And He Called the Darkness Night

I remember the night I saw her sitting on the dock by our cottage on the lake under the newly risen full moon. Legs hanging over the calm, black waters of the lake, her silhouette casting a dark shadow on the wooden pier. I had awakened sometime past sunset and had stepped out of the old wooden house to smoke a cigarette. I thought I was alone until I sensed her presence. My companions and I had specifically chosen this place because of its seclusion so I was surprised to see someone this late in the evening. Having no one know of our whereabouts was important to us at this time so finding a stranger so close to our cottage unnerved me a bit. Before making my way towards our unexpected visitor I took one last drag from my cigarette and tossed it out into the grass.

I didn’t attempt to hide my steps as I walked onto the creaking wood of the pier because I was curious and didn’t want to startle her. When I reached the dock’s edge I looked down to have a better view of her. She had pulled her long white dress exposing her knees to keep it above the water. I couldn’t see her face but from the back, I noticed her long, straight black hair reaching down to the old wooden planks of the pier. She seemed not to have taken notice of me until I spoke.

“Are you aware that you are trespassing on private property?” I spoke. I startled her as if I had awakened her from deep thought.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said. “I saw the house earlier today and thought it was abandoned.”

Not completely untrue. Few knew it was occupied and fewer still knew of its occupants.

“Well, now you know.”

I bent down and slid next to her. That’s when I turned my head and look at her face for the first time. It was a soft profile, nothing angular about it. A small nose with an even smaller mouth underneath it, a pronounced but well-rounded chin. Her eyes, though, were her most remarkable feature. Wide and almond-shaped, her irises were as black as the dark waters of the lake.

She was about to get up when I stopped her and introduced myself.

“Please, don’t go, my name is Steven Elbridge. I own this property”

“Hello,” she said in a soft melodious voice.

“And you are…?”

“Laila? No last name?”

“Just Laila.”

“Well, just Laila, what brings you out here this late at night?” I asked fascinated by this wonderfully delicate creature.

“I was walking along the beach when I came across the pier and decided to sit for a while. I like going out at night, especially on warm ones like this, to view the lake and to look up at the moon and the stars. Isn’t it wonderful?”

The beauty of nature is something I never tried to appreciate but on this occasion, sitting next to her, I understood what she meant.

“It’s the quietness, mostly, that I find so fascinating. It’s soothing and calm. It helps clear my mind and I feel, well, you’re going to think it silly, but it makes me feel like I’m part of it. You know, the darkness, I feel like its wraps itself all around me; keeps me safe and warm.” She added a soft giggle as she said the last words.

She wasn’t aware of how truly dangerous the darkness of the night can be. Things move around in the cover of night, terrible things, some of which can cause great harm. Tonight, though, she was safe sitting next to me. That’s when I noticed how quiet the night was. Not a cricket sang in the woods nor was there the occasional disturbance of the water by fish hunting for prey. It was silent except for her voice.

“Yes, yes, I guess you are right. It is wondrous.”

She laughed again. “You talk funny. You’re a bit strange. I bet you’re not from around here.” Laila’s expression then changed realizing she may have said something wrong. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say that. Sometimes I just blurt things out without thinking.”

“That’s okay, don’t worry.” I don’t know why but I felt like I needed to be apologetic. She was right, I wasn’t from around here and her observation could be a problem. An idea then came to me. “Would you like to come inside?”

“Oh no, no. I need to be going. I live on the other side of the lake and I should be heading back.” Laila got up and began to walk towards the beach.

“Maybe I can walk you home?”

“No, that’s okay. I can find my way back by myself. I don’t want to trouble you.” Not walking home with a stranger, smart girl.

“It wouldn’t be. I’ll just tell my friends inside-”

“Please, don’t worry. I’ll be fine.” She said this as her bare feet reached the patch of grass before the path that led into the forest, and I had stood at the end of the dock. I  resist the desire to follow her but decided, for my sake and hers, not to.
“Will I see you again?” I shouted as she ran along towards the path in the woods. From a distance, within the forest, I heard her reply, “Maybe.”

I stood there alone for a few minutes contemplating what had occurred and wondered why I wasn’t following her. At least, for the sake of keeping our location a secret, it would have been wise to know where she lived. I shook my head of those thoughts, lit another cigarette, and made my way back to the cottage. Just before I opened the screened door I took one last look at the blackness of the lake and noticed the crickets were singing in the forest.

Inside were my three companions. Raffi and Simon were laying on the couch, entangled in each other’s limbs, scrolling on social media. Dar sat alone, as always, on a stool by the bar with a glass in one hand and a cigarette in the other. All three looked up and stared at me with big grins on their faces as if they had just shared a private joke at my expense. Dar took a sip of something dark red out of her wine glass before putting the cigarette out in an ashtray. The television was on, a newscaster’s voice was giving the local weather report. Raffi, the brasher of the two lovers, spoke first.

“So, Elbie, who’s the chick you were talking to?”

I felt annoyed by his question.

“Yeah, Steven, who was she?” Dar asked in her most accusatory voice. Dar could be very abrasive when she wanted to be. I calmed myself down before I answered them.

“Nobody, a local I think. We didn’t talk much before she had to leave.”

Simon, who was normally the quiet one, spoke up. “I think Dar’s right, Steve. Do you think it was smart to let her go? I mean, what if she tells someone we’re here?”

I could read the anxiety in his eyes. He always worried we would be discovered.

“I don’t think we have anything to worry about, Simon.”

“But what if she does talk? What then? Not smart, Steven, not smart at all.” Her anger showing, Dar stood up from the stool and approached me from across the living room.

I tried to reassure them. “She won’t. Besides, if she shows up again I’ll follow her and take care of it.”

“You’ll take care of it,” mocked Raffi.

“I said, I’ll take care of it.”

We three have been together for several years now and we’re like family. I met Raffi and Simon at a dance club in Soho, they were lovers back then too, in a night of hedonistic revelry. They were a pair looking for an adventurous night and I, well, I provided the entertainment. They have been with me ever since. Raffia and Simon weren’t your typical representatives of the LGBT community. There have been more than a few times when I’ve walked out on them because I found their antics a bit excessive. One particular “game” they were fond of playing was their sadistic version of “Monkey in the Middle”. That’s when they blindfolded and hand-tied their victim and proceed to use a baseball bat whenever their target got near to them. Another one of their escapades was “the pigeon drop”. That’s where the boys would indiscriminately push an individual off the roof of a building and bet on how big of a mess they could make when the person finally reached the ground. Most of the time, though, at least when they weren’t bored, they were tolerable and even mildly amusing. Yet, despite all their cruelty the bond they shared between them was so deep I have to admit I envied them. Their love for each other was so passionate I know death itself couldn’t tear them apart.

Dar was different. At seventeen, her mom kicked her out of their house and had been alone when we three found her. Dar wasn’t into guys, or even women, but was willing to do what she had to do to survive in the streets. We took her in, not asking for any favors, and soon found out she came in handy when we were on the hunt. Predators are what we were. She was particularly good with children and had an uncanny knack for putting them at ease and gaining their confidence. They trusted her and did everything she asked. We purposely looked for the ones people wouldn’t miss and preyed upon them. It was because of this that we ended up in the northern part of the state; to hide among the scattered cottages along the lonely, forested roads by the lake until things cooled off a bit and we could return or move elsewhere.

We had left the city when one of the human trafficking outfits we traded with got raided by local law enforcement. We got a tip from one of our associates that the police had arrested everyone at the house we dealt in. Dealers, by their very nature, were unscrupulous and I knew the one they had arrested couldn’t be trusted to keep his mouth shut. He would have easily turned me and my companions to the authorities on the promise of a lesser charge. I hadn’t lived this long by being stupid. So, Raffi, Simon, Dar, and I decided to seek refuge in a cottage I had purchased some time ago just for this very purpose. Here, with no one around for miles, we would rest quietly, so I thought. It was by complete surprise to me to find someone out on the dock that night.

The next night Laila returned. There she was, same dress, same lovely hair, and beautiful eyes, sitting on the dock as she was the night before. I approached her, just as I had, and sat down next to her. Same black waters, same night but with the moon a little less full than before. This time, though, it was she who spoke first.

“Hi, I want to apologize for leaving so quickly last night,” she said in that same soft tone I found so pleasing.

“That’s okay,” I said in a way that I found surprisingly mimicked her calmness. “I was hoping you would return.” She softly laughed at my remark. Same laugh as the night before.

“I was hoping you’d say that.”

I found myself strangely attracted to her, like a moth to a flame. The look in her eyes, the way her lips moved as she spoke, the way her dark hair cradled the pale skin of her face, all these things awakened a desire in me I hadn’t felt for a very long time. Her small delicate features, so child-like and innocent, contrasted with eyes so deep with age. A thought that had never come to me before slowly crept into my mind. I wanted her! I wanted to be possessed by her! If I could just sit next to her for all eternity I would be content.

We spoke for a while just me and her. We talked about the night again, the darkness, how calm and soothing it was. We talked about the ageless stars and the charming moon. We conversed for a few moments on the things that dwelt in the night, both real and imaginary. And I, listening to everything she said, felt so serene. She had a mystical presence that held a spell over me. Then the time had come for her to leave.

“Must you go?” I asked, almost pleading.

“I have to. It’s getting late.”

Laila got up and, as she had the night before, she made her way towards the beach and then to the path that led through the forest. But, unlike the night before, I decided to follow her. I had made a promise to my companions I now wish I could take back. I needed to keep our whereabouts secret, I told myself. I needed to take care of the danger she posed. As much as I desired her I knew her existence was a threat to us.

I let her get ahead of me just enough for me to see her yet not too close for her to notice me. The forest was dark, but my eyes were well enough adjusted for me to follow her white dress. I moved quickly yet watched where I stepped so as not to make a sound that would give me away. The insects helped to cover my movements for they had started back with their nightly music. Surprisingly, Laila mirrored my silence and agility as if she was aware I was following her. I thought it impossible and yet there she was in manner. She turned into a bend in the path, and I lost sight of her for the moment. As I followed I saw the path open up into a clearing and then the beach but no sight of Laila. She was gone! I looked back behind me, retraced my footsteps hoping I took the wrong way, but no other paths were leading another way. Laila had vanished and all there was, all I could see, were a few dim lights from scattered houses in the distance and a lonely beach.

“You lost her! Bullshit!’ screamed Dar. “We saw you talking to her for hours! Why did you wait so long?”

Dar and the two lovers had been watching Laila and myself as we talked on the pier. They saw how she got up and entered the woods and how I followed her. When I returned my companions were under the impression I had taken care of our problem. But when I explained how she vanished they all howled in disbelief. Raffi spoke then.

“I’m with Dar. You let her go.” Raffi was standing next to Simon who stood by the old plaid couch they normally occupy. “We saw how you were looking at her.”

In silence, I put out my third cigarette in the ashtray on the dinette set. I was seething with anger as I sat in the chair next to the table. It vexed me how brazen they were with their accusations. I was tired and heard enough. It had been a long evening and the last thing I wanted to hear was any more of their squabbling. They weren’t there. They didn’t know what it was like to be in Laila’s company. They certainly didn’t know how I felt when I realized I had lost her. It tore me apart. Not only because of the missed opportunity but she had vanished, and I wasn’t sure she would ever come back.

“I’m going to sleep,” I said as I got up from my chair and made for my room. “I suggest you three do the same.” They were all standing in the living room when I closed the door to my bedroom.

The next night I overslept again. Since leaving the city I had been ill at ease and had not been sleeping or eating right. It didn’t help that the provisions we had brought were proving to be unappetizing and, with the threat of discovery hanging over our heads, I felt very stressed. I awoke restlessly and feeling the burden of age. Shuffling across the floor of the bedroom I tried the door. It was locked from the outside! I banged hard with my fists and cried out loud for my release. At first, I heard nothing. Then I heard conspiring whispers coming from the living room before the sound of a key moving and tumblers shifting within the door’s lock. I pushed on the door hard, almost taking off its hinges, and entered the room. I let out a grieving wail at the scene that greeted me.

The great couch in the middle of the room was soaked with blood and in the midst of it was Laila’s lifeless body. She was in an upright sitting position, her arms marked heavily with multiple puncture wounds as they were stretched out along the backrest of the sofa. Her neck, in an unnatural and twisted position, had a heavy gash where her carotid would be. Raffi and Simon sat on either side of Laila, content and satisfied, as Dar sat on her favorite stool by the bar. Dar’s fangs still dripped crimson along her lip line from the meal she just consumed. I was enraged.

“What have you done?!” I screamed. I launched myself over the couch and landed squarely in front of the two men. In fright, they tried to escape but I grab each one by their shirt collars and threw them across the room. Dar hissed and jumped towards me. My fist caught her in her midriff, and she landed roughly on the dinette set breaking it. When I recovered I looked upon what they had done and came to the realization that they accomplished what I failed to do. We were desperate creatures with a consuming hunger and she, poor innocent sweet Laila, was nourishment. Even then, as tempting as she was to me, as much as I needed her, I refused to drink.

“What’s the matter, Steven? I know you’re as hungry as we are,” Dar chided from where the table now laid toppled over.

“She showed up like she had the two nights before,” added Simon as he recovered from hitting one of the living room walls. “She knocked on the screen door asking for you, Steve.”

“We let her in,” it was Raffi this time. “We told her you were sleeping and, well…”

“You said you’d take care of it!” Dar was up now and ready for another round. “Well, we took care of it! She won’t be telling anyone where we are! AND SHE WON’T BE VANISHING INTO THIN AIR ANYTIME SOON!”

Disgusted, I pushed a defensive Dar out of my way, went into the refrigerator, and pulled out one of the bags of blood we hastily robbed from a Red Cross blood bank we broke into before we left town. I tore hungrily into it, feeling the cold, dead fluid run down my throat, and when I could drink no more, threw the almost empty bag into the kitchen sink. It was cold and old, but it had done the trick. I was filled and the desire for Laila’s sweet offerings was quenched. I restored my composure and addressed my companions.

“Now that you have decided to take matters into your own hands you will now clean up your mess.” All three looked at me in indignation. “I meant NOW!”

I grabbed my pack of cigarettes from my bedroom as they began to straighten up the room and take out cleaning supplies. I avoided their stares as I stepped outside and made out to the pier. I listened to the crickets sing as I sat on the lonely dock and lighted my cigarette.

The next night I was awakened by a cry I had never heard before. A low-sounding moan and sob coming from one of the other rooms. I hurried out of my bedroom and made my way down the hallway to where I heard the commotion. It was coming from the lovers’ room. The door was ajar, and Dar was already there. Raffi was sobbing as he laid over Simon’s body on the bed. Simon! Vampires normally have a slightly pale complexion but even then, if kept well-nourished, we appear to have the resemblance of the living. Not so with Simon, not now anyway. He was ashen and thin in countenance and more worrisome, unconscious. His skin had become leathery and desiccated and there were scattered blotches like pox all over him. It did not seem possible for one of the undead, but he looked as if he was truly dead!

“Steve, please, help,” Raffi pleaded as he saw me enter. “I woke up as soon as the sun went down and normally Simon wakes up after me. But, tonight, he didn’t even stir. I shook him and he wouldn’t wake up! What’s wrong with him, Steve?”

I stood there next to Dar not knowing what to say or do. In the many decades that have passed since I’ve been turned, I never would have thought something like this possible. Yes, daylight can do us harm, even destroy us if we prolong the exposure. There is the blood of the dead that could make us ill, but we have always been good at avoiding it even if we were in short of supply. We weren’t carrion eaters. Even if we could not feed for some time, which has happened in the past, we only have to lay dormant, with the appearance of death, until we sense something living to nourish us. A scavenging animal or a person eventually stumbles upon us, and we feed. But this? I motioned Dar to grab a bag from the refrigerator thinking it would help. When she came back I tore a hole with my teeth and let the red droplets fall into Simon’s gaping mouth. Nothing happened. He remained still. I eventually drained the whole bag and watched the crimson liquid spilling out of his mouth. Simon was truly dead.

Later that night we buried our poor sweet Simon next to the grave he had dug for Laila. Two bodies, in the forest, one taken by violence and the other by some unknown agent. We sat in the living room, Dar at her stool, me on the couch, and Raffi, uncomfortable in the only chair left of the dinette set. Dar finally said something.

“I don’t get it. This sort of thing isn’t supposed to happen. Right? I mean, am I right?”

“I don’t know,” I said. Raffi remained silent in his grief.

“Steven, do you think there was something wrong with the blood we took from the bank?” Dar had an unfounded fear of blood-borne pathogens. Maybe it was because of her previous occupation as a prostitute or of some experience from earlier in her childhood. She always checked her victims for needle marks before she bit into them. This is why I think she preferred children or young adolescents to feed upon.   

“I don’t think so,” I answered her. “We all drank from it, and we would have known right away if there was something wrong.”

“I think she had something to do with it.” Dar and I looked in Raffi’s direction, he had broken his silence. “Maybe she told someone we were here. They could have entered the cottage while we were sleeping and did something to Simon.”

“That impossible!” I said as I looked at him with astonishment.

“Why not?’ Raffi continued to argue. “How would we know? You don’t know where she went after you lost her in the woods. As far as we know, she could have lived in any one of those houses along the lake. When she didn’t return, whoever she told about us could have gone out to look for her and found us instead. We all heard the stories about vampire killers”

“Fairy tales,” snide Dar. “Stories vampires tell each other to drive the competition out.”

“We would have known. I would have known,” I said for it had happened before. Once, in the city, a burglar broke into a house I was staying in during the daylight hours. Because the sunlight was bad for us I always kept the windows well shaded as to not let even a sliver of sunlight in. As I laid sleeping I sensed the thief breaking in. I heard him noisily stumbling through the house looking for anything he could steal. He was surprised to see he wasn’t alone. He was even more surprised to see me lounge towards him ready to put my fangs into him. No, if anyone had entered the house while we were sleeping I would have known. Then a thought occurred to me that even I found hard to believe. But could it be?

“Do you two think that maybe it was Laila?” I asked. Dar rolled her eyes thinking I was taking Raffi’s side. “Not as Raffi suggested. Dar, do you think that maybe it could have been in her blood?” Raffi contorted his face in confusion as he tried to understand what I meant and Dar shook her head more dismissive than before. It pained me deeply to hear her response.

“I doubt it, Steven, she was fresh, warm, and clean. I know good blood when tasting it. Hers was sweet like a newborn. No, I think you’re wrong there. If anything, my money is on that filthy blood we stole.”

That’s when we ended our argument that night.

On the fifth night of our stay at the cottage, it was Dar’s turn not to awaken. As with Simon she had to succumb to the same ailment that had afflicted them. Raffi and I began to uncharacteristically worry. This is something that wasn’t supposed to happen to us and yet it was. Raffi still didn’t believe me when I said nobody has been in the house while we slept. He couldn’t, wouldn’t accept it. So, he took matters into his own hands. Some time ago he had purchased surveillance cameras just in case we needed additional protection from pesky onlookers. They were small, easily hidden, and could be synced to our smartphones. Later, we could watch the videos the motion-activated cameras recorded. Raffi planted three of them strategically around the rooms and at dawn turned them on.

On the sixth night of our stay, I was the only one left. Raffi was dead, really dead, just like the rest of them and I was not going to stay and be next. I thought that even if it was an unknown agent in our environment, tainted blood, or sickness, I prefer to meet my end as far away from this place as I could get. Let’s say it was something particular to the cottage, some virulent strain specific to our kind, would it not be wiser to leave than to prolong exposure? What if it was in the blood we consumed? Deer were plentiful in the woods. Then there was the occasional hiker walking alone. If the blood was tainted I could hunt for sustenance and not risk suffering the same fate as my companions.

Leaving Raffi’s rapidly putrefying corpse where it laid in his room, I quickly packed what I could take into a small suitcase. I only took a few things; a change of clothing, multiple passports if I decided to leave the country, and the couple of thousand in cash I always kept while on the run and loaded them into the Rover Ranger Sport we drove on our way to the cottage. I went back in to retrieve my phone and charger and that’s when I remember the surveillance cameras Raffi had planted the night before. Not wanting to leave anything behind that would incriminate me of some wrongdoing, I removed them from their hiding spots and placed them in a carryall I was going to take along with my luggage. That’s when curiosity got the better of me. What if Raffi was right. What if instead of something causing my associates’ unfortunate demise it was someone. I had dismissed the possibility the night before but now I couldn’t take the risk if I was wrong. Knowing it was one threat or the other bettered my chances to escape.

I looked for the app on my phone and opened it. I then scrolled down to the correct date, time, and camera angle in the recordings and tapped the screen to play. On my phone screen, I saw the living room as it would have looked when we slept. The room was heavily darkened by the shades I had erected yet you could still make out items as if it was lighted. All seemed calm and I was about to shut it down when I saw a shadow moving in the hallway leading to our bedrooms. The shadow became more defined as it moved into the living room and that’s when I almost dropped my phone in horror. The specter wearing a white dress moved to face the camera as if it knew where it was hidden.

“Hello, Steven,” said a familiar voice behind me. I turned quickly and faced the same phantom I had just looked upon on the screen. I could only think it was a spirit for it was Laila who spoke to me.

“No, I’m no ghost. It is me, Laila.” She spoke in the same soft melodious tone I had heard her use just three nights ago.

“But, but how?”

“You of all people should know of the hidden things that walk this Earth.”

“I saw you die. You were dead when we buried you. That’s your body in the shallow grave in the woods.”

“Dear, dear Steven. How can anything that has never been alive die?”

“I don’t understand.”

She gave me a feral smile before she continued. “Ever wonder where the monsters come from? You, your kind, and others? Have you ever known what begot the denizens of the dark? Hmm? The Night, of course!”

That’s when I understood. All the talks we had on the pier about the darkness of the night and of how comforting it was to her. Of how even the creatures of the night, except for me, shunned from her presence. Only she could steal our semblance of life. She could bring true death to the undead. It was then that I remembered what they had called her in that ancient biblical tongue. “Your name,” I said.

“Yes, my name.” She moved closer and I could feel the coldness of her breath on me. “Come now, dear boy, my sweet, sweet Steven. Come and hug your mother.”

-A. M. Holmes


Visualizing BIG Numbers

Millions, Billions, Trillion; we hear these terms used about large values so often people have become numb to their actual meaning. I heard a fellow employee asked one time what he would do if he won a million dollars in the lottery. He replied, “a million isn’t enough to do anything.” He had no clue how much a million is. So, let’s take the most common object and use it to illustrate what these values are.

A dollar bill is .0043 inches thick. A stack of 1000 one-dollar bills would be 4.3 inches which are also 109.2 millimeters. For the sake of mathematical simplicity, I will be using the metric system from here on. I will convert the here and there so people using “Standard” and are not familiar with the metric system can understand. I will also round-up from 109.2 cm to 110 mm because by the time we get to billions, trillion, and beyond that small difference becomes negligible (if you’re picky, you can go back and use the precise value I’m just too lazy to deal with it).

Back to our stack of a thousand one-dollar bills. A 1000 one-dollar bills are 110 mm. A million, which is one thousand, thousand one-dollar bills (1000 x 1000) on top of each other would be 110,000 mm tall, or 110 meters high (see why metric is easy? 1000 mm = 1 meter). 110 meters is approximately 120 yards, longer than the length of a football field. That’s a million one-dollar bills stacked one on top of the other. So much for my fellow employee’s statement.

A billion is one thousand million. 110 meters is .11 kilometers and when you multiply that by a thousand, to get one billion, (.11 kilometers x 1000) you get a stack of one dollar bills 110 kilometers (approximately 68 miles) tall. Mount Everest is 8.85 km (5.5 miles). 110 km is almost 12.5 times the height of Mount Everest. Twelve and a half Mount Everest mountains on top of each other would equal a stack of one billion one-dollar bills. Presently, there are 7.5 billion people in the world. What if each dollar bill represented one person alive today that stack would be 825 km (approximately 513 miles) tall or 93.75 times the height of Mount Everest! This is the height most low orbiting satellites travel at.

 Take a moment to think about this. A stack of one billion one-dollar bills stacked on top of each other representing each person would be tall enough to reach space. I’ll wait.

That’s a lot of people living on Earth today.

This is why I find apocalyptic scenarios that speculate the complete extinction of human being so far-fetched. One billion is a large number and seven and a half, well, you see. Even if you were to kill off 99.99% of the human population there would still be 750,000 people alive. 750,000 is the estimated number of humans alive 10,000 years ago at the dawn of agriculture and city-states. From 750,000 to 7.5 billion in just 10,000 years, a blink of an eye in geological time! Hardly an extinction event in human terms. Nothing human beings have created thus far can kill every man, woman, and child on this planet. Yes, the human loss would be devastating but not complete. We are as indestructible as the worst of any infestation. Considering the number of species that have become extinct by our hands, beginning with the megafauna around 12,000 years ago, animal life on Earth has more to fear by our presence than any other natural event. By the end of the 21st century, if present trends continue, the human population on this planet will reach 10 billion! Not even climate change will kill us all off but the human suffering will be incalculable. Now, let’s take it up a notch and see what a stack of one trillion one-dollar bills would look like. That is if we can.

A trillion of anything is thrown around these days with as little true meaning as a billion was decades ago. A trillion is, in fact, a huge number. We just saw that our stack of one billion one-dollar bills would reach outer space. Doing the math as we have done before, multiplying by one thousand, our stack is now 825,000 km tall (512,630 miles). The distance to the moon is 363,100 km (238,900 miles). That would make our stack a little over two and a quarter-time the distance from the earth to the moon. Another way to think of it would be to make two equal stacks reaching the moon with a lot of change leftover. The stack laid on its side would circle the Earth a little over 33 times! The United States’ national debt is now at $28.3 trillion and growing every year.

I’ll give you another minute to think about that one.

$28 plus trillion dollars is an amount in debt your great, great, great-grandchildren would barely make a dent in paying it off. And like I said, it grows every year. The United States would have to run on a balanced budget up to its quadricentennial to pay it all off. It’s just impossible. Yet, politicians are always talking about how cutting a million here, or a million there makes them fiscally responsible. Who are they kidding if it’s not their constituents? Quibbling over a billion dollars, and cutting vital programs in the process, seems a little like trying to empty an ocean with a teacup.

Now, I’m going to skip a great deal of order of magnitude and discuss another term widely used but little understood by the general public, infinity. Just what does infinity mean? To most people, it means “something that goes on forever”. But can anybody truly picture what “forever’ means? Is it to the end of time? Well, no. Because the universe has a beginning, the Big Bang and, if physicists are correct, there is an end. One theory states that the “End” will come when the universe has expanded so far that star formation will come to a complete halt because the matter will be so thinned out no material could clump to make new stars a quadrillion years in the future. That’s one followed by fifteen zeros. What stars are left would form black holes that would eventually, due to the escape of Hawking radiation, will slowly fade away in ten to hundred quintillion (one followed by nineteen or twenty zeros) years from now. The only thing left at this point is a thin soup of basic particles that too will eventually lose energy and decay after a huge amount of time (1 followed by 200 zeros years from now). At this time, in the far, far future, with no movement, no particles, not even enough energy to register, time cannot be said to have any real meaning, and, so, it can be considered the “End of Time”. But this is not infinity for it goes on forever. This is why physicists hate infinity for to them it means simply “I don’t know”.

There you are, working on equations that will solve the Grand explanation of Everything and after years of work your answer comes out as “infinity”. Talk about frustration. Yet, the general public throws it around like it’s a household word. There are Infinity Stones, infinite multiverses (redundant, really), infinite possibilities (but, really, only a few possibilities). Infinity is, in human terms, an unknown and one that, by definition, can never be known.

-A. M. Holmes

Author’s Note; I’m not going to include any citations for the piece because I went to Google for such things as “how tall is Mount Everest” and “how far is the moon”. If I could do this, so can you if you have any doubts. I do think my math is pretty sound but if I did make mistakes please point them down in the comments along with the correct answer. -A. M. Holmes

Racism, a thought.

Although it is widely thought among Americans that racism is a bad thing it seems to be generally tolerated. It’s kind of like a group of the loudest, most obnoxious people you can think of in a crowded room. Some will distance themselves, “If you don’t pay them the attention they’ll quiet down and go away”. Some will pretend they don’t exist, “Nonsense, there’s no one that loud in here and if there were, what of it? EVERYBODY is noisy.” Others will try to rationalize the whole thing, “Maybe they have a reason to be rude?”. None of this really works against racists and their hate so we are often left with only two courses of action. As a majority, we could shout louder and drown them out or, better yet, throw them out of the room altogether.

-A. M. Holmes

Not On Pomp and Circumstance But of the Rights of the People: The True Meaning of the 4th of July


“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

So, begins one of Western civilization’s most important documents, The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America for independence. Much has already been said about it in the last 242 years since it was written and I’m sure much more will be said today on this July 4th, 2018 especially on social media and Twitter in particular. You’ll hear how this is the work of a people seeking Freedom and Justice from an overbearing dictatorial monarchy, or of how this was the foundation upon which this Great Country was built on, or of how a bunch of privileged White Men got together and for their own purposes created such hypocrisy. You’ll hear all of this and maybe even a little about the history that led to that meeting on July in Philadelphia. Consider this my small contribution for I think it’s the next part of the document that I find relevant to our times and worth a look.

 “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes”.

Here we have a group of people who came to the Americas seeking asylum from whatever affected them, war; famine; disease; religious and ethnic persecution and established a new home in a land controlled by a government distant not only geographically, but culturally and ideologically as well. King George III and Great Britain were involved in several conflicts mostly around the issue of trade and with France in opposition. At first, they couldn’t have cared less what a bunch of lower class migrants did if they could still be exploited. The government needed money to fight its wars and taxing the importation of goods was a good and quick way of getting it. The elitist aristocrats in England were not concerned with how this would affect the common people’s livelihood, they thought that the people in the Americas were too uneducated, too easily influenced by sedition, not worth the trouble if they remained loyal to the Monarchy.  But, if they did become rebellious, a swift and powerful show of force was necessary to put them back in line. This King George and Parliament did time and time again with some of its most lethal consequences in places like Boston and Charlestown, Massachusetts. Many people died in the streets, hills, and pastures trying to protest what they thought was an unfair, Godless, merciless dictatorship. And they were not all English for, as I pointed out above, many came from other countries, some willingly and others not so much, looking for the same thing, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. So, when the English government and its King refused to listen to their complaints they took the only option they thought was open to them, they assembled as representatives of the people of the thirteen United States of America and voted to reject that government through a formal Declaration of Independence. As you read it, and I encourage you to do so, you will find that it was not a declaration of armed conflict, no war between England and the Americas, but the last attempt to reach a compromise on a long list of grievances the government refused to address because it thought it as nothing more than the whining of a bunch of malcontents. Here are some of the highlights of those complaints against King George III and His Royalists Tory government:

– He (the King and his government) has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

-He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

-He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

-He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose, obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

-He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

-He has erected a multitude of New Offices and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

-For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world.

-For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent.

If all of this sounds familiar it’s only because those who govern now have forgotten, or more so forsaken, what this country was truly founded on, not Pomp and Circumstance but of the Rights of the People to Govern themselves and when their government opposes them, that government must Abdicate its Power.

“In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

Words to remember on July 4th, 2018 and, better yet, in November.


-A. M. Holmes



I read a posting on INTROVERT, DEAR titled Quit Making It a Crime to Be Quiet in the Classroom that I can relate to. I was a very quiet, awkward child in grade school and there was only one teacher that I remember, a Mrs.Truxell (sic) that ever got me. I still remember the book on dinosaurs she gave me because she understood how fascinated I was (still am) about those creatures. Just because a child seems to be quiet and not so outgoing doesn’t mean there’s something wrong or make them mentally ill. It may simply be that they are blessed with a certain introspectiveness most people can not understand. But in this age of mental health concerns how do you know the child may need help? Simple, get to know the child, find what their interest are, and most of all, never judge nor presume.

-A. M. Holmes


Natural Selection versus Genetic Drift in Single nucleotide polymorphisms, SNPs


Research published from The University of Queensland indicates that natural selection plays a greater role than genetic drift in SNPs dealing with height, waist-to-hip ratio, BMI, and schizophrenia among European, African, and Asian populations (Does evolution make us or are we just drifting that way?). Led by Professor Jian Yang from UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience and Queensland Brain Institute, the team used more than 400,000 genetic samples from African, East Asian and European populations to determine if the SNPs (pronounced as “snips”) showed a tendency towards randomness, implying genetic drift, or not, and thus natural selection.


The results showed that for SNPs such as height, waist-to-hip, BMI, and schizophrenia, there was a greater frequency for height among Europeans; a greater BMI number for Africans with Europeans having greater than Asians; both Europeans and Africans falling out of the mean for schizophrenia. None of these traits showed the tendency towards a random distribution which indicates that for these SNPs natural selection plays a greater role than genetic drift. In other words, what this study says that rather than in the colloquial debate of Nature versus Nurture it’s more like Selection over Nature and Nurture not having a factor at all. This is important in that it gives hope for the potential to treat certain ailments, such as schizophrenia through treatments such as CRISPR. 

It has left me to wonder how much of natural selection over genetic drift influenced hominin traits? Eyebrows/brow ridges, robust/gracile, even “having a chin” how were these more a product of selectivity among groups than randomness among Neandertals, Denisovans, and modern humans? More intriguing, could this be applied to culture as well? 

-A. M. Holmes



Wow, and I thought I was a Progressive Thinker.

Three female scientists discussing their research

This morning I got a Twitter notification from All Revolutions (@RevolutionsCen) about an article from The Atlantic by Ed Young (@edyong209 ) where, as he tells it in I Spent Two Years Trying to Fix the Gender Imbalance in My Stories , “I knew that I care about equality, so I deluded myself into thinking that I wasn’t part of the problem”.  He had seen how a lot of his articles reflected a gender bias he never intended to portray. Reading this opened my eyes to the fact that even though I claim to be “gender-blind” I wasn’t doing any better. Here I’m thinking I’m a progressive thinking person now to find out I’m as dirty as our misogynist President (I wasn’t aware of Emmanuelle Charpentier, Jennifer Doudna, and CRISPR). I was fooling myself completely. Now I begin to wonder where else has my supposed “blindness” toward gender, race, or ethnicity has misled me to promote instead the same prejudices I have always felt unjust?  The article is very enlightening. Also, it has good resource information at the end of it.

-A.M. Holmes

“I Want Money…”


Carmen de la Rosa Sanger Peters Anapopolis Rahim Martin Johnson Ross so-on-and-so-forth, etcetera, etcetera Weinstein had finally laid to rest poor, dear Leonard Weinstein, the former and now late CEO of the financial services of Weinstein, Sheckelman (husband number 9) and Johnson (number 6) in Greenwood and was on her way to the law offices of Ross (number 7, divorced him back ‘83), Jorgensen (number 8 for 6 months a year later) and Haims (he’s gay) to hear the will. Not that there were going to be any surprise, she already knew (with the help of an ex-husband whom she promised as a client her next victim) that all 90 million dollars in net worth, not including the stocks in some dynamic portfolios, were incontestably hers.

“And rightly so considering how hard I worked on this one,” she thought as she drove her silver-gray Porsche 911 down the road and into the tunnel. “I thought I was going to have to divorce this one before he croaked. Thank God, for the hidden dangers of prostate cancer and the over-inflated male pride.”

At 56, and the best looking 56 money can buy, Carmen was not getting any younger and found that staying that way was getting harder no matter how much money it took for upkeep. The way she saw it, she probably had enough time for 2 or 3 more husbands (if they all lived) maybe even a 4th (if any one of them didn’t). One good lucky strike that could knock the ball out of Yankee stadium would shorten that number to one or two if it became necessary. But, as she gave it another thought, that wouldn’t make it anywhere near as fun and enjoyable. The thrill of catching them, after all, is what helped make the time go by every time she found one of these lonely, pathetic and rich morons to marry. Yes, she’s been everywhere that’s anywhere several times over and even owns some of them. She has plenty of toys, both the material and the living kind, and could always get new ones of either kind whenever she got bored. Friends? As many as money can buy.

“Fuck friends!” she answered that thought as it came up, “Actually, that is the only kind of a good friend, a ‘fuck friend’, ha ha ha.” She laughs aloud at her own joke as she was still trying to make her way down lower Manhattan and into the Wall Street district. “The sooner I get there, the sooner I can get out of this black shit and on a plane for Sidney.” Australia was going to be her next stop. Seemed to her that she ran into a couple of promising prospects while visiting there last Summer. “A rugged Aussie type- that’ll be exciting. Hell, I may even fall in love! Love, ha-ha-ha-ha, you’re a real crack-up today, Carmen.”

She finally arrived at the buildings where the offices were located and had the valet parked her car. Alone in the elevator, she noticed that it was only 8:40 in the morning and thought over possibly having breakfast at the “Windows” restaurant. She decided against it thinking better to grab a bite later. Carmen had noticed how beautifully clear the September sky was today and tried to remember if Spring was coming to the ‘down-under’ at this time. She didn’t care. All she knew was that by this time tomorrow, on the twelfth, she was going to be basking on some sunny beach, sipping her drink, and feeling the warmth of the South Pacific wind in her face. She checked her make-up before saying to herself, “In an hour I’ll be done here at the Twin Towers and on my way to JFK. With any luck, I’ll be a new bride by New Years of ‘02.”

At 8:46, the elevator stopped and the lights went out.

-A. M. Holmes

On the Eve of President Trump’s State of the Union Address


The wife is out doing the thing that she does to uplift and benefit the community, she is seamstress and customer for a local junior high school theater production company, leaving me to my own device. So, enjoying a couple of hours of solitary bliss I do as most in this modern age do and surf the streaming channels looking for entertainment. I finally settled on ‘Ken Burns: American Lives’ and specifically chapters 7 and 8, the life of Mark Twain. Now, as I was watching the program, I began to wonder what this magnificent genius writer of the American culture would have said of our times, and specifically, the 45th President of the United States. Challenging Google to find me an answer I came across the above quote from his “The Character of a Man” that, to me, fits best to what he could have thought. Of course, this could be argued as conjecturable and so I would need to press those who disagree with me to find confirmation as to the meaning of Twain’s quote by going to the source itself. If they chose to do so in order to make their point, who am I to question their absolute dedication to their cause. On the other hand, if some lack conviction in their own assumptions, and thus fail in their pursuit for the truth, they will undoubtedly continue to be the gadflies that they are and some other means will have to be found to deal with their pestering. It’s a shame tar and feathering has gone so out of vogue in our times. Maybe someone can come up with an internet version of it, perhaps?

-A. M. Holmes