POLL: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST:July 2015


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Post August 02, 2015, 11:26:52 PM

POLL: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST:July 2015

APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST: July 2015
The 3 Random Things Challenge


THE PREMISE: The challenge this time is to write a flash story with three completely random things. I went online and hit up a random noun generator.
Here is what I got: Crime, Jar, and Calendar






Waste Management


Michelle gulped at the charred pulverizer with its casing splayed open and the mangled mess in blue overalls ten feet away. It was the first time in her twenty-three years of life that she had seen someone almost drained of it.

She glanced out the window where asteroids, rusting vessels and other junk drifted. "Shouldn't we… err… send him to the hospital? Isn't there one right outside the perimeter?"

No one answered. Just wide eyes.

"Not taking him to Orion's Mercy," a voice boomed, "too many sociopaths and losers."

All spun around to see a sixty-year-old hulk with a crewcut donning a black trench coat, flanked by younger muscle, and all shrunk back.

"Sorry sir, didn't know Orion's Mercy was a psychiatric facility," said Michelle.

Jerry the Boss knitted his brow. "It's not. Was referring to them orderlies and doctors."

He squinted at his injured employee, then glowered at his busted machinery and huffed. "Get him to St Jude's now. Any jars this time?"

Babyface Danny slowly put his hand up.

"Jars?" whispered Michelle to the one next to her.





Michelle placed a blackened control chip on the wide rosewood desk. Jerry grabbed the component, held it up and leaned back in his chair.

"Sir, it's M-type but it's supposed to be N-type for that particular pulveriser," said Michelle.

As the boss inspected the chip, her eyes wandered around the office: photos of a young Jerry in an exo-suit; holo-captures of adolescents with one quaint lady prominently displayed, presumably his grandchildren; bottles of moonshine and two empty jars.

Jerry put the chip down, picked up a black marker and put a cross in today's cell on his calendar. There were two red asterisks in the same cell.

"According to maintenance logs," said Michelle, "it was changed last week, before I started, but…"

"…no name was entered," mumbled Jerry as he poured moonshine into his tumbler.

The waft of engine cleaner opened Michelle's sinuses. "Sir, I know I'm so new that Sheila hasn't even put my name into payroll yet but I need to know what's going on. I am the Process Engineer. How are jars connected to this… sabotage?"

Jerry narrowed his gaze and sipped his drink. "Young lady, Orion's Mercy Hospital have regular supply runs. Now, listen carefully since pirates do operate in this sector."





Michelle pulled the joystick. The ship broke left around a rock and a derelict cruise liner. The blinking red dot continued streaking toward the green dot on the HUD. Damn pirate missile.

She stole a glance over her shoulder—"You okay back there?"—Babyface Danny clinging onto the cases of… stuff.

He nodded. "Deploy c-countermeasures."

Her thumb brushed the selector, then hit the button right next to it. There was a clank as something was released but it didn't buy them time.

Still, Orion's Mercy was close. Michelle floored both thrust pedals and headed straight for the hangar, the missile still closing. She activated the transponder and hoped Jerry's fabricated codes would pass.

"Medical Transport One-Niner-Two to Orion Conn: under attack, require assis—"

Two streams of tracers blazed. The red dot disappeared. The defences seemed a bit excessive compared to other deep-space hospitals, not that Michelle was ungrateful.





The medical transport gleamed. Michelle tried not to smile but she was proud of her work. Hard to believe that the thing was scheduled for recycling just yesterday.

As Babyface Danny rolled the cases down the ramp, Michelle noted the reinforced hangar doors… then smoothed her paramedic's uniform and headed for the lobby with data-pad in hand.

At the entrance, green rays swept her head to toe. Orderlies glared at her but she kept her eyes forward and kept walking.

The corridors bustled and, like all caring environments, everyone ignored her. Having an ex-military boss obviously helped with resources, her outfit and key-card working so far. She turned right, marched toward Archives and entered.

Michelle gawked. Archives was certainly archives. Banks of files on the left and rows of organs on the right. In cryo-jars. She strode up to a terminal and plugged in the data-pad.

She smirked. Security did check her but found only her academic transcripts and pilot's license.

Then she executed the hack and an encrypted transfer link. Records flashed onto the data-pad screen: personal files, financials, layouts… the sabotage and the heavy defences now made more sense. Damn mob must have taken over the hospital recently. Jerry's business was successful and the mob, who obviously also ran organ black markets, wanted their slice. No way Jerry would have agreed so—

Oh dear… a file of a familiar young lady. Michelle had assumed the jars were a general threat to Jerry and his staff in the form of a personal taunt since he was an ex-Marine, a so-called jarhead. Well, it was personal: his granddaughter was poisoned a month ago and, during her brief hospitalization, had a kidney stolen.

Babyface Danny appeared on screen. "I'm d-done here. If I s-stay longer—"

"Wait in the ship as planned."

Then Michelle initiated a call. Jerry appeared and his eyes glinted. "Good work, now I know specifically who these maggots are. Get to your rendezvous."





Michelle was walking up the ramp when the orderlies shouted and bolted towards her. She elbowed the red button as one of them hurled himself at the ship, clinging onto the raising ramp. She kicked him in the face. She felt good whilst he fell off.

The ramp sealed shut and then she tapped [EMP] on her data-pad. Blue waves rippled from their cases. Lights out.

Danny pattered the comms panel.

"Hang on," the boss grunted in response.

A boom followed as the hangar doors flared inward. Thankfully, the hospital didn't detect Michelle's "countermeasures" as modified mines.

"Not leaving till we waste everyone on the list!" roared Jerry through comms as fifty exo-suits with full-assault load-out poured in.

He was obviously an old-fashioned guy, the type who got satisfaction crossing off dates and people he really didn't like.

END




The Beast, Within



Rednae looked at the blurry wall calendar through the interface. July 31st was circled in red--an infamous date, considering it was today, the day of burning.

The gooey, lifeless walls were thick. No one was getting through them, and the doors wouldn't dilate any more. The inmates were trapped. A lone light source sputtered over Rednae's head, above a nearly opaque patch of the ceiling, the dim flicker making this prison even more hellish.

He knew the Beast had to be getting close to the inferno that would turn them all to ash, but there was little he could do to take them to safety. If he could relight the great engine, the Beast's defenses would spring to life. It would be spared the flame yet again. He jabbed his key into the lock once more, but it would not respond. It couldn't.

It was dead, like everything else.

Some Keeper I turned out to be. Rednae feared his tenure would be the shortest on record, that was, if anyone still existed to keep records. Keepers tended the Beasthome since generations past, but he was stuck in a cell, and now everything was headed straight for perdition's flame. Because I trusted her.

I must have been addle-minded. What did I expect, trusting a prisoner? She had been so unique: a tantalizingly red, bristle-haired visitor from beyond, from a mostly-water world teeming with intelligent life. All intelligent, scheming life, apparently. He had never seen the like of Melissa. Such a strange name. Her body was so different: so... swelled... in spots. Rednae had a hard time keeping the vision from his mind. Plus, everything she described was so different, like how she traveled across the vast space in a hard-metal tube--just to explore. No one explored. Life just was, and you lived as you could. Every prisoner had a story--millions of them--but none like hers. Melissa said she just wanted to get back to her metal tube, to be free of the Beast, but the Beast was made for holding criminals just like her. It was its function, as was his, too.

What if her words were true? Even then, Rednae dared to think it. I could go with her. She promised.

***

He entered. "We will speak again, now."

She was pacing. "Why do you keep coming here?"

"Your story is unbelievable, yet I keep wanting to hear it."

"I tell you I am an explorer," Melissa insisted. "We'd never been inside 'The Beast', as you call it, before, so I volunteered to go through the conversion process. I needed to discover what it was really like, from inside here."

Rednae's vision blinked. "That is madness. The Beast is a prison."

"We didn’t know that."

Rednae paused. "What did you know?"

"Not enough." She sighed, something prisoners didn't do. "I... I know about freedom. The place I came from, everyone moves about, freely. You can't even go from one room to another here, but there... you can go anywhere, room to room, building to building, city to city, even country to country, anywhere in the world."

Rednae boggled. "Surely not. Chaos!"

She looked at him, tears in the corner of her eyes. "I know about love, too, and about missing someone you love."

He seemed unsure.

She paused. "Haven't you ever loved someone?"

He was silent for a long time. "There was one."

Her hand reached out to touch his side. No prisoner had ever dared--his body would consume them. Instead of bringing her death, her touch was soft, tantalizing. It was unlike anything he had experienced. His body burned from it and yearned for it at the same moment. In his own way, he gasped. The sensation was overwhelming.

"Haven't you been touched before?"

"I have not touched another except to lock prisoners into their cells since the one... That was whom I loved. The one I was created from."

Melissa continued to caress his side. "The one who created you, is she still alive?"

"No."

"Rednae," she asked, "if you could see her, touch her, one more time, would you not do it, even if your laws forbid it?"

He was uncomfortable in the silence. Eventually, he said, "Yes."

"That is how I feel about going back to my people, every moment I am here."

He watched her face. "Truly, you feel like this, all the time?"

She nodded.

What do I do? Slowly, he moved toward the door. Extending his key, it opened. "Then go. I cannot stand to know I'm causing you such pain, because then I feel it, too."

She jumped toward the door, but stopped. "Come with me."

He declined. "If this cell is not occupied, the Beast will react. The searchers will find you."

She looked through the interface at the calendar and set her jaw. "After I escape, I will get you out of here. I promise I will."

The door closed.

She was gone. Rednae could not weep the sorrow and loneliness that filled him. He was not built for it.

He sat alone in silence in the cell, waiting until she would be past the searchers, and would be free... waiting too long for the Beast to live.

***

"Where is it?" the scientist asked.

Her lab assistant extended a jar. "Nicked it off the cart, love, as requested. I know you know this one inside and out, but why did I have swipe it from the incinerator line? You know what horrible things we've put in there. It was a miracle it lasted through so many tests, but it's not living. The Director won't be happy you're doing this."

She ignored him and scanned the specimen trapped inside the container, then inserted a needle into the dead rabbit's eye. Extracting fluid into the same metal, tube syringe that carried her during her own experiment, she chuckled.

"I'll get you out of there, Rednae. I promised I would."


The End



A Fairy Familiar Tale

Alison Stranglelove checked her calendar again, then walked to the kitchen. Then she walked back and checked it again. She repeated several times. Her excitement creating obsession. Tonight was the summer solstice . She would be able to do that which she had prepared . She was going to sneak onto the Childhome estate and catch a fairy. It was trespassing, but if they didn’t want that to happen they shouldn’t have bought the forest ripe with ley lines and fairy rings and hogged it all.

She looked through the window and saw the sundown . Soon the box trap she had placed on the estate would need checking. The trap was baited with a honey cake, and sugarplums , according to her research fairies couldn’t resist that. She had found an obscure treatise on fairies that declared they loved human sweetmeats. Alison expected that she would be able to use her specially prepared jar this evening to collect a new little familiar.

The walk down to the estate was uneventful. She had found the perfect spot for entering the property and absconding with her new treasure. She placed the jar in her knapsack and climbed the fence. The trap was conveniently placed just a hundred feet inside the estate. As she drew close she observed with glee that it was sprung and moving as something bumped around. She kneeled next to it and put her hand on the box feeling the vibrations coming from the inside. She wanted to savor this moment, it was the culmination of such planning. The pinnacle of her career as a practitioner would be having a fairy as her familiar. She unscrewed the cap on her warded mason jar and held it up to the sliding door on the side of the box. She would waited for the fairy to fly into the jar in an attempt to escape through the opening and then close the lid behind it. Easy-peasy.

It took a moment after the jar was in place but then something shot out of the trap and into the jar like a bottle rocket. Alison slammed the lid on. She held it up to look at her prize. Inside was a perfect replica of a little nude woman with gossamer wings. She stared back at Alison through the glass curiously. A slight tinkling came from the little air holes in the cover of the jar.

“Well now my little miniature missus, it seems I have caught you and you will be spending some time with me.”

A glassy little voice came from the jar, “Why did you do this? I don’t know you. You should let me go.”

“No, I don’t think so little doll. You are coming home with me.”

The little figure put her hands on her hips and let her upper lip curl in a sneer. “I suppose I don’t have a choice then. Let’s get on with it.”

Alison was quite pleased with the fairy’s understanding that her service was a forgone conclusion. She expected a little more resistance to her servitude. She put the jar in her bag and scaled the fence. That damn Childhome family and their cockamamie claims that fairies were dangerous and that they needed to be contained to the estate. Those pompous witches and warlocks didn’t even bother using them as familiars themselves. It did briefly occur to her that the security seemed lax for something they proclaimed to the heavens was there divine mission on Earth.

When she arrived home she was brought to an abrupt halt in the doorway as her knapsack refused to go through the threshold with her. Backing out of the house she removed it and took out the jar.

“What is going on Sparkles?”

The little fey stretched and yawned. “Who is Sparkles?”

“You are. That is your new name.”

“I have a name, it is over three millennia I have used it. I don’t think I like to change now.”

Alison scowled at her new pet. “Tough you are mine and your name is Sparkles. Now why is it that I can’t get into the house?”

A twinkly little laugh came from the jar. “I can’t step foot in your home without being invited, those are the rules.”

“Isn’t that vampires?”

“Fey too I’m afraid.”

Alison’s breathed huffed. “Fine then you are invited into my home.” She picked up the jar and the bag and stormed through the door ; Sparkles shrieked with glee.
Alison put the jar on the table and stared at the fairy.

“Now it is late, and I am tired. So you behave yourself while I catch a little shut eye and I will feed you some cake when I wake up, ok?”

“Oh yes Mistress, that would be delightful!” Sparkles hopped up and down in her jar.

Alison Strangelove smile down at her new familiar and nodded. Then she turned to go to bed. She lay down and as she drifted off to sleep she thought ‘ Now who is a second rate witch?’ The stupid council declaring she wasn’t advanced enough for a familiar would be sorry now. She would show them all tomorrow.

Alison wasn’t a very good witch. Her worst trait was research by far. She brought a quite high member of the Unseelie Court into her home invited. Sparkles real name loosely translated was “Destroyer of Life, Crusher of Souls”. It was also evident she was unaware that a warded mason jar wasn’t sufficient to hold said entity, nor that her translation of fairy culinary practice was flawed. They didn’t like human sweetmeats (cakes and sugar pastries). They loved human sweetbreads though, which is for the most part is the thymus and pancreas. Once you were trapped in the woods or through unfortunate luck found one had somehow gotten into your home things usually became tragic. Those little devils would climb in any orifice they could and chew their way to the sweetbreads.

THE END





Twenty Questions

The program facilitator scanned the faces of the six people sitting in front of him. All six would now have the chance to unravel a real mystery from two centuries before – by going back in time to the location of the offense.

“Greetings to all of you,” began the facilitator. “As you know, crime has been eradicated from our world by the webnet that protects us. But in the far past, killers ran wild through the streets like uncontrolled predators, hiding in large cities.” He was pleased that most of the participants gasped at his statement. These time tourists had paid to be entertained afterall. “We’ve selected a crime from the year 1963 involving the deaths of 3 women. A suspect was arrested, but later released, due to lack of a motive and physical evidence.”

Magalie Stenger began to ask a question but was stopped. “Each of you will be supplied with an era appropriate C-241 robot, who will answer only 20 questions when you get to the time location. The tourist who solves the crime with the least number of questions wins bragging rights. Well, if there are no further questions, Pittsburg 1963 is awaiting your detection skills. The travel booths are in the next room. Happy hunting!”
*****
As Magalie looked around, she thought that stepping through the time portal into Old Earth 1963 was well worth the cost of the trip. She enjoyed seeing the sky and the city built on rolling hills. A robot followed her through the portal, having been modified to look like a girl of eight.

“I am here to assist you, mother,” said the C-241’s soft voice. “What would you like to know?”

“What happened to the three women, in general terms?”

“Helen B, Mary F, and Jane C were abducted, sexually assaulted, and murdered – their remains were found floating in the Allegheny River. One of the bodies was discovered in those bushes over there.”

“What was the suspect’s name?” asked Magalie.

“Lowell Roppo,” came the answer.

“Is the suspect’s job location within walking distance?”

“Every location on Earth is within walking distance for me,” said the robot child, not understanding the question clearly.

“How about for me, C-241 – is it within walking distance for me?”

“Is that a countable question?” asked the C-241.

“How many have I asked so far?” asked Magalie.

“Five, including this one.”

“Could be worse,” she whispered to herself. “Yes, that is a countable question.”

“Yes!” said the small robot, leading the way into the heart of downtown Pittsburg on a lovely Autumn afternoon.
******
“Did Lowell work in this neighborhood?” asked Magalie, walking past the brick buildings.

“Yes,” said the girl. “All his life.”

This was harder than Magalie thought it was going to be. “Will you take me to the place where Lowell worked?” insisted Magalie.

“Yes,” said the C-241.

After several twists and turns through the streets, the pair came to a row of six buildings, all of which were in need of repair. “I’m going to assume that Lowell left town after being released and his shop is the one with the windows covered with brown paper.”

The C-241 did not respond, as the woman’s sentence was a statement, not a question.

“Silence gives consent,” said Magalie, walking up to the entrance to the closed store. “As she peeked through the cracks between the papers, she could see what appeared to be women’s heads. “Can you get me inside?” asked Magalie.

“Yes,” said the robot.

“Will you get me inside now?”

“Yes,” said the girl, tearing off the dead-bolt lock with one swipe of her hand.

Magalie looked around before going into the building.

The room was musty and opening the door had stirred up the dust, making the human wheeze. “Why are those heads there?”

“Those are ceramic heads used to hold wigs which were worn by women for fashion or because they had lost their hair due to age or disease.”

“How long had Mr. Roppo owned this store?”

“Both of their lives.”

“You mean there were two Mr. Roppos?” she asked.

“Yes, according to records, Lowell’s father owned the wig store before him.”

Magalie went further back, seeing a calendar hanging on the wall. She noticed 3 days which had circles drawn around them. “C-241, what did the three murdered women do on these 3 days that were similar?”

“They all had appointments at a cancer clinic nearby.”

“Cancer? – could that disease have caused their hair to fall out?

“Yes. The cure for cancer at this time was chemotherapy.”

Suddenly the woman saw her refection in a jar on a counter. As she looked inside, she saw a blonde wig. She took it out, turning it over in her hands.

“I’m ready to go back to tell Rodgers my findings,” she told the robot, and the pair disappeared.
*****
The other five travelers were also in the room.

“I’m ready to hear your theory, Ms. Stenger,” said the administrator.

Magalie Stenger smiled to herself. “I propose that as Lowell Roppo grew to become a man in his father’s wig store, he came to fantasize about the women in the display windows. But since all of those ceramic heads were hairless he looked for women who were hairless – women undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, like the women who came and went from his father’s shop.”

From behind her back she held up the wig from the jar. “I believe that you’ll find the DNA of all three murdered women on this wig – the wig that Lowell Roppo put on each of the women after he had killed them, thus satisfying his fetish.”

“And she developed this provable theory in how many questions?” Mr. Rodgers asked the C-241.

“14 questions.”

“Can anyone beat it?” he asked looking around the room. The others shook their heads no. “Well then you win bragging rights and one free trip on another murder vacation. I hope everyone will travel with us again soon.”

The End


The Case of the Calendar Jar Crimes...



It was that time of year again, and Harry Hutchison was very worried. The 62-year-old detective already knew what would follow - or better what was probably going to happen… - and the events of the day didn’t disappoint him. At midnight, precisely, a holo-call announced that another body part would be found in an obscure alley in town. As the graying man looked at the calendar he regretfully told his younger colleague, “I knew this would happen: it’s the same day, the same hour, only one year after the last one…”

News websites and blogs had already let their fancy run wild, and they had named that strange sequence of unexplainable bloody events the ‘calendar jar crimes’. The reason was simple: at the beginning of the crime spree, on the given date, a transparent jar was left in an alley with a body part inside. Well, it was not from a human body, as it came from an alien species called Hujkn, one of the many alien groups that had been allowed to settle on Earth since the day the first Trade Agreements had been signed and the world had been admitted into the Great Union of Free Planets. This inclusion had proven to be very profitable for humans due to improvements in technology, science, industry and medicine, undoubtedly. So far, there were about 300 new intergalactic species that were living alongside Earthlings, and their numbers were steadily increasing every year.

The main mystery was that the body parts found weren’t all taken from the same alien body, as every single time the investigations revealed that they had come from different victims – whose complete remains had never been found so far. So, why was a damn killer cutting pieces of tissues from an alien’s body, putting them into a jar and leaving it somewhere? Of all the madmen the detective had ever encountered in his life, this murderer was obviously the most bloodthirsty!

For the first three years, though the policemen hadn’t discovered anything about the person responsible, a jar would be found in town on the same date, after the usual holo-call. Then, things worsened. Once the media found out that all these body parts came from the same alien species - the Hujkn - it became clear the act was a hate crime. They surmised it must have been done by some racist who detested the Hujkn and wanted to show the whole world that he had decided to deal with those new citizens of Earth in this bloody way. The question was: should they be looking for a human who hated the Hujkn - or an alien? In fact, that species had many enemies - including other alien groups who had been admitted to Earth. The same could be said about humans who hated all other alien peoples, anyway…

Even though the policemen involved, including Harry, had no clues about the real killer, someone new decided to send a clear response - and so another jar with a body part from a different alien species had shown up. The remains were from the Ltmra, who had always been at odds with the Hujkn over some commercial agreements which had been infringed upon in the past, almost causing a war in space. So, there were now two of them: a person who killed, or cut, parts off poor Hujkn bodies and left them in an alley, and another one who did the same on the aliens known as Ltmra…

But, it didn’t stop there, as things left to themselves, usually go from bad to worse. Probably because of the game of intertwined hatred among the different species with past scores to settle, new jars with new alien body parts were announced and picked up in several parts of town, each find having its significance. These actions were obviously meant to strike fear in their enemy’s species. The fact was that each year had only 365 days, and the policemen had been hoping that no other alien killer would perpetrate the same acts, as those insane individuals seemed to have already selected a different date to showcase their crimes.

And then it happened: another jar - but with human organs - was found in a park on February 29th. For the first time, some unknown killer had started practicing the same crime on Earthlings - and it had occurred on a day that only repeated every four years. Humans had finally become the target of that madness! But there was something else that made the detective upset this year: a message attached to the jar with human body part that said: “You stupid humans! Do something and stop this senseless chain of violence, or we’ll fill every day of the year with jars holding the remains of Earthlings. You have four years to solve this crime or else, starting with the next 29th February, we’ll put our threat into practice!”

Harry silently looked at the message again and smirked. The detective knew he would not be working four years from now, as next March he would finally be retired, and so he could simply walk away from all those terrible crimes that had made his job unbearable for a decade. Someone else would be forced to solve the problem after he was gone!/b]

We’ll never know for certain, but Harry was probably very surprised when he stumbled upon an alien from a species he didn’t even recognize one night while coming back from the pub, and unbearable was the former detective’s suffering as that stranger started cutting out his internal organs and putting them into another jar to be left somewhere in town. Attached to that new jar was a message: “We’re already tired of waiting, so we’re not holding off until leap year: hurry up and solve those damn’ crimes on your damn’ planet now – or else!”


THE END


FLASH SUPRESSOR


He states, “I’m an Adjudicator.”

“See the circle on the calendar. I have to go out and do it again. I can never complain. Let me explain, but first I must take some refreshment.”

He took a gumdrop out of the Everfilled Jar.

“This jar knows my thoughts, my wishes. I desired to throw the whole thing out the window but then it would be filled up again, just like that. And here they are, lemon gum drops, my favorite. And littering is a major ecological crime, as is farting. Methane, a major green-house gas, is strictly regulated. There are meters on everyone’s body from the day we’re born. Good credits are given to those who fart less. The truth of the matter is 40% of human populations are walking methane factories. It is a great form of taxation. Every body agreed those who polluted should pay.”

“I am not DNA prone to produce methane, but cows are. Large herds of cows were eliminated generations ago. Now only small numbers of the animals are allowed to breed and then again in especially environmentally controlled enclosed fields. Methane being a very potent gas is harvested for those activities that required natural methane for the sports population, specifically the indoor environmentally controlled go-kart racing crowd.

“I am one of the Hunters. All Hunters are licensed by the National Revenge Assembly, a bureaucratic subdivision within the Justice Department, an august group of citizens whose only desire is to see that the laws of the land are respected. Since all citizens are given all we desire and are free from want, and no one should have any want in our society. Want is The Capital Crime. Some of us desire to hunt. We don’t want to hunt. We simply desire to help maintain the balance in our Most Free From Want World.

“Every one has all they desire. Those who are found to want, and adjudicated as capital criminals, are allowed to go through a final form of trial. Our society gives every one what they desire. The final argument is conducted under the Human Hunting Laws. And the one found guilty could desire trial-by-combat.


In order to achieve a balance in the hunt revenge game that is required by our natural psychological make up, the NRA decrees hunting as the following, as I will explain, and we are given the opportunity to hunt, only the game is a condemned human. However, if he or she succeeds in break-freaking through the barrier of hunters or manages to kill one of us in the hunt, the criminal is deemed worthy and reformed of want by dint of God’s grace and set free. It’s a wonderful game. So far I’ve managed to adjudicate ten criminals. I’m called The Top Adjudicator.”

II
Today the hunt is in the break-freaking game preserve. The planets rotation is about to cut the natural light from the preserve. This is the best time. This is when the hunted ones get careless thinking they are about to cross the border. The Adjudicator studied her profile and figured she would try to use the river exit; so unoriginal.

I pop another gumdrop into my mouth. It is sour and my cheeks pucker. That was a good one and it brings a tight smile to my face. My rifle is resting on the sandbag as I chamber a .308. The specially made kill-bullet glides in silently. The bolt locks like jeweled clockwork. I turn on my infrared scope. The cross hairs align for 500 yards. There is no wind.
Number eleven.

She was condemned for expressing too much undesire and wanted too much to have diversity, to allow change. She had something to do with cyborg designs. Silly girl. She should have kept her mouth shut. She knew better. I don’t care too much about personal data for this game. Too much gets in the way and I over analyze. They all panic out here.

They said if she had her way, then we’d all be just a mess like the old days of total chaos and confusion. We are so free from want. Everyone is happy and those that aren’t, soon learn one way, or another.

Between the breaths: I see her face, I squeeze the trigger. All I hear is phhhht. The suppressor keeps the noise down to a respectable level. I don’t even need earplugs. That would allow her to possibly sneak up on me. Well not this one. That only occurred once and I was almost willing to let him escape. He was good. He could have been one of US.

He called me a stooge and tool for the National Revenge Assembly, corrupters of the old constitution. He should have just terminated me, no talk. I couldn’t let that slide. That’s what a side arm is for.

She’s down. My job is done, and such pleasure. My sensors are surely reporting my happiness to the National Revenge Assembly. I will be rewarded. Strange, there is no confirmation…but it happens.

I have a great desire for steak and potatoes tonight. And then, who knows.

I make the call again, nothing. I walk to where my RPV is just landing. I walk slowly. Before boarding I stop, turn, and look back at the killing field. I can’t believe I see her face in my memory. She was cute, too bad.

Something is burning inside me. I look down. I‘m bleeding, what the… My hand covers the blood. Then I hear her voice.

“You think I was stupid enough to do like the others? I’m allowed a review of the Hunters just as you are of your intended victims. I know you like to lay and wait by the river. You shot my cyborg. I saw you look at your communicator. Of course you didn’t get a confirmation. I will take your machine and leave you here as you would have left me.
Oh, one last thing.”

My brain registered the muzzle flash.

The End


To vote, rate these stories using the form below with scores of 0-10 (in whole numbers) and send it to me via PM:

Categories:
1) What overall score would you give the story?
2) How good was the Characterization?
3) How effective (or original) was the plot?
4) How clear was the setting to you?
5) How good was the use of dialog?
6) How well did the story meet or address the challenge as it was given?

NOTE: you must have posted at least one message before you can send a PM. Join in a discussion or just say hi in a thread before voting via PM. If I suspect a voter of being a false identity (i.e. a troll), I won't count their vote.

Author scores for their own entry will not be counted.

Like so for each entry please:

(Title)
1) Overall:
2) Characterization:
3) Plot:
4) Setting:
5) Dialog:
6) Challenge:

Voting will close on Friday August 14th, 2015 at approximately 8 p.m., East Coast Time.
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Post August 03, 2015, 08:07:27 AM

Re: POLL: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST:July 2015

My votes are already in... :D

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Post August 04, 2015, 01:05:30 PM

Re: POLL: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST:July 2015

Here is a voting shell that might help people!

Aphelion Flash July 2015
Waste Management
1) Overall:
2) Characterization:
3) Plot:
4) Setting:
5) Dialog:
6) Challenge:

The Beast, Within
1) Overall:
2) Characterization:
3) Plot:
4) Setting:
5) Dialog:
6) Challenge:

A Fairy Familiar Tale
1) Overall:
2) Characterization:
3) Plot:
4) Setting:
5) Dialog:
6) Challenge:

Twenty Questions
1) Overall:
2) Characterization:
3) Plot:
4) Setting:
5) Dialog:
6) Challenge:

The Case of the Calendar Jar Crimes...
1) Overall:
2) Characterization:
3) Plot:
4) Setting:
5) Dialog:
6) Challenge:

Flash Suppressor
1) Overall:
2) Characterization:
3) Plot:
4) Setting:
5) Dialog:
6) Challenge:

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Post August 04, 2015, 05:33:00 PM

Re: POLL: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST:July 2015

I'm glad I stayed silent on voting in other challenges, "no votes means no bad votes". It's so tough to really be balanced at this level of detail! And you can't vote properly if you're emotional about something else!

Mine will be in soon.

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Post August 04, 2015, 05:54:03 PM

Re: POLL: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST:July 2015

What do we do if a story blows out the word count? To me it's disqualified ... so I am holding my votes (and Ente you may be forced to change yours!)

I recommend people "leave a few words slack" to avoid stuff like this! And if you think you have a heavy story, use a program with a word count!

I saw the big paragraphs in Flash Suppressor and had a bad feeling! Now the only problem is if there are dangerous differences in word counts! I am getting "about" 1058 words in Kingsoft Writer. Now I know that's a "2nd rate" alternative to "the standard" MS Word, but plus or minus weird effects of random spaces, that's over the limit!

I need people to post some data!

So for now I am holding my votes!
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Post August 04, 2015, 06:31:06 PM

Re: POLL: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST:July 2015

I do not count the words before or during the contest, I am just happy to have participation. If a story is obviously too large it will draw attention on it's own. I was forced this time by the thread to put each story less "The End" and title onto my pages program and peek at counts. I have 3 stories over. I am going to allow this as it is my contest. If you want this to be a factor you may score a story which went over lower in the challenge category.

That is how it will go please. I think that is the best solution.

It is about fun and creativity and this is a non-prize contest on an amateur forum. Deduct points if you must but the stories stand.

Thanks.
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Post August 04, 2015, 06:49:06 PM

Re: POLL: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST:July 2015

EddieSullivan wrote:I do not count the words before or during the contest, I am just happy to have participation. If a story is obviously too large it will draw attention on it's own. I was forced this time by the thread to put each story less "The End" and title onto my pages program and peek at counts. I have 3 stories over. I am going to allow this as it is my contest. If you want this to be a factor you may score a story which went over lower in the challenge category.

That is how it will go please. I think that is the best solution.

It is about fun and creativity and this is a non-prize contest on an amateur forum. Deduct points if you must but the stories stand.

Thanks.


Well, I don't *want* people to lose out! But see also Rick Tornello's comment that feels to be on the conservative side of the word count rule. I'm growing torn about word counts in my voting, because I don't want to get ruthless in every month of voting. (Though imagine an alternate ruthless dystopian world!) It just feels like a bit of the "rawness" of Flash, if authors check their stories and then have to decide "which important part do I cut to get under the line". (And I'm poor at the form, for these reasons, because then my stories get lopsided!)

Participation is definitely essential! So I will leave it alone in my voting - but I don't think it's fair either to say "ho hum, it blew out the word limit, well that's a second class rule so we don't care".

So I'm happy that stories won't get kicked for it, and voters can decide themselves what it means to them. And it "might as well be me" getting this into "open space", because "someone would have". And "if a story is too large it will draw attention" ... and that's *exactly what happened* ! I didn't go into this nitpicking. I just took one look before reading and said to myself "uh oh, that's a *lot* of large paragraphs, that *can't* be under the limit". It happened in under a minute. Because that's exactly where a few of my pre-submit drafts keep ending up.
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Post August 04, 2015, 06:58:32 PM

Re: POLL: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST:July 2015

Yup, and I won't deny it may effect the score. But this time I will allow it. The nice thing about being the guy running it is I can do that. I didn't think you were rabble rousing, it was a good catch and certainly needs to be discussed. It just won't be a disqualifying factor this time.
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Post August 04, 2015, 07:40:17 PM

Re: POLL: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST:July 2015

Okay, with that solved, my votes are in, unless tell Eddie tells me I went a wee bit too fast and missed something!

: )
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Post August 04, 2015, 07:53:20 PM

Re: POLL: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST:July 2015

nope
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Post August 04, 2015, 10:37:40 PM

Re: POLL: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST:July 2015

Just to add my 2 cents worth...

Obviously, whether a piece is included in the shortlist is the editor's prerogative.
It's up to each individual judge to take into account the word count. Personally, I would since the rules state it and it's unfair to not take it into consideration.

There are differences in software packages and, in my experience at least, MS Word seems to be the most consistently accurate.
Using MS Word and counting main text only as the rules dictate, I get the following:

Waste Management 999
The Beast, Within 991
A Fairy Familiar Tale 996
Twenty Questions 994
The Case of the Calendar Jar Crimes... 980
Flash Suppressor 1001 (including the "II" sub-heading, 1000 if excluded)

In these cases, not an issue for me.
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Post August 04, 2015, 11:13:36 PM

Re: POLL: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST:July 2015

Honestly if I was ever rejected from anything because of word count that would be the last they see of me. If you want flash I give you flash give or take. If I give you 1500 or 2000 words we both know I didn't do a flash piece. If you tell me I have 1005 words and I need to cut it or face rejection, the hell with you. If you recommend five words to take out and I see your point, well that would be different, I can take editorial advice.

Thing is I don't edit contest pieces, I just post them.
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Post August 05, 2015, 12:37:22 PM

Re: POLL: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST:July 2015

REQUIREMENTS: (1) Your story must a speculative (sci fi, fantasy, dark fantasy, bizarro, etc.) story; (2) Your story must involve a crime, a jar, and a calendar; (3) 1,000 words or less, not [u]counting title, byline, "The End," or punctuation such as #### used to separate sections;


Taking out just The End, Stories are: The Beast Within 996; Waste Management 1004 (less without the title and ***** punctuation); Calendar Jar Crimes 989; Twenty Questions 999; Fairy Famiiar Tale 1000; Flash Suppressor (939). And??
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Post August 05, 2015, 01:07:22 PM

Re: POLL: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST:July 2015

Well all that is interesting, because it's useful to know that my Kingsoft Writer is off by some 50 words!

And I also hope this didn't spark the resignation announcement!
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Post August 05, 2015, 01:13:18 PM

Re: POLL: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST:July 2015

Yes it is all your fault!!!!!!!

Not!

I just have too much on my plate and it is someone else's turn. My replacement is great!
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Post August 05, 2015, 08:04:21 PM

Re: POLL: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST:July 2015

*** or ### or II (as in chapter 2) or The End and title are not supposed to be counted as the word count.

FLASH is 1000 words or less unless indicated.

If I exceeded I'm DQ'd- plain, pain and simple. Just let me know. I'll get over it. I used the MS word counter, subtracted out the THE END stuff and my numbers worked for me. HOWEVER my math skills are not the best. I accept the verdict of the editor.


When I raced, if the top finishers were just one pound under was under the minimum weight for the class, TFB DQ'd.

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Post August 06, 2015, 08:05:19 AM

Re: POLL: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST:July 2015

This all just shows how tough it is to write a complete story in 1000 words or less. It's a good challenge for all of us - it forces us to chose our words carefully - like Tweeting maybe.
A lot of good stories this time, a lot of variety in the subject matter 8)
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Post August 06, 2015, 08:34:32 AM

Re: POLL: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST:July 2015

I have one question, no matter, DO WE OR DO WE NOT have word overages?
<p>
If yes please let me know which stories.
<p>
I totally agree with TAO on this .
<p>
And if I screwed up on my word count , take me out . However, I just went in again and checked my word count. I subtracted the extraneous things and hit 1000 words of text. I'm using MS WORD 2004 because it's simple and easy to use, and it still works. I have no idea how anyone came up with the different numbers they did, but I'm glad you're not programming the next space shot.
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When it comes to this I may push a little, and 5 more words can make a difference in an okay story or a very good one.

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Post August 06, 2015, 10:12:02 AM

Re: POLL: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST:July 2015

Sounds to me like everybody was good on word count. Even if there was an issue, Ed's running this contest, and he allowed it, so there is still no issue. A final ruling is just that, final.

BTW, even when I ran the contest, I gave everybody one story where they could break the rule a little in a "first one's free" sort of way. There is precedent for this, so relax, everybody. We're ok here.
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Post August 06, 2015, 10:12:25 AM

Re: POLL: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST:July 2015

Well, I had a long piece in tap.

I'll hold onto it to see what becomes of Nate's "let's relax comment".
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Post August 06, 2015, 10:55:49 AM

Re: POLL: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST:July 2015

No one is disqualified. The only one who can remove someone is me, and no one is out. That pretty much settled it before. I prefer to be lenient in this case because I am feeling good about the level of participation so if there were slight overages then I have issued absolution. Like I said you are free to vote with your feelings that is were you get a say!

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Post August 14, 2015, 08:11:45 PM

Re: POLL: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST:July 2015

My votes are in ... I almost didn't make it.
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Post August 15, 2015, 04:09:08 PM

Re: POLL: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST:July 2015

Waste Management- Joey T 299
The Beast Within- Nate K. 305.2
A Fairy Familiar Tale- Ed S. 322.2
Twenty Questions - Michele D. 321
The Case of the Calendar Jar Crimes- Sergio P. 306.8
Flash Suppressor - Rick T. 312.6

Honestly I have a hard timing believing this myself as this is a tough scoring crowd and it has never happened previously. The score sheet is available in it's entirety to anyone who asks. I am really not ok with this as someone completely omitted scoring one of the stories I believe by accident. So there should be another winner and if that person' story was at all liked by the person even remotely they would have won. I would like to award it to that person unless I here any objections in the next few days. Please comment here.
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Post August 16, 2015, 12:08:39 PM

Re: POLL: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST:July 2015

Yeah, that was me. Sorry; I've sent the missing score by PM if it'll help.
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Post August 16, 2015, 06:02:55 PM

Re: POLL: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST:July 2015

Waste Management- Joey T 342
The Beast Within- Nate K. 305.2
A Fairy Familiar Tale- Ed S. 322.2
Twenty Questions - Michele D. 321
The Case of the Calendar Jar Crimes- Sergio P. 306.8
Flash Suppressor - Rick T. 312.6

The winner is Joey T. in my book. There was almost no way Lester's mistake once corrected could not have resulted in his win in my book. Hope everyone else is ok with this as I am. He had 299 without one whole set of scores, I think it is clear he would have won.

Congrats Joey!
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Post August 17, 2015, 04:04:29 AM

Re: POLL: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST:July 2015

Congratulations to the winner, well done, indeed!!! :D :D

My preferred entries this month were, with the same score, A Fairy Familiar Tale and Twenty Questions, I gave them both 7 in each category anyway...eh,eh :D
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Post August 17, 2015, 05:36:33 PM

Re: POLL: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST:July 2015

Congrats, Joey!

Eddie, you did well too, placing second. My top vote went to Michele this time. Here's how I marked 'em up:

Waste Management
1) Overall: 7
2) Characterization: 5
3) Plot: 5
4) Setting: 7
5) Dialog: 9
6) Challenge: 10

total: 43

comments: Difficult to follow; felt like pieces were missing. I'm guessing that indicates cuts to make the word count; I've turned out a few myself that felt that way for that reason.

The Beast, Within
1) Overall: 5
2) Characterization: 6
3) Plot: 4
4) Setting: 4
5) Dialog: 6
6) Challenge: 10

total: 35

A Fairy Familiar Tale
1) Overall: 7
2) Characterization: 7
3) Plot: 8
4) Setting: 6
5) Dialog: 4
6) Challenge: 10

total: 42

Twenty Questions
1) Overall: 9
2) Characterization: 7
3) Plot: 10
4) Setting: 7
5) Dialog: 7
6) Challenge: 10

total: 50

The Case of the Calendar Jar Crimes...
1) Overall: 7
2) Characterization: 7
3) Plot: 8
4) Setting: 6
5) Dialog: 5
6) Challenge: 10

total: 43

Flash Suppressor
1) Overall: 5
2) Characterization: 4
3) Plot: 8
4) Setting: 4
5) Dialog: 3
6) Challenge: 10

total: 34

comments: Heavy info-dump via dialog—and the narrator is dead.
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Post August 17, 2015, 05:49:52 PM

Re: POLL: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST:July 2015

I just have too much on my plate and it is someone else's turn. My replacement is great!
1st off - who is your replacement? How can you stop now when we've just begun to have fun? Maybe we should up your pay, double your pay, no triple it!
Boy, this little contest is a pip with the scoring. Congrats Joey! We'll get you next time :twisted:
The 3 objects scenario left the door open for a lot of variety in the stories - which I love. I liked Richard's story about being on safari and Joey's story. Heck, I thought mine was pretty fun with people going back in time to solve average crimes for fun (NOT Jack the ripper PLEASE!)
Sergio is always right on target with his story - he knows how to exploit the contest guidelines to the max.
Good job, my virtual peeps!
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Post August 17, 2015, 08:02:59 PM

Re: POLL: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST:July 2015

Dionisio "Don" Traverso who uses Mekano46 here on the boards will be taking over and on his own after October. He has been approved by the board and will help me prep the flash section the next two times. He has appeared here several times and is a regular contributor to my outside project. His work is well self edited and he knows what to look for to make a story tight and well told. I endorsed him fully for the position. He will do great.
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Post August 17, 2015, 08:04:45 PM

Re: POLL: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST:July 2015

P.S.

Michele, I don't know if I could stay if they offered me ten times my pay plus a 2 year bonus!
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