I once began a book called "The Dark Wind Blows" but never finished it. Sometimes I felt like it was quite good, and then I'd look at it again and have doubts.
I meant it to be an 'initiation theme' on Alvin. It would involve Alvin going to College at Wartman and growing up with college adventures. Wartman College would turn out to be a Federal Government run institution with Black Projects in an underground base beneath the college. Its students just take super computers and nuclear reactors for granted! And, Outer Space Aliens take an interest in this . . . Facility!
Below is Chapter 5: 'THE PICNIC. Comments you care to make would be appreciated. I'm really curious as to what people think. And, yes, it's philosophical in a fictional kind of way.
Please leave a comment! I'm really curious what you think! Really!
['The Picnic' is next after the Chapters I posted. Chapter 4 was deleted because of changes I made.]
I really like comments on these Chapters of The Dark Wind Blows. Good or bad they might help me in writing fiction!
Home for the Summer, mother met me at the door. She was wearing a dark green dress with a sparkling emerald necklace --- it had lots of little diamonds and emeralds all around. She appeared happier than usual and said she had written a best seller entitled 'Murder in the White House'. Mother writes fiction, so I asked what was so unusual about that. . . . She gave me a perturbed look!
After dinner we sat by the fireplace. We had a jovial chat but the subject finally came around to, "Alvin, have you met any young ladies?" And before I could answer she asked "And, what about Miss Kali Tyler?"
"Look, Mom, Kali and I like each other but we haven't dated."
"Well, good heavens, why not?"
"I have to study until midnight every night to maintain a straight A average. It doesn't leave much time for anything else."
"Oh posh! That's just an excuse. You're afraid of girls!"
"No I'm not. It's just that . . . well, you might not approve."
"That's the second time you said something ridiculous, Alvin. What is the matter?"
" . . . She isn't really of English descent." I said, after summoning up the courage to say it.
"And neither are you!" Mother declared, shocking the daylights out of me. "Your father had some Cherokee blood in him. Not much mind you, but a little." She touched her index finger to her thumb showing just a pinch of, well . . . bloodline, I guess.
"I like Kali, Mom, but she is half Pilipino. Her father married an English woman whose last name was Tyler. Kali adopted her mother's last name."
Barbara Smith sat back in her chair. She looked like a deflated inner tube. I didn't dare say a word. Mother was in deep thought for what seemed an hour. She finally sat up again and asked, "Is she pretty . . . or does she look like . . . well, does she look oriental?"
"She does look a little oriental but she is extremely pretty, even beautiful!" I exclaimed.
". . . Then Alvin, for God's sake, take her out on a date!"
"She is an upperclassman. I guess that worries me a little," I said, revealing a bit of timidity.
"That doesn't stop a Stone. If you like her then date her. . . . And, here, I am going to give you a check so you can afford to go out."
And with that mother wrote a draft for six thousand dollars. I said thank-you with tears dripping down, but it wasn't because of the money; I realized it was mother's love for me that had torn down that wall separating Kali and I.
I got back to Wartman several weeks before the beginning of Fall Term; and, was surprised to find that Roger had returned early too.
"Alvin, old man, it's good to see you!" Roger said, as I entered our dorm room.
There was a bra on Roger's bed. "Roger, you're not cross-dressing are you?" I asked, smiling.
". . . No, but why would you . . . Oh! You mean the bra!" Roger said laughing. "I don't know where that came from. It was here when I arrived earlier this morning."
"But who would leave a bra on your bed?" I asked out of curiosity.
"I don't know, but there are a number of co-eds that have returned, and several attended the Summer Session," Roger replied.
Just then Cassi came in the door. There was a moment of silence as Cassi saw the bra too.
"Roger, where did that bra come from?" She asked sharply.
"I don't know! Alvin asked me the same thing. I really don't know. I just got back and there it was. . . . Maybe it's a practical joke." Roger was clearly embarrassed . . . very embarrassed.
"I know we aren't married, but this is too much!" Cassi yelled.
I had taken a psychology course last semester and knew how serious this was. I decided on an act of self sacrifice to help my roommate. "Cassi, it's mine ---. "
"Yours!" Cassi screamed as loud as she could.
Roger went into hysterics! He was laughing and crying at the same time.
"I meant it was a gift for someone I know." I said, as smoothly as I could.
"Alvin, you don't date at all. So don't lie to me!" Cassi said loudly.
Just then Kali came in. "What is all the fuss about?" She asked. ". . . What is a bra doing on the bed?"
"That's what I want to know!" Cassi screamed at the top of her lungs. "Alvin said it was his, but what would it be doing on Roger's bed?" Cassi's eyes turned red and watery.
"It's yours!" Kali exclaimed, looking me directly in the eye. It wasn't a loving stare.
"It's not his," Roger said, "Alvin was just trying to help me out. But I don't know where it came from. I just arrived about an hour ago and wondered where it came from myself. I would have thrown it out but I never thought I would have company this morning. I mean what are the odds?"
"Come on Cassi," Kali said, "let's go to The Glass Eye and have a soda. --- Kali and Cassi left the room.
Roger and I were speechless. I felt exhausted and laid down. Roger collapsed onto his Queen Anne chair.
A couple of minutes passed. "All of that over this silly bra!" Roger exclaimed, holding it up to the light.
"I don't think the girls will be back," I said.
"And I was starting to really like Cassi," Roger said sadly.
"Tell the truth, Roger, where did that bra come from?"
"I told you the truth, Alvin. I don't know! It's just one more zany thing that happens around here."
For the first time I believed him. He has no reason to hide it from me. I know Roger doesn't cross-dress. And, it wasn't Cassi's . . . or Kali's for that matter.
That weekend I bought a car. The salesman had called it pre-owned. It was four years old but looked newer than that.
"Hey Alvin," Roger hailed as he walked up. "Polishing your new car!"
"It's not new but it still shines," I replied.
"Looks nice to me," Roger said, admiring the interior. "Genuine leather and roomy too!"
"I wanted a big car so I could bring friends along."
"That's mature!" Roger laughed. "Maybe we can get the girls and go for a ride."
"Do you think we can get them back?"
"I already made up with Cassi," Roger replied, smiling. "Told her the bra was just a gimmick to make you jealous. She believed me!"
"But Kali won't believe it," I said, realizing for the first time I enjoyed the attention she gave me. I had enjoyed sitting with her in the auditorium and the time she showed me her rubies.
"I talked to Kali too and apologized for pulling the dumb bra trick," Roger added.
"Did she buy it?"
"Hook, line and sinker, old pal!"
"Kali isn't gullible. Are you sure she bought it?"
"It's psychology, Alvin. She wanted to believe it, so she did. "
"Or, maybe she was forgiving," I replied.
A few minutes later, Kali came over to the car.
"Alvin, it looks beautiful," she said. "And red is my favorite color!"
"Runs good too!" I said, trying not to show the relief that I felt when she walked over.
Roger spoke up, "We should go on a camping trip together. The Catskill Mountains are beautiful this time of year."
"No. But . . . maybe a picnic," Kali replied. "I'll talk to Cassi."
The road stretched into the distance ahead of us. Kali sat beside me in the front; Roger and Cassi were in back. The radio played Soft Rock, and soon we pulled into a park. Picnic tables dotted the hillside, each with a charcoal grill --- and not a person in sight.
The girls grabbed the picnic basket and cooler. I got charcoal and lit up the grill while Roger visited the restroom. The air was cool; the Sun was shining. Shortly, I had steaks sizzling with potatoes and green peppers. I enjoyed being the chef, and everyone crowded around. I toasted rolls. Lunch wouldn't be complete without hot buttered rolls. And Kali had brought a western style blue enamel coffee pot.
"Well, what are we going to talk about?" Cassi asked between mouthfuls.
"I'm sitting here mesmerized by the peace and quiet of these woods," I responded.
"Most people in the world don't have that luxury, Alvin," Kali said.
"They could if they knew to take time off and go on a picnic like we did," Roger declared.
"I meant that the world is overpopulated," Kali said. "We have billions of people and a limited amount of land on this planet."
"Kali's right," Cassi said thoughtfully. "Some countries are doing population control right now."
"There's something wrong here," I said, "Billions are huge numbers but the Earth is immense."
"You're saying the one cancels out the other," Roger stated, putting his coffee down.
The girls were listening. "I mean that . . . packaging makes all the difference."
"What does he mean by that?" Cassi said with a puzzled look. Kali looked puzzled too.
"Don't underestimate Alvin," Roger warned, "he has something kicking around up there. . . . He has said odd things before."
Everyone laughed, including Alvin. Kali took another bite of steak.
"You need more coffee, Alvin," Roger said laughing. Roger offered the girls coffee, and then filled his cup and mine.
"Well, in flatland those billions really take up space. But in three dimensions you get a cubic reduction," I said, trying to verbalize the picture in my head.
"I think I get it," Roger said. "Put everyone in one cardboard box instead of billions of boxes! That's brilliant, Alvin!"
"I don't think I want to be in a cardboard box with everyone else," Cassi objected.
"There's no telling what would happen," Kali said, giggling and spilling her coffee on the picnic table. Cassi passed her napkins.
"There really are people that would cause trouble if you packed them too close together, no matter how much science is used." Kali added more thoughtfully.
"But a cubic reduction is huge," I countered. "It can't be ignored."
"Alvin, I'm a math major and I don't know what a 'cubic reduction' is." Cassi said as respectfully as possible.
"Well . . . it's when you take flatland and shrink it by putting most of it in the third dimension," Alvin explained patiently.
"Ok, you made it up. But it makes sense." Cassi suddenly got a blank look and stated, "The cube of one thousand is a billion."
"In other words a cube one thousand feet in length, one thousand feet in width, and one thousand feet in height would contain a billion cubic feet," Roger clarified. "Cassi can calculate anything."
"I know," Kali said. "She helped me with calculus."
Roger punched numbers into his pocket calculator. ". . . A single building, fifty stories tall, one hundred and seventy miles to a side, could comfortably hold ten billion people,” he said proudly.
"And that could be buried beneath the Earth's crust leaving only farms and forests on the surface," I added.
"Why fifty stories, Roger?" Kali asked politely.
"Because construction engineers can build cheaply to 50 stories but, after that, the price per square foot skyrockets," Roger replied.
"Everyone would be packed so tight they couldn't move," Kali asserted.
"Not so!" Roger spoke up. "I calculated four thousand square feet of space for each person --- including children. That would allow for condominiums and apartments of two thousand square feet. And hospitals, shopping malls, movie theatres, and community services, would use the remaining square feet."
"You mean we don't have an overpopulation problem?" Kali asked.
"Not according to mathematics,” Cassi replied.
"Concrete and asphalt spread is causing us to think birth control." Roger added airily. "What we need are new architectural innovations,"
"For the United States a couple of giant buildings per state would be ideal," I chimed in. "They would be smaller than that World Building Roger calculated, but could eliminate horizontal spread."
And with that, we began clearing off the picnic table. . . . Kali wanted to go on a hike and Roger was enthusiastic about it. So hike it was.
Trees were all around us and we had stumbled on a creek that led to a cliff. Here, the creek became a pond. Roger joked about skinny dipping. The girls sat down on the edge of a boulder, dangled their feet in the water, and began chatting about the price of blouses at a local shop. I lay down, propped my head up against a birch tree, while Roger began exploring the face of the cliff --- and soon disappeared into the trees.
". . . Wake up, Alvin," Roger said excitedly. "I found a cave!"
I sat up. "Where are the girls?"
"They are probably picking flowers."
"We need to check and make sure. They were here a few minutes ago," I said, not realizing how long I had napped.
"I've been gone for at least an hour," Roger said, with a glance at his wristwatch.
We both searched the pond area together, but found no sign of either Kali or Cassi.
"Maybe they went back to the car," Roger said.
"They would have woken me first, Roger," I replied.
"You're probably right. You continue searching here and I'll go back and check the picnic area." Roger immediately headed downstream toward the park.
What had been a charming August day had suddenly turned into a bitter pill. one that you want to spit out but can't. I began yelling for Kali and Cassi. --- There was no reply. I ran through branches and even climbed a tree. All I saw were more trees. . . . Exhausted, I returned to the pond and sat down on that same boulder where Kali and Cassi had been. Roger came out of the bushes and stood there without saying a word. Finally he said, "They aren't in the picnic area, Alvin. I take it you didn't find them?"
"No, and I went at least a half mile into the woods looking. Do you have a cell phone?"
"Not with me, but Kali had one! Maybe she'll call for help."
"And maybe she's injured and can't call for help. We need to search again, Roger."
"Ditto on that. Let's go."
We searched every trail, clearing, and hill we could find. Roger and I had yelled "Kali and Cassi!" so many times we were horse. The Sun was beginning to set and both Roger and I knew we would soon be in the dark.
"We have got to get back to the car while there is still light and drive back to the College and start search parties," I said, realizing for the first time that we may have lost both of the girls. . . . They might be dead!
We were half way back when we heard branches snap in the distance on the other side of the creek. Roger and I jumped into the creek, came out the other side soaking wet, and ran in the direction of the sounds. It was getting dark, but twigs were breaking just ahead of us.
"It might be a bear," I warned.
"Then that bear is going to get its butt kicked," Roger yelled back. "It could be that a bear is responsible for this!"
We kept running in the direction of the noise when, suddenly, Kali appeared in front of us. She didn't say a word and was staring blankly in our direction. She had been dragging Cassi behind her. Kali had blood all over her and Cassi had blood on the front of her dress and a gash on her head... Kali just stood and stared as though she couldn't speak. I grabbed Kali as Roger took Cassi and checked for injuries --- she was unconscious. He used his handkerchief to mop up the blood on her face. Kali appeared to be in serious shock and sat down Indian style without saying a word. I pulled out my handkerchief and began mopping her blood from her face too.
"No broken bones on Cassi!" Roger yelled.
"Kali appears to be in shock but I think she can walk by herself." I said, even though Kali looked at me as if she didn't know me. "Let's get them back to the car. I'll help you with Cassi."
With Roger on one side and me on the other we carried Cassi back to the car. Kali was still walking but more like a zombie than a person; I had to tell her to stop walking when we reached the car. I had bought a first aid kit for the car and was awfully glad I had it. Roger and I got water, antiseptic and bandages and did the best we could at first aid.
Roger got in back with Cassi and I tried to start the car . . . but it wouldn't start. I tried again. It still wouldn't start. Roger checked under the hood.
He came over and leaned on the driver's door. "The wires and rubber parts are burned and melted."
"It was running fine when we arrived!" I exclaimed.
"I know. This is weird, Alvin. . . . Does Kali have her cell phone?"
"I looked in her pockets but couldn't find it. It's dark and it looks like we're here for the night," I said with resignation.
I gathered fallen branches and started a fire in our grill. It lit the area well enough to see. We covered the girls with blankets. Roger recited The Lord's Prayer.
"Ahhhh!" Kali sat up and screamed! . . . She kept on screaming.
"Kali. Everything is OK. Relax," I said calmly. She stopped screaming but she was shaking uncontrollably.
"Alvin, . . . when I checked Cassi out for injuries I found cuts that looked like surgical incisions."
"I know. I saw the same thing on Kali," I replied, feeling both exhaustion and shock myself. Soon we were all asleep.
The Sun rose and the park looked its cheerful self again. I made coffee and Roger made sandwiches. Kali took the coffee when I offered it and she looked better --- that zombie look was gone.
"I don't know what happened," Kali said with difficulty. Then she sipped some coffee.
"Do you remember anything at all?" I asked as casually as I could.
"We were sitting beside the pond and then I can't remember anything until I woke up. I vaguely remember screaming and you telling me to relax." Kali said. "Your name is Alvin. . . . But I can't remember your last name," she added.
"Alvin told you to relax about one o'clock last night," Roger replied, "And his last name is Stone."
"Kali, right now the car doesn't run, but we are going to get you to a Doctor as quickly as we can," I said.
"I feel alright now, except for these cuts on my arms. But I have missing time that I just can't remember."
"Alvin! Cassi woke up!" Roger shouted. We gathered around her.
Cassi began to cry. Thank God Kali, you saved me!" She reached out and Kali and Cassi hugged each other.
"What did I do?" Kali asked sincerely.
"Your karate Kali! You jumped up and began killing them. You killed them one after another. They were shooting at you but you didn't stop!" Cassi began crying and sobbing.
"Who was she fighting?" I asked.
"Strange looking things! They were awful!" Cassi exclaimed.
"Oh no!" Roger exclaimed. "It's starting to look like an alien thing!"
"I didn't see any spaceships," I said.
"And you went to sleep under that tree," Roger replied accusingly.
"I was strapped to a table!" Cassi continued. "They were cutting me with this laser when Kali jumped up and began kicking and punching. She had been cut herself but still she fought. She unstrapped me and dragged me out the hatch. I don't remember anymore. . . . I must have passed out."
"This is an alien thing, Roger! I hope they aren't still here," I said, looking around nervously. Roger was looking around too!
No cars, campers, trucks --- nothing entered the park that morning. We ate leftovers. They hadn't known I would buy steaks. Kali had brought a pound of coffee and a block of cheddar cheese, Roger a jar of peanut butter, blueberry jelly, and two loaves of bread, Cassi a salad, and a vanilla cake she had baked herself, and I had a case of canned chili in the trunk. I had bought it for emergencies. . . . Enough for a couple of days.