The Xeno Manifesto – (The first of the Trilogy)
They weave their way through the trees for a half hour when they notice the woods have gone silent. They stop…there’s not a sound…it’s getting creepy. Then…the snap of branches echo in the eerie silence of the night and suddenly…the sounds of stones falling near them. Something is tossing rocks in their direction. More branches breaking and Bo is barking and going crazy. They turn on their flashlights illuminating the trees and bushes…the sounds of snapping wood continue and they can now see small rocks being thrown in their direction.
“Hey…who’s out there?” Frank yells wishing he had his weapon.
“Maybe we should head back to camp?” Adam asks nervously.
The noise of another branch breaks, a rock falls close to their feet, and Bo yelps at something out in the dark.
“Let’s get out of here.” Frank pushes Adam in the direction of their tent.
They run, almost stumbling along the way; they both lose their flashlights, knocked out of their grasps as they try to dodge trees and small branches whip their faces as they try to find the light of their camp fire. They are closer than they thought and must have been wandering in a circle.
They’re both panting for air when they get there. They look at one another and start laughing.
“Holy cow, that scared the crap out of me,” Adam says between breaths.
Frank hates to admit it, but he’s feeling the same way.
Bo starts barking again and the loud snap of a branch breaking can be heard…the sound is close. A larger stone hits the ground and rolls toward the fire pit. Bo is going nuts, sounds of twigs crunching under footsteps…nearer now.
Then…a figure emerges from the black of the night into the light of their fire.
“So, did you say anything to…this person, first?”
“Yea, man…of course, I said, ‘Hey…dude, you okay…what you doin’ here, man?’…But nothing. We couldn’t make out much ‘cause he was slouched down in the corner and had this floppy hat on with this bitchin sliver band…it was really cool looking band. You know…I saw one like that one once when we were down in Mexico…almost bought it, but the guy wanted too much dinero. More than I could afford man…I mean, I don’t make a lot of cash and I have…expenses. We weren’t doin’ nothing illegal down there. You know…just doin’ tourist stuff…right, babe?
Another nod comes from Silent Willow…surprise, surprise.
“How’d you know it was a man?”
Oin laughs. “The clothes, man. No chic would be wearing those duds…I mean…c’mon. Well…maybe if she was a dike or something…right, babe? You knew a few girls that swung that way…back in the day, didn’t you, babe?” She nods. “Yea…so maybe it wasn’t a dude…my bad.”
Frank sighed. He had quit writing anything down a long time ago; it was too painful.
“And then what happened?”
“So, I crept over to this dude…I mean chic…shit…person. I’m careful-like…‘cause I don’t know what this…person.” Oin smiles because he got the description right. “Is gonna do. Like, wow…what if it’s some psycho killer hiding in the woods. I’ve seen the movies…that stuff is true life…I mean there are some crazy people out there…you know man? People that are…like…you know…drugged out whackos. I mean…they aren’t law abiding citizens like us…right, babe?
Frank has stopped looking at Silent Willow for her response. He just wants this over with.
“So, what did you do next, Oin?”
“Yea, so as I’m getting close…nothing…this…person, is out of it or something. I turned to Willow, right, babe? Like…what should I do? She says lift his hat, right, babe? So, I give it a tug and shit! Man…there’s just a skull! I rush back to Willow and check and see if there like…is some axe murderer that’s going to jump out at us or something. I mean…fuck man…the dude is dead…the chic…shit…you know what I mean. Christ man…we couldn’t stay there. It was still storming a bit but we said…like, no way…we’re outta there and we boogie it back here.”
“And you got back here okay. Why didn’t you just try and call someone?”
“Look man…seriously…yea, maybe I like to…indulge…if you know what I mean, but I’ve been hiking for years. You know…getting one with nature. I’ve been coming here since I was a kid…I know my way around dude plus I know there’s no signal out here…we don’t even take our cells with us.”
“So, you wouldn’t have any problem finding this cave again?”
“Hey man…I pointed it out on the map to the ranger guys…you go where I said by Gobbler’s Knob and it’s there…me…I ain’t going anywhere near that place…no way, Jose.”
Well that was enough for Frank.
Zach brings his hands up to his face and gives his clean shaven face a quick rub like he’s trying to clear his head. He exhales slowly.
“Yea…I get it. Any chance you can recover the bracelet, so we can send it to our lab and do our own examination?”
“I doubt it…I threw it out and the office gets cleaned every night. Sorry…I had no idea it could be beneficial. I have to ask, was this Horatio person a terrorist or something that the NSA is involved?”
He’s trying to respond as any unsuspecting individual would in this situation, a bit of a cat and mouse game, but he isn’t sure which of them the cat is and which is the mouse.
Zach stares at him for a few seconds, looks over at the other agents then back at him.
“Frank…I go by my gut when it comes to people and my gut likes you. So I’m going to answer your question…normally I wouldn’t give you the time of day as far as details go.”
He stoops towards Frank and in a hushed voice says. “This guy…Mr. H as we refer to him…was working for the government back in the fifties and disappeared with a million bucks. That’s like stealing ten mil today…that’s a huge chunk of change.”
He leans back. “We thought he was dead…killed in a house fire, yet, here…what, decades later, a Deputy Sheriff in Washington State of all places…is running his name and so…here we are.”
His hands rise up in a “Praise the Lord” style of gesture then stands, clasps his hands behind his back, strolls the length of the table, turns and walks back to Frank and peers down.
“So…Frank, being as you found these remains then ran a name that you seem to have pulled out of thin air and immediately take a few days off to run back into the woods…you wouldn’t be sitting on a big pile of money somewhere would you?”
Zach has that same fox in the hen house look again, intently watching him, gauging him…waiting for a response.
Frank locks eyes with Zach and his first thought is…how does Allmass know he was out in the woods?
“If I found a big pile of money…do you think I’d even have come back to work? I was already on leave…I would’ve been out of here.” Frank says.
He continues to stare back at Zach.
Frank feels the barbed probes from the Taser hitting his body.
The pain is unbearable. With every pulse of electricity from the Taser, it feels as if all the muscles in his body are being squeezed tighter and tighter to the point of tearing. He falls to the floor as the pain and a sense of paralysis is affecting his ability to stand. He’s at the mercy of gravity and his head hits the cave floor, hard.
The pain continues like he’s having cramps from head to toe. He can feel his body but can’t control it. There’s a sense of detachment as wave after wave of voltage continues. This is the most pain he’s experienced and screams are involuntarily coming out of his mouth. The thirty seconds of shock waves feels like minutes…then it’s over.
The Muscle relieve him of his gun, drag him to one of the Jeep seats, which is now near the wood table, zip tie his hands behind him and his legs to those of the seat.
There’s no resistance on his part, his body is incapacitated and his mind barely aware.
He sits with his head hanging down. He remembers little and he can’t process anything. He isn’t sure how long he’s sat strapped to this chair. He raises his head; there’s Agent Allmass sitting on the corner of the table…waiting…watching.
The cave is more illuminated as several lanterns are lit now. The light from the lanterns and the cave walls make Zach’s teeth shine even brighter than they were before, almost fluorescent. The Muscle is nowhere to be seen, probably standing behind him out of his line of sight. His head drops back down.
Zach slides off the table and bends low to Frank. One hand lifts Frank’s chin, his other holds a pen flashlight that he shines back and forth across his eyes, checking the pupils.
“Frank…next time you should explore things better.” He tucks away the flashlight.
Still holding Frank’s head upright, he places two fingers on his throat and checks his pulse through the Carotid artery. When he’s satisfied, he lets Frank’s chin fall back on his chest.
“About fifteen hundred feet in the other direction, Mr. H has a nice walk in entrance tucked away in a rock house up there. It makes things so much easier…I guess his map was designed to make you work a bit to get here.” Zach says.
There is sarcasm in his voice, he snickers and stands lightly brushing the palms of his hands together like he’s rubbing off dirt.
“A hundred years from now…all of this, this world…none of it will exist. It’ll be gone…all of it. Sure, as governments, we put on a serious face and try to make it look like we give a shit. The reality of it all is that we don’t…we’re putting band-aids on matters, purposely dragging things out until we are ready to kick things off, and then…fuck them all!”
He stretches his arms above him and places both hands behind his head, gives his upper body a half turn in either direction and, with a big sigh, drops his arms to his side.
“Talking to you Frank has been good for me…reminds me of going to confession.”
“Answer my fucking question, you son of a bitch!” Frank shouts.
Zach abruptly appears to not be pleased.
“You…especially you, deserve answers before you move on, but I can only tell you so much.”
He walks in close and draws an automatic from inside his coat.
Frank is squirming in his seat struggling to get up…to get out of his binds. It’s a fruitless battle.
“Frank…normally this is something I would leave for my associates but…if I were in your shoes, I’d want it done by someone I considered a friend…even though…you might disagree with that perception of things right now. Like your grandpa used to say…don’t ever ask anyone to do anything you are not prepared to do yourself.”
With those fateful words, nothing can describe the look on Frank’s face. He stops his struggling and peers up at Zach. Frank’s eyes say it all.
Zach is looking right back…there is no emotion in his cold stare.
Frank knows of no other saying from his grandpa that can provide any words of wisdom for this scenario. He knows this is the end. This isn’t like the movies where the hero, the crusader, the righteous, escaping or an elite force storming in and saving the day. This is the real world, as big a lie as that term actually is.
As Zach pulls the trigger, before the bullet tears through his brain so quickly the pain will not have time to register…before he takes his last breath, Frank’s life doesn’t flash before his eyes.
The only thought racing through his mind is that he has the answer as to why he never did fit into this world. It’s because he didn’t belong here in the first place and…for that revelation, he’ll be paying the ultimate price.
More Excerpts from Book Two