them. They can live forever, free from the nightmares taking place outside.”

                “You’re a monster!” she screamed.

                “I’m a protector,” he argued. “What more could nobility want from their prince than for him to look after them, protect them, and ensure their safety. That is what you asked for and that is what I’ve done.”

                Andrea’s eyes darted around the room. The door was still standing open. If she could keep him talking, keep him following her, she might be able to get close enough to make a break for it. Her eyes returned back to him, gazing into the cold void of his icy green orbs, which looked back without the slightest trace of emotion.

                “There is no need for you to be afraid,” he continued. “Once a cure is found for the plague, I will let you out. Then you will be free again, and no longer have any reason to fear for your safety.”

                “What if a cure is never found?” she replied. “What if it takes centuries for the cure to be found? What if you die before the disease is cured?”

                “Then you’ll just have to wait,” he answered. “I’m sure a cure will be found someday. Besides, if I pass away, surely someone will find a way to release you. It’s not like something will happen to you. You won’t age. You won’t hunger or thirst. You will be able to wait here however long it takes.”

                His face grew hard and a cruel smile covered his lips.

                “Besides, I’m sure all the peasant laborers, slaves, and citizens, who you left to die, abandoned inside their castles and cities, without the least concern for their welfare as you fled here, intent upon saving yourselves, will come looking for you, right?”

                Andrea’s eyes went wide at the accusation masked in his words.

                “They are just peasants,” she said. “You can’t punish us for abandoning them. We are their nobles; they swore to serve us and look after our welfare. We couldn’t protect them anyway. All we could do was protect ourselves, so that is what we did.”

                “Yes, that is what you did,” he replied. “You took their food, their money, and all the wealth of your castles, which they might have been able to use, and raced here, begging me to shelter you while they all died, helpless against the ravages of a disease that you were more concerned with protecting yourselves from than trying to help the very people whose hard labor produced the gold and food you ran off with!”

                “A nation needs it nobility,” she argued. “The people needed us alive and well. By protecting ourselves and the kingdom’s leaders, we are protecting their best interests!”

                Andrea was only a short distance from the door now. She just needed keep him talking a little longer.

                “Well, then, so am I,” he said. “I am protecting their leaders too. Whenever the people need them and ask for them, they can have them back! Until then, you and are your friends can enjoy the safety you wanted so badly!”

                “No,” she screamed. “I won’t let you trap me!”

                She turned and made a mad dash toward the door. She reached the entryway, racing at full speed and dove toward it. With a thickening crash, she slammed into the opening, as though it were solid rock. She pressed her hands against the smooth transparent surface, pushing with all her might.

                “You don’t understand,” the man said. “You already have. I hope you like the red pane. You are going to be seeing it for a long time.”

                He advanced toward her and past her, moving through the opening as if it were empty air; though, try as she might and pound upon it as she would, Andrea could not make so much as a dent in the transparent prison!

                “Help!” She screamed. “Please, let me out! Please! I beg you! Please!”

                Her shouts followed him, as he walked the wide black hallway separating the various brightly colored rooms, each casting their glows throughout the area, as the sun passed through them.


Monday, June 5, 2023

Muscle Memory


My story for this week was based upon my short story group's prompt, "Muscle Memory". I am classifying it into the category of "Science Fiction", though the machine in the story isn't much more far fetched than some of the various devices you see in many modern movies or spy films that would not be considered Science Fiction. 

I have to thank my morning run for helping me come up with the story. It is kind of interesting how one little idea can end up becoming a full story after an hour on the running trail. Though it is always hard to tell if the story is going to be any good.

Anyway, let me know what you think! I would enjoy the feedback!



"Muscle Memory"
by James J Meadows III

                The tears in my wife’s eyes nearly caused my heart to break as I kissed her one last time before leaving the house.

                “Don’t do this, Edward,” she said.

                “I’ve got to, Anne,” I replied. “I need to know. After all these years, I need answers.”

                Answers were the one thing, above all other things, which had eluded me so far these last ten years, ever since I was found washed up on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain with a severe head wound and no knowledge of my previous life. Even the modern twenty-second century psychological techniques were unable to restore the memories. Now, however, for the first time, thanks to recent advances in neuroscience, I finally had a chance to get those answers. I wasn’t prepared to give it up.

                “What if you don’t like what you find,” my wife pleaded. “What if you discover you have another wife, another family? What if you forget about us?”

                I reached up to wipe the tears away. We had met a few months after I was found by the police. I didn’t necessarily believe in love at first sight, yet if such a thing existed, this was it. While my past was a mystery to me, how I felt for her and for my family wasn’t.

                “Nothing will change who I am,” I replied. “I will always love you. I will always love our family. Nothing can ever change that!”

                My daughters seemed on edge too. Though they were only two and four, too young to understand what was happening, they could sense their mother’s tension, and it made them uneasy. I knelt down and gave them each a tight hug and kiss, promising to bring them back some sweets and toys when I got back from the hospital. Then, with one last kiss to my wife, I headed into the garage, where I climbed into my car and let it drive me away.

                The throngs of reporters were already waiting for me when I arrived at the clinic. This didn’t surprise me much. From almost the day of my discovery, the media was crazy about me: the mystery man, with no identification, no fingerprints, no one able to identify him and not even capable of remembering his name, only that it started with an ‘E’. My accomplishments since the day of my discovery had only added to the media frenzy which often accompanied me.

                “Move back! Move back! Give him room!” Several police officers shouted, fighting to maintain a path for me as I headed to the facility.

                “Thanks Stephen,” I said to the first officer, as I started past. “How is the family?”

                “Doing well,” he replied, coming to join me, while another officer took his place fighting off reporters. “How is yours?”

                “Nervous,” I answered.

                Stephen and I were fairly close, thanks to five years spent as partners on the force. Though he wasn’t my partner anymore, not since his promotion last year, I had served with him longer than anyone else. My physical fitness, knack for investigation, skill at tailing and talent for information gathering, none of which I could explain, made going into the force a natural course of action for me following my discovery.

                Thanks to my skills, and of course the help of partners like Stephen, I accumulated almost a dozen awards and honors in the eight years I served.  I suppose this only added to the mystique surrounding my past. Still, it was a mystique which bothered me. Where did I develop all those skills? What did I use them to accomplish?

                None of the reporters or cops or even my family could understand what it was like to not have a past, to not remember anything: your parents; childhood friends; or even your own name. That was why, even though I was happy with my life, I needed to do this procedure.

                “Hello Edward,” a young woman, in her late twenties, with dark black hair greeted me as I entered the clinic. “We haven’t met before. I’m Nurse Johnson. I was brought in from out-of-town, to help operate the machine. I am one of the designers. Are you ready for your procedure today?”

                “Yes,” I answered, as security teams fought to stop the news crews from flooding inside.

                She led me down a hall. Stephen, who seemed to be intent upon accompanying me through the process, followed as we walked.

                “Now, as I’m sure Dr. Burke explained, this is a relatively new procedure,” the nurse said. “Essentially, as you know, your muscles remember their past actions and behaviors even if you can’t directly recall them yourself. What we do is stimulate those muscles. As we do so, synapses in the brain will fire, causing it to unconsciously recall actions. The devices we will be attaching in your head will detect the electrical impulses and project them into a visible form on the screen, essentially reading your unconscious mind.”

                “You, and those of us in the room, will be able to see the images stored in your brain, associated with the muscle memories as they come up. So far, even though this has only been performed a few times, we have noticed that once one memory is collected, the brain begins to regurgitate more and more, connecting them with the previous. In this way, we should be able to get a pretty good collection of visions from your past.”

                “Excellent,” I said.

                We were just about to enter the room when the nurse stepped in front of me, placing her hand against the door.

                “Officer Edward,” she said. “Are you sure you want to go through with this procedure? Remember, we don’t know what we’re going to find. You’ve done a lot of great things in your life and I don’t want to risk anything that might wipe them out. Think about it. With your skills, you could be a foreign spy. You could find yourself in serious trouble if the truth comes out. Or perhaps you were some other sort of investigator or researcher, who someone tried to do in because they knew something they shouldn’t. That information coming to light could endanger you and your family! There are all sorts of consequences of this procedure which you should consider.”

                “Nurse Johnson,” I said. “Are you attempting to discourage me?”

                “All I’m saying,” she replied. “Is that, as the operator of the machine, I have watched all four uses of the device to restore memory. I’ve learned that you can occasionally see things you don’t want to. Sometimes it is best to let the ghosts of the past stay there.”

                “I’m determined to see this through,” I replied. “There is nothing I cannot deal with.”

                “Very well,” she said, with a somewhat resigned voice.

                Stephen and I were led into the room, where the doctors started hooking up various pads, cords, and devices all over my body. At the same time, I was strapped down, to prevent thrashing or uncontrollable spasms while my muscles were stimulated. Finally, an IV was placed into my arm, apparently to allow them to administer any medications necessary throughout the procedure. Once the equipment was settled, the doctor and nurse informed me that everything was ready and a monitor was hoisted above my head for me to watch the images they retrieved.

                “Last chance to change your mind,” Nurse Johnson said, giving me a sideways look.

I didn’t even considered the idea. My determination to know my past, to finally get my memories back, to at last uncover the missing pieces of my life, and to become a whole person again, drove me forward.

                “You can begin whenever you are ready,” I replied.

                “Very well,” she said.

                The lights were dimmed. Within seconds, I felt my muscles begin to contract as though performing various acts. At first these acts were somewhat random. Yet as time went on, I felt myself performing normal everyday activities which were a part of my life. Of course, I wasn’t really performing them; I was strapped to a table. To my muscles, though, it seemed like I was living out my daily routine.

                Gradually, over the course of many more minutes, images took shape on the screen above me. They were not thoughts I was consciously thinking. Sure enough, as described, they were images which appeared to be stored in my unconscious, which were associated with the movements, seen as if I were looking out of my own eyes. I felt completely lost in the awe of what I was experiencing. I watched myself kiss my wife, practice with my pistol at the police station gun range, and exercise at the gym.

                At first, all of the memories were ones I could recall. It wasn’t until my brain got to the point of crawling out of the river, where I found myself making a sudden jump to the past. Without warning, I found myself, for the first time, staring at the faces of my parents, racing through a snow covered valley, shopping at stores, which listed their currency in Canadian values, taking martial arts lessons and studying in a modern computerized high schools.

                I watched in awe for what felt like hours, though in truth I knew it was far less time. It was amazing. At least, until I noticed, something wasn’t quite right. I saw myself sitting in front of a computer, using my research skills to uncover information. But the information I was researching was specific women. I also saw myself using my skill at tailing. And what I was tailing was other young women.

                From there, things turned even darker. I watched as I burned my fingers with acid to cover my finger prints and acquired fake ids. I saw myself sneak across the Canadian border into the US where I went on a rampage, stalking, raping and murdering one young woman after another, making my way across the country. I wanted to scream. This couldn’t be true. This couldn’t be happening. This couldn’t really be me!

                All of the sudden, I saw a familiar face on the screen: a young woman walking the streets of Baton Rouge with her college friends. I watched as the group broke off for a bar, while she continued on, apparently heading for their hotel, which lay along a bridge beside Lake Pontchartrain. I saw her spot me and start to run. I watched, through my eyes, as I charged after her, pulling a knife out of my pocket. I was practically on top of her when she turned around with an expandable night stick in her hands.

I didn’t pull back fast enough. Clearly, I had grown over confident from years of killing. When she spun on me, swinging it with all her might, I was not prepared. It struck me hard across the head. I saw blood spatter everywhere and watched as I stumbled to the railing of the bridge, not realizing there was an opening with steps leading down to the water. I fell, tumbling down the steps, smashing my head again. A moment later, I watched myself roll into the shallow water. Everything went black.

Long minutes followed as I stared at the dark screen, feeling my muscles relax when the electrical pulses stopped. With some effort, I pried my eyes off the television and turned them toward the woman who I had followed on that fateful night, the one who hit me with the club as I attempted to kill her, the one who now, ten years later, had attempted to convince me not to get the procedure done: Nurse Johnson.

“I’m sorry, Officer Edward,” she said, in a soft quiet voice. “I told you: sometimes it is best to let the ghosts of the past stay there.”

A long silence filled the room. I looked toward Stephen, who was still gazing at the screen in stunned horror. Then, I watched him reach into his pocket and withdraw a pair of handcuffs.

“Officer Edward, I’m sorry, I’m afraid you are under arrest,” he said. “Doctors, please remove the straps from him, so I can take him away.”

I had finally regained my memories and lost everything else.