Adventures of Jacko the

Red Skies, Blue Skies

By Jamie Ott

Chapter 1
Jacko lived with his father, John,
whom he hated with every fiber of
his being. Dad and his “friend”
thought he was stupid and didn’t
know what was going on. But just
because she managed to leave
before he woke, or stay hidden until
he left for school, didn’t mean he
didn’t know she was there all night.
He lay there, listening in
disgust to the giggling on the other
side of the wall. Moaning loudly, he
slammed the pillow on his head and
rolled onto his belly.

Dad’s bed, repeatedly, tapped
into the wall.

It was bad enough that they
were together, but did they have to
rub it in? Were they trying to drive
him crazy?
He jumped from his bed, and
then stomped to the door, which he
slammed into the wall.
Without knocking, he opened
his father’s door and slammed that
into the wall, too. His father and his
“friend” jumped to their sides of the
bed while trying to cover up.
Jacko yelled, “Shut up! I can
hear everything you two do through
the wall! I’m sick of it!”
He rammed the door shut and
went back to his room.
The floor rumbled under the
force of his feet. Heavily, he
plopped down onto his bed. The

metal frame bounced back and
forth off the wall.
Dad opened his door, entered
the room, calmly, and gently closed
it again.
Jacko remained with his face
buried in his pillow, readying
himself for his father’s backlash.
The sound of the floor lightly
creaking got closer and closer.
His father’s hand brutally
grazed his scalp as he yanked his
head up by a fistful of hair. He tried
to resist but his father was too
Dad pushed his head back until
his neck cracked, and then gave
him a powerful red welt across the
face. In a low voice, he said, “If you
ever do that again, I’ll beat the crap
outta you.”
Jacko almost bit through his
tongue as dad slammed his head,
hard, into the pillow, and then left.

The tapping against the wall
Jacko screamed into his pillow.

He tried to ignore it, but with
each tap, Jacko grew angrier. For a
moment, he imagined shooting Dad
and his “friend” right as they lay in
bed, together. Then he thought
about shooting himself in the head.
Finally, he rolled over onto his
back and screamed so loud that the
neighbors could have heard, “I
He got out of bed, grabbed his
air rifle, and loaded it with BBs.
Dad stumbled angrily back into
his room. His face was red with
He made to rush Jacko, but this
time, he wasn’t going to let his
father beat him. Jacko quickly

pointed the rifle and shot multiple
pellets at him.
His father yelped like a dog as
he jumped back.
He stopped shooting, so his
father would have a chance to leave
the room. Instead, Dad and Jacko’s
eyes met for a second; then he
made to rush him again.
Jacko sent another round of
balls at him.
Dad jumped up and down as he
jerked his body about the room like
chicken in a cock fight. The pellets
hit him ferociously in the chest and
thighs, with one getting him square
in the crotch.
Finally, he turned and left the
room. Jacko shot multiple pellets at
his back side as he ran out.
He wouldn’t have much time
for escape, so he rushed into his
jeans, a sweater and a jacket. Then
he packed a change of clothes into

his red backpack. Next, he grabbed
his laptop bag, threw in his cell
phone, wallet, and keys.
He raised his rifle and, slowly,
opened the door, exiting the way
he’d seen it done on television.
With his rifle raised skyward, he
poked his head out. He looked left
and right.
Upon seeing that all was clear,
he moved, quickly, into the hallway
with his rifle pointed outward. Jacko
scanned the area, and then made
his way, carefully, to the stairwell.
Slowly, he made his way
downstairs where, as he stepped off
the last step, and onto the landing,
he spotted his father on the phone.
Jacko assumed he was talking
with the police, as they had been
through similar violent scenarios
before that night. Dad always ended
up calling the cops, who always
took his father’s side of all their

They looked at each other. His
eyes shifted down to the rifle and
back up to Jacko’s face.
Gently, Dad hung up the phone.
Innocently, he lifted his
eyebrows as he walked toward him,
trying to emanate a calm yet
concerned look with his face. He
opened his arms and held them out
in a welcome, hug-like gesture, as
though trying to convince Jacko,
through body language, that all was
His father stepped a few paces
closer to him, and then charged him
like a bull. He made it outside just
as heard his father ram himself into
the coat rack nailed to the wall
behind the door.
Parked on the street was his
250cc scooter. Jacko stowed his
items and got on.

“Get your ASS back here!”
Jacko heard as he sped off.

Several police cars turned onto
his street as he approached stop
signs at the end of his block. He
knew they must be headed for his
home, but Jacko remained calm as
he looked both ways before making
a left turn.
Nothing mattered to Jacko,
anymore, because he was
determined never to look back on
the town with the father that let him
down in so many ways.


Jacko’s real name was John,
like his father’s. His sister, Sissy,
told him he’d earned the nickname
around Halloween time; that when
he was a toddler, learning to speak,

he loved the way Jacko, from the
word Jack ‘o’ Lantern sounded. After
a week of saying the word,
repeatedly, Sissy and his mother
became fond of it.
He was happy to go by Jacko,
instead of Junior, because he didn’t
want to be anything like his father.
Jacko remembered, clearly, the
night his mother and sister left
them, and he remembered his
father being the cause of his
mother’s grief. It was the grief that
was the reason she was dead.
Yes, he was quite young when
they left, but he remembered,
vividly, the pain and awkwardness
that followed their absence. He got
sick when his father and Anna holed
up in his room on the same night
Mom and Sissy left, as if nothing
important had happened. They
blasted music, and only came out
every so often to get cold beer.

Jacko, alone, retched again and
again into the toilet, in between
What made him angrier was
his sister’s insistence that he not
hate his father. He didn’t
understand how she could expect
him to feel different. They, as a
family, were happy until Anna, his
“friend,” came along, so how could
she forgive so easily?
There was a period when
Jacko was angry with his mother
and Sissy, too, for leaving him
behind. It hurt to think that Sissy
was more loved. Why else would his
mother take her and not him? But
when weeks went by without word
from either of them, and as his
father spent, increasingly, more
time with Anna, he became severely
It wasn’t more than a month
after they moved out that he got
the news of his mother’s suicide. He
didn’t know all the facts about what
happened, except that she’d

consumed a large amount of
hemlock root that was boiled into a
tea – “a strange method of suicide,”
a cop commented.
The police delivered the
shocking news in their living room,
one evening. His father was stone
faced and stone cold as they told
him how Sissy called 9-1-1, but
when they got to their home, she’d
Jacko didn’t know, at first,
what happened to Sissy, as she
didn’t talk to him for several years.
Then, one day, she sent him an
email. Immediately, he let go of all
his anger toward her, for she was all
he had. He was grateful she’d come
back to him. Except for her
disappearance, she was always a
good sister; she was always kind
and loving, and never picked on
him. It made him sad that she was
five years older than he was
because, sometimes, he thought, if
she were with him, then maybe he
could tolerate Dad and his “friend.”


It was particularly black that
April night, as he rode north, along
the ocean, toward San Francisco.
His blood boiled angry-hot for many
miles, and his cell phone rang every
half hour. He knew it was his father,
but he just didn’t care. They had
been through many struggles, and
they always ended the same way:
Jacko sent to his room, and his
father and Anna off drinking and
Despite the cold air, Jacko
sweated excessively. He took off his
helmet and allowed the wind to dry
his soaked face.
Deeply, he inhaled the ocean
air, and with each exhale, he felt his
anxiety-stiffened muscles relax.
His face was still sweaty when
he put the helmet back on, but he

didn’t want a ticket because he
didn’t have a license. That and he
was only fourteen years old.
Jacko’s phone started to vibrate
in his pocket again. He grabbed it,
looked at the screen, saw it was his
father and threw it to the side of the
Three hours later, he rode into
the small township of Gonzalez, off
the 101 freeway. Too tired to ride
anymore, he went east at the first
stop sign, and then off-road into a
large grassy area.
A wide berthed, barren tree
with numerous leafless branches
stood 100 yards away from the
road. Jacko rode up, and parked his
bike behind the tree.
He swung his tired, stiff leg off
the scooter, yanked off his helmet,
and stretched long toward the sky.
Jacko put his helmet on the
rack, and pulled his tarp and
sleeping bag out from the luggage

compartment. After spreading the
tarp and sleeping bag on the
ground, he climbed into it and fell
asleep, instantly.


Dawn was cracking, but that
wasn’t what woke Jacko. A semitruck, lugging its way to the
freeway blew its horn, scaring the
heck out of him. After that, it was
hard to ignore the deep penetration
of the sun’s rays that leaked
through his sleeping bag and the
lids of his eyes.
He tried to nod off again, but
the chill from the ground was
already forcing multiple waves of
shivers through his muscles and
joints. Then another truck on the
road blew its lousy horn.

After a few more moments, he
gave up trying to sleep. He packed
his items and left.
The morning chill was harsh, so
he hurried to the freeway, and then
looked for a café where he could
thaw out.
His fingers recoiled on the
chilly bike handles; his teeth
chattered against his chin strap. He
should have looked through the
luggage compartment and gotten
his leather gloves.
Ten miles up the road, he
found a nearly vacant little diner. He
walked up to the counter and
ordered a tall coffee and a breakfast
burrito. The heat from the coffee
spread, like that of hot coals, down
his throat, into his stomach. It was
the only thing that kept him from
falling asleep while sitting up.
Sleeping on the cold rocky ground
all night was hardly restful.
He tried to focus on how
much money he had, and where he

should go. If he remembered
correctly, there would be about a
thousand dollars in his bank
account, after his last paycheck.
It took him a whole year to
save that money by working, part
time, in his uncle’s car repair. His
uncle always asked him why he
preferred spending all his time in
the shop, rather than out with
friends. Although he made some
lame excuse, the truth is Jacko
always knew, in the back of his
mind, that he’d leave his father
sooner, rather than later.
But a thousand dollars wasn’t
enough to do anything. He was a
minor, so he couldn’t get an
apartment. His father’s family was
sure to send him right back home,
and he knew nothing of his
mother’s side of the family.
As he sat, contemplating, a
thought plugged itself into his mind,
almost as though someone
whispered it into his ear. It said, Go

to your sister’s; she’s already
expecting you.
Hmmm, he thought. How
would his sister react, if he showed
up? And, in fact, he did have the
feeling that she would be expecting

Well, it doesn’t matter because
she was all the family he had, so
she’d have to help him.
He’d go to Concord, New
Hampshire, where she lived. When
he got to her state, he’d call her.
That way she couldn’t possibly
refuse him.
Hopefully, he could persuade
her to help him start a life of his
own. He could get another job, take
the GED. Maybe take night classes
at the local college.
Settling on the decision to go
to Sissy made him exuberant. He
finished his breakfast and went next

door, to the gas station where he
bought a national map and a cheap
little prepaid phone, for in case of
emergency, and to call Sissy when
he got close to Concord.
After he traced, with his finger,
the interstate freeways, he didn’t
waste time getting back on his bike
and riding the whole morning
through, only stopping to refill his
tank and buy a few bottles of water.
The worst part of the trip was
when Jacko had to go over the Bay
Bridge. Although he grinded the
bars, his little 250 would go no
faster than 60 mph which, although
the speed limit was 45 on the
bridge, people seemed to think
Jacko was a pest. People honked,
and always made sure to extend
their middle fingers, as they rode
around him.
Cars continually slammed their
breaks, and skidded behind him,
making his blood pressure shoot up.
Frightened by the repeated squeals
coming from behind, he wondered if

he was clearly visible on the poorly
lit blue bridge.
He didn’t feel safe, again,
until he made it into San Francisco,
where people seemed less hostile
toward scooter riders.
The Golden Gate Bridge wasn’t
so bad because it was brightly lit
and completely open, skyward, right
under the sun. He was able to
stretch his legs, a moment, in the
bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Eventually, the bridge’s
afternoon congestion started to
clear, and he made it to Marin,
where he decided to pullover and
have a rest.
Starved and exhausted, he took
the nearest exit into the city and
parked his bike near the window of
a harbor restaurant.
Inside, a pretty waitress with
owl shaped eyes stared him up and
down in a way that made Jacko
realize he was about to be asked

questions. There was an older man
who sat behind a register, reading a
newspaper. He looked at him and
tipped his hat.
Worried, Jacko, reluctantly,
nodded back.
The waitress sat him at a
table, and then walked off to the
kitchen. She quickly came back with
a complimentary New England
chowder soup.
The woman appeared to be in
her mid-twenties. Jacko could tell
she was a very nosey person and,
when she didn’t stop staring at him,
he said in a very short and direct
manner, “Stop looking at me.”
The waitress looked surprised
at Jacko’s assertiveness. He
continued, “I’d like a cola, please.”
She said nothing but
continued to stare at him, as if he
were an oddity of nature.

“If you can tear your eyes away
from the show, perhaps you can do
your job? Or should I leave?”
Jacko got up.
“Lorraine,” said the man with
the hat, “Get the boy a drink!”
He watched her walk to the
soda machine, fill it with ice and
coke, and come back.
Then he got up and went to the

Upon seeing his reflection in
the mirror, he thought, No wonder
the waitress was staring at me.

Jacko looked like he’d spent the
morning tumbling in hay. His shirt
had been soaked, several times
through, with sweat. His hair was a
yellow poof on his head, his red
puffy eyes looked anaphylactic, and

his tee shirt had a crusty yellow
tinge to it, like a sock.
Ugh! he said to himself, as he
bent over the sink and splashed
water onto his face and hair. Then,
he reached into his red backpack
and pulled a clean tee shirt out.
Back at the table, the waitress
asked him where he was from.
Jacko’s skin burned. He wanted
to be left alone. Instead of having a
restful lunch, he now had to find a
lie to satisfy the nosey woman.
After a moment, he said, “San
Francisco. I’m going to visit a friend
in Sonoma.”
He looked down at his soup.
“Aren’t you a little young to
be riding that scooter? It looks
dangerous, and especially to ride
over the bridge?”
His mind raced as he stalled by
taking a bite of his soup.

The lady stood there and
waited for an answer.
He chewed, thoughtfully, for a
moment, sighed loudly and said, “I
know being small time means
you’ve got nothing better to do, but
do you have to ruin my lunch? If it’s
money you’re worried about, well,
here.” He pulled out his wallet and
showed her his cash. “So if that’s
what you’re concerned about,
problem solved.”
“Alright, then, I’ll leave you
Hoping she wouldn’t spit in
his burger for being rude, he
watched her walk back into the
kitchen. Twenty minutes later, she
came out with a burger and fries,
which she left on the table, without
saying a word.
After pulling the sandwich
apart and verifying that it was safe,
he wolfed it down. Periodically, the
waitress would throw a glance at
him, but he kept eating.

When he finished, he took the
check up to the old man, behind the
counter, who apologized for the
nosey waitress. “My niece,” he said,
and gave him a ten-percent
He thanked the man who, just
before he walked out of the door,
said “You’re leaving now? Traffic’s
coming and you can’t be on the
road with that little bike,” but Jacko
smiled, said “thank you” and left.
The old man was right. The
freeway, which was visible from
where he stood, was even worse
than when he rode in.
It wasn’t so much that he
couldn’t ride around all the traffic,
but what worried him was it would
slow him down. He wanted to get
away from the cities and into the
country side, before dark. There, he
could sleep, camp, or get a motel
room without question.

So without stopping for gas,
Jacko weaved, as fast he could, to
the 80.

When he made it onto the 80
ramp, happiness welled up inside
him. The realization that he was
closer to leaving rotten California
was exciting. He resented the west
coast, the people who lived there,
and everything he’d ever
Perhaps his resentment was
misplaced, and had more to do with
his father. Still, leaving and starting
over again, seemed like exactly
what he needed.

As he rode on, he fantasized
about how happy he was going to
be. He’d be on his own without
rules, or anyone to strong arm him.
He wouldn’t have to look at his
father, not that his father ever
really looked at him. Just one more

thing Jacko didn’t have to deal with:
guilt for being alive, guilt for being
in his father’s house. Once settled
in Concord, he’d get a small
apartment, work in the day, and
take a class or two in the evenings.
Maybe he’d get a girlfriend!
The increasing temperature
distracted Jacko from his thoughts.
He observed his surroundings, and
noticed the scenery had changed
from stretches of dark green grass
to miles of dried yellow prairie. The
air was hot, dry, and dusty, but he
didn’t mind because he could slow
his bike down and relax.
Despite the heat, Jacko tried
to press on, but he didn’t last too
long. The problem was the glare of
the sun; it was barely noticeable
through his helmet, yet continued
to heat his clothes and radiate to
his flesh.
When the heat became
unbearable, he pulled to the side of
the grassy road to take a break.

He took off his jacket and let
the air cool his arms. Raising and
kicking his legs, he rolled his arms
and walked up and down the side of
the road for a bit.
As he turned to walk back in
the opposite direction, he noticed, a
few yards away, a bit of dust from
the brown and green grass whirl
upward in circles to form a little dirt
Jacko pulled a bottle of water
out of his bike’s luggage
compartment, sat on the grass, and
watched the dust whirl. He chewed
on some dried fruit and jerky he had
in his luggage compartment.
Despite his snack, Jacko’s
stomach started rumbling again.
Such was the plight of a growing
teen. He was constantly hungry
these days. The sweet from the fruit
and harshness of the jerky made
him hungrier.
Jacko packed up his snacks and
put them back in his luggage.

After a few more moments of
rest, he mounted his bike again.
However, just when he was about to
turn the key, he had a strange
feeling that made him stop. The
feeling was of someone familiar to
him, standing nearby.
Instinctively, he thought about
his mother and looked around him
for the source.
Jacko looked back at the dust
devil and noticed how the particles
seemed to be frozen in the air. He
shook his head, hoping to straighten
out his eye sight.

Maybe he needed more rest?
His eyes played tricks on him
before, when he’d stayed awake for
long periods of time, and although
he slept the night before, he was
still exhausted because he’d tossed
and turned the entire time.

Maybe after he crossed the
state line, he’d check into a motel.
Again, he went to start the
ignition of his bike. Only, this time,
he thought he saw a smiling face
instead of his key in the circular
Quickly, Jacko drew back his
Wow, he thought. I must be
really tired.

Perhaps he’d done too much
riding that day. Thinking it must
have been the constant heat and
glare of the sun, he closed his eyes
and counted to ten, then, blindly,
turned the key.
When the motor came on, he
opened his eyes. The face was
gone. He looked up and saw the
dust devil had settled, but there
wasn’t any explanation for what
Jacko saw next.

A nearly transparent head
floated in the air, right above where
the dust devil had been. The face
looked familiar to Jacko, with dark
brown shapely eyes and white
blonde hair, but the features were
exaggerated as the wind blew
through the shape.
“Yeah, whatever,” he said, as
though trying to write his own self
off. He looked down and behind
him, and then sped along the 80,
and didn’t stop until he reached the
state line.

Crossing Over
Chapter 2
As soon as Jacko crossed the state
line, the heat intensified, making
him feel even more tired. So he
found a cheap motel off of a stretch
of road right outside Reno, Nevada.
The desk clerk didn’t ask any
questions of the boy. He, simply,
gave him a key without even saying
hello! Jacko liked that!
When he walked back outside,
he noticed a dive diner with low
class people screaming, yelling,
drinking, and hanging about in the
parking lot, to his right. He, then,
looked to his left and saw only the
highway and miles of more dusty
grassland. He pushed his bike up to
the second floor of the motel, and
parked it right outside his window.
Once inside, he peeled his
clothes off, climbed into bed, and

Six hours later, the bed
violently trembled. He woke, looked
around and realized it was not an
earthquake, but it was his stomach,
The clock said nine p.m.
He had two huge meals today!
Inwardly, he yelled at himself,
Why can’t I stop being hungry?
He stumbled out of the lumpy,
sinking, bed. Then he showered and
rinsed his shirts in the bath tub. He
hung one to dry, and put the other
one on. Better wet than stinky, plus
the shirt lowered his body
temperature, considerably.
Outside his door, the first
thing that scared Jacko was the
loud, rowdy voices of questionable
looking people. What if they tried to
start something with him?
The voices came from the
parking lot behind the diner, where
he saw seven raggedly dressed men

hanging about semi-trucks. Not very
far from the men stood several
prostitutes, cackling and smoking.
Jacko drew in his breathe,
brought up his chest, and tried to be
brave while praying that no one
talked to him.
When he opened the door to
the diner, his stomach quivered at
the smell of grease and meat.
Despite what he’d seen, which was
about two dozen scary, hairy,
overweight, tough, burly truckers half of which seemed to be missing
a good deal of teeth - his stomach
propelled him forward.
In the air, hung a nasty, thick,
haze of cigarette smoke, through
which several of the faces looked
him up and down. To Jacko, they
looked surly and mean. In
particular, a dark haired guy in a
blue and black plaid shirt tried to
stare Jacko down.
He looked down at his feet and
continued to the available spot at

the bar that was closest to him
upon entry; that way, if there was
trouble, he could just run.

“What can I get ya?” asked a
waitress with eyebrows that rose up
into her forehead, and an incredibly
wrinkled face.
“Bacon burger, fries, and a
cola,” he mumbled.
She went off to get his order
when the guy who stared him down
“Hey, kid. What are you doing
here? Where are your parents?”
The man asked with a
menacing curiosity that did not go
Instinctively, he knew the guy
meant him anything but good. The
way his eyes shifted down to his
leather jacket, down to his shoes,

and back to Jacko’s eyes, made his
skin tingle.
His sunken eye’s looked dark
and empty, yet full of crazy. The
skin of his face was falling into dark,
leathery folds. He was severely
underweight and his breath smelled
Jacko sat for a moment trying
to think of what to say.
“Say something. What are you
deaf? Where are your parents?”
“I’m just here to get a bite
and go. Is that okay?” Jacko asked,
trying to sound tough.
“So you’re all alone, huh?”
The man grabbed him by the
back of the neck, forced him off the
chair, and pushed him to the
“Well, that’s just great ‘cause
I’m lookin’ for a little action tonight,

and your face has got ‘awl’ my
attention, pretty boy, hee hee.”
The man laughed almost like a
“Hey” said the waitress,
who’d just set Jacko’s food on the
counter. “Leave him alone or get
The man’s face lost the laugh,
and his eyes became real serious
and dark as he said, “Don’t need to
tell me, twice, wrinkle.”
“Screw you.”
“Yeah, no thanks,” he
mumbled. “I got me som’in…” he
talked to himself as he walked back
to his seat.

Jacko sat back down to eat at
an extremely slow pace. He knew
he needed to be worried, so he took
the time to think how, best, to leave
the diner.

Unfortunately, no good ideas
came to mind. He slowly turned his
head to see the man was watching
him. He gave Jacko a dirty smile and
winked his right eye at him.
It crossed his mind that
maybe he needed a weapon.
Slowly, carefully, he slipped the
butter knife into the sleeve of his
jacket. When he’d finished, the lady
asked if he wanted anything else.
Jacko asked if someone would
escort him back to his room, but the
woman rolled her eyes and told him
to leave if he was done ordering.
He hated the waitress for not
showing even the least bit of
sympathy for his situation. He
looked to his left and saw the man
was, now, standing at the door of
the restaurant, laughing at Jacko’s
attempt to save himself.
The waitress saw it too but
couldn’t care less.

Needless to say, he wasn’t
going to leave the ugly, old bat a
tip. In fact, he was gonna skip out
on the meal. His best chance was to
run out of the diner as quickly as
possible. If he paid, then the guy
would know he was preparing to
leave, but if he just ran, it would be
a surprise that would give Jacko a
head start! Besides, if the waitress
couldn’t find it in her conscience to
help a boy in trouble, then he was
entitled to a free last supper, as if
the crazy man caught him, Jacko
was sure he’d be dead.
He sat extremely still for a
moment while gathering up his
courage. Next, he stood up and
bolted out of the door, as fast as he
could. Jacko ran around to the back
of the building. This seemed like a
good idea because he didn’t want
that psycho following him back to
his room. The last thing he needed
was for his bike to get trashed, or
for someone to burst through the
lame lock of his motel room while
he slept.

He waited in the back lot of
the diner for fifteen minutes, but he
never heard the diner door re open
or subsequent footsteps. He didn’t
know if he should continue to stay
where he was or try to make it back
to his room.
One strange thing he did notice
was how quiet it’d suddenly got, as
though all the truckers and hookers
had gone away.
Oh boy, he thought. If they
were gone, he was definitely in
trouble. On the other hand, if they
weren’t gone, would they care if an
innocent boy was being beat to
Slowly, he walked out from
behind the building. Looking all
around him, he stepped quietly to
the front of the diner, which was the
only way back to the motel.
Jacko felt a moment of relief, as
he thought he was in the clear. He
was just about to take off running,
when suddenly he was grabbed

from behind and thrown up against
the stone wall of the diner.
The butter knife fell to the

“Hey pretty boy? Where’s
your mama?”
He threw a fist in his gut that
sent Jacko reeling for air. The
excruciating pain spread all the way
down to his groin and up to his
Jacko was nearly in fetal
position, yet still standing as he
tried to catch his breath.
The man pulled him straight up
by the collar of his jacket. He ran his
hand through Jacko’s hair and
caressed his face and neck.
Jacko, still gasping for air,
asked, “Why are you doing this?”
“Because I don’t take crap
from nobody, especially not from a

faggot like you.” Then he hurled
Jacko’s face down onto the edge of
his knee where his cheek split.
At that moment Jacko got
really scared because he knew the
man wasn’t going to stop there.
Tears sprung from his eyes as the
man made mince of his rib cage.
A few more brutal connections
numbed Jacko out. The heel of the
man’s boot slammed his head into
the ground.
Funnily, he thought to himself
that the ground felt soft, like a
feather pillow, and then there was
silence. All seemed to go black and,
for a moment, he felt like he was
floating in the air.
In that silence, there was a
low ringing noise in Jacko’s ear.
Slowly, it grew louder and louder,
and he wondered if he’d blacked
Why was he dreaming of
ringing noises and feather textured

tarmac? How could he be thinking
of these things when a psycho was
beating the crap out of him?
That was when Jacko saw the
face again: white blonde hair and
dark brown eyes.
“Sissy?” said Jacko.
As quickly as he saw the face
was as quickly as it disappeared.
Remembering where he was,
he opened his eyes and wondered
why he was no longer being hit. A
few feet away, the man was
propped on his elbows, on the
ground, and was looking at Jacko
with confusion on his face.
What Jacko didn’t see was,
while he was contemplating his
state of awareness, the man tried to
kick him once more. Mysteriously,
instead of giving Jacko a whopping
good one, he was somehow
knocked backward onto the ground.

Now, the vagrant man may
have been confused, but he wasn’t
willing to give up on easy prey.
He stood back up and made to
boot stomp poor Jacko, once more.
He sent his heel right in the
direction of his forehead, but for
some reason, couldn’t make the
The man’s foot just stopped
mid-air at a few inches above his
Confused, he tried to retract his
boot from the frozen point but
couldn’t. He cursed, growled, and
scowled enraged. The man huffed
with his hands around his ankle and
pulled with all his strength.
Suddenly, he flew off,
backward, his legs flung over his
head. The man slammed still-faced
and face forward, on the ground.
Despite his shaky equilibrium,
Jacko pulled himself up. Wiping the
blood from his eyes, he started to

limp his way in the direction of the
motel. He stopped when he heard a
strange gurgling noise coming from
the man.
He walked back over to the
man and kicked him onto his back.
The guy was struggling to breathe.
His hands seemed pinned to his
side as he struggled and tossed
about, like a fish out of water.
Was the man were having a
His crazy brown eyes bugged
out as he opened his mouth wider,
and tried to breathe in.
For a moment, Jacko considered
running off and leaving the evil man
to die, but then his conscience
kicked in. He couldn’t just leave a
man to die no matter what he’d
done to him. With that thought,
Jacko ran back inside the diner to
tell the waitress to call for help.
The waitress was unmoved by
Jacko because she was angry at him

for stiffing her. Upon seeing him,
she screamed nonstop that he’d
better pay her or she’d whip his ass.
That he was beaten, bloody, and his
clothes were torn, made little
difference to the wrinkled woman.
Jacko looked around for a
payphone but there was none. Yes,
he could call from his cheap, little,
prepaid phone, but it was registered
in his name.
He looked around to see if
anyone looked like they would help
him. Unfortunately, all he saw were
the many faces of uncaring, big
bellied, plaid wearing truckers. All
they could hear and see was the
scary waitress screaming at
bloodied Jacko.
Then a man in a dirty white
apron burst from the door behind
the counter. He walked up to Jacko,
yelling. He screamed at the man
that he needed to call an
ambulance, but he just kept

Ignoring him, he ran back
outside, and the man followed. “You
get back, boy!” he shouted, but
when he saw the crazy guy turning
blue on the ground, he was
completely silenced.
The man had passed out while
Jacko was inside arguing with the
waitress. At that moment, when he
kneeled down to check to the man’s
airway, a voice whispered inside his
head; it told him to leave, quickly.
He stood up and looked around
for the source, but all he saw was
the cook running back inside the
The voice whispered again hurryyy.
Jacko limped-ran back to his
room in which he gathered his
items, and stuffed his bag.
Stumbling down the steps with his
bike, he looked across the lot to see
two cowboys bending over the body
while one spoke into a phone.


Several hours later, he was
miles away from Reno. Still, Jacko
worried about the man, and hoped
he’d be okay.
What would happen to him, if
the man died? He kept asking
Thinking about what happened
at the diner made his head ache,
but he couldn’t stop. He tried to
focus his thoughts on the line of city
lights in the skyline, ahead, but the
ache got worse. Then two coin sized
flashes of white glared at him from,
some feet, ahead on the road.
Jacko grinded his breaks and
the bike went skidding. He swerved
off into a ditch and rode onto a
ground cactus that flipped his bike
over sideways.

Fortunately, his jacket was of
biker leather, but it didn’t stop the
needles that pricked through his
skin. He moaned, loudly, and lay
still for a few moments. He told
himself that he was fine and tried to
push himself up, but instead, he
passed out.

When he finally woke up, it
was because something wet was
slapping his face.
Slowly, he opened his eyes to
find that he was in a lumpy, sagging
bed. Next to him, he noticed a large
impression that was heavily
specked with yellow animal hairs.
Looking around, he realized he
was in an old and dusty house. The
walls were made with old grey slats,
through which light leaked.
Slowly, he pulled his legs over
the side of the bed, and rested
them on the floor a moment. He
had to hold his breath, so as not to

put extra pressure on the inside of
his stomach and ribs, which hurt
After a moment, he drew in a
slow, deep lungful of air and
breathed out, heavily, as he stood
up. The shock of the pain made him
groan so hard that he scratched his
He reached a hand up to feel
the damage to his face and
immediately cried out.
Although he couldn’t see it, he
felt that his face was swollen
several sizes larger than normal.
His legs worked, painfully, and
he barely made it to the rickety thin
door of the room.
When he opened the door,
bright blue sky made him squint. He
limped outside and saw that he
wasn’t in Nevada anymore, or at
least, he couldn’t have been.
Instead of desert, he found himself

standing in a low land bald spot of a
mountainous region.
There appeared to be nothing
man made, aside from the house in
which he stood, for many miles.
As Jacko’s vision adjusted, he
noticed several strange things
about his location. The first was the
quality of the air that he could see
too clearly. He noticed how the little
particles moved about in little
convection like patterns.
When Jacko refocused his eyes,
to examine the air more closely, he
thought it looked like transparent
little bubbles. The bubbles left little
speed tails behind their movement,
which left a million little traces all
across the air and sky.
Next, Jacko noticed the
thousands of conifer type trees that
surrounded the area, yet they
weren’t typical conifers of any
species he’d ever seen. They were
extremely bright green with
fluorescent auras that made

convection patterns around them.
The trees appeared to go on for
many miles into the sky, which was
impossible thought Jacko.
Even stranger was the grass
that wasn’t grass at all, but seemed
to be patches of moss.
He slowly lowered to the
ground and extended a bit of it for
closer examination.
The moss extended from the
ground in massive amounts of coil.
It felt slimier than moss would and,
up close, looked more like grated
zest all stuck together. The color
was green, like spirulina, and with a
similarly funky smell. It expanded
and contracted in his hand, as if it
were breathing.
He was fascinated. He ripped
some of the moss from the ground
to see what it would do.
Immediately, he regretted this
because a high pitched squeal
emitted from the ground. His hand

started to get really hot as the moss
turned a fiery red.
He dropped it and jumped
back, in alarm. His eyes stayed on
the squealing moss that had begun
to slowly disappear, diminishing in
“What is going on here?” he
asked aloud.
The red cells expanded and
contracted even faster as it died.
Jacko watched a few moments, and
then it was completely gone.
It occurred to him that he
should probably feel bad for what
he’d done; that he might have killed
the grass, but as he looked up at
the trees, he forgot his guilt.
He walked a hundred feet to
the edge of the bald spot, up to the
closest cluster of trees.
Up close, he could see the
needles had strange qualities, too.
They were hard, like plastic, and

extremely long. In fact, they were
all exactly, approximately, ten
inches in length and they matched
each other exactly in girth, which
was very thin.
Like the moss, they expanded
and contracted, too.
Now Jacko should’ve learned
his lesson the first time, but he
didn’t. He pulled a needle out.
There came a loud hissing noise
from the pore where the needle no
longer occupied. A smoky scent,
sort of like sewage exhaled.
Jacko felt really bad at that
point because he didn’t want to hurt
living things. But the funny bark and
twigs were of the strangest color
he’d ever seen. They were brown
but very red, too. When Jacko
touched it, it turned redder.
He tried to pull a little twig off
to see what it would do, but the tree
drew back its branch and punched
him in the head.

Jacko stumbled backward and
fell, rolling on the ground and
holding his throbbing face. He
wasn’t angry, though, because he
knew he deserved it.
When the pain subsided, he
pushed himself up and walked back
toward the house.
As he got closer, he noticed
there was a little body of water on
the other side.

The pond gurgled and bubbled
in the center.
At first, Jacko was scared
because he didn’t want to get hurt,
again. Nevertheless, he got nearer,
He jumped back when the
water boiled upward like a geyser
and fell back to the pond. After a
moment, he determined that the
water was going to continue to rise,
repeatedly, in the same manner.

He inched closer to the bank of
the pond and was fascinated to see
how the water fell back in the shape
of various animals: mostly fish, but
also cows, cats, and birds.
Jacko was amazed! Was the
water putting on a show for him?
What was this pond?

Well, come and look.

“Huuh?” he said dreamily.

The water was putting some
sort of spell on him and he couldn’t
Sedated, he moved closer to
the edge. When liquid hands
grabbed him and pulled him in, he
didn’t even scream.
Jacko was sleepily submerged
in the pond, which became bigger

once under the surface. Under
wasn’t so bad, he thought to
himself. He noticed he felt free from
pain there. In fact, he felt great,
giddy, and happy!
When two big, green, gold fish
swam up to him with greetings,
Jacko shook their fins

“Let’s swim!” they said.
Jacko nodded and smiled.

Under the water was a whole
new world. He looked down and saw
his body had shrunk, but he was
unfazed by the sight!
They swam so fast! Jacko
couldn’t believe their speed. They
went worling for miles under the
Jacko’s head spun and he
grinned because it was fun to get

dizzy, there. The fish wanted to
teach him tricks, and Jacko grinned
and swam little figure eights.
He hadn’t had as much fun in a
long time, so when they invited him
to a goldfish tea party, he was so
happy that he did a flip out of water
for joy.
It was all fun until there was a
loud splash, and then knives cut
into his ankle.
Jacko turned to see it was a big
yellow dog. He tried to swim away,
but its grip was firm.
His legs slid through the
muddy, mossy bank. The green fish
grabbed his hands and tried to help
pull him back into the water.
Their efforts were useless
because the dog was too strong for
them all. The fish were clearly
angry, as was Jacko. They jumped
up and down through the surface,
waving their fins, in the shapes of
fists, at the dog.

Finally, the big yellow dog
pulled Jacko completely away from
the water. His front and face
smeared in the mud of the bank. He
turned and yelled, “Get off me, you
“Excuse me, but I am not a
“Okay,” said Jacko, realizing the
dog demonstrated intelligence. “Is
this a dream?”
“Yes and no, but that doesn’t
matter because I’ve come to help
“Help me with what?”
“Help you stay safe on your trip
“Sent by whom?”
“I can’t tell you that.”

“I was having fun! Why did you
have to pull me out?” he asked
“If you stay too long, you
become a fish. Look at your hands!”
Jacko looked and saw that they
had a funny greenish tinge.
“They’ll take you away from
reality. The pond goes a lot further
than just the ground.”
Jacko didn’t know what the
dog meant, and he didn’t bother to
ask because he was too busy taking
in its size, which was like small
“Were you licking my face a
moment ago? Why don’t I hurt
Jacko’s wounds felt stiff but
were no longer open and bloody.
“The water is healing, I
“This can’t be real.”

“Oh, yeah? Well, then, what’s
that?” said the dog looking down at
his feet.
“What’s what?”
He looked down and saw that
his ankle bled through his jeans.
Pain like knives stabbed at them
“What the heck?”
He felt queasy at seeing his
bleeding ankles. “Oh my,” he said
Feeling dizzy, Jacko closed his
eyes and almost passed out.

When he reopened them, he
was startled. No longer did he see a
yellow dog and bright blue sky, but
instead, just a night sky with stars
Still feeling nauseous, he closed
his eyes again, and when he opened
them, he gasped. No longer did he

see just a night sky, but he saw the
dog again, and the bright blue sky.
He was extremely confused,
but before he could ask the dog any
questions, he screamed.
His legs wobbled.
He closed his eyes one more
Once again, he opened them
and saw the night sky.
The pain from his ankles shot
up his legs. He looked down his legs
and saw he was flat on the ground.
Two large, slimy, grey skinned dogs
were pulling Jacko away by the
ankles, one in each mouth.
Suddenly, a loud, powerful bark
came from above his head. He
looked up and saw the yellow dog,
only he was smaller than a moment

To counterweight the mangy
dogs, the big yellow one sunk its
teeth into his shoulder, causing
Jacko to scream louder.
One of the dogs dropped his
leg so that it could bark at the
yellow dog.
Jacko swung his free leg and
kicked the mouth of the dog that
held his other ankle.
Upon force of contact, the dog’s
eyes turned red and his bark to a
loud screeching noise, like a dragon.
Jacko almost wet himself, but
the yellow dog yelled,
“Chupacabras! We gotta go!”
When Jacko remained still on
the ground, transfixed by the sight
of the mangy animals whose eyes
turned red, the dog yelled, “COME
ON!” and nipped him on the
The nip brought Jacko back to
awareness. Just in time, too,

because one of the dogs erupted in
scales along the spine of its back,
and breathed out a long forked

Behind them, he saw two more
dogs were coming from the rocks a
mile out.
When he stood, Jacko was
astounded to see that they nearly
carried him off while he was passed
out. He looked around for his bike,
but couldn’t see anything in the
darkness because there was no
traffic on that desolate stretch of

“Follow me,” said the dog once
The yellow dog led him to his
scooter, which was some 200 feet
back toward the road.

When he got close enough, he
The bike was no longer his little
250cc. Instead it was a full no name
bike with a side car that the yellow
dog leapt into.
“This isn’t my bike! I don’t
know how to ride it.”
“Just get on, it works the same
way; it’s just bigger.”
And then the dog pulled out a
helmet and goggles with its paws. It
pulled the visor down as the straps
magically buckled themselves.
“Stop gawking, Jacko! We gotta

He jumped onto the seat just as
one of the dogs leapt at him. He
turned the key and they sped off
down the road as the yellow dog
turned his head around and barked
behind them.

He managed a look in his side
mirror and gasped. They had
changed from dogs into little scaly,
dragon-like animals. They barked
and screeched as they tried to catch
up to the bike.
Jacko put on more speed and
the dragon-dogs were lost.
His heart pounded in his chest
for a few minutes as he tried to
understand what had happened. He
realized the yellow dog could have
answers for him but was afraid to
stop too soon.
Every few minutes, he would
look at the bike and dog to remind
himself that they were both real.
After another 40 miles east of
Reno, Jacko began to wind down. At
which point, he pulled over into a
deserted gas station for a rest.
He parked behind an empty gas
stand and took off his helmet, as did
the dog. Reaching in the back, he

pulled out a bottle of water and
took a few sips.
Jacko wondered to himself if the
dog would want water. It must have
heard his thoughts because he
looked into Jacko’s eyes with
comprehension, jumped out of the
side car, and ran to him.

“Okay,” he said and poured
water out in a thin stream to the
The dog stuck out its tongue
and tried to lick up as much of the
liquid as it could.
After another sip, he put the
bottle back in his luggage and sat
on the bike and said “Okay, talk.”
But the dog said nothing. He just
sat there breathing, dully, with his
tongue hanging long, down his

“Where did this bike come
from, huh?”
The dog just looked at him with
a blank stare.
Jacko sighed and pulled out his
bag of jerky, which he shared with
the dog. Finally he sighed again and
said “Alright, dog, don’t talk.”

He dug in the luggage area of
the bike and pulled out his sleeping
bag and tarp. He kicked all the little
rocks out of the way of his intended
Then he took off his shoes and
climbed inside his bag. The dog
walked to the bag and lay down
next to him. He stared up at the
stars as the dog leaned his head
back for Jacko to scratch him behind
the ears.

Red Skies, Blue Skies
Chapter 3
Hours later, Jacko woke to the sound
of cars riding fast along the road.
For a moment, he refused to open
his eyes. He laid there thinking
about the dream he’d had of the
funny blue sky, and some green fish
he’d made friends with, in a pond;
how he’d nearly ran over a dog, and
instead, wound up hurting himself.
Eyes still closed, he felt his ribs and
then his face: there was no pain.
He opened his eyes, yawned
deeply and looked around. There
was no yellow dog anywhere to be
seen. Turning over, he looked up
and his jaw dropped: there was the
black motorcycle with a sidecar.
Jacko got up to inspect the bike.
Slowly, he walked around it,
looking it up and down. Carefully,
he reached out a hand and touched
the bike with the tip of his fingers. It
was a lovely, dangerous looking

bike that gleamed under the sun. It
had large red lights in back that
looked like devil eyes.

Well, if this is a dream, it ain’t
bad, he thought.

“But where’s the dog?” he
said aloud.
He continued to think about the
dog as he packed his items. He liked
the idea of having a companion with
Then, just as he was about to
turn the ignition of the bike, he
heard a barking from behind. He
turned and smiled happily. The dog
ran from between tall yellow grass
and leapt into the sidecar.
He got off his bike, reached
into his luggage compartment and
pulled out a bag of jerky and a
bottle of water.

After the dog finished, Jacko got
on his bike and the dog leapt back
into the side car. He was about to
turn on the bike and go when he
realized the dog needed to be
strapped in.

“Well, alright. Go ahead, strap
yourself in,” he said.
Unlike last night, when the dog
was so full of life, he, now, sat there
breathing, dully.
Jacko slid off his seat and
strapped in the dog.
He looked into its eyes to see if
there was any recognition of what
happened between them the prior
night. When he saw that he was not
going to be satisfied, he decided to
forget about it.
“Just a dog,” he told himself.

They stopped in Lovelock,
Nevada, for breakfast at another
little no-name diner.
Outside, in the parking lot, he
told the dog to wait. As Jacko spoke
the simple words, he had a strong
feeling that the dog was only
pretending to be simple. Somehow,
he knew the dog knew exactly what
he was saying to him.

“Why are you pretending?”
Jacko asked.
The dog said nothing.

Inside, he was seated at a table
behind a family of four.
Jacko watched the Mother and
father trying to get a hold of their
two kids. The older girl was
laughing, obnoxiously, as she did
something, under the table, to the
younger boy.

“Stop kicking me,” the little boy
When she didn’t, he, then,
threw a handful of scrambled eggs
at her, which made her cry.
Jacko laughed as he watched
them because it reminded him of
when he and Sissy used to tease
each other, before his father ruined
their lives. He thought about his
conflicted feelings: jealousy and
anger yet envy that she could leave
while he stayed home. At the
moment, though, he was glad she
left because if she hadn’t, she
wouldn’t be able to help him, now.
After a plateful of pancakes,
eggs, and sausages, he left the
restaurant satisfied.
Outside the diner, upon
smelling the half dozen sausages
Jacko ordered for him, the dog got
extremely excited.

He jumped up and down while
squealing, barking, and running
around him in circles. A few feet
away, a couple and their children
frightfully froze. Not only was the
dog jumping around Jacko, but he
was jumping five feet up in the air.
Jacko hurried to his bike, where
he set down the foam container of
sausages. To Jacko’s relief, the dog
immediately stopped its leaping. A
few yards away, the couple and
their children continued to stare at
them for a few seconds before
going inside.
After the dog ate the
sausages, they went next door to
the small grocery store, but this
time, it was even worse.
“Okay, wait here, Dog.”
That had become the dog’s
unofficial name.
Dog nodded at Jacko who was
suspicious, once more, of Dog’s

intelligence; nevertheless, he
continued inside.
He didn’t dwell because his
main concern was getting back on
the road.
Jacko strolled up and down the
aisles, looking for the section of
bottled water. When he found it, he
grabbed two six packs, and then
walked over to the animal foods
A moment later, he was in line
behind two cute girls who looked
like they might have been twins.
Both were holding sodas and some
One was slightly shorter than
the other but they, both, were
skinny with long brown hair, all the
way down to their waists. When
they turned around, it was hard to
ignore the way their green eyes
glowed against their tan skin.
Both of the girls were trashy
looking in their dirty jeans, sandals,

and stained tee shirts. After
observing them a moment, Jacko
noticed the slightly taller one had a
longer, feminine face while the
shorter had a perfect jaw and full
lips. They looked to be about his
age. He couldn’t help noticing how
cute they were, together; they must
have been sisters.
Meanwhile, at the electronic
sliding doors exit, Dog stood,
watching Jacko. He wagged his tail
ferociously and sniffed at the air.
Jacko saw Dog’s eyes shift to the
girls in front of him, and wondered if
he knew that Jacko was attracted to

Just as long as he doesn’t start
showing off again.

The two kept looking behind, at
him, and giggling. Their behavior

made him feel especially dumb. He
figured it must have been his hair
that made them act as they did.
Sometimes, he got helmet head
after a long ride, and he selfconsciously moved his hand to run
it through his hair, but he dropped
the packs of water. The bottles
slammed to the floor and went
rolling in every direction.
In response to the loud
thudding noise, everyone in line
snapped their heads in his direction.
Jacko’s face turned deep red with

“Sorry,” Jacko mumbled.

A few moments later, he
struggled through the doors of the
store with his items. Dog must have
wandered off because he was no
longer near the exit.

As he was about to head
through the lot, he caught
something out of the corner of his
eye. Jacko snapped his head to the
right and saw the big 60lb ball of
yellowish white hair doing
continuous cartwheels.
Dog looked ridiculous with the
way he landed on his legs, and his
ears flopped about. Jacko panicked
when he looked around and saw
people stop and stare at Dog.
His mind raced with ideas
about how to leave unnoticed; he
even contemplated leaving him
Jacko felt like he could have
died, right there on the spot.
Fortunately, Dog stopped doing
cartwheels, but only to start
dancing on his hind legs in circles
around the girls who laughed,
hysterically. They tried to go but
Dog continued to block their way
by, next, walking on his back legs
and shaking its top in a shimmy.

Quickly, he looked left and right
at both entrances of the parking lot.
Beyond the girls, at the other end of
the parking lot, a police car stopped
to watch.
He was prompted to action
when a man, behind him, said
“Move it! You’re blocking the exit!”
The old man rammed him in
the back with his shopping cart.
Jacko stumbled in the direction of
Dog and the girls. He looked at the
dog and said, “Stop it!”
The dog immediately sat on its
rear. He looked around to see about
a dozen eyes still staring at them.
Some children were running over to
get a closer look, which Jacko knew
wasn’t good. He glanced back at
the other end of the parking lot, and
to his relief, saw that the cop had
“Cute dog,” said the slightly
taller girl with the green eyes, and
they both walked off.

Jacko didn’t say anything.
He watched them walk away,
and then he saw two more kids
running in his direction, “Hey! Is
that your dog?”
Not waiting for an answer, they
pet Dog.
“Stay!” said Jacko. “And don’t
do anymore tricks!”
He walked back to his bike and
stowed away his items. Then he
mounted and rode over to where
the kids were still playing with Dog.
“Get in,” he said through
gritted teeth.

As he went to strap in Dog, at
the far end of the little plaza, he
saw the girls looking at him. He put
on his helmet and rode the bike,
slowly, toward the end of the lot
where the girls waved him down. He

really wanted to stop and talk to the
cute girls, but he rode on.

Many hours later, they reached
the outskirts of Salt Lake City where
Jacko managed to check into
another Motel 6.
Wearily, he stumbled into the
room, fell on the bed, and didn’t
move for twelve hours.
In his dream, he visited the
place he saw when he was passed
out on the road. Again, he stood on
the funky green moss that burned
his hand, except he wasn’t in the
bald spot. This time, some things
were very different; like the sky that
was lined with a red horizon, and
the way it stretched across the sky,
and then turned into a crisp,
blinding, blue horizon.
As his eyes traced the horizon
a 100 feet to his right, he saw that

the exact point, where the color
changed from red to blue, served as
a division between a land bathed in
red, and the land, that he stood on,
which was bathed in blue.
Jacko could see into the red
land as though looking through a
stained glass window. The red tinted
land reminded him of the pictures
he’d seen of Mar’s atmosphere.
Curious, he walked toward the
land bathed in red, and as he got
closer, an ill feeling came over him.
The trees, plants, and mossgrass were all black, there.
A feeling that he should not
continue to that side overwhelmed
him, but he could never fight his
Instinct told him that he could
be making a big mistake, but he
stuck his hand through the division,
anyway. When he felt nothing,
except extreme cold, he decided to
walk through to the red side.

Wow, he thought to himself.

Jacko wished he could see more
of the strange, red world. He wished
he were bigger so he could run
through it and see it faster.
Then he looked down and
realized that he was bigger. No
longer was he looking at a barrage
of black shrubs, but instead, he saw
numerous mountain peaks.
Despite an increased feeling of
foreboding, as he saw nothing but
blackness and red sky for miles, he
walked toward the mountain direct
in his path, and when he felt it was
taking too long to get there, he ran.
The ground trembled, like an
Earthquake, as he trampled shrubs
into dust; trees snapped, like
toothpicks, into halves.

When he approached the
mountain, he leapt onto its peak,
sending massive quakes through
the ground for many miles.
Atop the peak, he was not too
pleased at what he saw of the cold,
dreary, red world.
At the base was a black-as-coal
lake. When he jumped onto the
peak, he landed just in time to see
waves of black sludge move slowly
across the still surface.
He turned 45 degrees to his left
where he saw a small forest below
him. He looked up and, in the
distance, saw a huge black castle
with lights on inside.
Suddenly, a question occurred
to him: If everything was red, cold
and black on that side, what kind of
creatures could possibly live in that
Jacko didn’t want to meet any
dark creatures from that cold, cold
world. He leapt off the mountain

peak and ran back to the land that
was bathed in blue. Immediately, he
felt better, almost as if a wet
blanket had been lifted off his
The blue skied land was much
warmer, and much more beautiful.
At Jacko’s height, he noticed
there was one thing missing from
this sky. He did a slow 360 degree
turn to confirm what he didn’t see:
the sun.

There was no sun.

As Jacko continued to search
the sky, he realized that there were,
also, no clouds.
After a few moments of
contemplation, he decided to forget
about it, and go explore.
In the vast distance, he saw
oceans that gleamed, in a strange

way, under the light of the red
horizon. Behind the ocean, there
were mountains with trees that held
enormous round, red berries. He
wanted to swim in the water and
pick one of the fruits.
Jacko picked up, fast, running
for miles and miles, breathing in the
funny molecule air that tickled his
stomach while giving him energy.
With every touchdown of his
foot, the ground quaked and the
trees quivered. He leapt over hills
and skipped over small ponds; he
didn’t stop until he fell into the cool
Some of the water leaked into
his mouth, and Jacko tasted that it
was fresh water. He swallowed a
gulp, and it coated his insides,
making him feel quenched in a way
he’d never felt before; almost as
though he’d never be thirsty again.
Jacko used his humungous
arms to swim back to land, and as

he crawled back onto the shore, he
saw that he was normal sized again.

“What is wrong with you?”
asked an angry voice.

He looked to his left and
suffered a shock.
Apparently, the man, who stood
there, was mad at him. That was
okay, but his appearance scared
him because he didn’t look like any
man from Earth.
What spoke to him was a face
as white and glossed as carved
marble. His eyes were even more
disturbing to look at, with their
shiny, black onyx texture to
contrast. His marbled hair looked
just as solid as the rest of his skin,
and came down in perfect, shiny,
brown waves around his body,
which was adorned in a toga with a
gold buckle.

Jacko stared at the man, but
said nothing.

“You’re not from here, so we
don’t have to tolerate you. Best you
behave, or you’ll not be allowed
His marble cheeks fired a rosy
red across his white artificial skin,
like touching a mood ring.
“Where am I? What have I done
wrong?” Jacko asked defiantly.
He sat up and noticed that his
clothes were dry.
“You’re in the heaven of the
gods, and you’re running about like
a fool, disturbing those who rest.”
“You’re God?”
“I see you don’t pay attention.”

“Why are you angry? I’m just
having fun.”
“You’ll show respect, or you’ll
be returned to Earth. Also, I
recommend staying away from the
red lands, for they’re very
“How do you know where I’ve
“I know you’re from Earth
because your flesh is rotting with
age, and it reeks. I can smell your
filth from over here. I know you’ve
been in the red lands because I was
Jacko opened his mouth to
reply, but thought better of it. The
man scared him.
“Don’t worry, I won’t harm
you. You can come home with me
and wash up, and then you’ll return
to your room.”

My room? How does he know?

He motioned, with his hand,
that Jacko should rise and follow
“I’m Althenio. Once I was a
god of good fortune, and I would
give good fortune to men who
deserved it.”
Jacko hardly believed him, but
he asked, anyway, “How long ago
was that?”
“To me, it seems like
yesterday. For you, it would be tens
of thousands of years ago. Now
there is no work for me, or beings
like me, so we’re retired, here. Man
wants to do things on his own and
in his own way. We’ve done what
you wished: left Earth alone.”
“But what am I doing here?”

“You’re not the first to come
here, accidentally. You’re a gifted
boy, I presume.”
“What do you mean by gifted?
I still hardly believe this is real.”
Althenio seemed to tire of the
conversation and merely said, “Just
watch yourself as you come and go
because there are demons out there
that will get you,” he said. “Demons
are hunters. Once a demon gets
your scent, it’s for life.”
“What would they do with me,
“If you’re lucky, they’ll
torture, kill, and maybe eat your
flesh; if you are unlucky, they may
swallow your soul or worse, such as
enslavement or possession.”
“Haha. Yeah, right, haha.
Ouch!” Althenio grabbed Jacko, with
his marble grip, by the arm and
yanked him back so that they saw
each other eye-to-eye.

He let go of his arm and
continued to walk; Jacko followed.
“Demons really possess
“In your body, they walk
amongst the living where they can
hunt and wreak terror on a massive
scale. Do you want to be
responsible for that, arrogant boy?”
Jacko said nothing, and he
continued, “The last time a
possession took place, it took 100 of
us to bring the demon back. Then
there are other things they could do
that would be equally as bad.”
“Like what?”
“Do you really want to hear
“They could keep you alive for
centuries, and use you to their
purpose, or recycle you into the
volcano of life.”

“What’s that?”
But Althenio remained silent.
“Oh boy, I hope I never meet a
“Yes, well, then stay out of the
red lands.”

Jacko flashed back to the
scene on the side of the road with
the scaly dogs and he shivered.
“You’re nearly correct, Jacko.
The dogs that attacked you were, in
fact, demon hounds.”
Althenio, apparently, could
read minds.
“They are equally as vicious,”
he continued. “I’d run if I saw them,
and if I were you.”
Jacko felt panic and said, “But
what did they want with me?”

They walked up a dirt road.
Jacko looked down and noticed the
gravel was moving in convection
like patterns under his feet.

“I’m sorry, Jacko. I don’t know
why demon hounds were trying to
carry you off. Have you ever
dreamed of the red lands before?”
“Dreamed of the red lands?
No, never, I don’t think.”
He was suddenly distracted by
the gravel that formed a pattern of
his and Althenio’s, footsteps, and
then made impressions ahead of
them, as if a ghost walked in front
of them.
“Why is the gravel doing that?”
“Heaven knows where we want
to go; it’s showing us the way.”
“What do you mean?”
“If you should want, ask heaven
and it will provide.”

“Yeah, but, how does it know
where we want to go?”
“Heaven knows where I want us
to go, and it’s leading us there, not
that I need directions. It’s only
doing these patterns so you know
how to come back.”
“Are you saying the gravel is
heaven? And that heaven is alive? ”
“Everything, here, is heaven
and, yes, it lives. The living needs
something alive to live off of, in
order to live. If heaven were to die,
then so would we.”
Completely confused, Jacko
decided not to ask any more
questions. Instead he watched as
the gravel continued to predict his
steps. He thought how great it must
be to never get lost, and to never
need maps.
He reached down and ran his
fingers through the gravel, but
instead of a rough, hard grain, he
felt a soft porridge-like consistency.

Jacko grabbed a handful and it
jiggled its way around his palm and
fingers, back down to the ground.
When the gravel pulled up from the
ground in the shape of a large
finger and started to poke his hand,
he laughed.
“You see, innocent one, heaven
Frighteningly, Althenio smiled,
broadly, revealing two rows of
perfect white teeth, of which Jacko
couldn’t help but imagine that to be
bitten by them would surely mean
losing a hunk of flesh.
“Why do you call me
“I always admire the young
whose appeal is genuine. It’s men
that I can’t stand, for they are,
mostly, arrogant beyond logic.”
“Does that mean you won’t like
me in a couple years?”

Althenio laughed a powerful
roar that echoed to the very heart
of Jacko’s body. He did not answer
Jacko, and he said no more.
He put his arm around his
shoulders and led him up the path
to his house which looked like a few
sticks of wood glued, scrappily,
together. Once inside, however, it
was a huge, cozy, wood cabin with
an enormous armchair, a tall
fireplace, and a fluffy, white, hearth
The fireplace stood five and a
half feet tall, and when the fire
suddenly shot up, Jacko jumped
back. When the suddenness of the
fire wore off, he became
mesmerized by the color of the
fluorescent orange flames.
He leaned in a bit so that he
could see each particle of the blaze
bounce. Then, he noticed how the
fireplace didn’t have a chimney, and
leaned in closer to see how the
flames licked at the walls without
scorching them.

Just as he reached a hand to
test the flame, Althenio warned him
that in heaven, he could burn
eternally and never die.
Althenio sat in the large arm
chair and Jacko on a large pouf. He
put his hands together and
appeared to pray.
Right before his eyes, particles,
in their convection like patterns,
sped up so fast that they became
hard to see. Then, they molded
together and turned a steady shade
of brown.
A few seconds, he realized the
particles were being made into a
table by Althenio, who was still in a
prayer position. Jacko kept quiet
and continued to watch, amazed.
As the table finished coming
together, a pot of tea, a loaf of
bread, and a block of cheese
appeared, too. After it was all done,
Althenio handed him a basket of

Jacko used the humungous
knife and three pronged fork that,
also, magically appeared, to help
some venison onto his plate, with
bread and cheese.

“How did you do that?”
“Here, mind rules matter. We
simply will it and it comes.”
“I wish I could do that.”
“You can.”
“How did you get big? How did
you get small?”
“Oh, haha. Can I stay here?”
“All in due time, Jacko, or when
you’re ready.”
“Ready for what? You mean
when I die?”

Althenio said no more and
poured some tea into their cups.
Although plain, the food was
the best he’d ever had. The venison
meat was actually tender, and the
wholesome bread made him smile
so big.
All of the sudden, he felt so
good and so happy because heaven
was such a wonderful place! He was
light like a feather.
He looked down and saw that
he floated a few inches off his pouf.
Althenio smiled as he watched
him enjoy himself.
Jacko felt urgent, like he
couldn’t enough food into his
mouth. He shoveled bread and
venison in, jam packing his mouth
as tightly as he could, but the food
never ran out.
It occurred to him that he was
acting strange, but he couldn’t stop!

He reached for a goblet that
appeared by the side of his plate.
Deeply, he drank and drank
and drank. He couldn’t drink fast

Suddenly, right in the middle
of a gulp, Althenio grabbed his cup
and said, “I’m sorry, but you must
go now.”
Jacko was chewing a huge
bite of the venison and gulping tea
straight from the pot, and it
dribbled down his clothes. He
choked and sputtered “what?” as he
wiped himself with a tea cozy.
“I’m so sorry, Jacko, but you
were spotted. You may come and
visit me again, but you must be
more careful next time. I can’t have
them coming here.”
Jacko didn’t know what
Althenio was talking about but he
didn’t want to leave. The food made

him extremely happy, and
Althenio’s news made him very sad.

He started crying, although he
didn’t know why. There was
something strange about the food.
Trying to break through the
irrational he was experiencing, he
was just able to mutter, “Who’s
“Take this,” said Althenio. The
food bundled itself. “Come later and
He tossed the bundle at Jacko
and with the snap of Althenio’s
…Jacko was running through
the sky, toward the bright red
horizon. He didn’t know how, but he
knew he needed to make it over
that red line.
He heard a loud, honking wail,
like the sound of an elephant, and

looked behind him. He breathed in
fast at the sight of the black,
leathery skin, enormous horns
poking out of its head, and red,
leering, eyes. Looking down, at the
lower half of its body made Jacko
gag, for the demon had the legs
and hoofed feet of a goat.
In its hand, it held a silver
trident. Jacko flinched at the sight of
the demon raising its black fleshy
arm. He ran faster because the
demon sent red bolts at him.
He was getting closer to the sky
line. A few more feet, and he
jumped, as high as he could, over
the red horizon, and as he came
…He woke, and shot up in bed.
His heart pounded; sweat
leaked down his face and rolled off
his chin.
The sun was blazing through a
crack in the curtains. He looked at
the alarm clock; it was almost four

p.m. Right next to him was a white
bundle that Dog was sniffing,
He opened the bundle and saw
food inside: bread, cheese, and
meat. Only, the food was not
irresistible, but it was small, puny,
and barely appetizing to the eye.
The meat was shriveled and dry
while the bread smelled strongly of
yeast. Dog, however, was sniffing
hungrily at it, so he let him eat it.
Jacko paced up and down the
What the heck was going on?
Was he in danger? Even the dog
was strange. How did he get here?
“Hey, Dog! Talk to me!”
He just stared.
Jacko decided to wash up and
worry about it later. Whatever was
going on, he was just going to go
with it, as it seemed that he had no
choice anyhow. He only needed to

make it to Sissy’s and everything
would be fine.
Jacko made to pack his
belongings, but he lagged. He was
so tired; almost as though he didn’t
get an ounce of sleep. He stood and
waivered there, next to the bed,
and fell back down.
Before he did anything, Jacko
needed to rest more because he
couldn’t ride that way. What if he
had another accident? Strange,
though. He’d been in that bed many
Sluggishly, he pulled himself
back under the covers. Concord
was, still, thirty-four hours away,
without stopping. He needed to be
going, but he just couldn’t move.
Sleep came undisturbed until
there was a knock at the door. The
motel manager told him he needed
to pay another day, if he was going
to stay.

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