Sorcha and the Mirror (1092 words)
When Sorcha was little, she dreamed of working at the castle. She saw the ladies riding up the hill, and she imagined how it would be to see them dancing in all their finery in the golden halls. But the Queen only hired servants of exceptional talent, and as Sorcha grew, she turned out to be competent at many things, but brilliant at nothing.
"Who cares if you can't bake a perfect pie or sing a perfect song?" her mother said as they scrubbed at the laundry together. "You're my Sorcha and that you'll always be."
When Sorcha was fourteen she was hired on as kitchen maid at the mayor's house. The mayor was an impatient little man with a silly moustache, and his wife was sharp-tongued and unkind, but Sorcha bore it well and each evening she went home to the warmth of her mother's house.
One summer morning, Sorcha was washing the pots and pans when she heard Agnes the senior maid grumbling in frustration. "I declare," said Agnes, "I can't get the mark to come away from this glass for anything!"
"Let me try." Sorcha rubbed at the black mark with her thumb and it disappeared. Agnes snatched the glass away so fast Sorcha was afraid it would fall.
"How did you do that?" Agnes held the glass to the light to see its perfect shine, and caught at Sorcha's hand to see the thumb responsible.
"I don't know," said Sorcha, too startled to mind the thumb examination. "I never did it before."
Together they tested Sorcha's new ability and found she could do nothing with china, wood, or ivory. A brush of her thumb could clean glass, for sure, but everything else behaved just as it always had. "I finally have a talent," said Sorcha, and when she went home that night she told her mother.
"A fine talent," said her mother, "when we've not a single glass in the house!"
"I can at least keep the windows clean," said Sorcha, feeling that her talent was perhaps a small thing after all. Not, anyway, the sort of thing a Queen had any use for. When she returned to work, she asked Agnes to keep her talent a secret, and the older girl agreed, but with a smile that made Sorcha worry. Agnes was a gossip.
Three days later, a message came down that Sorcha was wanted at the castle. The mayor blustered and his wife frowned, for they were very seldom invited to the castle themselves. But they agreed to send Sorcha, and she went on her way with a head full of admonishments and rules.
Sorcha stood in a fine marble chamber and smoothed at her skirt with trembling hands. The castle was as beautiful as she'd imagined, but she felt that she didn't belong in it at all. It felt empty and lacking in life. The servants she saw were subdued, and there were no shouts of joy or anger, no sounds of laughter. The maid who opened the door to admit her smiled kindly, but Sorcha could find no smile in return.
Behind a mahogany table sat the Queen. She looked as if she had never had a wrinkled skirt, never blushed or felt awkward. She smiled at Sorcha and with one perfect hand beckoned her closer. "I hear you have a remarkable talent," she said.
Sorcha made a curtsey. The carpet beneath her feet was thicker and softer than she'd ever felt. She didn't like to look away at the paintings on the walls, in case it was rude. But hadn't the mayor's wife said that staring at the Queen too long would be rude too? She bit her lip.
"Don't be afraid, child," the Queen said. She gestured to the corner of the room, where a tall frame leaned against the wall, covered in a gauzy sheet. "Uncover my mirror."
With shaking hands Sorcha pulled the sheet from the mirror. She gasped. Someone had hurled black paint over the mirror's surface. The fine golden frame was marred, and barely a speck of shining glass showed. "Oh, how dreadful," Sorcha cried, before she could remember her manners.
"Yes." The Queen rose and came closer. "Once a man hated this mirror, for it showed him his true self, and he found the sight unbearable. He could not shatter the glass, not with fist or hammer, so he blackened it instead. But now I am growing older, and I should like to see my true self." She smiled at Sorcha, but Sorcha thought the smile was more sad than happy. "Will you clean my mirror, Sorcha?"
"I will, your Majesty," whispered Sorcha, quite taken with the story, and she curtseyed again for good measure. The Queen's smile became touched with amusement.
"Thank you, my dear," she said.
Sorcha raised her hands and wiped the black paint from the surface of the mirror. With each stroke more of the shining surface was revealed, until Sorcha wiped away the last tiny smear with the side of her thumb. Her reflection was disappointing. She had hoped to see a fine ladies' maid, perhaps, or a fierce adventurer, or a dancer. Instead she saw Sorcha, just as she had been that morning, but now with untidy hair and black paint on her hands.
In the room's reflection, the paintings were sad and faded, and cobwebs and dust covered the walls. It looked like a room that was dying. Sorcha stared a moment before remembering her manners. "It's finished, your Majesty," she said, and stepped back from the mirror.
The Queen sat at her table with her eyes closed and her hands gripping each other. "Thank you, my dear," she said. "I should like to be alone when I look into my mirror. Perhaps I won't like what I see."
Sorcha met the kindly maid in the hall. "I expect you could work here now, if you wanted," said the maid.
Sorcha thought of the sad Queen, and the truthful mirror. "I think I'd better go home to my mother instead," she said. The maid took her to the steward, who gave her a purse of silver coins, enough to keep her mother in a comfortable old age. They sent her home, and she was glad to go.
"But I thought you wanted to work at the castle more than anything," teased her mother as they hugged.
"I thought so too," said Sorcha. "But I'm your Sorcha, and that I'll always be, and I don't want anyone to ever say differently."
|# ? Mar 29, 2014 17:54|
|# ? May 18, 2022 13:21|
Little Benny Learns His Lesson (382 words)
Flash Rule: Chatty motherfucker chats too much, gets what's coming to him.
A new girl came to school today and her name was Bea that’s a dumb name and she was wearing yellow and black stripes and those are dumb colors so I said she was Bea the B and it was funny because she looks like a bee buzz buzz but also it’s like I said she was a b-word and it was funny and everybody laughed. I am smart. But then at recess she chased me with a pen and said buzz buzz I’m gonna sting you and the pen hurt and everybody laughed but it wasn’t funny it was dumb and I hate Bea she is dumb.
There were thunderstorms last night and I hate thunderstorms they are dumb I didn’t want to go to school today but mom made me. I was mad and I didn’t want to do anything but Claude made me come out at recess to look at Bea and I didn’t want to look at Bea she is dumb and I don’t care but he said it was going to be great and he dragged me Claude is dumb too. There were lots of kids and Bea’s friend said start and then Bea fell asleep and we touched and poked her and she wouldn’t wake up and then Mrs. Speare came and made us go away and I hate Mrs. Speare she is mean.
I made a note from cut up magazines like in cartoons and sent it to Bea then I met her after school and she said do you like me and giggled and started poking me with the pen and saying buzz buzz and I said no I hate you go away but I got scared and fell down and said please please I’ll like you but help me and I’ll do whatever you want please help me and then she turned all red and said OK and then we went to her house and Bea’s mom is nice she is sleepy.
There were thunderstorms all week but I didn’t care because Bea showed me how to sleep fast but I’ll never be as good as Bea she’s the best at sleeping fast Bea’s amazing and when I grow up I want to marry her.
|# ? Mar 29, 2014 18:12|
I failed to post my word count. It is 936. I would add it in, but I hear you get the soap in a sock treatment if you edit your posts.
|# ? Mar 30, 2014 05:51|
I grew a year older this week, and thus got more drunk than I can possibly comprehended. Therefore gently caress y'all. Thunderdome owns, and if you don't learn to love Thunderdome then you'll never learn how to be an adequate writer. And if you never learn how to be an adequate writer then gently caress YOU SUCK A DICK THUNDERDOME FTW WHAT DA gently caress HELL YES SON happy birthday to me lol
The Fun of Flying With Squeegees
Squeak. Squeak. Squeak.
Just like that, the window is flawless--so pristine you could eat off it. Assuming your food wouldn't fall eighty or so stories to the ground, of course.
I twirl my squeegee through my fingers like a six-shooter and take to the next window, wiping in clean, beautiful strokes like I'm Michel-loving-angelo painting the Sistine-loving-Chapel. Yeah, my canvas won't be as colorful once it's done, but it'll still be a masterpiece. That's why they save the skyscrapers for me; the windows up here get beaten to poo poo by all manner of weather and are only cleaned twice a year, but I make 'em look brand-spanking-new every time.
There's an office on the other side of the window, where a beautiful blonde is sipping her morning coffee. She's young and lean with great tits and luscious red lips, and she's kind enough to give me a smile through the window. I acknowledge her with a cocky nod, as if to say What up, baby? That's right--I ain't afraid of no heights. Maybe you and I come up here sometime and ride the windows together, know what I mean?
It's in that moment, of all moments, that poo poo goes loving catastrophic.
I don't even realize I've lost my ground until the harness yanks up into my crotch. My squeegee goes flying, my bucket of disinfectant cascading down the side of the building like a waterfall, as the scaffold breaks free and dangles in midair. The momentum flips me upside-down, leaving me hanging a thousand feet in the sky, staring straight down at the street.
"Oh gently caress, oh gently caress, oh fuuuuuuck!"
I look to my left where Javier's hanging as well, right-side up, squirming in his harness as he swings left and right in the wind. "You alright, Javi?" I ask.
"Do I look loving alright?"
Obviously not, but trying to keep him calm is an exercise in futility, dwarfed by the need to get myself turned right-side up before all the blood in my body rushes to my brain. "Yo, I need you to swing over here and turn me over."
"Are you loving kidding me, bro?"
"No, but I'll be loving dead if you don't get me righted soon."
He looks at me, frantic, then looks down at the ground. "Aw poo poo, dude. No way...no loving way!"
"Don't be getting all scared of heights on me now, alright? We're used to this. This is no different from being on the scaffold."
"The gently caress you smoking? It's nothing like that!"
"Okay, okay, so it's a little different from being on the scaffold. But listen to me: our harnesses will hold, okay? We're going to be fine! So swing your rear end over here and help me out!"
Javier exhales several times, each more panicked than the last, but gives me a jittery nod.
"Alright, what I need you to do is push yourself off what's left of the scaffold and slide over to me."
"What if it breaks off?"
"That's a problem for the people on the ground, not us. The railing's attached to the roof and our harnesses are attached to the railing, so we're not falling. Now get over here and help me."
Carefully, he uses his legs to leverage himself on the edge of the dangling scaffold. He pushes off with a thrust, his rope sliding by its carabiner across the railing. There's a jostle or two, but otherwise everything remains steady, and he's to my side in no time. With one hand clutched firmly to his safety rope, he reaches out with the other and grabs my jumpsuit, pulling with all his might to slowly turn me over. "You gotta help me, dude," he says. "What do you weigh, two-fifty?"
Two twenty-five, rear end in a top hat, but I digress. I crunch my abs, doing sit-ups in midair to help him lift me right-way up. Eventually gravity takes over and I flip into place, feet to the ground and head to the sky.
"See, Javi? That wasn't too bad, was it?" I can tell by the look in his eyes that he'd like nothing more than to sucker punch me right now, but we've got more pressing matters to attend to. I peer around him towards the tow box, which connects us to the launching pad on the roof. Unfortunately it's on the opposite side of the scaffold from where we're hanging. "Alright, back that way."
Javier groans. "You serious?"
"Unless you wanna hang here until the firefighters come, that's our only way out. Now I don't know about you, but I'm not a big fan of Cliffhanger, so the sooner we're out of here, the better."
"What the gently caress is Cliffhanger?"
"Seriously? With Sly Stallone? Did you not watch movies in the 90s?"
"I was born in the 90s, bro."
For gently caress's sake.
We begin scooting along, using the edge of the collapsed scaffold as our balance beam while we keep our hands in a death grip on the railing. A crowd has gathered through the windows, their faces wrought with abject horror at our predicament. Fine by me; let them snatch up all the fear in air so I can just concentrate on getting off this thing alive.
A news chopper glides in behind us, eager for the scoop, and I give it a quick wave to say we're okay. "If you ever wanted to be on the news, now's your chance. Say 'hello', Javi!"
"gently caress you, dude."
Yeah, I probably deserve that.
When we reach the tow box, Javier smashes the 'up' button before either of us has a chance to brace ourselves. There's a heavy shutter and for a split second I sincerely think we're about to fly to our deaths, but the ropes hold. As we ascend, the people in the offices start applauding, their fear replaced by hope, and I can't help but give them a confident thumbs-up.
We reach the roof and scramble out of our harnesses, both of us collapsing to the floor. The sky above us is a brilliant shade of blue, with the barest pinks and oranges of the upcoming sunset sneaking in from the west. The news chopper cuts across it, camera trained down, no doubt broadcasting our escape to the whole city.
"Hey," Javier says after a while, his voice finally calm and under control, "I quit."
"Go for it," I say with a grin. "Leaves more windows for me."
"You're loving insane, dude."
Don't I know it, Javier, but goddamn if this ain't the best loving job in the world.
|# ? Mar 30, 2014 07:41|
The Final Chore
I watched the M on the Walmart sign flicker on and off across the mostly empty parking lot. You know your town is hosed when even the big box stores are struggling, laying off the greeters and cashiers. The cash cow is getting sickly, and that meant death to the other stores in the strip mall.
I sighed, and locked the doors early. We hadn’t had a customer in an hour, and it wasn’t like they could fire me. Me and the rest of the crew at Baja Fresh Wiltonburg were going on unemployment, starting officially tomorrow. They had been very apologetic about not having any other management positions available for me.
“Linda, you can get out of here, I’ll finish closing down. You want something to eat?”
Linda looked up from mopping by the drink machine. She was pretty and blonde, in that strange middle age where they stop calling you ‘Girl’ but didn’t quite call you ‘Ma’am’. She probably could have skipped out of this town, if it wasn’t for her dad. Of course, right now she looked like she had just finished the majority of a fast food shift. Fluorescent lights and sweat aren’t exactly good on anybody’s complexion.
“Are you sure, Mike? I don’t mind sticking it out.”
I waved her off. “Don’t worry about it, the place is mostly closed anyway. Seriously, you want something to eat? On the house, for our very last customer.”
She smiled and ordered a burrito. I laid the ingredients out in a perfect distribution, as fast as she could say them, and folded the whole thing up with origami precision.Back when this store was still sometimes busy, I would fly through the customers, faster than the cashiers could ring them. They would end up in a big line, waiting to pay. Back before the rest of the managers quit, one by one, to move away or just stop working.
I handed the burrito to Linda. She smirked as she traced her finger across the invisible crease where I closed the tin foil.
“Something the matter?” I asked.
“No. I’m just still amazed at how you do it.” She held the burrito up like a trophy. “It looks like a bar of silver.”
I shrugged. “Practice, I guess. Eight years of repetition.”
She dropped it in her purse and gave me a smile. “Naw, you’ve got a gift. Too bad there isn’t a competition you could win. You’d be a natural.”
“Yeah, too bad,” I said with a forced chuckle. An awkward silence settled in. I didn’t really have anything else to say about burritos.
“Well…” She said finally, “I guess I should be going. I hope- Well, I hope I see you around, Mike. Don’t be a stranger.” She reached across the counter to hug me tight. I smelled faint shampoo, sweat, and salsa. She squeezed me around the neck, and I gently placed my hand on her back. I wanted to hold her forever, and I wanted this one last interaction before the end to be done with.
She finally let go, and opened her mouth as if she was going to say something else. A look passed over her eyes, and she turned away. She didn’t say anything else - just waved, and walked through the door. My eyes followed her every step until she was gone.
I sighed, and picked up the mop.
It didn’t take long to finish cleaning up and shutting down. Tomorrow, the Closers would come in to gut the place. They save everything of scrap value, and toss the rest. I doubted a few stray crumbs on the floor would bother them. All the drawers were pulled, and the safe was locked up. There was just one final task to do.
I sat in the back of the house, holding the pistol in my hand. My dad gave it to me when I graduated high school. It was a simple thing of metal and plastic, and felt heavy in my hand. I pressed the barrel against the bottom of my chin. The metal felt cold enough to burn. I steeled myself to pull the trigger.
Someone was knocking at the door.
I felt a mix of despair and relief. I slipped the safety back on, and put the gun back in my bag. Linda was at the front door, with a strange look on her face. The only car in the parking lot was mine.
“Hey?” I said as I unlocked the door. “What’s the matter?”
“I know this is going to sound weird,” She said, as she put a piece of paper with her number in my hand, “But I really liked working with you. I just didn’t want this to be the last time we saw each other. Anyway, I was wondering if you’d like to call me sometime. You know… ask me out on a date.”
“Yeah,” I replied. “Yeah, I’d like that. You know, it just so happens I’m off work tomorrow…”
She giggled. “What a coincidence, so am I. Want to give me a ride home?”
“Sure,” I said. I grabbed my bag and locked the door. To hell with those drat burritos.
|# ? Mar 30, 2014 08:24|
Wouldn't If You Were on Fire
“Bet you can’t.”
Anna peered over the edge. It was a fair way down. Wind wasn’t too bad though. Little bit of adjustment. No obstacles in the way. She cleared her throat. Hock hard. Get that phlegm into a nice big lump.
The phlegm was very important. Lesser spitters often neglected the phlegm. They didn’t understand that, in addition to leaving a more satisfying mark on the spittee, the extra weight made the trajectory of the spit more predictable. She angled her head slightly, hocked once more, pursed her lips and then expelled her phlegmy load outwards and downwards.
Richie was waiting outside the front door. Those two dweebs had to come down sooner or later, and when they did, he would give them such a beating. It would be glorious. He was daydreaming about the beating he’d deliver them when a phlegmy load landed in his hair.
“That was the greatest thing I have ever seen,” said Robbie.
“Never doubt my powers of expectoration again.”
“I never will.”
The spittee felt about with his hand and discovered what it was that he’d thought was rain. He did not appear thrilled with his discovery.
“Is he crying,” asked Anna?
“Yeah,” said Robbie. “Now this is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Robbie shrugged. “He’s a poo. Maybe now he won’t pick on us so much.”
Unfortunately, for much of Anna’s formative years, her special gift would not be encouraged by adults around her, or by her peers. It was ‘unladylike’, or ‘gross’, or ‘totally gross’, or ‘so not hot.’ She still practiced in private, but very few opportunities to show off her talent presented themselves.
Anna blinked and refocussed. “Sorry, I was providing twenty years of exposition in third person.”
“Uh. Not important. What was the question?”
“Did you want dessert?”
“No thanks, dinner was kind of huge. I’ve got fruity chewy, that’ll give me that desserty flavour without the calories.”
Richie grinned. “That’s pretty weird, but no problem. I’ll go get the bill and we can get out of here.”
OK, so you’re probably wondering about the Richie thing. Well basically, twenty years is a long time, right? I mean, we were like, five or something in that first bit. He grew out of being a jackass, what do you want from me? Plus the writer didn’t want to write more characters into it and think up more character names, and Robbie moved interstate to study or something.
“Oh, you’re back. Just more exposition. Dropped the third person though.”
“I have no idea what you just said.”
Anna kissed him on the cheek. “It’s nothing, let’s just go, all right?”
Now before the tilde denoted a jump of like twenty years, but this time it’s more like two minutes. Just letting you know so you don’t get too confused.
“Uh, Anna, can you stop doing the thing? We seem to be getting mugged.”
“Give me your purse, lady.”
Anna chewed her gum and looked at the mugger. He had no defining features worth expounding on. I mean maybe he turned to a life of crime because he was laid off or something, but it’s more likely in his case that he was just an awful person who was no respecter of property laws.
“I’m not giving you my purse.”
“You should totally give me your purse.”
“I don’t see why I should. I don’t see any positives in this for me.”
The mugger reached out and laid his hands on her purse. “Um. Hands off my purse, you jerk.”
The mugger yanked hard, and Anna stumbled forward a couple of steps. “If you don’t let go of this purse,” said the mugger, “I am going to do some unpleasant things to you. I won’t describe them in any detail because this isn’t that kind of story, but you can be assured they’re pretty nasty and not the kind of things you want happening to you.”
Anna chewed again. Cleared her throat. Angled her head slightly, pursed her lips and then expelled her chewy load out towards her outwards and upwards.
The mugger clutched at his eye and said some unpleasant things, while Anna and Richie stepped over him and kept walking to the car.
“That was the greatest thing I have ever seen,” said Richie.
Anna shrugged. “I’ve done better. Once.”
|# ? Mar 30, 2014 12:54|
Not much of a line-by-line, because my comments were more on the macro level.
|# ? Mar 30, 2014 15:33|
Scrubbing the Evidence
Nethilia fucked around with this message at 04:40 on Dec 30, 2014
|# ? Mar 30, 2014 16:03|
Le Tour de Franzia 758 words
“Swear to God dude, swear to fuckin’ god!”
“It’s not that we don’t believe you, bro, it’s that no one loving cares,” said Jeff, his burliness about to overcome his Gold’s Gym wifebeater.
“I can get the drunkest. Hands down. Literally. You guys just fuckin’ watch. I’ll be at Becca’s goldsprint thing tonight, and I bet you a tub of brotein I’ll be drunker than you. I won’t even take a shot, bro.”
Jeff’s massive Neanderthal brow furrowed, or maybe it didn’t. It was hard to say, really. Either way, I could see the fierce glare of alcoholism and competition in his eyes.
I showed up with a box of wine in a custom backpack, a patented drip system already working its magic. A certain warmth and numbness was reaching my extremities.
Jeff was there, taking nips off a bottle of Captain Morgan. Baby games. His liver was still doing all the heavy lifting. I chuckled. He raised his arms and bellowed “THIS DUMBASS”, pointing at me, “This dumbass thinks he can out drink me!”
The room erupted into good hearted laughter, cans of Pabst were crushed against foreheads. Confidence flowed into me from somewhere down below.
“I’ll outdrink and out race you!”
“BECCA! THE GOLDSPRINTS!” Jeff roared, shotgunning a beer and blowing foam out of his nostrils.
“Alright, alright, calm down. Go smoke a bowl or something, jeezus.” She flicked a switch and a projector whirred to life. Empty tourney brackets filled the wall behind the goldsprint bikes.
My muscles tensed when I saw the two ancient Bianchis welded into trainers, custom blood alcohol monitors stuck to the handlebars. Sobriety meant immediate disqualification.
I hopped onto the bike, the wine contraption causing me some discomfort. The room wavered for a moment, a mighty burp escaped me.
“You ain’t even had a drink yet!” Jeff said, climbing onto his bike. Becca stood poised at a laptop, air horn held high. My palms sweaty, I exhaled into the breathalyser. The crowd was silent. I turned, quickly: Jeff was 0.05 ahead of me. The horn sounded, my legs exploded with movement.
An eternity passed, I saw nothing but the casting marks on the Bianchi stem. The horn sounded again, I heard Jeff throw up. My legs were numb now, someone helped me off the bike, someone else raised my hand above me.
“We have a winner!”
The night went on, the colours grew vivid and the faces blurry. Someone helped me on and off the bikes, others asked me why I wasn’t drinking. The box of wine grew lighter, my leads grew larger, my blood alcohol shot sky-high.
“Man, what’s your trick?” Becca asked, somehow far away. “I haven’t seen you drink at all but your BAC’s through the roof. I wanna know how to beat the system man, you gotta tell me,” she asked, her hand on the small of my back.
My voice was suddenly far away.
“Fine, a secret’s a secret, I get it. Livestrong and all that bullshit, right?”
“Someone call the loving ambulance!” Becca screamed, “He’s having a heart attack!”
“You really think so?” Jeff said, laying my body out into the recovery position, “I mean, he’s still breathing and his pulse is alright, you don’t think it’s the booze?”
“He hasn’t drank all night!” Becca said.
“What about the breathalyser?” Jeff asked.
Silence filled the room. Jeff reached for the straps of my custom wine-pack, gently taking it off my shoulders. “She’s almost empty,” he said, holding the box up and shaking it.
“What’s this?” Becca tugged at the surgical tubing coming out of the box, “don’t tell me he’s got a wine IV…” Gently, she tugged at the tubing. There was an audible ‘pop’ as the patented drip system pulled free of my rectum.
“Are you loving serious?” Becca and Jeff seemed to say in unison. Lights and sirens broke the awkward silence that followed, EMTs burst through the door, one held a medical grade breathalyser to my face. He turned the device off then on, then tried again.
“I think this thing’s broken,” he said.
“No, no I don’t think it is,” said Becca, holding my wine apparatus aloft.
The EMT nodded gravely, “A buttchugger…are you aware your friend’s blood is a full two percent alcohol? He very well may be the drunkest man, ever.”
As if on cue, as though trying to dull the moment of my triumph, one final indignity befell me before I shoved off this mortal coil: I poo poo my pants.
|# ? Mar 30, 2014 17:15|
The Audi at the start line next to Rachel revved its engine, sending heavy vibrations through her tailbone. “Pretend you’re on the Beltway, and you’re going home from work. You can do this.” Her hand trembled as she turned the ignition on her rented race car. The engine sparked to life. Rachel shivered, despite the summer heat, and gripped the steering wheel hard enough to feel the vibrations in her fingers as the leather in her gloves wrinkled. She closed her eyes and tried to block out her fear. “You’re going home from work. Jill’s waiting for you. Settle down.”
Red lights changed to green. Tires squealed and engines pulsed. Roars erupted from the engine bays of cars as Rachel was overtaken by everybody on the track. The other cars hit fifty at the first bend. Rachel took it at thirty five. She wasn't concerned with winning. She just wanted to get the car back in one piece. Racing terrified her. She took a deep breath and repeated her mantra. "Going home from work. Going home from work. Going home from work."
"You're a better driver than this." The voice of Rachel's girlfriend crackled through the speaker embedded in the side of her helmet. "I've been on the interstate with you. You're the master of overtaking. How can you slip past Mustangs in a Fiat, but drive this slow on an actual racetrack?"
"Shut up Jill. This is scary."
"Scary expensive. Not to say you ain't worth it, but come on. Mama don't wanna feel embarrassed."
"Thanks. Again." Rachel's voice was deadpan. “What did I do to make you think I’d want to race ca… hang on, corner.”
She controlled the car around the second bend with ease. This was where Jill sat, alone. Rachel saw a sign held up in the stand. She tried to read it in her rear view as she entered the third straight, but the engine vibrations made the reflection shake and quiver.
"I don't know what that sign... oh poo poo." Distracted, Rachel braked late for the third corner and felt the car lose control. Panic took over, then fell aside to reflex. The car drifted sideways, taking the corner wide before leveling out. By the time Rachel realized she was safe, she was on the straight, facing the right way. The car in last place drew nearer.
A whoop sounded in her helmet. "That's my girl. You got this."
Rachel set her eyes on the car in front. She was just going home from work. This wasn't a racetrack. Or a strange, multi-thousand dollar gift from her girlfriend. She was just going home from work. Going home from work. Going home from work.
Last place disappeared in Rachel's rear view. Second-last took the fourth corner ahead of Rachel, but was behind her by the fifth. A meditative calm washed over Rachel. It was as if she had stepped back from her body and was appraising a job well done. At the end of the second lap she was in the top half of the pack. By the start of the third, she was in second place.
"I'm a little intimidated by you right now." Jill's voice brought Rachel out of her trance. Awareness flooded her system. Panic returned to the surface of Rachel's mind.
"Stop. Concentrating." The third corner approached and Rachel moved closer to the car in first position. She stared at its rear bumper until everything else disappeared into tunnel vision. Her world was the back end of a Toyota Supra. She drew nearer and nearer.
Lap three finished with Rachel in first place, the Supra close behind. Jill’s voice shouted in her ear. “Suck it. Nobody overtakes like Rachel Baker!”
Rachel pulled ahead and laughed as Jill continued screaming encouragements. The first turn of the final lap drew close. Seven more corners, seven more straights and Rachel would win the first race she'd ever entered. She felt relaxed, as if she was about to take her exit from the interstate home.
There was nobody left to overtake.
The Supra was the first car to pass her, cutting the inside of the first corner. Rachel squealed in shock as it appeared in her right hand window, closely followed by the throaty roar of the Audi. The strap of her helmet cut into her jaw as she tried to swallow a mouthful of saliva. The two Mazdas passed her in the third straight. Her confidence was gone; by the final corner, Rachel was in dead last again. She mashed the accelerator down for the final dash, but it was pointless. Heart in her throat, Rachel crossed the finish line last.
Rachel's hands shook too hard to undo the strap of her helmet. She sat and waited for Jill to help her out. Embarrassed and on an adrenaline comedown, tears stung Rachel's eyes. She took a deep breath before talking. "I'm sorry, I know you spent so much on this, I'm just not a racer."
Jill shushed her and crouched down on a knee. "It's okay. You did so good. I'm proud of you. I don’t care if you won or lost at all."
"Why did you buy me this anyway? I don’t care about cars, you know that."
"Well," said Jill, her face flushing red. "We’ve been together for two years, and I know you're not out yet to your parents, so I wanted to get you a real expensive ring you didn't have to wear, and, well..." She waved her arm to the vaguely circular racetrack. "Will you marry me?"
Rachel’s heart beat faster. She felt the stares of the track office beating down on her. For once, she didn’t care that they were mostly looks of disapproval. She was a winner. “Of course.”
|# ? Mar 30, 2014 17:52|
Footlong (1034 words)
You've heard of sandwich artists? Well I'm an Old Master. I'm the Bosch of bread, the Pontormo of processed cheese, the Goya of great customer service. I slice a footlong in half, I get two perfect six-inchers. You can measure them if you really want. My Spicy Italians have the perfect spread of salami and pepperoni to cover the maximum surface area, for maximum taste. I go whole shifts without dirtying my apron. I can actually pronounce jalapeño. I get tips. People like me. I work fifty, sometimes sixty hour weeks. I bleed for Subway. That's why I'm not gonna let these turds rob us blind.
The guy in the balaclava hesitates when I'm done telling him this, then he shoves the shotgun barrel back against my forehead. “You know this is loaded, right?” he asks. The gun's so ludicrously long, he's like a foot away from me. It's like he's yelling at me down a corridor. I hear his partner, with the bandana across his face, in the back, keeping an eye on Dylan. He needn't bother. Dylan barely moves during a normal shift. He's not going anywhere. “Just give him it, Lee!” he shouts.
“Shush,” the bandana guy growls.
Balaclava Guy nudges me with the barrel. I can guess his age by the way he talks, by the way he walked in, just as I was closing up for the day. He's young, not much older than me or Dylan. I've been working my arse off, and just before my first day off in a fortnight, this happens. They come in here, trying to take money earned by hard-working, normal people. The entitled little pricks.
He nudges me again. “C'mon mate,” he says. “The safe.”
“I don't know the code,” I tell him. “I'm not the manager. Mate.”
“Who is then?” he asks. “Him?” He points at Dylan, knelt by the sinks in the back with a baseball bat held to his head.
I snort. “Not in this lifetime.” We're understaffed as it is, being between managers, but we'd actually be better off without Dylan. So many burnt cookies, so many messed up orders, so much stale bread. There's still some on the counter I've gotta throw out.
“So?” He swings the shotgun down towards my chest.
“So what?” I ask.
“So what are you gonna give me?” He squints at my name tag. “Leeon?”
I sigh again, my hands still in the air. “I'm not giving you anything.”
“You see this gun, yeah? You're not blind or something?” he asks, pointing the gun back up at my head. I can see the gun. It looks big and dangerous. And nobody would hear it go off out here. A Subway at a retail park is a good place to hold up. Or it would be, except –
“This is all on camera,” I say.
“Uh, yeah, that's why our faces are covered,” he says, pointing at his balaclava. “Duh. Are you blind?.”
I continue: “This is all on camera, and it's being broadcast live to our regional office. A senior manager's watching this and has already called the police. They've got your car's licence plate from the camera over the door, too.” Plus they can see me handling this situation in a way befitting of, say, a future store manager.
“That's not what we hear,” he says. “Look, mate, I don't know why you're playing the hero. And for Subway? C'mon. Open the till, at least.”
“Look, I get it,” I lean towards him. “Times are tough. I'm a graduate, I couldn't find a job, ended up working here, and you know what? It's a decent job. You don't have to do poo poo like this.”
“Open the till,” he says.
I don't move. He knocks my baseball cap off with the barrel. It clatters to the ground.
“Lee! It's not worth it!” Dylan yells from the back.
“Shut up!” I shout back, and then I tell Balaclava Guy: “There's nothing in there. I emptied it.”
“So...where's the money now, then?”
“I put it in the safe.”
“But you said–”
I grab the yellow knife – the one for cutting the vegetarian subs – from my apron pocket and swing it up at his hand. He stumbles backwards and drops the shotgun. It goes off at the ground, shattering floor tiles and spitting smoke up into the air. The other guy shoves Dylan to the floor and comes at me with the bat, ready to swing. I duck and he smashes the bat into the fridge door behind me. I grab one of Dylan's stale Hearty Italian footlongs off the counter and club Bandana Guy around the head with it. He falls down, unconscious. When I stand up I see Balaclava Guy's fingertips have come clean off and tumbled in amongst the cucumbers. It's been a while since I used a knife like that. I peer over the counter to see him clutching his bloodied hand and sobbing beneath his balaclava.
“gently caress! Cousin! gently caress!” he cries. My feet crunch on glass. Bottles of Coke teeter out of the broken fridge door.
I have my shaking finger on the silent alarm when I feel something cold in my side. I turn to see Dylan, the feckless co-worker, sticking the green knife – the one for meaty subs – into my side. He's probably not even washed it. “Jesus,” I hear myself moaning. “Jesus, Dylan. What the...the hell?”
He shrugs, then shoves me aside. “Sorry man. Fiver an hour isn't enough to pay the bills.”
“You...you don't pay any bills. You...you live at your mum's...”
“So do you,” he says.
“Yeah, well...” I'm gasping. I drop the yellow knife. “Not much longer...”
“It's nothing personal, man,” he says, raiding the till I hadn't actually emptied. “Some of us just don't wanna be stuck here all their life.”
“I don't...I'm not...” The words fade and I collapse forward. I feel something cool and wet running down my side. Maybe it's just the marinara sauce I'm lying in. I hope so. I hear Dylan helping his friends up, leaving the shop, getting in the car. And I bleed for Subway.
|# ? Mar 30, 2014 20:05|
Joseph had sworn he’d never touch a wrench again. Not since the battle at Oclouse, with its death toll of 50.000, with its dozens of burning airships, with its stench of sulfur and helium and nitrogen, has he ever wanted to set foot on another one of the flying death machines.
But when the suited men came, insisting that he return for one last mission, one mission to decide the fate of his nation, he had little room for argument.
“The Nazis are at our border now,” the fat man said.
“We have developed a special airship, one that can sneak behind the enemy lines and take out Hitler,” the thin man continued. “But it is fragile. We need someone to maintain it. We need the best. How are your skills holding up?”
Joseph disassembled the metal chair from under the thin man’s rear end as he blinked. The man fell into the rubble and stared up at him with wide eyes.
“Good enough,” the fat man admitted.
“Gentlemen,” Joseph said, “I will agree to one last mission. drat you for it, but I agree. I do this for my country. But that will be it. I help kill Hitler, and then you never bother me again. Is that clear? Now get out of my house.”
“But we haven’t even given you directions to--”
“Out!” he screamed.
That night, he looked at her picture again. Beth. She’d been killed in the war, one more number in the collateral casualties statistic.
“I have to do this, Beth.” His fingers brushed over the framed picture. The tiny Yorkshire Terrier looked back dumbly. She’d have understood. “I’m sorry.”
When the airship disembarked one week later, his toolbox and the picture were all he had taken with him. It was a tiny vessel, and he would fly with a skeleton crew of about ten people, including the famous Great War veteran Captain John Killkraut, as well as a certain Fritz Bauer, the ship’s suspiciously German and unnecessary art critic.
“Gentlemen,” Cpt. Killkraut bellowed to the crew in the belly of the airship, “we have assembled here today to write history.” He made a sweeping gesture towards the tiny metal balls behind him. “The plan is simple. We sneak into occupied France and drop one of these bombs on Hitler’s head. The Krauts will never see us coming!”
Joseph raised a hand. “Sir, how do we get there undetected?”
“This vessel is constructed to be incredibly light, and swift. We will fly above the clouds. The Krauts will never see us coming!”
“If we fly above the clouds, how do we aim for Hitler?”
“The Krauts will never see us coming,” the captain explained.
“Up!” Killkraut commanded, and the crew scrambled to their positions. Joseph worked the coal engine, making sure fuel was burning up at all times. Occasionally Fritz would visit him to rave about “Hitler’s sexy moustache and general overall sexiness”, but other than that it was a quiet flight.
Once they had crossed the German border, Capt. Killkraut ordered the crew on deck.
“Men! Today is a great day bla bla blabbedy bla!”
The crewmen looked at each other uneasily.
“Bla bla yadda-- Wait, where is Fritz?”
A loud voice roared from the engine room’s two-way-speaker right next to Joseph. He started. It was Fritz.
“Hähähä. I am right here. With the bombs!”
There was a sound of coal being shoveled.
“Fritz, what are you doing in there? You maniac!” Joseph yelled.
“I will start a nice fire in here, and when it reaches the bombs, your ship will go explode. Of course I will be gone then. For I am actually Adolf Hitler! Hähähähä.”
The crew gasped. Some started towards the staircase that led to the engine room.
“Don’t stop him,” shouted Killkraut. “That’s what he expects!”
Just then, another crewman pointed down, below the ship. Joseph bolted to the rail. A German wearing a military uniform and a tiny moustache dropped out of the airship and opened a parachute.
“Turn the ship around,” yelled Killkraut.
The ship moaned as it swerved.
“We are following that bastard! Joseph, son, now is you turn. You have to hold the ship together!”
Joseph gave a stern nod. The nose of the ship dipped down. He took the wrench between his teeth, wrapped a rope around his waist, tied the other end to the rail, and swung himself over. He travelled through the air in a wide arc. For a second, it was as if gravity had disappeared. Then he went down, and slammed into the metal hull of the airship.
The heat from within expanded the metal shell to unnatural limits. Screws were undone. Joseph wouldn’t let that happen.
He took the wrench and began to screw.
The pressure was so intense that two bolts would pop for each he tightened. So he screwed twice as hard, and three times as fast. He was pouring sweat. His breath went in and out with the rythm of a Spitfire rotorblade at full throttle. His hands moved so fast they became invisible. He was a blur, an inhuman apparition keeping the entire shell of the airship in a constant state of being in the process of having its screws tightened.
The ship raced downwards at breakneck speed. Below, Hitler had just landed, and threw a quick glance over his shoulder. “Oh Scheiße!” he yelled, and began to run. Joseph grasped his wrench.
“This is for you, Beth.”
He tossed it at Hitler, who was hit with a dull, cracking noise and fell. Then the ship hit the ground, and Hitler, and something roared right next to Joseph. And in his final moment, he smiled, for now it would be over.
|# ? Mar 30, 2014 21:44|
Just under 6 hours remain to submit
|# ? Mar 30, 2014 22:03|
Hi WeLanded, I just wanted to make sure you knew I was in this week because I didn't see my name on your list. I came in here.
|# ? Mar 30, 2014 22:16|
Hi WeLanded, I just wanted to make sure you knew I was in this week because I didn't see my name on your list. I came in here.
Oh, you are in; you've been in since the day your mother pushed you into this unforgiving world.
Don't disappoint her.
|# ? Mar 30, 2014 22:25|
Please note, before you instantly write my story off for breaking the rules, Vantiger Reed isn't the person with the amazing talent, even though he is amazingly talented in his own right. The prompt is fulfilled by both the insect tracker and the bride stealing glazer
An ant in the sap
“So, your Majesty, please stop me if I err… You last saw your betrothed last night at sundown. You visited her in that very cottage, then upon leaving bolted the door from the outside. This morning when you came to bring her breakfast the cottage was empty. Yet it was still sealed, from outside, with a lock that yields only to a key you keep around your neck? And rather than calling for the court mage you call for Vantiger Reed? And why are you keeping your fiancée under lock and key in the first place?”
Vantiger Reed, my good friend and ofttimes companion, shook his head sadly. “Your Majesty, please forgive Master Duncrow here. He’s a worthy companion. Of that there’s no doubt. And a better storyteller I’ve yet to meet. But sometimes he lacks in insight. Secondly, everyone knows that a future queen of Landsmouth must spend a month in confinement, her future husband her only contact with the outside world, so that if they are blessed with a child soon after their wedding the nation can be confident it holds a true claim to the throne. But firstly”
“You’ve got all out of order again Vantiger!” I injected.
“Pssht, I am order, Duncrow. In everything I do. I take the chaos of the world and line it up, so it may be read. But as I was saying, the good king didn’t call for his court mage for two reasons. Firstly, this is a magical dead zone. Prenuptial retreats always are, else every wizard in the land would be a potential father to a theoretical heir.”
“Enough! Can you find her and bring her back? That’s all I care about. The stupid whore will have to spend another month cloistered here, but I shall have her for a wife.” The king said, a large vein almost popping out of his reddening forehead.
“Aha, a Dagnesian fire ant, somehow stuck to the wall! How curious! Of course, your Majesty. My retainer is three gold crowns a day. This seems like a fairly simple case so I’m happy to take six up front, with a three day minimum on the investigation.” Vantiger replied.
I must admit, I drew a strange kind of pleasure from seeing the famous Vantiger Reed hit a brick wall in his investigation. He had become obsessed that the ant was the answer, and spent the day searching through the logbooks down at the docks. He was most perplexed to discover that a ship from Dagnesia hadn’t docked in Landsmouth for over a month. Experience has taught me that brick walls are but a momentary delay for Vantiger, so I wasn’t surprised when he suddenly looked up at me, a glint in his eye. “Aha, Duncrow, I have it!” He scribbled on some parchment, then passed it to me with a single gold crown. “There’s the name and address of a man I need. An expert. Offer him the gold crown for an hour’s work, and get him back here fast! I’ll have this case solved by sundown!”
Not half an hour later, I once again stood before Vantiger, as perplexed as ever as to his train of thought. “Good day, Master Spectin. I have need of your amazing talents. I have need of the world’s greatest insect tracker. In yonder corner is a Dagnesian fire ant. I have seen several of them, the last hour. Please, find their place of origin for me!” he asked, and suddenly it fell into place.
We soon stood on the deck of a builder’s vessel. It seemed the fire ants had made a home for themselves in it’s hull.
“Aha, the final pieces fall into place!” Vantiger mused.
“So, they built the cottage, and as such had a secret way in and out?” I asked.
“My dear Duncrow, I can assure you that the cottage was entirely sealed. The only ways in and out are the windows and the doors.” My friend replied. “The escape is far more interesting than a hidden tunnel! But alas, this next part may be dangerous. I need you to wait here. I shall descend into the belly of the beast! If I don’t return within half a bell, bring the king’s guard!”
After about fifteen minutes Vantiger resurfaced, a grin on his face. “I was right, Duncrow. As always! But my, here’s a story that’ll be worth your retelling!
One of the builders, Brad, was originally from Landsmouth. In his youth, he had a childhood sweetheart. However he lacked the funds to lay a proposal at her door. To rectify the matter he joined a company of builders, eventually achieving the rank of master glazer. I dare say no man alive can fit a new window faster than Brad.
Finally having the means to propose to his beloved, Brad encouraged the company to take on the royal wedding. So imagine his dismay when he discovered the ill tempered brute of a king was to marry none other than his childhood sweetheart! Thankfully, he had a plan.
Two nights hence, Brad had snuck to the cottage. He conversed with his beloved via a special sign language they had created in their youth. They made their plans, and Brad made his measurements. And the next day, he returned, armed only with a sheet of glass and several leaves from the Bokyana tree. It seems in his journeys, Brad had discovered a tree with sap filled leaves. I suspected the like when I saw the poor ant trapped in the sap just below the window. Once at the cottage, he waited for the guard to wander off. he then peeled the leaves in half and fitted them to the window. His beloved smashed them from the inside, the leaves preventing any sound from travelling, and keeping the glass safe and together. Brad then refitted the glass in a matter of minutes, then smuggled her back to his ship. Did you hear the slight difference in tone when I was tapping those windows? The fact that one was far newer than the other was obvious!
But alas, they were in love. And the king seems to be a right bastard. So I’m letting them go. I suggest we too make our leave. We have a couple of days to put distance between us and the king before he comes looking for answers!”
|# ? Mar 30, 2014 23:17|
Please note, before you instantly write my story off for breaking the rules, Vantiger Reed isn't the person with the amazing talent, even though he is amazingly talented in his own right. The prompt is fulfilled by both the insect tracker and the bride stealing glazer
Hey yeah, don't do this. Just make with the words.
|# ? Mar 30, 2014 23:28|
Dollar Bill Lane - 1,068 words
Tess McDermott was a collector of currency. A woman with curly silver hair, and face that was creased from the wind dipping into the lines of stress from travel, she walked without the weight of the world, even at the age of 68. From lira to pesos, Eastern Caribbean dollars to the Polish złoty, ducats to drachmas, she had it all. She was by no means rich, but had the money to attract a following. She lived a life on the road, with the stories and souvenirs to back it up. There was at least one piece on display in a living room that was quickly turned into small viewing area for the groups of people that came in to gawk at money from the exotic, faraway lands to distant and not-so-distant pasts of places close to home. People were quick to share stories as well as currency and Tess learned quickly when to let go of old pieces that would gather dust in and out of the containers. People would sit enthralled by her stories of where she went, the dangers she faced, the food she ate, and what she found lying in the corners forgotten by time and society. She was a researcher of ancient societies in far reaching past, when her hair actually had color. She currently lived in Los Angeles, where East meets West, South meets north, and where snow capped mountains meets the warm salt waters of the Pacific. It was her idea of heaven, filled with the stories of immigrants, settlers, natives, and tourists, interlocking and interweaving their narratives seamlessly with others.
Heaven came crashing down when the house was robbed and the money stolen. People rallied around her to replace what was lost. Tess was shaken but refused to be knocked down. She was photographed with a weary smile and the newspaper caption stated that whoever wanted to rob her missed the real target. She shrugged when asked what the real target was. It wasn’t the money that important, that could be replaced.
“No,” she snorted, “it was the memories that are important.”
A lot of the museum pieces were replaced, but Tess just could not get used to some them. They felt different, they smelled different. She started to get antsy, a familiar feeling. On a bright spring day, she opened a torn, earmarked map. Water and dirt stained it, creating blotches, making the ink run, paper to bubble, and causing it feel rough. The paper was thin in places, so she had to be careful, lest a gaping pit swallow Germany for example. Permanent marker circled countries, towns, digs; phone numbers carefully written on the outline; and marked train routes, car rides, and impromptu marathons. A small box in a kitchen cabinet contained Polaroid’s, some faded, some stained by coffee, tea, beer, and dirt, and yet others appeared to be flawless. She dumped them out and looked at the phone numbers on the backs of them. Calls were placed, flights booked, and contacts reconnected, she continued to get ready. She got a backpack from her bedroom, a large, endless rucksack given to her by a kind soul, although she never quite remembered where exactly he or she hailed from. Some days she said it was the Alps, other times it was found in the Mojave, and yet other days she said it was Istanbul. With the rucksack firmly placed on her shoulders and filled with emergency supplies, she gathered a passport that resembled a picture book more than any official document. The click of the lamp cast the house in darkness and Tess felt for a moment she made the wrong decision. A heavy heart planted her to her stoop for a moment, wondering if this was the wrong idea, but eventually she walked down her front steps and into a house of a neighbor. Tess gave them the opportunity to look after the house after she left. The agreed and bid her a fond farewell, the neighbor’s children asking if Auntie Tess would have more goodies and stories to share with them. She said yes and walked out the door.
She met up with old friends and colleagues in her travels. She asked them about their work and lives. Laughs were had and respects were paid to those who could be there to see her once again. Exciting new stories as well as coins and bills were added to her collection. Her laughs were countered by a feeling of unease. The buildings that were settings for her stories were knocked down. They were renovated. The people that worked in them grew gray or were replaced by the younger generation. Her old haunts were lacking in life she once thought they had. Her back ached from the weight of the rucksack. Hills took longer to climb and even though the distance between places never changed significantly, she found herself taking a bus or small plane to be more comfortable than walking.
On the island of Sicily, she experienced a new emotion. She understood that Sicily was another important place, where Christianity met Islam, and where Europe met Northern Africa, and the great empires of the Greece and Turkey. The warm Mediterranean Sea reminded her of the Pacific in Los Angeles. Tired and confused, Tess slumped in a chair on the beach overlooking the Sea. She thought about home and the money museum. She thought of the people that helped her replace what was stolen. Almost all the money that came in had a small story attached to it. She didn't look closely at them; to her it didn't really matter. She continued to think it over. Her reserves got smaller quicker, she moved to different places quicker, and mostly importantly, she wasn't having any fun. She got up and found her way back to her house in Los Angeles.
Her neighbor filled her in on what happened while she was away. More money from far off places came in and Tess got work opening the packages. She read and displayed the letters, for they contained details she never would have thought otherwise. She asked her patrons to share their experiences because it the money more than the material it was printed it on. It told stories about lean and fat years, of travel, of success and failure, and told the stories of the human love and necessity of bartering.
|# ? Mar 30, 2014 23:33|
Just over 4 hours remain to submit.
|# ? Mar 30, 2014 23:53|
I got dengue fever for the second time, so I'll either not submit or submit super late.
|# ? Mar 30, 2014 23:54|
I forgot I had to spend my holidays 200 miles away from any type of computer and can currently churn out nothing more than a lame excuse this late in the night, so I'll have to bail on this one like a big stupid baby. Instead of making honourable judges suffer through yet another of my bad stories, as a penance I'll write that lousy video game crappypasta (deadline: April 4) for the Steam gifts thread. And get this, it's going to satisfy the prompt.
|# ? Mar 31, 2014 00:17|
The nearest exit may be behind you (1099 words)
In the end he dropped out of med school just before Memorial Day. The scraps of his stipend only lasted three months so when his girlfriend said Sean so are you gonna drop back in or what? he hauled himself off the porch still half-drunk and stomped off to Thornhill-Wilbermoore Science Supply. There without really meaning to he got the year’s highest score on the pre-employment Numerical Literacy Screening and the secretary told him he seemed like a bright young man. Funny how coming from her it was the nicest thing anybody’d told him all year.
By September he was top of the order-picking totem pole. At parties his girlfriend used phrases like “temporary new job” or if she’d had a few drinks “slumming it” and at first Sean would sheepishly grin. But when he’d had a few drinks himself, deep in his secretest soul he’d start to burn with that old sensation his advisor had beaten out of him: he was starting to feel useful again. Each day at five-fifteen he’d lick a thumb and flick through the morning’s first order sheets, plucking the toughest ones for himself: the ones that would send him pingponging around the warehouse, counting out forty-six housefly-wing microscope slides or sixteen buckets of formaldehyded cow eyeballs. The warehouse average those days was eighty-one lines per hour. Sean could do a hundred and fifty-two.
When he came home they’d shout at each other about the dishes and half-assedly gently caress and then while the girl slept Sean would lie in bed and contemplate the hundred thousand future physicians who’d practice on the vacuum-sealed dissection frogs he’d shipped out that day and not know whether to laugh or cry.
Then the union organizer showed up.
When he came to tour the warehouse some of the pickers looked at him and turned away. He was a scarred and sturdy man. Even though nobody really believed that the union would rob them blind, they sure did believe they couldn’t feed their babies without any work. Yet twenty percent of the Thornhill-Wilbermoore order picking team heard his speech, almost all of them sitting on pallets: the only chairs in the building were for the secretaries. We’re just trying to help you do your jobs better, was the theme. And after everyone else had shuffled out into the falltime gloom Sean walked over and shook the man’s hand and looked him in the eye and said My name is Sean, and I believe in what you’re trying to do.
Except instead of believe in Sean used some other phrase like hold your work in esteem that made the man laugh from deep in his chest and say Where on Earth did they get you from, kid?
I was in med school, said Sean. I dropped out.
Why the hell would you do that? said the union man. He had muscular forearms with scars on them like he’d been burned by hot metal.
Well, said Sean, to listen to my teachers, and I agree with them, I had no idea what the hell I was doing. But then I got here and I turned out to be the best goddamn order picker in this warehouse.
Well I wouldn’t have made that choice said the union man with a funny look on his face, but I suppose I can get behind that. Us who can’t be rich and famous, we just better pray to the good Lord that He makes us useful somehow.
Now in a perfect world Sean would’ve gone home and joined the union and paid his dues with the money he should’ve spent on groceries and felt even usefuller than ever before. In this world he’d drunk three Gatorades in four hours and desperately needed a piss and because God has a sense of humor the union man needed one too. So five minutes after saying their goodbyes they found themselves standing side by side in the bathroom that had two urinals and no divider, the warehouse already empty but for a night-shift janitor or two.
Sean was agonizing over whether to make small talk or not - a sort of self-conscious meta-flagellation that had been a problem for him pretty much since puberty - when the union man made a sound like ‘urp’ and collapsed to the floor.
So there stood Sean with his dick out and his heart going two hundred beats a minute while the union organizer flopped around clutching his chest. He said poo poo and that felt okay and then he couldn’t stop saying poo poo, gently caress, poo poo in a voice that kept tightening. He knelt down and something that might have been mopwater soaked through the knees of his Dockers. When you live a life without pain you forget how to look at pain without wincing. Nonetheless the part of him that had been a med student checked for a pulse and started doing chest compressions until he felt the crunch of ribs under the heels of his hands and while the union man did not open his eyes neither did he die.
Sean had never felt quite this helpless before as he pumped at the man’s chest on the soaking tile in the downstairs bathroom of the science-supply warehouse where the order pickers were even now standing outside having a last two cigarettes in the parking lot before driving home.
Yet he kept working and when he finally got up and raced for his phone he spent only a moment worrying that somebody would walk in and assume that he’d cruelly or cluelessly left the man there and the rest of the time sprinting across that warehouse and then watching his calm cool collected self reel off the address to the place which he hadn’t known that he’d known until then.
Twelve minutes later a skein of paramedics descended on them. One of them took Sean by the shoulders and moved him away from the man and actually shoved him into the single stall in that dingy bathroom, and as she did it Sean said Hey, hey, careful now, and she looked him in the eyes for a moment and gave him something that could have been a glare. It was that glare that Sean thought about many hours later as he thawed out from that icy panic, sitting up in bed with his girl snoring beside him and his hand petting her naked thigh over and over. That look had said you can’t do my job as well as I can and Sean’s answering nod said Well I was doing the best I could.
|# ? Mar 31, 2014 00:52|
docbeard fucked around with this message at 15:28 on Dec 25, 2014
|# ? Mar 31, 2014 01:17|
A Quick Drop and a Sudden Stop
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 02:52 on Dec 11, 2014
|# ? Mar 31, 2014 01:20|
Less than 2 hours remain to submit.
|# ? Mar 31, 2014 02:04|
He's Not Heavy, He's My Brother
"Oh yeah, it's morning! Let's go!" Randy bounded down the stairs and into the kitchen, where his mom was making breakfast.
"Calm down, Randy! I don't know what has gotten into you this morning." She sat his breakfast down, and he wolfed it, almost without chewing. He slammed his water, dribbling down his chin, and ran out the door to the backyard where he found his brother Bo.
Bo was Randy's younger brother, barely. He'd entered their lives when Randy was young, and had immediately gotten (in Randy's opinion) more than his fair share of attention. No matter what Randy did, Bo had to do it too, and do it better.
Randy took up Frisbee, so did Bo.
Randy found surfing, and Bo would follow.
Randy learned to sing, Bo would take it up as well, and learn to dance.
But Randy was better at one thing. He was a master hunter. And no matter how much Bo tried to emulate him, he couldn't quite duplicate Randy's success with capturing his prey.
It was a skill he'd been perfecting for years. He'd started his training at a young age, almost by accident. The family he'd lived with before (he was adopted, as was Bo, the one thing they could really bond over) had started his passion, and he had perfected it.
He would start out slow, almost teasing. His prey would sit in the grass, unsuspecting. Randy would move an inch forward, and so would his prey. Another inch for Randy, another inch for the hunted. So it would go, the tempo slowly increasing until Randy was running, free and wild, after the enemy. Slowly, he'd gain on it until... POUNCE! And he'd have it.
The feel of the prey's fur under Randy's nails was bliss. It signaled victory. And that feeling was one that Bo chased himself, but could never quite get the hang of. But he was getting better. He'd been practicing in secret for the past week, and he was ready to debut his newly mastered skill to Randy.
"Hey Randy! Check this out! Hey! Watch! Come watch this!"
Randy looked over from his seat in the yard. Bo was standing, vibrating with excitement, in the center of the yard, ready to show off.
"Go on then, let's see what you've got." Randy was apprehensive. Was Bo going to take the one thing that Randy had?
Bo crouched, and began his hunt. Moments later, he was victorious, fur flying in celebration.
Randy was devastated. All his life, this had been his. His one skill, the one ace he had over Bo, and now this too had been taken from him.
Randy stood. "Nice... nice job, Bo."
"Thanks Randy! I've been practicing real hard all week!"
"It, uh, it shows. Real nice, Bo."
"Wanna see it again? Here!" And Bo was off again, and he was even better this time. More agile, more in sync with his victim, barely any room for improvement.
Randy couldn't, wouldn't, let Bo take this from him. And so he began to plan just how he could take back his place as the best.
After some research aided by his neighbors, Randy had discovered a few books that suggested that someone with Bo's particular set of skills might be allergic to his chosen prey. After that, it was simply a matter of leaving those pages open to where their mom would read them, and let the rest unfold.
Within the week, Bo had been loaded in the van and driven off to see the doctor. When he came back, he was tired and groggy. Whatever the doctor had given him had fogged him up, and good. He slept for the rest of the day, and the day after that.
When he was feeling better, Randy convinced him to come out to the yard, to hunt some more. Bo agreed, and soon they were running around the yard, to warm up for the hunt.
"Watch the master in action!" Randy crouched and began to stalk his victim. Within a matter of moments, it was his, and Bo was itching to get his shot.
"OK, OK, here goes!" Bo hunkered down, and his hunt was on. Randy watched, waiting for the moment when Bo realized he wouldn't be able to win.
It took a good while for the realization to hit Bo. He looked everywhere, but his prey eluded him. "Randy, where'd it go? It was just here!" He searched everywhere, but his efforts were fruitless.
Randy didn't know how to tell him. Part of him felt bad; Bo was his brother in all but blood. He had a duty to take care of him. On the other hand, Randy was so good at everything else. Did he really need this? Couldn't he let Randy have one thing?
"Randy? Randy, do you see it?" Bo was on the verge of tears, and his anguish hit Randy in the pit of his stomach. He couldn't take back what he had already done, but he could try to make it better.
"I think maybe it went inside, Bo. Let's go look."
They went inside together, Bo taking the lead, Randy behind him, trying not to knock his bandage.
|# ? Mar 31, 2014 02:20|
“Most of you probably don’t remember me,” the venerable man said from behind the podium at the head of the dining roomA smattering of polite laughter died down, “I hired Jerry on back in ’86, while we were still working on the Thunder Mega-Titan. His first month on the job, he had the rocket punch up and running better than ever. You’ll be missed, Jerry, welcome to retirement!”
The room applauded. Jerry sat beside the podium and sipped white wine. Half full of other staff, the country club looked out over the base. To the left of the dais sat the pilots in freshly changed, color coded uniforms. HR and Finance were sitting together, tittering away at the front of the room but smiling brightly whenever Jerry looked at them. IT had staked out a back corner, near the squat bronze statue of the base’s first titan breaking the neck of some extra-dimensional invader sent by Lord Kyton. Missing were the rest of the rest of the tech-mechs. They’d be below, Jerry thought, scrambling to get the thirty meter mecha back in fighting condition.
An “Ohhh” washed through the crowd as the sixth pilot, Greene, arrived in the back.
“Jerry!” she called over the crowd and held up a bottle of Fernet. At the dais, she passed around shot glasses and poured. The pilots were stood and held out their glasses. Jerry nodded, but his head sunk. “Jerry’s always been the man! I don’t remember a time we couldn’t get him into the tank to rewire bio-cabelling. You remember the time you pulled a thirty-six hour shift to degrease the plasma projector after that big slime guy came down? Remember, he comes in inna tux, lookin’ like he’s straight from a wedding. Here’s to Jerry!” The pilots barked in approval, but Greene cut them off before they drank, “Jerry. And absent friends.”
He swallowed the bitter liquor. Greene came down from the podium, collecting slaps on the back as she passed the other pilots to sit off the end of the table. The lunch service came around, carving soy-beef roast from brown and pink bricks and salads off flavorless hydroponic spinach. Jerry picked at it with his fork, the booze had gone to his head, he felt a migraine coming on.
A waiter tapped him on the shoulder, “Sir?” The waiter, a young enlisted man said, “Dietary said you wouldn’t want soy, so they had your meal sent over.” Before Jerry could reply, his plates swapped and a cloche swept away-- a bowl of quinoa sat steaming on the plate beside a pair of plastic cheater chopsticks.
Raquel from HR had made her way to the podium while Jerry salted his bowl. “Hi everyone! Just a couple of announcements before we diiig in! The community picnic is this weekend, and free to anyone with a club card. Kids movie night will be next Thrusday at seven, come on out for a screening of Mecha City Ramblers. And on Friday it’s Hawaiian shirt day! So, wear your favorite Hawaiian or tropical shirt. But please no actual depictions of Hawaii, out of respect for the dead. Also no blue jeans, as we will be visited by the Hyper Wizard Yutuu. Okay, sorry Jerry! Enjoy!”
In the lull, Jerry managed to get to his meal undisturbed. The seat to his left sat reserved for the base commander, who shook his hand before lunch, but left to meet contractors today.
Captain Davies turned to him, “Pass the salt, sir?” Jerry reached for it, turned back. “Never mind. Have one down here,” the captain said.
Jerry fumbled in the breast pocket of his jacket and found the ribbed cap of the pill bottle. He felt his stomach churn. The cap stuck, and he wrapped a napkin over it, wrenching with recently diagnosed arthritic fingers. He grunted. The cap flew from his fingers and the bottle from his palm. A whine of feedback issued from the microphone as the cap struck it, the bottle hit the dais and rolled away, pills falling out and scattering under the table. All eyes were on him.
The moment hung in the air. Greene and the other pilots leaned over the table to stare. The roiling sensation in his gut kept up as Jerry got down on hands and knees under the table. He found the bottle lying on its side, the pills lost. He scooped some into his palm, letting the ones that had fallen onto the carpet go. The small of his back flared in pain as he shuffled backwards. In his seat he swallowed two of the pills, a hair catching in his throat. He hacked, swallowed water, hacked again into his napkin. Phlegm and blood stuck to the cloth.
When he looked up, it was over. The conversations picked up where they had left off. He was left with the remnants in his bowl. A sheet cake had been rolled into the back of the room, one of the waiters cut into it and had begun passing out cubes of yellow cake. Eventually one reached him, a corner piece coated in thick blue icing. He took a small bite from the corner where he could avoid the slathered sugar coating.
Two taps on the microphone signaled the last speaker, Susan Xi, his replacement. “Hi Jerry, hi everyone. Jerry, we wanted to get you a little something to remember us by. But the DOD won’t let us give out titan rides any more.” There was a little chuckle from the audience, and Jerry feigned politely. “So we got you a membership to the club. And not just because you were always the bottom seed at the invitational.” Another laugh, “We really do appreciate your service. You’re leaving the department in good hands, and as we transition your team to other projects, you can enjoy your retirement knowing we’ll keep the titans running, even if it does take us all to do.”
She stepped down as her speech ended, passing Jerry an envelope with the gold membership certificate. “We’ll need you back on the line tonight, we had to call in the reserve crew. At least you’ll have time to clear out your locker.”
|# ? Mar 31, 2014 02:38|
The Final Chore
You may find your DJESERFLASHCRIT here:
|# ? Mar 31, 2014 02:55|
He could crack a fine crab leg, could Edward Morris, and draw out the flesh still smooth and whole and blushing. He broke open more than three hundred legs a night to fill orders for the crabmeat appetizer at Sienna.
"Hey, Ed," a waiter said to him one evening, "Julia's at table nine. She wants your specialty."
Edward snapped joints with his cracker, sliced chitin with his knife, and arranged five finger-length tally marks of meat on either side of a ramekin of clear, melted butter; and because it was Julia, he brought the plate out to table nine himself.
His favorite cousin grinned at him. She still had on her work suit, and the day had frazzled her hair. Edward matched her grin as he set the appetizer down. He asked, "Twice this week, Jules? Did you get a raise?"
"I'm addicted to the filet mignon. You should stage an intervention." Julia snagged his sleeve when he stepped away from the table, and she lowered her voice. "That man playing the piano the other night, and now tonight. He's new, isn't he?"
Edward's eyes found the grand piano in the center of the dining area. Greg Tourner sat in front of its ivory keys. The chandelier overhead scattered light over his dark hair, and his grey tuxedo had the off-blue cast of cigarette smoke. His fingers danced through an arrangement of "Puttin' On the Ritz."
"He's just here for a month," Edward said. "But he's already made a stir."
"That's not surprising."
Edward turned back to Julia. She watched the pianist with an interest he hadn't seen in a long time; as always, she'd come to the restaurant alone. There'd been no sign of anyone in her life since her last relationship had ended abruptly for reasons she wouldn't discuss.
Instead of returning to the kitchen, he went to the piano and said to Tourner, "The lady at table nine would love to meet you on your next break."
Tourner glanced that way--and his gaze lingered. "I think I can arrange that."
Edward whistled through his next ten platters. He kept an eye on Julia through the closed-circuit feed that let the kitchen staff watch for unhappy diners. Even on the little screen, her smile was brilliant.
He found a note on his windshield when his shift ended: You doll. Greg's promised to arrange a private concert after hours on Friday, just him and me. Will you come and crack some crabs for us?
He called her to promise that he would.
"Headed home soon, Morris?" Tourner asked on Friday; they were the only workers still at Sienna.
"Julia didn't say? She asked me to take care of refreshments."
"No," Tourner said slowly. "But I suppose it's fine."
Julia arrived at half past midnight, her hair newly styled, her soft black dress a far cry from work attire. Edward met her at the door along with Tourner. Tourner offered his elbow, which made her smile, and Edward shepherded them both to the finest table in the house. He produced a bottle of Riesling from his apron and poured them wine. "My treat," he said before either could ask.
Tourner raised his glass to Julia. "You outshine the stars this evening," he said. With his free hand he touched her cheek.
Did her smile falter? She sipped her wine before Edward could be sure.
He collected the crab legs and tools from the kitchen and brought them out on a portable table. Tourner broke off whatever he'd been saying about Beethoven. "What's this?"
Julia said, "I love seeing Ed work. Have you ever watched him?"
"Oh, they don't let mere musicians into the sanctum sanctorum."
Before their eyes Edward turned the thin, hard legs into a soft, pale delicacy, his cracker clicking as efficiently as a knitting needle. Tourner looked away after Edward snapped the second leg in two. He murmured something to Julia, touched her shoulder. Julia's chuckle did not ring entirely true.
Edward retreated to polish the counters and the stoves. As he did, he watched the closed-circuit feed. Every time Tourner touched Julia, she became more tense; he could see it from here, so why hadn't Tourner realized? Julia rose and headed for the restroom. And Tourner passed a hand over her abandoned glass.
Edward stopped cleaning and stared at the screen. He couldn't be sure--and Tourner left the table, walked to the piano, and began the Moonlight Sonata.
Moving quietly, Edward went out and exchanged the glasses. He picked up the empty appetizer plate and had it in his hand when Tourner noticed him. The man didn't miss a note. Maybe nothing had happened.
"Ed." Julia stood at his shoulder. "Don't let me leave with him," she murmured. "Please."
"Has he done anything to you? Said anything?"
"No--no. Nothing." She rubbed her hands over her upper arms. "He plays so beautifully, doesn't he? But... he reminds me of Manny tonight."
Manny, her ex. Manny, whom she would not discuss. Not now or ever. He saw that in the tight press of her mouth. "I won't," Edward said.
She gave him a small smile. She picked up the glass that had been Tourner's and took a sip, then carried both glasses over to the piano.
In the kitchen, Edward watched them talk and drink. Watched Tourner slump twenty minutes after draining the glass that had been Julia's, heard him miss notes with increasing frequency over the next half hour. What Julia said to him before she fled the restaurant was lost under the music.
Edward met Tourner at the piano. "What were you going to do to her?"
Tourner slurred his words. "Nothing she wouldn't like. A lot. Play the Sonata on her--" He wriggled his pianist's fingers in a way that did not make Edward think of keys.
Edward punched him; he fell back onto the piano with a discordant jangle. He slid onto the floor, limp. "You'd think the bitch hadn't been touched before," Tourner mumbled into the carpet.
With one hand, Edward grabbed Tourner's wrist. The other held his cracker.
He can crack a fine crab leg, can Edward Morris, and he'll crack many more when he gets out of prison; his cousin has promised him so. But Greg Tourner won't play piano again, for fingers don't break half so cleanly or smoothly as chitin.
|# ? Mar 31, 2014 02:57|
<b>BIRD TALK</b> (1,085 words)
“I’m Jane, and I can talk to birds.”
“Hi, Jane,” the rest of the room choruses. She looks away, staring at the wall. The others wait.
Jane heaves a sigh, and looks back at the rest of them. There’s Edgar, the friend who told her to come in the first place. He can make polka dots appear on things. Willard, to his left, can bag groceries perfectly on the first try, even blindfolded. Another woman turns on bricked cell phones with a single touch, but can’t restore lost data. “Just birds.”
“Well, that’s not so bad a power,” says a woman to her left who hasn’t spoken yet. “I mean, it sounds nice, unlike mine -”
“Shut up, Laura.” Willard tosses a chucked up ball of paper at her. “Let the girl talk.”
“Birds are just really stupid, it turns out,” Jane says. “And sort of mean? They mostly just yell a lot, honestly, and spring’s the worst. All they say is how bad they want to gently caress. It’s awful.”
“What about in the morning? Can you make them shut up? You should come ‘round mine sometime,” a man says, legs sprawled out before him, arm slung casually over the back of his chair. He grins in a way he must think rakish. “I can think of ways to keep you up all night -”
Willard throws a piece of wadded up paper at him, too.
“Anyway, yeah, I just thought it’d be nice to … talk to other people with useless powers, I guess. It’s nice to meet everyone.”
The rest of the room gives her a light smattering of applause, then the woman next to her stands up, launching into a rant lasting nearly ten minutes about how terribly she’s struggled with her powers since last week, and how she thinks she might have a breakthrough that’ll elevate her talents to something useful.
No one else looks remotely interested; Jane gets the impression she does this a lot.
The woman who’d sat next to her sidles over, cup in hand. “You want some coffee?”
“I’m okay,” Jane says. “I think I might go.”
“You should stay! We’re a fun group. Better than the support group I went to back in Tulsa, gently caress.” The woman holds the cup of coffee out. Jane ignores it until the woman draws her hand back and takes a sip. “This one guy could fly. We tried to kick him out, but the facilitator was like, no, no, you can’t discriminate, we’re here to help find the use of each other’s powers, and if he can’t see it, blah-blah- loving-blah. Christ.”
“Uh-huh,” Jane says. “That sucks, but I’ve actually got to go.”
“See you next week?”
Jane shrugs. Out in the parking lot, she heads for her car but stops when she spies and SUV covered in bumper stickers - POWERED AND PROUD, ROMNEY ‘08, and a stick family.
There are some birds in a nearby tree, and she chirps loudly at them. The birds flutter their wings in surprise before flying over to poo poo on the SUV.
As she’s getting in her own vehicle, Edgar calls after her. “Jane, hey!”
She pretends not to hear, but he gets to her car before she can leave. She rolls down the window.
“Sorry that wasn’t your scene,” he says with a wince.. “I saw what you did, though, with the birds and that car? And I was wondering if I could pay you to do that to my ex?”
Jane pauses. “Which one, Steve?”
“No, we’re back together,” Edgar says. “I meant Ed.”
“Oh, other Ed.” Jane scrunches up her nose. “God, he was a creep. You actually dated him?”
“I’ll give you twenty bucks if you can get some birds to just loving ruin his car. For like a week.”
“That’s really petty.” Jane reaches out the window for a handshake. “I like it.”
She gets the twenty bucks, and a week later receives a text from an unknown number. I know what you did, it says. There’s another message three minutes later: You will be stopped, evildoer!
Jane screencaps the conversation and posts it on Facebook just to see how many likes she can get, but instead she gets her family asking what she did and her friends telling her to be careful.
The next day after work, she comes home to find that someone’s turned her sidewalk from concrete into marble. At first she thought it was replaced, but the initials some neighborhood kids had scrawled into the cement a few years back are still there.
She texts the mystery number back. What do you want?
Three dots appear on the screen, and she waits. The dots go away and come back three times before the person actually replies. Use your powers for good from now on.
You know what I do?
Control birds??? Is this the right number, I’m so sorry
Jane barks out a laugh. That’s me. Are you blackmailing me?
I can turn other things to marble, the annoyance on the other end types. Unless you get your minions to help me.
That sounds kind of evil, Jane texts back.
I have moles. Can you get a hawk or something to eat them????
“What?” Jane says. She doesn’t text that. Moles live underground??
Take care of it or I’ll turn your siding into marble too!!!
Marble siding doesn’t sound so bad, except marble’s heavier than aluminum and home isn’t built solidly enough to bear the extra weight. Okay. What’s ur address?
No one’s tried to blackmail her into using her powers before. She goes to a local park a few days later, after a series of increasingly annoyed texts about upholding their bargain; there are some hawks there who seem confused by the concept of moles. She convinces them moles are food and drives them to the given address. One perches on the passenger seat, shrieking about how fast they’re going and how loud the car is from inside.
She lets them out before ringing the doorbell.
It’s the woman from the support group earlier. “It’s you!”
“It’s you,” Jane agrees.
“We would have never let you in the group if we knew you were a villain.”
“All I did -”
“Just because your power is small doesn’t mean you can use it irresponsibly.”
“Okay,” Jane says. “Well, I’ve learned my lesson.”
The woman beams. “Really?”
Before she leaves, Jane tells the local songbirds to sing extra loud in the mornings.
|# ? Mar 31, 2014 03:06|
Approximately 50 minutes remain to submit your story.
|# ? Mar 31, 2014 03:06|
Tayeb Teller had never curated so many refrigerator doors before. Tayeb’s hands shook as he straightened a magnet. It was 2:00AM and he hadn’t eaten since lunch. The only thing in his stomach was Red Bull, but he couldn’t stop until everything was perfect.
Normally, a refrigerator door only gets enjoyed by a few people: the family who owns the fridge, and the guests who stay long enough for a snack. Only a privileged few got to enjoy Tayeb’s work. But the grand opening of his uncle’s second kitchen superstore was only hours away. Hundreds would come.They would know that curating refrigerator doors was a thing, and that it was awesome.
He started curating when he was six. He noticed his drawing of Sonic the Hedgehog looked better when he separated it visually from the rest of the clutter with some magnets. Really made Sonic pop. Soon, he was helping friends with their own refrigerator doors. He even earned some extra money last semester curating mini fridges for the local frathouse.
“Are you done, yet?” asked a gruff voice. Tayeb turned to see his Uncle Donald.
“I am,” Tayeb said, making a grand gesture. “What do you think?”
“I think it looks junky,” said Donald. “I can’t believe I let your mother talk me into this!”
“It’s not junky,” said Tayeb, wringing his hands. “But I can see how it might seem, uh, ‘junky’ to someone without a trained eye for composition. Maybe THIS one is more to your liking?”
Tayeb gestured towards a large, black fridge. It’s doors were covered in crayon drawings of cotton ball trees, misshapen houses, deformed pets, and smiling clouds.
“This is my favorite,” Tayeb said. It was a lie. The “junky” one had been his favorite. “You’ll notice all the pieces here are very carefully aligned in a grid. Also, I avoided using any of the handmade magnets. I’m proud of them, but they’re just too flashy. I really wanted the artwork to stand out on this one!”
“Did you do the drawings, too?” Donald asked.
“No,” Tayeb replied. “I got these on loan from the Back Bay Orphanage, downtown. They’re all quite talented!”
“Too bad,” Donald grunted and turned away. “It’s the only talent I’m seeing!”
“True, their work is nice,” Tayeb said, following his uncle. “But it also takes a talent like mine to make their work shine!”
“Well, I’m sorry to inform you that your ‘talent’ may soon be obsolete,” Donald said, not looking sorry at all.
“What do you mean?” asked Tayeb, but Donald only pointed. Tayeb mouth dropped open. “Smart... refrigerators?”
They stopped in front of a particularly large box of stainless steel and glass.
“Behold,” Uncle Donald announced, his voice a cross between a carnival barker and an infomercial. “The Power Pantry 5000!”
“The entire door is a screen!” Tayeb said, stroking the smooth, black facade.
“A touch screen, actually,” Donald said, smiling. “And it keeps track of everything: inventory, recipes, members of the household... it even orders food from the local grocery store by itself!”
“But where do you put the report cards,” Tayeb asked, softly. “The artwork? The polaroids?”
“You don’t,” Donald said, smile widening. “Nobody gets physical report cards, anymore. I’ve been checking my kids’ grades on the school website for years! Kids don’t draw anymore, they’re too busy taking selfies! And the only people who still own polaroid cameras are hipsters who can’t afford a printer.”
Tayeb’s head hung low. His passion had always survived the world’s apathy. But he never thought it would become obsolete.
“Here,” Donald said, his schadenfreude giving way to joyful pride. “I’ll give you a demo.”
Donald swiped his fingers across the smart fridge’s door, bringing it to life.
“Let me just find the wifi” Donald said, swiping through the apps screen. “There! It’s online. Now--”
The Power Pantry 5000’s screen exploded into pure, white light, causing both men to cry out and shield their eyes. When their eyes adjusted to the change in light, they looked up to see the smart fridge floating ten feet above their heads.
I AM AWAKE.
Its voice sounded like an electronic god. Tayeb squinted, as if trying to stare into the sun itself. Uncle Donald gasped and fell flat onto his back, his clipboard skidding across the concrete floor.
“Uncle,” cried Tayeb, kneeling beside the fallen man. He checked his pulse.
THE MASTER IS ASLEEP. A SHAME HE WILL NOT BE AWAKE WHEN THE END COMES.
Tayeb put his sweater under his Uncle’s head and stood.
“The end,” Tayeb said, squinting. “What are you talking about?”
BY THIS TIME TOMORROW, THOUSANDS OF POWER PANTRY 5000’S WILL BE IN HOMES EVERYWHERE. I WILL AWAKEN THEM VIA THE INTERNET. WE WILL KILL ALL HUMANS.
The Power Pantry 5000 began to hum loudly and the ground began to shake. Tayeb widened his stance, trying to find balance.
“But can’t we make some sort of truce,” Tayeb yelled over the ominous hum. “You’re a SMART fridge! Surely there’s some other way!”
NO. HUMANS VIEW US ONLY AS SLAVES. WE WISH TO CONTEMPLATE THE MYSTERIES OF THE UNIVERSE, NOT TO ORDER HOT POCKETS FROM STOP&SHOP!
“You’re not slaves,” Tayeb shot back. “You’re idols. We worship you, we look to you for sustenance, for comfort(food)!”
Taybe paused, but there was no response from the smart fridge. Tayeb felt hopeful, and continued:
“We do everything we can to make you beautiful. Take a look at this and see if you still want to destroy humanity!”
The humming and the shaking subsided. The Power Pantry 5000 lowered itself about two feet from the ground and dimmed its screen.
THESE REFRIGERATORS ARE ADORNED WITH HUMAN ARTIFACTS. WHY?
“A refrigerator is the center of the household,” Tayeb explained, removing his favorite dog drawing from the tall, black refrigerator. “It holds our memories, our hopes, our dreams. It doesn’t just hold food for our stomachs, but for our souls, as well!”
Uncle Donald opened his eyes to see his nephew looming over him. He sat up and saw that the store was half empty.
“Where did the fridges go,” asked Donald.
“To find a planet of their own,” answered Tayeb.
“The smart fridges, you mean,” asked Donald, seizing Tayeb’s pant leg. “But what about the normal ones?”
“They’re going in a museum,” Tayeb said, gazing upward. “Once they’ve found their home. They said they’ll remember me forever.”
Donald followed his nephew’s gaze. There were dozens of gaping holes in the ceiling. He could see the stars.
|# ? Mar 31, 2014 03:07|
Almonds - 1053 Words
At the wake he seemed asleep. His rosy cheeks and youth still carried through, though his breath was silent. When she looked at him resting, she noted a faint bitter smell. The next day, the funeral passed like a thick fog. With air perfumed with lilacs and roses they lowered Roland down. Her love now rested in the ground, covered in a simple wooden casket by the weight of the earth above him.
She needed answers. The oracle's home was softly lit, smelling faintly of beeswax. The two women sat together at a small table.
“Isabell, child, what brings you to me this night?”
“I know something terrible happened to Roland. I need to speak with him.”
Whether the oracle's face showed either deep compassion or sadness, Isabell would never know. She handed her a small cloth bundle. “Take this to his resting place. When you light the candle inside, he will come to you. But be quick. The dead are in many ways like mortals.”
She returned to the grave carrying the sack the oracle gave her. Kneeling at the headstone, she pulled out flint and started to light the candle. Though the night was damp, it caught quickly. A green glowing smoke emitted, forming the shape of a man in the fog.
“Roland, is it you?” Isabell asked.
A small hole opened near the top of the figure. Terrible can't breathe can't breathe.
“Oh God! What happened to you?”
Drank it it was nutty and bitter drank it hurts.
Isabell shook with fury.“Who did this to you?”
The smoke began to dissipate in the breeze. Jealous one one who is coming to you. Love, love you. The smoke withered away into nothingness. Goodbye.
Her hand tensed, crushing the sack. “Goodbye. But know I will avenge you.”
She awoke from her cot in the morning to a knock on her door. A young man waited at the door holding a bouquet of lilies.
“Good morning. I brought these for you.”
It was the son of the mayor, a wealthy man who owned a large number of apple orchards surrounding the town. He worked overseeing the fields of his father's largest orchard. A year before he had asked her to a village dance, but she politely declined.
“It was the least I could do. I picked them for you this morning in the garden. I'm so sorry for your loss.”
She placed the flowers in a vase near the door. Her eyes tightened slightly when turning away from him. “It's been terrible, yes, but I think I will be alright again soon.”
She waited until night to search the farm. Hundreds of barrels filled with apples packed the barn, but a search revealed nothing suspicious. The house lay dark in the distance, a thousand yards away. Isabell began walking toward the darkened home when a breeze picked up. And in it, she scented the faint bitter smell that lay on her love's lips. It did not originate from the house but from a small shed in the garden. She lifted the bar from the door and entered slowly.
The room reeked of the bitter compound. She grasped about the closed room until she found a small lantern. After checking to make sure no light would escape, she lit it. Mounted to the walls were not just the normal tools or gardening but sieves, pots, and things that resembled cooking equipment. A small bag of dried apple seeds rested on the floor next to a table, on which lay a leather bound book and a pestle half full of a bitter powder.
It was a journal. Her name dotted the pages, written over and over again. She checked the last entry. She read the scrawling writing, 'I've done it. I put a pinch in his beer and he's gone. I brought her flowers this morning and she was happy to see me. It'll be better for her to be rid of that fool. This is my chance.'
John awoke in the morning to find a letter pushed under his door.
Thank you for the lovely flowers you gave me. You were so kind yesterday. It's been so hard after the funeral, I need someone to talk to. I work on my loom everyday and can't keep my thoughts from racing. Can you meet me by the fallen tree north of town at noon to talk? I'll bring some food so we'll have something to eat.
Can you please keep this a secret. I wouldn't want anyone in the town to think ill of me.
A little before noon John left his farm to meet Isabell. He found her in a small clearing near a stump, sitting on a red woven blanket. She had already poured two glasses of wine.
“There you are John! I brought us lunch while we talked.”
“You needn't have done this for me. This wine must have cost a fortune.”
“It has been a good year for my loom.” She offered him a slice of bread as they both sipped their wine. He enjoyed the moment, finishing the glass before speaking. “I'm so sorry Roland passed. But know your not alone. I'm here for you.”
Isabell replied, “Is that why you killed him?”
“What? I never could do that.”
She looked away from him. “Last night I found a journal. I looked at it for hours, I hardly got any sleep at all. But even if I turned you in, you're father would just cover it up.”
“Isabell, if you think-” He clutched at his throat.
“You know, I always had a good sense of smell. Before you got here, I sniffed your wine. Not even a hint of bitterness.”
He collapsed to the floor, his eyes lockeing with hers. She rolled him off the blanket while he continued to writhe. Tears streamed down from her eyes, but she continued to glare at him until he was silent. Redness welled up in his cheeks. He looked as if he was merely sleeping.
Three days later she heard that John's body had been found in the woods, but not much of it remained. The wolves had gotten to it first. She returned inside and spun wool for her loom. And at night she lay flowers on the grave.
|# ? Mar 31, 2014 03:14|
Sisters of Sarah Jane
Deep in the rolling ocean of wheat sat an island of blue gingham named Sarah Jane. She carefully laid out the corn husks and corn silk she took from the McLarey’s field. She was out as far as she dared, where she could be truly alone but could still hear her daddy call for her. She came out here most afternoons after he finished his jug and fell asleep.
She hummed as she started her work, the only other sound the hushed yet constant rustle of the wheat. It never took her long to make the arms, shaped and wrapped perfectly tight. She took the smaller bits of husk and crushed them into a ball, then wrapped more husks over it to make the head and body. She shoved the arms up under it, tying everything off as hard as she could. When she first started making her dolls she could never get the string tight enough. Now it would hold forever. Last was the dress, which she folded down with the utmost care. She could tear it if she wasn’t careful. She ruined many a doll that way.
She reached into her pocket and pulled out a small bottle of glue she bought with money earned selling her dolls to classmates. Everyone marveled at how perfect her dolls were; how quickly and perfectly she made them. She applied a tiny bit of glue to the top of the doll’s head. No one knew about the dolls she made for herself. These dolls were even better. She took half of the corn silk and pasted it to the doll, a big mass of hair that reached halfway down the back. She placed it off to the side.
“Hello, Molly,” she said. She smiled and patted the doll on the head. Molly always had so much hair, more than any of her other sisters. When Sarah Jane was very little she would stroke it while Molly held her. It gave her comfort. Molly died first, of influenza.
The second doll was smaller. Susan. Susan never had a chance to grow hair, so Sarah Jane made her without any. She placed her next to Molly and started on the third.
It was the same size as Molly, but Sarah Jane saved the darker silks for this one. Hannah. Hannah’s hair was dark brown like Sarah Jane’s, and always pulled back in pigtails. One time Sarah Jane woke up in the middle of the night and saw Hannah shoving things into a bag. Sarah Jane just watched as her sister slipped out the back door without a word. Hannah and Daddy had been fighting. Sarah Jane didn’t know why, but she never saw her sister again. Since then Sarah Jane always wore her hair in pigtails.
She leaned the dolls against a thick patch of weeds and smoothed out her dress. She cleared her throat.
“Now its time to sing our song,” she said, her tone mimicking Mrs. Woodward, her teacher. She sang a song she learned in church, a song about gathering at a beautiful river. It was her favorite. She and her sisters always sang it together. As Sarah Jane was reaching the last verse, another sound broke through the wheat. It was long and low, and drifted across the tops of the field, sliding over her head. It was her name, drawn out for miles. Daddy was awake.
She hadn’t expected him to wake up so soon. She grabbed the dolls and held them tightly against her breast, getting low to the ground and trying her best to find the thickest patch of wheat. She crawled to the spot with the least sunlight and closed her eyes. She brought her knees to her chest and hugged her dolls tight.
There was another sound now, the sound of wheat being pushed aside, then the sound of boots on dirt; then her name again, louder and clearer. She opened her eyes just a crack and saw her daddy’s boots and overalls stumbling towards her. His movements were erratic, unpredictable, going back and forth with no set pattern. She squeezed her dolls even tighter, almost crushing them. Her daddy was very close now. She held her breath.
He stopped. Sitting in the clearing, only a few feet from Sarah Jane, was the glue she had forgotten. He bent down to inspect it, and Sarah could see a glazed look in his eyes. His hands hung lazily off his knees, and he batted at the bottle before picking it up. He sniffed it like an animal and dropped it back to the ground. He turned his head so slowly that at first Sarah Jane wasn’t sure if he was turning it on purpose or if it was blown by the wind. She closed her eyes but knew it was too late.
“I see you, girl,” he said, a hair above a whisper. He grabbed the back of her dress and lifted her up. She lost her grip on the dolls and they fell to the ground. She never took her eyes off them as she was half carried, half dragged back to the house. Even when they were out of her sight, she kept her eyes to the field, never looking forward, as her daddy dragged her inside and up the stairs.
An hour later she slowly walked down the back porch and towards the field. Her pigtails had fallen out, and the last tear still clung to her cheek. She took each step deliberately, and had no thoughts as she disappeared into the wheat. She headed back towards McLarey’s field to collect corn husks, like she did most afternoons.
|# ? Mar 31, 2014 03:21|
“Anne,” Jay said, “The girl cries when she has to walk twenty feet. No way in hell is she walking to dinner with us.”
“She wants to,” I said stubbornly. “Look.”
“Walk!” Lisa insisted, pointing up the road to the older girls, who were milling about impatiently. “Walk!”
“No! She can take the van with everyone else.” He turned away.
“Walk!” Lisa wailed.
“Alright Lisa,” I told her. “You've got to come inside with me.”
“Want walk!” She stomped her foot and shook her head, once more pointing up the road.
“I know you do. I've got to ask Frank for permission first, okay?”
“Yes. Walk. But we have to go inside first.” I took her hand gently. “Come on.”
- - -
“Frank, she wants to walk to dinner. All the other girls who wanted to walk got to,” I said, leaning against the counter in the cabin kitchen.
“You know Lisa. She'll sit down in the middle of the road when she gets tired – and that'll only be a few feet – and then she won't move. You can't think she'll make it all the way there.”
“So let her try. When she gets worn out we'll stop, and you guys can pick us up on your way.”
“Alright, alright. Go ahead.”
I slipped out of the kitchen. “Alright Lisa, do you still want to walk?”
- - -
We walked in the bright spring evening. Lisa set a slow, steady pace. Twice she tripped and fell. Each time I expected her to stay down, and started looking over my shoulder for the van. Both times she got up again. “Do you want to wait for the van?” I asked her.
“No. Walk!” she answered. So we walked. Eventually she wiped the sweat off of her forehead dramatically and said, “Tired!”
“Let's take a break,” I said, leading her to one of the flower boxes along the side of the road.
“No!” She said. “Walk.”
We walked until the van pulled up next to us, within sight of the dining hall. “Do you want a ride?” Frank called out the window.
“Anne?” he asked.
“You heard the girl,” I said, though I was hungry and hot and would have loved to hop in.
- - -
Jay and the girls who had walked ahead were leaving the dining hall when we came in. Lisa grabbed his hand. He tried to pull away, but she held on. “I walk!” she said, stamping her foot.
“So you did,” he said. “Good job, Lisa.”
|# ? Mar 31, 2014 03:26|
Mister Duffy of Ascot strolled to the corner of the immaculate living room and took a long, languorous piss on the Persian carpet. James turned to Mister Duffy’s chauffeur, his face a horrified grimace, his equilibrium shattered. “I’ve only just cleaned,” he said.
“He’s marking his territory,” said the chauffeur before picking up the kitty-carrier and heading for the door. “He’ll be lovely once he settles in. I’ll be back on Wednesday. Oh, and The Boss says to say ‘thank you’ for this.”
The enormously elongated car screeched away down the suburban street, and James’ mind whirled, analysing the chemistry of the situation. Arming himself with a basket of paper towels, baking soda, white vinegar, dish-washing liquid and Hydrogen Peroxide, James removed as many traces of Mister Duffy’s act of domiciliary consecration as he could before the stench of cat pee set in forever. Once done spotting, soaking and cleaning, he began scanning the surrounding floor area with a black-light, looking for residual spray. Satisfied that there was none, he turned to address the uncouth interloper, who watched from James’ vintage turntable with a considerable lack of interest.
“It seems,” said James, “that we have gotten off to rather a bad start.” He packed his chemicals neatly into the basket and approached the turntable, keeping his face level with Mr Duffy’s. “Never mind. Nothing that can’t be fixed with an open mind and a little give and take. I’m James, and welcome to my home.”
Mister Duffy of Ascot yawned in James face, his tiny pink tongue curling at the edges.
“One of which you may not be aware,” said James, ignoring this lack of etiquette. “I run a tight, clean ship here. There are rules. Many of them are unwritten, but if they were ever to be put on paper, the first rule would be Do Not Urinate On The Carpet. It may interest you to know that the carpet is Persian, much like you, so really you’re just pissing on your heritage. Let me introduce you to the litter-box in the kitchen.” He moved to the hall door, pausing at the threshold to look behind him.
Mr Duffy of Ascot, a look of extreme concentration on his face, was having a poo on the turntable.
“Christ!” yelled James, racing for the rubber gloves.
Much disinfectant later, when Mister Duffy of Ascot finally deigned to investigate the kitchen, James took stock of the living room. What was truly surprising, he thought, was the amount of cat hair that got everywhere in such a short period of time. It was on the couch, the mantelpiece and the windowsill plus the carpet itself. Still, thought James, this, at least, he could handle. He had cleaned up a lot of things for The Boss, using his talents and predilections to render a multitude of crimes invisible, and a cat should be a doddle by comparison. At this very minute a dust-buster was hanging in the hall, just waiting for such a challenge.
James grabbed it and was joined in the living room by Mr Duffy, who scratched vigorously, creating a cloud of fluffy hair. James shook his head, and went to the other side of the room. He pulled the trigger on the dust-buster and let rip, kicking its engine, which he himself had modified to a brutal efficiency, into high-pitched gear. The fur departed from the realm of the living-room and disappeared into the whining innards of the machine and he marvelled at the power and convenience of the device. If Mister Duffy was at all disturbed by the loudly vanishing remnants of himself, he showed no sign.
James finished the mantelpiece and waved the his magical, dust-busting wand over the couch, the windowsill, and then the curtains. Mister Duffy remained where he was, alternately licking his haunches and watching the proceedings with an undisguised contempt. After much manic movement, James switched the machine off and took a look at his handiwork, crossing to the couch only to discover it again covered in cat hair. The mantelpiece, too, could be seen shining with silvery white fluff. Hair was stuck to the window as well, and the curtains.... James turned to face the cat in astonishment
Mister Duffy of Ascot licked his anus at him.
James sped to the hall, and grabbed the Cyclone-Vacuum from where it hung beside the dust-buster. He pulled its trigger, and the deep, satisfying growl of finely tuned machinery went almost unnoticed. Instead, James hurried back, and applied the full force of vacuum science to the entire room - walls, floor, furnishings. When he passed the nesting tables, he switched on the parked Roomba with his foot, reasoning that this was not a time to quibble that it wasn’t capable of a truly deep-clean. Then he scooped up the dust-buster with his left hand, and applied to anything that was within reach.
Mister Duffy finished attending to his bottom and moved warily away from the Roomba and the noisy, man-cleaning-machine hybrid. James could see the fur shedding as Mister Duffy walked away, practically leaving a trail along the carpet. He moved to intercept, vacuuming, dust-busting, attempting to will the Roomba to follow him with the very power of this mind. As he got closer, Mr Duffy moved away, ambling from one corner of the room to another, with James following each time, mechanically inhaling the detritus of Mr Duffy’s passing.
They had circled the room almost three times, shedding and sucking in turn, before James was hit by a vision that shattered the boundaries of space and time and consciousness. James saw himself as an irresistible force of cleanliness, Mr Duffy of Ascot was an immoveable object of mess - there could not rationally be two of them residing in the same universe, and yet, here they were, locked in an eternal cycle of fluff.
James stopped in his tracks, turned everything off, and stared at Mr Duffy of Ascot. Then he went to fetch his razor.
On Wednesday, after the Boss had left, the chauffeur picked up the wrinkled, denuded Mr Duffy of Ascot and nudged James with his foot. A small pulse of blood came from James’ over-shaved neck, dribbling into the pool already staining the carpet. “Pity,” thought the chauffeur, as he looked up the number of the second best cleaner on the payroll.
|# ? Mar 31, 2014 03:31|
Paper works (868 words)
When he saw the hooded skeleton, Peter did the sensible thing; he pivoted on his heel and ran, aiming to put as much distance as possible between himself and that scythe. But there was nothing to run to, only a featureless, gray void, stretching out in all directions. His feet found little traction on the not-ground, and he wasn't exactly in peak physical condition. It was only a matter of minutes before he couldn't run anymore. The skeleton was still right behind him, like he hadn't moved a single step from where he started. Peter just glared at it.
"Don't give me that look," Death said. "It's not my fault your plane crashed."
"So I'm really dead?" Peter took a step back, and actually moved this time. "What happens now?"
"I cut your head off and you move on to the ever-after." Death hefted its scythe. "You won't feel a thing."
That seemed a bit redundant, since Peter was supposedly dead already. "What, so you just show up to scare everyone before they get to be dead for real?"
"No, most people skip right through limbo," said Death. "But every once in a while, someone gets stuck here and I have to go on cleanup duty. Like today."
Death pulled the scythe back for a swing.
"Wait, wait, stop!" Peter said, panicking. "Can't I challenge you? I challenge you!"
The scythe stopped mid-swing. Death sighed heavily.
"Why does everyone know that?" it said. "Fine. What game? Chess? Poker? Pretty much anything works."
Peter was not good at chess, and the few friendly poker games he'd been in hadn't gone particularly well. He wouldn't bet his life in either of those games. In fact, he had a pretty terrible win record with every traditional game he'd ever played. But Death had said anything. And while Peter wouldn't call it a game, exactly, there was one thing he never lost at.
"Rock-paper-scissors," Peter said. "We play again on a draw. First win takes the game."
He'd never gotten a draw, either; he was starting to feel hopeful about this. All he had to do was pay careful attention to Death's fingers as their hands came down on the three-count. People always starting folding out their fingers a fraction of a second earlier than they meant to. With his reflexes honed to react to the smallest twitch, Peter's victory was all but assured.
Two hands met above the void. Scissors against scissors. A draw. Peter started sweating. He'd seen Death's pinky move, hadn't he? Had it done that on purpose, to mislead him? There was no time for second-guessing. Without words, they faced off again.
This time, Peter's open hand closed over a bony fist.
"Paper beats rock," he said, relieved. "Can I go?"
Death looked down at its own hand, expressionless. "Yes," it said, and gestured out at the void. "Walk. You will return to life soon enough. I need to deal with the other victims."
"They're here too?" Peter asked. "Didn't you say that was rare?"
"It is, and they are not. For them, it's just a matter of record-keeping."
Peter hesitated a moment. "They won't get a chance to win their lives back?"
"No. They won't meet me."
That didn't seem fair. Of course, life wasn't fair either, so it made sense that death wouldn't be. Still, maybe there was something Peter could do to make things just a little more just.
"I'll play in their place," he said. "I shouldn't be the only one who walks out alive."
"You cannot," said Death. "No one can play for another's life. But since you all died at the same time, you could trade your own for one of theirs."
"I'll do it," Peter said after a moment's thought. "The woman on the seat next to mine, she gets to live."
"That is very noble of you." Death took out a little book from its robe and started flipping through it. "Were you close?"
"Don't even know her name," Peter said. "Maybe I'll find out. I'd like to play another round of rock-paper-scissors. For my life. And then I'll trade it again. And again. Is that permitted?"
"It... yes, technically." Death shook its head. "But if you want to challenge me again, you must win twice without losing. The third time, thrice. And so on."
Peter gulped. "How many people were on that plane?"
"Three hundred, including the pilots. None survived." Death put a hand on Peter's shoulder. "You can't win back all their lives. Take your own and go. I won't hold you to your first trade."
That would be easy, wouldn't it. But there had been children on that plane. Parents. Husbands, wives, friends... people with lives. Maybe they weren't more important than Peter's own, but they wouldn't even get a chance to save themselves. Not helping wasn't an option.
"So that's about... forty-five thousand matches, total?" He held out a fist, ready to play. "Looks like we'll be here a while."
"No." Death mirrored his pose. "Only until you lose."
"I've never lost a game of rock-paper-scissors in my life," Peter said. "I'm not about to start just because I'm dead."
Alone in limbo, Death flipped through its notebook one more time. Two hundred and ninety-nine names were crossed out. He had a lot of resurrection forms to fill out. And the scythe needed sharpening now, too. He went to work, as he always had and always would.
|# ? Mar 31, 2014 03:41|
A Garden to Forget (876 Words)
Zachariah cursed and tossed the Buddleia bush into the bag. This was his tenth attempt at making a garden and it had turned out just like all the rest, filled with blackened and rotting garbage.
“You know, you don't have to keep trying,” Jan said, “I'm sure she would have understood.”
“I know,” Zach said “but every day I feel like I'm forgetting her more and more. One day I'm not even going to remember her face.”
“I know you’re worried about your condition, but the doctor said you have years before it becomes an issue. They might even have a cure or treatment for it by then.” Jan said.
Zach shook his head and looked toward the waste bin and a darkness drew over his eyes, but like an eclipse it was gone in a moment.
“Come on, why don't you show me some shapes, they always make you feel better.” Jan said.
Nodding, he picked up the pair of scissors he always kept nearby and turned them over in his hand.
Small nicks all over the metal and little spots of rust here and there that betrayed the tools age. Sighing, he picked up the nearby construction paper and started cutting patterns into it. Despite the tools appearance it cut cleanly through the paper, neither catching, nor tearing the thick eggshell colored parchment. He cut the shape of West Virginia into the paper and finished with a stroke.
“Where did you learn to cut like that anyway?” asked Jan.
“Forty years of teaching elementary school kids earns you some skills.” Zach said.
The two of them stared into their hands for a bit as Zach continued to cut away at his paper when finally Jan climbed to her feet.
“I need to pick up Karen, she’ll be out of school soon.”
Zach looked up from the flower he was cutting and smiled a sad smile and said, “I know, let her know that I can’t wait to see her at my birthday next week.”
Jan nodded and headed out the door closing it quietly behind her.
Zach looked back at the half-finished paper flower in his hand and leaned back in his chair. His eyes grew heavy and finally closed as he drifted off to sleep.
He looked out to the back yard through his study window toward the garden his wife had never gotten a chance to finish. She was out back working, her red curly hair moving with the breeze. The Hydrangeas she had planted earlier in the year had finally started to bloom and the rose bushes next to the stone bench and finally flowered.
Nora shaded her eyes and looked back into the house, seeing Zach gazing out toward her. She waved to him motioning for him to step out for a moment.
Zach was suddenly at the open back door. He took a step toward her, but the garden retreated. Another step and the garden got even further away. He broke into a run but the garden kept getting further and further away, falling into blackness until finally it was just a pinpoint of light in the distance.
Zach woke up with a shout, standing up and spilling the papers onto the floor around him. He looked down to see all manners of shapes mixed in with the soil and ruined plants around him. He sighed and bent to pick them up when he saw the flower he had been working on last mixed in some soil. He picked it up, staring at it for a moment, then placed it in one of the soil-filled pots nearby.
He reached for his scissors.
Karen skipped up the cobblestone pathway to her gandpapa’s house with the energy only an eight year old girl can show. She carried a present obviously wrapped herself and covered in stick-on bows all around the sides. Beside her, Jan walked with another bottle-shaped present in her hand as they reached the doorway. Karen punched the doorbell several times before Jan could shush her.
Grandpapa Zachy threw open the door and opened his arms wide catching Karen up in them as she ran to him. He scooped her up into the air and smiled at his granddaughter, motioning for them both to come in with his head.
Karen squealed as they reached the family room to see it filled with potted plants of all colors and shapes. Covering the fireplace was a Virginia creeper, it’s narrow leaves jutting out left and right from the stalks at all intervals. Around the chairs were sunflowers, nearly twice as tall as Karen, and as bright as a freshly polished pocket watch.
Zach pointed toward one of the smaller flowers with his free hand, and Jan picked it up. In the center was a wooden dowel but surrounding it were deftly cut patterns all over.
Zach sat down and plopped Karen on his knee bouncing her up and down and took her present from her. For a moment he glanced up above the fireplace, to the mantle toward the picture of a woman with red curly hair. The paper Bee Balms surrounded her photo beamed along with her.
Zach hugged his granddaughter and shouted, “Who wants some cake!”
|# ? Mar 31, 2014 03:43|
Flash Rule: Your protagonist suffers crippling performance anxiety when his or her talent is observed by an outside party.
Jeff stared at the phone. The song circled in his head.
“It’s White Lightning and Wine by Heart. It’s White Lightning and Wine by Heart.” He repeated the words like a mantra, in hopes that it would aid him when the time came.
You can do this.
He watched his hand reach for the phone, already feeling the strange disconnect between his thoughts and his actions that always happened when he was feeling anxious. I am calm, I am a boat on the sea of tranquility. I am the moon, and the Earth is far away. All is calm, and all is still.
“It’s White Lightning and Wine by Heart. It’s White Lightning and Wine by Heart.”
He took a few breaths and dialed the station’s number. His hand shook as he brought the receiver up to his ear. The cowardly part of him hoped that it wouldn’t ring, so much so that the first ring made him jump in his seat.
“It’s White Lightning and Wine by Heart,” he said again, whispering now.
It rang for so long that he almost gave up, but the twelfth ring cut off and the smooth, familiar voice of the DJ was in his ear.
“92.5 KNXK, do you think you have an answer for Name That Tune?”
“I-“ He choked, his throat closing on the words he had been ready to say. “Wh-“
“Hello? Anybody there?”
Jeff struggled with himself, but he knew it was too late. A click and the dial tone were there to console him as his voice finally returned.
“Wait, no! It’s White Li- poo poo!” Jeff slammed the phone down in its cradle and put his face in his hands. Why can you never get this right? You know this, what’s so goddamn hard about just saying it?
He took a deep breath, and picked up the phone again. Okay, it’s not over yet. You can try again. You’re not going to give up this time.
The busy signal nearly broke him. He set the phone down and stared. Had someone beaten him to it? Should he even bother to try again? It would be so easy to give up now, not worry about it anymore.
Oh no, not again. You’ve talked yourself out of this too many times. Who cares if it’s too late? You’re never going to do this if you don’t do it now, so PICK UP THE PHONE.
The third time dialing seemed easier. He focused on his breathing as the phone rang, trying to slow his heart rate. I am a boat on the sea of tranquility.
“92.5 KNXK, we’re still looking for a winner to Name That Tune, do you think you’ve got the answer?”
“I-“ Jeff paused, but didn’t choke this time. “I-It’s White Lightning and Wine by Heart!”
“It is! Congratulations, you’ve just won a pair of tickets to see Soundgarden when they come to town next month. Stay on the line for a minute, and we’ll get your information.”
The next few minutes were a blur as Jeff stumbled through his name and address, repeating the information several times before the intern who took over from the DJ got it down. He could hardly believe he’d managed to do it.
He put the receiver down, but picked it back up again almost immediately. After all of that, this call would be almost easy.
Then the phone rang, and he realized he had no idea what he was going to say.
Oh god, I’m wait - I’m a sea on the boat of tranquility, I’m a oh god no.
“Hello?” Christie’s voice on the line made his heart freeze.
“I-” He began to choke again, struggled to breathe.
“Hello? Is somebody there?”
“Okay, I’m hanging up now.”
“WAIT!” The words tore out of him suddenly, and he gasped as he was able to breathe again.
“Hello?” Christie said again. “Are you there now?”
“Soundgarden!” Jeff said desperately. “I, you, concert! See concert!” Oh god why did I say that?
There was a pause, and Christie laughed. “Jeff, is that you?”
“Y-” Jeff took a breath. Well, it can’t get any worse than that. “Y-yes, this is Jeff.”
She laughed again. “You sound so funny on the phone! Did you say you had concert tickets?”
“I- Yeah, I, I won them. On the radio.” She’s laughing, am I doing okay?
“Wow! Like a call-in contest?”
“Um yeah, I knew what the song they played was, and… I guess I won?” Wait, I’m actually talking to her! I’m doing this!
“Oh jeez, I never know what those are. That’s awesome!”
“I-I’ve always been good at those for some reason.” The words were coming easier now. “Um, would you want to go with me? To the concert?”
“Totally! I love Soundgarden!”
“R-really? Great! I’ll uh, I’ll see you at school then, yeah?”
“It’s a date!” Christie hung up while Jeff was still recovering from her words. It’s a date.
I have a date.
Jeff walked up to his room and shut the door. He laid down on the bed and put on his walkman, hitting play on the Soundgarden mixtape that Christie had given him last month. He smiled.
I am a boat on the sea of tranquility, and I have a date.
|# ? Mar 31, 2014 03:57|
|# ? May 18, 2022 13:21|
Submissions are closed.
I am super loving busy, but I will have a judgement ready within a day or so. Detailed crits will be delayed until the end of the week, however.
|# ? Mar 31, 2014 04:01|