Archive for the ‘Shortening People’s Lives’ Category

To Hike or Not to Hike

August 3, 2017

This story has bugged me for the past year. In part, because I can relate. I have hiked the Appalachian Trail, and as a youngster, I wandered from home and became lost in the woods.

Starting on April 23, 2013, 66-year-old Geraldine Largay walked over a thousand miles from Harpers Ferry in West Virginia on the Appalachian Trail (AT). After her traveling companion, Jane Lee, left for home on June 30 to attend to a family emergency, Largay hiked into the densest forest of the AT and disappeared. According to witnesses, Largay left a shelter in Maine to continue her hike north and went missing on or about July 22.

Ms. Lee told investigators that Largay had a poor sense of direction and had taken a wrong turn on multiple occasions, adding her friend could become flustered and combative when she made mistakes. On October 14, 2015, a logging surveyor discovered Largay’s remains less than a mile from the trail. She had chronicled the last days of her life in a notebook and never-sent text messages. The wayward hiker found higher ground but was unsuccessful in acquiring a cell signal. One text message to her husband indicated Largay had stepped off the trail to relieve herself and had become lost. Multiple agencies hunted for the hiker by foot, horse, and the air. Her written chronicle details the last 3-4 weeks of her life as she waited for rescue. She eventually died from exposure and starvation.

I applaud Largay’s hiking feat right up to the point where she sat down at her campsite and waited for rescue and barring that, her death. Rescue, to me, implies that she was incapable of helping herself. While she had some medical issues, necessitating medication to control her anxiety, but when faced with a decision to save herself, she chose otherwise. I can only imagine what went through her mind as she sat surrounded by dense forest and underbrush, waiting. It seems debilitating anxiety didn’t affect her fight for survival as there was evidence of her attempted tries to use technology and make herself visible from the air. Obviously, Largay wasn’t the proverbial deer in the headlights, but why didn’t she simply walk to safety?

Like Largay, I spent six weeks in my youth on the AT, walking north, always north. Hikers walk from the sun up to sun set. There’s nothing else to do. As I trekked north, the sun rose on the right side of the trail and set on the left side of the trail. Does the AT always meander due north and south? No, but in general, yes it does. Even if Largay couldn’t remember which side of the trail she stepped off to relieve herself, a single day of walking either east or west and two days in the reverse direction would have crossed the trail. Ms. Lee didn’t mention if her friend used a compass or not. I didn’t use a one either, but I was alert to my surroundings. At worse, Mrs. Largay could have walked toward the sunrise in the morning and with her back to the sun in the afternoon. This would have guaranteed her a chance at crossing a road or river within the three to four-week survival time frame she endured in the woods.

The AT uses a system of trail blazes set up to keep hikers on the right path. This is the same system used over two hundred years ago by our forefathers as they explored new territory. The AT’s blazing system should have been an adequate example for Largay to move in a straight line either east or west from her campsite and return before dark. She could have eventually moved along her self-blazed trail and set up camp further away from where she camped. If only.

One day in my youth I got lost. When I was seven, and in a fit of panic, I ran headlong into the woods surrounding my parent’s summer house in western Michigan. I didn’t believe my brother that the sounds coming from the direction of the house weren’t a herd of bears (or lions or tigers? Oh my!). Way back in the 60’s (not the 1860’s) my parents lived in the middle of a forested nowhere. There were a few homes within a half mile or there about, but not in the direction of my flight. I asked my father once when I was a big kid (aged 4-5) what I should do if I got lost in the woods around our house. His answer was simple. Walk in one direction until I found a road. If I came upon a two-track, I should follow it to a road. I may not have followed his advice at first during my head long flight away from the bears that I thought were chasing me, but after an hour or two, I found my head. My grandmother discovered me as I walked along a two-track in search of a road. At first sight of her car, I hid behind a bush, because I thought the teal colored 1950’s Ford was a bear. Remember, I was seven.

My point is, at the age seven, I knew how to find my way out of the woods. It was a different time. Back then, I was responsible for keeping track of and get myself to T-ball practice and games. Within a year I would ride my bike two miles to play ball. So, playing in the woods without adult supervision was normal extracurricular activity. My four-year-old sister was with my brother and me.

In full disclosure, my AT hiking partner and I did get turned around once. Imagine the hilarity on meeting fellow hikers coming toward us on the trail and us trying to convince them that they were hiking in the wrong direction. Classic, classic.

My prayers go out to Mrs. Largay and her family.

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Interview by Martin Ingham for Martinus Publishing

November 11, 2014

I want to give a shout out to Martin Ingham of Martinus Publishing for this interview.

 

To Hell with Dante” is a collection of cynical afterlife stories, ranging from comedic genius to dark surrealism.  To help kick off this fine anthology, I’ll be conducting interviews with many of the contributors.  Today I’m interviewing Karl G. Rich, the excellent author who contributed the story “Everybody Goes to Heaven, and Then…”  Thank you for being here, Mr. Rich

KARL G. RICH:  Thank you, Martin, it’s a pleasure, but please call me Kregger. Karl Rich is the name I give the barista down at Starbucks since my real name seems both unpronounceable and incapable of being spelled correctly. Karl’s an alter ego I have used since the Stone Age when I worked in the restaurant biz.

MTI:  Of course, Kregger.  We’ve done this before, but for readers who didn’t catch our last interview, why not tell them a little about yourself?

KREGGER:  First and foremost, I am a grandfather of six. Being Papa seems to have swallowed all my other identities. As a young adult, before kids and my current wife–on entering a restaurant, instead of smoking/nonsmoking, I would ask for the “No Kids” section. Children weren’t my favorite people, but now my favorite people call me grandpa.

At work I’m a healthcare professional. I take painstaking care not to talk about work with strangers. This is due to their reactions to the tonnage of blood, gore and pain I deal with on a daily basis. One time my brother-in-law asked me, “What was the worse thing I have ever seen?” I described in detail how a prolapsed rectum nearly ate an intern in an operating room. Thank God, I caught the young doctor by his surgical booties before he disappeared forever. Can anyone imagine that eulogy? Now, my brother-in-law knows better than to ask such silly questions.

MTI:  Your story, “Everybody Goes to Heaven, and Then…” appears in To Hell with Dante.  Tell us a little bit about that.  What’s the general idea behind it?

KREGGER:  I spend a lot of time writing about heaven and hell. I don’t believe in either place as popularized in the media or religion, but the perception of both places allow for a variety of stories. Imbedded within most of my stories are retellings of old jokes. In “Everybody Goes to Heaven, and Then…” I used a classic internet joke with some of my recurring characters to illustrate choices people make. In death as in life bad choices and bad decisions lead to bad things. Right now, I’m trying to shoehorn a joke about not stepping on ducks/bunnies in heaven into a story, but I’ve yet to figure it out.

MTI: Does your story hold any special significance, perhaps seeking to provoke some thoughts about the afterlife, or was it just a lot of fun fiction?

KREGGER:  Just plain fun. I’ve given up trying to convince anyone of anything. I write for fun.

MTI:  Okay, on a totally unrelated note, if you could meet and talk with any one deceased person, who would it be?

KREGGER:  Honestly, the first person that came to my mind was Adolph Hitler. Not because I admire or idolize the man, but to ask WTF were you thinking? In what world would a man or group of people think it proper to exterminate any other group? I believe his answer would probably be the world of the 21st Century.

MTI:  Shifting back to your writing, can you tell us a little about what you’re working on right now?

KREGGER:  I have a Sci-fi project that is an extension of my story in the Veterans of the Future Wars anthology called, “I am Drone.” It is a futuristic thriller set in a post-nuclear-war America with human drones used as weapons of mass destruction to safe guard what’s left of America.

MTI:  Oh, I want to read that one!  Keep me apprised of your progress with that project.  Other than your piece appearing in To Hell with Dante, do you have any other stories being published in the near future?

KREGGER:  I’m waiting on a submission to Vineyard Press for the Passions of Man anthology. I have one more submission called, “The Absence of Heat” slated for publication in the We Were Heros anthology by Martinus Publishing. This winter I will start querying for my novel, The Mad King of Beaver Island.

MTI:  Writers are often voracious readers.  Have you run across any good literature lately that you’d like to recommend?  You know, other than your own great work.

KREGGER:  I’m in the process of slogging through a compilation of twelve novels called, Deadly Dozen:12 Mysteries/Thrillers.  It’s something I picked up for learning style and technique of the genre. The stories are interesting, but I’m noticing a staccato style in the writing. Most of the books utilize very short chapters to move the story along. I couldn’t beat the price, and if I hate a story I skip to the next one. I readTimebound by this year’s ABNA winner. Here’s a clue to new writers—women are not male characters with breasts.  So write female characters with female traits. Today’s market, we are selling to, are women. Conversely, I suggest women writers not emasculate their characters as Rysa Walker did in Timebound. I also enjoyed Malone Hero by Edmond Wells, a long time contributor to Martinus Publishing.

MTI:  Other than writing, what would you call your favorite hobby or pastime?

KREGGER:  I always have been and will always be a sailor. It is the one thing that defines me till I die. At which time I will be submerged in Lake Michigan. I do not understand anyone that fears water.

MTI:  Once again, you have the attention of potential readers.  Do you have any words of wisdom to share with them, or possibly a sales pitch to encourage them to read more of your writing?

KREGGER:  I write because I enjoy the process.  I look forward to seclusion with the Margaritaville channel playing in the background. I prefer to sail alone for the same reason. I don’t have an eye for what is marketable. I only write what makes me happy. Happy people are successful by whatever criteria are used.

It is impossible to write every minute of the day, so on those off moments Martinus Publishing has multiple anthologies available as well as Martin Ingham’s newest creation, The Curse of Selwood.

MTI:  Well, thank you for the extra plug there.  Now, readers love free stuff, so here’s the start of your story in To Hell with Dante:

Clinton walked down a dirt footpath.  He was surrounded by dense fog and an overlying canopy of trees in dusky twilight. In front of him a white light beaconed through the fog, as if an opening to a tunnel.

“Where am I?” he muttered as he walked alone, squinting into the brush beside the path.

He walked for what seemed like an eternity through the impenetrable fog and foliage. He carried a pack and musket, but couldn’t recall camping, sleeping, or hunting. He halted and listened; the forest sounds were muted and soft.  Birds called to one another in the distance and since the wind had died there was silence from the trees above. The fog not only muffled his sight, but dampened his hearing as well. Everything smelled wet and decayed.

White woolen pants covered his legs down to his knees and wool socks protected his feet from chafing inside tall, black boots. Glancing down at the blouse he wore under his red military coat, he found dark-red blood stains, but no wounds.  For the hundredth time in as many days, he wondered, where had he come from?

He came to an intersection in the path. The path to the left and right led to a white light-filled tunnel. He spun around to find a similar portal to his rear. The tall man gripped his hands in prayer and fell to his knees. “God help me.” He bowed his head and shuddered.

MTI:  Thank you again, Kregger, for a fantastic interview.  Those who want to read the rest of his story, as well as 20 other cynical afterlife stories, can pick up To Hell with Dante!

 

Another Life, Shortened by One Day

June 24, 2014

My wife spent the night babysitting three of our five granddauhters. Seems innocent enough. Everything is fun and games until “Hide and Seek”. Our girls hide and Grandma seeks. Which is great because it affords my wife the time to empty the dishwasher or throw a load of clothes into the washer.

Rules: Outside the house is out-of-bounds.

Our kids have a decent size house, but after a few years of “Hide and Seek” Grandma has found pretty much all the possible hiding places.

That day was different.

My wife searched all the bedrooms, all the closets, the basement and play rooms. Typically, when she got close to the youngest, giggles would erupt and seeking would end.

That day, there were no giggles.

It only took fifteen minutes of seeking before Grandma became frantic.

She stood on the front stoop and yelled–nothing.

She stood in the backyard and yelled–nothing.

She stood in the house and yelled–nothing.

She dialed me, a hundred miles away, to help come search. I think by definition–that was frantic.

Through the garage door came three giggling girls.

They met…well, it wasn’t pretty.

A boatload of yelling, tears and time-outs later, Grandma settled down.

Someone forgot to tell her–an attached garage is part of a house.

She admitted later it was a pretty good hiding spot.

A week later, I saw the hair coloring bill.

The next time I’m in the dog house, I’m heading for the garage.

 

Martinus Publishing has included my latest story.

Available at Amazon

Currently, I am expanding “I am Drone” into a novel.

This is the anthology description at Amazon.

A daring admiral seeking to save Earth’s last colony ship from religious
fanatics…

A colonel with a heavy heart facing down an alien
invasion…

A temporally-displaced sergeant seeking to rekindle freedom
in the 31st century…

These are the stories of the Future Wars, and the
Veterans who fight them. Within these pages lie tales of valor, of brave men and
women tanding their ground and serving their country in the world beyond
tomorrow.

VFW is thrilling military sci-fi from the following authors:
Dan Gainor, Pete Aldin, Ted Blasche, Martin T. Ingham, Dave D’Alessio, Alex
Stevens, Joseph Conat, Neal Wooten, Karl G. Rich, Therese Arkenberg, David W.
Landrum, Michael Janairo, Mary Pletsch, Sam Kepfield, & Edmund Wells.