Charnel House Earth: The Death Of Humanity, Chapter 7: I Spy With My Eye

I was transported to an abandoned airport near the alien craft. There, I disembarked the helicopter and began recon activity. Though I had never been a spy, or even a military scout, I was had the advantage. I did not exist to the aliens.

From the airport, I took to the shadows and headed for the alien craft. The city was empty. Dead.

Not a soul moved in the houses, apartments, or shops. Food sat, untouched, upon store shelves. Guns and ammo sat in the sporting goods department of some. It was almost as if they were waiting for someone to come and pick them up.

I figured that most of the population was now slave labor. Some may have joined me long ago, but most were probably enslaved. I had no hopes of finding any free souls here. Not in the capital. Not here on the east coast.

I approached the alien craft warily. It looked nothing like the saucers that Hollywood had taken from urban legend and made mythical. Nor was it the supposed orb-shaped or cigar-shaped ships often described by supposed abductees.

Instead, it looked like a city on a saucer, but with a jagged spike on the bottom that served as the entry and exit from the craft. Had I been a betting man, I would have bet that the craft had been built around sections, cities, from their home planet. their appearance seemed to be such that such thought were easy to arrive at.

I chuckled to myself. Flat Earthers would have been in Heaven with this craft. It epitomized their ideas where Earth was concerned.

I pulled myself out of my thoughts and began searching for an alternate way into the craft. Some port. Some vent.

I found an air duct just above the main entrance and crawled in. I narrowly escaped discovery as an alien soldier emerged from the main entry shortly after I replaced the vent grate. I began to follow the ducting, believing it would take me where I wanted to go.

It would, but I would also witness things I would have nightmares from for days to come. I would also hear things that caused the pieces of the puzzle to fall into place.

I heard voices ahead of me. The president. The Vice President. Several congressmen and women. The new alien masters.

Though I could not make out what was being said, I knew I had to listen in once I arrived to where they were. I hit the record button on my recorder and hoped I had enough tape to ensure a capture of all that was said.

***

I halted above the conference room. Below, what had been the president and his cabinet stood, mind control bands around their heads. Though they had been no more than useful idiots in life, I now felt a tinge of pity for them. Now, they no longer functioned freely.

Resistance to our coming has been rather,,,surprising, considering the primitiveness of your race, I heard the mental voice of one of the alien leaders state, those who resist have apparently taken one of my soldiers captive. No matter. It will be easy to destroy them.”

“They will fall to your will, oh master,” I heard the empty voice of the president state.

Of course they will, hissed the one that had claimed to be Jesus, or they will die.

“They will see reason,” the Vice President said, mindlessly agreeing with the president.

And if they do not? Yah demanded.

“Then they are doomed,” stated one of the now enslaved senators.

You will pass laws commanding them to surrender and come in, Yam commanded, You will command them to lay down their weapons.

“As you wish, master,” Came the unified response.

The president will urge them to come in as you begin making it illegal to resist us, Yam demanded.

“Your wish is my command,” the president replied.

As he spoke, the president looked up where I was hidden. Did he sense my presence? Or had the action been reactionary?

I would not, I decided, stick around long enough to find out. I muffled the sound of me turning off the recorder and swiftly moved past the vent I had been watching through. after I rounded a bend and was out of view, I heard an alien lift the grate where I had been

Bah! I heard Yah’s muffled voice exclaim. There must be a small glitch in the mindbender halo that causes them to look up.

Nothing, then? I heard Jesu inquire.

Not a whisper of a scent, Yah informed his fellow leader.

***

I stopped at a grate above what looked like a laboratory. Below, I could see a human with wires coming out of every conceivable pore and hole. The alien ‘doctors’ were performing something, but I could not tell what it was. Turning on my video feed, I allowed the data to collect.

They could analyze what was taking place once I got safely back to base. The poor man’s screams did not take long to affect me. No one deserved to suffer like that. No one.

Yet, I could do nothing to end his misery. Not if I wished to remain unseen. Thus, I moved on.

The third port overlooked the lab where the ‘monitor’ slaves were made. I watched as human scientists removed the front of a “devotee’s” skull, face and all. one of the scientists glanced up and saw me, though did not give a visible sign for fear of giving me away. But I had seen his look of recognition, though as brief as it was, before he quickly looked back at what he was doing.

he had given me a sign, but not the aliens. He had been pleading. Begging.

And yet, he knew that I could do nothing. Nor could he give away the fact that I was aboard and spying. He could only return to what he was doing, no matter how horrifying.

I moved on and found the armory. here, I finally dropped into the room. I scouted the armory and made sure I was alone. Undetected.

Then, I began gathering weapons. As I did so, I wondered if the aliens would miss one of their attack vessels. Or if I could even fly it.

I decided I would try. We needed something to help us design our own defensive warships. Something that would give us an edge.

I loaded my ill gotten gains into one of the flying vessels, then sought the cockpit. I started the engine. It was so quiet! As I shot out of the bay opening, several alien soldiers flooded the armory and began shooting at my escaping ship.

Charnel House Earth: The Death Of Humanity, Chapter 6: A Stroke Of Luck

Though war was not yet upon us, we needed more information on how the aliens converted their slaves. We did not yet know whether all were transformed into the mech slaves we had just encountered, or whether there were different levels of slavery. But this was just the tip of what we did not know.

Did they use telepathy? Could they sense us near? What did they look like behind the illusion? Exactly what could kill them, if anything?

If they were telepathic, could tinfoil shield our thoughts from them? Or was that ineffective? What about military helmets?

Our opportunity came when one of the alien soldiers strayed into our territory and became so entangles within our nets that he/it could not free itself.

Free me, it tried to command one of the soldiers in my patrol, free me, slave.

“I am not your slave,” he responded, “I take orders only from Jeff and he has not commanded me to release you.”

Release me and your reward will be great, it promised in a lie.

“Nothing doing,” the soldier returned.

Show me this Jeff, it demanded, perhaps it will see the need to release me.

“I doubt that, alien,” I smirked, “I am Jeff.”

I see nothing where the voice came from, it was now in a panic, what trickery is this?

It suddenly dawned on us that I did not exist to the aliens. I smiled.

“No trickery,” I began, taunting, “I am God of this world. And I lead these men in their mission to clear your kind from Earth.”

But how can you not be seen? It begged.

“Cage it,” I commanded my patrol, ignoring the alien’s frantic question, “we’ll take it to base. radio ahead and tell the doctors to have a manually operated restraint table ready. we’re going to interrogate this alien and take vitals to see if we can defeat them easily.”

I knew that my decision was likely declaring war upon the aliens, but I didn’t care as long as we could gather vital information from them. Their weaknesses. Their physiology. The makeup of their armor. Why some of us existed to them while others did not.

I watched as three of my soldiers wrapped the alien so that it could no longer beg or plead for its release. I got the feeling that they were also trying to ensure that it could not attempt to use any mental powers against them as we transported it back to base. I couldn’t blame them.

On took a syringe and loaded it with a tranquilizer. Surprisingly, he found a weak spot in the alien’s armor and sedated the pittiful being. This made it easier for the other two soldiers to bind the limp alien to a makeshift stretcher so that it could be transported.

After untangling it from the netting-once it was sedated and unable to attack-and securing it to the stretcher, we began our patrol again. This time, we headed back to camp. The sooner we got the captive back to the docs, the sooner we could pry answers from it.

***

“Ask it why it cannot see me,” I instructed.

“Why can’t you see Jeff?” The doctor demanded.

You humans, it began, or most of you, are easy for us to see. Mentally, you are bright beacons to us. And though some are dim, most are bright lights. It depends on your level of intelligence. That is how we see you. your psy-waves.

As with all races, there are also some who do not appear to us. Some races have learned to block us from seeing them. Others are naturally endowed with such an ability. While we can hear them, physically, we cannot see them. This makes them deadly to us since they do not psychically exist to us.

“How do we kill your kind?” I asked.

Find the weaknesses in our armor, it began, or find a disease that you are immune to that we are not.

“Can we see through your illusions?” I pressed.

Yes,” it nodded, with this...though a null-that’s what we call those we cannot see-might also be able to see us as we truly are.

It handed the doctor a a visor of sorts.

“Then,” I nodded, “I could possibly see your leaders as they truly are without the visor?”

Yes, it averred, you are a threat to all of us. Unseen. A voice without an origin. The perfect assassin.

“Will your own weapons work against you?” I pushed.

Yes, it weakly nodded, if you are successful enough to steal samples. it paused. May I inquire what you injected into me?

“A tranquilizer,” I began, “we sedated you so we could safely transport you. Why?”

It is slowly killing me, it replied, its chemical makeup is unknown to my race. Please, I beg you, end my misery. I can no longer detect any of you because of the poison.

I nodded to the scientist, who euthanized the alien.

“Study what you can of his anatomy before he decomposes too much,” I instructed, “then disassemble his armor and study it in hopes of creating something similar for us.” I looked around at all present. “we know two things. First, viruses and other diseases will kill them as will earthly medicinal chemicals. These natural weapons we can use to our advantage.

“Secondly, their own weapons will kill them. Which gives us hope.”

“Sir,” a soldier interrupted, “we also know that they cannot see you or others.”

“Good,” I smiled, “you were listening.”

***

I had opted to go on this first scouting mission alone. No need to jeopardize anyone else. After all, the aliens could not see me. I did not exist to them.

We all knew that war was inevitable. Once the alien soldier did not return, its superiors would search for it. when it could not be found, they would realize that it had been taken hostage. This would cause them to declare war.

I hoped that I could steal some of the alien weapons before that happened. We needed to be prepared. Hell. We needed all the help we could get.

Ghost In The Ruins, Chapter 7

7.

 

“We are very pleased with you, Billy,” the head elder praised, “you have restored water to our planet of origin and possibly life.”

“Sirs,” he fidgeted uncomfortably, “if I may be permitted to speak.”

“Go ahead,” the elder nodded.

“I hesitate to agree with your desire to recolonize the planet,” he responded, “as the risk of there being a repeat of all that came to pass there is too great.”

“Oh?” The elder was now intrigued. “Is there evidence of the incident not being unique?”

“In many ways,” he nodded, “yes. Not that I have definite proof, but…”

“But you saw something that made you believe,” the elder finished for him.

“Yes,” he nodded again, “there is a massive wall like structure, something that looks man made, that stretches the length of the ocean basin we were first in.”

“An interesting anomaly,” the elder agreed, “one that makes me inclined to agree that mass resettlement may not be a viable option.” the elder peered at him. “So what is your solution?”

“We make Earth an animal sanctuary where wildlife can roam free,” he voiced, “and place a small scientific crew to oversee the sanctuary.”

“Interesting idea,” the elder smiled, “and is there more to this?”

“Yes,” he admitted, “we can clean up the lunar colony, tear down the original as it would be…unusable….then build a hostel or resort in its place where visitors who go to view animals in the wild can stay while there.”

“This is your project, Billy,” the elder announced, “we grant you permission to do all that you have suggested. But you must wait for at least eight days.”

“That is eighty Earth years,” he beamed, “correct?”

“Well,” the elder chuckled, “close enough to. It is about 400 Earth years. Long enough for the forests you planted to grow. Long enough for the climate to return to as close to normal as possible.”

“Thank you, sirs,” he bowed.

“You’re welcome, Billy,” the elder answered, then bent closer, “and you will be placed as management of this new sanctuary.”

***

“So what did they say?” His mother asked.

“They loved the sanctuary suggestion,” he bubbled happily, “and I am to be manager!”

“I am proud of you, son,” she smiled, “you have finally become an adult. Being given a charge is a sign that the elders see you as an adult. I believe the mission you were given was their test for you.”

“So I am to pick the science team?” He looked at her.

“Yes, son,” she nodded, a tear coming to her eye, “choose well.”

“What about those who have been caring for the animals in the preservation zoo?” He inquired.

“You will have to ask them if they would be interested,” she suggested, “but they would do as a starting point.”

“And you?” He pressed.

“I can only offer technical support,” she responded, “nothing more.”

“But we work so well together,” he objected.

“Yes,” she nodded, “but you need to find others you can work with. Others not of family.”

“Very well,” he was disappointed, “I shall. Wish you could go.”

“Son,” she began, “I have had my fill of Earth. It was a beautiful planet, but I do not want to live there. This is your destiny. Your opportunity to shine. Go. take hold of it and do not let go.”

“I will miss you,” he sniffed.

“And I, you,” she smiled sadly, “but I always knew that this day would come.”

“You always knew that I would leave?” He was surprised.

“We all must leave at some time,” she nodded, “and I knew that you were marked for greatness. Greatness that would not include me.”

“But,” he objected, “this was never the way I intended it to be!”

“It never is,” she shrugged, “especially when fate takes a hand in things.” She looked at him. “You were always destined to go back. From the first trip we took, that was to be your path. There was nothing I could do to stop it.”

“Couldn’t you have said something?” He inquired.

“No,” she confirmed, “it would have made you want it more. You would have pushed harder. And it would have driven you away from me more violently.

“I had to allow you to do as your destiny demanded. It was more natural. This is what is meant to be. Embrace it.”

“What of you?” He persisted.

“I will still be here,” she affirmed, “and I shall come and visit. Do not worry. And you may have a brother or sister. It is the way these things go.”

***

Billy selected a team. The conservation team agreed to accompany the animals to Earth and to remain there to study and preserve life in a more natural setting. The conservancy cubes were loaded into the largest ship he had ever seen. 

“What shall we call our ship?” Anders, the bug cat overseer, inquired.

“How about The Ark?” He asked, somewhat jokingly.

The Ark,” the scientist mused, “good enough for me.”

“Let’s get loaded up,” he looked at Anders.

“Yes,” the scientist nodded, “let us.”

Billy entered the ship with the science team. He stopped at the hatch and took one last look around. It would be the last time any of them would see Home.

They lifted off after the last conservancy cube had been loaded. The small loading/offloading crew remained aboard. They would return the ship after all was offloaded. 

That had been how he had set things up. They would load and unload the ship, then return Home with the empty ship. He would remain on Earth with the scientists.

He smiled sadly. In a flash, they would be over Earth. There, they would off load the animals according to their original continent. The Americas. Eurasia. Africa. Australia. 

The islands would receive their animals last. There would be fewer to offload. Fewer to get mixed up.

Behind them. A second ship lifted off. This one was loaded with a cleaning and colonizing crew. The lunar colony would be small, just enough to maintain the hostel. 

Their project would be the most important. It would establish a resort where people could stay while visiting the preserve known as Earth. It would ensure that there was little to no contamination of the preserve.

***

The Ark lifted off from Earth and vanished. Its departure symbolized the last chance of leaving the planet. Billy blinked away the tears.

What had begun as a research project had become his life’s work. He was now fully invested in returning Earth to its former splendor. There was no turning back.

He turned away from where the ship had been and vanished into the primal jungle. He would roam the forests and jungles from this point on.  

Ghost In The Ruins, Chapter 5

5.

 

Bones littered the plateau. Shattered remains of buildings, glass stripped by fire and explosions, stood like stark sentries above what had been New York City. A blob of oxidized copper sat where a once grand statue had once stood.

The bridge was still there, but riddled with holes. Crumbling. Unusable.

Empty shells that were once cars sat, littering the streets. Skeletons sat within, sightless and uncaring. Sands had begun to reclaim the streets. 

It was a nightmare landscape. Something out of his nightmares. How he wished he could turn back. 

But he had a mission to complete. In a way, he was breaking the rules at the behest of the elders. He was attempting basic terraforming by reintroducing once native species back into the ecosystem.

The only difference was that he was taking the natural path, not using machines to do the work. All he had to do was find the source of the problem where the rivers were concerned. What was keeping them from flowing? 

Had the source springs dried up? Had they become clogged? Or maybe buried?

Had the same happened to the tributaries? Or had the aquifers been drained? Or had the problem been manmade?

He knew that the aquifers had not gone dry, but too many questions flooded in. He felt somewhat lost. He had admission to complete, but no idea where to begin. 

He sighed. He would begin at the big lakes at what had been the ancient border of Canada and the United States. He would do some scratchings there as well. In each lake bed. 

He hoped that he could turn things around. He hoped he could return waters to this rock somehow. Even a little bit of water flowing could restart the ecosystem. It could get the rains to begin again. 

Yes. He would have to get a little water trickling out of the ground. Just enough to restart the rains. Once the rains started, the rivers, tributaries, lakes and oceans would fill up over time. 

The seeds he was planting would grow. And maybe long dormant seeds hidden beneath the sands. With that growth, the atmosphere would heal more. 

The cycle would continue. Rain, growth, oxygenation…perhaps his actions would bring on more seasons. Perhaps spring and fall would return to separate summer and winter.

He smiled as he thought of what his actions could bring. A renewal. A rebirth.

It could also bring on catastrophe. But that was a remote risk. Something the elders felt necessary to see if Earth could be revived.

***

The scratchings and corings done in the lake beds had yielded moisture. Water had come bubbling up from two holes left after core samples had been taken. Puddles had soon spread, forcing Billy to abandon each lake bed. 

He smiled. Water was to be found. And at this rate, he might be able to return a decent ecosystem to this planet. 

“Water in all four large lake beds,” he reported to home base, “perhaps this planet isn’t as barren as we were led to believe.”

“That’s a positive thing,” his mother began, “isn’t it?”

“A very positive thing,” he confirmed, “has the oozing water a few clicks from you begun to build to anything?”

“So far,” she returned, “not that I can see. But the location is quite a distance from me, so it could have become a bigger stream. In this salt desert, it’ll be hard to see much difference until a lake forms…or a river.”

“True,” he averred, “just keep watching. If it does show signs of change, or the water gets too close, go ahead and move to a plateau.”

“Alright,” she answered, “and I will be sure to relay my new location to you.”

“If I happen upon something manmade and believe it will pose a threat to you,” he continued, “something I have to break, for instance, I will contact you and tell you to move the ship.”

“Alright,” she stated.

Shutting down the communicator, he went back to work. First, he would travel to the north. Check the rivers there.  He would plant the seeds as he went. Forests and grass would grow once more here.

“Moving to the slope,” his mother reported, “for a better view of what is below.”

He switched his communicator back on.

“East? He inquired. “Or west?”

“West,” she replied, “why?”

“Just for reference,” he stated, “the west slope is closest. The east would give me further to travel.”

“Oh,” she responded.

***

Humanity had been stupid. They had capped all the source springs of all the major rivers and tributaries. They had literally stopped the flow of all lifegiving water. All in their greed.

Perhaps they had thought that they were conserving. Or maybe it had been an act of war. Or malice. Or greed.

He believed it had probably been the last. Or maybe a combination of malice, war, and greed. And maybe not in that order.

Whatever their reason, they had killed the Earth. After capping the rivers and tributaries, the rains had stopped. When the rains stopped, crops wouldn’t grow. And starvation set in.

By all appearances, they had forgotten that they had capped these sources. Wouldn’t surprise him. Humanity had not been that smart.

They had always been making war for no reason. Hating for even less. And their greed had been horrible.

They had stopped caring about each other. Only money mattered. Not life. Not equality.

And their politics had reflected that. Their hate. Their greed. Their lack of compassion.

But so had their religions. All of them. None of their religions had taught compassion or love.

Both had been their downfall. Both had brought on their extinction. Their end.

Looking at the cap before him, Billy noticed something. It had begun to deteriorate. Just a little.

Where the water slowly oozed from the cap, a small damp spot had appeared and grass had grown in that spot. A ghost in the ruins. The promise of returned life.

He had enough explosives to blow every cap he found. The problem was, how to handle the simultaneous demolition of every cap on the planet. He turned his communicator back on.

“I have a problem,” he announced.

“What kind of problem?” His mother inquired.

“I have found the source of the problem,” he returned, “but it will take weeks to set up all the explosives for a synchronized demolition.”

“Demolition of what?” she pressed.

“The fools capped all sources going to all rivers and tributaries,” he sighed, “all will have to be blown so that the rivers can all run free.”

“Is that within the parameters of your mission?” She was alarmed at his inference of interference in the natural order of things.

“The caps are all man made,” he responded, “if we destroy them, we return the natural balance and set the rivers free. Is it interference if we return things to their natural order?”

“Well, no,” she allowed, “but…”

“I was told to do whatever it took,” he reassured her, “as long as it restored balance and did not use machines to artificially create anything. Blasting the caps off the source springs successfully fulfills that mandate.

“The problem is that we will likely have to go to every continent and island and set charges…which is time consuming. That means we will be here a while. That is, if we want to do this right.”

About the story…

Before I go on, I want to say that I may remove the prologue and place it into a story that will precede this one…as I am suddenly tempted to do just that. The story itself takes place several millennia after the prologue and it seems to be a sort of literary sore thumb just waiting to be whacked by some unseen hammer for not quite meshing with the rest of the story.  Besides. I have a whole ‘nother story zipping through my brain that includes the current prologue.

I wrote the beginning because I felt I needed a quick explanation for where the story has ended up. I am beginning to believe I was a bit premature with my inclusion (comes from starting a story under one title and ending up skipping through my list of titles to find a more apt one..) and now find myself facing a second storm brewing in my very creative mind.

I may even write a second “prequel” short that helps the reader a bit more with the ‘how’ of the story I am currently writing. (how all ended on earth, how humanity evolved into what they are in the current short, etc.) The reality being that this is meant as an ongoing series of short stories, not just one or two. Sort of a series of episodes.

In many ways, I am returning to my original craft…episodic fiction…though in longer stories. Thus, I prove once more that we always return home. Both in life and in our writing.

Key To The Highway, Chapter 12: Always Something New

We began to move everything from Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Shreveport to  the Edivere estate. The publishing company. The recording companies. The film production companies.

It was all to consolidate everything. Centralize it all in one area. Even my eventual corporate offices would be moved here. 

There would be a company in every field. Scientific research. Medical research. Tech research. Educational research. Food service. Entertainment. The automotive industry. Construction. 

I would eventually branch out into every industry. I would even become an investor in numerous private startups. But I would make money faster than I could ever use it. 

I had made friends among club owners and restauranteurs. Several would help me start my teen club chain, others would help me with the nightclubs. And still others would sell out to me. Especially the more famous venues.

I knew a good thing when I saw it and I ended up with most of what had been the chitlin circuit as well as many clubs that had refused services to black bands during the days of segregation. These I bought mainly out of retribution for refusing service to some of the best musicians of the decades they had operated as segregated establishments. 

I would rename them, then reopen them. I would make them open to all artists and pay well. I would begin to tear down walls. 

To many in the south, I became known as a force of nature. I represented an end to their once proudly held way of life. An end to their tightly embraced hate and fear. 

I was a symbol of change. A sign of changing times. An omen of what was to come.

Most of all, I represented a change of ideals. I made them look at themselves for a change instead of at those around them. My perceived innocence revealed their hidden guilt.

I was a force to be reckoned with and I was only two years of age. I frightened the adults. I gave the children something to aspire to. 

A small community began to grow around the Edivere mansion. My home. These loyal employees would remain with the companies for decades. Even after I disappeared, they would remain loyal. 

***

The facilities in Shreveport, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans were turned into museums with gift shops. The warehouses would remain in use until new ones could be built later on down the road. Die hard fans would continue to send to the warehouses for replacement copies of worn out tapes and badly scratched records even after I disappeared. 

While I was never really a fan of the 8 track, I sold quite a few of them. I preferred vinyl and, later, cassette to the 8 track. Perhaps it was the cumbersome design that garnered my dislike, I don’t know.

In my heart, I knew that the 1970’s were the last years for the 8 track.I also knew that vinyl was coming to an end. At least for the mainstream. There would always be those who would collect vinyl. Just as there would be those who collected 8 tracks. 

But I knew that any entertainment company worth its salt would have to innovate with the rest of the industry or die. Hell. The best would be at the forefront of innovation. 

I intended to be at the forefront. Whenever there was an innovation, I would be among the first to adapt. If I had to leave for any reason, I would make sure that whoever took my place, for however long, would carry out my wishes. 

It was just good business to be adaptable. Something the oil and coal industries were unwilling to be. Something the automotive industry was unwilling to do as well. 

But I had learned a lesson their CEOs had not. I had learned that greed destroys everything it touches. Including the person who put their trust in its emptiness. 

The knowledge had been what had kept me grounded. I cared nothing for wealth. Or privilege. Or position. 

To my employees, I was just another one of them. An average person willing to work alongside them. Someone willing to learn every aspect of the business. Even at the age of two. 

And as such, I would earn their loyalty. Their trust. Their love.

I would never have need to advertise for new hires. My employees would remain and their children would become employees. I had no policy against hiring family, as we were all family. We were all one big family even though we weren’t really related.

***

I was unaffected by the free sex culture of the 70’s, I was too young. Hell.  I was still too young to be affected by the drug culture. 

I suppose that was why I was able to emerge from the 1970s relatively unscathed. I was too young for all the decadence. I was also surrounded by very responsible adults, despite my being exposed to people in both of those scenes.

Even with exposure to both scenes, they were so distant from me in my mind that I had little interest. I only cared about my work or, as I saw it, play. And my vision of changing the world for the better.

Sure, I was naive in many ways. Or perhaps simply blissfully and willfully ignorant. But it did not yet personally affect me. Not yet.

Key To The Highway, Chapter 11: Ride The Wind

Mallory and his children built the best production company the industry had ever seen. It would rival all the major studios in Hollywood. In many ways, it would become more successful. 

And again, I insisted on keeping it off the stock markets. It was kept a private holding. No investors meant no compulsion to sell. No option to try a hostile takeover.

It would forever remain mine. That was my intent. Even when I would hire a new CEO, they would not be able to negotiate a salary over $400,000 a year. 

I set the policies in stone. There would be no way to change them without my express permission. Not during my lifetime.

I even wrote a ‘tombstone’ clause that stated that no policy could be changed without physical proof – a legitimate obituary, picture of a tombstone with name and date of death, and/or death certificate – so that nothing could be faked just to change a policy that someone did not like. 

That meant that just believing me dead would not warrant proof. The proof had to be undeniable and legally recorded. Not hastily created for personal gain. 

The company could never be sold. Not even after my death. It was to remain in my family, whoever that might be. 

It was a brilliant move. It meant that my company had to operate under my policies indefinitely and Hollywood could never get rid of me. Or my legacy.

Perhaps I knew, even then, that they would become an overly gluttonous cannibalistic industry devouring each other in a feast of creativity that would destroy that very creativity. I just had no idea who would eat who. Nor did I care. Just as long as they could not devour my work.

The fact was that the cannibalistic feast had already  begun. Even in the 1970s. The number of studios had been greatly diminished. The amount of creativity, though, had not. 

What had started as a friendly competition had become a bloody and cannibalistic battle for supremacy. The casualties would be the fans, eventually. Zanuck was ailing. Disney was long gone. As were Samuel Goldwyn, Louis B.Mayer, David Sarnoff, and Howard Hughes. Oh how they would mourn what had become of their legacies. 

I bought back the rights to all the films I had made from the first books, all dealing with children and scientific advancements not yet seen. I re-branded them and released them again under the new company’s logo while I made new movies.  I even began a dozen television series, all of which became instant successes. I had learned the secrets of success as a producer. 

I would never take a salary from any of my companies. Instead, I made my money producing films, acting, making music, and writing books. What would have been my salary went back into the business. And so I would pattern all of my businesses. After all, I did not need the extra income. I made enough as it was. 

***

We had worked my ‘Baby Jay’ routines into our stage presence. We would do a skit in between our serious or sad songs to keep the mood light and to make the audience laugh. It worked wonderfully. 

It was almost as if the fans were glad to see another side of me. I believe that they loved my ability to laugh at my age, height, and perceived weaknesses. They also loved the irreverence that I exhibited. 

It all gave me a very human appearance, something I had lacked up to that point.it also made me extremely accessible. And open.

We even began building upon those routines, creating even more. My character was easy for some to identify with even if I was not. I addressed things that were hard for most to not identify with. Friendship. Acceptance. Love. Dreams.

I made fun of adults. Their prudishness. Their fixation with riches and fame. Their total lack of respect for children. 

I became controversial. But in a good way. And through the use of humor. 

Some adults took things too personal, but still, they had to admit that I had a point in it all. I never meant it to be too serious. And they knew it. Or they should have.

Thirty-six solo and dozens of band and studio project albums into my career, I was the most seasoned player even though I had only been in the industry for two years. Well, two years and six months. I’d been in continual tour for the first year and a half. I had been in at least a dozen countries. 

I could converse with anyone. Sing in any language. Play in a thousand different styles.

I had worked with all the major hit makers. I had performed onstage with some of them. I tolerated some, loved others.

It was what made me unique. I could do whatever was needed. It didn’t matter whether I liked someone or not. I would still work, at least once, with them.

The bands were also beginning to mix in some of my solo works. My vocalists had to travel with the bands in order to play their parts. And yet, they seemed to love the new opportunity.

Twenty-four albums’ worth of material was now being added into an already heavy show. In hindsight, it was the bands’ way of telling me that our time together was growing short. After all, most of the members were of retirement age and probably had about three more years left in them and none of their children wanted to take their place.

***

Almost from the very beginning, I loved the Tao Te Ching. It is such a poetic and timeless piece of wisdom. I put it into practice almost immediately. At the same time, I became extremely fascinated with the I Ching. 

I also immersed myself in the Vedas and Rumi. I had read and contemplated the Koran and Bible, but had discounted them both as incomplete. As I had done with the Rabbinic writings and the Judaic ‘Holy Books”. 

I had found that there was quite a bit more wisdom in the eastern philosophies. Hell. There was more wisdom in the teachings of Zoroaster. And in the pagan teachings.

Not that I felt that the big three were frauds. In many ways, they were important in their own ways. But, at the same time, it was as if they had been repainted and repackaged by Rome or by those who’d come after the original belief system. Multiple times. 

None more than Judaism and Christianity. After all, the Jewish histories had been destroyed under Xerxes. As had their original texts. It was more than fair to believe that the ‘histories’ and ‘laws’ that resulted from the reconstruction had been deeply influenced by Zoroaster’s belief system as well as the pagan myths of Persia. And Babylon. And every conquering nation that took control of Judea thereafter. 

Christianity had definitely been hijacked when Rome took it as the national religion. Their gods and goddesses had been combined with the message. Lucifer, the light bringer, had been made an aspect of the devil. As had the darker aspects of all the gods. 

And all in the attempt to make divine the assassinations and exiles of royal and political opponents. There was nothing remotely ‘Holy’ left in the religion. It had all been distorted.

Key To The Highway, Chapter 10: Road Songs

I had weathered my first ‘vacation well. I had forgotten none of what I had been taught and had gained insight into my biological family. I had a vindictive, selfish sister. Well, she was actually my half sister. 

I had a narcissistic  workaholic father who thought he could do no wrong. And I had an adorable, sometimes over protective mother who would support anything I did as a child. My mother loved horses. My father loved guns.

Even away from the road and studio, the music never stopped in my head. Nor did the business ideas. Or the concepts.

I had observed every trait, every nuance, of each of my family in quiet contemplation. I rebuked my sister in nearly every language I knew except English. I muttered in Creole to myself whenever I was upset. 

The only one who even remotely knew anything of what I was saying was my grandfather and he wasn’t saying anything. 

“Is he speaking another language?” I had heard my mother ask curiously.

“Not that I can tell,” he had replied, “even if he was, we would never rightly know. Doubt there is any book for it.” after, he had smiled knowingly, sought me out with a glance, and winked.

It had been his way of showing approval. He knew that I did what I did as a means of appearing as a normal child of my age. Just as he knew that I revealed nothing of what I knew in order to remain ‘normal’ in their eyes. 

Both of us knew that my father could never know. For my sake. My future depended upon the illusion I was casting. 

My father only desired two things. Money and control. He had failed at the former, so he exerted all his effort in the latter. And he ruled, at least in his own eyes, with an iron fist. 

But even that was mostly illusion. After all, a man who does not have control of himself cannot control those around him with any effectiveness. Thus, my father had no control. Just the illusion of that came from fear.

And yet, at this point in time, grandpa held him in check. And though he was cruel, he had to hide it. At least for now. But I knew. I could see through his serene illusion.

***

I was two years old and I was already a success. I already had a business that was making millions. I was already a millionaire.

Yet, the only thing that mattered was my talents. I had dozens of books. I had written my first nonfiction book after returning from my vacation, a sort of release of the angst that I had built up. The observations I had made. The psychologist had begun to emerge. 

My first book of poetry also emerged. The different emotions. The different aspects of life I had witnessed in a single house. The different personalities. 

It was a kind of child’s version of Ginsberg’s Howl. A scream for normalcy within the bounds of supposed normalcy. It became an instant classic.

I continued with my fiction as well. Writing was my release. My escape from reality. 

And I was becoming more professional in my style. More perfected. Less scattered. Less rough.

Jean was a respected publisher and editor. His works had been critically acclaimed when he was younger. When he was still writing. 

He was my editor and publisher. He would fix my errors and make the books printable. But even I knew that he would not be there forever. There would come a time when he would no longer be there to solve the problems for me. 

And so I worked hard at perfecting my craft. The lyrics I wrote, the songs I recorded, made it into print as well. As did my first attempts at writing plays. 

I was coming into my own. I was growing both in body and in talent. As well as in experience. 

Music legends passed through the studio and I worked with them all. The Moody Blues. The Hollies. Elvis. The Rolling Stones

I was the local oddity that drew a star studded crowd. And I relished it all. I invited the attention.

But it was in my second year that the fans began realizing that I was not the midget that they had believed me to be for two years. I was suddenly taller. More distinctive. 

My first year of growth had been nearly indistinguishable. But this second year, I was far taller than I had been. It was apparent. 

But the moniker ‘Baby Jay’ stuck because they realized that I had truly been a baby…though they could hardly believe it. Still, it had not dawned on the censors that I was a child. But, then, I was not the one singing my songs. I merely played the instruments. 

And, of course, I became more active in my second year. I began dancing around onstage while playing guitar, doing high flying kicks and becoming flamboyant to cover my shyness. And I was extremely shy. Even for a musician.

I suppose you could say that this was the moment that my reputation for being a flirt began to emerge. At first, it was a way to hide the fact that I was extremely nervous. Then, it just became a part of my act.

***

More roles came my way. Hollywood loved me even if I rued Hollywood. Well, I didn’t exactly rue Hollywood. I disliked what some of the power players were. The system was gluttonous. And cannibalistic.

It seemed to eat its own. Made me desire to remain apart from it. Thus, Jean called on a film producer friend of his who had retired before the heyday of the studio system went into decline.

Mallory Astor was an amazing man. Though around Jean’s age, Mal was still as active as a 20 year old. He had wisely split from Hollywood before the scandals hit and had never looked back. 

He had become an instant fan of my literary works and saw the cinematic potential of many of the novels. Jean had even prepared him for our first meeting. But not quite enough.

“Mal,” Jean began, “this is Jay. He is the author of the books you are interested in developing into films.”

“I know ya prepared me.” he stated, slightly surprised, “but I thought you were kidding about his age.”

“No,” Jean mused, “I wasn’t kidding you. Jay may be a bit young, but he is more than capable of all I told you. He has already earned his bachelor’s in business. He knows how to build the perfect business. He just needs a temporary adult manager to head his company openly. And now, he wants to branch out into film and television…and you are the perfect person to be that visible head of his company.

“You are experienced in the business and can train almost anyone to do what you did in Hollywood’s golden age. Just as I am able to train anyone to do what I do.”

“So,” Mal took a breath, “what is he looking for?”

“He wants to build a production company that will rival Hollywood,” he answered, “so that he does not have to fear that the so-called producers will destroy his books for the sake of their egos.”

“Well,” Mal chuckled, “that is the norm nowadays.” He paused and took another look at me. “Alright, I’ll do it. I will call my son and have him come in as well. Just add us to his family photos from now on.”

“Merci, Monsieur Mallory,” I smiled in appreciation.

“And you’ve corrupted the boy with your Cajun French,” Mal grinned, “bet that galls those bloated morons in Hollywood.”

“James, or ‘Jay’,” he nodded, “is multilingual. And yes, it drives most producers nuts. But it also works in his favor when he goes home to his own family over the winter. He can speak in almost any language and still seem to be babbling.”

“Well,” Mal beamed, “if that don’t beat all!”

“Indeed,” he mused, “but then, Hal Parvenue has always kept his word when delivering a unique talent.”

“And how is Hal?” the producer inquired.

“Aging,” came the answer, “like the rest of us. And ailing. He has heart problems.”

“That’s too bad,” Mal shook his head, “he’s a great man. Does amazing carpentry.”

Key To The Highway, Chapter 9: For Love Of Voodoo

In my second full year, my music began to take on a somewhat mystical – magical – quality. It was almost as if I could weave spells with sound. Musical voodoo.

Drum rhythms, unique to me, formed from the fusion of African, Native, and Caribbean sounds. Complex and mesmerizing, they wove an underlying pattern beneath the harmonies of the melodies that built the sound. All three cohered well. 

My guitar style, an eclectic mix of styles already being used in all the bands. Swampdog blues, a Cajun blues-rock style, was slightly more complex than the blues from which it had grown. Creole shaman’s blues, a mix of zydeco, voodoo drum rhythms, and blues, was just as complex…and a sight more psychedelic. Atomic blues, a blistering metallic blues, was darker and even more complex and fed off Native rhythms. Midnight blues, also a Native form of blues, was slightly less complex. Smokehouse blues was a wild raucous style that spoke of naughtiness. While, psychedelic blues was just that…a remnant of 1960s psychedelia that just happened to be more blues than anything else.

I combined them all into a sound unique to me. Voodoo blues. And I became the ‘master mage’, weaving my spells through my guitar. Or so it was claimed. 

My music was just the language of my soul. I had never intended it to weave anything. Except maybe a story. My story.

And a beautiful story it was. At least, in the beginning. Just a boy and his instruments. 

But Cajun, Creole, and Native sounds weren’t the only influences on my music. There was the Spanish, South and Central American, and the Romany…not to mention the Klezmer music of my Jewish friends who thought I was the bomb. In many ways, my style was a musical gumbo of everything I came into contact with. 

I suppose it was this fact that made it so magical. So hypnotizing. Spellbinding. 

At the same time, I was learning the finer points of the Voodoo religion. The nature. The concepts of magic. Its links to music, art, and nature. 

And the concept filtered into my music. Causing it to become even deeper. Even more magical.

***

Kisa w’ap fè?” Mama Tibideau inquired. (what are you doing?)

“jwe ak konsèp,” I replied. (playing with a concept)

“…ak majik?” She peered at me over her spectacles. (…and magic?)

“Wi,” I replied simply, “gaye zèl mwen yo.” (yes. Spreading my wings)

“Don’ know what I’m gon’ do wit’ you, Chile,” she giggled, “you be natural at it all. It jus’ flows from you. Like life itself desires you to cast a spell.”

“Wi, manman,” I replied. (Yes, mama)

“You gon be a formidable man o’ wisdom when you get older,” her thick Haitian Creole accent was both comforting and stern at the same time, “would hate t’ be de one who gets on yer bad side when you become a man. I have never seen such a chile, not one dat was a perfect union of body and soul and in such complete control of their abilities. My, my.”

Mama Tibideau had come to the States with Mac Tibideau back in the early 1960s after one of his successful tours. She was one of the most powerful Voodoo priestesses in Louisiana and believed that all her children should know what she knew. It did not matter to her that I was a white child, I was her adopted son and that meant I was to be taught the same things as she taught her daughters. I was family.

Looking back, I am grateful for this. It taught me that we are all one race. We are all of the human race. Color, creed, place of origin, gender, sexual preference, and gender identification mean absolutely nothing. Never, in my life since, have I ever been in the presence of another person as beautiful as her…though my third wife would come close.

But at the time, I was just ‘Baby Jay’, the blond haired, hazel eyed boy child that was everything and yet none of them. I was an adopted member of all the families who raised me and an adopted son of Louisiana. 

And at that moment in time, we were backstage. I had been practicing a song I had played since the beginning of my career. And though it was not mine, I was determined to put my mark on the song. 

“I came, chile,” she smiled, “to remind you dat you have three minutes and dey wants you onstage.”

“Wi, manman,” I responded, getting up from the chair I was sitting in, “I will head that way now.”

“Come, chile,” she put her hand on my shoulder, “I’ll take you.”

***

I loved the stage. I loved the sound of the crowds. It was a rush just knowing that I gave them such pleasure with my music. 

I hated being in a crowd, mind you. But being in front of a crowd was different. At least back when I was too young to know the danger they potentially represented. 

The sound of fans screaming for their favorite songs put me into a state of euphoria. It drove my innovations and improvisations on those songs. It drove me to make them my own.

I came up with the concept of ghost notes, notes that sounded even though they had not actually been fretted. I could make my fingers dance on the strings so fast that most people could not see what had been fretted. Sometimes, it seemed as if I had a second set of arms that allowed me to play double what anyone else could. Or pound out rhythms on drums that were seemingly more complex than anything ever done before.

Academically, I had learned three times more than any adult could. My accelerated courses were far more advanced than any high school graduate who was at my level, Sophomore year studies, in college. Some involved in the research project I was participating in had even begun hinting that I was a born prodigy…a genius. But I knew I was no genius. Just someone who was extremely fortunate

As a musician, I had already been to Europe once. As a solo artist, I still had yet to get started touring. And yet, my solo music was almost more popular than the bands I was touring with. I believe that, even then, those who had taken it upon themselves to teach me had begun to realize that the bands they fronted had come to their end and it was only a matter of time before I would have to go on alone.

Key To The Highway, Chapter 8: Let The Laughter Begin

I have always had a sense of humor. Though it tends to be a little more cerebral than most people are able to handle, it has always been there. Sometimes dark, sometimes absurd. The darker seemed, at times, to be a bit sadistic but had purpose. The absurd was typical childhood humor without the cruelty that often gets called ‘practical jokes’. 

This isn’t to say that I didn’t play practical jokes. I did. And often at the expense of those who were too slow to catch on what was going on…specifically those so immersed in greed, hate, and ignorance that they had no clue that they were being made the rube. Wealthy men and women often fell to my pranks. Hatemongers too. 

Some of my more elaborate pranks would not be pulled at this time as I was too small and not willing to plan anything big. But it was not my pranks that would grab attention. It would be the comedy skits I would begin recording at this time. 

They started as asides during recording, something to get the other musicians to lighten up and laugh. They soon grew into an opportunity to show more talent. Another side of me. 

And so, ‘Baby Jay’ grew into the first studio-only comic who was both self-depreciating and irreverent all in one. Playing off my actual age, I began piecing together the ‘baby’. By the time recording was done, I had everyone in the studio rolling with laughter.

Singles were made, small animated vignettes of hilarity playing off the character portrayed. They went over so well that I quickly became an underground comedy favorite. Adding to my myth and mystique, the comedy helped build the legend.

I also began becoming adept at playing cards. All forms of poker. Solitaire. Rummy. 

I could also call where the roulette wheel would stop. And the dice. And the slot machines. My grasp of mathematics allowed me to observe and note, then accurately predict. 

And though I was too young to be a danger, I would be officially banned from all casinos simply as a safeguard. If I were unable to enter, no adult could use me as a ‘good luck charm’. At the same time, this would work to my advantage when I got older.

But, at the age of one, I was not allowed in. not even under adult supervision. Except as part of the entertainment. Not that we ever played in the casinos.

***

I had yet to prove myself in the home of my biological parents. This would be the first winter I would spend with them. It would be my first winter of being ‘normal’. Whatever that was. 

I was not really looking forward to it, as I knew that I had an older sister I would have to fool as well as my own parents. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to pull it off. Especially if she got too rough with me. Luckily, I would be able to walk and babble. After all, the average one year old could ‘talk’. 

I just had to be careful how elaborate I got with my words. At the same time, I could speak almost any foreign language and still be thought to be babbling. It would be interesting to see how they reacted. 

As far as I knew, none of their close friends were multilingual. That would keep most from knowing what I was saying. It would make the ‘babble’ effect work well enough to fool them. I could practice my linguistics and not be suspect.

I just couldn’t do anything else. No martial arts. No writing. No music. Nothing to tip anyone off.

Luckily, the first winter would be short. It would go from October to January or February. After, I would return to my beloved Louisiana. It was my first vacation. I would treat it as such. 

But the vacation was still a moth or so off. I could be myself until then. I could practice my music. I could act in films. I could make people laugh.

There was also the social events that I hated. And the stage appearances I loved. And the classes that I relished. 

Life would be good until I had to go. I would be more than satisfied when the time came. Perhaps I would be ready for a vacation.

At the moment, I sat playing guitar. But not just any guitar. David Bowie had given me a brand new guitar shaped like a skeleton key. He had called it ‘the key to the highway’, a sort of joke referring to how music was always the key to freeing the wandering soul. 

The neck fit my tiny hands perfectly. I could fret it with such precision that I could get the precise sound I wanted. I could hit all the right notes.

I had retired the ‘toothpick’, the guitar I had designed and had been using, upon the receipt of the key. It just seemed right. After all, ‘the toothpick’ was getting a bit worn. And the ‘key’ resembled a normal guitar where ‘the toothpick’ did not. 

***

Night always brought dreams. Sometimes, they were nightmares. Mostly, they were enigmatic dreams. Riddles without clues. 

Being raised with a spiritual grounding, I saw all dreams and nightmares as messages. Some were prophetic. Others were more warnings against a certain course of action. Or against getting too close to certain people.

And being spiritual made me less religious. In fact, it made me non religious. I was a child of nature. Not a child of the unnatural.

And religion was unnatural. It lacked soul. It still does. 

Nature provided all I needed. All I wanted. I lived in my soul. 

I still do. A concept that most have a hard time understanding. It is a concept man has strayed from.

I was a soul in a human body, not a body given a soul. I saw my body as the car that my soul was driving, not as its prison. The uniqueness of my view set me at odds with most religious people as they always saw their souls as their possession, not as their only form of being.

Religion always taught that the soul was your possession. Something you could buy and sell. I came to realize that we did not own our souls. They were on loan, so to speak, to us. They were ours only in the fact that we were to repair the fractures already in it over our lifetimes and leave it better than it had been when given to us. They were not ours to sell or barter with. 

I also realized that religion’s fixation with the souls of those around it was wrong. The individual was never meant to control their fellow humans’ actions, but was meant to learn how to control themselves so that they could change their view of those around them through changing their internal world. Only by changing what was hidden within could one ever change the outer world. 

I had also realized that the truth was not an exclusive commodity. It was not held by just one ideology. It was everywhere. In everything. 

There was no single book that held it all. There was too much of it to be contained in a book. Or even a set of books.