Nice try, but no cigar

I found the following in an email account I had set up for a specific purpose. This account is not used for anything other than that purpose and since I wasn’t wearing my glasses when I set it up, I misspelled my name. No matter, Dr James still sent me this message.

Attn E-mail Address Owner,
Spam
Dr Kevin James <k_james90@>

Feb 5

Attn E-mail Address Owner,

Website:
Address: Plot 1261, Adela Hopewell Street CO/B/REP, Republic Of Benin.

Email:

( 0022966850550 )

Attention: E-mail Address Owner,

Sequel to the meeting held today with Federal Bureau of Investigation, The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is compensating all the scam victims and your name and email address was found in the scam victims list.

However, we have concluded to effect your own payment through Western Union® Money Transfer, $5,000 daily until the total sum of your compensation fund is transferred to you.

This is your first payment information:

MTCN#:8412393243

Sender’s First Name: Richard

Sender’s Last Name:Michel

Amount Programmed: $5.000

You are advised to get back to the contact person trough the email below for more direction on how to be receiving your payment

Contact person: . . SIR. INNOCENT JOHNSON
Email address: . .
Tell phone: . . . +22966850550
Thanks,
SIR.INNOCENT JOHNSON
Director Western Union Money Transfer,
Head Office Benin Republic.

Click here to Reply or Forward
0.12 GB (0%) of 15 GB used

I’ve removed any email addresses strictly because I’ve had an account shut down by WordPress in the past when I tried to post a similar message with too many links.
Let’s take a look at it. First, it was addressed to “E-Mail Address Owner”, despite the text saying my name had come up in their investigation. Good clue it is a phishing expedition. The poor spelling and grammar are also good indicators the sender does not have you best interests at heart.

There is no mention of just how much money has been allotted for me (although I can guess it is really zero), nor exactly how I got scammed. Since I either delete this type of message or, as in this case, use it as fodder for a blog, I doubt I’ve been scammed by a Nigerian or Benin prince.

Should you choose to actually try to contact “Sir Innocent Johnson”, I’m quite certain you would find him anything but innocent.

Something else in these always acts as a warning to me and that is the fact that so many of them mention they are working with the FBI on resolving the issues. Well, I’m not an American, and could honestly not care less what the FBI does or doesn’t do. I doubt strongly they would really do anything for the benefit of someone who wasn’t an American citizen. So, as I wrote, Dr James: nice try, but no cigar.

If you receive any message of a similar nature, just delete it. The only enrichment taking place will be to the benefit of the senders of the message, not you. It could be your identity, your information, or the contents of your bank account. In any event, just say “no”.

Cat.

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Do it your way

Every once in a while, someone will look at some of my photos, or read something I’ve written and suggest that I should teach photography and/or writing. That presents a problem for me.

I’m sure that each of you is very good at some pastime that gives you a sense of accomplishment. But, how would you go about explaining to somebody else just how you do it? That’s the problem with my photography and writing. Oh, I could probably teach each, but the course would be twenty minutes tops. I’ll try here to explain how I do what I do.

Photography: My philosophy is simple – if something catches your attention, snap it. You may look at the image on the camera screen and not see what you expected, but wait until you get it up on the computer screen when you process it. (I do digital photography, so my comments are restricted to computer processing.) The larger image may show you something surprising that you can turn into a beautiful photo. The photo at the top of this is an example of a photo I thought was “okay” until I saw it on the monitor, then it went up in my estimation.

Take advice if offered. I’ve had some free-lance photographers give me some advice that I think is worth passing on. First, remember that a digital camera darkens an image about 30 – 40% from what you see with your eye. You’ll want to restore that brightness before anything else. This of course wouldn’t apply if you feel the darker image is more effective.

Next, a free-lancer told me to avoid weddings if at all possible because you’ll never please everyone.

Finally, if you want to be a free-lance news photographer, the best advice I was given for this was “f8 and be there”. You can’t take the shot if you aren’t at the scene and an aperture of f8 will give you a decent depth of field.

As I said, I do digital photography and process my own work. There are many photo processing programmes available. My personal preference is a Corel programme called “Paintshop”. Some people prefer Adobe’s Photoshop. I’ve used both and prefer Paintshop. If you can, try as many as you can – some places offer free trial copies – before spending your money on one.

The choice of camera is up to the user. Many of my best work was done with a Canon point and shoot, including the header photo. I currently use a Canon DSLR, but depending upon my plans for the day, I have often used the camera in my phone. The quality of phone cameras has improved greatly.

I’m torn about suggesting photography courses. Yes, I can see the benefits for some people, but when I told an artist friend it had been suggested I take one, her comment was “Why? That would only ruin you. The course would only teach you to take photos the way the instructor does.” If you feel you’d benefit from one, go for it. As my friend said, if you feel competent, save your money.

In photography the most important advice I was given was that you have to have imagination and the ability to think outside the box. Photography is as much about feeling as technique.

Writing: I’ve always written, at least back as far as Grade 5. I was fortunate in having teachers who encouraged my writing and have since received advice from others. There are many courses in creative writing available through community colleges that you can take. My ex-partner was part of a group of writers who would meet once a week and present short stories for criticism. Some members were published authors; some were taking courses and others just sat down to write. Through the members of this group (I was a casual member since they often met at our house) I learned the proper format for submitting stories, but that’s about all.

Most often, aspiring writers are told “write what you know”. That is fine if you’re writing factual articles and stories. I have a blog and frequently write opinion pieces that I laughingly refer to as “rants, raves and reasoned discussions – reader’s choice.” The main exception to that is a series of blogs under the general title “Bring him to justice”. This series concerns the attempts by the Toronto Police Service to arrest a man charged with several counts of aggravated sexual assault. This series is factual and, full disclosure here, I’m doing it because I know several people he dated.

For my fiction, it’s rather difficult to write fiction strictly sticking to “what you know”. If I’m writing fiction, the process usually starts with me asking myself “what if…?” then writing a piece to answer the question.

Perhaps the best advice the writer me was given was “write the way you speak.” If you don’t use multi-syllable words as part of your usual vocabulary, don’t use them in your writing. I sometimes paraphrase this as “if you don’t use ten dollar words all the time, don’t use them in your writing, even if you get them half-off. You’ll probably mis-use them.” Something else – spelling counts. Spell-check is great in most cases, but if you use a homophones – and yes, I had to check the definition of this – such as “hear” or “here”, spell-check won’t catch it. Proofread, then proofread again.

There. My courses on photography and writing are finished. As the title suggests “do it your way.” Class dismissed.

Remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

This time she’s not playing

I was away for a couple of days and upon my return found this in my gmail spam:
Mrs Vivian Douglas <.it>

04:26 (22 hours ago)

to

Attn,

I have to inform you again, that we are not playing over this, I know my
reason for the continuous sending of this notification to you, the fact is that
you can’t seem to trust any one again over this payment for what you have been
in cantered in many months ago, but I want you to trust me, I cannot scam you
for $49 it is for bank processing of your payment, the fees of $49 is clearly
written to you before, I did not invent the bill to defraud you of $49 it is an
official bank payment processing fee, and the good part of this, is that you
will never, ever be disturbed again over any kind of payment, this is final,
and the forms from there becomes effective once we submit your payment
application processing fee and pay the form fee of $49 I don’t want you to
loose this fund this time, because you may never get another such good
opportunity, the federal government is keen and very determined to pay your
overdue debts, this is not a fluke, I would not want
you to loose this fund out of ignorance, I will send you all the documents as
soon as bank payment processing fee is paid, you have to trust me, you will get
your fund, find a way to get $49 you will not loose it, instead it will bring
your financial breakthrough, find the money and send it to our bursary. The
reason why am sending you this because I want you to receive your USD1.8M
immediately we are trying to round up for this payment program.

The processing charges which was initially on the high price has been cut down
by the payout bank considering the poor economic situations that make it
difficult for the middle class citizens to meet up with the processing charges
of their entitlement. Upon the confirmation of your processing charges you will
get your $1.8M into
your account within 15hrs.

Here is the payment information through western union money transfer only,
finally my advice to you is not to abandon this transaction because of the
requirement of ($49) send the fee through western union or money gram.

Receivers name:Prince Egbo
Location address:Cotonou Benin Republic
Text Question: When
Answer: Today
Amount required: $49

Sender’s Name:
MTCN Number#:
Sender’s address:

Sender’s full banking details to avoid wrong transfer:
NAME AND ADDRESS OF BANK:
ACCOUNT NAME:
ACCOUNT NO:

As soon as the payment is received today, you will receive your $1.8M the same
today without any delay.

Yours Faithfully,
Mrs Vivian Douglas
Email:@gmail.com
+22961129879

I’ve deleted most of the mail addresses just to keep from running afoul or WordPress policy – again.

This is interesting in many ways. First, despite her assertion she’s been sending me these emails for a while, that is not so, otherwise I would have written of it before. Second, although she is talking about a “prince” in Benin, the email was sent from an Italian (.it) website and the response is to go to a gmail address.

A few more red flags: The addressee has been left blank, as has the “attn” line. If you don’t know my name, why are you contacting me with this offer? And learn to use the correct word. It should be “lose” not “loose”.

Then there’s the information they ask for. What the hell is an “MTCN” number?

Sorry to burst your bubble, but if you are foolish enough to actually send the forty-nine bucks and the information, you’ll have lost not only the $49, but probably everything else in your bank account. If you receive this email, or anything similar, delete it. Answering it will not result in you becoming a millionaire.

Since it’s Friday, enjoy your weekend and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

Notes on a phishing expedition

I found the following in my gmail spam this morning and it easily lends itself to explaining some of the telltales it is a scam and/or phishing expedition. I’ve put the areas I wish to discuss in boldface for you.

CONTACT HSBC BANK FOR YOUR BANK TRANSFER UPDATE

Mr. Stanley Clarke @gmail.com>

01:48 (9 hours ago)

to

HSBC Regional Bank FL (HSBC Regional Bank)
Avenue Cotonou , BP 988 Cotonou Benin Republic.
Telex :5211 F B COTONOU BENIN REPUBLIC .
Tel::+22968579277
From the desk of, Mr. Stanley Clarke ,
Director Payment Department. Hsbc Bank
of West African(HSBC Regional Bank)
Instant compensation Payment valued at US$7,500.000.00 usd

It is my modest obligation to write you this letter as regards the authorization of your owed payment through our most respected financial institution (HSBC Regional Bank). I am Mr. Stanley Clarke , the chief executive officer, foreign operations department HSBC Regional Bank, the British government in conjunction with U.S government, united nations organization on foreign payment matters has empowered my bank after much consultation and consideration to handle all foreign payments and release them to their appropriate beneficiaries.
Having received these vital payment numbers, you are instantly qualified to receive and confirm your payment with us within the next 48hrs.

Be well informed that we have verified your payment file as directed to us and your name is next on the list of our outstanding fund beneficiaries to receive their payment before the end of this first term of the year 2015. Be advised that because of too many funds beneficiaries due for payment at this first quarter of the year, you are entitled to receive the sum of Seven million Five hundred thousand United State dollars (7,500.000.00 us dollars only) as part payment of your fund.
So you are therefore advise to re-confirm the following Information for immediate payment processing.

1) Your full name:…..
2) Your full address:….
3) Your contact telephone and Fax:…..
4) Your profession:…….
5) Any valid form of your identification/driven license:…

As soon as we receive the above mentioned information, your payment will be processed and released to you without any further delay. Be also informed that You are not allowed to communicate with any other person(s) or office so as to avoid conflict of information, you are required to provide the above information for your transfer to take place through HSBC Regional Bank to your personal bank account.

We look forward to serving you better.

Yours sincerely.

First, I doubt strongly a firm with the global reach of HSBC would be using a gmail address. Email would probably come from their own site. Incidentally, I deleted the sender’s name which was shown as “johnsonmarkso99″ because I’ve had a problem with WordPress not liking too many email addresses in blogs – they take it as spam and shut you down.

Next, Benin Republic. Benin seems to have become the new Nigeria for this type of scam. I’ve also received similar messages from Burkina Faso among others.

Another clue this is a shotgun style scam is that it isn’t addressed to anyone in particular.

US$7,500,000 is a nice amount to offer. Not too large as to seem suspicious, yet not small enough to make people ignore it. However, the way they showed the amount “US$7,500,000.00 usd” is not the way a legitimate banking operation would show any dollar figure.

Dummy, you forgot to change the year to 2016. If you did indeed mean “the year 2015″, you’ve been very lax in performing you duties in advising me.

Now that they’ve dangled the bait in the form of seven-and-a-half mill, they set the hook. Notice the information they ask for, especially the inclusion of a copy of some form of identification. If you were foolish enough to actually send them the requested information, you can not only kiss the 7.5 good-bye, but you’ve given them sufficient information to steal your identity. But of course since you’re one of my followers or readers, you have the smarts not to fall for this.

The fact you are advised not to tell anyone about this is to stop you from going to the authorities once they’ve stolen your name. (Damn!! Since I’m telling you, I guess I’m not getting my money. Oh well.)

There is one more thing that is glaring in its absence. They ask for all kinds of information except for the number of the bank account in which you want the money deposited. Were this legitimate, wouldn’t you think they’d need that information?

These are a few of the things to watch for the next time someone tells you they’ve got millions for you and they are all red flags.

Enjoy your weekend (unless you’re in the northeastern US, in which case, stay safe); don’t take any wooden nickels and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat

Are you for real?

Following is an exchange on Facebook that took place between December 12 and today, when I lost patience and blocked the man.

01/12/2015 17:03
Hello,My name is R. I saw your Face book and profile and became interested in you, i will also like to know you the more.

Me: Everything I’m willing to divulge is available in the “about” tab

02/12/2015 02:48
R: How are you doing, thanks for your respond to my message and I know long distance is a challenge but if two people are determined the moments spent together can be magical.good morning.

02/12/2015 14:17
Me: It is even more of a challenge when one of those people isn’t interested.

06/12/2015 15:15
R:What do you mean my dearest please try to bare with me and keep in touch.

Wed 03:52
R:Happy new year to you my dearest, I can’t wait to hear from you as well. Please try to be honest with me because I do want to meet you in person.

Me: R:

1 – I do not appreciate being called “my dearest” even by people whom I know.
2 – I’m a lesbian and am involved with someone.

03:19
R:I am sorry for been called you that, and what do you mean by Lisbian..Well how old are you…It we be a great time to meet you here C, you are so pretty and I do love your appearance as well. How are you today? Its nice to hear from you, I am R. I am 49yrs from British. An Engineer. Is nice to meet you here. let me know your Age.

This man is scary on a couple of levels. First, from his messages, he doesn’t seem that intelligent. His name indicates he may be foreign born, so English may not be his first language and if so, I can forgive his syntax. If the content of the messages is indicative of his thought processes, and he says he’s an engineer (doesn’t say what kind) I’d worry if I was anywhere near anything he worked on or operated.

“What do you mean by Lisbian” (sic). First thought – nobody can be that dumb in today’s age and media saturation. I was tempted to explain to him the origin of the term, but decided doing so would just be a waste of energy.

Second thought – if he didn’t understand Lesbian, at least the “I’m involved with someone” should have sunk in. But no, not him. As you can see in his last message, he still wants to get together with me. And notice he wants me to travel to England. Most days I’m doing well if I have bus fare to go downtown, never mind a flight to England. As for my age, as I told him, that’s in my “about me” tab on Facebook (I’m 71 by the way).

Reading these messages from him, I conclude that either (a) he is as dumb as he appears from this correspondence; or (b) he’s jerking my chain. Either way, it still comes down to “are you for real?”

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.
If you’re reading this through Facebook, and interested, send me a private message and I’ll tell you his full name. C.

Word pictures

A friend told me she thought I could create equally vivid images with both my pen and my camera.  The header photo is an example of my photographic efforts.  Below is an example of my writing abilities – how a town was founded.  This has been extracted from a piece I’m working on. I’d appreciate feedback and comments on this.  Thanks.

After taking a sip of my drink, I said to him  “Yesterday you said you’ve been coming into the pharmacy for fifty years.  Could you give me a bit of the history of Fletcher’s Corners?   Looking around I get the impression that Fletcher’s Corners wasn’t always just a small town and I wouldn’t mind knowing more.”

He stared at me across the table and threw back his beer.  I signalled Bert to bring him another and after thanking me, he began.  “Well young lady, first off, how long have you been in town?”  I told him and he nodded.  “You friendly with many of the townsfolk?  I  allowed that Owen Fletcher and I occasionally went sailing together, admitting that was more because while I enjoyed sailing I didn’t own a boat, but “I wouldn’t call us buddy-buddy.”

Again he nodded.  “Good.”  He paused and finished off his beer.  Once more I signalled Bert.  “First off, what’s your name young lady?  I like to know the name of the person I’m talking with.”

I told him and he stuck his hand across the table and said “Pleased to meet you Patricia Keys.  I’m Walter Talbot, but folks just call me ‘Old Wally’.  You planning on changing the name of the store?”

That had originally been one of my first priorities, but other things had rearranged my list so that item was now well down and falling fast.  “No, I think I’ll leave it as ‘Robert’s Drugs’.  Everybody in town knows it as that and I’m not vain enough that I have to have my name on the store.”

Wally grunted.  “Good.  Bobby changed it when he took over and it took most of twenty years before folks here started calling it ‘Bobby’s’ instead of ‘Jackson’s’.  Don’t worry Pat, people here will know your name whether you advertise it or not.

“Now, Fletcher’s Corners.  The town was started a couple of hundred years ago by Owen Fletcher.  The present Owen Fletcher is his great-grandson.  Owen was a doctor of some sort – nobody ever saw a diploma, but back then this was mostly wilderness and if somebody said they were a doc, and their treatment didn’t kill you, their claim was accepted.  Anyway, Owen Fletcher married into money.  He bought a couple of sections of land here, then built a big house on the best land. That house is now the office building at the hospital.

” Anyway,  it seems that some of Owen’s in-laws were ‘tetched’ and Owen offered to put them up.  After all, his big house was almost empty, what with just him, Lavinia, his wife and their infant son and the company would be welcome.  The families offered to subsidize their relatives’ keep, so Owen wasn’t doing it just out of the goodness of his heart.  One thing led to another and before he knew it, friends of the family were asking for the same thing.  Of course since they had offered to pay him for the upkeep, he couldn’t say ‘no’.  Well, eventually his house began to get awful crowded.  Something happened one day, he never said what for sure and my granddaddy didn’t ask, and the next thing the town knew, Owen’s got contractors out there on the point putting up this huge dormitory.”

He paused for breath and another sip of beer and I glanced at my watch.  “Wally, I’ve got to get back to the shop.  After you’re finished here, could you come by and tell me more.”

Glancing around the room, which was now filling up with the lunch crowd, he said “Sure.  It’ll be a lot more private than this anyhow.”

Half an hour later Wally entered the store and looked furtively around.  “You alone?” he asked.

“Yes.  There’s no-one here except you and me and all these pills.”

“Good.  Now, where was I?  Oh yeah.

“As I said, Owen had this huge dormitory built to house all these relatives and friends of relatives.”  Nodding at the street through the window, he continued.  “That was the Post Road back when this place was founded.  First Avenue used to be the side road leading from the Post Road down to the landing.  The people Owen hired to work in the hospital built homes around the junction for the social aspects.  Life was a little easier if there were always people around other than the people you worked with.  Same thing’s still true.  As the hospital grew, more and more people moved in and soon we had people opening shops of all kinds.  At its peak, Fletcher’s Corners probably had close to twelve hundred people living here.  We had the usual greengrocers, milliners, a draper, a livery stable, two banks and a post office not to mention about ten or twelve taverns.

“The town pretty well kept its size until the railways and trucks started taking all the freight from the boats, then it shrunk.   The bypass pretty well spelled the end for a lot of the businesses, since they had relied a lot on the through traffic. Over the last ten or fifteen years though, its started growing again as people move out of the cities in search of a bit of peace and quiet.”

Just then the door opened and a couple entered and greeted me.  As I filled their prescription, they chatted pleasantly with me, totally ignoring Wally, sitting right beside them.  After they left, still not having acknowledged Wally’s existence, I asked him about it.

“Well, now’s about a good a time as any to get into the pecking order of Fletcher’s Corners.  Back then there were three main families:  The Fletchers naturally, since it was Owen’s business that was the main reason for the town; the Harrises – old man Harris owned the biggest tavern in town as well as running the post office; and the Talbots.”  I looked up in surprise.  Wally grinned and said  “Yup.  My grandfather ran the bank – the one that went out of business.   As I said, we had two banks here in town, the Talbot Bank, and one other one that became the current branch.  Fletcher kept the hospital accounts with the Talbot Bank until the major bank took over the other one, then changed.  The loss of those lucrative accounts resulted in grandpappy closing down.  Until then the Fletchers and the Talbots had been pretty close and just about ran Fletcher’s Corners as their private kingdom.   So, after the bank shut down, the Talbot’s opened an apothecary shop – this one.   I said that my grandfather ran one of the banks here and had a fair bit of power in the area.  As a matter of fact, before this place was called Fletcher’s Corners, people used to call it Talbot’s Corners.  But as more and more of the residents began to be Fletcher employees, it started being called Fletcher’s instead of Talbot’s.  I don’t mind really; having your family name on a village isn’t all that great.  People think that just because your name is the same as the village, you can fix up any little problem they may have.  But, I’m wandering here.  At one point, from what I’ve been told, both Owen Fletcher and my grandpappy decided that Malcolm Harris shouldn’t have the post office franchise as well as the tavern, so between them they convinced the government to give it to someone else.  As it turned out, Mal was making more from the post office than his tavern, so by taking it away, grandpappy and Fletcher had severely reduced his income.  Things got worse for the Harrises since Malcolm was a gambler who had more money than card sense and eventually he lost the tavern too.  Malcolm claimed that Owen Fletcher and Alexander Talbot had plotted against him just to gain control of the tavern.  It wasn’t true, or so my grandmother always told me, but the Harris family has had no time since for either the Talbots or the Fletchers.  Jack Richards there is a descendant of Malcolm Harris.  That’s why neither of them would even admit you had someone here with you.”  Wally glanced at the clock on the wall.  “I’ve been boring you long enough young lady.  If you’ve a mind, stop by Bert’s once you close this place and I’ll let you buy me another beer while I tell you more about this hellish place.”  And with that, he left.

Sound reasonable?  Let me know.  Thanks,

Cat.

Weekend fiction from Cat

I wrote this in 2009 and may have posted it before, but can’t find it in my records.  Enjoy and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat

WHEN SPACE CAME TO THE RIVER
© 2009 gch

It was the murder of the young hag that started it all.  I still don’t know where Aubrey got that pair of scissors.  I’d have sworn he didn’t have them with him that morning.

We’d left home about three hours beforehand to travel downstream.  I had business to attend to in the county seat and Aubrey, well, Aubrey was bored, so he volunteered to come with me as lookout.  Normally a lookout wouldn’t be needed, but what with the drought and all, the river was running awfully shallow in places, so I said okay, you can come, but behave yourself.  I’m kinda glad he did come along or I’d have probably torn the bottom out of the boat within the first mile.  I knew where the hazards usually were and steered around those areas.  But, even though the boat only drew two inches with both of us on board, it still got a little noisy as we scraped over some spots that usually had deep water.

Round about ten, we decided to take a break.  Navigating with the river this shallow and still with its normal amount of traffic was very hard on the nerves and I for one could use a short break.  Everyone seemed to be short tempered that day.  Maybe it was the heat; maybe it was that everyone was a little more tense because of the low water.  The reason didn’t really matter.  All that was necessary was to know that people were touchy.  We passed a hydra, busy arguing with itself over the best route, each head threatening the others with physical violence if such-and-such a course wasn’t followed.  That wasn’t a problem for us.  With our shallow draft, we could go just about anywhere for one thing, and Aubrey was his usual carefree self, which helped relieve the tension.

It was just before the bend where the inn stood that we came upon the two hags.  The younger one was playing a musical instrument – playing it well, actually – but Aubrey, being Aubrey, had to make a disparaging comment about her ability.  He made the comment to me, but the hags have hearing that puts a dog’s to shame and she heard what he said.

Well, it took a few minutes to thread a way through the other boats tied or anchored off the inn, so by the time I’d made the boat fast, the hags also arrived.  Spotting Aubrey, the young hag made straight for him, screaming imprecations at him and threatening to rip his ears off and his tongue out.  He just stood there, motionless, until she made the mistake of reaching for his ear.  I mean, I’ve known Aubrey all his life and I’ve never seen him move so fast.  One second he was standing there, the next he had one arm around that hag’s neck and the other holding a very long and viscous-looking pair of scissors.  I don’t know what he said to her, because he was speaking very quietly into her ear, and the older hag, standing beside me, just gasped, but whatever it was, it only served to rile her even more.  The young one reached up with her hands in what looked like an attempt to claw his eyes out and the scissors flashed.

He didn’t stab her in the neck.  Not Aubrey. He opened the scissors and almost gently inserted one half of the now open blades into her neck, then, “snip, snip!” he cut her throat open that way, much like cutting a piece of cloth.  Then he just let the body fall, calmly bent down and wiped the scissors on her clothes and then they vanished back into wherever he’d had them hidden. I didn’t know that boy had such a sadistic streak in him.

With the excitement over, the crowd dispersed, many of them returning to the inn and their refreshments.

We entered the inn and Aubrey excused himself to wash the blood from his hands.  I sat down and ordered something light.  Since we still had a couple of hours on the river ahead of us, I didn’t want anything too heavy for it might make me sleepy and I couldn’t afford that to happen as we were starting to get a lot of cross-river traffic as well.  I knew when Aubrey entered the room, for all conversation stopped for a few seconds.

The old crone who ran the inn walked behind the counter to relieve her daughter for a while.  Seeing her, a voice called out “Avenus, when did it start?  When did all this violence and indifference to life begin?”  A few other voices called out “Tell us, Avenus, you know.”

When I call Avenus “old” I’m not talking seventy or eighty.  I’m talking six or seven hundred.

Pouring herself a drink of some sort, she stood quietly for a few minutes.  Then, “you want to know when it started?  All right, I’ll tell you what I remember.”

There was a sudden spurt of movement as people signalled for refills.  She waited until everyone was satisfied and silent again.  “I’ll tell you, but I guarantee you won’t believe me.”

She took a sip of her drink then began in a soft voice. “Would you believe that at one time there were no crones, no hags, no hydras, none of the others as well?  Would you believe that at one time, there were only humans?”

Glancing around the room, I noticed that very few in attendance looked human, although we all called ourselves by that appellation.

“It was about, oh, five hundred years ago when it happened. The superstitious called it an omen.  The religious claimed it was a sign from whatever deity they worshipped that he/she was displeased with the human race.  Those who claimed to be scientists stated it was just a meteor.  The lunatic fringe loudly proclaimed it was the beginning of an invasion.  Me, I don’t know what it was, but I suspect the loonies were a lot closer to the truth than anyone else.

“Whatever it was apparently came to ground, or rather water, in the lake that feeds the river.  People looked for it, but although it had been seen to strike, then sink below, the surface of the lake, nobody could ever find a trace of it.  Other than a lot of dead fish, there was no outward sign anything unusual had happened there.

“Keep in mind the river wasn’t as busy as it is now.  Over the centuries, we’ve moved away from the roads and used the river more and more.  And you know”, she paused and took another sip.  “There was no logical reason for that.  You all use the river, so you know how dangerous and uncertain even a short voyage can be.  And the roads meant we could travel farther and faster carrying heavier loads and more crops.  No, I’m afraid whatever fell that day turned us into water people.”

A voice interrupted.  “Avenus, what do you mean ‘turned us into water people’?”

“About a year after the Fall, as it came to be known, people began to die.  The medical people were puzzled by the sudden spike in the death rate and did some autopsies and other less pleasant things and found strange organisms in the bodies.  The stories were always eerily similar: each person or family had been fine until about six months previous and each person got their water supply from the river.  So the white coats looked at the river water and sure enough, they found those same organisms, which were unlike anything ever seen before.  It took some kid, fresh from college to put two and two together and actually get four.  He was a hiker and on one of his trips, he ventured beyond Fall Lake, to use its current name – and now you know why it’s called that – and took water samples from the river feeding the lake.  Tests on those samples came back clean.  So he deduced that rather than agricultural or industrial pollution causing these alien things in the river, the real cause was whatever had fallen into the lake.”

“Avenus, if these organisms made people die, how are we here?  Why isn’t this an unpopulated woodland?” I heard myself say.

She looked straight at me and smiled, almost as if I’d been planted to ask just that question.  “Why?  How?  Because the human body adapted.  Granted a lot of people died, but eventually our bodies adapted to these strange organisms and incorporated them into our systems.

“Did you know that people who move away from the river – I mean far away inland,  not just away from the riverbanks – usually die within six months?  In most cases doctors can’t figure out why a seemingly healthy person just keels over and dies.  But, I think I know.  It’s because they now have a different water supply that doesn’t contain the organisms.

“We, all of us, have now reached a stage in our development where we need those organisms in order to survive.”

She paused and looked at me, then took another sip of her drink.  Looking around the room, she continued.

“Before the Fall, there were just humans, as I said.  These alien organisms are the reason we now have hydras, hags, crones and all the rest.  Every one of us has some ability not normally found in people.  The crones, such as myself, have extreme longevity.  I’m five hundred and twenty three years old and expect to live at least that long again.  I don’t know why and the doctors can’t explain it, but for some reason, rather than kill me, my body was able to absorb and assimilate the organisms when I was younger.

“The hags, for example, have hearing far beyond the range of most creatures, not just humans.  I’ve had a hag tell me she could hear the supersonic sounds a bat makes.

“The hydras have their own unique abilities.  One day, right here in this room, one head told me they were telepathic, which the other heads vehemently and promptly denied, of course.”

Looking at Aubrey, she continued, “Some of us have super-human speed.  Young man, I’ve been around a long time and I’ve never seen anyone move as fast as you did today, and I’ve seen a lot of fights and other things in my years running this place.”

Aubrey had the good sense to look embarrassed.

“As for the indifference and violence?  I’m afraid that is just an old human trait honed over the centuries, from long before I was born.  If someone or something looks different from you, they are fair game and their life doesn’t matter.  It’s been that way a long, long time and I doubt we’ll ever change it.

“So, was the Fall an invasion? Was the lunatic fringe right?   Look around the room and decide for yourselves.”

Scanning the room again, she spoke once more, in a much softer voice than previously  “You wanted to know when it all started? You wanted to know when the violence and indifference started?  Now you know.  It started when space came to the river.”