SHORT STORY: Smith from the Times by Daniel G. Zeidler

Smith from the Times
by Daniel G. Zeidler

So the lady says to me, “Are you tan from the sun?” and I reply “No – I’m Smith from the Times.”

Heh – a little reporter humor to lighten the mood there.  At any rate, where was I?

Oh yeah…

“Who? Me? Come now Mister Smith, do I really look like an evil sorcerer from another world maniacally bent on global domination?”  Doctor Durron-uu-obezai said over his steepled talons.  I had a feeling he was smiling at me, but to be honest it was hard to tell.

“Aside from the claws, the glowing eyes, and the stylish though functional otherworldly headdress with attached cape, Doctor Durron-uu-obezai?”  I looked up from my notepad feeling slightly confused.

“Erhm…yes…yes, aside from those.”  The Doctor placed one hand over his chest and extended the other toward me. “Please, call me Doctor D.  My public relations people say it humanizes me.”

“Why, yes – it does at that Doctor D,” I said as I made a note of the new moniker.  “I really apologize for asking a question like that – I mean it is obvious to me and any other sane person that you are just an average Joe like the rest of us.”

Doctor D laughed jovially like a department store Santa with a bad hangover.  I had not realized that “Mua ha ha ha ha ha haaa” could sound jovial, but he made it work.  “That’s me, Mister Smith, just an average Joe with a unique fashion sense.”

“And a Legion of Darkness, Doctor D, you can’t forget that.”

“A Legion of what?  What on Target Epsilon Five- erhm, Earth are you talking about, Mister Smith?”

It was then the massive double doors at the far end of the cavernous hall opened just enough to allow a single figure wearing dark black armor to enter the hall.  He paused for a moment and then began running towards us.  As the sound of his metal shod feet striking the floor rolled across the hall to where we sat I turned back to Doctor D.

“Like him for example, Doctor D. That creepy armor and those glowing red eyes just scream Legion of Darkness to some of our more flighty readers.”  I glanced back at the armored figure and saw he was still running towards us.

“Oh!  Oh yes, I see it now… erhm… but only if I, ah, squint my eyes.  Some of your readers have the most amusing flights of fancy, Mister Smith,”  Doctor D chuckled as the armored figure continued running.  The figure’s pace seemed to have slowed down somewhat.

“Indeed they do Doctor D – that’s why I get assigned all the tough stories like this one.  People know that I cut right through the nonsense and get to the truth of the matter.”  I grinned at the doctor and looked back at the armored man.  His pace had slowed further and he seemed to be breathing heavily.

“That’s what I like about you, Mister Smith – there is no pulling the wool over your eyes,”  Doctor D looked away from me and back to the armored man.  He had stopped running and seemed to be taking a break.  Doctor D looked back at me.  I looked back at the armored man and then back at Doctor D.  I looked down at my watch and Doctor D looked out a window.  Then we both looked back at the armored man and then back at each other.  Doctor D drummed his fingers on the arm of his vaguely throne-like chair.  I studied the tip of my pen for a moment.

“I have to admit that I love the decor here,” I said as the armored man raised one hand and waved to let us know he was okay.

“Oh?  Thank you, I, ah, did it all… myself…,”  Doctor D said distractedly as the armored man began running again.

“I am a little curious about that skull like object next to your chair though,” I said and motioned toward Doctor D with my pen.  “I bet there is a story behind that.”

“Oh this old thing?  Heh,” Doctor D said as he used his foot to push the remarkably realistic looking skull under his chair.  “That is left over from my, ah, Halloween party.  You know how after a big party you always find bits and pieces left of the guests, erhm, left by the guests in the, ah, oddest places… for months afterwards.”

“I know just what you mean Doctor D – except I usually find empty beer bottles, not so much the skull-like objects,” I shrugged my shoulders, “but then I would be willing to wager that my parties aren’t anywhere near as fun as yours are, Doctor D.”

“That would be a safe bet,” Doctor D sighed and sat back in his chair while rolling his eyes skyward.  He looked back at the armored man and then back at me.  I looked back at the armored man and then out the window.  Doctor D looked at his watch.  I studied my fingernails for a moment and then looked back at the armor man.  He was jogging at a fairly steady pace.  I leaned back in my chair and Doctor D leaned forward in his.  I cleared my throat.  Doctor D coughed quietly.  The armored man was almost within speaking distance and he picked up his pace.

“Those are very nice shoes you have on, Mister Smith,” Doctor D said as he looked down at my feet. “They are quite stylish.”

“Thank you. They are very comfortable too.”

“You’ll have to tell me where you bought them before you leave.  I tend to be on my feet all day issuing edicts and ultimatums, decreeing fates and things like that.  I need a nice looking pair of shoes with good arch support.”

“I am certain I have one of their business cards. I can give you that.”

“That would be marvelous Mister Smith.  Thank you.”

“Master… Master…” the armored man gasped as he made his way up the raised dais.

“General!  You are such a big joker with that whole Master thing.” Doctor D gave me an apologetic shrug of his shoulders and turned back to the general.  “What do you mean by barging into here like this?! Mister Smith is in the middle of conducting an insightful interview into my character.”

“My apologies Mast-, erhm, Mister Smith,” the General said as Doctor D motioned toward me with his head – a very polite man that Doctor.  “The, ummm, tour group we have been waiting for has arrived.”

“Tour group?  What tour group?” Doctor D looked from me to the General and back again.

“The one with the, ah, gritty anti-hero type young man and the plucky young woman with whom he constantly engages in spirited dialogue laced with sexual innuendo and the bumbling sidekick-type person who could be easily discounted but who would only come back at a crucial moment and ruin everything.”

“Oh yes! That tour group.  For a moment I thought you meant the, ah, Grand Worshipful Order of Pillockry tour group,” Doctor D looked at me and chuckled in embarrassment.  I had no idea the Grand Worshipful Order of Pillockry offered tour groups.  I made a note of it as it was the sort of thing my readers would be interested in knowing.

“They are, ah, due in next week I believe… sir?” the General offered helpfully if hesitantly.

“Erhm, yes, well, please excuse me, Mister Smith,” Doctor D rose and stroked his chin thoughtfully.  “I need to deal with, ah… actually that works. I need to deal with this tour group personally.  Should only take a moment.”

“Take your time Doctor D! I’ll just chat with the General here.”

Once Doctor D had gone I turned to the General and saw he was concentrating on studying his fingertips.  I cleared my throat politely and his glowing red orbs swiveled nervously in my direction.  Some people could be a little shy when talking with a reporter, but I was used to dealing with it.

“So, General, maybe you could help clear up this little misconception about a Legion of Darkness spreading terror across the globe?”

“Oh… you mean the, ah, photography club?” The General glanced towards the door Doctor D had used to leave the room.

“Photography club?”

“I can’t tell you the number of times we have had people mistake a powerful flash and a good telephoto lens for a death ray.”

“Oh sure!  Happens all the time.  The thing about the spreading terror probably just comes from folks who are a little camera shy.”

“You know how they are. Heh,”  the General tended to end his sentences with a nervous laugh and a glance toward the door.  I knew that only proved he was not really a general – must have been a nickname of some sort.

“Yes indeed.  Now perhaps you might be able to shed some light as to why the rather oppressed looking people in the nearby village refer to this rather isolated mountain citadel as the Fortress of Doom?”

“Oh? Heh That question again?” The General fidgeted where he stood for a moment.  “The locals have a rather odd accent that takes some getting used to before you can understand everything they scream, erhm, say.  They don’t call this place the Fortress of Doom – they call it The Orchid’s Bloom.  We have a lovely garden… with plenty of… orchids… that, ah, bloom.”

“I see. I knew it had to be something like that.”  I glanced outside and saw ink black storm clouds boiling across the sky.  A moment later lightning began to rain down from the heavens.  “The weather certainly changes quickly around here, doesn’t it General?”

“Ummm. Yes.  Would you, ah, care for a cup of coffee or tea by any chance?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t want to impose.”

“It would be no trouble. We just had one of those nifty machines that brews up a single cup of coffee or tea installed in the break room.”

“Tempting as that is, too much caffeine keeps me up all night.  You wouldn’t believe the stuff I write at two or three in the morning.”

It was then that I heard Doctor D laugh his jovial laugh again.  I motioned toward the sound with my pen.  “It must be nice working for a boss who laughs all the time, eh?”

“Erhm… Yes? Yes,” the General glanced toward the door and leaned closer to me.  “He does tend to drone on a bit during weekly staff meetings though.  The man never met a PowerPoint slide he did not like.”

“I know the type – my boss is the same way.  We usually send each other text messages during the particularly dull parts.”

“You do that too?  He almost caught me doing that last staff meeting!”

It was then Doctor D returned through the same door he had used to leave.  He paused to straighten out his cloak and then walked over to us.

Thankfully the back door was much closer than the front doors.

“My apologies for the delay.  I almost discounted the sidekick, but remembered not to at the last moment.” Doctor D nodded at me and then turned to the General.  “General you may marshal your, ah…”

“Photography club, sir?”

“Riiiiiight… marshal the photography club for the next phase of our, ah…,” Doctor D motioned almost pleading toward the General.  The General raised both his hands helplessly.

“Looks like your secret is out gentlemen,” I said smugly.  “You’re making a documentary, aren’t you?”

“Curse you and your piercing insight, Mister Smith,” Doctor D said and glanced over to the General.

“I shall marshal the photography club for the next phase of the… documentary… sir.” the General turned and started to walk toward the front doors.

“Oh for goodness sake – use the back door.” Doctor D said with a wave of his hand.

“Thank you, sir,” the General gave a polite bow and left the room.

“I would like to thank you for your time, Doctor D.  I hope you will let me conduct a follow up interview at some point?”

“For you, Mister Smith? Of course!” Doctor D said over his steepled talons and then he laughed again.

Boo-graphy: Dan Zeidler is a writer of science fiction and fantasy and the author of the upcoming fantasy adventure duology, Sarbotel Rising, the sci-fi adventure, Ghosts of a Fallen Empire, and a number of anthology short stories. Dan began expressing his love of writing at an early age with the parentally acclaimed poem Trains are Great which along with other early examples of his work earned a place on the prestigious Refrigerator Magnet Gallery. While nothing can be done for his poetry skills, which haven’t improved a whit since that train poem, a steady diet of great stories ranging from ancient mythological tales to Arthurian legends to classic sci-fi and fantasy and on up to Star Trek and Star Wars have improved his storytelling abilities considerably. To further refine and enhance his writing and storytelling skills, Dan lived a life of adventure first by getting a degree in geoscience, then by serving in the US Air Force, then by embarking on a career as a data analyst… hmmm… okay, let’s go back a bit to the part about how a lifetime of reading as many great stories (and many not so great stories) as he could have inspired Dan to write his own stories; stories that above all strive to be fun and entertaining reads. Dan currently resides with his family among the rugged, forested hills of his home state of Connecticut.

Ghosts of a Fallen Empire
In the distant future an isolated human world has survived the Nomad Wars and the Fall of Imperium. Together with their non-human allies, the Dussakairay and the Bregus, they repopulated and rebuilt their devastated region of the galaxy to form a 40 system Commonwealth. For over five centuries the people of the Commonwealth have known only peace and prosperity, but an ancient enemy has been watching from the ruins of the old Imperium, slowly rebuilding their forces, and waiting for their opportunity to reduce the Commonwealth to ashes. The founders of the Commonwealth may have given up their Imperium, but they did not give up all of the Imperium’s secrets. Now the only hope for the people of the Commonwealth lies with the Ghosts of a Fallen Empire.

The Haunted Library Anthology Volume 2
This anthology is a benefit anthology for the Tom Burnett Memorial Library in Iowa Park, Texas.

Is your library haunted? Are you sure? Many readers wander the shelves, returning over and over to the place their spirit calls home. Some of them are still in circulation, even after their bodies have checked out. Others are part of the deep archives from before the books moved in…

Join 11 authors as they explore haunts from the past, the future, and the dead.

Ghosts of Malta
Malta. Alchemists, Saints and Heroes have all made their way to this place, defended its walls, and added to its ranks of ghosts and lore.

Besieged, battered, and bombed, this archipelago has seen every tide of war, turmoil, and more than a few bits of piracy. It’s also been the land of courage, resilience, and grace under fire.

Ten authors have set out to bring you tales of the ghosts of Malta past, present, and future. Open the pages and meet the ancient guardians, ghost cats and inter dimensional spies that will be your guide…

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