FLASH FICTION INDEX 1 - May 2007-Nov. 2011


Writing challenges, flash fiction, interesting anecdotes, amusements, and general miscellanea.

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Post June 11, 2011, 12:44:29 PM

"The Knowing" Challenge

Me, Myself, and Them

By:
Dean Giles



The hum of the Integrator grew as my body slid into the encasement cubical, the sound echoing like a rasping hellhound.

I was securely strapped, lying on my back confined to the machine. Is there really any need for a blindfold?

The transition stage locked into place with a slight jolt and the humming died down, quickly replaced with a sloshing sound.

In the darkness my breathing was heavy and I fought hard to contain my panic. Will it discover my darkest secrets...? What if it hates me?

Could it kill me and take over my body, masquerading as me...? am I completely out of my mind?

Calm down, relax, you’re okay. It’ll be fine, just like the simulations.


The encasement fluid seeped through the guts of the Integrator, gurgling like a hungry predator. The solution must have a perfect balance or the Essence will die.

Silence. The silence was worse, triggering a primal fear. With no senses to anchor me to reality my mind created visions, visions of death.

Calm down Johnson, you know the drill... just relax.

The silence began to waver, replaced gradually by the sound of pressurised air. The hissing signified the first stage of transition where the Essence melded with the liquid. She was at her most vulnerable in gas form and couldn’t survive for long.

The temperature dropped and the Essence’s complex molecules began to slow as it condensed into a liquid - coalescence was imminent.

What if I’m too weak and can’t accommodate the symbiont...

Think positive! We have their guarantees, and think of the benefits - the knowledge of a thousand cultures.


I imagined the churning solution just inches from my face and the Essence preparing for our joining in her own mysterious way. I heard the distinctive clunk of the heater engage. The liquid was heated and rapidly turned back to gas, and she was released.

I breathed in deeply, like they told me to, and the gas quickly filled my lungs. I tried to ignore the harsh odour, like sulphur, it tasted poisonous.

Will my mother recognise me? Will she still consider me her son...?

Of course she will! They explained the relationship, it’s complementary – nothing is forced. You’re on top of this... all in a day’s work.

Rubbish! They’re just using us for our bodies – we’re just a tool to them...

Calm down and relax... remember why you agreed to this. It’s an opportunity. I am an ambassador, I am history!

Wait, listen.


Quietly at first a deep groaning at the edge of my hearing grew into something else, a voice, a chanting that lingered for a moment too long, like a thousand suppressed screams converging into a horrific symphony. It grew and grew until it consumed my world.

A feeling of agoraphobia overcame me. New emotions entered my mind, thoughts and priorities that were utterly alien to me. I was touched by a mind that was vastly deeper than my own, yet rigidly narrower - it was like staring into the vast depths of a bottomless lake.

With much effort I focused my mind and anchored myself inwards, I concentrated on me, my individuality, I knew I had to or I would lose my mind to this thing.

Movement stirred deep within the chasm and gradually, the whole world seemed to shift. A bodiless face fabricated from the surroundings and rushed towards me. A million tiny fragments came together, endlessly shifting patterns converging to emulate her face.

The face was long, her jaw line pronounced giving the Essence a cold look of authority. Her expression was readable, well emulated.

She looked pained, and I felt the emotion as my own. Quickly it changed to anger. No, she was furious.

‘How dare you deceive us?’ she demanded, my senses danced on the knife edge of her rage.

I tried to recoil, to run, but she was always there following me through every avenue of my conscious mind.

‘You cannot hide from me,’ she screamed, millions of fragments shifting into flames of hair.

‘Please... stop,’ I managed. ‘I don’t understand.’ Every inch of my being was ablaze with pain.

The Essence seemed to calm a little, the hideous face softening slightly against the pitch black encasement of my minds eye. ‘I am the Essence Ellnica,’ she said. ‘Why have you tricked me?’

‘Speak, human.’

My training had not anticipated a reaction this extreme, I felt utterly alone. ‘I have not intentionally tricked you, Ellnica. Please, protocol did not prepare me for this. Why have you reacted this way?’ Will she kill me?

No, think about this logically, she must have a reason for-

‘Human, you claim to be a uni-existent being, yet I enter a body that is already complete. There is no place here for my kind. Why did you keep this from us?’

‘You’re mistaken-‘

‘Do not mock me, Human. I can see your thoughts. I can see that you are already joined.’

‘No, you’re wrong.’

‘Then who is it that you commune with, man?’ she said. ‘Who is this other that you rebound your fears against?’

It took me a moment to understand what the Essence meant, but how to explain... ‘This is how we think – it is only I.’

‘Human, I can see the symbiont in residence. You are mistaken if you think this is a natural part of you.’ The Essence’s collective face changed, its expression became soft, wise even.
I felt her penetrate my memories, searching for the truth. I had nothing to hide and opened my mind to her.

‘Perhaps, human, it is your kind that has been tricked.’

Sympathy crossed her face as she accepted my ignorance. ‘I must leave,’ she said. ‘We cannot be three.’


The End
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Post June 11, 2011, 12:45:36 PM

"The Knowing" Challenge

You Take My Breath Away

By:
Mark Edgemon



He screamed in fierce torment, "This is not happening! Oh God, Don't let this happen to me, Please don't let her die like this!" he bitterly sobbed while caressing his wife's bloody face in his hands. "Oh dear God in heaven, I need her...I need Amanda," he cried in excruciating pain as his voice trailed off. He rocked her lifeless body back and forth in his arms.

Donovan was traumatized feeling blame for her sudden death!

Only moments earlier, he and Amanda were traveling Eastbound on Interstate 10 heading for Phoenix Arizona, just a mile before Exit 145 when their 2011 Ford Expedition was overturned by an unexpected tornado that had touched down briefly in front of their path. He had seen the overcast sky and racing dark clouds, but did not expect this to happen.

"Do not leave me, Amanda! I can't live life without you! I won’t!"

Donovan wept silently.

Realizing she was gone, he looked at the glove box where he had hidden a gun underneath some maps. Intending to kill himself, he reached for it. As he did his weight shifted and the SUV, which had skidded on the edge of a small embankment during the storm, began to topple over to its side, causing Amanda's body to hit a metal object on the floorboard.

Donovan grabbed the driver's side seat belt and pulled himself toward her body. The vehicle had crashed into the side of a telephone poll that caused a loose electrical wire to brake free and brush across the metal shell of the SUV, electrifying it for a brief moment. The jolt reanimated Amanda's corpse for a few seconds, but her damaged body was beyond repair.

Donovan pulled himself to his wife and kissed her lips. Unexpectedly, she exhaled her last breath into his mouth. He passed out seconds later!

*****

He woke up the next morning in a hospital. The nurse informed him the police found him stretched over his wife’s body and had brought him and his luggage to the emergency room.

“Where is my wife?”

“Her body was taken to the county morgue,” the nurse replied as she left the room.

Numb, he picked up the toiletries bag from his luggage and went to the bathroom to take a shower. Five minutes later he shouted, "What the hell!" He had shaven his right leg. He attributed it to grief and continued his shower thinking further about committing suicide.

"No!" he heard someone say. He pulled the shower curtain back, but no one was there.

Finishing his shower, he stood in front of the mirror for a minute, and then wiped the fog away with a towel. With great alarm he noticed he was wearing lipstick! He quickly wiped it off and sat on the toilet.

"Funny," he remarked out loud as the strange occurrences continued, "I never sat down to urinate before!"

Heading back home in a rental car to Louisville, Kentucky, where his wife's body would arrive a day earlier by plane, Donovan continued to explore thoughts of suicide.

"No darling! I do not want this for you!" He heard the voice of his wife deep within him. He was sure he was cracking up.

"Everything will be alright dear. You've got to trust me!"

"Amanda," he said with tears flooding his eyes.

"I'm here baby, inside of you!"

"How? You can't be… I mean, how did you...?"

"You took my breath away, as you always have my darling. I don’t have much time. I'm growing weak! But I want you to know that you must live and believe," Amanda whispered to him.

Amanda was saddened by his lack of will to go on without her. It was disconcerting to think he had been so dependent on her emotionally. She was so very disappointed in him.

“Pull over,” she said in a hush tone.

To his right was a motel with a flashing vacancy sign.

“Turn in baby,” she said lovingly to him.

Lying in bed was like she was all over him…and in him…a sensation unimaginable. It was as if she kissed him up and down his muscular body, controlling his every nuance of pleasure. He laid there drenched in sweat.

He awoke startled the next morning, fearing she might be gone. Faintly, he could still feel her presence.

Preparing to check out, Donovan noticed a crowd of people standing around in the motel lobby. A woman lay unconscious on the floor while paramedics used CPR techniques to revive her.

“Help her,” Amanda told him.

He knelt beside the woman and began giving her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, hoping he was doing it right.

“Okay, ready…hit!” one of the paramedics shouted as Donovan came up for a breath, removing his hands during the defibrillation. After the second jolt, he pinched the woman’s nose and breathed into her mouth once again. This time it drained him for a moment and then he heard the woman gasp. She began breathing again on her own.

He stood up and walked outside the motel lobby no longer feeling Amanda’s presence. He thought it was just like her to spend their last moments together helping someone she didn’t even know.

She was gone.

As he began to walk to his car, he heard the woman calling out to him, “Wait!” He went back in and knelt to her side.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“I didn’t get your name. My name is Donovan!”

“Yes I know,” she said taking his hand in hers looking fondly at him as she whispered in his ear, “It’s me, Amanda!”

Stunned, Donovan looked intently into her eyes as she thoughtfully inquired, “So, how do I look as a blonde?”

“Beautiful! You’re gorgeous princess!” Donovan said crying.


The End
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Post June 11, 2011, 12:47:30 PM

"The Knowing" Challenge

- Co-Winner -



Meat Me in Saint Louey

By:
Bill Wolfe



Beeeep—Beeeep—Beeeep—Beeeep—Beeeep—Beeeep—Beeeep—Beeeep—Beeeep—Beeeep—Beeeep

It was an annoying sound. I had just started to drift-off to. . . .somewhere. . .but just had to say something about it.

“Can you shut that thing up, Doc?”

“Sure, Joe,” Doctor Caruther’s voice was soothing, practiced. The beeping stopped with a click.

Good.

“It won’t be much longer now.”

I wasn’t sure if he was talking to me, or to my daughter and son. Both were there when I closed my eyes. I started drifting again when a thought struck me and I eased back toward consciousness. People would ask: “Were there any last words?” Well, can you shut that thing up are pretty lame Last Words, in my opinion.

“Little Suzy Skitterbutt,” my voice croaked. It was my pet name for my daughter, my first child, and the absolute love of my life. A great-grandmother herself, and an old lady now. But in my mind she was that pale, soft little thing smiling up at me from the table, naked as an egg, feet high and spread wide, giggling when I blew on her round, smooth belly.

She giggled again, and I felt her warm hand squeeze mine.

That did it. That was enough. I could go now.

The doctors called it systemic organ failure, but that’s just a fancy term for good, old-fashioned, old age. I’d had ninety-seven years of very good health. I kept both my wits and my teeth to the very end. And now it was time to move on.

I let myself drift. . .


WELL IT’S ABOUT GODDAMN TIME.

What? Who said that?

YOU HEARD ME? GOOD. IT MEANS IT’S ALMOST OVER. YOUR LIFE, THAT IS.

Who are you?

FUNNY. I’VE BEEN LIVING IN YOUR HEAD FOR EIGHTY-FIVE YEARS, BUT I GUESS WE’VE NEVER REALLY BEEN FORMALLY INTRODUCED. MY NAME IS BORBBLEMDLFRBSHMOB. BOB, FOR SHORT.

Must be oxygen deprivation to the brain. I’m hallucinating.

NOPE JOE. I’M REAL ENOUGH.

Who. . .What are you?

SINCE YOU CAN HEAR ME, I GUESS IT WON’T DO ANY HARM TO EXPLAIN. REMEMBER BACK IN THIRTY-THREE, WHEN YOU WERE TWELVE AND YOU AND CLIVE WENT CAMPING BEHIND MILLER’S BARN?

Uh. . .yeah. Yes I do.

YOU BOTH WOKE-UP WITH HEADACHES AND SNIFFLES SO YOU BOTH WENT HOME?

And?

HAVE YOU NOTICED THAT YOU HAVEN’T BEEN SICK A DAY, SINCE THEN? EVEN BACK IN THE WAR WHEN ALL YOUR BUDDIES GOT DYSENTERY FROM BAD WATER, YOU DIDN’T GET IT?

That was strange, now that you mention it. I thought it was just good luck.

GOOD LUCK, AND ABOUT A BILLION NANOBOTS KILLING THE AMOEBAS IN THE WATER AS FAST AS THEY COULD.

Nanobots?

YEAH JOE, YOU’RE SWARMING WITH THEM. HAVE BEEN SINCE YOU HAD THOSE SNIFFLES. IT TOOK YOUR BODY A LITTLE WHILE TO ADJUST TO THEM.

Wouldn’t that show on a blood test, or something?

WELL, YEAH THEY WOULD, IF I WAS DUMB ENOUGH TO LET SOME OF THEM GET SAMPLED. I CONTROL THEIR MOVEMENTS AND YOU NEVER GOT A BLOOD TEST YOU WEREN’T EXPECTING, NOW HAVE YOU?

My God, I’ve been donating blood since Forty-One!

SAME THING, JOE. IF I KNEW IT WAS COMING, I’D HAVE ‘EM HIDE SOMEWHERE’S ELSE. I’M NOT STUPID, YOU KNOW. BESIDES, I CAN’T MAKE MORE. CAN’T AFFORD TO LOOSE THEM FOR ANY LITTLE THING. YOU’VE BLED A LOT OUT OVER THE YEARS, BUT THERE’S STILL PLENTY LEFT. THEY’LL DISASSEMBLE THEMSELVES ONCE YOU’VE KICKED AND I’M OUT OF HERE.

So. . .you’re what, King Of The Nanobots?

YOU’RE A RIOT, JOE. NO, I USE THE NANOS TO KEEP YOU HEALTHY, BUT I’M A cVIRCH, A VIRTUAL LIFE FORM. CALL ME A COMPUTER-GENERATED PERSON. IT’S ABOUT AS CLOSE AS I CAN COME TO EXPLAINING IT TO YOU. I DON’T KNOW ANY WORDS THAT YOU DON’T KNOW.

I never heard the word BORBBLEMDLFRBSHMOB, before.

GOOD POINT. THING IS IT’S NOT REALLY MY NAME, IT’S JUST AS CLOSE AS I CAN COME TO IT IN A FORMAT YOU’D UNDERSTAND. CLIVE WAS INHABITED BY A dVIRCH, THAT’S A DOWNLOADED ORGANIC PERSON WHO’S DOING A STINT IN VIRTUAL FOR REASONS OF HER OWN. HE’D BE KICKIN’ ABOUT NOW, TOO, IF HE’D LIVED.

His foxhole took a direct hit from a German Eighty-Eight outside of Bastogne, back in Forty-Five.

YEP. NANOS ARE GOOD FOR CANCERS AND VIRUSES AND SUCH. NO MATCH FOR ARTILLERY, THOUGH. I BET STRANVIEN IS PISSED THAT I GOT TO RIDE THE FULL RIDE AND SHE WENT HOME EARLY.

So how’d you two. . .uh. . .get here? In our minds, that is.

PRETTY MUCH HOW YOU THINK. TINY LITTLE SPACESHIP, SIZE OF A BASEBALL. IMPLANTED ABOUT A PICOGRAM OF COMPUTRONIUM AND THE NANOS RIGHT UP YOUR NOSE. THAT’S WHERE I LIVE, BASICALLY. IT’S THE STUFF THAT MAKES ALL THIS POSSIBLE. ENOUGH STORAGE SPACE FOR A WHOLE PERSONALITY WITH PLENTY TO SPARE FOR LEARNING NEW THINGS.

That’s. . .that’s immoral! Isn’t it?

NOT WHERE I COME FROM. BESIDES, YOU’D HAVE DIED OF LIVER CANCER BACK AROUND NINETY-FIVE. WE DON’T TAKE ANYTHING WE DON’T PAY FOR. I’LL UPLOAD JUST AS SOON AS YOU KICK.

Why are you here? Some sort of spy?

HELL NO, JOE. I’M A cVIRCH. THAT MEANS I’M A CONSTRUCT. I’VE NEVER LIVED AS ANYTHING ELSE. I WAS CONSTRUCTED INSIDE WHAT IS BASICALLY A REALLY BIG COMPUTER, THOUGH THE WORD DOESN’T DO IT JUSTICE. IT KEEPS US AROUND BECAUSE IT STUDIES ALL KINDS OF LIFE, ALL THE TIME. I JUST WANTED TO SEE WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO LIVE AN ORGANIC LIFE IN REAL TIME.

Hope you weren’t disappointed.

DON’T TAKE THIS WRONG, JOE. I MEAN, THERE WERE SOME NEAT THINGS. SEX IS INTERESTING, THOUGH I WISH YOU’D GOTTEN LAID MORE. THE WAR, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU KILLED THAT KRAUT WITH YOUR SHOVEL, THAT WAS COOL. I LIKED YOUR KIDS WHEN THEY WERE LITTLE.

But. . . . .

WELL JOE, I GOTTA’ TELL ‘YA.

YOUR LIFE. . . . . .


Out with it, Bob.

MOST BORING VACATION EVER!


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Post June 11, 2011, 12:48:39 PM

"The Knowing" Challenge

- Co-Winner -



Uneasy Lies

By:
J. Davidson Hero



From the cave entrance Zhiyuan looked out across the desert plain. The mountains, just a short distance beyond, were painted maroon by the fading light of Arun’s sun. The wind suggested a storm was coming. But the ground seemed to be calling to him. He felt a connection now that was more than imagined, a connection to this arid planet that was not his home.

“If Dr. Suen and his scientists had their way, I’d have missed this… this perfect day,” he thought. The sky was a striking blue, reminiscent of Earth and the air was clear except for a hint of dust. “I’d have been cooped up in a room at the hospital in Settler City from the moment I joined with the Crown Spore. This is better,” he told himself. He looked at the Fel who was standing behind him, its huge rock-like hands outstretched, like some midwife trying to fathom the progress of the joining he was undergoing. It stared at him with tiny eyes, its face like a hippopotamus. “Soon the spore will speak, my friend, and you will better understand,” it said in gravelly Felese. Zhiyuan smiled and tried not to think of Huan.

For two years he had led the type of life he imagined ancient monks had on Earth millennia ago. In silence he had meditated within this cave complex preparing his mind and body in the ways of the Fel. According to them, he needed to purge his animal instincts. There were no luxuries and no distractions, and he had subsisted mostly on a Fel diet. That had been the hardest. He often wondered if he was up to this at his age. But this was his chance to accomplish something truly amazing. As ambassador he had pushed the Fel into agreeing to this. Fel spent a lifetime preparing for the joining, but he promised them he could be ready in two years. If successful, he could assure humans an advantage on this planet that two generations of diplomacy hadn't eked out. It would assure a place here that humans desperately needed.

When he first saw the plant the spore came from, Zhiyuan had thought it looked like a giant cactus. He felt the lump on the back of his neck where the spore had been implanted. It had grown to the size of an orange. He tried to visualize its tendrils growing through his body and his hand went to the vine-like ridges that had formed under the skin of his skull. He welcomed it and had long been desensitized to any aversion to it. The joining of the Fel and the Crown Spore had produced vastly superior beings, with intelligence that surpassed humans. The Crown Spore had the ability to keep the Fel alive long past their natural lifespan, while the Fel provided the Crown Spore with hands and feet, the tools to build a civilization. But their population was small, and slow growing, and when humans arrived on Arun in search of space to settle, the Fel were fearful of a race that it couldn’t help but see as fast-breeding invaders.

“Ambassador, how are you feeling,” a voice asked from behind. It was Dr. Tai. "Thank the gods it's not Huan's shift," Zhiyuan thought.

"I'm fine. I think it will happen soon. I'm surprised Dr. Suen isn't here himself."

Tai checked Zhiyuan's vitals. "He would have been, but the Fel have been very protective in these last stages. They are only allowing one visitor at a time and Dr. Suen thought it best that the medical doctors should be here as opposed to the xenologists."

"I didn't know he cared that much about my health," Zhiyuan said. It was no secret that Dr. Suen had wanted to be the one to undergo the joining.

"I don't think he does," Tai said with a chuckle, "But he wants to get as much data as possible. You know… for the next time."

Zhiyuan looked back out across the plain.

"Oh," Tai whispered as he finished up, "Lin Huan said she wishes you well, Ambassador. I think she has a crush."

Zhiyuan exhaled slowly and closed his eyes. He pictured Huan's face. Youthful and bright, Dr. Suen had added her to the rotation of doctors seeing him in the last six months. He couldn't stop thinking about her; it was like he was a boy again. "Like a teenaged fool," he told himself, "Or an old one rather." Perhaps it was just the isolation.

And then it happened. It was as simple as a flower blooming, or the sun rising. The Crown Spore and Zhiyuan made contact. And within that moment he was no longer apart from Arun. And he realized for the first time that the dust in the air, the ubiquitous dust he had inhaled with every breath of the last two years, was laden with microscopic spores.

All Crown Spores were essentially cloned beings, the product of asexual reproduction. But what the Fel had kept hidden was that the plant was a collective intelligence and the tiny spores in the air allowed each Crown Spore to be connected with every other joined Fel on the planet. Zhiyuan now via his symbiont had a direct audience with that collective.

They spoke to Zhiyuan, first in impressions, then words in a chorus of his own voice. They read his memory and experiences and measured the man and his species. "We had no idea… you lie… you lie to yourself at every turn," the voices said. "You tell yourself your motives are honorable, but what do you truly seek? Personal ambition… to fulfill animal lusts… you try to cloak these in reason and logic… but you fail. What did you do to your own planet? You are an infestation."

For two years he had prepared, in two minutes they had passed judgment. Zhiyuan continued to stare at the distant mountains, the beautiful mountains, as tears ran down his weary face.


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Post June 11, 2011, 12:52:32 PM

"It's the Little Things" Challenge

The challenge was to start telling the tale of a simple, everyday event like taking out the trash and then change it into a Science Fiction story without resorting to using any 'crutch' techniques, like dropping in aliens or time travel.
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Post June 11, 2011, 12:54:09 PM

"It's the Little Things" Challenge

Lies That Sustain Us

By:
Mark Edgemon



“I need a diazepam,” Sol muttered as he made his way past the overflowing garbage can towards the kitchen. He glanced amongst the clutter for a spot to set his half-eaten frozen dinner. He plopped the carton onto the countertop, sending a swarm of insects shooting out from underneath the pile of previous microwaveable containers. He moved his arm along the countertop to scoop a few hundred bugs into the sink, turning the hot scalding water on them, which sent them swirling down the drain.

Bugs made him nervous. “Did I just take a diazepam?” Sol thought as he opened the bottle he kept close. He found a partial cup of coffee that had been sitting on the stove for days and washed down the 2 mg dose. Diazepam was the generic version of Valium. His pharmacy gave it out to seniors for $4 a month otherwise he couldn’t afford them.

He skidded as he turned toward the living room, his slippers smeared with crushed insects, making the kitchen floor slippery.

Rounding the corner, he saw a dark image sitting in his recliner.

“Hey, who are you and what are you doing in my chair?” Sol demanded adamantly.

“Surveying and surmising for the devil,” came the reply.

Walking in front of the chair, Sol noticed that the figure looked like a shadowy version of himself, except for an eerie dark feeling that made his skin crawl.

“And what have you surveyed and surmised?” Sol replied.

“That you’re not too smart…old man,” the carnal one spoke in a derisive tone.

“I hope you’re not just blowing smoke,” Sol replied threatening, “The inhalation will kill you”.

Sol was nervous by the exchange. “I need another diazepam,” He said as he took a pill from the bottle.

“That’s your fifth one today…fool. You’re only suppose to take 1 every 12 hours,” the darkness taunted.

“I don’t care, I don’t care, it’s only 2 mg each. I know what I’m doing!” Sol defiantly stated as he gulped the pill down before reason could set in.

The room suddenly grew darker. Sol put his hand on the wall to steady himself. He was feeling the effects of the Valium.

“Your daughter would be taking care of you now if you hadn’t run her off,” the image said while examining the redness in Sol’s face.

“Bull!” Sol stated angrily at the implication that he ever did anything wrong.

“Really?” the darkness commented salaciously.

*****

As a shaft of light from an unknown source illuminated the wall above the fireplace, a scene unfolded of their last encounter; retelling a moment he had long since forgotten and had wanted to stay forgotten.

“I don’t need you, I don’t need anyone! You can go anytime, Suzanne!” Sol demanded, his black angry eyes staring a hole through her.

“But what will you do, how will you make it on your…?” she cried as he cut her off with his one-upmanship display, pridefully dominating the conversation.

“You can leave me just like your mother did,” he said despising his wife for not being there to wait on him hand and foot. “She’s probably dead now. She couldn’t make it without me!”

“She remarried,” Suzanne said meekly, not wanting to hurt him.

“She is?” he said in a momentary pitiful tone. “Is she happy?” he asked, hoping that she was not.

“Yes, pappy. She is very happy,” Suzanne said wistfully.

He thought for a moment in quiet reflection and then his face hardened. “Well, to hell with her…and to hell with you! I’ll call you when I need you!” he demanded. He forgot to get her phone number as if his pride would ever let him call her.

*****

The carnal image interjected, “You have spent your entire life playing a victim of circumstance in every situation. And you ARE a victim in a manner of speaking, held captive by your own pride. But you are so full of manure, it’s hard for anyone to give a damn!”

“I need a diazepam,” Sol said as he fidgeted with the bottle.

“You’re brave for a crazy ass fool!” his base carnality spoke observing Sol’s demeanor.

“Yeah, well…crazy comes with a second set of balls,” Sol defended himself as he took Valium number 7.

“Okay,” the carnal man said laughing, “I think I know what you mean, but…”

“What if I decided to sit on you?” Sol said fast and erratically, beginning to get agitated. “Yeah, I’ll sit on you. How would like that, huh? I’ll jump up and down on you, how about that!” Sol said backing up so he could jump onto the chair.

He attempted to jump into the recliner feet first, but slipped and slowly began to fall. He remembered having more strength earlier in his life. He hit his head on the end table, causing roaches to scurry down its sides and onto the recliner. He fell backwards onto the floor, hitting his head once again, leaving a second gash this time on the back of his skull.

Sol cried. His tears poured from his eyes onto the filthy floor. He knew there was no one to help him. He knew he had run everyone off who had ever loved him. He accepted for the first time, that he was a fool as life seeped from his body.

*****

His daughter was across town when she felt her father’s presence, as if he was there with her. It felt as if his arms were about her, as if to say if he had it to do over again, he would have loved her proper.

She called his house, but there was no answer.

Upon arriving to his home, she opened the unlocked door and found his body on the living room floor, cold, covered with insects. Tearfully, she brushed them off of him, saying to herself while slowly shaking her head, “Oh pappy.”


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Post June 11, 2011, 12:55:56 PM

"It's the Little Things" Challenge

Lift of Fear…

By:
Sergio Palumbo



Aidan’s standard day had become a bit flat, lately: taking the lift down to the labs inside the building’s basement, then connecting to the lan and following the procedure.
He got in at the same hour,except holidays.So far nothing new from the day before had occurred, the same old routine he was already accustomed to kept on month by month, just like today…At every stop some people went in, other technicians exited, nothing else.
But this time the lift stopped at the fourth floor and three people--one young dark-haired woman and two slender middle-aged men(one greying, the second hairless)-- came in.”Two of them are well-dressed,calm and uncommunicative, different from the usual customers, while the last one looks like a down-at-heel salesman” Aidan considered, having his teal blue eyes on them.
Suddenly, the car stopped.At first the three individuals remained motionless, then, as the halt was unexpectedly protracting, the tallest one pushed the emergency button, then everyone simply waited.
An explosion was heard in the distance and a shaking hit the lift they were in.At that point the woman started crying out.
-What’s on?- Aidan asked- A terrorists’ attack?-
The greying man of about fifty stepped forwards,bowed his head,folded the hands and began praying, commending his soul to God by telling the same old litany heard over and over again.This didn’t stopped the shaking.
On the contrary, the other one and the woman continuously complained and swore.Nothing happened for long.But as the first one started praying again, the shaking worsened.
Then,the tallest one asked the religious man to stop praying, saying that he was an atheist and such things were of no help to them.The woman, too, revealed she was an atheist.
-Maybe everyone here should simply follow the Chosen Ones’ teachings…- the tallest man bursted out- Their rituals had always protected me and my career…-
The woman had a look at him, adding- Me, too…the Chosen Ones’ Sect I’m in gives some precepts that could sound weird to the ordinary people, but those really turn out to be very helpful…-
-So, are you from the Chosen Ones, too?So we are well protected!- the man smiled.
-Yes, yes…you’re quite right, our sect’s teachings always work!Our wishes are always granted in the end…-
The praying salesman was listening-- unseen-- to them, when another explosion resounded nearby.He stopped praying and turned to the others-What are you piffling?-
-Your prayers risk only to make matters worse…-
-What if the teachings of your sect are the real cause of all this?-
-Don’t even think of it!It’s your fault!-
The man turned back and started praying again.At that point the car was so badly shaken that everyone became terror-stricken, then he immediately ceased his litany, crying.
The woman looked at him hopefully -You see?Stop praying,please!-
Eventually,the man did as requested-So what…?-
-Open your mind to our teachings…-
-What teachings?-
-Just forswear your religion,join our sect…-
-Why your teachings should be better than some old religious precepts?
-Listen to me: I was only a busboy twenty years ago, then I joined the Chosen Ones and my life changed, my career took me in brief from being a nobody to owing the company I worked for…-
-Me too!- the woman intervened- I’m a successful manageress now, having been only a poor retainer for long, before joining…-
The man looked doubtful-Actually, I’m not so religious after all,it’s only a custom…so,what should I do?-
-Give your soul to the Devil…-
-Nonsense!Aren’t you an atheist?-
Another explosion made the car sway.
-Think of it again, man…it’s only the requested formulary, no need to believe in such things…-
Some smoke started entering the lift-Join us,or we all will be lost!-
-Will it suffice?-
-Just give it a try…-the woman said.
Watching the fires already visible sideways,he accepted-Ok,ok, I do…I give my soul to the Devil!-
The smoke began retiring immediately, but the lift was mildly shaken again.
-What about you?- the woman told Aidan, who had been unable to speak for a long time.
-Ok, ok, I do, too…- Aidan repeated soon.
-Now it’s done!-the tallest man stated.
-It’s binding!You sold your soul, man…now you’re ours!- the woman added.
-Unblock the lift now!- the (formerly)praying man ordered.
-Let me introduce ourselves:we are old demons usually using this lift just to test humans…most of them give their soul to the Devil to save their life, finally.All the damages you heard or saw were artificial, it’s all due to our powers…-
-Pleased to meet you, but I’m not a human…-
-What are you saying?-
I’m Aidan: Automatized Investigating Device for Anomalous Nobblers, a Cyborg, some living tissues on metal,an artificial brain in my head…I work for some human researchers who knew that in this lift some strange paranormal events happened over the recent months.They sent me here to study such things…but I am not a real man.-
-So you have not a soul….?-
-I have not-
-You look quite like a man…-the greying one noticed the lifeless look in Aidan’s eyes.
-Humans will make me go mad!All their weird technicalities…- the first demon exclaimed.
-You proved very useful for my keepers’ researches…-
-We are monitored…get off now!- the second demon ordered.
As the lift opened, the three started running away.
-Please, don’t worry,next time things will go better for you…-Aidan said.
-Hold your tongue!- a voice from afar told him.


The End
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Post June 11, 2011, 12:56:44 PM

"It's the Little Things" Challenge

The Perfect Sauce

By:
J. Davidson Hero



The boys sat on the floor with their legs crossed, bodies tensed, and looks of complete concentration constricting their faces. Their tiny fingers in practiced synchronization tapped a rapid cadence on their controllers. A steady song of blips and boings issued from the TV as a pair of multi-colored sprites with oversized hammers jumped from virtual platform to virtual platform in a race after floating neon mushrooms and hopping pink vampire bunnies. Meredith was happy.

She surveyed the damage. The boys had littered the living room floor with dozens of toys. She danced around a large yellow dump truck and two green tractors, negotiated a pile of building blocks and disparate puzzle pieces, and then vaulted a pile of stray parts from a Magco Connecto Robot set. She figured she should tackle that mess first, the boys being especially unresponsive to her pleading for them to clean up their own toys when they were playing video games, but there was something more pressing. The dishes from lunch, spattered with spaghetti sauce, were still on the table. She reached for her blue veederm gloves. She always expected the smell of latex as she pulled them on, they had that consistency. So she let one snap into place just below her elbow with the determination of someone ready to clean the place from floor to ceiling.

"No matter how advanced technology becomes," she thought, "spaghetti sauce will always be messy." She thrust her hands into the hot sudsy water that was filling the kitchen sink. The heat was intense. It was almost burning her hands, but she kept them in.

"Is this your idea of a good time?" Bradley asked walking in and leaning against the fridge. His shirt was half open revealing his sweat-slick chest. A roguish smile nestled in a swath of five o'clock shadow was made even more devilish by a mock scowl. Meredith blew at a tuft of hair that habitually fell into her face whenever she tried to work and then looked at him. The heat of the water still engulfed her hands. He was so out of her league.

"Yes," she said emphatically. She reached for another plate and tried to ignore him. "What's wrong with doing the dishes?" He was on the prowl and he wouldn't stop advancing until he had successfully distracted her.

"Wasn't talking about the dishes. All of this." He made a dismissive flick with one hand.

Meredith looked down at the plate in her hands. Streaks of brilliant red were dripping off the porcelain and tinting the suds. She could see her reflection in the plate and she ran her gloved finger along the edge and it squeaked. She wondered how much work had gone into making the perfect sauce.

"If you are referring to the boys, I'm not going to discuss it," she said. She continued to look down into the suds. Her brow was furrowed. She knew what was coming. He couldn't be blamed though, it was just the way he was.

"Well, it's not my idea of fun," he snarled, "…this playing house."

"And just what do you expect me to do?" she asked. She refused to look at him again. She knew what he expected. He didn't want the boys to be around… ever. Although he'd never come right out and say it. He just wanted her to himself. Meredith didn't know how to reconcile this. Part of her was thrilled and flattered, but part was just repulsed by his childishness.

"Just get rid of them," he said coming up behind her.

Meredith grabbed a towel, started drying her hands, but still avoided making eye contact with him. Then she reached for the right tone, the one where the boys actually listened to her. "Boys, why don't you go outside?" She looked into the living room. She had their attention. "Now. It's perfect outside. Go play catch or something."

There were some moments of grumbling and characteristic whining, but finally the patio door slammed and she watched out the window as they raced across the carpet of green lawn. They found a favorite spot beneath the maple tree and started tossing a softball back and forth. Beyond the fence a clear blue sky stretched on into infinity. Meredith wished she could feel the warmth of the sun on her whole body,

"Why don't you go out and play with them?" she asked.

"Please," he said scoffing. "I'm not daddy material, babe. You know that, and the sooner you get that delusion out of your head, the happier we'll be. Why don't you get rid of them for good?"

She was shocked that he had the gall to ask that. She knew what he was, but still, he shouldn't be that brazen.

"But I… I love them," she said at last almost surprised by her own admission.

"And what about me? Do you love me too?" He asked mocking her.

She reached up to touch him tracing the line of his jaw, feeling the sharp ridges in his face, the bristle of his eyebrows, the roughness of his stubble. Every bit the perfect rogue. She looked into his brown eyes; here too she could see her reflection.

Some day she would have to save up enough to buy a full-body veederm suit. But for now this was enough. She put one hand on Bradley's chest careful not to lean against something that wasn't really there. With the other hand she ran her fingers through his thick hair, the veederm giving her the impression of form.


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Post June 11, 2011, 12:57:47 PM

"It's the Little Things" Challenge

Duex Cerveau

By:
Michele Dutcher



“Water loving mammal – five letters.” The nanny chewed on the end of the pencil, trying to concentrate. “Second letter ‘T’. 24 down – needle opening.” Her voice trailed off as she glanced over at Shadwick, the four-year-old she was babysitting. He had his back to the TV, and he seemed to be studying her heart-shaped, brown face. “Did you enjoy our trip to the museum today?” she asked, laying the book of EZ Crosswords on the coffee table.

Shadwick smiled broadly, but said nothing, as usual.

There was the slamming of the back door. “I’m home,” shouted Cheryl Lambert, a sack of groceries hitting the table. “Supper smells good!”
The nanny went in to the kitchen to help her employer put away the food.

“Shadwick and I went to the museum again today. He seems so happy there.”

“What does he look at?” asked the mother, flipping off her low heeled shoes.

“He really likes this one old book there – the small plaque in front says Voynich – but it’s opened to a center page, so I don’t know if that’s the title or the author.” The nanny handed Cheryl a can of spaghetti sauce.

Cheryl began shouting in a sing-song tone: “Shaddy, honey, you need to wash your hands.” The mom glanced through the door and was surprised to see her son drawing on Rachel’s crossword puzzles. The boy stood up and quickly headed into the bathroom.

The mother picked up the book and handed it to her nanny. “I’m sorry if he drew on your book…”

“No, no, look at this! He worked out the puzzle I had started and half of the next one as well!”

As the tiny child reappeared, the women were totally silent, not knowing what to say.
***
The man in the white lab coat approached Cheryl with a broad smile. They both began to watch Shadwick as he joyously solved one puzzle after another. “He’s amazing, really. We’ve had him working on crosswords since he came out of the MRI. He seems to start with a clue in the middle, then work outward, as if he’s just using how the words are connected and the number of letters required to solve them.”

“He’s always been so quiet and withdrawn.”

“Einstein didn’t speak until he was four.”

“Did the brain scan show anything?”

The doctor took Cheryl aside, leaving the delighted child to his puzzle books. “According to the initial scans, your son has a rare condition known as Duex Cerveau – literally ‘two minds’.”

“You mean like a split personality?”

“No, no. He has two completely different mind signatures living inside one brain. Imagine two Einsteins in one skull. Fantastic! Has he shown any interest in books before?”

Cheryl thought for a moment. “There was a book at the museum at Harvard – Maybe Voyner…or Voy..”

“Voynich? The Voynich Manuscript?” He stepped over to a counter and picked up his iPad. He drew up an image and took it over to the child who grabbed the device, rushing from page to page.

Over the next five months, it would appear to Cheryl that she had lost her son, as he withdrew into the document on the screen, studying it for hours, only looking away from it long enough to eat and sleep.
****
Cheryl Lambert had arranged the seats in her front room facing one wall, as if a child were performing a simple play he had made up over the course of an afternoon. The guests who occupied those dozen seats, however, were anything but ordinary. The scientific world had come knocking on her door – waiting eagerly to see what conclusions he would draw.

There was a definite hush in the room as the five-year-old boy took his place beside a computer in the front. Shadwick pushed a button and the PowerPoint presentation began, using a computer voice. “In the 1970s Prescott Currier postulated that the Voynich Manuscript was written by two people who were completely correlated. I believe my translation deviates only slightly in that I believe it was written by one person who was hardwired as I am – with two minds. That is why it has taken all these centuries for the document to be correctly translated. I first examined the Herbal portion of the manuscripts, in order to get an overall picture of the document. Some of these plants were indeed grown in Europe during the middle ages. However, the majority of these drawings were details of plants grown on this world certainly – but not on this world’s time-space: in a separate dimension.”

There were shocked expressions throughout the room as the boy made time for the outburst before continuing with the presentation. “The Voynich Manuscript was written between 1403 and 1417, but the question has remained: how did the author see the spiral Andromeda Galaxy two centuries before the invention of the telescope? Newbold’s translation of the paragraph was correct: ‘In a concave mirror I saw a star in the form of a snail.’”

"The author was actually caught up and transported to a land where the normal is what you call Duex Cerveau – where everyone has two minds. This condition has the advantage of seeing all things from at least two perspectives – which lessens conflict. In a world that had never known war, their science was much further advanced than we were. It leaves the question: in this other world, what advancements have been made during the last 600 years!

“There are pages in this document which provide a description of how this earlier Duex Cerveau travelled into this other world. The doorway is only open periodically and open only to we of a similar mind, which is why I chose to give my farewell speech tonight. I will return, but I know not when.”

At this, the child began to fade before anyone could reach him, disappearing completely just before the words, “I love you mama – I’ll see you soon,” tumbled out of empty space.


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Post June 11, 2011, 12:58:37 PM

"It's the Little Things" Challenge

Look before you Leak

By:
George T. Philibin



“Let the dog out. I have to get to work early. Randy did you hear me? Randy!”

“Okay Mon--I’ll put Old Smelly out.”

“Don’t call him smelly either!”

“Whatever---he needs a bath you know.”

“Well, then when you get home from school you can just give him one!”

“It’ll be the last bath he’ll ever need!”

“Put him out now and make sure you let him in before you leave, got that!”

“Yeah- okay—whatever,” Randy said.

Randy waited until his mom went upstairs, then opened the door to the side-yard and left Boozer--Old Smelly--out. Hope, Randy’s mom, had enclosed the side-yard with a white- picket fence then planted a small garden in it. She was proud of her garden, and didn’t want Boozer in it. But it was easier to let Boozer out into the side-yard because Randy didn’t have to go out and tie Boozer up.

Once outside, Boozer looked up at Randy and said with his eyes, “I-Don’t –Smell!’

With a sniff here and there, and the odors of rabbits or skunks not floating around the yard, Boozer sat and thought about life.

Every day they get up in the morning and put me outside. They say, “Did anyone let the dog out?” Boy you would think that by now they would have this morning routine down pat! But do they? Hell no.

You see, this all happened when they left me out earlier than usual in the morning in the side-yard! I decided to use the outside light-post for once---I never used it because I was always put out later and in the back yard. I always wanted to water the damned thing---you know how it is when you’re a dog. Something sticking up in the yard just tempting me. Oh, well, that’s history now.

When I got finished watering the light-post and lowering my leg, I heard a sizzling sound; then saw flashes of light, and then something bright surrounded the post from top to bottom! Sparks shot out from the top of the light-post and dissipated into the air. Then a halo around the post spread-out farther and engulfed me! I tried to run but my legs were going nowhere-- like I was up in the air. I couldn’t see the house anymore but heard Hope scream, “My god what the hell’s that. Where’s Boozer? Randy get Boozer!”

“Hey, I’m not going out into that!” Randy screamed. “Sparks are striking the light- post---look!”

One, after another, after another bolts of static electricity sizzled from the light-post and produced a swirling effect of colored lights, merging and dancing together and splitting apart as if the whole were the finale of the Eighteen Twelve Overture.

Call 911!” Hope screamed. Randy called.

The yard started looking weird with things floating around---a squirrel running on all fours but up in the air---and even Boozer behind the squirrel moving his legs but not as fast as the squirrel’s. The grass stood up like a punk-rock’s hair, the flowers around the fence were dancing, and vegetables in the garden were smoking. And the crow that had landed for a snack? Well, did you ever see a crow fly upside-down around a light-post? Well, one is circling the light-post now, belly up!

It’s Electronic Fog!” Randy screamed.

“This is no time to joke around,” Hope said.

“I heard about it on the History Channel!” Randy said.

Neighbors came out. Mr. Simmons yelled over, “I called the fire department!”

“Your poor dog ---the poor thing! Can’t you do something about it?” Mrs. Laymond said. “That’s cruelty to animals!”

“I can’t go out there,” Hope said.

“Can’t you try?” Mrs. Laymond said. Hope didn’t return an answer.

A fire-lieutenant pulled up in front of the house and got out. And a fireman with him jumped out the other side. Sirens were following them and within a minute the fire trucks would be present.

The fog or cloud that engulfed the garden was centered over the light-post, and the light was flashing as sparks and now ball-lighting started to circle around the garden. Some balls of light sped off up into the sky while others danced along the fence or floated around the light-post.

A fire engine stopped, and then another, then an emergency vehicle and a police car.

Within a moment, a squad of firemen and two police officers were standing in a line only a couple feet away from the fence. The odor of ozone and burning grass and a sizzling sound greeted them. Their mouths open, their eyes wide, and their faces becoming caulk-white. Even the black firemen!

“Cut off the main breaker,” George, a neighbor yelled who once worked in an electric generating station.

Without a moment’s delay, one of the firemen ran into the house and pulled the breaker.

Outside, the sizzling and static electricity started to wane and the halo around the light-post dimmed more and more until it faded. Boozer and the squirrel floated down to the ground; the crow right-sided itself and flew away like a jet fighter taking off from an aircraft carrier.

All became quiet. And the firemen checked out the garden and especially the light-post.

“Look here,” one fireman shouted to the lieutenant. “Looks like a mole or groundhog chewed the insulation off the wires. Whatever did it dug down to get the wires. Imagine that.”

“That would not cause what happened!” the lieutenant said. “I don’t know what the hell we witnessed here---but believe me, in all my years with the department this is the strangest.

Boozer ran into the house, and Hope grabbed him and said, “Are you okay boy? You look okay.” She hugged him until he squirmed free.

Booze looked around and found Randy’s eyes. “You really thought that was funny kid? Just wait until you’re asleep. O boy, just wait until you’re in dream-dream land,” Boozer thought.


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Post June 11, 2011, 01:00:11 PM

Re: FLASH FICTION INDEX

- Winner -



A Dental Persuasion

By:
Richard Tornello © 2011



“OH breath of a thousand camels”.

That’s what she called me one morning.
“And you ain’t no spring flower either,” I said quickly moving out of her fists way.

“If you want to PLAY this morning you’ll do something about that breath of yours, shave and freshen up. I can wait and I will bring things to a simmer while you’re busy,” she said, smiling, rolling onto her stomach.

Never one to say no to such an invitation I headed into the bathroom. I noticed the two new sonic style tooth brushes. My old battery operated one sat inside a coffee mug along with the stimulator and regular brush. The old one has a rotary head and a pulsing brush. It works just fine. The sonic brushes make a humming sound like a UFO in a sci-fi movie.

A creature of habit, I used my old one, shaved and quick showered as per her verbalized commands. After the games had been completed she said, “come on you fuddy-duddy, try the new ones I purchased.”

“I tried it but I don’t feel clean after using it,” I said tongue in cheek. “Since I drink lots of coffee I sometimes mix baking soda with my nonfloride tooth paste.”

“So try it your old way on the new one. You always want me to try new things.” She giggled.

So why not, and I added a glop to the head, put it in my mouth and turned it on. The vibration I felt the first time, really a hum, is different with the soda. I felt a vibration through my entire skull. “What did you just say?” I asked her, my mouth foaming like a mad man.

“Nothing.”

“What do you mean nothing? I heard you say something.”

“I didn’t say a thing. I was thinking about dinner.”

“I must be crazy but I swear I heard you say something, about pizza, clear as day.”


The next morning we were both getting ready for work. The aroma of fresh perked coffee drifted up to our suite from the kitchen below. She looked over at me, “well how did you like it?”

“Like what? We didn’t do anything.”

“The tooth brush, you idiot.”

“I don’t know I sort of like the old one.”

“Give it time.”

“Yeah whatever.” I thought, first your rabbit, now a brush, what’s next?

We’re still in the bathroom; she’s in her scanty undies brushing her teeth as I watch. She put the whole tooth brush in her mouth in a most provocative manner and looked at me.
I was thinking a quickie would be nice, and about all sorts of positions. I notice that she dipped the brush head into the soda. Her teeth are always sparkling. Why she needs that, I’ll never know.

She looked at me in a strange fashion and said through a foamy dripping mouth, “Not gonna happen. Definitely not THAT!”

“What’s not gonna happen? I didn’t say a thing!”

“A quickie.
“I have to be at work, I have a meeting, and I’m clean.”

“I never said that, and since when did that ever stop you,” and I add, “before we were married?”

She flipped me a finger, the finger with the ring. “I got this,” she said laughing hard.

I wondered. A quickie is not an unusual thing for me to suggest. “I guess I was hoping out loud,” I responded. I knew I didn’t.

####

The following morning we are both bent over our individual sinks brushing with the sonic brushes. She took my brush batteries and hid them. I dip mine in the soda. She mimics me. We begin to brush. I look at her, she looks at me. We both look at the brushes.

I rinse mine completely of toothpaste and soda and brush again. She slowly does the same, staring at me all the while.

I stop, add the paste and soda. She does it too. I brush, she brushes. We stop, toothpaste and soda dripping and foaming from our mouths like two mad dogs.

“What did you say,” I ask.

“No, you first. What did you say?” she responds.

“I was wondering why you like that when you’re so close to orgasm. Then I heard you say that…”

“It brings me higher, just that little push you do,” she finishes my sentence.

I say out loud, “neither one of us said a thing. I though it, and you answered it. Something is very strange here. Where did you say you purchased these brushes?”

“I got them mail order. I saw an ad on the internet something about the best cleaning anywhere in the universe.
“The dentist said sonics work better.”

“Well they do a hell of a lot more than clean that’s for damned sure,” I exclaimed. My old brush never did this. These don’t do a thing with that toothpaste we use. But when we add the soda, the load on the motor changes the frequency and somehow, I’m guessing here, there’s a chemical reaction tied to the frequency and the field of the motor that allows us to convey our thoughts to each other.”

“Yeah, but only in the bathroom while we brush our teeth. A lot of good that will do,” she says.

“Maybe that’s a good thing.” I quickly respond, adding, “We can transmit, but can we block? I’m sure we have private thoughts that are not meant for each other, no less anyone else. Could you imagine?”

“We could learn how,” she says.

At breakfast we look at each other and I tell her, “I’ve been giving this brush stuff some thought. I’m not sure I want to practice mind control, or mind reading on you, or you on me. As much as I wish I could read your mind, I’m not sure I really want to, most of the time anyway.”

She stands up, smiles and says, “Read This,” as her dress slips to the floor.


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Post July 23, 2011, 11:23:59 AM

The Implied Challenge

The challenge was to tell the tale of one or more characters on a planetary orphan caught up in some larger event. Authors were tasked with not describing the world, the character's goal, or their flaw. These had to be implied or shown.
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Post July 23, 2011, 11:26:12 AM

The "Implied" Challenge

Transmit Only

By:
Richard Tornello © 2011



Within the whole of the planet Aeternitas, a highly amplified effeminate voice, with a slightly detectable lisp, reverberates off the deep inner structures:

ACHTUNG, ACHTUNG, ATENCION, YOUR ATTENTION, PA-LEEEZE.

WE ARE APPROACHING AN IMPORTANT POINT PEOPLE, LISTEN UP.

IN 4.32x10 to the 20th femtomoments MAXIMUM UNIVERSAL EXPANSION WILL HAVE OCCURRED, And THE BIG CRUNCH WILL, ta-da, BEGIN.

WE WILL BE CELEBRATING THIS EVENT EVERYWHERE IN TIME-SPACE and ESPECIALLY FOR ALL OF YOU! HERE WITHIN THE, fill in the, OOPS, I MEAN, THE AETERNITAS ORB!

It’s only 4.89921276x10 to the 36th femtomoments to go from there to crunch time, and, WE LOOK BACKWARD TO YOUR CHALLENGE IN UNMAKING YOUR PAST MISTAKES, again. DETAILS TO FOLLOW, again.

Fugio, unmoving, is entombed in a plaster cast from head to foot, and lying in a hospital bed. The only visible openings are two eye holes, a mouth hole, and various apparatuses connected to tubes emerging from different parts of his body. Not a sound is uttered. Monitors mark time with his vital functions.

Ignarus ignores the message and is speaking to Fugio in a monotone, with absolutely no inflection or letup:
“…wandering in life, no real aim, no real goals, here we are, and then we’re not, and look at you, lucky you, all your life is taken care of, no worries, me I’m stuck here, within this dark orb, floating aimlessly, possibly forever, I’m here because of a snafu, it was a simple mistake, a technicality, I’m sure it will be taken care of, hey you’re not talking, well never mind, you’re the silent type, it’s okay, you’re recuperating, I know that, I can see you’re all wrapped up, so I said to the Gatekeeper there must be some mistake, the actions don’t add up to a negative balance, I’m sure, I’ve lived a good life, just look back, that’s what I said, you know, he just looked at me and said nothing, can you imagine that, nothing, so I assumed I had more time to make my case so I elaborated, I was good to animals, children, I helped the old folks, I entertained relatives, donated to good causes, and… Hey you’re not speaking don’t you have a thing to say? well never mind, I’ll let you know that the Gatekeeper kept looking at me so I went on, I asked him when was the last time he had the scales of life calibrated by the certification board, I think he really appreciated that one, my representative says I made a real case and he’s sure that, hey you, Fugio, you moved? you want to say something? no? well I’ll go on with my story, the gatekeeper summoned some of his people, I remember he was pointing at me and he was smiling, well I think it was a smile, he kept pointing up, and looking up to somewhere and said something about someone helping him please and I think someone got it wrong, he must be overworked and made a mistake, because here I am and I know this is not where I’m supposed to be, no not here, why should I have to go through a crunch to redo my life again, what mistakes have I made, none that I can tell, I kept a diary of my exploits every day I wrote it in there and I presented it to the Gatekeeper too, you know this crunch thing is a real pain, you know what? in 4.89921276x10 to the 36th femtomoments, we’ll be a singularity again and we get another get-go to correct our past mistakes, well, that’s well and fine for the others but you you’re blameless just lying there in white, what did you do to deserve that, hey, come on tell me.”

Fugio utters not a sound.

Ignarus continues, droning on,
“…well I’m sure they made a mistake with you too, me I know this will be corrected soon, my representative states that this will all be made right in due time, do you ever get the feeling you’ve been here before? I mean I’m sure it’s not true but I swear I’ve met you before in a past life, now that’s funny, really now,I don’t see a smile, come on, a past life, really? you think you would remember something like this aimless wandering all over creation, and me doing good helping the sick and hurt just like you, I’ll be here to cheer you up until you’re able to walk again and talk, won’t that be great then maybe the two of us can help others to feel better, that is until my representative get me a hearing because I know they made a mistake, I should be one with the, oh you know, and not here waiting for the big crunch, that’s insane you know that, me of all people, bureaucracies they can really make your life miserable, it just takes persistence on your part to make the corrections and then things will be made right, that I do believe, that’s a law of the universes, yes it is, I said that when my time in front of the Gatekeeper was up, yes he was sad to see me get such a mistaken ruling, the tears were streaming down his face as I explained my situation again and that the scales need to be recalibrated and maybe he could use some time off, having to do this for an eternity, and maybe I could help, if he needed it.”

Fugio opens his eyes and but cannot recognize Ignarus through a haze, The voice… THAT voice… that story again, Oh my god, he screams in his head, he’s still here, he never leaves, and passes out. The monitors go blinky.

Ignarus glances up at the monitors, shrugs his shoulders and drones on,
“…you know I think you may have an issue with your monitors, you should get it looked at, but as I was saying, the Gatekeeper had tears of joy running down his face….”


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Post July 23, 2011, 11:27:23 AM

The "Implied" Challenge

If Yanowaddimeen

By:
Michele Dutcher



Mr. Woodcock smirked at the steamer trunk following his friend. "Why are you lugging stuff around when we have business to attend to, Doc?"

"The only business you have in mind is monkey business."

Mr. Woodcock shrugged. "What's in that thing?"

"Oh, in here? – A dead body," the small man answered flatly. He grabbed a stool at the table, looked around the small bar, and the large trunk parked itself nearby.

"You're hilarious, Johnson!" bellowed Big, slapping the table for emphasis. "A dead body indeed."

"The funniest thing is: the more I say it, the less people believe me."

A waitress came over to the men's table, turning to Mr. Johnson. "Can I get you anything?"

"A place to hide this body would be nice," Doc Johnson said flatly. Right on cue, the waitress broke out laughing. "How about a Budweiser, then."

She turned to go but Mr. Woodcock stopped her. "When do you get off, Sugar?"

"My shift ends in five minutes, so I guess I'm getting off seven minutes after that. If Yanowaddimeen."

"I DO knowwatyameen, Sugar."

"I like bald men," purred the waitress, stroking the top of his head.

"This isn't a bald head, this is a solar panel for a sex machine," insisted Big.

"You'll do. I'll meet you out back in ten minutes. And I'll be back in a second with your beer, honey." The happy pair was practically ROFL as she stepped away from the table.

"People sure take customer service serious around here," said Doc Johnson.

"You're welcome to COME along too," Mr. Woodcock told his friend. "If Yanowaddimeen!"

"Yes Larry, I know what you mean - I mean Mr. Big Woodcock. But I'll pass. I'm looking after this trunk and all. Are you sure you wouldn't rather go back to our cabin and play some blackjack?"

"Not a chance, friend. I'm standing firm, IF yanowad..." he stopped midsentence, noting that Doc obviously knew what he meant. "Why would I want to play some blackjack with you, when I could play some POKER with her! I'll probably see you about four in the morning."

"How can you tell time on this piece of ice, Big?"

"It's three shots of Bourbon after they dim the sunbelt."

Sugar was back at the table now, with a beer and two fortune cookies. Big crunched his cookie and read the holograph that popped up. "'You have a keen sense of humor and love a good time.' Boy! Have they got me pegged! Are you going to read yours?"

Before Doc could crunch his cookie, a guy at the next table, who was surrounded by three voluptuous women, began to read his. "'You have a keen sense of humor and love a good time!' Wow! It's like they've met me all personal like!"

"I'd like to meet you all personal like, Honey," said one of the women, resulting in a burst of laughter from everyone at the table.

"I think I have a pretty good idea of what mine says," said Johnson, absentmindedly munching on Mr. Woodcock's cookie crumbs.

"You ready, Honey?" asked the waitress.

"I was born ready!" said Mr. Woodcock, leaving his friend at the table with his crate.

Doc sadly got up from the table, motioned to the trunk to follow, and began to leave the bar. He passed two women who were quietly talking. One lady began twirling a strand of the others hair. "If you want to come up, Bambi, just whistle. You know how to do that, right? – Just put your lips together and BLOW." The other woman pressed her rouge covered lips together and let out a low slow wolf whistle, and the jolly pair joined hands and practically skipped out the door.

He shrugged – it was that time after all. The tiny man thought wistfully of an advertising holo he had seen on a planet circling his home star. It pictured a priest spanking a woman dressed as a schoolgirl who giggled with each naughty slap. Below was the caption: "Sin is fine for a Season – so spend your Season with us. " He remembered that he couldn't wait to get back home to tell Helen – god, he missed her.

Stepping onto the moving sidewalk, Doc saw the Sunbelt blink off. He looked up through the glass ceiling, peering into the center of the Milky Way. The stars looked so warm, but he knew better. The stars were like her, like Helen. He missed her, in spite of how close she was.

Doc's pants pocket began to vibrate and he took out a small communication device. He held it up to his mouth and said emphatically: "I'm not interested Congressman Hot Dog, so stop texting me!"

1:30 A.M.

Mr. Big Woodcock passed his hand over the keylock, and the door shhhhed open. He found his buddy staring at the entertainment wall. "Is that a banana in your pants, or are you happy to see me?"

Doc reached into his pants and pulled out a fruit and began to peel it.

"I see you still have that trunk with you. Can't find any place to put the body?"

"I checked out the freezer downstairs. It wasn't long enough."

"It wasn't long enough? That's what SHE said!"

"Huh?"

"Well, I am home early," Big said sheepishly. Then he looked over at the trunk, beginning to get angry. "I'm tired of seeing this damnable crate. What's really in here, Doc?" he screamed, walking over to it and throwing open the lid. His face was beginning to lose its color as a long "Sheeeeeeeet, Docccc…" seeped out of him, like a balloon running out of air. "What the…" But he never finished the question, because Doc was standing behind him with a raised tool in his hand.


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Post July 23, 2011, 11:30:36 AM

The "Implied" Challenge

Regretfully

By:
Sergio Palumbo



Walking slowly on his four tapered legs along the bottom of the canal artificially made by means of their robots, deep inside the high ice cover, Huw got finally to the control station.

There Kuw, the First Superintendent Tecnician, all wrapped inside his working grey space suit, was adjusting the settings of his check instruments. Next to him his female aide, Wuwa, stood silent.

Huw approached his fellow and opened the broadcast channel in order to communicate with him. "How long do you think this world has been floating alone in space?"

"I don't know, I think more than a thousand years, probably…"

"Did our chief-researchers discover how it has gone so far? Why has it been ripped away from its pristine solar system?"

"They thought it happened because of an abrupt action of the feared Planet Stealers." he replied, turning his triangular helmet to Huw. From the outside, the interlocutor was able to see his hairless, four-eyed head inside. "They are told to have dealt the same way with so many planets, the ones not so evoluted or technologically advanced as they were, which proved unable to stand against them. It is unknown if that happened as a sort of punishment, maybe just to make all the worlds nearby respect them and not to question their resolutions anymore, or cause of some past war…" Wuwa added.

"But no one has seen the Planet Stealers for a very long time in the whole galaxy, there's no record in recent history about them…"

"You're the historian, Huw" Kuw crisply replied. "By luck, they've gone extinct now, likely, or at least they don't roam this space area anymore"

"What do our field officers say?"

"They have already had the bombs placed in the underground, explosion is in two days…" the First Superintendent Technician answered.

"But…have you asked the Council for a new overall evaluation? Don't they see what they're going to do?"

"They won't change their minds, be sure. This lonely planet is dangerously erratic, moreover it's approaching an expanse densely settled. It is too near to our planetary system, too, just to let it go this way simply…"

"That's terrible!" the historian objected.

"Unfortunately, we have the technology to destroy it, putting and end to its pointless going around in space, but do not possess any means to safely avert its course, it's too big, only the Planet Stealers could do it."

"But they are not here around, anyway…" Wuwa softly pointed out.

"That's all you have to say?" Huw cried out.

"I don't want any problem, you know…" Wuwa glanced at him.

"There should be another way…"

"There is not" Kuw intervened. "Don't be selfish, you're forgetting about the safety of our colonies in this sector, just think of it!"

"And what about such a great historic loss? I'll make a formal protest!"

"As you please, but it will be unfruitful, you know"

"Be reasonable, grant me just some time more, do not make the bombs explode! The Council is making an enormous mistake, you know, they will cancel really a wonderful example of alien archaeology: we're speaking of an extinct species…probably this world was inhabited by billions of intelligent living beings in times past. By destroying it, you'll kill all of them twice! We didn't even know how they called themselves, what deeds they achieved… There will be no remains of their civilization afterward. I can't allow you do this!" the historian cried out.

"I am in charge here!" Kuw rolled all his eyes.

"Look at those stones trapped in the ice, consider their size, touch them as I do now...don't you feel the history coming out from them?" Huw insisted, "How many other alien species do you know that built once a Great Wall like this, 5,500 miles long? The same about those strange Pyramid-like structures, and that peculiar statue next to them, found elsewhere on the surface, under this cold cover, or …"

"Don't bother us…" the First Superintendent Technician asked him. "I have a work to be done."

"The same about me," Wuwa said. "The Council may become very teasing at times, if I just try to stand out against that, you know, everything could go awry for us…"

"People disappear when they thwart the Council's plans" Kuw reminded his fellow.

"But…"

"Regretfully, the Council has decided, for the good of all of us. So, please, ask no more!" Wuwa cut him short.

Clouded inside, Huw stretched out his left hand, touched the ruins of that wondrous Great Wall for the last time and let his twenty fingers take account of them once again.

All that was cruel! Didn't they figure out what terrible mistake they were going to do? Was Kuw only an ice-cold, aloof technician or simply didn't he care at all about? –His "work-to-be-done" was the only thing meaning really something to him? The historian couldn't approve, no way.

What about Wuwa? Did she care about something else other than her career? Or, simply, she was too unmanly? Huw didn't know, too.

Was he himself the only one capable of taking care of such matter, the last defender of the ruins of a dead species?

There was really nothing he could do, Huw knew well. He slowly moved away from the control station, dragging all his tired legs, just thinking that there would have been a general outcry from History cause of all that, one day.


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Post July 23, 2011, 11:31:53 AM

The "Implied" Challenge

Watch who you Trust!

By:
George T. Philibin



Monga studies the charts and computer displays along with Kerlunta in the Chamber of Destiny. Monga's long hair shook with awe and Kerlunta's scales hardened themselves as a clear picture started forming in their mind's eye. The asteroid would collide within one month. Action is required now, not theory to save their world, Elwood.

"Are you sure about you calculations?" Kerlunta said.

"Of course I'm sure!" Monga retorted.

Then why didn't you present your findings to the council? It's your duty to!" Kerlunta said.

Because if unchecked data is submitted to them--and it's proven erroneous you will pay with your life," Monga said. "You should know that!"

Kerlunta glared at Monga but Monga shrugged his shoulders and ignored Kerlunta as an older kid would to a younger brother that had just been proven wrong.

Kerlunta's eyes found the Honor Wall where awards to great scientist were displayed. Monga's award, a new one glittered brightly in the light generated from moss-like growth that clung to the ceiling. His eyes widened as he read over the award again and again. Every day he read the award and every day his scales reddened more.

"Surface temperature has increased .5 degrees," Crebs said. He waited patiently for Monga's reply. None came.

"Monga looked at Crebs then said, "Go check my calculations with the crystal grazer. I want another check before I announce what I have found. And I hope I'm in error--for once." Monga looked up a Kerlunta with a deep stare the penetrated into the very caverns of Kerlunta's soul. Kerlunta frowned, for he knew that Monga was never in error.

Kerlunta turned and studied the surface of Elwood through a periscope. Monga studied Kerlunta's tall muscular frame with well-defined muscles that pushed his scales tighter and tighter until they appeared as armor.

Monga looked at his thin arms with loose-skin-clinging to the bones. His face contorted as he thought and watched Kerlunta push his way through or around others for most moved out of his way. Blah, Blah, Blah , Monga thought as he studied Kerlunta for a moment and glared at Kerlunta's necklace--awarded to only those who have won the all-games of physical challenges during the last year in the academy. Monga turned his attention to the crystals that displayed images of the asteroid.

Through the periscope the stars changed into new patterns never seen before every few minutes, and the terrain with its icy winds, and rolling hills and the one active volcano, were photographed and archive for future reference. The core temperature of Elwood remained steady as it had since the first records were kept. This data was a requirement every twelve hours. Kerlunta entered the data, thought for a moment but before another thought came to him, Creds whispered, "It is not an asteroid! It behaves like it's intelligently controlled!

"Let me see your calculations!" Kerlunta whispered.

Creds showed Kerlunta his graphs and projected trajectory of the asteroid and, to Kelunta surprise since Kerlunta was versed in mathematic, Kelunta saw something that Monga had missed. The asteroid did indeed change its direction, a change that could not be attributed to gravity from Elwood, and the asteroid appeared to be slowing down! It was intelligently controlled.

"Gather all you data and meet me in Destiny's cavern. We will approach the council with this data. They will be enlightened that a young two-year academy student has solved this problem of the asteroid. Now, the great Monga will not be so great anymore!

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"You did as I told you?" Kelunta said.
"Yes, sir--I deleted all the info about the asteroid in my work-section and my private -space." Creds said.

"Very good," Kerlunta said. "Let me have the data."

After the Destiny Cavern, they made a right down the Sky-View carven which had large and very thick crystal-windows that let a passer-by look upon the surface of Elwood.

"Let us go into the antechamber and see if we can see it," Kerlunta said

They passed four doors, each thick-steeled, and only Kerlunta or his equal in rank had the codes to open them.

Finally in the antechamber Kerlunta looked up at the sky and showed Creds where the asteroid should be.

"I can see it!! I can see it!! I can see it!! Creds screamed. "Oh my lord, I can hardly wait for permission to come out here on my own...."

Kerlunta backed up and out the door leading into the antechamber. He took a device out of his pocket and threw it in near Cleps's leg.

Kerlunta closed the door leading into the antechamber, then waited. The outer door to the surface of the planet in the antechamber opened on its own, and Cleps could only move two steps until he was turned into a frozen statue---still standing with the device at his feet.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A large space ship almost a mile-long and half-mile wide, landed on Elwood in a month.

"Kerlunta you will have the highest honor on the Great Wall. Without your calculations, we might have fired a missile to deflect an asteroid, and our new-found friend here might have taken it as an act of war."

"I feel the death of young Cleps were my fault..." Kerlunta said.

No, he was just an over-zealous-young man who took your device without permission....


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Post July 23, 2011, 11:34:38 AM

The "Implied" Challenge

- Winner -



The Blind Rebellion

By:
J. Davidson Hero



With some strain Chittik pushed himself up from the icy muck and swam to the edge of the trench to peek out across the abyssal plain. The brisk current was refreshing, but all he could detect in the darkness was the distant glow of Chacrat Vent, a faint infrared crescent that flickered within a roiling black cloud.

"Anything yet?" Bulboo asked. His voice was gruff but Chittik knew that the battle-scarred warrior was making an effort to hide his amusement.

"Nothing," Chittik said and floated back down into the trench.

"The signal will come soon enough," Bulboo assured. "Then the glory of battle will be ours." Bulboo continued to hone the tip of his spear with a stone. The steady rasping sent shivers down Chittik's spine.

Bulboo and the rest of his clan, berserkers from the far north, had just joined the rebellion. They were different from Chittik's people, from a wild cold sea of few vents, most were a head taller, their backs were covered with long bony spines, and their mouths were lined with needle-like teeth that seemed to have outgrown their faces.

"We heard the stories," Bulboo had said on meeting. "You little serfs trying to overthrow Old King Ik." He had ended with a hardy laugh and had momentarily bathed his face in a yellow bioluminescence from the forked photophore that dangled from an appendage near the top of his forehead. Chittik appreciated the display, as gruesome as it was, and flashed a soft orange light on his own face to return the gesture. Then both had settled into the cold muck of the trench to hide their heat.

Chittik's people were thankful. Bulboo's clan had effectively doubled the size of the rebellion army, and now for the first time the serfs felt that they might win. Now they waited in hiding on the border of the king's domain for the signal. Each serf assigned to one of Bulboo's clan to lead the way through the unending darkness to the palace gates.

"So, have you ever seen an ice wyrm?" Chittik asked.

Bulboo laughed again, a huge bubble glugging out of his mouth. "Seen? They do call me Bulboo the serpent-slayer. The north sea is swimming with them. And this very spear has pierced the bellies of a dozen, each fiercer than the last and all large enough to swallow your little army whole. Each spawned by the Great Wyrm herself."

Chittik admired the bravado. He knew the warrior was probably embellishing, but for some reason he wanted to believe there was some truth in it. He looked up into the blackness and imagined the ice that covered the world. According to legend that ice was the body of the Great Ice Wyrm who in searching for warmth had wrapped herself around and around and around the world until she was able to clench her own tail in her mouth. It was a childhood story about gods that Chittik had almost forgotten from a childhood that had been brutally snatched away.

Chittik felt the heat rush to his face. He tried to picture Ikbarchilub's palace, the forces of rebellion surging through its gates. He imagined himself with spear in hand in the vanguard, a ragtag group of young serfs, untrained but determined, the king's guards falling away. But that's as far as his imagination would carry him. His mind, the product of the simple life in the king's fields around a vent, couldn't begin to visualize the extravagance of the tyrant. The abundance of food, delicacies piled high on stone platters, mountains of gems and exotic shells, and all illuminated with the bioluminescence of the enslaved. Then the dream soured and he could only see himself being shoved by a misguided crowd to be the first impaled on the jagged points of the spears. He felt a queasiness in his belly right where he imagined the first spear going in. Then the whispers of the lost that drove him faded away.

"Sometimes I don't know if I can do this," Chittik said. Bulboo's rasping stopped.

"Swallow that," Bulboo said through gritted teeth. "There's no place for it now." Bulboo's intensity shook Chittik. He suddenly felt a current of shame flow over him and wanted even more to just swim away.

Then the rasping continued. "I suppose it is only natural, you are very young, and but a serf. I wish, for a moment, I could remember what you must be feeling. But you've chosen this path freely. Remember that. If you gain nothing else serf, you freed yourself the moment you made this choice."

The photophore that dangled over Bulboo's face lit up with a yellow glow. The tip of his spear was close to his face so that he could inspect the fineness of the point. His beady black eyes were like opaque gems in a mask. He ran his bulbous tongue the width of his gaping frown along the rows of teeth as the light faded.

"Is my spear next to you?" Chittik asked. He raked his flippers through the muck. Submerged in the cool mud he might never find it. "It was leaning here when I went up to look out."

Bulboo got up, the muck sliding off him in sheets and forming clouds of sediment in the water.

"The first thing you must learn little serf is that a warrior never puts down his spear."

Then beyond Bulboo, Chittik saw a red glow further down the trench. "What is that," he asked. Immediately after another sphere of red light appeared and closer yet another. Bulboo turned back toward Chittik; his photophore also lit up with a red eerie light.

"But that's not the signal." Chittik said.

"Yes serf, I'm afraid it is." Bulboo thrust the tip of his spear deep into Chittik's belly. The photophore danced over his face wildly, a red beacon lighting his hideous face and motioning toward his slowly expanding jaws.


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Post August 07, 2011, 05:23:27 PM

The "Devil Within" Challenge

The challenge was to write a horror story of a character struggling to hold a great evil within themselves, one that they dare not reveal.
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Post August 07, 2011, 05:26:09 PM

The "Devil Within" Challenge

The Mangoes Made Me Mad

By:
N.J. Kailhofer



I hated mangoes. I hated them!

It's wrong to be furious at fruit, but they made me angry. Why couldn't they have been good fruit, like an apple or pear or bananas or watermelon? That's real fruit.

"Sure, Aunt Sarah, I'll have seconds on your fruit salad. It sure is good." Stupid relatives. Always asked you dumb questions, then all they did is talk about people you didn't know and then ignored you as you clearly looked like you had no idea who they were talking about. I didn't grow up in that inbred, hick town. I hated hick towns.

"Nick?" Sandy asks. "Can you give the kids a hand setting up the badminton net?"

"Sure, be glad to." Jesus Christ. I was still god-damned eating. I'm sure she saw that. She had those new, ugly glasses on, so she could see. I wanted to keep eating like everybody else at this stupid family reunion she dragged us to every summer. And why me help the kids? It was not even our kids that wanted to play—it was her cousin's kids. She was right there, yacking away with her Uncle Dan, the one who hated everybody who wasn't a white Republican. Why the hell couldn't she take care of her own lousy kids? I didn't care if her Mom hosted this damn event each year. Not my kids, for Christ's sake.

"Here, Emma, let me help you with that." The net was all tangled, dammit! What moronic mouth-breather in Sandy's family did that? That racquet was bent, and this one had broken strings! I bought this only last year. Who the hell used my stuff and broke it, without even saying something? Who does that? Breaks someone else's stuff, then doesn't say something? I hated these people!

"Here you go, all put together now. Have fun!" Christ, I was still hungry. I wished there was a good food joint near this damn park. I'd have sneaked away and got a burger, or something. Everybody was so into themselves here, they'd never have even noticed I was gone.

"Uncle Nick, can you play with us?"

She had that puppy dog look. I'd have liked to laugh at her. It was not my job to entertain these rugrats. What the hell did I look like, some kind of goddamn cruise director for this ridiculous farce of a family gathering? The Kents wouldn't talk to the Rutts and the Rutts were too stupid to get the hint. The Clarks were sure they were better than everybody else because they made more money. The Linds were trailer trash. Everybody knew that. Even dimwit Emma there knew that, and she was one of them.

"I'd like to get back to lunch. I'm hungry." Why shouldn't I get back to the table? Everybody else was gorging themselves or gabbing by the fire. They all looked like they were having fun, and that they didn't care what the kids did.

"Aw, please, Uncle Nick. We don't never get to play nothin' fun like this at home."

Damn. I'm sure she didn't get to have much fun, unless it was playing with a garden hose or trash in their yard in front of their trailer. How could people live like that and not blow their own heads off? Would have done the rest of the world a favor.

"Ok, but only one game."

***

Three games later, I finally just ignored the look and made it back to the table. "Where's my plate?"

Aunt Sarah scoffed. "I thought you were done. Pretty rude, just leaving it for someone else to pick up. Especially after just taking seconds of my fruit salad and then getting up and leaving it."

"No, I had to help the kids. I wasn't done." Jesus Christ! Now, I had to get another plate. Sandy's Mom would see me and make another one of those snide remarks about how I eat too much. There were only two or three dishes this stinking family made that were any good, so of course I was going to have more of them. The witch had a triple chin, so I didn't think she should talk

Sandy was by the food table, picking up. I asked, "Anything good left, dear?"

She glared at me. "I just got done dumping everything in the garbage. Thanks for helping. I swear, sometimes you're useless."

My fist clenched only for a moment. I had to keep it together. "What do you mean, you dumped it? I didn't finish yet." Goddamn it. God damn it!

She stared at me like I was an idiot. "What did you expect? Lunch is over, and now it's time to clean up."

I can't frakking believe it! How can she have forgotten? She knew! She had to! "I'm still hungry. I didn't get to finish because you wanted me to help the kids."

"Fine." She rolled her eyes. "There's still some fruit in the bag that Sarah didn't cut up."

"Ok." You bitch. You absolute, joy-sucking bitch! Ten years of family "obligations" when everyone else I know could go fishing or camping, or just on vacation, but no, we had to go to a wedding, a christening, a funeral, or to see some dumb cousin's kid in a play. Weekend after weekend! Last year we got to the lake only once, and then still had to leave early because your Dad had another "episode". You didn't even care how I felt about it!

I reached into the recycled bread bag Sarah brought the fruit in and pulled out the only piece of fruit left.

It was a brown, half-rotten mango.

Next to the bag was a large kitchen knife. The blade was so shiny. It glistened in the bright sunlight like something mythical. There was something so good about it that I was drawn to it, like it was the answer to everything. I wanted it. It felt so good in my hands.

The cut was juicy.


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Post August 07, 2011, 05:27:16 PM

The "Devil Within" Challenge

Darkness

By:
J. B. Hogan



Clifford Stephens feared the dark thing that lived within him. The evil, monstrous thing that drove him towards a murderous rage. It had been there as long as he could remember. It was as if he were possessed by an entity – one that urged him to seek the homicidal blackness of his soul. Only Clifford knew that the thing existed. Only he knew it had to be controlled at all times: battled, wrestled, forced back into the deepest shadows of his being.

Clifford had always struggled against the dark being but he had never let it escape, never let it feed its rapacious, black spirit – he thought. He remembered stopping it from bashing his little brother’s brains in with a bat when the kid was only six and had ratted on Clifford for taking the boy’s comic books and hocking them at a local pawn shop.

And he had held the black thing at bay when it wanted to climb out and rip his father’s face off for grilling Clifford that time when the family dog and cat had somehow disappeared, vanished without a trace.

No, he didn’t think he had ever let it come out, except maybe that time when the Jones boy was found beaten almost to death and lying half in the small creek running behind the high school after he and Clifford had had some minor disagreement about lunch money. There had been a visit by the police and a trip to the principal’s office, but the thing hid itself and Clifford was reluctantly cleared of any wrongdoing.

But that was before. Things were different now. Now he worked at the Golden Years Senior Home as an orderly. Now he had to pick up after all the nasty old men and women who were waiting to die at Golden Years – the sharp-tongued harpies and trolls who bossed and ordered him around, constantly demanding this and that to make their miserable lives less painful, always exerting their authority over Clifford just because he was a worker and beneath them.

The worst of the offenders was old Mr. Farris. It was he who was unwittingly forcing the dark thing inside Clifford to the front, to the verge of escape, to the point of blissful, satisfying revenge.

“Get me this,” Mr. Farris would order Clifford, “get me that,” the old man’s high-pitched whine triggering the dark thing’s bloodlust like a fresh animal carcass lying at the bottom of a river in South America might start a feeding frenzy among the piranha.

“Would you like me to push your chair out on the patio, Mr. Farris,” the dark being asked through Clifford’s gritted teeth. It was 110 degrees in the shade out on that patio. The old man wouldn’t last thirty minutes.

“You take me back to my room right now, you devil,” Mr. Farris squawked.

“What about the roof? Wouldn’t you like me to take you up there where you can look over the edge and see all the grass and concrete down below?”

It was only a two-story drop but that would be sufficient and very pleasing to the roiling, smoky black thing swirling inside Clifford’s brain.

“I’m going to report you if you don’t take me to my room, right now!”

“We can ride up in the elevator and if you like take the stairs down. That will really be a fast way to come down.”

“I’m going to scream,” Mr. Farris threatened.

“That would be a bad thing,” Clifford heard his own voice say.

“I’ll have you fired,” Mr. Farris spluttered. “I’ll see that you never work anywhere in this town again.”

“Very well, sir,” Clifford said, fighting for control over the thing that sought to be unleashed, to teach the old man a lesson.

Clifford felt himself pushing Mr. Farris towards the elevators to take him up to his room but as they neared the lift, the chair seemed to turn of its own accord and rush recklessly through a door leading to the basement laundry.

Suddenly they were at the top of the steps – alone. The chair was at the very edge of the landing, only a dozen jagged steps between it and mangled geriatric bones and flesh at the bottom.

“Help,” Mr. Farris cried out weakly, “somebody help me.”

“It’s such a short trip,” Clifford heard that voice speaking through him again. “Then blessed peace.”

“Help,” the old man squeaked.

Clifford, the smoky being within him on the verge of complete escape, wanted to give in, wanted to give the old man a little push and send him sailing down the stairs, felt the unspeakable joy it would bring. He leaned against the chair, putting his weight against it. As he did, the old man turned and looked up, fear and pleading in his eyes.

“Oh, please,” he begged, “don’t. I won’t tell.”

Shaking his head as if to fling the demon out of his mind, Clifford saw the old man clearly, then, saw his aging, sorrowful face in all its humanity. With an impulsive waving of his left hand, he fought the blackness within, brought the monster under control. He eased the chair away from the stairs.

“Uff,” the old man exhaled.

“Let me get you back to your room, Mr. Farris,” Clifford told the old man. “I’m terribly sorry.”

“I won’t tell anyone,” the old man promised.

“It’s okay,” Clifford said, feeling a wave of relief spread warmly through his body. “It’s all okay now.”

After returning Mr. Farris to his room, Clifford checked out at the front desk.

“You’re quitting?” the shift supervisor asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Not quitting,” Clifford said with a big sigh, “saving myself.”

“Huh?” the supervisor said.

Clifford paid no attention. He had won this battle and that was all that mattered. You could get another job anywhere. If he let the monster inside him get out, he would lose everything – even his mortal soul.


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Post August 07, 2011, 05:28:16 PM

The "Devil Within" Challenge

Bebarlangs

By:
Sergio Palumbo



Since that old man had been taken to his hospital room, the doctor had sensed he was different.

The report said he had been found ill from some people on Dampalitan Island, far off the coast. That place was known for its clear azure waters: such an atmosphere was probably fitter for some tourists more than for a hermit, like that man seemed to be, anyway. There was a backdrop of verdant bush on the other side of the island and that was the spot where those strangers had saved him during a trip inside the jungle covering a wide part of the land: most of that was a lush expanse no one had gone exploring before, very likely.

The white buildings of the County Hospital in Pagbilao were the only medical facility within this municipality in the province of Quezon, Philippines. Doctor Arvin Chua had examined many cases over the course of his twenty-year-long career, but he had never seen such a weird man.

Dark-skinned, two chestnut eyes, a tall and emaciated body: his features made him look like a local, but Arvin couldn’t figure out from which tribe he was exactly: truth was that there were over fifty ethnic groups in the Philippines.

The patient had no documents with him, didn’t speak.The nurses had noticed that while asleep he always looked perturbed, his rest always fidgety.

On a sunny morning, Doctor Arvin entered his room, addressing the old man in the bed- You’ve had some difficult days while on Dampalitan Island. I respect your will not to speak with us or tell us anything about you, you must have your reasons…But given your very bad heart conditions, you could become aggravated or fall unconscious every moment from now. You need to be under general anaesthetic in order to have a resolving operation on you. I know you didn’t give us permission to make you undergo such a treatment so far, but when a worsening occurs and unconsciousness comes, if your life is in danger, then there will be no other choice for our medical team…-

The old man stared at him in silence and didn’t replied at all.

Over the next days, Arvin was informed that the patient had tried to escape from the hospital. So, give his instability, he had been necessarily confined to his bed. Anyway, the doctor would have never expected what happened next.

Arvin was surprised when the nurses told him that the man had just attempted at killing himself by means of an iron stick near the windows.The devices attached to his body had soon signaled his movements, so the attendants were able to intervene just on time. Modern technology had saved his life, again.

The resolving operation was set for the same day: the medical team started the procedure at 18:00 PM. They, too, didn’t know what was ahead of them, anyway…

As soon as Heherson ( this was the old man’s name) became unconscious cause of the general anaesthetic, he felt completely lost.

The man knew perfectly that now he had no more grip on his will, even though he had taught himself to control his mind while asleep, this was a totally different situation Heherson wasn’t able to handle, unfortunately.

For many years he had been living within that jungle, afar from civilization and all the people. He had forced himself to stay alone, just like a hermit, because of what had occurred previously to his family. Heherson wished he weren’t what he was,but there was no way to change it.

Within his native tribe the ones like him were called Bebarlangs: there was a sort of bad curse upon them, their mind had some special powers that let their astral bodies become completely free and ungovernable while asleep, going continuously around in search of preys to feed on. ”Psychic vampires” the modern people would have called them, if they had ever been aware of their existence.

Unfortunately, the nearest preys Heherson had fed on the same night his powers had been unleashed for the first time were just his beloved wife and child, asleep along with him inside their poor dwelling.

His mind had been feeding on them until the man had deprived the two of all their life energies: they were already dead when he awoke in the morning.

Desperate, incapable of forgiving himself for what he had done, although unwillingly, Heherson had left his small village forever and found a forested lonely place where to live like a hermit.

Down there, where the trees waved because of the mild wind during the afternoon, he had learned how to control his astral body even over the course of the sleep so to feed himself only on the energies coming from the wild animals living in the area. Heherson knew such a “mental food” was not enough to let him remain strong and healthy, he wished some tasteful human energies, but he was to stay there, fighting his desire.

The man had no other choice, as he didn’t want to put anyone else in danger, anymore. He had forced himself to become a sort of vegetarian in a world where meat was abundant: he was able to feel it almost everywhere, in the outside world.But he stood, anyway.

Until that day, when his heart had fallen ill, his body had been found by chance from some people on the island.They didn’t know what they had done! Heherson would have liked better to die than to be taken back to civilization, again…

And now that he was under general anaesthetic, his astral body without restraint, the man’s famished mind was dangerously free. He stared at the white buildings of the County Hospital: a place full of human bodies and minds, it has been a long time since Heherson hadn’t been overindulging…

He was going to cease his long diet, finally!


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Post August 07, 2011, 05:29:48 PM

The "Devil Within" Challenge

Forever

By:
Michele Dutcher



Xam climbed the stone path leading up the hillside. He drew a breath when he saw a man-made cave, uttering “The Mantle of the Judge.” He slowed as he stepped inside, allowing the darkness to soothe him, as much as was possible. He opened his eyes and a soft glow brightened the room, revealing five semi-circles carved into the wall of the cave. Within each of these sat what appeared to be semi-transparent, androgynous, humans.

“My search for you has been exhausting,” said Xam.

A pentagon appeared between the man and the five. “We have discovered that humans often find their own answers while on their journey. An answer found by oneself is much better than that given by another. When someone does appear at our doorstep, we know they are desperate for an answer. You may ask your question.”

“My mother is Armasis of Luna, as you know.”

Of course they knew – these five were the Artificial Intelligence beings overseeing five planets. “The Alliance is well aware of who she is and knows she has been slated for deactivation.”

“I am here to oppose that verdict. Certainly the verbal ravings of an old woman with dementia can not be so harmful as to demand death.”

“In truth, the alliance would not be killing the woman – rather it would be withdrawing the gift of eternal life. When we offered forever-life to your family, it was with the understanding that they would uphold our laws. Your mother will be transported off-world to live out the remainder of her natural life.”

Xam nodded, affirming the totally logical answer given by the one called the Eternal Judge. “The fault lies not in my mother – rather in the act of crime done by my sister, and she is dead. Her action was simply an act of protest against the absence of the possibility of change within the Alliance.”

The room darkened into a reddish hue. “Your mother carries the seed of disorder that sprouted within your sister, giving birth to the evil action.”

“This action will not happen again – as I tell you again, my sister remains dead.”

“As long as your mother is among us, there is the chance of social enthrophy. You knew our axioms before you asked to live within our realm.”

One by one the five representatives spoke in turn. “Entropy is the foe.” “Information must be preserved.” “Life must be preserved.” “Energy must be preserved.” “Order must be preserved.”

The voice of the pentagon echoed off the sides of the cave: “Your sister disobeyed all of these axioms and your mother is in danger of disobeying as well.”

“Certainly there can't be that many people who might be swayed to commit the same evil by talking to my mother. There can't be that many people who are that desperate.”

The pentagon was silent for almost a minute. “Every time your sister's name is mentioned the danger of disorder increases.”

Xam's continence brightened for the first time. “I could talk with my mother, making sure she never mentions my sister's name again.”

“Her dementia will prevent that. The physicians tried to dig out all memories of her daughter, but the evil is still there.”

“Give me leave to try,” pleaded the man who looked to be forty but was actually well over 600 years old.

The five spoke in unison. “You have our leave to try. Have no doubt that saying the name will result in a resending of Forever-life.”

Planet Gegton 3524 A.T.

The elderly woman puttered around her kitchen, much as any mother is likely to do when a son comes to visit. “Sweetheart,” she said while pouring liquid into a cup, “would you go get Pam? I think she's on the porch.”

Xam took the pot from her hands, motioning for her to sit. She did as directed, upset by his insistence. “Mom, we must talk. Look at me.” He drew a breath. “I can't get my sister – do you remember why?”

The woman looked at him blankly. “Have I done something wrong, dear?”

“Mom, my sister killed herself.”

“No, no, you're wrong. Pam is on the porch outside. How can you say such a thing?” She tried to back away.

“Mom, she killed herself five months ago.” He watched as a horror of understanding swept over her and she began to weep. “Mom, mom, you must never say her name again. The council is listening all the time.”

She looked up from her tears. “If I never say her name again, how will people know that someone as good and gentle as Pam ever existed?”

“It was evil for her to commit suicide and now it is a crime for us to say her name.”

She fought the notion, crying as Xam held her. Finally she relented, regaining some control.

“Mom. You must promise me to never say her name again. If you do the Council of Five will take you from me and I'll never see you again, forever.”

She nodded weakly. “I won't say her name again, I promise.” The old woman straightened up. Her son sat back in his chair, giving a sigh of relief. “I took Steise to Ferjuk for her birthday.”

His mother began to drink the tea. “How is Steise?” The woman suddenly looked around. “Dear, where's Pam? Could you go out onto the porch and get her?” The woman disappeared.

Xam sat alone for a while in the empty kitchen. He began to sob into his hands. Then his sobbing stopped as he rose to his feet, lifted his fist, and shouted: “Pamela Greylag second child of Armasis of Luna, princess of the royal line of...” and he was gone.


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Post August 07, 2011, 05:30:55 PM

The "Devil Within" Challenge

TOTCH and GO
A bedtime story


By:
Richard Tornello © 2011



TOTCH was born of the union of a genetically damaged universe forming spirit, BUTZ and the miscreant goddess of death, Merde. Totch, only hinted about in ancient myth, was hidden away for eternities, his true existence was known to none.

He was well sequestered. He looked like any other part of the creative multiverses.
His body was sewn together with unbreakable filaments, strings, woven within and through out his blacker than black, no light escaping body, to form a great ball. He was continually being stretched to what seem like infinity, expanded and bloated, and finally exhausting foul and evil ethers through his 360 orifices. Then he would collapse, and then he would expand again. He was the begetter of universes.

He had one other outstanding characteristic, none of the other creative beings had. From a tiny nothing, he himself grew to this thing, this thing that ate all that he came into contact. The consumed ones, dissolved and digested, were then excreted as degenerate unconnected singularities, growing into new separate universes. All the other universes born of normal spirit/gods, remained connected by their common branes in a massive multiverse.

Normally, if Totch were like any other godlike offspring, his doings would amount to nothing within the almost limitless multiverses. However, Totch was prolific. His offal was beginning to become an issue.

”AND FROM WHAT UNHOLY UNION DID THIS THING SPRING?” demanded the council of leading gods one eternity ago. No being admitted to this. They hollered all the louder. “It’s all because of you, and we’ll get the two of you.”

No answer was forthcoming from the two gods that flew..

“What a bother!” exclaimed one god.

“It sounds like a lot of crap to me,” said another.

They all nodded in agreement. They had a guess who the guilty parties might be, but Merde and Butz were nowhere to be located.


****

Totch was fully aware that he was creating horrible universes. Luckily, none of the universes had the physics to support life; so in effect, they only took up space, as curled up balls of higher dimensional reality. Nothing was damaged. Things just stank. This was his lot, an eternal, never ending, defective universal universe creating spirit/god. He was not concerned, and rather content to fart along, his exhaust pushing him this way and that, creating nothing here and there.

But as things are apt to happen, where all probabilities and possibilities exist, during any one or more eternities, Totch felt something different moving through his system. This is new, he thought. I never felt one like this before. He peered within himself to see just what sort of crap he was creating. It scared even him, a spirit/god, and he’d seen a lot of shit.

This was a universe with potential. The physics would support life, just what life he didn’t know, but it was life.

Time not being an issue for timeless ones, Totch saw the potential, and what we would call the future. He saw many possible potentials. He knew he would have to do something since any and every life form he so created would reflect his being, at a simpler level of course, but reflect the demented shit he himself knew he was and always would be. Totch had to do something and do something quickly. The singularity was passing through his system at an increased speed. It was as if the life potential, aware and sentient, was forcing the faster transit time.

Totch knew what he had to do and it was not a pleasant thought. This singularity must never occur. It had to be stopped or re-consumed, dissolved and begun anew. It was Totch and go. Could Totch stop this oh so potentially evil event, from arising?

That was not to happen. It was as if the life forces understood the dire consequences crapus-interuptus would cause, and it wanted out. It wanted out to build, and create its own universe, to grow, and be just like its begetter, foul, mean and destructive.

Totch did the only thing he could do to keep this horror of this singularity from ever approaching anything resembling reality. He stuffed a cosmic cork up his cosmic butt. The gasses built up until, Kaboom, and the biggest bang any cosmic being ever heard anywhere, anytime, occurred. The result was the death of the creator and hopefully the singularity we would have called a universe.

****

This potential history was just one of many consumed by a local black hole close to the vicinity of Totch’s self-sacrificing, self-destruction. This information, a form of energy, could not to be destroyed, and was eventually cast to the various galactic winds, again and again, and in an incomplete manner, with significant data missing here and there.

Some of the data was swallowed up by another expanding microscopic singularity. The strength of Totch’s being overwhelmed the basic physics of that singularity, and forced drastic changes in what should have been a benign universe to what became, well dear reader, you and me, and all the rest. We are now living out its history.

Life will go on, and one cannot put out the Totch of creative energy, good or evil.


The End


Epilogue:
The Baby Bang or Launched on Alert

Merde is softly crooning to herself in the heavens looking down at her son’s handiwork:
"Sirens in the night, oh distant sirens, lonely in the night, few lonely missiles, missing in their flights, oh you’ll sleep tight tonight, for-ever in the night.
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Post August 07, 2011, 05:31:51 PM

The "Devil Within" Challenge

Wild Horses

By:
TaoPhoenix



A small icon appeared on Hoss Willard's taskbar. He had a new email. "Hmm. Okay. I'll look at it later. They can wait. They always email me early, before it's really serious."

Willard returned to his roast beef and pepper jack cheese sandwich. His life was simple these days. He was officially a Special Consultant to the Government with a cushy Million-a-Year stipend and a strict rule that he would only take one case per month. That was more than hubris however. His gifts came at a terrible price - his elliptical insights carried a terrible price: He risked driving anyone he conversed with into a slippery brand of insanity.

<Cut out: Interview, (conducted online, under strict conditions, exclusively for Government Training purposes).
<Querent #1: "Mr. Willard. Please state your theory of your consulting benefit."
<Willard: "Sure. I am an Empathic Mood Compiler. At my best I can read the currents below the tenor of the news to offer bits of advice."
<Querent #2: "Very well. Mr. Willard, please state your theory of the risks of your services."
<Willard: "Anyone above 1.4 on the Self Monitor scale risks going dangerously crazy. This effect proves dangerous in proportion to the projected impact of errors in their normal professions."
<Querent #3: "Please elaborate on that, Mr. Willard."
<Willard: "Forget Hollywood - there are thousands of afflictions which are simply labeled "unclear conditions" because they are not yet glamorous to make the DSM-IV medical reference. Briefly, I have this effect that my linguistic style appears to inhibit correct rational thought in most live subjects I encounter over any extended period. Over to you."
<Querent #4: "We need more information, but according to my notes I have to insert this sentence between both of yours. What happens to the subjects?"
<Willard: "They will almost sound normal, so the effects escape notice, but at the peak of stress in their professions, they prove unable to maintain such stress, and risk lives around them, with subsidiary damage of economic unemployability thereafter."
<Querent #5: "Thank you, Mr. Willard. This will be noted in bold in your file of Terms of Consultancy. See you next month."

---

After his sandwich, Hoss Willard took a nap. After all, his consultancy problems were big stewing issues, not tactical emergecies. A few hours were never at issue. It was like how the late Chessmaster Capablanca avoided excitement because he saw endgames. By the time they called on him, the Government had already assigned the corporals to take the phone calls. His duties were more diffuse. At 8Pm he decided to look at the email:

<To H. Willard ; From Major General Alec Hoffman. Re: This Month's problem
<Hello, Willard. We have selected this month's problem for you.
<You have your usual three days of study followed by our request for your First Piece of Advice.
<Problem: Since the capture of Bin Laden there is something wrong with the tenor of the news. Please advise. My associate Cadet Smith will take your initial reply at this email address.

Willard mused, "Oho! This was one of the better ones! Plenty of room to thrash it about." He pondered it for is usual Three Days then sent his first Piece of Advice:

<From Willard ; To Cadet Smith ; Advice re: Post Bin Laden problem
<"Obama set out for a slam, to take the country by the horns,
<"He has done a lot, though often flawed,
<"He set the stage, like a court hall mage,
<"But there is much to do and he must not lose;
<"Even now there is a path that he must choose;
<---
<"He conquered racism easily, he proved we have moved on.
<"But the trade he had to make, was Hollywood for the Pentagon.
<"Now the decison has been made, the platform has been laid,
<"The choice has been made, for me and you - Big Brother.
<"With a side of Aldous Huxley, it is a Brave New World
<"Your task is now to restore the faith, in the country for me and you...

Per instructions Cadet Smith blind-forwarded this to the committee of two who each only read one half of the total message. Now, if the Government itself could avoid going crazy, there might yet be hope for this land.


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Post August 07, 2011, 05:33:28 PM

The "Devil Within" Challenge

Across the Maddening Gulf

By:
by J. Davidson Hero



For many years I had collected books, my favorites being those that contained the weird tales of cosmic horror by H. P. Lovecraft. The language of those tales of eldritch planes; alien geometries; arcane abominations; and protagonists wrestling with gibbering madness seemed to be a melancholy aria to me, in tune with my very soul. But as certain recent events in my life occurred, I felt my interest in Lovecraft’s work begin to veer into obsession. At every opportunity I would scour the dark and musty stacks of used book stores for rare editions of Lovecraft’s work. In my quest I would, from time to time, come across another who shared in my bibliomania. And in each case when I befriended one, I would be introduced to others who also shared our strange obsession.

This was the case with Adrian Sudlow. Reaching almost simultaneously for the same battered copy of The Outsider and Others buried in the musty corner of one of the Dinkytown book stores is how Adrian and I first met. He looked like a college student, probably twenty years my junior, although a bit on the alternative side, with body piercings and tattoos. I noticed the dark and sunken character of his eyes and a wanton glassy stare that I figured was the hallmark of a drug addict, but possibly something far worse. We immediately began to parley about the book, and only after I agreed to buy him lunch did he release his hold on the cover.

As I nursed a cup of decaf, Adrian wolfed down a burger and started telling me of the others he knew who were also fans of the dark mythos. Before long he was hinting at secrets he was not at liberty to divulge, rituals he had participated in, and occult experiences he’d had. It was only then that I realized Adrian was a true believer. One who thought Lovecraft was not a writer, but a prophet of the dark intangible, that his stories were inspired by eldritch dreams, and that his words held illicit knowledge. I had to fight to contain myself, for I had no patience for his type. I knew that anyone who had been exposed to the mind-twisting enigmas of the uncaring cosmos would not be so glib. And yet, if there was only the slightest chance that he was legitimate… I felt myself urged to meet with him again… and with his friends.

***

"This is the place?" my cousin Charlie asked.

I looked out of the passenger window of the car at the weed-choked parking lot behind a moldering abandoned factory. The car sat under the lot’s only security light, a wan cone impregnated with millers and mosquitoes.

"Yah, I guess so. Bad idea?" I asked.

"Well, this should be entertaining," he said. He took a seat on the hood and took a swig of beer.

Adrian had called earlier that day. He seemed nervous, but told me the group had approved his petition. I had been invited to a ceremony. Charlie, who had crashed at my apartment for the weekend, was itching for something to do, so I agreed to come.

Ominous clouds crowded the moon in the late summer sky. Shadows were everywhere. Then six figures came out of the amorphous darkness at the edge of the lot. They were all clad in fiendish costumes, black robes with capes of long, dried grasses. Their heads were covered with heavy monstrous masks, each carved with an expression more perverse than the last.

They formed a circle around me and began to sway back and forth. The sound of their grass cloaks was like the rasp of files.

“Watch it,” Charlie yelled heckling. I felt dizzy.

They lifted their legs and arms in an awkward primitive dance and circled close around taunting me with waving fingers. And then close up under the pale light, I realized that their costumes were nothing more than Halloween remnants and thrift store junk. One of the figures fell down onto the pavement. His mask fell off with a plastic clatter. He laughed with drunken delight and clutched his ribs. It was Adrian. It was all a prank.

I felt queasy and suffocated. Charlie was laughing. And I realized too late that I should not be here, that I had been the dupe of an unspeakable evil. In my head I could hear an angry chuffing. I screamed with fear but everything blurred and “Run!” became a distant hollow echo.

***

I awoke in the car next to Charlie. The streetlights sped by in a lilt. All the blood had rushed from Charlie’s face; his hands shook as he struggled to keep hold of the wheel as we careened down the boulevard.

I didn’t need to ask. My hands were stained with blood.

It had happened months before. Randomly. You might say I was abducted, but that implies motive. There were no rituals or chants. I was just in my apartment enjoying my mundane existence, when suddenly, I was snatched up by the uncaring cosmos, a mote in the wind. My mind was stretched across the maddening gulf of endless space. The size of the universe is unfathomable to the human brain; the magnitude blinded me with insanity. My mind was stretched thinner and thinner until it passed into the formless abyss far beyond any stars. Eventually… I came back, but when I did, something came back with me, an undimensioned stowaway, shackled to my bones, and just behind my eyes.

Only Lovecraft’s stories came close to describing my experience. I devoured everything he’d written, hoping for answers, while the abomination grew within me.

Lately I have been having dreams where the abomination is not looking out of me, instead I am looking out of it. Stranger still, I haven’t seen Charlie since that night, but for the last five nights I've dreamed of Charlie screaming and the red of his blood dripping down my thread-like fingers.


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Post August 07, 2011, 05:36:31 PM

The "Devil Within" Challenge

- Winner -



Nobody Understands

By:
George T. Philibin



Mark Holder the local mailman climbed up the six-steps that led to Glen’s door. He rapped three times then waited. Another three raps, and after a five second wait with no sound coming from behind the door, Mark left the notice to pick up a certified letter at the post office.

Once back on the sidewalk, Mark looked up at the old-framed house and glanced at the un-kept lawn and flower-bed that once were the pride of the neighborhood. But not any more. Not since Glen’s mother passed away years ago. A birdbath sitting alone and still upright and able to hold rainwater for a few days, remained unchanged by time or events that secretly grew their way into the rumors and stories now surrounding the old-framed house.

Mark shot a quick look up at a second-story window, and observed a shadowy figure withdraw itself.

Glen watched Mark deliver mail to the Martins, his next door neighbor.

“What didn’t you kill him?” Glen’s dead brother said. “You killed me when we were playing fire-escape tag at Henley school. Because I threatened to tell Mom about the cigarette you smoked. Huh? You pushed me off the third floor landing.”

“That was your fault. You shouldn’t have said you will tell!” Glen said. Glen’s dead brother Tyler stared at him out of the mirror above the field-stone fireplace. Behind Tyler, his mother, his aunt Rose, his sister, Kayla, his other friend, Don, and the three dogs that he killed when only eight-years old, stared at him. One dog silently showed its teeth.

“You are the prisoner within a prison that you built. Ha, we might be dead but you are not alive!! Ha!” Don said. “No, we can go and come here as we please, but you are stuck here in this stone-house with every door bolted, every window locked and every visitor turned away. Even you ex-wife who must have known you better than you knew yourself! Ha, what a loser.”

“I can’t help it,” Glen said. “Something I don’t understand washes over me---it takes control---it becomes me. I can’t stop it!

“Oh-my-God. Did you all hear that?” Kayla said. “My poor, poor brother…the little boy that could never control himself. No, wet the bed, get into my diary. Hide all the candy and cookies so that no one could have one. Oh, Glen, Glen what a little bastard you were

“See what your brother has done, Kayla,” Gretta, Glen’s and Kayla’s mother. “He has made a fortress and now shuns the world because he doesn’t want to go to the Electric Chair. No friends anymore, no wife anymore; in fact no family anymore. Just this house and Glen with his electric trains and computer and T.V. as his friends”

“I told you I can’t control it!! Why didn’t any of you listen to me?” Glen said.

“Listen to you? Listen to all your ranting and raving and pouting about things? Listen to how you blamed all you problems on others! Listen to how all the teachers and Sunday school teachers had it out for you!” Gretta said.

“You set me on fire when I was asleep. You little son-of-a-bitch. An alcoholic like me, helpless and friendless. You killed me for what? Nothing!” Rose said.

Glen picked up a chair and smashed it into the mirror with such forces that both the mirror and the chair broke-up into small pieces, and dropped before the fireplace. He walked into the kitchen and pushed all the dishes and pota and pans onto the floor that were piled up at the sink. He opened the basement door, but stopped just as he was about the go down and view the graves. No, he thought, let them alone.

Glen turned all the burners on at the gas stove and opened the oven. He blew out all the flames and let the gas ooze out and around the kitchen. He turned on a fan and aimed it over the stove so that the gas would flow out into the living room and dinning room. The old stove didn’t have an automatic shut-off valve that closed when it sensed no flame.

Glen slowly walked into the living room and sat down on a comfortable chair that he used to watch television. He looked up at the cobwebs and dirty curtains and pictures with dust on the top edges and all were slanting. He took out a cigarette but didn’t light it.

“We are waiting for you.” Glen thought he heard something and looked around, but nothing present. “Yes we all are waiting for you, here.” Again he heard something only this time he understood what was said.

“I can’t control it---please you must believe me. I-can’t-control-it!!” Glen yelled.

Dizziness started to overtake Glen as he sat in his chair. The gas, he thought has filled the downstairs. It must be dense.

Glen picke up his lighte, placed the cigarette in his month, but before he click his lighter, he said again, “I-can’t-control-it.” He then click to light a bright-blue flame dance out.

Mark was having coffee at the local convience store to blocks away. The explosion sounded muffled but loud enough that it could be heard. Mark and some other patrons walked out and watched the smoke rise up. With a few minutes police and fire-truck were scrambled.

Mark stood and watched, then turned to one of the patrons and said, “I just delivered mail there about a half-hour ago.

The other patron said back, “Lucky you weren’t late on your route today!”


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Post October 15, 2011, 02:32:07 PM

Little Superhero Challenge

The challenge was to create a situation that calls for an unproven, diminutive or short superhero to “rise” to the occasion to right the wrongs being committed.
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Post October 15, 2011, 02:33:38 PM

Little Superhero Challenge

The Kountry Kitchen

By:
Michele Dutcher



“Artina Riggs looked around the Kountry Kitchen diner before sighing, “I wish this place was busier. I don’t know how I’ll pay the rent next month.” She patted the hand of her 9-year-old daughter who sat happily at the wooden table with her and Big George, the cook.

“It’s those idiot politicians in Washington,” replied George– who was also the owner. “They got the economy all screwed up with the National Debt being so high.” George and Artina looked at each other briefly, pausing their game of wild 8s.

A confirmation came from the corner table where two customers sat. “None of ‘em are worth the powder and lead to blow ‘em up with.” The man, Lou Bryant, returned to sipping on a mug of coffee he had bought two hours ago.

“I could help you mom,” said Chrissy hopefully, leaning forward. “I got a plan.”

The cook and the waitress chuckled good-heartedly, shaking their heads. “Well your heart’s in the right place sweetie,” said her mom.

The middle-aged man sitting across from Lou got up slowly, taking one last bite from his toast and gravy. “I guess I’ll be going. I’m taking a couple of city boys up to Judah Springs. I’m meeting them at Richmond’s Barn at 8:30.”

“Maybe they should have some breakfast before they go hunting,” said the Chrissy, flipping a spritz of her curly hair. “You could go get them and bring them back here where they’d be safe and sound.”

“Maybe another time sweetie. I’m sure we’ll be fine.” The man picked up his truck keys.

Little Chrissy became more adamant. “When the door’s open wide, you’re safe inside. But when the door closes – they’ll pinch your noses.”

The man began to laugh. “Artina, your kid watches too much television.” He walked out of the diner and into the sunlight.

It would be two days before the men’s bodies were found in the barn. “Can’t explain it,” the town sheriff would tell the small crowd at George’s Kountry Kitchen. “It looked like they suffocated, but the air inside the barn was okay.”

“Chrissy told Desmond not to go up there,” said George.

“That’s right,” said Chrissy finishing her pumpkin pie. “I told him to bring them back here where they’d be safe and sound – but he wouldn’t listen. Grown-ups never listen.”

But the grown-ups in the room, all seven of them, were listening now.
***
During good times news travels fast in a small town, but during bad times it travels even faster. George’s business now was almost too busy as Artina practically ran from one table to the other. Strange lights had been observed by the locals, way back in the woods by the south fork of the White River. Many believed that whatever killed Desmond and those hunters might have been related to those odd spheres.

“They were like nothing I’ve ever seen,” said Faye Henderson to the crowd of 30 customers. “My little dog, Daisy, went chasing something towards the creek and when I got to the banks there they were, half a dozen bubbles, as big as my dog, just floating over the water, like they were watching me.”

“What color were they, Aunt Faye?” asked a teenager who should have been in school.

“They were red – in fact, it seemed to me there was blood swirling around inside of those balls. I picked up Daisy and came right back here when I saw them. I remembered what the child had said. ”
All eyes turned to Chrissy now who sat happily playing on her DSL. “I told Miss Faye – ‘When red globes appear, the blackness is near. Best run and hide - where there’s hot pumpkin pie.’”

“Yep, I remembered her saying that and came right back here in a hurry…and got a piece of Artina’s delicious pumpkin pie.”

Chrissy’s mood darkened now. “I told Mr. Harold the same thing, but he wouldn’t listen. Some adults never listen.”

It only took 3 hours for Harold Carlton’s body to wash up on a sandbar near Rita Langston’s chicken coop, but no one was there to drag it away from the wild dogs that quickly devoured it. Everyone was at George and Artina’s Kountry Kitchen, safe and sound.
***
Versailles’s Sheriff sat at the McDonald’s on South High Street, having a second cup of coffee, listening to Doug Trent ramble on and on about trouble in the next county over.

“I’m telling you there’s something weird going on over there,” said Doug obviously agitated. “Johnny always calls me for poker night – and I can’t even get a signal when I try phoning him.”

“Probably a line is down, Doug. Probably a tree took one out during that wind storm last week.”

Doug balled his fingers into a fist. “Jeffrey Sanders told me he saw red glowing balls of light, all lined up over the White River – like some kind of sentries or something. You need to find out about it, Sheriff – that’s what we pay you for.”

Sheriff Douglas snorted a little, but shook it off. “Those people in Cross Plains don’t like men in uniform sniffing around, if you know what I mean – but I’ll take a drive over that direction after lunch.”
***
Seeing all the people happily chatting away while eating lunch, Chrissy tilted her head to the side, raised her eyebrows, and nodded up and down. “Adults should stay in town, where they’re safe and sound.”

“The child is right,” said Johnny Phelps. “Something’s happening out there in the woods. I haven’t heard from my cousin in Versailles in a week. It’s good that we have someone to save us from whatever’s going on – till it all blows over.”

“It is good,” said Artina, hugging her little girl. “She’s my little hero.”

“She’s the whole town’s hero, Tina,” said Mrs. Stokes. Everyone cheered.

“Now, who else wants a little more sweet ice tea?” asked the waitress, happily grabbing an ice-chilled pitcher.


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Post October 15, 2011, 02:35:25 PM

Little Superhero Challenge

The Family Dog

By:
George T Philibin



“Dad, do we have to stay here all weekend?” Layla said.

“It’s a family thing Layla. Don’t you want to spend time with your mom and pop and brothers and sisters?” Cliff said, Layla’s father.

“No I don’t—at least not here! Just look! Bugs flying around and, and –we don’t know what’s out there?” Layla said.

“The big-bad-boogie-man and big-foot and bears are all out there just waitin’…,” Eric, Layla’s little brother said. He didn’t get a chance to finish, but that didn’t matter: The look on Layla’s face said all.

Layla’s eyes focused on Eric like twin-laser beams tracking a target. She made a fist but didn’t follow through with it. But she did step towards Eric and her eyes didn’t show any sisterly love.

“Were getting too old for this stuff,” Ronda, Layla’s older sister, said. “Don’t you think the beach is better, Dad?”

“Just look at the view from up here! You can’t appreciate Nature until you camp out, and smell the pine-trees and Oaks…,” Cliff said.

“I’m scared---what if a, a ---mountain lion attacks? They do you know---it’s been on the news?” Layla said.

“Hey, we have Champ---he’ll protect us!” Eric said.

“Champ! My God he runs from every cat and jumps up into Mom’s arms! A lot of good he’ll do!” Layla said.

Champ showed his teeth upon hearing Layla mention his name. A quick showing that lasted but a second. I’ll show her! She thinks I’m a whimp! Huh! One of these days, just one of these days!

Night fell; a camp-fire was lit outside the old Airstream Trailer that Cliff had restored. The girls and Candice, Cliff’s wife and the mother, would want to sleep in there.

“Yuck! What is that smell!” Candice said. She stopped roasting a marshmallow and looked around but didn’t see anything.

“Oh, God…Dad what is it?” Ronda said. She got up with Layla and followed her mother to the side of the trailer.

“It’s coming from over there!” Ronda said.

Cliff walked over and, yes, the smell was coming from the direction in which Candice pointed. And the odor was getting rottener. Champ stood by Candice and brushed against her leg.

The campfire’s light didn’t reach into the woods but a tall shadow moved, at least Cliff thought he saw it, but Candice and Ronda were sure they saw it.

“Get in the trailer,” Cliff said. Immediately, all shot for the door and ran in, except Champ.

“Call 911—tell them we have a Grizzly-Bear attacking!” Cliff ordered.

Kerplunk! A large rock hit the trailer. Then another and another followed by a roar so loud and deafening the Cliff thought it was at the trailer’s door.

“What is it?” Candice screamed.

“I don’t know----but it’s not a bear!” Cliff said.

“My God Champ’s out there!” Candice screamed.

“We can’t open the door!” Cliff said. “He’ll be okay…” Cliff started to say but Champ started barking and growling and moving, apparently, for the barking started coming from different directions.

“Champ’s fighting the bear!” Eric screamed

“He doesn’t stand a chance!” Layla said. Ronda and Candice both placed their hands over their mouths and gasped in union, “Oh-my-God!”

Something bumped into the trailer, something big and wild for it screamed as it thrashed around. Champed barked and barked but he must have been dodging the thing: No yelps of pain came from him.

A terrible scream, then another long-frightful sound between a moan and a high-pressure- steam leak washed over the trail, and started to fade, not from less volume, but from it distancing itself from the trailer. Champ started barking again but this time he wasn’t moving around. Whatever the thing was it was running away at lighting speed.



The next morning the same ranger, Jim Pineman, that came the night before to investigate the alleged bear attack, rapped on the trailer door.

Candice offered him coffee, he accepted then said, “I wish you had a shot of whiskey for me, I need one. And I don’t even drink!”

The family looked at each other, the girls crossed their arms and Eric said, “Champ’s a real hero---he fought that bear all-by-himself. He might run from some old cat, but when the going gets rough—Champ gets a-going!” Eric looked at Layla and again Layla made a fist. Eric said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” under his breath as Layla glared at him.

“What are all those helicopters and sirens for,” Cliff said. “Did the bear injure someone?”

Ranger Jim started petting Champ who seemed to enjoy all the attention that the family and now Ranger Jim gave him. It wasn’t always like this. Nope, I’ll take all of it I can Champ’s eyes seem to say.

“There was a lot of blood---in fact a trail of blood from you campsite to just before the river not far from here, and that is where we found him. Just lying, moaning and not enough strength in his body to run any farther or put up a fight. I couldn’t believe it after all these years, all the stories I heard-----but champ here by protecting his family managed to weaken one. He bit the thing in its privates and caused it to bleed profusely.
It might have died if I hadn’t tracked it though the night. But according to the Vets it will be all right,” Ranger Jim said.

“I’m so glad that the bear will be all right---it just scared us to death,” Candice said.

Cliff stared at Ranger Jim; then said, “It was no bear, was it?”

Ranger Jim looked up and, almost struggling for the right words, uttered out, “No…it’s a…Big-Foot!”


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Post October 15, 2011, 02:36:44 PM

Little Superhero Challenge

Augustus, A Real Super Hero In Training

By:
Richard Tornello © 2011



London’s broken out in fires,
the budgets in the can.
Congress is a’ mired,
and we’re in Afghanistan.
Europe’s a total mess,
and China’s getting dissed,
Super-Hero-In-Training…where are you?

****
Augustus our hero is in bed pretending to be asleep. “Augustus, you must get up. We’re in a terrible mess. There is no other than you.” The President of the Unites States is poking our tiny hero with the rubber tip of a tooth stimulator.

“Oh go away. You all make fun of me.” Augustus says pouting, “I’m just a short, big nosed freak with some mystical power. You really don’t want me. You crave some tall dark haired, or for you Aryan types, a blond, with big muscles in a Speedo. Besides I’m still in training.”

Augustus keeps at it, “What I have got to wear? Just baby boxers that don’t fit and a wee doll sized tee shirt. I can’t even get a date no less fix this mess. Go away, leave me alone. You got yourselves into this by praying to the almighty dollar, giving away our industry, and selling our treasures. I warned you. Did you read my prophetic editorials, my poems, my stories? NO, you all just laughed. Now get yourselves out. I’m going fishing.”

The President begs, “Yes, you are diminutive in stature, and yes, your uniform, if you can call it that, is a hodge-podge of, well, you could use a new tailor. But you have this power that no one seems to have. Please for the sake of all humanity, marshal your unique strengths and save us,”

And so pleads the President to Augustus, the Super Hero In Training. “There’s no one left to do it. WE’RE depending upon you!”

As an aside, The President adds, “we always reward our heroes…”

Augustus interrupts, “Yeah, and most of the time they’re dead when you do!”

“Augustus, I, the President, and as a private citizen, with more money than you can ever imagine, promise you anything humanly possible if you get us out of this mess. Cause if you don’t, it won’t matter. I’m being straight up. What do you really want?”

“Listen, Mr. President, maybe I can help, but really why should I? Your problems don’t affect me. I’m outside your big world.”

“Remember you laughed when I offered my services to this country a few years ago, when I pointed out the obvious danger that was approaching, and how, if we didn’t do anything we would be subsumed by the tsunami of EVIL and all that?

The President does his best political grovel, “Yes, and I was wrong, we were all wrong to ignore you. But now I’m pleading with you to forsake your miserable little feelings…”

“There you go again, LITTLE.”

“Sorry, really, very sorry.”

There is silence, for a while between both of them. The first one to speak loses and they both know the game. Augustus is thinking about what he really would want from this guy. The President is sweating. Time is running out. The EVIL is becoming systemic, every second of every day, EVIL entering the very blood of every new born generation. Augustus is the only super being remaining able to stop it. The other super beings have caved into Evil’s sirens songs.

“Okay,” they both say simultaneously.

“You first.”

“No, you first”

“No, you”

“No, you, I insist. I can you know, insist that is, since YOU do need me,” states Augustus.

“What ever you want, it’s yours,” swears the President.

Augustus ponders, why should I trust him or any of them? They just want to use me. Oh what the hell.
“Here are my conditions:
No more short jokes.
The song, “Short People”, banned,
and maybe one or two real cute physics majors from the local university to do my bidding, and I’ll decide later on the rest later.
Deal?”


“A deal,” says the President.

“Now on to my quest.”

The President is nodding, holding up the V sign and smiling. That little twerp, he thinks to himself.

****
Augustus is tiny and the EVIL is all encompassing.

Augustus magically shrinks himself even smaller, to a nano size, and gets into the physical being and computer machinery of the EVIL state. He re-works the computer systems to correct all that has been corrupted so that when the EVIL makes its proclamations, they come out in a proper and moral manner totally opposite Evil’s intentions. When a law is passed it is within the strictures of the Constitution and Bill of Rights as well as the state papers for each nation on the planet.

EVIL has been blinded to these facts through a magical incantation that Augustus creates, so EVIL only hears what it wants to hear. Its minions dare not tell it differently.

And over a short time, the brain-washed citizens of the world begin to awaken to the evil reality of greed and avarice that that have succumbed to. The world opens it eyes, as if they have just walked out of a dark cave to daylight.

Soon EVIL is driven from the halls of power. People just won’t listen to its false promises. Its proclamations are understood for what they are. EVIL can now do the one thing that evil does anywhere. It is sulking, and hiding somewhere in Argentina.

Augustus, is now a household name. Children are named after him in the hopes that the name alone will burnish a positive quality in those offspring.

And yes, the President true to his word, banned the song, no one really was up in arms about that. And Augustus did not want for dates. Yes he was short, but he did have magical and mystical powers of growth. 'Nuff said on that.

The world was a kinder, gentler, more august place to live, except, just maybe, in a very lonely place in Argentina, right Max?


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