Reckoning by Mark Tufo


  Mark Tufo

  Copyright 2012 Mark Tufo

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  Editing by:

  Teri Gibson

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  Table of Contents

  Chapter 1 – Mike Journal Entry One

  Chapter 2 – Mike Journal Entry Two

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4 – Mike Journal Entry Three

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6 – Mike Journal Entry Four

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32 – Mike Journal Entry Five

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34 – Mike Journal Entry Six

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36 – Mike Journal Entry Seven

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38 – Mike Journal Entry Eight

  Chapter 39 – Mike Journal Entry Nine

  Chapter 40

  Chapter 41 – Mike Journal Entry Ten

  Chapter 42

  Chapter 43

  Chapter 44

  Chapter 45 – Mike Journal Entry Eleven

  Chapter 46

  Chapter 47 – Mike Journal Entry Twelve

  Chapter 48

  Chapter 49 – Mike Journal Entry Thirteen

  Dedication: To my wife who did more work getting this book out to the public than I did. I love you and appreciate all of your hard work on this new endeavor we find ourselves immersed in!

  To the men and women of the armed forces and uniformed services, a thank you to each and every one of you for the sacrifices you endure for our continued safety.

  To my loyal readers and fans, I know I’ve been promising this story for about 4 months now and I truly am sorry for stringing everyone along, I hope that the hard work that was poured into this story delivers and that you can again reconnect with our wayward hero.

  And so it begins…

  Chapter 1 – Mike Journal Entry One

  Our ship was close to landing on home, sweet home after what seemed like weeks of traveling. Beth had completely withdrawn from me as if I were the monster, instead of the supreme commander whom she spent more time conversing with than me during the entire voyage back. With some perverse satisfaction, I watched them talk, knowing full well he saw her only as his next meal, or some form of entertainment, and then a meal.

  Deb retreated into herself wholly. I think that Beth’s presence and my indifference had something to do with it. But I wasn’t completely self-centered. I knew the main cause of it was the realization of the horror she had just escaped. And, probably, the comprehension of the wide-scale horror that was yet to come. The few hours that I had to adjust to this semblance of “freedom” were truly liberating. I knew it wasn’t over but no longer did the lives of these women depend solely on me, or so I hoped.

  The Genogerians and Progerians were coming; of that, there was no doubt. When? Well, that was a good question. I knew deep down that running and hiding was not an option; oh, but how I yearned for that avenue. I wanted to see my folks; yes, even my mother. I wanted to eat dinner at my sister’s, I wanted to play Risk with my brothers, I wanted to drink beer with my friends. I wanted to do what every “normal” young male wants to do. But I knew those things weren’t going to happen. Not any time soon.

  I wasn’t sure if years of psychotherapy would ever get me back to “normal.” All my early years of the pampered American life had left me completely unprepared for the ordeal I had just endured. The thoughts that allowed me to survive were becoming vastly distant as I stole a glance at Beth. She saw me eye her but paid no attention whatsoever. Unbeknownst to me, however, Deb had also seen it, and that just seemed to twist the knife in her heart a little bit more.

  What a great love triangle we were. More like three nonparallel lines, from my perspective. Deb wanted me, I wanted Beth, and Beth wanted nothing to do with any of us. She saw the girls and me as the beasts, incognizant that the creature she kept talking to, the supreme commander, was the real beast and the sole reason for our predicament. Sometimes, the more education you receive, the less smart you are.

  Indian Hill’s peaceful slopes beckoned me. Could I find some sort of “peace” there? The place where I did so much exploration not only physically, but spiritually as well? Paul, Dennis and I dropped acid for the first time up there, making the place that much more surreal, like it needed any help. We had spent hours up in the “Hobbit Tree” looking over the vast expanse of greenery that was Walpole.

  Surveying Indian’s Pond to the left, the train tracks where we almost met our untimely demises; and even further, the Stop and Shop roof, which was sort of the start of it all. Oh, how I longed for simpler times. My gut was roiling with emotion; my fight or flight reflex was in overdrive. But there was no one to fight and nowhere to run--what a fucking dilemma. Deb began to weep silently as we approached Earth. Her shoulders shuddered as she attempted to quell her emotions. Was she relieved to be getting away from this whole mess? Or just to be getting home? My guess was a little bit of both.

  Beth’s eyes gleamed; I knew that look, she was excited. There would be no way she could ever understand what the rest of us went through. She looked like a kid who had just spent the day at Disneyland and was now headed to Disneyworld. The other girls’ responses varied as well: from full on, open-throttled weeping to the “whooping” of overexcited, drunken sorority girls. Sororities, fraternities… Shit! College! Would I be going back? I wanted to but I doubted it. I’m not sure that I’d ever be able to sit still for that long again. What employment could I get with my newfound skills? Cab driver? Maybe. Maybe I could join the mixed martial arts circuit. Naw, that wouldn’t work; I’d never be able to stop myself.

  Well, I figured realistically, I probably only had about a month or so left .The Genogerians weren’t going to sit tight for long, not while their supreme commander was being held captive. For now, Earth awaited and I definitely wanted to reacquaint myself with her. I knew she, at least, would welcome me.

  “General Burkhalter?” I asked incredulously. It seemed odd to me that a general would put himself out just to greet me.

  “Come; let’s get off this ship. If we stay on it too long, the scientists might just dissect us along with it. They’ve been chomping at the bit to get a hold of this thing. I think they were more pissed at the quarantine than you and your fellow passengers.” The general said as he surveyed his surroundings.

  “I appreciate you greeting us, General.”

  “It’s the least I could do. Espec
ially since we need to take these necessary precautions,” he said, pointing to his haz-mat suit.

  “I understand, General, it’s just difficult. We’ve been confined for so long, that being able to see freedom and not embrace it is a little bittersweet.”

  “And now it is my turn to understand. We will do all in our power to make this, hopefully short, stay as enjoyable as possible. But you do realize we are going to have to debrief you until your throat is raw? We need to know as much as we can about this new foe, and we don’t have very long to get it.”

  “One thing first, General, before we get this whole show on the road.”

  “Name it, son.”



  When we reached the makeshift hospital, pizzas of all sizes and toppings awaited our diligent ministrations. Ah! To be back home… The food was great, the service impeccable. Even better than a five star resort. Well, almost. The doctors watched our every move. I’m not sure if they were disappointed that we didn’t sprout wings or third eyes, but they monitored us twenty-four/seven while we were in their custody.

  “How are things going, Mike?”

  “Great, General, but we sure were hoping we’d be out of here by now. Ten solid days in quarantine and not one of us has developed any strange rashes or bumps.” I sounded a little peeved, although I tried not to convey that over my voice; but restraint was not my strong point.

  “Mike, I came here on a serious note.”

  “What, General? Did one of our lab reports come back bad?” Not that I was really worried about it, but the general was concerned.

  “No, no. All of your tests came back remarkably well. The whole lot of you are in perfect health.”

  “Will that bring a better price at the auction block?” That should have gotten some response from the general, but he did nothing. Now, he did have me concerned. “Spill it, General; this is worse than knowing.”

  “Your mother has passed away.”

  “What? When? Just now? I’ve got to go!” I said as I headed towards the door.

  “You know as well as I do, Mike, that you cannot leave just yet. That armed guard will riddle you with bullets before he lets you break the seal on this place.”

  “What happened?” I asked as I slowly turned back towards him.

  “It was a few months after your disappearance; she had a stroke. She never fully recovered from it and deteriorated fast.”

  “Was it because of me?”

  “Part of it, maybe, the stress and all surrounding your disappearance.”

  “And because the government didn’t ‘fess up to what was really going on!” I said heatedly.

  “Mike, we had to look for the common good. If we told even one woman to ease her fears, we would have panicked millions. And do you really think that the truth was any better than the scenarios she was imagining?”

  “How long did she live after the stroke?”

  “About a month and a half. She was apparently trying to hold on until she could see you one last time.”

  That stung. My mother and I weren’t exactly close but still, it was a fundamental loss, one that could never be replaced. It was another tragedy that I would carry with me. Unfortunately, it would not be my last.

  My mother had gotten sick and passed; all while I was struggling to survive on an alien vessel. No, the truth would not have done her any good. More than likely, it would have hastened the effects of her stroke. I still had a difficult time wrapping my mind around the fact that I had been on that ship for almost a year and a half. Eighteen months of my life was stolen from me and I would never be able to get it back. I always wondered what went through those innocent men’s minds who were wrongly convicted of a crime and then sent to prison. What must they think after five or ten years of incarceration when a new piece of evidence comes to light that sets them free? The chunk of their lives that was taken from them can never, ever be replaced. Mine was only a small taste, but even a small taste can be sour on the lips.

  “General, don’t get me wrong. You and your staff have been nothing short of magnanimous. They have taken care of our every need. But I really have to know when we will be free to go. None of us has displayed any traces of anything. I have told and retold my experience to you and the president. Hell, I even brought their commander back. I’m just sick and tired of being cooped up, and now I would just like to go back to Walpole and visit with my family. Do they know I’m back?”

  “As for the first question, just four more days, Mike. The medical staff will feel much more comfortable with four more days. Then I promise you a direct flight to any destination that you desire.”

  “To be honest, General, I’d rather have a car. Kind of sick of flying too.”

  “Understood. How about a Humvee?”

  “You’re going to give me a Humvee?”

  “I cleared it with the president this morning. He felt it was the least we could do.”

  “Awesome! I want the one with the hard plastic shell on the back.”

  “Done. And as for your family, they have no idea that you’re back. We couldn’t tell them. They’d be up here breaking in doors and that just wouldn’t do anybody any good.”

  “Got any idea where they are, General?”

  “Well, after your mother passed, your dad took it pretty hard. He holed himself up in his Searsport cabin.”

  “My dad is in Searsport? Hell, that’s only a few hours south of here.”

  “Your brother, Ronny and his wife Nancy, are still in Walpole. Your brother, Gary took the loss of your mother pretty hard, took him a few months to go through the mourning process. He and Ronny have put all their energy into their paving company. Your brother, Glenn, moved back to West Roxbury after the funeral. He works from time to time with the paving crew. But mostly, he repairs small aircraft at one of the local airports. Your sister is still living in Connecticut, but travels up to Maine every other weekend to check on your dad. Your mother’s death hit him a lot harder than anyone really anticipated.”

  “What are the odds that this weekend would be that weekend, General?”

  “It appears, Mike, that luck favors you because this is one of her scheduled arrivals. Would you like me to notify them of your imminent visit?”

  “No, General; I’d just rather show up.”

  “Mike, about the Humvee.”

  “Oh, you want it back already?”

  “Not quite. At least, not the Hummer.”

  “Then what, General?”

  “We would, or rather, I would like to have the person driving the Humvee back.”

  “General, I don’t want a driver.” Then my not-so-fast brain finally caught up with me. “You want me back? What the hell do you want me back for?”

  “Son, I’ve been watching you for ten straight days. I’ve listened to your story probably a hundred times. I’ve interviewed every one of these girls at least twice. I want you in my service. You are exactly the kind of man that we are going to need in the coming months. You, and thousands like you.”

  “General, I’m not cut out for the military life, I’m sure that you have a dossier full of my pre-alien days. I wasn’t quite on the straight and narrow.”

  “Son, those events in no shape, way, or form have anything to do with the person that you are now.”

  “General, I just don’t play well with others. I have a real authority issue.”

  “If I make you an officer and accountable only to me?”

  “General, I just don’t…”

  “No, don’t answer now. Why don’t you get out of here this weekend, go see you family and friends, drive around this country? In a week or two, give me your answer. Please just promise me that you will at least consider it.”

  “Don’t worry, General I will, at the very least, consider it, and often. What branch would I be in?”

  “Why, Army of course.”

  I laughed. “General, my dad and my brother were both Marines. I’d never
live it down if I came home in Army duds.”

  “Son, if you join up, I’ll give you any uniform you want.”

  “Thank you, sir. I’ve got more on my plate now than I could possibly even begin to finish. I suddenly found myself very tired. Please excuse me, General, I think I’m going to take a nap.”

  “Very well, I’ll see you in three days. I’ve been called back to Washington. And it’s not very wise to keep the president waiting.”


  “Yes, Mike.”

  “What have you done with the commander?”

  “Ah! See? If you were in uniform I could disclose that information to you. But civilians cannot be privy to those details.” I thought he was kidding until he walked through the sealed outer chamber.

  “Son of a bitch,” I mumbled as I laughed and headed for my bunk.

  The four days came and went without much incident. Tanya developed a small sneeze that almost shut down the state, but it ended up she was just allergic to some of the detergent that was being used on the hypoallergenic pillows. Kind of ironic, I thought. Beth hadn’t said more than two words to me since we landed. She kept to her side of the quarantine wing. Deb had become increasingly morose and sullen the longer we were cooped up.

  I avoided everyone just on general principle. The general did not make it back from Washington before the doctors finally cleared us. The women all hopped into one of the troop transports. They were shuttling them down to the Bangor Airport so they could go home or wherever they desired. A few of them were going to the Bahamas on the U.S. government dime. Why not? Might as well enjoy it while it was free. And true to his word, the general gave me a Humvee with the hard plastic shell, and another little gift. A USMC officer’s uniform with captain’s bars lay on the passenger seat. I was still sitting on the fence with that whole question but it sure was an impressive looking uniform. I barely set foot into my new vehicle when the troop transport truck came to a grinding halt. Beth jumped off the back and ran straight towards me.

  “Mike, wait a second!” she yelled with her arms outstretched. I waited patiently. She had just doubled the number of words she had spoken to me since we got back to Earth. I was too curious to do anything but wait and see what she wanted. I did, however, notice Deb sticking her head out to see what was going on.

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