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The Changed -- FINALE -- by Dee Caples

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  After The Shouting Was Over Life had been cruel before and millions had perished from war, hunger, disease and each other. Bullets and guns were still needed because there would always be men like Dancy but people didn’t want the same old world that hadn’t worked. They hoarded and planted seeds, dried and saved them for the next planting. Itinerant engineers moved about, working small miracles so life would be easier. Water flooded into fields from irrigation ditches powered by wind generators. People became weavers again, making thread and clothing. Glass blowers made a new kind of light bulb but people mostly went to bed and rose with the sun. Life on the frontier was hard. Old ways had died and it was time to make or break. The planet spun as it had since time out of mind, since before there were minds that discovered knowledge of these things. Most agreed reaching for the sky was impossible and resulted in lofty ideals being thrown back to the ground where they belonged. They jus

The Changed -- Chapter 18 -- by Dee Caples

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Time To Say Farewell He drew in the dirt because there was no pencil and paper. The little ones were apt pupils and learned quickly. The thought crossed his mind now and then that what he was doing was fruitless. What did it matter if the children knew how to read if they were going to die out? Mothers gave birth to stillborns or those that were more mercifully put to peace. A fourth generation of The Changed would never be. He had to mark time somehow. Teaching was as good a way as any. It was time to find another dwelling place so they were on the move again. The new elders felt it more prudent to not stay in the last one after hearing gunfire in the distance. He’d wandered far from their camp this morning but someone had found him. Footsteps drew near and he raised his head from his hand so no one would ask what was on his mind. In his despair he might be tempted to share it. Thoughts like this were best unspoken. Good thing, too, for it was Danna approaching. She sat, smiling compa

The Changed -- Chapter Seventeen -- by Dee Caples

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The Staying Places Danna wrapped a cloth around the flesh wound given her by Dancy. Other than that and being dazed by the fall, she was uninjured. There was no more gunfire and a roar of victory sounded, followed by another then another. She shook her dazed head then kicked up to her feet and ran toward one of the collapsed buildings, knowing beneath this one lay parents and children. She couldn’t move the heavy pieces of wood by herself so she began to dig, calling out. A weak voice answered and her digging became more frantic. More help came and they all sent sand through the air, making her cough. Danna didn’t stop until someone grabbed her legs and pulled her away. They began clearing the shattered roof and walls, moving carefully to uncover the buried ones. “Go get some water,” Pericles barked at her. Kneeling, she waited as the rubble was lifted and the rescuers began to remove bodies, alive and dead. She crawled forward when she saw the dog-woman, one arm cradling her broken gu

The Changed -- Chapter Sixteen -- by Dee Caples

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 Guns vs. Spears It didn’t look like much but as Dancy exited the combine, mask in place, he felt the tingle of standing on what was almost holy ground. Alonso came up beside him, hand on the butt of his .40 caliber pistol. In hushed, reverent tones, Dancy told him, “This is where the bug that bit our ass had some of its finest days.” “Huh?” He waved a hand around them. “Near here was Los Alamos, the site of nuclear testing. See these buildings? Miles away they’d explode the bombs then come here to read the radiation levels and see how much damage the winds and sound waves had done.” Alonso didn’t have his weapon drawn. “Take your gun out, dammit.” Need he tell these dummies everything? On the other hand, most of the men they’d faced were half-naked hicks from some burg in the boonies. Now they were facing, if anything, an unknown quality of foe. Was this phony town really as empty as it seemed? A man ran up to him and gave his report. “Someone was here but it looks like they’ve gone.”

The Changed -- Chapter 15 -- by Dee Caples

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A Helluva Day Pericles made one more inspection of  their preparations. A crude ladder of sorts had been fashioned and they put a cat-man in the roof joists of the first house Dancy and his men would face. They’d formed a sort of lid that was hinged with leather he could raise after springing his mannequin decoy. Other mannequins were waiting to be deployed as a means to get the enemy to waste ammunition on non-living targets and they tested them one more time. They wouldn’t be the only element of surprise. He knew a first glimpse of The Changed would cause delayed reaction. It always did. Everyone gave up some article of clothing to put on the mannequins. Naked ones would be less believable. Some of the doggish and cattish were going about in nothing but their fur in order to be more intimidating. Not all of them were dog- or cat-men. Many of the females had elected to fight, even if they had children among those stashed away. Te was one of them. She and Danna had argued about this bu

The Changed -- Chapter Fourteen -- by Dee Caples

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 The Dust Settles Once it was safe to do so Pericles stood and removed the covering over his face, went outside and slapped it against the side of the building. The dust cloud was moving away from them, sweeping just as violently as it had come. Several doggish and cattish men unloaded water receptacles and everyone drank their fill and washed out their eyes. Dirt streaks formed on fur and Danna’s skin and they all laughed at one another, embracing. “Enough of this!” Kellus barked. “Everyone get these supplies hidden beneath the houses.” They were all built on pier and beam. Once they had shoved their goods beneath, they replaced the sand drifts and looked for the most defensible places to hide those were weren't going to fight. They stored the vehicles out of sight in a garage of sorts. “Come here,” Pericles told Danna. Along with Kellus and Manda, Aces and two doggish ones, they went about the perimeter, making battle plans. Danna pointed to one of the buildings that had a raised

Bly Manor: Horror as Group Therapy by Jane Nightshade

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  One of the horror community’s most-awaited events of this year was the debut of The Haunting of Bly Manor , Mike Flanagan’s follow-up to his smash-hit Netflix series of two years ago, The Haunting of Hill House . Except for the last thirty minutes or so, Hill House  was a straight-up horror masterpiece that managed to tell a complex story of family relationships while never letting up on the breakneck pace of its terrors. (Flanagan unfortunately choked at the end of the last episode and gave us a touchy-feely ending that negated everything that went on before it.) Sadly, the follow-up series, which was co-produced by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin, is a pale, sickly shadow of Hill House.  Based on the much-filmed Henry James novella, The Turn of the Screw , it gets bogged down in both too many discussions about “feelings” and pretentious, talky philosophizing from its numerous cast members. The original source material isn’t meaty enough to fill out a nine-episode series, so Flanagan and

The Changed -- Chapter Thirteen -- by Dee Caples

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  The Game Is Afoot The convoy moved slowly because the heaviest vehicles were made for wrecking things. It took over half the morning to find where Ellis and Nico’s tracks led. Dancy got out of the combine and followed Alonso to the open end of an old military warehouse. It looked like a bunch of pilfering rats and raccoons had run off when they heard them coming. Shit was scattered everywhere. Alonso looked down at a trail of blood leading away and Dancy didn’t have to say anything. He just turned and followed the smears. “And what is this?” Dancy asked, reaching down to pick up a clump of cut, blond locks. His mouth split into an evil grin. “Looks like hair,” Mary, his adorable, little chauffeur said. “Now, that’s an astute observation,” Dancy said, standing up to let the hair fall from his fingers. Mary gave him a pouting look, afraid he was insinuating she was a dumbass. He was but didn’t say so. “I believe it’s Danna’s hair and she's survived whatever happened to everyone els

The Changed -- Chapter Twelve -- by Dee Caples

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  Running “Why didn’t you shoot?” Pericles shouted at Danna. She bent to collect the guns as Aces stood over the human he’d speared, nudging him with a toe. When the man groaned he bent down and cut his throat, leaping back to avoid the arterial spray. It didn’t help. The man jerked and made noises as he strangled on his own blood, splattering Ace’s legs. Danna spun around to face Pericles. “If he’d shot either of you I would have. I made a split-second decision when I saw you and he had it under control.” His heart was still pounding, remembering how close he'd come to getting shot. “You hesitated!” Getting up in his face, she yelled back. “I did it to conserve bullets! When these men don’t make it back, Dancy will come and he’ll have more men and more guns. Lots more. We’ll need everything we’ve got and now we have theirs, too.” Bending down to get them, she offered them to Pericles but he turned away, making a huffing sound. She looked back at Aces and grinned. “You guys are fas