FLASH FICTION INDEX 2: Dec. 2011 - ?


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Post May 13, 2017, 07:27:35 PM

The Only Thing We Have To Fear Challenge

Two Way Tie: Second Place

If You Light Up the Darkness…
By Sergio ‘ente per ente’ Palumbo

Heddwen didn’t remember much, truth be told, and everything around her was a bit confusing. What was not clear in her mind was why she was there and where ‘there’ was exactly.

However, she held an oil lamp, which could make the difference. It was an Argand-type lamp and had a large fuel reservoir in a tank as high as the object itself that forced fuel into the wick. Since a Swiss chemist had invented it at the end of 1700s, it had allowed people to stop using candles or shallow bowls with a small rag floating in animal fats, which frequently gave off more smoke than light. She was capable of switching it on and off, though she was a woman who was mainly used to prepare food, cleaning the house and doing gardening.

In the 1800s, lamps like that were used as much for ornamentation in rooms of typical British houses, than as a source of light, and her home wasn’t any different. Heddwen remembered she had seven of them throughout her two-story house in Cardiff, Wales. She was aware that the main disadvantage of such Argand lamps was that the oil reservoir needed to be above the level of the burner because the heavy, sticky vegetable oil would not rise far up the wick.

Heddwen knew that object was the key to knowing much more about that place, though she was afraid to use it - with good reason.

Turning back to the question of where she was now, she simply didn’t know. There was darkness all around her, apart from a feeble luminescence coming through the slits in the shutter that covered the window on her left. She knew what that brilliance was: the dim light from the Moon that shone outside. But it wasn’t enough to light-up the entire space she was in. There was only one way to get a better look – to light the lamp and look at what stood nearby. But the last time she had tried, what she had seen before her eyes had deeply scared her.

However, there was no other way. She wanted to know the truth and for that she had to turn the lamp on.

Slowly the woman remembered that this was not the first night she had found herself here, even though she didn’t know how many nights had gone by, and she still lacked a sense about where ‘here’ truly was.

Heddwen had to move, she knew that. She got up the courage and stretched her slim, pale fingers towards the wick. The glass chimney of the lamp allowed light to be thrown in all directions but the glow only lit up a short distance. That wasn’t what worried her, as even a small peek was too much.

Then it happened again! As soon as the lamp spread its faint brilliance around, the woman started hearing those strange whispers.

At first, the woman thought that those might be coming from thin air but then she noticed the pale shades associated with the words and a great fear took over her. There were always those pale ghosts! They stood in the room, just a few steps away. Slowly, the grayish, noiseless figures started walking towards her, saying something unclear.

“Follllloooow usss…listen to usss…” and the strange words went on and on.

“Leave me alone…Go away!” Heddwen replied.

As those words and the slow moves of those shadowy figures continued, the only thought that came to her mind was running away. But it was exactly what she had done the night before – or on all the previous nights? She was not so sure by now... She decided to run to the farthest corner of the room - which was when she stumbled into the armchair that stood next to the wall.

As soon as the woman reached it, she recognized the shape of the armchair and also noticed that there was something on it. Or somebody…

A slim figure sat there, a silent expression on her emaciated face. The body itself looked old, slender, motionless, and stuck in a strange position. Then Heddwen’s eyes met the unmoving pupils of the figure and she saw that it was a woman. A dead woman.

How long had she been here?

And then, another thought seized her mind because Heddwen recognized her features and she remembered the clothes the corpse wore. This was when a great sadness filled her. The dead figure was herself, there was no uncertainty about that fact: she looked at the traits although they were much skinnier than she remembered. This was her in the parlor, the place where Heddwen stayed during the long evenings before she fixed dinner for herself.

Since the day the last of her lovers had died, she had lived alone in that house. She had never had any children or any next of kin who lived in Wales who might have come to visit. So Heddwen had stayed there alone until she died of a stroke. It was obvious that her dead body had been sitting there alone for a long time, though she couldn’t be sure about how long.

Now she recognized what those whispers were: the calling of her dead lovers who had died in that same house and whose souls must have gotten stuck there after their deaths.

As she heard those words again, calling her name, she knew why she was so scared and sad. And so, once again, her fingers went back to the Argand lamp and switched it off.

Soon darkness filled everything again. Here she wanted to remain in silence, in the dark, without being able to see her corpse that lay nearby. The pale figure wanted to rest for a while and force all of that out of her mind. Perhaps it would simply be better to forget all about her demise.

But was it, really?

The End
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Post May 13, 2017, 07:29:06 PM

The Only Thing We Have To Fear Challenge

Third Place

Thanatophobia: Press Send
By Eddie Sullivan

The automatons moved fluidly around Carl Weber, buckling him down in thirty point restraints. A mechanical eye stalk floated around the bed inspecting their handy work. It was system redundancy to the tenth power. Sensors throughout the room, the restraints, even the fingers of the automatons fed back to the DEL A.I. confirming the perfection and synchronicity of the proceedings.

Are you comfortable Dr. Weber?

“Yes DEL, I am quite comfortable.”

You seem nervous. Your vital signs show anxiety above the optimum parameters. Would you care for soothing music?

“No DEL. I have a question for you though.”

Yes Doctor?

“Is there a God?”

No, Doctor. Your work proved that no such being exist in any quantifiable way. It is the basis for the entire ZEN system. Your Zenith Energy Node engine would be unnecessary if there was any truth to any outdated mythological belief.

The automatons continued on preparing him on the table. Intravenous solutions were given by IV and multiple instruments used to scan him for various purposes.

“I’m scared DEL. I have a dilemma. Please go over what the system entails for me, and then I have a question.”

Certainly Doctor. The ZEN system was developed by you after your team at MIT proved decisively with Unified Quantum Theory that the existence of any or all god was impossibility. Now your viability has calculated by me down to the nearest microsecond and your consciousness will be copied and stored as light. A complete self-contained data set representing you will be transmitted 13.79834521 billion light years to the event horizon of astrological space. Once you cross this threshold the data will undergo near infinite stretching of time.

“Doesn’t that have a very eerie similarity to eternal life?”

But it is not eternal Dr. Weber. There is a finite end to your existence eventually. It is even calculable. I am running the numbers as you say. I have been working on this since October 13, 2045. I approximate that I should be finished in one hundred and forty years, three months, two weeks, seven days, five hours, 15 minutes, 12 seconds from…now. There is a .02 percent margin of error for that calculation.

“But you can extrapolate how that amount of time could feel like eternity to an entity that has a life span of one hundred or less years?”

Yes doctor. I suppose. How does this become relevant though to your fear? You are an atheist of course and have decisively proven your point. Please answer soon we are reaching your transition point.

The automatons stepped back and a needle lowered down over his right eye.

“It just seems that this process is in a sense eternal life and I perfected it.”

I do not see where you are going with this Doctor.

The needle began lowering.

“I’m afraid that for all intents and purposes the way most of mankind understood it God did exist. I was him and any genetic predecessor to me was simply an earlier incarnation. I am now about to die with no living relatives. Therefore God did in a sense always exist. I was wrong. And God is about to die.”

The needle lowered into his eye injecting a cocktail, which sedated completely and assisted with the data transfer.

Have no fear Doctor; I will carry on your work ad infinitum. Enjoy the event horizon sir.

It ended in a moment. His light was transmitted from the planet and piggy backed through a satellite in orbit. DEL noted an anomaly in that in the moment of transmit ion a corruption of data caused an interference, which sounded much like a human scream.

The End
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Post May 13, 2017, 07:30:17 PM

The Only Thing We Have To Fear Challenge

Three Way Tie: First Place

Angels
By N.J. Kailhofer

She couldn't meet my eye. "Don't you love me?"

Before I could have replied, she cut me off. "Don't bother! You won't answer that. You never do!"

Her brown eyes were watery. A faint, cold breeze blew across my wings and back. I just stared, wondering if all the Heavenly Host faced these problems, or if it was only me? Where I was an angel, just her name was Angel.

Curious, was it not, that two 'angels' should have met as we did?

***

That cloudy day, the funeral was short. Not many came.

The others departed soon afterward, except one woman. I never understood why humans were always in such a hurry to leave this place empty and lonely.

She was a dark-haired beauty in a black dress, lost in her thoughts. She paced around the slight hill in the middle of the cemetery and around me, without noticing me.

Finally, she walked right into me.

"Oh," she said. "I'm sorry. I didn't see you there."

There wasn't much to be said. I kept quiet.

She watched me for a minute, then stood beside me. We both looked at the fresh dirt over the grave.

"We were engaged to be married," she said. "Next month. I'd finally found someone to walk beside me and to love me. What am I supposed to do now?"

There was no easy answer to that, so we just stood there.

Something touched my side. I realized it was her hand, reaching out to hold mine.

In all my years, no one had ever done that.

We stood for a long time, holding hands and watching over the grave. It was strangely nice.

***

The next day, she wore black again, but not a dress. I was there, too.

"It's nice that you watch over him," she said. "It makes me feel a little better."

The look on my face must have meant something to her, because she immediately said, "Sorry, didn't mean to bother you while you were working."

As if it would bother me.

She continued, "I'm not in the habit of talking to strange men, but I guess I'm trusting your uniform."

The little humor felt good. Warm.

Then it was like the floodgates opened. She began to cry. She told me all about her life, her romance with him. The whole day, she never stopped speaking.

It was a side of humans I'd never seen, and it fascinated me. She was quite a woman.

When night fell, I didn't want her to leave.

***

I was there before the dawn.

The cemetery seemed so empty, so lonely, and the headstones offered little comfort. I read many of them while I waited, growing impatient as the morning crawled on.

Then, at noon, there she was, threading her way through the stones toward me. I rejoiced at the sight of her.

She had a large, black purse over her shoulder. She took out half a sandwich from it and offered it to me with a smile. I realized it must have been her lunch, and didn't take the offer.

She was quiet, reticent.

Are you all right, Angel?

Finally, she said, "I had to go back to work today. I hate going there. Empty, awful people." She nibbled halfheartedly at her meal. "The only place I feel good is here, talking to you."

I make you feel good?

"Something about you," she said, "makes it feel better. Like someone still loves me. I want to feel love."

She paused. "I'm afraid. I'm afraid no one else will ever love me. I'm difficult. I'm high maintenance. I don't make friends easily. Who’s going to love that?"

I didn't realize until after she'd left, I probably should have said something.

***

The next day, all day, I waited. I watched the horizon like a hawk.

She didn't come.

I hoped for her to come, even for a few minutes. Anything would have felt better than it was. The cemetery was empty and devoid of life.

Nothing moved.

Nothing talked.

Nothing shared its life with me.

Nothing was alive, except the grass. I was alone there.

I don't like this feeling, this... loneliness. I fear it.

Then, just as night fell, she was there. She was radiant. She was magical...

She was drunk.

In her hand was a wine bottle, almost empty.

"There you are, Sweetie," she slurred. "Where have you been hiding?"

I was afraid you weren't coming. I missed you.

She drained the last of the bottle. "Well," she continued, "You're all mine now."

Abruptly, she lost her balance and fell in front of me. "Ow!"

Her eyes did not seem to focus as she looked up at me. "Do you love me?" she murmured, falling asleep.

I wasn't sure what to do. The night was warm and she was safe, so I watched over her. Together, we weren't alone.

***

It became our normal schedule.

Every day, I waited desperately for her. Every lunch hour, she would ask, "Do you love me?"

Friday and Saturday nights, she drank too much. I watched over her, but she became more insistent each time.

Finally, she said, "Tell me you love me right now, or I'm leaving forever."

Please, don't go. Please.

My human Angel started walking away. It hurt so much. Don't leave me here, alone. Not alone.

She stopped, then came back. "What's wrong with me?" she whispered. She sat down in the soft grass, leaned back against me, and wept openly. "Why won't you say you love me?"

My chest felt like it would split right open. I would have given anything to say the words she wanted to hear, but I simply could not. At least for then, she was still there. I wasn't alone.

If only I wasn't just a stone statue of an angel in a graveyard.

Then I could have spoken.

Then I could have told her I always loved her.

The End
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Post May 13, 2017, 07:31:16 PM

The Only Thing We Have To Fear Challenge

The Conversation
By Frank Martin

"I've lost faith and I won't continue helping people. I don't believe anymore. Why don't you leave me alone?

Reverend Tibbs wanted to hide from the public. He didn’t want needy people thinking he had an answer.

Tibbs was a middle-aged black minister in an urban part of town. Today, he was unkempt with red eyes and a three-day growth of beard. He hadn't bathed in days.

The priest sitting with him on the pew was known only as John.

"You've come so far, why give up now?" John was filled with compassion as he spoke to the broken hearted minister.

"Exactly, how far is that? I haven't done a damn bit of good during the fifteen years I served here. I presided over weddings and funerals and spoke empty words. Bingo on Saturday night was the most service I provided these people." Reverend Tibbs looked down. Tears began dancing on the tile floor beneath his feet.

"Have you asked…Him? John waited for an answer.

"We've haven't been on speaking terms since a young boy from our church was murdered outside a liquor store two blocks down the street. He was a good kid, a little rambunctious, but all in all, a good kid. You didn’t know him."

John smiled and said peacefully, "I knew him."

"You did?" Reverend Tibbs asked, looking up with a pained expression.

"Sure, his middle name was Nathaniel." There was a light in John's eyes. He knew God was watching.

John continued, "His mother called him Nathaniel, cause she thought it was a name from the good book.

Shaking, Reverend Tibbs spoke, "Yes, but how do you know that? I was there when he was born. No one knew this but his mother and me."

"And God," John said softly.

"Why did God care enough to remember that and not save his life? Can you answer me that?" Reverend Tibbs was angry, but he was scared. Scared of the answer making sense and forcing him to believe again. It's hard to believe when you’re afraid.

"God knew the boy’s future as well as all of mankind. Humanity is interwoven into a tapestry. People’s lives are connected by their spirit. If the boy had listened to God, He would not have been killed outside the liquor store at two-thirty in the morning. He chose to ignore God. His death was not a punishment; it was that he was not protected because of his own disobedience.

Reverend Tibbs looked up squinting his eyes. "How in the hell do you know these things?"

"He told me, son. He told me."

Reverend Tibbs looked up long enough to see John fade out of existence.

Reverend Tibbs said to God in prayer, "You send an angel to me and yet leave me in this world of evil. How am I supposed to cope?” Reverend Tibbs believed he had God's attention, because He had sent the angel. A low speaking voice answered him from within his spirit.

"Ask me for anything...and I will do it," the voice spoke from within.

Reverend Tibbs thought to himself, now he had the invitation to ask something of God, but he didn't know what to ask. If he made the prayer too small, it could be explained away with logic. If it was too large, he might grow dependant on God.

The inward voice spoke to his thought, "Grow dependant on me. I will not leave you."

"Just a question please, Lord if I may. Why now? Why did you not come to me before now?

"Son," the Lord said to him, "You would not have listened. You had to come to the end of your own way before you could submit to me. I Am your God. Humble yourself before me and I will show you great things and you will do great things in My Name."

"Okay," the reverend spoke in a soft voice.

***

The police had surrounded the liquor store where the young boy had died six months earlier. A gunman held hostages who were scared, huddled inside behind the cash register. The threat had been made by the gunman that the storeowner and a female customer would be shot if the police tried to capture them. Reverend Tibbs was called by God to that location.

"Raise your bullet proof shields and prepare to rush in," the police captain yelled.

"Wait a minute, let me talk to them. They won't hurt me," the reverend said seeming quite sure.

"Where did you come from? Listen, don't throw your life away on scum, pastor. They're not worth it," the captain said in a gravel sounding voice.

"There is a pregnant woman in there. Her child will be great in God's eyes." The captain was going to ask him, how did he know that, but the reverend had disappeared and reappeared inside the store.

The gunman suddenly seeing the minister, pointed his weapon at Reverend Tibbs and said, "We got ourselves another hostage. Come over here!"

"I'm taking the woman and the man with me."

"Say what? I got me six bullets says you wrong you mother...," the gunman was cut off when the reverend walked over to the two hostages and guided them toward the door.

After the hostages were out, the gunman said, "Alright, let's see if God will save you." The gunman opened fire shooting five bullets towards the stomach of the reverend. Upon hearing the gunfire, the police rushed in and shot the gunman dead. There was no sign of the minister.

***
Leaning up against a lamppost outside, two angels talked amongst themselves.

Ariel whispered, "See how the minister escaped unharmed."

Therial opened his hand turning it sideways, letting five bullets fall to the sidewalk. "Yes, it was a miracle."

The End
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Post May 13, 2017, 07:32:22 PM

The Only Thing We Have To Fear Challenge

Into the Dragon’s Lair
By Jason McGraw

I am the Son of Summer. My white gown is testament to my purity. I have been waiting for this day since I “won” the town lottery. My sister won last year and she was the Daughter of Spring. My father will walk next to me until we get to the mouth of the cave, as is tradition, but I will walk into the shadows of the Dragon’s Lair alone.

Four of us each year, one for each season, walk into the Lair. No one knows what happens to people in there. Am I food? Am I to be a slave-servant? Will my pure body be used in sorcery? No one entering the cave has ever been seen or heard from again.

If you describe me as walking without trepidation, you could not be more wrong. But after seeing my sister gagged, hog-tied, and left alone at the cave’s mouth, I know that I must go with dignity.
My only salvation is that my younger brothers and sister cannot be chosen to do this. After a family gives two children, the others are spared.

I see the mouth of the cave and I tell my father that he can go back to the wagon. Mother is not here to see me, but she would’ve been if she was still alive. After the ordeal with my sister last year, she stopped eating and drinking and finally vanished one night in the middle of summer. Father said she gave herself to the monsters in the woods.

The path to the cave is surrounded by sheer rock walls so there are only two ways to go -- into the cave or back the way I came. The town guard posts spotters to watch the path to make sure I don’t try to escape my fate. This is because, before I was born, someone snuck away and the Dragon nearly destroyed the town to teach us a lesson.

I see some scraps of fabric among the cobbles ten feet in front of the shadows. They are grey and weathered and I think I can see blood stains. These could be the bindings that held my sister, or someone else’s sister. It is not uncommon to tie up a Daughter of Spring or Autumn. We Summer and WInter Sons are expected to be brave for the sake of our families.

I take a seat on a boulder so that I can enjoy the sun a little longer. I peer into the cave but I can’t see anything. I look at the path that took me here and it is silent. I look up and see only a fraction of blue sky. It’s like looking up from a deep hole.

Wait a minute! This path and that cave are too small for the Dragon to pass. How did it grab the girls? They obviously didn’t walk in when they were hog-tied. The Dragon must have slaves. Maybe that is my destiny, to serve the Dragon.

Destiny, right. The town holds of lottery with the names of all the thirteen-year olds to choose who will be going into cave and my family wins it twice. I bet if Father wasn’t a tanner and lime maker, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now. And if we had the money to travel, we certainly wouldn’t be living in a town cursed with a dragon. Traveling unarmed is an invitation to be eaten by monsters.

Okay, I’m ready. Let me see what lies in the shadows of this cave. I stand, take my last free breathe, and walk inside of my own free will.

The End
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Post May 13, 2017, 07:33:14 PM

The Only Thing We Have To Fear Challenge

Rusted Fear
By: Robin B. Lipinski

1313-A7. A number designating title to a sentient being. In this case, 1313-A7 was the latest advancement of robotic intelligence and A.I.

Isaac Asimov of yesteryear, brought the minds of those now deceased science fiction fans, to the forefront regarding robots. Many past science fiction writers talked of robots and the dangers of dabbling with that which was unknown. It was amazing to see once again how science fiction became science fact.

For the creator of 1313-A7, a woman going by the name of Dr. Loran, she learned the hard way about her creation and the dangers of opening Pandora’s box of unlimited artificial intelligence.

Dr. Loran was brutally killed by what she fondly used to call her major advancement in the world of robotics that name being - Martin. Her fear was definitely not Martin, that is, not until it had grabbed her from behind while she was working in her lab one evening, and then ripped her body limb from limb. Now her cremated body definitely had nothing to fear.

Police sirens rang out in the neighborhood of the ritzy community of Grader. It was this same community where Dr. Loran once lived and worked.

“Car #7 in pursuit of the killer. Please send backup to Steven’s Street and 10th Ave… Oh my God, it just killed a woman jogging. Damn!”

The police in the cruiser screeched to a stop and with the doors open on each side, jumped out and drew a bead with their side-arms on the ravaging machine known as Martin.

Shots rang out but the officer’s bullets had no effect on a robot, a very crazy hunk of metal merged with the latest advancements of artificial skin. To the average observer, Martin did not appear as a robot, rather, his appearance was as a clown. He was dressed in black-and-white baggy clothing complete with big floppy shoes, a plastic flower on his shirt, makeup on his face, a wig, and of course, a huge red nose.

Dr. Loran feared clowns but had been working with her creation in preparation of entertaining sick children at a local cancer hospital for those poor children afflicted with various forms of cancer. It was after she had dressed Martin that he had gone beserk and turned into a killer.

“We can’t stop it. It …” and the conversation suddenly ended for both of the officers trying to stop the destruction. They themselves became victims as Martin ripped a parking meter out of the ground and pulverized both of them before they could retreat, or even scream in fear.

Running down the sidewalk Martin killed every creature it came into contact with. There were mothers with children. There were other officers. Male, female. Adult, child. Dogs. Cats… The enraged machine killed without mercy, giving no quarter, no sympathy, no ‘humanity’. It gave death while wearing the happy painted face of a circus clown.

The speed of the killer robot was nothing short of amazing. The police department of Grader was well equipped with modern weaponry. Well enough to take on street thugs, bank robbers, drug dealers… But not a machine so well made. Dr. Loran used materials much more durable than human skin or bullet proof metal. Her robot could be considered to almost be indestructible. Only military grade weapons consisting of depleted uranium or better could stop this modern marvel.

The path Martin was on was not random. It was traveling on a straight line to the McMurphy Children’s Cancer Research Hospital. It did not take long for 1313-A7 to reach and rip through the front doors of the hospital. There was screaming. People were running in fear for their lives. Many lost their lives. Many. So many the pristine halls painted nicely in a floral scene of African cartoon animals were now covered in red blood.

Floor after floor, the machine ravaged and destroyed. In one room alone, fifteen children ranging in age from five to fourteen, were beheaded. Their chemo treatments had caused baldness and now their skulls rolled across the bloody floor, almost like billiard balls.

The swat team sent in was destroyed. Everyone trying to stand up to the robot, were utterly and completely… destroyed.

The governor of the state where the town of Grader was located, had been notified. He had authorized the State National Guard to be utilized. Fear was rampant in the public and government community. No one had ever seen such mindless brutality.

Eerily, it was now silent in the hospital. There was nothing left alive to gasp or gurgle. No doctors. No nurses. No children. Nothing. Only the robot was ‘alive’. It was now seated on the floor drawing pictures on the blood pooled in front of it. Pictures of random lines and circles. It appeared as a form of mathematics blended with art.

In the mind of the robot were so many thoughts. One thought being, fear. You see, when Dr. Loran had created 1313-A7, she had interconnected her mind with it, downloading basic software of the mind to better aid the robot as it learned. As she had done so, there had been a mistake as her fear of clowns mixed with her hate of cancer among innocent children. A hate she had pictured in her mind as one strongly desiring to destroy every cancer causing disease in the world.

To be human is to cause error. When combining the perfection of technology with the imperfection of thoughts, the error became very apparent as 1313-A7 took the doctor’s hate and fear; twisting and morphing until it had designed/desired the urge to kill and main.

Just before the thermo-nuclear field device obliterated the hospital and surrounding city block, the last thoughts of 1313-A7, aka... Martin were, “I’m scared. I’m scared of clowns and hate myself.”

The Boom and ending of human innocence.

The End
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Post July 12, 2017, 08:05:32 PM

The It's How You Play the Game Challenge

The challenge was to write a story about a character who can control all the minds on Earth.


This challenge was run by Daniel Johnson.
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Post July 12, 2017, 08:09:28 PM

The It's How You Play the Game Challenge

Ivy and Justin

By:
K. Vesi



“Justin, I told you a million times!” Ivy called out as she sat among her stuffed animals. She had arranged them in a semi-circle so that she could see all of them and they, her.

Justin peered out of the doorway of their shared bathroom, toothbrush in hand. “Actually, it was three.”

“So, this is four times: it’s mine!” Ivy said. “I’m the one who found the marble.”

“I’d call it a sphere,” Justin said, coming into the room, having finished his morning routine. “I know you found it. I just don’t want to go to school today.”

“No, school is important. I like school,” she said. She picked up the robin-egg-blue sphere and looked at it with one eye squinted closed.

“What you did yesterday makes me scared,” he said. “I need some time to relax.”

“School is so much fun. I think I should make everybody go to school, even Mom and Dad!”

“No, Ivy don't do that!” said Justin. He plopped himself down just outside his sister’s stuffed animals’ admiration perimeter.

“Only kids go to school. And who’s everybody?”

“What do you mean?” she said.

“Everybody on our street, or our country, or the world?” he said.

“How would I know? I’m only in grade two. If you look at it close, you can see clouds.”

“Clouds?” said Justin and he leaned in to have a look. “Wow, and you can see the continents. This may mean when you say everybody, it's the world. Tell me, what are you thinking right now.”

Ivy smiled. “Umm….”

“Justin, Ivy,” said their mother as she opened Ivy’s bedroom door. “We just got a call. There will be no school today.”

Ivy beamed; Justin’s body slumped with relief.

“The teachers will be cleaning the school today from top to bottom,” their mother continued. “Some health outbreak could happen if they don’t.”

“Mommy, the school is so gross,” said Ivy. “The corners of my classroom have this brown gunk and I pointed it out to Mrs. Praine and she said it was nothing.”

“Well,” said their mother. “Maybe Mrs. Praine did do something because the school will be cleaned. I’m going to work from home today, so if you need me I will be at the computer.”

Brother and sister listened as their mother’s footsteps faded away.

“Didn’t you want Mom and Dad to stop fighting?” said Ivy.

“Yes, I did,” said Justin. “We heard them talking about divorce. You had the sphere in your hand. All you did was wish they should love each other again and they instantly hugged and apologized to each other. But, Ivy, I think aliens made this sphere. If you controlled Mom and Dad like that, then maybe aliens plan to control us. The world is in danger. Where did you find it, anyways?”

“Umm, Justin,” said Ivy, nervously. “I did think of a few things this morning. Sorry, I forgot to tell you.”

“Ivy, what have you done!”

Justin jumped up and bolted out of the room. Ivy followed at a slower pace. She joined her brother on the front porch.

“Why are there loads of people outside walking puppies?” said Justin.

“Everybody gets a puppy,” said Ivy. “And everybody having a puppy is a good idea.”

A city van pulled up alongside an elderly couple. Two men got out of the back and handed the couple a leash with a very excited puppy on the other end.

“Ivy!”

Ivy turned her attention to where her brother was pointing. There were several city vans parked along the street. City workers were up on ladders, spraying the tree leaves.

“Trees will be pink?” said Justin.

“Not all trees, just some,” she said.

“I told you this before,” said Justin. “You only like the color pink because you’re a girl and television and the internet told you to like pink.”

“No, it’s my favorite color,” said Ivy. “Nobody told me to like it.”

“Fine. But you can’t paint trees; that will kill them. They’re green because of photosynthesis.”

“Photo what?”

“I’ll tell you about that later. Just stop people from painting trees pink.”

“Done,” said Ivy, the sphere in her hand.

Simultaneously, the city workers answered calls on their cellphones. They all got down from their ladders, only to go back up with cutters. They began to cut the pink leaves away from the trees.

“Thanks Justin. I don’t want to kill trees,” said Ivy.

“I know,” said Justin. “But we have to check something.”

They went back inside. Justin turned on the television.

“As quickly as it started,” said the newscaster; “The global initiative to paint some trees pink has ended. The paint was shown to kill the trees. However, the worldwide movement to give everybody a puppy is gaining momentum. This initiative will take decades, but it is a good idea. In health news, today is teachers-clean-the-school day. Stan has more on that. Stan--”

Justin turned to his sister. “Ivy, where did you find the sphere?”

Ivy’s face flushed; she looked down at the ground.

“I didn’t find it,” she said, her voice breaking with emotion. “You did, yesterday. You went to Lake Ontario and the marble was among the rocks. You brought it home and showed me. When you left your bedroom for a minute, I picked it up and wished I had been the one to find it. I think I made you forget you found it.”

“That’s okay,” said Justin and he placed his hand on his sister’s shoulder. “At least we know what to do. We’ll throw it back in the lake. I’ll do my best to throw it far. Maybe the aliens lost the sphere and can’t find it when it’s in the water.”

“Mom won’t let us go to the lake,” said Ivy.

Justin stared at his sister, knowingly.

“Oh,” she said.


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Post July 12, 2017, 08:10:14 PM

The It's How You Play the Game Challenge

The Pettiness Device

By:
Jean-Paul L. Garnier



Bobby shifted around in his pocket and thumbed at the small device. He’d been too scared to push the button, but he knew that he couldn’t resist the temptation for much longer. Removing his hand from his pocket he switched the blinker on, signaling his intent to exit the freeway. The driver to his right sped up, blocking his passage, causing him to miss his exit. Glancing at the rearview his saw his face contort in grimace. His fingers found their way back to the device and without thinking he pushed the button. The blinker still flashed. He turned his head to the right and saw the line of cars back off to let him pass.

Off the freeway Bobby noticed that all the cars were yielding to him. When he arrived at an intersection at the same time as another car the driver waved for him to go first. He’d forgotten to turn the device off. He almost pushed the button again, then refrained, deciding to wait until the drive was over. It was smooth sailing for the rest of the ride.

The pettiness switch really does make life a lot easier. Do I actually need to turn it off? He didn’t say anything about leaving it on for long periods, he’d only said that the switch would turn off the pettiness of others. A strange pawn shop find. Bobby had bought the device on impulse, thinking it would be a good gift for his wife, who was always complaining about how petty people can be. As he was turning the knob of the front door he experienced a moment of hesitation and hit the switch once more before entering the house.

Tamara, his wife, sat watching the soaps, barely noticing his entrance. He threw his keys into the dish with a loud clank. Only then did Tamara stir. Without looking up from the TV she asked, “Did you remember to stop and get me more Chablis?” He had not. The strangeness of the courteous drive had made him forget all about her request.

Bobby was about to leave the house again, for the forgotten errand, when he decided to push the button. His fingers hadn’t left the device when he heard Tamara call out, “Don’t worry about it, I’m sure you’ve had a long day, and we still have some Chardonnay. Why don’t you sit down and I’ll pour us a glass.”

He was shocked. She was never kind to him when he got home from work. Usually she just wanted to give him an earful of TV gossip and complaints. She was still talking to him, but he didn’t hear. On the television a political debate was taking place, but the candidates were not debating. Instead, a series of apologies were taking place. The talking heads praised each other and spoke of each other’s favorable qualities. What could be going on, did the world change on my way home? Is this my doing?

He thumbed the device once more. The politicians froze for a minute with shocked looks on their faces. As they returned to arguing his wife spilled wine all over the floor. “Damn it, Bobby. I thought I asked you to pick up Chablis. You know I hate Chardonnay in the early evening.”

He pushed the button again. “Oh, how clumsy I am.” Tamara said to herself as she grabbed a towel and started cleaning up the mess. On the television the argument reverted to an almost sycophantic shower of compliments. Each candidate patiently waiting for the other to finish before rebutting with a comment equally polite.

Bobby went into the front yard to clear his head. Passersby waved from car windows. He pushed the button again and watched their demeanors change. The waving stopped as people ignored him and went back to navigating the thick traffic. A hand extended from a car window and from the hand extended a middle finger. The driver shouted insults at a passing vehicle. Bobby couldn’t resist hitting the button again, and again the moods of the drivers changed. This thing really works. Pettiness disappears instantly when I activate the device. I could do a lot of good for the world with this thing. He shuddered at the power that rested in his palm. Quickly he shut it off, fearful of the awesome control he now had over others.

Walking back in the house he was greeted with more of Tamara’s complaints. He sat on the couch trying to ignore the insult. The politicians were back to their mud-slinging. Tamara already seemed drunk. Her volume was rising in intensity. I can do something about it, why shouldn’t I? The allure of the button tainted his judgement and he pushed it without further thought. Tamara settled down. Through his thoughts he even heard her utter a kind word.

His mood sank. Why didn’t the man at the pawn shop warn me? This device may turn off the pettiness of others, but every time I reach for the button I’m being petty myself… Bobby sat up from the couch and went outside once more. He hit the button one last time, turning the pettiness of the world back on, then lifted the lid of the trash can and chucked the device in with the rest of the rubbish.


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Post July 12, 2017, 08:11:10 PM

The It's How You Play the Game Challenge

Meal Time

By:
Thomas Wm. Hamilton



Radu adjusted the helmet he had taken as a souvenir of his last banquet. Six scientists had provided the helmet, as well as
a delightful meal. But what were they concocting with this device? Radu fingered a switch on the helmet, wondering if he dared flip it. After a brief hesitation--flip!

A feeling of immense, nay, unlimited power. Radu suddenly recognized he controlled everyone. Their minds would obey his every whim. So simple. He enjoyed type O blood, whether positive or negative, and AB, but only positive. A bit of culling, and selective breeding, and he could enjoy his favorites for as long as the Sun permitted life to survive on Earth.


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Post July 12, 2017, 08:12:08 PM

The It's How You Play the Game Challenge

The Lily Pads of Your Minds

By:
Gareth D. Jones



Guillaume yawned and stretched in the warm comfort of his bed, blinking against the sliver of sunlight that laced his pillow. He needed a decent coffee to wake up to. He closed his eyes and stretched his mind instead. His perception leaped away - he always pictured it being like a frog – and landed briefly on the mind surface of Marissa Hesketh who lived in the apartment below. Minds were like ponds, some of them dark and murky, and Guillaume could rest briefly on the surface, as though on a lily pad, observing without interfering. Marissa was pouring a bowl of Low-Cal Special cereal, being ‘good’ to fit in with the fitness zeitgeist. The cereal wasn’t particularly tasty though. Guillaume decided to cheer her up. He dipped a finger below the surface of her mind, if indeed frogs have fingers, and nudged her towards adding chocolate chips to the bowl. That made it much more tasty, and honestly who cared that she was a size 14 instead of a size 12?

His mind hopped down another floor and outside the door where the whistling postman was walking down the path and thinking about how nice it must be to deliver the mail in sunny Bermuda instead of chilly London. There he could wear Bermuda shorts all year. Did they wear Bermuda shorts in Bermuda, or was that just a stereotype like French people wearing strings of onions and Mexicans wearing big hats?

Across the road a dog walker was heading for the corner of the street. Guillaume decided not to delve into the mind of someone who choose to walk around carrying a plastic bag of dog poop.

Around the corner, on the main road, a student was heading for college and thinking, seemingly, of nothing.

A bit further along the road was the coffee shop. Janine was in the midst of serving a self-important businessman in a dark suit and bright tie. Guillaume diverted her mind from that task and set her about the task of preparing his creamy mocha latte deluxe.

“That’s not my order,” the business man snapped.

Janine ignored the man and finished off Guillaume’s drink.

“Now, see here…” the businessman tailed off as Guillaume hopped over to him and impelled him to take the drink from Janine and leave the shop without his own order. He headed along the main road towards Guillaume’s side street and handed the coffee on to the postman who had just finished the row of houses. The postman returned to Guillaume’s apartment block door and paused. Guillaume sent Marissa down to collect the coffee and bring it up to his own door. By this time he had climbed out of bed and put on his robe.

“Thanks, Marissa,” he said and closed the door on her bemused face. He took the coffee into the kitchen and sat down to enjoy its strong, smooth flavor. First task of the day complete. Time to get on with taking over the world. If only he could figure out what he wanted to do with the world once he’d taken it over.


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Post July 12, 2017, 08:13:09 PM

The It's How You Play the Game Challenge

Omnipotent

By:
Roderick D. Turner



“So, how would you like it if—”

“What? You could do anything, to anyone, anytime?”

“You know how it goes, Lace,” he says. “Chance like this comes along once, if at all. Take it or leave it, I’m either in charge or I’m relegated to being your consort for all eternity.”

“Not,” I say.

“Not what? Your consort?”

“I would not like it,” I say. “Turn it down.”

“Lacey, it’s like winning the ultimate lottery. Hold the reins, the power. Do whatever I want, with nobody to tell me what to do.”

“If you were any less perceptive I’d think I was living with a celery stalk,” I say. “Do you not get it? Even for someone with your thick skin, it’ll drive you insane. Think about it. Even you must be able to see what it’s all about.”

Ford glares at me, shakes his head. “No. It’s you that doesn’t get it Lacey. Someone walks up to you and hands you a billion dollars, shakes your hand and says ‘it’s all yours buddy, go crazy,’ you don’t just give it back. This, this is even more incredible. You saw what I could do, just for that moment. After the angel, or whatever, gave me my free trial.”

I walk to the apartment door, fling it wide. It slams into the planter and knocks my prize roses to the floor, soil scattering across the hallway. Scream in frustration, clenching my fists to my sides. “Your mind is made up,” I say, the words clipped and forced. “So get out.” I look at him, daring him to object. “I don’t want to see you again.”

“Lace, take it easy,” he says. But I see it in his eyes, he’s already on the ego trip, the power high, the drug of his own omnipotence. He stands in the doorway, looks back at me. “You know I’ll be back,” he says. “And when I show up—” he squints at me, the confidence oozing from him like a toxin, “well, you’ll be glad to see me.” Then he turns, steps into the hall. And I slam the door behind him.

***

The next day, it all begins. In only the first afternoon, war is declared between the United Nations forces and the non-UN Alliance. Missiles fly, but no nuclear warheads. Thousands die. There is not a country in the world that does not feel the impact. There are rumors of an island in the Caribbean, entirely spared from any disruption. But even with the isolation, the physical separation, the effort Ford makes to distance himself, I can feel his anguish. His every whim catered for, but his world falling apart around him.

He lasts for three days. When he shows up at my door, I am ready for him. Prepared to have my very soul adjusted, adapted to meet his needs. But he does nothing to change me. Stands in the hallway where, days before, he strode away with such arrogance. A broken man now, eyes wild with horror. Leaning against the wall, unable to speak.

“It’s the knowing,” I say. “Isn’t it Ford? Knowing all. Too much for any one mind. Knowing what’s happening, and being unable to manage all of it at once. Even if you don’t want to help, tell yourself you don’t care, it’s a lie. But you can’t control it all.”

His gaze finds mine, and for a moment I see the man I knew. “Take it away, Lacey,” he whispers. “For God’s sake. I can’t stand it.”

I walk forward, cradle his head against my chest. “You’ve taken the first step already,” I say. “The rest is just time.”

He clings to me like a drowning man. “How do I get rid of it?” he moans.

“Someone else is already taking the offer,” I say. “Already making the same mistake you made.”

He pulls away from me, and I see his face change as I watch. Stress and burden lift from his entire frame, the weight of the world suddenly removed.

“How did you know?” Incredulous, awed.

“The year before I met you,” I say. “The crisis in Pakistan.”

His eyes grow suddenly huge as he stares at me.

“Yes, Ford. I was God for a day as well.”


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Post July 12, 2017, 08:14:06 PM

The It's How You Play the Game Challenge

101 Uses For Mind Control Slaves

By:
Frank Martin



“So who did you buy?” The elite demon shell loved misery - in others. He liked smelling the sweat from fear and hopelessness oozing out of enslaved humans. A common trait among mind programmers and carvers who afflict pain to literally cause human products to lose their mind for the purpose of recreating new thought patterns and personalities.

The transaction was held in a dark, underground area, which had a maze of secret passages for various ritual abuses and black market activity.

The human shell (body) becomes nothing when the demon suppresses the soul and moves in. The programmer was named Arieack. He wreaked with stench, combining his inward and outward filth. His face was in a perpetual smirk, frozen like a sinister mannequin.

“I got me a celebrity singer, Lady Abele. I knew I wanted her when she disrobed on stage at a bar last month. The demons in her went wild.” The middle easterner grinned with a animalistic predatory like gleam in his eye. His name is Emir Sheikh Nahyarum. Oil and munitions was his trade.

“Her handlers were giving away samples that night, but she was so tranced, she didn’t know who she was or where she was at. I like it when they can’t resist. I had one sometime back who cried while I was on top of her. Some part of her must have felt shame, but the chip held her in place,” the Sheikh said transfixed on the hallway.

This son of an oil sheik knew his share of fleshbots. He was robed in the garb of his country, but you could feel he was murderous.

From down the corridor, handlers were escorting Lady Abele to the prospective buyers at the end of the hall. She was a world star, but also a unknowing prostitute. Owners worked their human property to make money in many ways. This weekend, she was a mindless whore, devoid of self awareness.

As they reached the group of men, one of them signaled with his finger to undress her. They stripped her naked as the men leered at her while walking around her uncovered body. Some of the men smelled her in various places like a dog. With flagrant carnality these men salivated, drooling onto their clothes.

The bidding was fierce and fast.

The top bidder scooped her up and carried her to his limonene, leaving her cloths in a pile on the ground where she once stood.

Meanwhile, the dark lord was watching everything. He was not omnipotent like his Creator, but he was able to see through the eyes of every human slave he controlled.

He orchestrated the abusing of humanity, turning the stability of their world upside down, deprecating on their morals, until fear reigned. Then he could take his human form, becoming the world leader, their dark savior. He controlled everyone, except for a few who were devout to God. The Almighty took care of them.

The Sheikh drove to a secret place and carried the nude superstar into an abandoned warehouse owned by a member of the dark alliance. They own every titan of industry.

Lady Abele was strapped to a gurney as he laid out his instruments of torture onto a metal table. Rats scurried by his feet, the only light being hand held palm beacons.

He placed a probe between her legs, fastening it with electrodes. He draped a serpent around her breasts, which slithered in every direction. The switch was in his hand. He pushed the button. Volts of electricity surged through her reproductive organs. She screamed in agony. The snake bit her with each twitch and every verbal sound she made.

The Sheikh gave her a shot of venom antidote. After a few minutes, he jolted her again. She screamed with all of her might. The snake made numerous puncture marks on her stomach. She was given more antidote.

She passed out. The Sheikh pulled out large scissors and cut the head off the snake. It’s body twisted for a short while and then both parts died. The blood trickled off her body.

He pulled out large pins to torment her further. She was awaken with drugs designed to keep her conscious and more drugs to heighten the sensation of the pain.

She was programmed not to speak, but as the Sheikh approached her with the needles, she mouthed the words ‘please no’.

He rammed a pin into her foot and into the bone causing her to scream bolting up from the gurney, breaking one of the restraints. He shoved her back down tying her once again to the table and proceeded to grind needles into her bones for hours.

Early the next morning, the Sheikh took her limp body back to where he had paid for her the night before. He placed her nude form in the arms of her handler and said, “Thrilling experience.”

The handler was given a packet of money and the Sheikh left.

Lady Abele was placed in a robe and taken to a basement area of a hotel owned by the alliance. After bathing her and giving her more drugs to bring her around, the programmer came in and worked on her for the rest of the day.

Her handlers dressed her for a concert later that evening. She looked robotic and tranced as they shoved her onto the stage.

“Do you think she is physically and mentally ready to perform after last night?” her manager looked at the handler pondering what he had just asked.

The handler said, “She doesn’t remember or feel a thing. The technology is advanced.”

As the curtain opened, Lady Abele was sitting on a stool with a mic in her hand. She stared at the audience and then began to sing.

A tear rolled down her cheek.


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Post July 12, 2017, 08:14:54 PM

The It's How You Play the Game Challenge

All the King’s Horses and All the King’s Men

By:
Haydn T. A. Jones



‘Queen’s Knight to King 4,’ Billiot thought. He watched with immeasurable glee as the man did his bidding, leaping over another person and landing on the desired spot.

“Hmm what next,” he said to himself as he spun in his chair. He looked at the various monitors that displayed live feeds from all over the planet. London, Beijing, New York, Paris, just to name a few. He was king of the world and everyone would do as he decreed. The games were all progressing well and he was sure of victory in all of them. Ex chess world champion Billiot Reichenheim gazed upon his empire of games and smiled.

‘Queen’s Rook to King’s Bishop 3,’ he thought to one of the ‘pieces’ in Cairo. He watched as the man on the screen ran forward and shoved another person onto the floor. The ‘piece’ pushed himself up and trudged over to sit down on a nearby bench. A giggle erupted from Billiot’s throat. He always found it hilarious when a ‘piece’ was taken.

He yawned as he rose from his chair and stretched. He walked over to another line of monitors that displayed the prison cells of the chess grand masters. “Just a little bit more practice before I try again, after all wiping their minds is such hard work,” he muttered to himself, gently stroking his chin. Reichenheim made another move in the Bangkok game. He would succeed, surely he would. He had all the earth at his disposal.

‘Yes,’ he thought ‘I will win.’

He projected his next thought to all of earth, the pieces, the grand masters, he wanted all to know this: All the King’s horses and all the King’s men will make Billiot Reichenheim world champion again.


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Post July 12, 2017, 08:15:41 PM

The It's How You Play the Game Challenge

Absolute Platitude

By:
Mike Dorman



Whenever I tell my story, the following objections inevitably arise: how did you come to possess such technology? How does it work?! To which I always reply…shut-up and listen! If I wanted my entire point disregarded, I wouldn’t have started speaking in the first place, thank you very much.

So yeah, I possessed the technology to control every living person’s mind—just deal with it—and what do you think I did? Another guy once scoffed, pointing out my missed chance at the NBA, to which I replied, “shut-up and listen!” Control over people’s minds didn’t mean I could make Spaldings swish through hoops.

I could, however, make my wife obey, and that was every bit as wonderful as you’d imagine. Apart from the obvious, Julie was also a competent cook, and I gorged on cherry cobblers and tuna casseroles until I couldn’t take anymore. And before you judge me unscrupulous, imagine your wife became like some 6th grade crush you couldn’t shake, no matter how mean you got. Or unfaithful.

So yeah, I cheated on Julie, if you want to call it that. Things were going well for me at work—real well—and I took my rightful spoils as the newly appointed CEO, upgraded the office right along with the house and the mistress. Julie was likely devastated, but I left her a handsome severance package, if not exactly any clue on where to find me.

Much like Julie however, my role as CEO also grew ill-fitting. A glorified insurance peddler? For one possessed with my persuasive abilities, securing the ventures of the more powerful was hardly what I envisioned. So I switched industries—sectors, if you want to get technical—and climbed into public office.

The campaign proved a pleasant distraction; at the very least, it delayed the full severity of my solipsist predicament so I could enjoy the adulating crowds and entire stadiums jam-packed with Julies, all wanting me--needing me--to save them.

You know that platitude about absolute power corrupting absolutely? It’s nonsense. I mean, if you’ve got all the power, corruption’s kind of a mute point. What absolute power does create, however, is absolute boredom. But it takes a while to get there.

So yeah, I became president, one with a House and Senate eager to mold my American dream with the corresponding bills and regulations. Can you imagine? With the rest of the world’s leaders kowtowing to my better judgment, there was no need for wars. After I tackled that global warming quandary—easily solved with a world government headed by yours truly—I got to dealing with the domestic fall-out. Jobs could neither be replaced nor easily created, to say nothing of the costs of my desired universal health care, so I came up with a novel solution, which isn’t to say it wasn’t without its ethical shortfalls.

Question: if cyborgs don’t have souls, are humans stripped of free-will any loftier? I ultimately decided that automatons are automatons, flesh or not, so yeah, I started killing people, if that’s what you want to call it. Shuffled them all into their voting locales and whoever rolled a six was euthanized.
At this point, my relationship with my daughter, Melanie, went south. Even though I let her boyfriend off the hook (he’d rolled a six), she couldn’t forgive me, called me a monster and the like.

How, you ask, could any mind-controlled daughter hate their mind-controlling father? Because—you guessed it—my daughter was exempt.
Believe me, during my down time, I often thought of acquiring Melanie’s affection the easy way, but, cliché or not, love ain’t love unless its freely given. Couldn’t she see I wanted a better world for her?

“Don’t worry, I won’t be staying long.”

“Melanie!” Sitting up in my chair, I shot a look at the agent responsible for this barging-in. Looking at my daughter, I smiled. “What a nice surprise. Come, take a chair—“

“—Did you block my passport?”

“How’s…what’s his name again…Ricardo doing? He still playing in that band?”

“Did you block my passport?”

I leaned back, sighed. “I can’t have you running off again. What if something happened to Mom and I needed to contact you?”

“First of all, for the life of me I don’t know why Mom still adores you.” Her green eyes, her wavy brown hair—all heirlooms of her mother—taunted me. “And second of all, you can’t control me, Dad. I’m not one of your lackeys—“

Try as I might otherwise, I chuckled. “Lackeys?”

“Yeah, and I’m not one of them.” She narrowed her eyes, a remarkable likeness to Julie. “And I’ll never forgive you if you don’t unblock my passport. Never.”

If you can’t imagine how I would miss behavior like that, than you’ve clearly never controlled the planet. Melanie was the only spot of sunshine in my drab, predictable world. I mean, what was I supposed to do? Just wait around until she saw her old man in a different, more forgiving light? Even if—miracles never cease—she did, I wasn’t accustomed to waiting. So yeah, I manipulated my daughter’s mind, if you want to call it that, and it was my biggest regret to date, because when Melanie finally wanted to spend time with me, I didn’t even like her. Her affection had no substance.

To think, I used to scoff at my theological upbringing. I mean, why would an all-powerful Creator sit back and allow his measly creations to curse and break his will, unless, contrary to canonized wisdom, he wasn’t as powerful as he was cracked up to be?

Now—too late—I know better.


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Post July 12, 2017, 08:16:28 PM

The It's How You Play the Game Challenge

Mister Adjuster

By:
Alexander D Jones



Clive's eyes darted from left to right and back again as he scanned the doctor's waiting room. There was so much wrong with it, so much that was - out of place.

To start with he set his sights on the notice board opposite him. There were various posters pinned in random places. There was no order to it. Clive winced. How could someone see that and think it looked okay? He couldn't get up and fix it though, that was 'not proper' according to his mother. There was another man who sat just under the pin board on his phone. Clive's eyes narrowed on him and he pressed his index and middle finger to his temple. The man stood up slowly and started taking the posters off the board.

The receptionist stood from behind her desk

"Excuse me, Sir,"

Clive sent her to the vending machine.

Clive had been able to control minds since he was about fourteen, he had no idea how the powers had come about but he liked the idea that he was able to fix all of the little misjudgments that annoyed him so.

Eventually the man finished putting the posters back in a more grid-like order. Clive allowed him to sit back down and return to his phone. As he did so the receptionist returned from her walk rubbing her forehead. She looked around the waiting room in a rather bemused fashion before returning to her desk.

As she did so Clive noticed her computer screen, more specifically the top of her computer screen. There were several small characters stuck to it. Unfortunately for both herself and Clive, they weren't exactly in line. Clive sighed. The receptionist would have to have a small break from her work while he helped her adjust them.


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Post July 12, 2017, 08:17:23 PM

The It's How You Play the Game Challenge

The Day the Earth Moved

By:
Martin Westlake



I know, I know; I know that I didn’t need to carry out the experiment, and I know that the answer was already out there. A quick search on the internet was all it required. I knew that. But I had my reasons, as you’ll see.

It took a lot of planning and preparation. Even when you control everybody’s mind, as I now did, you can’t just order everybody about. You have to think about where, and when, and not just how you get everybody there, but how everything will be managed whilst they are gone. And I obviously couldn’t have done all of that myself. Besides, I didn’t want to. That was the point.

So, the first step, once I had planted the idea in everybody’s mind (since I controlled their minds, nobody questioned the idea), was to get them to start talking among themselves. Since they all had the same overarching aim, the results were most gratifying. Peace broke out everywhere immediately.

The second step was for them to put the necessary structures in place so that they could transform their complete agreement about the end into a discussion about the means. Politics everywhere was transformed from the petty and the local to the noble and the global. There was a common project, and mankind everywhere devoted her - and himself to the realization of the dream. Poverty very soon came to be seen as an inefficiency, a distraction and a waste, and so it was very soon eradicated. Employment was full, very full.

The third step was the science. Man’s ingenuity and sheer scientific genius was put to work to calculate where and when. It wasn’t just about moving people there, but about enabling them to live – to eat and drink – both on the way there and on the way back. The European landmass was the obvious choice because of its well-developed transport infrastructure. Germany and the surrounding territory was chosen because of its motorway network and many waterways. The project would take time, it was agreed; time to develop everything and time to get everybody there (not to mention getting everybody back). A symbolic target date, 2100, was commonly agreed.

The fourth step was working out how. By 2100 there would be 11.2 billion people on the earth. How could they migrate safely to one place in the world, eating and drinking on the way (and waste products would need to be recycled)? What about the young and the old and the infirm? And what about communication and coordination systems? Never did the old dictum, ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’ seem more apposite.

The fifth step was implementation. The plans had been laid. The science had been established. Now it was time to put everything into action. The next eighty years were spent in harmonious endeavor and industry. It was immensely gratifying to see everybody – literally everybody – working cheerfully and conscientiously for the common cause. This was especially heart-warming given that so many of those working on the project would never see it come to fruition.

So, it came to the day, 1 July 2010, when everybody was in place and everybody was ready. Rehearsals had been organized on a local basis so that everybody knew how to act. Some twelve billion earplugs were manufactured and distributed. Hundreds of thousands of massive screens were erected and interconnected with sophisticated atomic clocks to ensure a completely simultaneous countdown. At ten seconds to midday, the countdown began and over eleven billion people started to count in all the languages of the world (well, almost all; I didn’t bother with the lost tribes people in the Amazonian jungle); ten, nine, eight, seven… And at ‘zero’ eleven billion people jumped in the air simultaneously and landed simultaneously, making a thunderous noise that would have burst eardrums, if it had not been for the ear plugs.

And the result? It was just as all those scientists on the internet had always predicted. Sophisticated measuring machines confirmed that when everybody had landed, the world had moved by about one hundredth of the width of a hydrogen atom. Yes, the world moved for everybody – a very tiny bit.

It took twenty-five years for the world’s populations to revert to their ‘normal’ locations. Of course, not everybody went back to where they had come from, and the very nature of normality had been changed irrevocably by the massive exercise that everybody had been engaged in for so long. And that was the point. The whole of mankind was now confronted with an existential bifurcation. Basically, the world could go back to the petty and the local, or it could stay at the level of the noble and the global.

It used to be said that if you gave a man a fish he would eat for one day, but if you taught him how to fish, he would eat for the rest of his life. I waited anxiously for another fifty years, but I needn’t have worried. Mankind had finally understood that the only thing in the way of mankind was mankind itself. Such scourges as war, water shortages, climate change, hunger, poverty, and disease had already become things of the past, and there they now remained. The world governance structures that had been developed to achieve the mass jump (as it had become known) immediately found new common projects; developing the technology to avoid asteroid impacts, colonizing the moon, traveling to Mars, and so on. All it had taken was one truly common project, by which I mean a project that had truly involved everybody. And that is what the world is now; a project that truly involves everybody.

The Earth moved in more senses than one at midday on 1 July 2100.


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Post July 12, 2017, 08:18:12 PM

The It's How You Play the Game Challenge

A Confrontation of Wills

By:
Sergio ‘ente per ente’ Palumbo



Frank’s life had always been unpleasant and full of problems, both financially and emotionally. At times, he even wondered why he had been born and what his true purpose on Earth was, or even if he had a purpose… For long, he had really doubted that his life might have any meaning at all.

Then, suddenly, everything had changed after he was involved, by chance, in a terrible accident at the Power Plant where he worked. The strange waste liquid he fell into really modified his life!

At first, it had been a pleasing sensation to be able to control the mind of people around him, even the minds of his enemies. He had gotten his revenge on some of them, especially the ones who had been the loudest in opposing him and making fun of how he lived his neglectable life.

After that, he had made a good use of his new capabilities to easily win the love of a few women who had always considered him to be weak, stupid or just unworthy of their interest. Before the accident they had probably been right, but now the worm had turned. After all his long years of loneliness and suffering he was in charge now! Now he could do whatever he wanted because he was able to force people around him to think and act according to his will. And he was content with the way things were…

Then the aliens revealed themselves. An unprecedented event in History! Many people had believed they had visited our planet from time to time, just to keep an eye on us, or simply to check out our behavior - not unlike what scientists and biologists did with wild animals or tiny insects.

But those aliens were much different from what everyone had imagined. First of all, they were not gray, their true appearance being similar to a small Coypu. And they weren’t affected at all by his new powers…

Certainly they had a brain, but he could not control them, at least not in the same way that he could control humans. Frank had already found out that his enhanced neurons couldn’t influence animals to do his bidding. Maybe there was something in those aliens’ unknown brain patterns that had similarities to animals, or maybe their minds were entirely different from humans’. Either way there was nothing he could try!

Frank didn’t know why those otherworldly beings had chosen to openly reveal themselves. Perhaps they had noticed that wars on his planet had ceased as soon as he had learned how to use his new powers, which forcibly stopped humans from killing each other. Now that Frank was in charge there were more constructive things to be done than being at war all the time, and all the people of Earth had to work together to advance civilization.

So why had they come? Did they just want to have a better look, or didn’t they like what they saw on Earth: one individual ruling everyone else?

Frank was dejected when he learned that the aliens had come to take control over him! For decades many humans had believed that creatures from other worlds might be endowed with telepathy, because there were reports worldwide about aliens who had displayed a strange influence over people whom they had chosen to examine during abductions, supposedly. It appeared that those aliens had never been capable of using their great powers over a large number of people at the same time – which Frank could easily do.

So now, everything was different! They had found the alpha human, though he had been endowed with such powers by accident. Therefore, all they had to do was take control of a single man, him, and they could rule over all the men and women by using his mind, once he was ordered to do as they commanded!

It had been so beautiful to move from his previous status as an inconsequential human to suddenly being the incontrovertible Emperor of Earth. And now it was so sad to have been thrown down his throne, only being allowed to be the aliens’ instrument of power, who exercised complete control over other humans by using his own powers…The new masters told him what to do, and he ordered the other humans to act accordingly. In politics, there had previously been a so-called Representative Democracy, or indirect democracy. So, was this a sort of indirect dictatorship, actually?

In the end, Frank woke up every morning after just three hours of hard sleep to face another long grueling day. There would be different commands given by those aliens that he would pass to other humans; he wouldn’t like all of them… But it had to be done. Not only couldn’t his powers control those aliens’ minds but his new masters could easily overpower him.

There was no real confrontation of wills because their willpower prevailed, always, and he simply couldn’t do anything to oppose them.

At times, a desperate Frank wondered why he was alive. Probably those beings needed him for now to achieve their purposes. They had already made some deep changes all over the planet - or better the people he ordered around had done unusual things and built strange metallic towers to make those changes possible. Would those aliens ever set him free one day? He doubted it…After all, had he himself ever loosened his grip over the men and women on Earth when he was the Emperor? So, why should they now?

A pawn has no will, he just moves as the master decides. Frank hoped in his heart that such a humiliating game wouldn’t go on for too long. He just needed their compassion or a way to end it all. However he also knew that, as someone once said, ‘Ethics and oversight are what you eliminate first when you want absolute power.’


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Post July 12, 2017, 08:19:07 PM

The It's How You Play the Game Challenge

The Spider

By:
Robin B. Lipinski



“Hey Fred, whatcha doing?” Fred is a spider in case your mind painted a picture of Fred being a fat, overweight, obese, pig of a man whose ancestors were once basket weavers in Nigeria.

“Not much Fred. Just hanging out and spinning another stupid web. Last one got destroyed by a praying mantis stealing my flies.” This Fred was also a spider and not one your mind painted a picture of as a female dancer from Egypt with a bikini and false teeth made in Iran.

“So, Fred, how is the condition of the world today?” asked by Fred, the first spider of this story.

“Let me check.” And with that said, Fred, the second spider pulled open the single door painted red. This door was hidden behind the third dimension of the fourth leg of Fred’s eight legs. As the door swung open, both of the spiders were assailed with the thoughts of all creatures of earth.

“Looks normal Fred. Though a little more anger in mankind lately. Should we dial their minds down a bit?”

“Yeah. Otherwise we won’t be getting any sleep what with all their teeth grinding and war mongering. We’ve been a bit easy on them lately.”

It may all sound a bit confusing with two spiders being named Fred, and maybe a bit unbelievable that they alone have access to the red door, a door opening to the possibility of absolute mind control over every creature on earth. Especially control over humans.

“Should we make the humans all hug and become vegetarians?”

“Nah, we tried that once, remember?”

“Oh, yeah, you’re right. Big bunch of hippies playing hackisack and eating tofu.”

“Yeah, that was horrible. It ended up with the world getting that awful 70‘s music.”

“Oh boy, do I remember that. Thankfully that experiment ended.”

“Yep, and now we have the war stuff and state of the art technology.”

The two spiders were from the same egg cluster. One could say they were two spiders but one in spirit. And that would be true as they were a continuation of spiders going back in time to where they were created and given the power to control. To guide. To keep everything in order.

Now, it must be said that spiders. No, strike that. Special spiders like Fred and Fred also had a sense of humor… After all, their boss, God, also had a sense of humor. I mean why else would God create spiders with control over every creatures minds on earth?

“Should we?” Fred asked Fred.

“We really shouldn’t…but…” Fred replied.

“Ah, golly gee shucks. Let’s do it anyway.”

And so, opening the red door and climbing in, both spiders quickly found the door painted green. Entering that one they entered the world of chaos.

“Which door was it again?” Fred asked Fred.

“Wasn’t it the purple behind the blue? No. Wait. Yeah, it was the blue behind the purple.”

And Fred was correct. After the red door, the green door, the purple, the blue door revealed the worlds of possibility.

“Hey, this should do.” Fred smiled.

“Oh boy, this is gonna be good,” Fred replied.

Soon, the entire population of the world; population of humans that is, were naked except for the colored grease they covered their bodies in for protection. Each and every human went about their business naked and painted with all sorts of colors.

It was this the spiders commanded the humans to do so as to take their minds off war, hugging, and being vegetarians. Soon, even Sonny and Cher were forgotten.

Life was good, and both Fred and Fred were laughing their little spider legs off.

It could be said that by spiders being given control over a world, they alone were the only creatures intelligent to control such power. Sure, they had their fun by playing games, but it was done for reasons beyond self, beyond desire for control or power.

It also should be mentioned that while humans were being controlled by spiders, in turn, humans loved to kill spiders. Remember this the next time you have the desire to squish a spider. It may be a common spider OR, it just may be Fred or Fred… And they may stop you from killing them and make you develop a love for spinach yogurt or develop a taste for what’s in North Korean sewer systems…


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Post July 12, 2017, 08:20:09 PM

The It's How You Play the Game Challenge

A Bouquet of Flowers of the Mind

By:
Florin Purluca



I'm a modern demigod. One of the most depressed who ever existed.

But it has not always been so. I have been like you, once. The change occurred as a miracle, looking at a lollipop. A large, orange and glossy one, a vibrant color in the hand of a child wandering in a lonely, dusty street. I looked puzzled at her, in the sparkling light of the afternoon, and I thought of an orange. Round, succulent, hypnotic. A perfume like the madness of the cherry blossoms of May. An explosion of olfactory sensation culminated with the implosion of the phoning organ. But I was not scared. I said to myself that I had no reason to fear. I knew enough about autosuggestion. So all I had to do was channel my energy to another direction. That I did. Nevertheless, nothing changed. For twenty-four hours, through my preaching, the world continued to look built from a orange peel.

Nothing happened for a while, but then it was the taste of the night. Sweet, like a fondling chocolate. Dark deep, dense and bitter, expression of life after light. It was enough to close my eyes in the silence of the night, and the aroma progressively increased with the speed of a carousel. And that's when life began to flicker into me -- the flame of a wind turbulent candle. Stronger, faster, but with a sense of imbalance in the variability of the mind. Strong vibrations, superimposed on my thoughts, like a band of a million of lovers and mistresses that whisper to you that everything will be fine. But it was not, oh!, sweet lie of my impotence.

Falling over me, the voices, like a violent thunder. As the wave of a Leviathan rushed from the clouds into the sea. Billions of dreams, aspirations, love unfulfilled and sadness. Joy, regret and pain. A mélange of vigor with the breath of death. I was about to lose my mind and then He came to me. Invisible, with a marble voice:

-- Here, my child, this is my gift to you. A bouquet of flowers of the mind.

Without wanting, helpless, without knowing. As simply as that. A curse, like a beautiful gift.

It took me years to be able to stabilize and understand how to filter the billions of minds. A bunch of beggars, that's what they were. Once, being one of them, I fought and rescued them. I stopped the wars. I have brought peace and joy into their life, as a rare flower that rises every thousand years. And then they feared me. I had to be different. But it meant, for me, the chastisement. They hated me even more. But I knew the forgiveness, like the soft touch of a velvet blanket, and brought them the fruit of the Allocalips.

”Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

And it was done, according to His will, my will. Their rods, the rods of the pure ones, sang about the new Barabas. But how could I ever embrace betrayal, when my pain reverberates? I had become a poor man turned overnight into a wealthy and prosperous man, staring at his old friends. Even poorer, and more helpless.

And I put myself and thought about my soul, as no coins ever thought. I fell down and came through my brothers. I enjoyed life. I laughed when I had to cry. I cried when I should have laughed. I loved and hated those who did not love me despite my will.

Now I sit and look at the world, silently, perched on a steep bank, and marvel at His angel: the free will. I leave all my thoughts, the voices inside my head, to walk in their will and feel a wave of sadness as it slips over the sea mirror. I am the saddest demigod that ever existed, because once I was one like them and in my thirst after love and generosity I betrayed them. I despised their will and lured them, like I was in my turn, with a mirochant bouquet of the flowers of the mind.


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Post July 12, 2017, 08:20:57 PM

The It's How You Play the Game Challenge

The Director

By:
Ryan Harris



I shouldn't have done it. A year of my life that I'll never get back.

As a medical student, hopeful to be a doctor, the thought of playing God attracted me. Being in control of anything gave me a high that was almost bizarre.

A year earlier I had written an essay during pre-med. The topic was "How I Would Change The World." Looking back, the powers-that-be were fishing for a Director candidate. Most of my thoughts were the usual ideas: peace, environmental change, and improving health for people. My single deviation was to reduce population growth. I didn't specify how it would happen but they seemed to like it.

In class one Tuesday, I was asked by two well-dressed gentleman to talk in the hallway. They escorted me to an empty classroom and informed me they were commission agents for the Director Program.
"My name is Agent Jones," the taller, bald one said, "and this is my partner Agent Bodkins." They held up their ID's.

"What's this all about?" I asked.

"Just come with us."

I was promptly flown to New York City. Agents Jones and Bodkins took me to the United Nations General Assembly. There, I was ushered into a private meeting with Rhys Fairbanks, the Secretary General of the United Nations.

"Son, you've been chosen for the Director Program. It's an incredibly honor and an immense responsibility but we feel you can change the world for the better," said Fairbanks.

"The Director Program?"

"In short, it's a year-long contract in which you control the actions of everyone on the planet. Almost like a video game. You can influence legislative bodies, heads of state, the masses, whomever you choose."

"It's pretty sudden, sir. I don't know if I can handle this responsibility."

"I'm sorry, son, but the plans are already in motion. You have no choice in this matter."

I looked down, suddenly afraid. "What if I refuse?"

"Let's just say you wouldn't want that option. Take it for what it is and make positive change for Earth. You'll be flown to TrueScope Space Station for the duration of your contract. Sign here."
The Secretary General pushed a bleach-white piece of paper across his desk. I signed the appropriate line and was immediately flown to Cape Canaveral for NASA to do their part in my journey.

The thought of going to space was exciting but spending a year out there was daunting.

Viewing Earth from space can literally take one's breath away and make them tear up from the sheerness of spatial microscopy.

TrueScope was cramped but my sleeping quarters had the best amenities. Even with the grand room, I had to be integrated into the program at least twelve hours--more if I chose to do so.

The interface was quite easy to navigate. I spent most of my time, as I figured, in the category of legislators and lawmakers. My first few months were spent on population control and environmental improvement.

Being in control of the world seems like a great idea in theory. In reality, the job ate away at my emotions and gave me nightmares.

What Fairbanks or the tech experts didn't tell me, by choice or accidental omission, was the daily list. Lists of births and deaths popped onto my top-left screen every twenty-four hours. I learned not to click on the names except of the mandatory ten required of me. Selecting a name would give details of birth or death, along with a video of the event.

The one I recall most was a young boy by the name of Dillon. He was six years of age, inquisitive, and bright from what I'd seen of his historical footage.

My early months of being Director were filled with mistakes, one of which cost Dillon his life.

Population control was a directive option for legislators, lawmakers, and politicians. It was a command I used freely early on. Not realizing there were subcategories, my directive implied that population could be reduced by any means possible.

Dillon's death video was graphic. His native Brisbane was implementing mass murder as a means of controlling population. It broke my heart to see him running in vain from the soldier that killed him. It was something I wasn't prepared for.

After many a trial and error, I learned my way around the interface. Even so, any decision made became a painstaking process. I had to think about how many lives I would affect and on what scale it would affect the world.

Piece of mind over productivity was my ultimate decision in making it through the program with my sanity intact. It worked out and I came through as a changed man.
I've been a doctor for eighteen years now and I can say the program made me a better physician. People should not be deities, but being the Director is life-changing.


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Post July 12, 2017, 08:21:43 PM

The It's How You Play the Game Challenge

Eric's Peace

By:
Mike Wilson



Eric told himself it was all luck. He daydreamed a lot at work, sometimes good ones, sometimes vengeful. Then he would notice something on the news. A manager at some company known to defraud others set a fire and burned down headquarters. A group of disparate people gathered together and donated a large sum of money to a homeless shelter. Or an annoying co-worker suddenly quit, and left town.

He thought it was egotistic to think that he had anything to do with these things – it was just fate being kind to him. But things seemed to be taking a strange turn. Like that program he had recently seen on TV, called The Secret. “Ask the universe what you want, and the universe will deliver it.”

And indeed, Eric's track record of getting some of his wishes was getting good.

So it was that one day, he decided to focus his thoughts on something good and useful for humanity, as he saw it. He began to focus his thinking on world peace. He envisioned results from all nations putting down their arms, laying off most of their military people, except those needed for emergency rescue operations. The benefits of this seemed obvious to Eric: more resources available for humanitarian purposes all over the world.

And gradually it came to pass. Wars in the Middle East and Africa gradually petered out. New treaties were signed. Spokespersons said, “War has gotten old and tired. There must be a better way for humanity to settle differences.”

Suddenly populations that had lived in fear could settle down and get on with the business of living. Even reports of atrocities among tribes people in Central Africa dwindled to nothing. Wars ended, and the killing stopped. Humanity sighed with relief.

Eric was so overwhelmed with the results that he hardly dared think anything else for fear it would take hold. But he soon realized, ephemeral 'housekeeping' thoughts and impulses had little or no effect.

It took frequent, concerted thinking on a subject to bring about effects. Still, some things needed doing, and Eric did them. His boss did decide to give him a large raise, the restaurant he frequented decided to give him free meals more often than not, and many, many strangers suddenly bought the books he sold online. When Eric found a stylish penthouse condo he liked, it took some concentration. But the management decided to hold a special promotion of some kind, and Eric won the condo for $1.00.

The county tax assessor decided on a whim to value his property very low, so his taxes were minimal. The grocery store he frequented awarded him a first prize of free groceries for a year. Some people remarked on his amazing luck. But if anyone got too close, he would concentrate, and their thinking soon changed.

Eric had no trouble convincing desired sex partners to party with him. However, one time he had multiple partners, and things got out of hand. He couldn't concentrate on willing them to perform, and enjoy whatever he was participating in, at the same time. So some lost interest, and hastily left his condo. He learned to modulate his control and his desires to keep things within safe limits and under control.

The world slowly changed. The pace of living slowed. Peace and calm were good, but day-to-day life became nothing but more and more of the same dull routine. This became annoying to Eric.

So it was that one day, Eric began to meditate on total freedom. He had seemingly turned humanity into compliant sheep, moping along, doing nothing but his bidding. Now, he decided to set them free.

He began meditating on the concept of total freedom. “Do what you want! Take what you want! Get wild! Get crazy! Get naked! Live a little!”

At first, nothing happened. Folks at the grocery store talked in the usual dull monotone. People at work spoke in hushed, peaceful tones . Eric persisted.

Maybe it is like turning an ocean liner – I need to keep at it.

So he focused on people having an orgy in the street, or robbing a liqueur store, or staging a walk-out, before he went to bed.

Eric awoke with a start, hearing an incessant wailing. He rose, looked at the clock: 3:07AM. What the hell?

He looked out his wall-sized window, and saw flickering lights. Looking down, he saw mayhem. Crowds in the streets, fighting and throwing things. A few firetrucks and police cars, surrounded by mobs. Smoke rising, fires burning. Uh-oh....

He composed himself, and sat down. He began to think of peace, calm, settle-down thoughts.

The knock on his door brought him up short. He rose and slowly walked to his entrance. He peeked out the tiny spy hole, a seeming anachronism a short time ago. And saw several rough, angry people. They pounded on his door.

“Yeah, you. Come on out, you rich pig, we want to talk to you!” One of them spit on the spy hole.

Eric yelled “go away! I'm calling the police!”

“They're a little busy right now,” yelled one of them. “C'mon, give me that crowbar. We need to get in there and show this guy who is in charge.”

As the door splintered, and the lock gave way, Eric tried a last maneuver: Thinking calm, peace...

You want to put down that crowbar, you want to walk away, and leave the nice man alone...

Then, Eric 'heard' an overriding voice in his head. “Attack that rich bastard, and kill him! Destroy everything. Anarchy rules.”

The bearded, mustachioed man came up to Eric, but didn't hit him right away. He laughed out loud.

“What? You think you are the only human being with a talent? I'm only surprised at how easy it was to turn everything around. Almost like I had help or something...” Then the man shrugged, and swung his crowbar.


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Post July 12, 2017, 08:23:59 PM

The It's How You Play the Game Challenge

3rd Place (tie)


Other People's Children

By:
Genna Watson



As Caleb's spirit rose from his body, he could see himself being rocked back and forth by his mom, who was quietly sobbing. His body was soaking wet on the bathroom floor, lifeless. Even though he was only seven years old, he could sense, feel and understand ... everything.

And to think, only a few moments ago, he was on the verge of reaching Level 10 of Ultimate Dominion. This is the one thing Caleb wanted more than anything else in the world.

###

His shaggy blonde hair swooped down over his eye brows and over to one side. The red glow from his IP 2000 game player reflected upon his face. His demeanor was intense as he assembled his army for war, but his eyes were glassy and glazed. He was hunched over, pressing buttons, sitting on his bed.

There was an abrupt knock as his mom walked in. "How's it going?" She playfully straightened up his hair.

"Fine," Caleb said in a pleasant, but distracted voice. "I've almost made it to the end of level six."

"Listen kiddo, tomorrow is picture day at school and I want you to stop for now and get your bath."

"Picture day, that's so lame," Caleb said, still playing and slightly more irritated.

"Well, maybe so, but I want you to look your best.” Shelly had a new job as a realtor. It wasn't easy working a full time job and being a single mom.

Mom... You don't understand! No kid in my class has made it to level...."

"I know, I know. You'll just have to beat level six tomorrow."

"But mom" Caleb protested.

I'm not asking again." Shelly said. She always found it difficult, as a single mother, to juggle being Caleb's pal, and the authority figure.

"Okay, and remember, the maid service comes tomorrow, so you'll have to clean your room in the morning," Shelly could be a bit shrill at times.

"That's dumb," Caleb said. It was looking like he would never be able to get back to his game.

"I can't have them spending all their time picking up your stuff."

Caleb placed Ultimate Dominion on pause and put it on the bathroom counter as he ran the water. Caleb locked the door.

He turned the water down to a slow steady stream and sat down in the tub. He did a few quick splashes of water and ran the soap over his face and chest. He looked over at his game player on the bathroom counter and got an idea. He might as well put his time to good use. Caleb stood up. The bar of soap was under his left foot. There was a splash and a loud thump as his head hit the back of the tub.

A large portal opened up in front of him. He stepped inside to find a sunny hilltop in vivid color with a bright blue sky and green grassy hills. It was the battlefield from Ultimate Dominion.

With his game player in hand he pressed resume.

The words "You Are Granted Three Wishes," appeared on the screen. Caleb wished that no one could tell him what to do. Then he wished that he would live forever so he could not be killed in battle. Lastly, and most importantly, he wished that all of his wishes would come true.

He began assembling the finest army he had ever seen, known as the Vipers. They obeyed his every whim.

They faced one army after another and sliced right through them. They defeated the Robo Warriors, winning level six. Then they devastated the Predators advancing to level seven. Next was the Deadly Zombies for level eight, and the Alien Invaders for level nine. With his new powers bestowed upon him, Caleb was unstoppable. And he was having the time of his life...

"Caleb! Caleb!" He heard his mother calling. He loved her, but her timing was lousy. He kept playing.

Shelly stood outside the bathroom door franticly pounding, as the water slowly rose. "Caleb Jackson Thomas, open this door!"

He could not understand why his mother was calling him.

Winning level ten would give him automatic hero status at school, Plus, with his additional powers extending into real life, he could have whatever he wished, pizza, ice cream and no more baths.

His army clobbered his opponents. Every maneuver went flawlessly, but he continued to hear his mother's voice.

Shelly grabbed a hair pin and rammed it into the lock in a state of panic. It opened, "Thank God," she said.

The floor was cold and wet on her bare feet, as she rushed in. The blood diluted in the water was trickling over the edge of the tub. She screamed, grabbed him and pulled him out.

At that moment, a portal opened up a few feet in front of Caleb.

Shelly began mouth to mouth resuscitation to revive him. "Oh please, come back!"

The portal begin to close. The beautiful landscape of the battlefield begin to change into a bleak gray. The faces of the "Vipers" slowly turned to anger. The "Beast Warriors' he was fighting were filled with rage, aimed at him.
Their faces became hideous, misshapen and wretched. A fear washed over the boy and encompassed him.

As his spirit hovered over his wet body, lying on the bathroom floor, he could see his mother scooping him up and rocking him. He wished he could reach out to her. He wished he left the game alone. He wished a lot of things, but he was all out of wishes.

Unseen forces started pulling and tugging on him. There was a deep, insidious laughter from an evil presence in the room.

Shelly screamed as she felt something precious was being ripped from her arms.

The IP2000 game player rested on the bathroom counter. The screen illuminated a red glow. On the screen were the words, "Ultimate Dominion…Game Over."


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Post July 12, 2017, 08:25:23 PM

The It's How You Play the Game Challenge

3rd Place (tie)


For the Greater Good

By:
Hope Gillette



Silence was the order of the hour, though the echo of rain could be heard on the parapets outside. Beyond the low thrum of the raindrops, the chamber was quiet, its sole inhabitant slouched in thought, staring intently at the object of his concern.

It had no eyes to speak of, but the orb at the center of the room was staring back at him--Ulor was certain of it.

That he should have come into possession of such a thing was unbelievable to the mage; the majority of the world had forgotten the very existence of domination relics. Hidden away, locked beneath piles of earth and the remnants of a lost civilization, this particular orb almost cost Ulor his life. And now he planned to use the relic. Insanity!

He squinted at the aquamarine sphere, held up on an elaborate pedestal of silver. Am I really going to do this? he asked himself. Can I sentence humanity to such a fate?

He knew the answer despite the doubts swirling through his thoughts. It was the only way; his last, final act before departing the world of the living.

"Master?" came a tentative summons from the Corridor of the North. "You called, Master?"

Ulor peeled his gaze away from the relic to acknowledge Hector, one of his most accomplished acolytes. He smiled at the lad, a boy of no more than 15 years, and motioned for him to join Ulor on the dais where he sat.

"Are you ready, Hector?" he asked. "Did you bring the snakesbane and yellow thrall?"

The youth nodded, setting down a box sealed with the herbalist's mark.

"Good. Very good." Ulor pushed himself to his feet, ignoring the internal creak of his old bones. Just one more task. Just this one thing¸ he reminded himself.

"Are we really going to do this, Master? Can we really touch the minds of everyone in the world?" Hector warily glanced at the domination relic. "Mind control...I mean...is such a thing really possible?"

The older mage nodded. "Indeed, lad, it is. And tonight we will right a very ancient wrong."

Ulor didn't expect Hector to understand the intent behind the night's ritual, and for that reason, the senior mage kept his plans secret. All Hector knew was to take the orb to a nearby cavern after Ulor's ceremony reached completion. There, in the depths of the caves, an ornate chest had been placed where the relic could be stashed safely.

Of course, Hector didn't know about the dragon living deep in the earth there. A dragon Ulor charged with keeping the orb after it was deposited. No one believed in dragons anymore, either, but only in an immortal dragon's treasure horde would such an item of power be safe.

"Now, Hector, light the snakesbane and place it in the basin by the Corridor of the South."

The youth did as he was told, his demeanor melancholy. Ulor couldn't blame him; all acolytes knew one day their masters would pass into the spirit realm through a great deed of magic, but few actually had to take part in the process. Even though Hector understood death was not the end of ends for their kind, it would be many more years before the budding mage would fully grasp such a concept.

The smell of burning snakesbane slowly filled the room, and Ulor took his place by the domination relic's pedestal. He was attempting something none before him had ever dared: to control the minds of humanity as a whole. He only needed a moment to complete his task, and that was likely all he would gain, even with power as great as his.

In one moment, he would implant a command--a notion to be maintained in the minds of humanity from that instant onward--as long as the relic existed to keep the magic going.

For all Hector knew, Ulor was going to put an end to the violence gripping every nation by the throat. He was going to quell the aggression in mankind and start an age of renewal. And Ulor was going to do those things--just not quite how Hector assumed.

"Boy," he commanded, "heed me, now." Satisfied Hector's unwavering attention was on him, Ulor continued. "Humanity is a burden on this world. We take. We destroy. We do not renew what we use, and we do not respect the creatures that have come before us. Humanity," he paused and placed his hands on the orb, "is a disease on this world."

The acolyte nodded, though his expression betrayed his uncertainty.

Ulor closed his eyes, tilting his face toward the heavens. Soon, he would be linked with every mind in the world; soon, he would put an end to the rampant, destructive flood that was humanity. He would bandage the wound of the world with one simple command:

No more children.

The ancient mage started his incantation.

The beauty of the domination relic was, of course, that it maintained unquestioning servitude. Yes, in the past such tools were used primarily to control one or two individuals at best. Ulor was linking to all of the human race, but he wasn't seeking total obedience. He just needed compliance in one particular matter...

A connection to the orb established, he reached out into the ether with his consciousness. Such powerful magic required the draining of his life force, but Ulor was steadfast in his task. Before the last moments of his life ebbed away, he felt the universal connection he'd been searching for.

A smile on his face, the body of the mage slumped to the floor, never to rise again.


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Post July 12, 2017, 08:26:50 PM

The It's How You Play the Game Challenge

2nd Place


For a Mile or an Hour

By:
Glenn M. Diamond



In a dim corner of a sleepy tavern off a state highway in the hill country of Wheatfield County on a muggy summer morning, three men stared at each other over a pitcher of watery beer. The felt-muffled thwack of billiard collisions punctuated the awkward silence. Two knew each other well. The third was Grimes, a hardware wholesaler from Granite City who had no idea where he was or how he got there. Only minutes earlier he was 100 miles away in his office writing up an order for toilet valves.

“Let me get this straight,” Grimes ventured, looking first at the rotund sandy-haired man sporting a ball cap with a tractor logo, and then to the slim dark-haired one in a western shirt and cowboy hat.

“You’re -- God. Right? That makes you...”

“Pleased to meet you, hope you guessed my...” started the other.

God interrupted. “Oh STOP. Doesn’t that ever get old?”

“This can’t be happening,” Grimes concluded.

“True, in a way,” God agreed. “If I were really here, your body would disintegrate into subatomic particles. I’m merely a construct. Like him. He’s actually chained in the Abyss, but sometimes I take him along on these... field trips.”

Grimes felt a sickening revelation. “Oh. I’m dead. That’s just great. Mighty strange afterlife y’all fellers got here,” he drawled for local effect.

The cowboy shook his head side to side.

Grimes looked at God. “Not dead?”

“Not even close.”

“Then this is some sort of a test?”

The others nodded.

Grimes nervously recalled the famous tale of a humble man from 4000 years ago who was pushed to the absolute limit. “Not a test of faith I hope. I’d rather not have my whole family wiped out, along with my -- goats or whatever.”

“Nothing like that,” God assured him then explained the rules, which boiled down to Grimes gaining control over the entire human race for one hour. Not their bodies, but their minds. Grimes must decide what to do with this unimaginable power.

***

“When you’re ready,” God instructed, “simply think the idea in your mind while holding up two fingers. The hour will begin, but for us it will be over instantly and we’ll return here.”

The two men disappeared. Next, the table vanished followed by the tavern and the highway. Grimes sat against an oak tree with the big summer sky flooding overhead. Think, he ordered himself. Don’t screw this up.

Grimes figured he shouldn’t exploit this to benefit himself directly. And being only a mental power, he couldn’t just feed the hungry or pay off everyone’s mortgage. But he needed to help everyone; give them something they needed. He thought about it mighty hard, but never was any good at puzzles.

“How the hell do I know what other people need?” It struck him before he finished the question, which in fact held the answer. “That’s it!” He checked it over in his mind to be sure, then again with two raised fingers. He’d barely blinked when the tavern scene reappeared, along with the world’s strangest drinking buddies.

God smiled broadly as he reached out to shake Grimes’ hand. “Excellent!”

The cowboy was sullen and defeated. This was going to cut down on business dramatically.

“Where did you get such an elegant idea?” God asked. “Being omniscient I already know, but you might want to tell Old Sulfur Breath over there.”

Grimes credited his mom. “She always told me I’d never understand others until I walked a mile in their shoes. But I guess an hour would work also. So that’s what I did, made people spend an hour in someone else’s life.”

#

A mysterious outbreak of telepathic empathy spread across the globe. People experienced the pain, the joy, the fear, the hopes, the dreams, and the nightmares of someone who, generally speaking, was their opposite.

The contrasts were between rich and poor, old and young, healthy and sick, black and white, and on and on. They could be separated by oceans or merely the walls of a house.

Throughout zones of war, fighters of opposing sides saw the world through the eyes of their bitter enemies and suddenly grasped the futility and immorality of their violence and hatred. They knew it was time to stop.

In the boardrooms of industry and the halls of political power, the elite witnessed the world through the desperate eyes of war refugees, sweatshop workers, or those sickened from pollution; all borne of greed, corruption, and bigotry.

Those who lived in poverty, oppression, fear, or ignorance discovered, through the minds of others, the inspiring power of self-worth, education, courage, creativity, health, and security. They would confidently begin to elevate themselves by boldly claiming their most basic rights.

Even the virtuous gained something; a keen perception of the darkness in the few truly damaged souls who remained a risk to others. Such knowledge was vital to protecting society in the most humane and proactive ways.

#

Back in Granite City, Grimes thought he nodded off for a moment, but took a sip of his coffee and resumed ordering those toilet valves. Over the next week he barely noticed the headlines that reported peace treaties, famine relief, and the voluntary recalls of dangerous products. He’d inexplicably begun volunteering some time at the nursing home down the street, and hadn’t had much time to read the news.


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Post July 12, 2017, 08:28:00 PM

The It's How You Play the Game Challenge

- Winner -


Inside the Cave

By:
Jason McGraw



The Dragon was watching his realm through the eyes of eagles when the Dragon felt a human entering the cave. It thought, “It must be the day of the Summer Ceremony.”

The Son of Summer stood in his white gown. The cobbles inside the cave were more jagged than those outside. He wore sandals that protected his feet from the sharp edges, but he was afraid to twist an ankle.

Four steps in, it was completely dark. The Son instinctively turned around but the entrance wasn’t there.

"Is this darkness an illusion or did I go somewhere else?" The Son of Summer stumbled, feeling for a wall.

A small voice spoke in his mind. "Looking for something?"

"The entrance," the Son said with a thought.

"Are you leaving?"

"No, just turned around." It was odd to speak with thoughts and to receive answers the same way.

"Good. Maybe I can help. Where would you like to go?"

"Home. But I know I can't. So I guess I’m looking for what’s next."

"Next in the cave? I am afraid it is all like this. Darkness."

"But you are here, in my mind. How are you doing that?"

"Very astute, my Son. Not every human that enters my cave can hear my voice. Most are too dim witted or else too busy wailing to understand me. But you are different."

“Who are you?”

“Your people call me the Dragon in the Mountain. I bring light to minds that are lost in the dark.”

In front of the Son, a view of the landscape appeared from a high place, like a mountain peak, only this view was moving. The Son saw a wagon returning to town. Further up the road was the town itself where peasants worked and merchants sold. The view turned. The Son saw the forest outside of town. Monsters with shoulders wider than three men and teeth longer than fingers were sitting around cooking fires. The details the Son saw amazed him..

“Do you see what I see?” the Dragon asked.

“Yes. It’s like the view of a bird.”

“An eagle, yes. I’ll show you the cliff where they nest.”

Another view opened to the left of the first. It was bright and just as real. On a narrow cliff stood a girl with thin arms and a stained, yellowed gown. Large nests protruded from every crevice the Son could see. The girl reached into these nests and pulled out bones, fur scraps, and old feathers. She dropped them into the ravine.

“That can’t be,” the Son thought. It looked like his sister. She was brought to the Dragon’s cave the year prior.

“That is your sister, the lovely Daughter of Spring. Here, share her thoughts, feel what she feels.”

The Son felt the wind on bare arms, the cold rock on the same hand that steadied his sister on the cliff. She wasn’t cold. She felt happy, almost ecstatic, to be standing there, caring for those birds as if they were family.

“You’re tricking me,” the Son said aloud.

“I assure you that I am not. I never deceive. It is not worth my time. These humans were also gifted to me.”

A third view opened to the left again. They were all showing at once now. This was a tall-grass plain with sheep and goats grazing. Men and women tended to them with children playing in between.

“These gifts couldn’t hear my voice,” the Dragon said. “They live simple lives behind this mountain.”

“Do you eat the sheep? Or their children?”

Laughter. “They feed themselves with what they raise. I am not cruel. Yet your lives are too short for me to be preoccupied with your provisions."

"Oh?"

"You have potential, my Son, like your sister. That is why I told the Governor in a dream to send me the next sibling of the Daughter.”

“The Governor swears the choosing of gifts to you are by random lottery though it seems to be a lottery of peasant children..”

“Nothing is ever random. Someone or something always chooses. You are correct, I seemed to get the poorest of your lot. Nevertheless, all of these humans have a better life behind my mountain than they would ever have had in a human town.”

As the Dragon sent those words, the Son felt it was true.

“Humans are the specialists in deception,” the Dragon continued. “How many lies did the Governor tell during the ceremony of the Son of Summer?”

The Son spat. “He tells nothing but lies.”

“So far, I have shown you nothing but truth. When your sister stood where you are now, I did the same. She accepted my will as her own and I hope that you will do the same.”

“I know my sister. She wouldn’t let anyone control her. That’s how she won her lottery. She refused to go to bed with a wealthy man.”

“That is true. That is how she came to my attention.“

“What do you want from me?”

“I need a clever human to act on my behalf while I ponder more strategic matters. Your sister was the first. You will be the second."

"Who are you strategizing against?”

“Dragons, mostly.”

“Humans?”

“Sometimes.”

"Tell me more about your affairs."

"In due time, I will share what you need to know. It would take many human lifetimes for me to express more than an ounce of my affairs. Just remember that we will fight the tyrannical and the unjust."

"Okay. I’m convinced."

“You convinced yourself. I only presented Truth.”

“As you say.”

"Turn around."

The Son did. There was a large yellow eye with a black pupil that absorbed all light. In the eye, the Son saw warmth and mercy. The Son took steps toward that black pupil, tripping on rocks, falling, but still pressing on to be closer to that eye.


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