FLASH FICTION INDEX 2: Dec. 2011 - May 2017

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

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Post April 29, 2016, 11:01:31 PM

Change That Tune: 2010+ Music Version

- Winner -

Inspired by the title of the song "Clockwork Angels" by Rush, 2012.

Clockwork Angels


“Is it true you’ve never cried before, Elayne?”

Elayne looked out at the grand city of Moonlight Station, paying only half attention to her fairy-friend’s rather personal inquiry. She was hiding below the sill of an open window thirty stories in the air: the perfect spot for a marksman like her. The twilight breeze rushed over her face like a warm stream, shaking her bangs.

“Hey!” The tiny form of Nina the fairy zipped up and down in front of her, “Earth to Elayne – answer me.”

Elayne shooed the troublesome creature away. “Of course I’ve never cried. I’m fifteen years old, crying is for little girls.” She used the scope of her rifle to scan the distant floor of the city. Just as she suspected the goblins were getting uppity again, walking about like they owned the place. Moonlight Station was once a peaceful human town until the green hoard graced it with its presence. Now it was war every day.

The exception was nightfall. Surprisingly, the goblin warlord agreed to a civil compromise: No hostilities after dark. Elayne spared a glance at the clock tower nearby. It was an opulent work of art decorated with stone angels holding a bronze bell that chimed at dusk. This bell was the signal for both sides to holster arms until morning.

The sun receded quickly, the colors of the day rushed to the western horizon turning the sky pink and the clouds black. If Elayne wanted a kill, it was now or never.

“Nina, which one should I pick?” she asked.

Fairies, however small, had superior eyesight; humans often enlisted their help in battle as spotters. The fairies often obliged in exchange for what they thought to be mankind’s greatest gift to the world: pie.

Nina aimed a finger. “There, the one picking his nose by the water fountain. He’s totally exposed, you can’t miss.”

Elayne surreptitiously took aim at the foul green skin. She inhaled and started to squeeze the trigger.

The clock tower bell rang out. It was a dull, empty ring that echoed far into the distance and resonated throughout the town like a wild river. Nightfall had arrived.

Elayne withdrew her rifle. “Saved by the Clockwork Angels …” she murmured to her lucky prey.

“You know,” Nina began cautiously, “Ever since this war began the greenies have won every battle they’ve fought. Do they have a crystal ball or something or do you humans just stink at fighting?”

“Talkin’ to the wrong woman, I’m just a grunt. Elayne crawled out from under the blanket hiding her body and wrapped it up. “Gotta go now, meet me here again tomorrow.”

“Wait! Where’s my pie?”

“I’ll bring you one tomorrow.”

“Unacceptable!” Nina flapped her wings and flailed her limbs, “Pie now. That’s the deal.”

“I have to meet someone first.”

“Oh, you can’t be serious. That courier boy what’s-his-face? Markin?”

Elayne held a fist close to her heart and closed her eyes. “We’re talking about my first love. This is a very important part of a young human girl’s life; I have to tell him how I feel.”

“B-But,” Nina stammered, “You fall in love all the time. This is like your 12th 1st love isn’t it?”

Elayne scampered back to the barracks like a rock skipping over a pond. A courier’s job was very important; he ran confidential information between friendly regiments both day and night. Elayne was lucky to even catch sight of Markin let alone catch him, and when she did she told him everything.

The inevitable silence was filled by nothing but her own doubts. Would he laugh at her? Would he ignore her? Neither occurred. He patted her on the head and said: “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel the same way.”

The next morning, Elayne returned to her thirtieth floor nest with a jubilant bounce in her step. Nina was already there, half-buried in a pie she managed to pilfer from an unsuspecting human. She popped her head up from the crust. “What’s with the dopey smile? You didn’t actually confess your love did you?”

“Of course I did, and he said he loves me too!”

“He said he lov – does he even know your name? Ugh, why do I even try?”

The sky was gray most of the day; sunlight struggled to shine through the muscular clouds. Dusk came upon them fast and even with Nina’s eyes, Elayne failed to spot a single target worth the risk of firing upon. Goblins weren’t the best marksmen but a single shot was all they needed to uncover her location.

“… Elayne,” Nina said weakly, like she never intended to speak. “Look: down by the church.”

Elayne used the scope of her rifle. What she saw stopped her heart. Goblins congregated around a single human: Markin. Far from attacking him, they seemed to be welcoming him. The girls watched with cold numbness as he revealed the hidden positions of human soldiers, including their own.

“It can’t be …” So many of Elayne’s innocent beliefs disintegrated in front of her, replaced by the heaviness of stupidity. How could he say he loved her when he was plotting against her this whole time?

The same look of sadness and betrayal overcame Nina’s features but it provided only a little comfort. “Guess it wasn’t a crystal ball after all. Nightfall will be here soon. Shoot him now.”

The words were icy but accurate. Elayne took aim and framed her face to the task. She inhaled and secretly hoped that the Clockwork Angels would save him.


They didn’t. She withdrew from the window and hid herself. The clock tower bell rang out as the last bit of daylight shriveled over the horizon. And in the still silence of night, Elayne cried for the first time in her life.

The End
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Post April 29, 2016, 11:35:33 PM

I Am Invincible: Redux

This challenge was run by Eddie Sullivan.

The challenge was to write a superhero fiction flash story about a character who is omniscient or all powerful.

Example story:

Watching the Children of the Gods

Eddie Sullivan

Surveillance notes: confirmed members of Ordo Papilionis
August 4th 2010
Perk It Up Coffee, 134 Main St Burlington VT
Subjects: Wainscot, Alistair/ Wainscot, Alexandra
Audio, Video, Close in agent monitoring

Alistair sat drumming the fingers of one hand, while picking his coffee up with the other. Immediately after each sip, he knocked twice on the table, looked left, then quickly right. The casual observer would think he seemed nervous or compulsive, although there was no tension in his face. His countenance was as serene as still water at dawn. He was joined by a young woman who bore a striking resemblance to him. They had the same golden blonde hair and light blue eyes. She seemed as if she was communicating to an unseen person in American Sign Language. The effect was not as organized as that language though, perhaps more as if she were playing at a ridiculous pantomime of spell casting.

“Alex, nice to see you.” He gestured with his wrist and fingers but not apparently in her direction. “Sorry, just negating a flood in Bali.”

“Allistair, you look well.” She jumped from foot to foot then sat quickly. “That was dirty bomb not going off in Kabul.”

The waitress saw an additional customer and came to take an order. He shook his head back and forth so she assumed he did not want a refill. Alexandra stopped fidgeting long enough to make eye contact with the girl.

“Café Mocha extra light please.” The waitress turned away and she made extra frantic gestures as if she were catching up. “That was an avalanche in Kathmandu.”

“Wouldn’t you know that just as I need a refill I pick up a landslide in Mt Nebo, West Virginia!” He looked frustrated for the first time in the encounter. “Damn I needed another cup!”

“You can have some of mine when it comes.” His sister shook her head like she was starring in a shampoo commercial. “Whoa that one was close by. Seventeen car collision on Route 89 outside Lebanon, NH.”
The waitress brought the coffee. Alexandra transferred some of the contents to his cup. They continued talking and making seemingly random compulsive gestures for about forty five minutes. Agent Stan Harper was manning the camera across the street. His partner was monitoring the audio. They were in a crappy vacant apartment that had been commandeered for the occasion.

“Do you believe any of this Will? I never even saw stuff this odd working for 51.”

“I don’t know what to think, Stan. They seem to have some knowledge of remote events. The problem is they claim to be preventing things from happening. How do you prove they aren’t preventing something from happening?”

“Are they all from the same family?”

“Hell, they are all brothers and sisters!”

“How many are there?”

“We figure between two hundred fifty and three hundred. There are fifty one known family members outside the compound and one known in the compound. The rest are unknowns.”

“That is impossible. No one has that many kids.”
“Different mothers, same father. Augustus Wainscot should be about one hundred at least. Breeding and saving the world for seven and a half decades. The daddy of Ordo Papilionis. He dispatches his children to change the world. Each boy/girl pair is named with a different leading letter of the alphabet. They seem to exhibit different preternatural powers for each pair. These are the A’s. They claim that they make minute adjustments which prevent disasters all over the world. When one pair disappears another takes their place. There is always just the one pair for every letter.”

“That doesn’t add up. You said fifty one. Twenty six pairs would be fifty two. What gives?”

“Don’t concern yourself with the T’s. The T’s are no one’s problem but a guy named Finch.”

“What do the the T’s do?”

“Whatever they want! We have a T. The other T was KIA. You don’t want to talk about what killed a T, you need to trust me on that. The weird thing is, as long as we have the guy, Augustus won’t deploy anyother T’s. The one we have isn’t interested in going back, so the process is kind of in a holding pattern. You didn’t really read your files, did you?”

“Not really. I figured I was being put into a more mundane section when they asked me to leave Extraterrestrial branch. They threw me out here with you right after I arrived.”
“Yeah this department does that. We’re always on the move and attrition is high.”


“People die, sometimes they just see too much, or not enough, and walk away.”

“That seems odd.” Stan heard a strained buzzing out the window. He looked up and saw a small plane sputtering and losing altitude. It pitched from side to side painfully. The engine cut in and out. It was coming down for sure. It also seemed eerily likely that it was going to be coming straight in the window that he was standing at. He was going to die. There was no good explanation as to how he knew this, he just knew. There wasn’t even time to say anything to Will. The plane’s engine fired back to life strongly when it was about twenty feet from the window. The plane briefly occupied the space over the street just between the structures on either side. He looked into the pilot’s green eyes just as he jerked the stick and made the plane climb hard.

Stan turned to tell Will what had just happened. Will was looking at him laughing.

“I think she likes you.” Will pointed to the eye piece of the camera.

Stan looked into the aperture. The girl was looking right at him. She was smiling at him. Her brother was laughing. She waved and turned back to finish speaking with her brother. Will was chuckling behind him.

“Welcome to the Supernatural and Preternatural Section!”

(If you want more of this story and weren’t around last year- look for Eddie's entry in the archive for the story of the one of the T’s)
This story was previously edited by Iain Muir--Much thanks to him!

The End
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Post April 29, 2016, 11:36:36 PM

I Am Invincible: Redux

It All Never Really Ends Here…

Sergio Palumbo

Sitting on a couch that stretched all the way across the living room, the only thing the graying and almost bald man named Frank seemed to be capable of doing was staring blankly at the television. The room was almost totally dark, the only light coming from the widescreen TV itself. He gazed at something that no one else appeared to see, something that probably only lay inside his mind…

His wife, Alexandra, who was in her 70s, thought he was a desperate case by now, but in reality she was too. After all, her interests were somewhat foolish: like watching six different soap operas during the day and then watching TV crime dramas all night. But the woman had never worked outside the home and the pension her husband had started receiving, after retiring two years ago, had proven to be more than enough to let them have what they needed to live. The checks had started coming in each month following a strange accident that had happened to her man while he was on duty at his old job. Of course the couple never wanted to dine out, as they had almost never gone out when they were younger, nor did they go to the cinema. They seemed to be happy to just sit at home, as simple as that.

Actually, Frank had never been very talkative, and their discussions had commonly focused on matters like what to buy at the grocery store, what type of plants were best to have in the garden, and so on. Thus you didn’t need to delve very deeply into the status of their relationship to discover what was next for them, because eventually they simply would grow old together. Many marriages went that way, especially between two simple-minded partners, and that was exactly what they were – or at least that was what they were reputed to be among their neighbors nowadays. But they weren’t interested in what the others thought about them, as the couple didn’t feel the need to change themselves or to modify their lifestyle.

The truth was that Frank had become even less talkative than ever over the course of the last few months, after his retirement, but the woman wasn’t too worried: as people aged it was common to become more eccentric than before and more withdrawn, at least at times. What was really important was that the money kept coming in and they would never lack for food, water, beer, medications and the likes. Basically the only important thing was that they remain healthy as long as possible, of course. All the rest might simply go to hell, actually…


Sitting for most of the day on the couch in the middle of the living room, Frank didn’t care about what happened around him. After all, following that strange accident he had been involved in while working at the facility, life had taken on a completely different meaning. Because of the experimental energy that had unexpectedly hit him that day, everything had changed, and the people in charge of the institute had been very glad that he hadn’t sued them. Rather he had quietly accepted his early retirement, along with an extra-amount of money, which was given in exchange for him not raising questions about their poor safety procedures.

In a way, how could they even imagine what had really happened to him? Since that day, he had become an all-powerful and all-knowing individual who was able to make anyone die just by looking at them and wishing they were dead! Beyond that, his mind was capable of thinking at an incredible speed, evaluating and precisely calculating the probabilities that a death that he wished for- and that someone deserved…- might cause greater problems somewhere down the line. For example, right now he really wanted to strike dead the serial killer on TV - but his death, according to his calculations, would cause a missed opportunity for redemption of a friend of his in prison. Given the chance, that friend would be married one day and his son would save a school full of children thanks to his acts of courage…

It was all a matter of running different calculations in his head. Possessing both of those two great, unbelievable powers simply left him stuck for most of the day. As always new characters took the place of the previous ones on TV but when he thought about killing the new delinquents, new calculations of the bad things that might occur if he killed them would stop him cold!

It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t easy at all, and he only ended up being deeply trapped in his thoughts, without doing anything in the end. Deciding not to kill a heartless villain required a lot of time, as you thought about the thousands of consequences worldwide, generation after generation, and so on…

For example, his elderly wife Alexandra didn’t deserve to die certainly, at least not yet. But the odds were that one day she would be affected by a mental illness that would force her to murder him: he could see all the signs, given his unending calculations. But what should he do? Kill Alexandra or not kill Alexandra? Should he kill her today or tomorrow, for his own good and for the good of all mankind? Or should he only be concerned about the present safety of his dear wife who would not be truly responsible for the actions she would perpetrate against him in the future?

And more than that, if he killed her today, who would fix him dinner afterwards, and who would clean their house while he sat on the couch and endlessly continued his long, important calculations all day long…?

Most of the time indecisiveness proved to be his best decision, although his inability to decide might cause other worse, unprecedented problems here and there, in the future, maybe…

The End
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Post April 29, 2016, 11:37:50 PM

I Am Invincible: Redux


Michele Dutcher

It took a week for people at the outpost to notice what someone had done to the sepd’s nest – but Pojo knew it instantly. Deep inside the caverns of Bernard 2, the empath felt the young man’s laser slice through the fiber eggs of the 4 sepd chicks, leaving only a tiny hole in the fabric of each of the shells. The sepd’s nest had been built on a ridge high enough to be protected from the planet’s indigenous predators, but it hadn’t been high enough to protect it from one of the new humans at the outpost.

The 3-foot-high furry sepds would never hatch out of their eggs now – because the young man had killed them while the mother was hunting for food nearby the nest. The saddest thing for the humans was knowing that the mother still faithfully attended the nest everyday – expecting her 4 nestlings to eventually break free of their shells to find her waiting there to teach them how to survive on the tiny planet. She leaned against her brood 22 hours a day, using her 7-foot body to warm the now decaying chicks, scurrying off only occasionally to get food for herself, using her talons and beak to hunt small animals. But as the futile weeks passed by, even she knew something must be terribly wrong.

Pojo could feel it all, seeing the crime and its result in her mind, the same way she could feel the essence of all life on Bernard 3. She was one of two all-powerful empaths from a once great civilization. The sisters survived now deeper in the caverns than any human would probably ever venture, having existed for millennia, living directly off the energy of the planet’s core. By now the two were almost pure energy themselves, each providing balances for each other.

“A life-crime has been committed against one of the planet’s creatures,” Pojo, the kind-hearted, told her sister Kikpe.

“I felt it too, dear sister – but I felt it first in the shallow hatred of the human who calls himself, Cary,” answered the luminous Kikpe. “I took over his warped mind, pushing him up the path on the cliff. I allowed the crime to happen because bad events must happen to all living things – it is the way of nature. We are both all-powerful sister, but without me you would make sure there was no death and creatures old and sick would suffer forever. Death has its value. Without the death of one creature, another creature would die.”

“Life has its value as well. So I am now free to balance the suffering of the sepd with an act of kindness. Since a violent act has been done by a human, perhaps a human should be used to heal the mother’s heartbreak. There is one human in particular at the outpost, David, who has a good spirit. I will put into his mind an obsession to ease the pain of the creature on the ridge, in spite of the danger of being hurt by the sepd mother.”

And so it was that David, his judgment overpowered by a force he could not explain, began to creep up the cliff, intent on cleaning out the nest by removing the decaying eggs. Others from the outpost watched him from below – even Cary, especially Cary. The voice inside David’s head told him which way to go, which path to take, and eventually he looked down and could see the sepd’s nest a few feet below him. The mother was away, so he quickly scurried down onto the perch.

He checked the eggs and could see with his own eyes the laser holes that had been drilled by Cary. One by one he lifted them, throwing the eggs off the ledge into a stream below. Now the creature could get on with her life, she could build another nest next year, and the humans from the outpost would be sure to value it and protect it. A kind deed had been done to balance the violent one.

Suddenly the sepd mother was flying in front of David, her talons slashing at his arms and legs, her beak pecking at his eyes. Not knowing why the human had done the unthinkable, she grabbed hold of his shoulders, throwing him from the nest. In front of all the spectators, David’s body bounced down the cliff, splashing into the stream at the base of the mountain, in front of the mouth of a large cave.

Some started running towards the corpse of the man, hoping he might still be breathing – although everyone knew he was dead. But before they could reach him, a luminous ball of light could be seen floating on the water in the cave, being bounced about by the current. The ball got closer and closer to the corpse in the stream, eventually crashing into it, splashing its luminescence over the body. David could be seen rising slowly from the water now, shaking his head as though to clear it, before the crowd rushed towards him happily.

Deep inside the cavern, it was Kikpe who spoke first. “You gave him back his life. Now things are out of balance again.”

“Do what you must,” answered Pojo softly. “He should not have died – he was doing my bidding, I forced him to face the sepd.”

Kikpe began to glow as she concentrated on the mind of a young man who had eagerly done her vicious bidding.

Outside the cave, Cary ran towards David with the others meaning to welcome him back to the living. However, something distracted him – no one would ever know what – causing him to lose his step on a patch of slippery moss, cracking his skull open on the rocks.

“Sister, this man could have changed his ways,” said Pojo, irritated at the turn of events.

“A tooth for a tooth,” was Kikpe’s reply. “A life for a life.”

The End
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Post April 29, 2016, 11:38:34 PM

I Am Invincible: Redux

Do you see what I see?"


Sia sat in her meeting discussing how to make people achieve the crucial changes in their lives that they needed to move forward.

She had a long memory ... they were discussing the same thing in Ancient Egypt. She was frustrated because she had a different take on the whole matter than most. But in these computerized modern times, it all seemed to work so differently than the way she remembered!

Joe, the project manager was launching into one of his long speeches.

"The trouble, is that sometimes people know that they need to do something, but they can't get it done, because they can't find out how to do something they don't know in the first place. It's like the Chicken and the Egg problem".

Sandra added, "or like that game Jeopardy, run backwards. It's like asking that Trebeck guy, "I'll take $400 but I don't know either the question, or the answer."

Sia had some ideas. "Well, my hair stylist does wonders to hide my grey hair, but I've been around this a few times. Sometimes you don't change the person, you change everyone else around them."

Joe said, "Whoa! What does THAT mean?"

Sia said, "It's something a little like what you call a zeitgeist, a mood of the times. Ever notice that sometimes, "it all just seemed right" for ships to sail oceans? Or take to the skies? Often even before a pioneer, is a daydreamer, a precursor. But they often speak in nothing more than private notes, so even if you encountered them, you might not catch on to some of the bigt ideas they are up to."

Joe asked, "Well, okay, where do you want to go with this?"

Sia answered, "Fraud prevention. Not the insurance claim type - more like individual rumors, half truths, and outright lies and hustles don't work precisely the same way that they used to for the rest of history. Now, not counting the jokers and trolls, whenever you hear something, you can reach for your phone, or your computer at home, and check into it for yourself instantly. Sure, sometimes the information is blurred, but you can also get answers that often weren't available except for extensive research if at all."

Joe asked, "How does that affect us so strongly?"

"Because unfortunately many of the strongest mis-truths end up "grandmothered" into public consciousness."

Sandra asked, "Don't you mean "Grandfathered?"

Sia smiled. "See? That's because men made themselves into might-is-right regimes, and that worked its way into the language. It gets funnier. You have an entire town in Arizona named after a bird that doesn't exist. That whole flames thing? The Greeks got it wrong when they visited the temple of Benu. But it stuck because no one rememebers the Egyptian version."

Joe began to smile.

"So, who exactly are YOU?"

Sia sighed. "Ah, see, laziness. Because in the old days, you had to ask. Now you can just look me up. But perception and habits are different things. No one remembers the Egyptian Goddess of Perception either. Because I didn't have all the "cool kids" worshipping me. There were too many of us. I helped inspire the internet. But people won't even use it to change their perception."

The End
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Post April 29, 2016, 11:40:35 PM

I Am Invincible: Redux

Dating Star Storm

P.A. Hosler

Mike Paterson fidgeted nervously in his chair. His tongue felt dry and swollen in his mouth. He reached across the small table for the icy beverage sitting there. The ice sounded like little bells as he lifted the glass with shaky hands to his lips. He took a small sip and swished the cold liquid to moisten his mouth so he could speak.

“Are you sure she won’t be able to hear us?” Mike’s voice cracked a little as he spoke.

Charles Vorhees, reporter for the Daily Blab, continued to busily make preparations for the interview. He thought to himself, Of course she can hear us, she’s a freaking immortal being with supernatural powers. Aloud he said waving his hand in dismissal, “No. No, we’re safe here, the walls are lined withdihydrogen-monoxide. Military sources confided to me recently that it’s her only weakness.” Charles waited a beat to make sure Mike wasn’t going to object to his ruse.

Mike took another sip of water, his eyes darted around the room. “The floors too?” he asked.

“Of course Mr. Paterson, we’ve taken every precaution so we can conduct this interview.”

Charles hovered a finger over his tape recorder. “May we begin Mr. Paterson?” he asked. Mike nodded slowly and Charles pressed record. “So how exactly, Mr. Paterson...”

“Mike. Please call me Mike.”

“Okay Mike. How exactly did you and Star Storm meet?”

“She rescued me, that’s how it started anyway.”

“She rescues lots of people Mike. Could you be a little more specific?”

“True, but I think it was because of my blog.”

“Alright Mike, just tell me what happened.”

Mike squirmed uncomfortably in his seat. He wasn’t used to talking about himself and Star Storm had warned him not to talk about their relationship. A bead of sweat formed a wet horizontal line across his forehead. He dabbed at it unconsciously and then began to tell Charles Vorhees his story.

“For the past two years I’ve been running the highest rated Star Storm blog on the internet from my mother’s basement. I have spiders that collect images and stories about her heroics from all over the world. I guess you might say I’m her biggest fan.

“Then three months ago, I was running some errands for my mother in town. I had to stop at the bank and I walked right into a robbery. Everyone looked right at me, including the bank robbers. That gave one of the tellers just enough time to press the alarm button. Things went bad fast after that. The robber closest to me was pissed off to put it mildly. He leveled his gun at me and fired! I’m pretty sure I wet myself. Please don’t print that. Everything slowed down, I could even see the flash exiting the muzzle of that guys weapon! I hit the ground hard and I was dazed for a few seconds. I can remember thinking that a gunshot wound should hurt. I felt moisture so I thought, I’m hit, I know I’m hit. How come I can’t feel it? To make sure I wasn’t paralyzed by the bullet I sat up. I looked myself over... nothing... not a scratch. I looked around and the robbers were gone.

“People came over to help me up. They told me that Star Storm had saved me, saved all of us. I’d never had an actual encounter with her before, and I missed it. I didn’t even get a glimpse of her. The bank manager decided to close the bank for the rest of the day and ushered everyone out the door. I just stood in front of the bank and stared at the sky. I actually started to worry about having to tell mother that I couldn’t finish my errands because the bank had closed. And then the world dropped away.

“I was floating high above the city and it felt like I had left my stomach back where I had been standing. Star Storm spun me around to face her. She looked into my eyes and smiled. She knew my name. She told me she had been following my site for over a year. She made sure that it received the less mundane heroics before any of the others. I guess you’d say my site had it’s own special fan. I don’t think I’ll ever understand why but, then she kissed me.

“Things got really strange after that. Every time I left the house I’d wind up in the middle of some life threatening event. Sometimes buildings would collapse, trains would derail, or meteors would suddenly enter Earth’s atmosphere and head directly for whatever part of the city I was in. Sometimes people around me died while I was whisked away to safety. She would smile and tell me that she couldn’t save everyone. It didn’t take me long to figure out that Star Storm was causing these random disasters. She did it to be close to me. I begged her to stop. Apparently it’s some sort of mating ritual on her home world. Somehow I’m the only genetically compatible human she has found since being abandoned here. She wants to mate. I’ve never mated with anyone in my life!”
Charles interrupted, “Wait, you’re saying you’re a virgin?”
“I’m telling you she’s killing people to be with me and that’s the first thing that you want to know!” Mike yelled.

Suddenly a far wall exploded inward. “Hello Sweetie!” Star Storm growled. “I told you not to speak to anyone about us.”

Headline, Daily Blabb:
Head Reporter Charles Vorhees and Star Storm blogger Mike Paterson missing for more than a week. Authorities continue to investigate.

Remote Island in the Pacific:
“Behave yourself boys. I’ll be back soon.” Star Storm disappeared over the horizon, another disaster needed to be averted.

The End
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Post April 29, 2016, 11:41:18 PM

I Am Invincible: Redux

- Winner -

The Community Project

Joey To

One of the two big men with black stockings over their heads leaned over the counter to grab the cash. The other pointed his pistol at Yuki. She was about to pay for the can of apple soft drink. She glanced at Eva, a classmate, who stood nearby with lips curled and wearing her stupid pink scarf.

"Give me your schoolbags and purses," the thug grunted.

Yuki got mad. To use perfectly good stockings this way was a waste. And she didn't like robberies either.

But Yuki couldn't to afford to get mad. She couldn't afford a bad report this semester. She breathed in deeply and—

Stuff it. She rifled the can at the thug's head. A bang followed. The bullet merely ricocheted off her right shoulder. She knitted her brow at the hole in her uniform and, when she looked up, the guy's head was no more. Crap, she was gonna lose marks for this.

"Good one, Butcher, killing my suspect," Eva called out, "thought your project was the mob." Yuki ignored her and the hallway of sneers as she entered the Principal's Office.

Mr Clarke was red-faced, his hands planted wide apart on his mahogany desk. "YOU KNOW HOW DIFFICULT IT WAS COVERING UP YESTERDAY'S MESS?!"

Yuki squinted as he swivelled his monitor around. It was replaying her body-cam footage in slow-motion: the thug's head exploding on impact with the can. Admittedly, her response was probably a bit excessive, her nickname "Butcher" not entirely unjustified.

Mr Clarke sighed. "Dammit Yuki. I know you mean well and you're one of our most gifted students but you can't go around executing Code Blacks. It's not just your secret powers at stake, nor even this school…"

Yuki knew the speech. They were all-powerful but not all-knowing and they had to be careful with who they saved or took out. Last semester, she sped at a casual Mach 4.1 to rescue an old lady in a wheelchair stuck at a railway crossing. Aside from the shattered car windows, the old cow turned out to be the mercenary "C-4 Granny". Somehow, Yuki had missed the email memo. No prizes for guessing who was responsible for sixty-five deaths and the destruction of her favorite hot dog stand two days later.

"…and are you even listening?" said Mr Clarke with a raised eyebrow.

Yuki's stomach growled.

Yuki mumbled a series of expletives as she strode down the street. Given her abilities, she mumbled a few in parallel as well. As she neared Burger Bomb at the mall, she perked up her ears at some distant screech: something over the police radio about a suspicious semi-trailer on Route-44.

Just as well. She had to make up for the ten deducted marks somehow. This was the "Community Project". She would graduate immediately with a "super" license if she got tops marks for this. No need for further units.

In a second, Yuki whizzed over to an intersection on Route-44. She squinted: two men in a red semi-trailer, a shiny company truck. And carrying her favorite apple soft drink.

How effing dare they.

Yuki blazed toward the moving vehicle, ripped open the passenger-side door—both men were in tactical gear—grabbed one by the vest, dragged him out in front, hurled him through the windscreen and zipped away before anyone could digest what the hell just happened.

She was barely down the road when she asked herself why such well-equipped people would be interested in a semi-trailer of carbonated beverages.

So she dashed all the way back to the now stationary truck.

Yuki leapt into the cabin. The eyes of the driver bulged. He was conscious enough whilst the other was busy bleeding. She grabbed the clipboard beside the seat and read.

She tore off the former's mask. "Who set you up for this job?"

"You… you… mean this?"

Yuki wrapped her hand around his neck. "No, I meant the threat you made against the city cemetery. This left Dalesville and was meant for the nearby Burger Bomb. I assume you wanted to carry out an attack so why the detour through here?"

He pointed at her. "Like… you. But pink… scarf."

Of course. Eva wanted the top spot. It was always her. That sabotaging bitch. But Yuki interrupted her self-imposed exposition with another realization.

"So what other jobs did you have? Hurry up, I'm hungry."

The man grinned. "Enjoy your lunch…"

Just as Yuki heard sirens, there was a flash of orange, a wall of heat and she hit the bitumen a hundred feet from the flaming wreckage. She got up, patted her seared uniform and sniffed. Definitely homemade C-4.

That's it. She'd had enough.

Yuki stomped towards the Principal's Office.

"I'm sorry, he's in with another student," said what's-her-secretary's-name.

"I know," grunted Yuki as she kicked the door open and marched inside.

Eva sprung from her chair whilst Mr Clarke merely frowned. "I'm glad I reinforced that door, given the nature of this institution."

Yuki pulled Eva's pink scarf and slammed her head into the desk. "Did you reinforce the desk?"—there was a dent—"Guess not."

She let Eva slid onto the floor before commencing her expositional rant on how Eva hacked into her email to delete vital memos and organized certain crimes to provoke her, including intercepting C-4 Granny's goons, making them take a detour.

Mr Clarke sighed. "Probable. But it's still conjecture."

Yuki frowned. "I'm not accusing Eva of working directly with C-4 Granny. The hag probably detonated remotely when she realized her people were off schedule. Still, Eva would have guessed that."

"Fine. I'll deal with her."

Yuki didn't budge.

Mr Clarke narrowed his gaze. "And I'll allow you the chance to regain more marks. You may track down C-4 Granny as well as the mob for the project. But no more mistakes."

Yuki nodded. "One more thing," she said, pointing at the unconscious lump on the floor, "that was a Code Red, she tries anything and it'll be a Code Black."

The End
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Post April 30, 2016, 05:18:24 PM

3 Random Things Challenge

This challenge was run by Eddie Sullivan.

The challenge was to write a speculative flash piece where a crime has taken place and a jar and a calendar feature prominently in the story
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Post April 30, 2016, 05:19:08 PM

3 Random Things Challenge

The Beast, Within

N.J. Kailhofer

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

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

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

It was dead, like everything else.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

"We didn’t know that."

Rednae paused. "What did you know?"

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

Rednae boggled. "Surely not. Chaos!"

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

He seemed unsure.

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

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

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

"Haven't you been touched before?"

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

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


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

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

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

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

She nodded.

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

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

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

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

The door closed.

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

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


"Where is it?" the scientist asked.

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

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

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

The End
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Post April 30, 2016, 05:20:10 PM

3 Random Things Challenge

A Fairy Familiar Tale

Eddie Sullivan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What is going on Sparkles?”

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

“You are. That is your new name.”

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

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

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

“Isn’t that vampires?”

“Fey too I’m afraid.”

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

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

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

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

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

The End
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Post April 30, 2016, 05:22:09 PM

3 Random Things Challenge

Twenty Questions

Michele Dutcher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Lowell Roppo,” came the answer.

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

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

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

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

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

“Five, including this one.”

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

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

“Yes,” said the girl. “All his life.”

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

“Yes,” said the C-241.

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

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

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

“Yes,” said the robot.

“Will you get me inside now?”

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

Magalie looked around before going into the building.

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

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

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

“Both of their lives.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“14 questions.”

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

The End
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Post April 30, 2016, 05:23:01 PM

3 Random Things Challenge

The Case of the Calendar Jar Crimes...

Sergio Palumbo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The End
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Post April 30, 2016, 05:23:56 PM

3 Random Things Challenge

Flash Supressor

Rick Tornello

He states, “I’m an Adjudicator.”

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

He took a gumdrop out of the Everfilled Jar.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My brain registered the muzzle flash.

The End
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Post April 30, 2016, 05:24:58 PM

3 Random Things Challenge

- Winner -

Waste Management

Joey To

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

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

No one answered. Just wide eyes.

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

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

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

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

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

Babyface Danny slowly put his hand up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He nodded. "Deploy c-countermeasures."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Wait in the ship as planned."

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

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

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

Danny pattered the comms panel.

"Hang on," the boss grunted in response.

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

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

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

The End
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Post April 30, 2016, 05:46:28 PM

The Rope a Dope Trope Challenge

This challenge was run by Eddie Sullivan.

The challenge was to write a flash story with a same old horror trope, but.... change an essential part that always ends up being a given.

Example story:

The Thing in the Closet

Eddie Sullivan

“Mom, there is something in the closet, really.” Timmy had tried to tell her this for months ever since he himself noticed.

“Sweetheart, there are no such thing as monsters. Go to sleep. If you just close your eyes you will be out before you know it.”

She stood for a moment in the doorway framed by the light of the hall. She blew him a kiss and closed the door behind her.

It waited a moment so she wouldn’t be near. The sense of timing was perfect. There had never even been a close call.


Timmy drew the sides of the pillow up in a “U” shape around his head blocking his ears.


He stared up at the ceiling refusing to acknowledge it in any way.

“Psst. Kid I know you can hear me. Quit it. Over here, hey!”

Timmy turned over and buried his face in the mattress. He pressed the pillow down hard on the back of his head seemingly trying to suffocate himself. He could hear the floorboards creaking through the pillow. They stopped near the bed. The tiny sharp tip of a sharp grimy claw poked his behind through the blanket. No sooner than it poked him, feet scuffled across the floor back to the closet.

Timmy rolled over exasperated. He threw the pillow at the closet door. It bounced off the door and swung it closed until contact was made with something just inside the dark portal of the door jam.

Timmy sat up. “What...do..you..want? And if you say what I think you are going to say, I swear to God I will find a way to catch you and give you to the government.”

“Got any gum?”

“Arrrgg!” Timmy leaped out of bed and flew across the room, kicking Legos in an explosive pattern in front of him in a wave of destruction. He reached the light switch and flicked it on.

He heard his mother walking quickly down the hallway and ran back to his bed, jumping in. He had forgotten the light. Humph.

She opened the door.

“Sweetie. There are no monsters.”

“Yes there are. He is right in there.” Timmy waved his hand at the closet. She opened the door to reveal a closet full of clothes.

“Nothing kiddo. Besides what would a monster want here?”

“He wants gum.”

His mother got that disapproving look on her face. “Honey, it is okay to be scared of the dark. This stuff about monsters is ridiculous, so ridiculous you don’t even have a good reason fabricated for why one would be here.”


“No “buts” young man. Go to sleep and stay in bed. Do you understand?”

“Yes Mom.” He scowled at her.

“And don’t give me that look or you will see what a real monster looks like. You’re eight years old, these bedtime shenanigans are getting old quick.”

He pointed to the pillow on the floor by the closet. She picked it up and threw it at him. He caught it and couldn’t help but smirk a little. Shoving it under his head he turned on his side and pulled up the covers. Mom blew another kiss and closed the door.

It waited the obligatory minute.

“Hey Tim.”
“Hey Timmy”
“Timmy boy.”

Timmy ignored it for as long as he could.

“Please. For the love of God, please talk about anything but gum.”



“Got any gum?”

“I hate you so much.”

The End
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Post April 30, 2016, 05:47:21 PM

The Rope a Dope Trope Challenge

City of Ghosts

Sergio Palumbo

It was late afternoon and he hated to stop but he was on the road and knew that he had to. Graysen needed to find a store before venturing into the desert, as he wanted to buy something sweet before he got too far away from the city.

Of course, any place he went might give him problems and he always tried his best to stay away from crowded places so he could remain calm and relaxed.

As the 40-year-old bearded man entered the store, his eyes looked right, left and center, as he commonly did, because he didn’t want to run into any unexpected encounters. Such happenings were common, especially around here, which was the main reason he wanted to get as far away - as quickly as possible - taking his motorcycle and his meager belongings with him. He had always been very fond of his Britten V-1000 and his vintage leather jacket.

Outrageous in its day, his V-1000 was an old racing motorcycle that looked and performed like nothing else, offering blistering performance coupled with a visionary shape. From its 165-hp, sand-cast aluminum-alloy engine to its girder-style forks, each detail reflected its designer’s attitude and brilliant mechanical mind. Only ten of these bikes were ever built and he proudly owned one of them.

While he walked around inside, searching the shelves for Hostess cupcakes, his eyes never stopped roaming, in order to see if something else was close. After a few moments, he found the colorful packages he was looking for, and he immediately grabbed them. Now all he needed was a bottle of whiskey and he would be done with his shopping for today.

As he grabbed a Jack Daniels and turned towards the blonde-haired woman at the register, he saw what he feared might be here. A faint, pale presence appeared in the middle of the store and its hideous features told him that it was not much different from what he had previously stumbled into. The ghost was in its fifties and looked like a woman with burned skin, her slender body covered in ghastly wounds with parts of her bony structure being clearly visible.

As Graysen instinctively moved backwards and walked to the rear of the store to keep clear of the scary ghost, it approached him and started talking in a low, terrible voice that he alone could hear. “I’m Sylvie, I lived here, and I died here because of the disaster. I want you to listen to me, I need your help: please save me! Save us all!” And with that being said, the apparition immediately disappeared in a whiff of smoke and rotten meat.

“Hey mister, are you ready to pay?” asked the woman cashier who was eyeing him suspiciously. “Is there anything else I can help you find?”

Graysen raised his eyes and, as if he was still trying to come out of his present stupor, he simply replied, “No, thanks. This is all I need. How much?”

“It’ll be $17.25,” the cashier said.

His fingers bustled about his pockets and found the required cash. ‘Exact amount, no time to waste’ he told himself. The man almost started running out the door with the same troubled look on his pale face. Then, he headed for his beloved motorcycle and jumped on. He powered it up and rode it flat-out in order to distance himself from that small town and get into the empty desert. There he would be safe! There he would also be alone, away from all those presences that always appeared to him, asking for his help. He couldn’t help them anyway - he was not a superhero like in the comics. Moreover, he wouldn’t even know how to begin to save them…

As soon as the man had exited the store, the curly 8-year-old daughter of the shop owner came out the back and found her mother, the cashier.

“Who was that?” the girl asked.

“Just a customer, he sure was in a hurry…”

“Nobody stops here for long, mother. Maybe our town is too small.”

“I don’t think so, sweetie…” the woman replied. “It’s just that most of the tourists are heading towards the desert. They just stop here, buy something and move on.”

“We’re going to become a city of ghosts, mother,” the child insisted.

“Don’t say that, Sylvie. Try reading something besides ghost stories once in a while!”


When the disaster finally struck, the whole area was turned into a wasteland that nobody dared to enter for many years. Graysen had long since passed away. It was a shame that he had been given such an amazing psychic gift but no one understood it – not even the man himself, as a matter of fact.

Graysen had always been able to see dead people, especially in this area. After all these years he knew that he only had two options: either spend the rest of his life in a psychiatric hospital or move away from everyone.

But things might have been very different, indeed, if only that man had known that he was not only endowed with the power of seeing dead people from the past – but he could see the ghosts of people who would die in the future. What he was seeing was their souls before they even grew up, exactly as he had just seen the ghost of the cashier’s daughter who was only 8-years-old. He saw her ghost as she would become when the child grew up and died. Sylvie’s future ghastly remains would come to the world of living humans from time to time, trying to warn the few that might see her of the impending disaster.

But there was no way to change the destruction that was coming, by any means. After all, people didn’t even take too seriously what they saw before their own eyes nowadays. How could anyone blame them if they didn’t believe in things that came out of the future?

The End
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Post April 30, 2016, 05:48:09 PM

The Rope a Dope Trope Challenge

The Tragedy of a Vampire Countess


Mortals have learned to fear my name, the name of Countess Reinhardt. I preside over a land of perpetual darkness, darkness so thick the human eye can’t see more than ten feet into the distance. It’s a forsaken land populated by monsters the likes of which humans have only seen in their nightmares. An inexplicable red sky hangs over their solitary houses both day and night.

The black outline of my castle dominates the horizon. Its archaic walls are stained with the filth of ages but it’s the only place a vampire countess like me can call home. The doors to my throne room open to a prize I’ve been waiting for, a beautiful young man from the village who has fallen under my spell.

His attempts to resist me made his gait uneven. I twirled a black lock of hair with my index finger. “… So thrilling,” I said to him, “You still think you can escape me, don’t you?”

500 years ago, I was just a commoner; the kind of girl all the men ignored. Mt first kiss was with a demon banished to a forest outside of town. It was a red kiss that placed upon me the curse of un-death. My rotten corpse moved as if it were still alive and my new hypnotic eyes granted me power of the same men who had dismissed me, I gathered them in my castle like trophies whose lives revolved around my twisted desires. And there in the darkness, I committed depraved acts that would offend the gods themselves.

The centuries marched on but no matter how many men I bewitched, I always found myself wanting more. Such irrational lust drove me to visit human villages in disguise to hunt for new victims. And one night I found the perfect one: Michael Harker, a young school teacher. He was under observation in an asylum; apparently his desire to explore his sexuality had caused the doctors to diagnose him with brain illness, something that affected so many young men across the land.

I experienced a thrill I hadn’t felt in decades when I snuck into his room. It was his innocence I longed for, an innocence I would strip away once I had him under my sheets. How surprised I was when he managed to resist my hypnotic gaze.

In that moment, memories more than 500 years old came back to me, memories of the girl I used to be: unpopular, unwanted, unattractive.

“I’m not ugly anymore, how dare you ignore me!” I foolishly shouted.

Alerted to my invasion, the famous vampire hunter Abigail Van Helsing burst into the room to confront me. Resorting to desperation, I took the unwilling boy under my arm and jumped out the window. My inhuman body allowed me to sprint miles across the monster-infested countryside and back to my castle.

Michael Harker never stopped resisting me. It was beyond vexing; I had amassed a harem of young men who fell to their knees at the mere sight of my mystical form. Day and night I seduced him only to be met with disappointment.

“I can do things beyond your wildest dreams,” I said to him, “No one has to know.”

He responded confidently: “I don’t belong to you or anyone else.”

The depression that took root in my ethereal mind was debilitating, I couldn’t even find the energy to feed. Michael was all I could think about. It was a frivolous pursuit to say the least, I held hundreds of men under my spell but it was the one I couldn’t posses that enslaved my lust. How could anyone remain so chaste in my spectacular presence?

Then came the day Doctor Helsing made her daring rescue attempt. The sound of my castle doors being smashed in shook the empty wine bottles in my room. Inebriated and weak from hunger, I grabbed my sword and prepared for an onslaught that would most likely end my immortal existence.

“Michael,” I muttered to myself, “If you only knew how you brought this demon to her knees.”

Helsing was waiting for me in my throne room shepherding an army of mortals. Even in my emaciated state, I managed to slay over fifty of them, but the outcome was inevitable. As I lay on the ground with lethal wood protruding from my bloodied chest, I watched Michael happily re-unite with the doctor.

I felt a sick smile spread cross my pale lips. While he was in captivity, Michael acted so scared and demure. It was that kind of fake fragility that captivated me. If only Abigail knew how manipulative he was.

“Good luck to you,” I whispered as my slayer left the castle, “I hope that boy destroys you like he destroyed me.”

The End
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Post April 30, 2016, 05:48:59 PM

The Rope a Dope Trope Challenge

- Winner -

Death Trap

Joey To

A signal chirped… then it repeated itself.

Glances were exchanged across the table, followed by the bowl of mashed potatoes. Paz shoved a spoonful of carrots into his mouth… then sighed. He turned and squinted at the screen: the words "Unidentified Automated Signal" were blinking with what appeared to be jumbled code flashing underneath. Then he returned to his meal and the faces of twelve downcast rangers.

"Lieutenant Paz, you answering that?" said the computer through the speakers. "Military Protocol Section 4, Paragraph 22 dictates that active personnel must investigate unidentified signals unless such action compromises the execution of—"

"Yes, I know," said Paz with his mouth half full. "I'm eating."

Sergeant Dwayne "Unstoppable Tight End" Mortimer scanned the men. "Sir, the words 'death' and 'trap' comes to mind but we couldn't kill anyone in our last op. We could really use some action."

Paz kept chewing. "Computer, where's the signal coming from?"

"MU-45 in Sector 310."

"Is anything out there?" asked Corporal Trumna as she marched to the drink dispenser.

"I've already changed course and, given Sergeant Mortimer's concern, updated all your wills," said the computer. "I recommend you all go over it again before sending."

Paz strode into the armory. "Good to go? Everything alright?"

Mortimer put down one assault rifle and picked up another. "Yes… and no. Nothing wrong with our weapons. I checked and rechecked when we got back and again now."

Paz grabbed a weapon for himself and shrugged. "Well, the equipment didn't exactly fail… just that no one died like we thought they should."

There was a beep. "We are in GSO directly above the signal source on MU-45," said the computer. "Preliminary scans indicate an operationally safe atmosphere. Dropship prep is complete. C'mon, chop-chop."

"Operationally safe atmosphere my butt," muttered Paz in his seat. The dropship quaked. The winds outside raged and it was conveniently dark. Apart from the flashes of lightning. Someone hurled their dinner against a window. Paz knitted his brow. So not cleaning that up.

"Sir, there's a… a structure," said Trumna in the pilot's seat. Mortimer was standing next to her.

Paz unbuckled his harness and staggered towards the front. On screen, the structure was basically a bunker with merely one level aboveground. Through the windshield, thunder and rain, he could vaguely make out its outline.

"Resembles United Earth's standard off-world designs," said Mortimer. "What's that doing out here? Secret facility?"

"I have no records of any sanctioned operations on this planet," said the computer. "The signal source is located in sub-level four and I cannot decipher its nature."

"Thanks," grunted Paz, "how pleasantly ominous and—"

The dropship rolled. Paz hit the floor. Then the dropship rolled some more.

"Damn this storm… we're going down," Trumna called out, pulling the joystick. "Hold on, we can still make it to the landing pad."

They didn't.

Steam rose from the mangled airframe, the rain having mostly extinguished the fire. Paz scanned: twelve of them including himself. Trumna was missing. He remembered the dropship cabin collapsing somewhat dramatically. Not sure how he survived that. Trumna obviously didn't. Either way, the computer needed to send down a dropship later.

Paz forced himself up. "You're all still wishing for action?!"

At least the crash had somehow busted the door wide open. Then something creaked. Everyone turned to see the wreck budge and raised their weapons… then Trumna popped out, covered with oil and soot.

"Sorry 'bout that," she said as she adjusted her helmet and brushed off some glass granules.

Paz squinted. No time for celebrations or questions. "Let's move it!"

The corridors were dark, of course. And the air was stale too. Paz saw no signs of struggle or any disturbance apart from the lack of main power.

"Definitely United Earth infrastructure," said Mortimer. "Stairs to sub-level four just up ahead."

The squad made their way down… their boots clanking on the grilled floors.

"Might as well encounter some parasitic monster while we're at it," whispered Mortimer.

Light rippled across the walls at the T-junction ahead. Paz made some fancy hand signals and the squad moved up. When they rounded the corner and turned left, they all gawked. The floor was littered with bodies in white coats. At the centre of the room was a large glowing ball, the periphery rippling and pulsing steadily.

"I don't think that's a parasitic monster," uttered Trumna as she checked a terminal. "Although there could be one inside assuming it's an energy barrier."

Paz looked around. The bodies all seemed intact. No blood, no signs of trauma.

"Maybe the signal is a secret distress code," said Mortimer. "This is obviously some secret facility."

The energy field warped momentarily, now pulsing erratically. Trumna pointed to a graph, the line flickering. "I recommend shutting it down."

Paz nodded. The squad aimed their assault rifles as Trumna hit a few keys. The field flashed off… revealing a black lanky form with a—

They unloaded.

Sparks erupted as rounds ricocheted. No effect.

The squad inched back when the tall figure glided toward them. Then Paz realized that it was actually a humanoid form donning a black hooded robe and in its calciferous grip was a gleaming scythe.

"Heeeello!" it boomed. "Thanks for releasing me. These bastards here tried to trap me, probably wanted to be immortal. Well, they partly succeeded but not before I organized their exit interviews and sent out a distress call."

Glances were exchanged.

"I messed that part up, did I? Sorry." Then it shrugged. "Anyway, as a reward, I can give you all a painless death if you want but decide quickly. I haven't worked for a week, must be so many who need taking."

Paz opened his mouth but closed it without saying a word and turned to go.

"Where're you going?" asked Death, stalking forward.

"Err… we have work too," answered Mortimer with a reluctant smile, looking up at the towering figure.

"You're gonna kill people, right? May I come along?"

The End
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Post April 30, 2016, 08:50:42 PM

The "It Just Keeps Getting Meta!" Challenge

This challenge was run by Eddie Sullivan.

The challenge was to write a speculative flash fiction story where the author is the protagonist and there are at least 2 elements which are true to his or her life right now recently.

Example story:

They Call It Puppy Love

Eddie Sullivan

“Dogs don’t talk.”

The little golden mutt glanced up at me lovingly and wrinkled her nose. “You mean they never talk to you.”

I was still very much attributing everything going on to the fever which kept me home from work. In a string of unlikely events my wife who normally works third shift had switched with a friend and was out of the house. That left me, the new puppy, and the two cats alone for the day.

“Well then why now, Valentine?”

“Why not now, Ed? Is one time really better than another for this kind of thing?”

I adjusted my head on the pillow, the sinus pressure was killing me. “Well now certainly isn’t the most opportune time by far. Is there something you need, like a tummy rub or a treat?”

“Funny. Truly. I can get those things quite well without speaking to you. There are much more important matters at hand. Do you think we just talk to anyone for any silly reason?”

A good barometer of just how ill I was could have been the level of apathy I still held for this particular situation. The decision to turn over on the couch and ignore the talking puppy was much less difficult that you would have thought. So I bunched the blanket under my chin, fluffed the pillow a bit with my head and turned over. I would just close my eyes and whatever the hell was going on would stop happening. I felt at the time it was an entirely rational decision. Valentine the puppy felt differently. The little bitch started barking relentlessly. Little did I know the noise of the bark wasn’t the solution to my ignorance in and of itself. She was issuing orders to the cats. They promptly obeyed and pounced on me relentlessly. I relented and turned back toward her, casting the cats off me in the process.

“So now cats can speak dog?” She nodded her little golden head. “And they take orders from them?”

“Think of it more as an exchange of professional courtesy.” She gave a cute little bark, which I assumed was thanks, and the feline co-conspirators went somewhere to lick themselves.

“Fine what is it that is so important that not only do you have to talk to an human, but also enlist the help of cats?”

“First tell me I’m a good girl.”


“You heard what I said. Tell me I’m a good girl. While you are at it stretch your lazy ass over here and rub my tummy.”

I spent several seconds looking at her in disbelief, until I realized disbelief over this request was made moot by the fact that it was in English, out loud, from a puppy. All bets were pretty much off at this point in our exchange. I relented just to get on with it and conclude whatever the hell was going on here.

I reached over and rubbed her tummy. “ Good girl. Good Girl. Who is a good girl?”

After a moment or two she flipped over, ran at me and hopped up onto the couch. She stood on my chest and looked me right in the face. “I am and don’t you ever forget it.”

“That’s it?”

“No, dope. You have cancer.”


“Cancer. I can smell it. Not bad, it just started. You should go to the doctor and be looked at. They will treat it and you will live.”

I spent a minute or two just looking into her puppy dog eyes. “ Ok I will bite. Why are you telling me this? I am sure other dogs have smelled it and not told other humans.”

“I like you and want to keep you. I have grown fond of watching you write your stories in your office at night after work. You really are quite good, consider doing it full time once we get this health business cleared up.”

I cocked my head at her, she cocked hers back. I think she was teasing me. “You like my work…wait you read?”

“Yes. You really are quite good. Also yes I read, but you also dictate a lot of stuff remember. I like that better, then I can just sit there while you tell me stories. So just go to the doctor and get fixed so nothing changes, ok?”

“Ok. But…Don’t you think that maybe now that I know dogs talk it might come up in my stories?”

“Nope. I am never going to say a word again after today. That coupled with the fact that no one will ever believe a fiction writer will keep my secret safe. Also what are you going to do write about this exact exchange? We both know it is too meta. Who do you think you are Charlie Kaufman? Pfft.”

Have you ever seen a puppy go Pfft? It is terminally cute.

“We will see, Valentine. “

She barked at me rather than speak again. As for me I turned over and fell asleep. I didn’t wake up till I heard walking in the living room. My wife was looking down at me.

“Hey sleepy head. How you feel?”

“Better, but I think I might go see the doctor anyway.”


“I just have a feeling it is time to get checked out.”

That damn, cute little bitch, I saw her wink.

The End
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Post April 30, 2016, 08:52:09 PM

The "It Just Keeps Getting Meta!" Challenge

Dayton Ohio

Michele Dutcher

I can never remember a time in my life when I didn’t want things to be tidy. So it peeved me a little when a webzine editor set up a meeting of authors and editors in Dayton Ohio, and then bowed out at the last minute.

I had already bought my tickets and made reservations weeks in advance, even going so far as to Google and print out the city bus routes I would be taking. The hard feelings were ironed out however, when the rest of us decided to meet up in Dayton anyway.

Events didn’t truly veer off course until I was on the 17 bus heading downtown and a mechanical female voice came over the intercom on the bus. “Remember, people need your blood. Your blood will be happily accepted at locations easily accessed from most bus routes.” I thought it was unseemly for advertisers to assume that all people who rode the bus needed money bad enough to sell their blood. I looked around at the other riders, and none of them seemed to have been bothered by the announcement – even when it was repeated every three minutes.

I looked around the bus again, closer this time. There was something missing…but what?

Fat people. There were no fat people, there were no skinny people, and no one appeared to be homeless. Each of the 45 passengers appeared to be height and weight proportional, with their ages between 25 and 50 years old. As the ride progressed no one moved, no one shifted, and no one said anything. I briefly caught the eye of one lady who immediately looked down and pulled the brim of her hat over her eyes.

I was disappointed when I got to the ‘Grand Dayton Hotel’ and saw that the words ‘Grand Dayton’ had been covered with white paint, leaving only the word Hotel. There was a small arrow pointing around back where the main entrance normally was, so I entered the hotel through the parking garage. The word ‘Hilton’ had been scratched out on several metal name plates. There were sheets of plastic hanging in the lobby.

The group wasn’t scheduled to meet up for a few hours, so after checking-in (noticing a 4-foot-wide brown stain on the hall carpet outside my room) I decided to walk about downtown to find someplace nice where our small, friendly group could eat supper. I walked through blocks of buildings that were boarded up, sheets of brown paper covering many of the windows.

After not even finding a fast-food joint, I noticed an 8x11 inch sign saying the name of my bank and went inside the building. I went up the escalator. At the top I saw a row of six teller windows but no people. I checked my cell phone for the time: 1:47 in the afternoon.

A man in a suit suddenly burst out from behind the row of cages.

“Hello,” I said cordially. “I’m not from here and was looking for someplace downtown to eat.”

He was flustered. “I just eat healthy food in my apartment…but I believe there is an Uno Pizza around.”

“I’ll check, thanks,” I told him. Then my eye fell upon six toy robots arranged in a circle on a nearby desk. They were black and white and looked like small dogs. “These are cute. Are they for sell?”

The teller threw himself between me and the circle of toys. “They don’t like to be touched!” he whispered frantically.

“THEY don’t like to be touch?” I laughed.

“I meant: please don’t touch them!”

Seeing that I wasn’t welcome I went down the escalator, but not before noticing that the dogs must have been turned on somehow, because their eyes were glowing. As I was halfway to the first floor I thought I heard a mechanical female voice huff out: ‘Cute indeed!’

Our small group of cyber-friends ate and drank for hours inside the Uno Chicago Style Pizza Place. The company and conversation were great and group-selfies were taken. As we were paying for our checks, the editor of Alien Eyes saw a toy beside the cash register.

“I’ve only seen a few of these,” said Lawrence. “It’s an Aibo robot.”

“Aibo? I thought these quit being made in 2005,” answered Sterling, bending down to look at it.

“Careful!” I blurted out. “These toys don’t like to be touched!”

“You’re joking with us!” Lawrence said before we all broke into laughter.

Sterling looked at the cashier. “Would you mind turning it on? Years ago they begged and made a delightful peeing sound.”

“It’s just for display,” said the man flatly. He nodded towards the door.

As we left, I nudged Sterling to follow my lead. We both looked through the front window to see the robot dog’s eyes glowing as the cashier bent over, appearing to listen to whatever it was saying.

I was unnerved by the next morning. My dreams had been fitful and the lack of diversity of people I met was disturbing. Now I could see clearly that children had the toy dogs in their backpacks; women on the city buses carried them in their purses.

As I waited in the station for my bus, I noticed that none of the twenty people inside talked or got up to go to the bathroom or ate a snack. Fifty minutes passed and I finally had to get up to stretch my legs.

“Why did you stand up?” asked a woman nearby with blank eyes. “Is the bus here already?”

As I sat in the bus, anxiously waiting to leave the station, I noticed a man’s suitcase accidently crash open as it was being loaded under the bus. I was sure I saw a white hard-plastic toy hit the ground before it was hurriedly closed back up and shoved into the cargo hold.

The End
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Post April 30, 2016, 08:53:44 PM

The "It Just Keeps Getting Meta!" Challenge

- Winner -

Distorted Reflections

Sergio Palumbo

I have rarely – if ever – rearranged the contents of the cabinets inside my mother’s house, nevertheless all the furniture in her home, but when I had to do this, well, everything turned out to be really exhausting and it took many long days to make neat and get it all done. It was something that she couldn’t do anymore because she was very old - so I took over the duty.

Actually, I would never have thought about moving that stylish mirror near her front door, but there was no other space available to put the bookshelves, so I chose to hang it on another wall.

I really didn’t pay a lot of attention to it at first: it was nothing more than a mirror, and not in perfect condition by any means, though it was very pricey and a person might notice it at first sight. I also tried to clean it while moving it, but there was a small black stain – not much bigger than a large dot- on its surface that simply wouldn’t go away, so I gave up and left the spot where it was. It seemed to be something inside the mirror anyway, instead of a stain on its reflective surface.

After a while what amazed me were the new images that were reflected in the mirror, once I had put it in a new corner of the foyer. In fact if you looked at it from exactly the right angle, you might think you saw something inside the mirror itself. And there were also strange distortions all around that black stain, which didn’t make any sense at all!

Great was my surprise when I decided to have a closer look at the dark spot and discovered that you could actually see through it… A completely different world seemed to lie past that stain, a sort of alternate history setting, maybe!

Over the course of the following days, I got used to watching it for hours, using an old magnifying glass, attentively staring at those mountaintops and valleys I could clearly see now. I was amazed at how wooden wagons appeared to go through the pass, stunned by all the colorful people who came and went, some new strange animals, and so on. Incredible views!

Eventually those distortions made me ponder over the whole thing and think about other possibilities… Given my knowledge of physics, could it be a sort of quantum black hole? Or a mini-wormhole leading to another place? Why not? The problem was of course: how could this be possible? And why had this strangeness occurred inside that mirror?

Many strange questions were running through my mind, which were no more incredible than the things you could watch by carefully using the magnifying glass. Maybe I should have called some scientist, or perhaps I should have informed some newspaper about it - but I doubted that anyone would have ever believed me, and reasonably of course.

Then, one evening, my sister came to visit my mother - something she almost never did, as a matter of fact. She didn’t care too much about her parent, especially now that mother was really feeble and old. Once she was inside the house, she threw her fur coat over the mirror itself, saying that there was no other space available on the coat rack - which wasn’t true, of course, as she just liked to do as she pleased, without any regard for anything else.

That was why the mirror fell down, breaking with a crash, because of the excessive weight. This was something disastrous, as a matter of fact! Not that she would have behaved differently if I had told her to pay attention, of course. Alas - I knew her all too well…

“What’s done is done, accept it…” was all she said. I stared at her as you might look at a selfish person with no respect for her mother’s things, or someone who had never accepted that she should be held accountable for anything that went wrong over the course of her life. But I knew that she never cared about anything except herself, truth to be told.

What was even worse was that the magical characteristic that strange mirror once did possess had disappeared, as I ascertained as soon as my sister left the house - taking the newspaper and a big book of mother’s for herself while quickly exiting the home, without saying good-bye! Now there was no way to see that alien - or alternate - world again by means of the magnifying glass, given the break that had split the surface of the mirror into several parts – including the small stain. Now it was gone, forever…and no one else had ever seen it except me! I was certain that no one else would ever believe in such an extraordinary find if there was no evidence left, certainly…

I decided to collect all the glass pieces and put them in a box, for the future. Maybe one day I would find that something was still in there, that it was possible to look at that strange world another time through part of the remaining black stain, or maybe not…Who knows? The fact is that I simply didn’t want to throw all those scraps away as if nothing had ever really happened. Because it had happened, though strange it might be!

While moving the box, a quote by that ancient French writer, Nicolas Chamfort, came to mind. ‘There are two things that one must get used to or one will find life unendurable: the damages of time and injustices of men.’ Or of your deplorable sister, anyway, I told myself, before closing the box with those unusual contents when that evening ended.

That was going to be a different world nobody would see again, and all the discoveries that might came from it -one day- were lost forever. Nevermind the researchers of the truth, or of some alien planets/ alternate realities, anyway...

The End
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Post April 30, 2016, 09:04:40 PM

Murder on the ISS Challenge

The challenge was to tell a story involving the murder of a disliked person named Wesley on the International Space Station.
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Post April 30, 2016, 09:06:02 PM

Murder on the ISS Challenge

It Couldn't Be Helped...

Sergio Palumbo

“Wesley is dead!” It was the voice of the female astronaut named Davina that reached the other four who were having lunch.

“What the hell,” replied Frank, the graying Commander with a worried expression on his wrinkled face.

“Yes, it’s true – he’s dead! - come and see!” said the 32-year-old woman.

So all the remaining astronauts left the Habitation Module and hurried to the ESA Lab where they immediately spotted the floating body of Wesley, the mission’s scientist. His expression was that of a lifeless corpse.

“Are you sure?” Gebahard, the NUSAF Manned Spaceflight Engineer inquired of her.

“See for yourself!” the woman exclaimed. “He’s dead – although I can’t understand why.”

“I’ll take a look,” said Robert the Pilot, moving forwards. He wondered why the Medical Monitoring Program that collected health data at regular intervals from ISS crewmembers, hadn’t reported the death right away. After a few touches, and a closer look, the bald man confirmed it. “Yes, it’s true.”

“How? Why?” was all the Commander could utter.

“Aneurysm. He died almost immediately.” Robert was very experienced at examining patients; after all he had been a professor for most of his life before becoming a full-time astronaut when he was 46. He had a deep knowledge of medicine and had been on board since 2030. Up till now a major medical emergency had never occurred on the ISS, but many scientists at Ground Control had long wondered what would happen if it did. “There is nothing we could have done…”

“So this will be a shock for the viewers back on Earth,” the Commander said. “Maybe this will actually increase interest in the ISS…”

“You’re not showing much regret about this Commander?” the woman retorted.

“Well don’t tell me that you cared about him…” the other made it clear.

“Okay, maybe I didn’t, but that doesn’t mean…”

“I, didn’t like him either,” Andrew, the tall fair-haired Payload Specialist added.

“He had bad manners too…” the Spaceflight Participant revealed.

“So, it seems that nobody here liked him, but he was a fellow crewmember, nonetheless…” the Commander stated. “And this is going to blemish our space mission, as people will not be talking about anything else.”

“Indeed, you’re right,” Gebahard nodded. He was a member of American military personnel specifically appointed to the ISS to follow a few projects on board.

“I’ll call Ground Control,” Frank said, cutting it short.


As Gebahard was moving back towards the Habitation Module, he thought of what had happened. He had received some precise orders from Earth, so the death couldn’t be helped.

Since the moment he had been warned about what Wesley had on his mind, he knew that he would need to act quickly, within the first three days of the space mission. Investigations had found clear evidence about what the dead scientist was really after. But Ground Control had found out the truth after their shuttle had already docked at the ISS and nobody wanted to cancel the space mission because of what they had discovered.

Apparently, Wesley had planned to release a virus on board that would kill all the other crewmembers as a terrorist action. That event would shock the planet, as everyone would think that NASA was unable to protect the safety of their astronauts. This might stop activities in space for years, in fact, who knew if they would ever start up again?

So he was ordered to act and he did as commanded. There were many substances that might cause such deaths and he had made use of the one that would raise the fewest questions. Causing an accident while the scientist was busy in his spacesuit wasn’t the best option, as it would put into question the procedures of Extra-Vehicular-Activities aboard the ISS. That was something nobody wanted at Ground Control.

On the other hand, making Wesley die because of an accident in the Esa lab might have dangerous results and the entire Science Space Program would be stopped at once. Beyond that, they didn’t want him to become a martyr.

When he came on board he already had that virus inside his body, ready to be activated as soon as a hidden fictitious capsule was opened, and so all of them would die, with the disastrous outcome becoming known everywhere. So, his goal now was all about understatement: another cause of death, though uncommon among astronauts, would better serve his purpose. And the substance known as Killer-Act, put into Wesley’s Zero-G rations, was the best plan. So this was what Gebahard had done.

He was not a hero and not a victim of bad decisions of the space mission team. It was just an unexpected death that was rare, though it might happen to anyone at anytime.

Of course, there were other reasons why he might have been ordered to use a second dose of that substance. For instance there was one of astronauts on the ISS who might send video messages against the war in South America. There was someone else who had expressed critical political views against the New Alliance over a Central African dictator who had caused the destruction of several freedom fighters’ bases. There was another crewmember who publicly disapproved of the military experiments that were underway on board to maximize the fatality possibility of a science-engineered flu. There was one astronaut who was ready to speak openly about secret events by an alien species that were currently re-shaping the other side of the Moon itself, unbeknownst to the public at large.

After all, astronauts were famous people whose opinions might have an undue influence on public view.

“Always work for the good of Earth, the growth of Mankind and the improvement of science of our country, crewmembers…” the NUSAF Manned Spaceflight Engineer told himself while positioning his body on his bunk so he could have a restful sleep. “Or you could all die! And I do mean all of you…”

The End
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Post April 30, 2016, 09:07:03 PM

Murder on the ISS Challenge

An Eye for an Eye

N.J. Kailhofer

"I'll get you!" the Russian shouted.

As Basil swam through the still air, Dimitri was close. He could hear the Russian's labored breathing, wrenching himself through the Unity hatch, only a half-meter behind. Basil propelled himself through the strong, machine shop smell that permeated the Columbus module. Bouncing through the turn at Harmony node, the engineer poured himself in his brown coverall uniform through the opening into Japan's gray Kibo laboratory--straight into the body of Wesley Amundson, an American scientist. The force of the collision knocked him into a spin toward the far wall of the module and stopped Basil in mid-air.

"Bloody hell!" Basil barked just as Dimitri plowed into him from behind. The two tumbled toward the side wall.

"Damn!" Dimitri's blue pants and white t-shirt were soaked with sweat. He shouted to Wesley, "He's beaten me again! I'm never racing this crazy Brit any more. He can get from Zvezda to Kibo faster than any man alive."

Wesley's black sweater and gray pants seemed snagged on the Velcro strips on the wall, but the aloof scientist had his head turned up toward the ceiling, away from them. A plastic food tray that smelled like peanut butter and grape jelly floated nearby.

"Sorry about that, chum," Basil offered. "Didn't see you there. All right?"

As usual, Wesley didn't answer.


Dimitri scoffed. "See? He won't even look at us now. He's getting worse!"

Basil floated over to him. "Are you ok?"

One glance at the frozen look of horror on the man's face and Basil knew he wasn't ok. "I think he's dead."

"What?" Dimitri searched in vain for a pulse. "He's dead, all right, and cold. This happened a while ago... He's wet. Could he have had a fever?"

Basil looked down. "We have a bigger problem."

Clutched tightly in the dead man's hand was a black Marakov 9mm pistol, which should have left the station in the last Soyuz lander. Basil wondered, "Why would he have stolen the gun?"

Basil realized, Wesley was scared. This was murder.

Basil looked at Dimitri. Dimitri looked back at him, and then to the gun.

Basil swallowed hard. The pistol was exactly the same distance from both of them.

He searched Dimitri's face. Dimitri was a military man, a pilot, and would have trained with that pistol as part of the Soyuz emergency gear. Basil, on the other hand, while technically mission commander, was an engineer from Britain, where only the army and certain policemen had guns. He felt distinctly at a disadvantage.

Dimitri's hand reached out. "I think I should secure the weapon."

Basil's own hand slid on top of the Russian's, stopping it. "I don't think that would be best right now."

Dimitri broke the uncomfortable silence. "Why did you kill him? I did not think you could do such a thing."

Basil turned toward him. "I didn't kill him, and there's only one other person on the station until the next re-supply, and he hated Wesley."

"Not just me. Everyone hated Wesley. Always interrupting everyone... pushy, smug. Wouldn't eat with the rest of us and had to have his special meals for his weak stomach, and none of us could touch them. He would float past my bunk all night long, back and forth, muttering about how terrible it was onboard, but how glad he was he'd lost his sense of smell so he didn't have to put up with my odor anymore. How was I supposed to ever sleep? He acted smarter than the rest of us, and Mission Control always sided with Wesley on everything, even when he was wrong. That is, when you could get him to do something!"

Dimitri gaped. "Are you trying to trick me? You killed him. Why else would he need a gun?"

"No, I didn't."

Basil thought very hard. "How about this. You take the gun from his hand, but then you give me the bullets. That way neither of us has to fear it being used on either one of us."

Dimitri stared at him. "Why are you trusting me to take the gun? Before I gave you the bullets, I could shoot you."

Basil shrugged ever so slightly. "You're either going to kill me to cover your tracks or you won't, but I know that without me, you'll be all by yourself up here... You're afraid of being alone."

Dimitri stared into Basil's eyes, then reached for the gun.

* * *

Down in a Mission Control break room, blonde dietician Anita Welhomme poured a fresh packet of Italian dressing that smelled faintly of garlic on the new variety of greens with chopped nuts that she bought from the lunch counter. On her phone, she read the headline, "NASA scientist dead on the ISS."

Munching loudly, she thought, Never tell the person who makes your food that she's not a real scientist, and ugly. She knows how to blend acetaminophen, aspirin, caffeine, and rubbing alcohol in your food to make you irritable and paranoid until you can't take it, and then there's the peanuts you're deathly allergic to. All of these are available on the station, and should be untraceable.

Just then, a man in a blue coat marked 'FBI' sat down in the chair across from her and glanced at the article she was reading.

"Funny," he said. "Astronauts train so much together and live in such close quarters that you'd think they'd get on each others nerves so badly they'd be ready to kill each other, but instead they form a bond like brothers, and are inseparable. They're heroes." He looked at her face. "Anyone who would break a bond between heroes truly deserves to die in exactly the same way."

Something's not right. She looked at him, then down at the remaining bits of her salad. Chopped Barbados Nut? It couldn't be. She sniffed the garlic odor. Lily of the Valley? ...It's all toxic.

She looked back at his face.

His smile was just ghastly.

The End
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Post April 30, 2016, 09:08:02 PM

Murder on the ISS Challenge

Sitting Ducks

Michele Dutcher

“Wesley is dead,” she screamed at my face, as if it made any difference.

“And this should concern me why exactly?” I asked her quietly, waiting for her to slap me.

“It was probably Doc. He always hated Wesley. You could at least give him last rites or something. You are a freaking priest.”

I instinctually ran a finger along the inside of my collar. “It won’t make a difference. Live or die, you and I are the only ones left now, and we’ll soon be dead or worse. Whoever killed him did Wesley a favor.”

She crumpled into a chair in front of my desk, as if the truth had hit her in the gut like a curled fist.
“But I loved him,” she finally squeaked out.

“You hated him as much as you loved him – just like the rest of us. It was all science with him – all black and white, right or wrong.” I tried to sound compassionate, more out of habit than sincerity.

I turned away from Elisa and gazed out a transparent plate facing the surface of the Earth. One side of the heavens over the planet was bathed in sunlight and the other side was covered in darkness. The black side sparkled with constant forks of lightning exploding inside the clouds, spreading one right after the other like electrified demon claws raking over a black velvet blanket. The side of the planet facing the Sun was dotted with hundreds of explosions, the force of blasts shooting debris into the ionosphere.

“They’re coming for us, Father,” she finally said. I could feel her eyes looking up at me. “The last thing Wesley told me was that the navigator had spotted four of their ships on the radar – ships on a course to intersect with the ISS.”

“I wondered how long it would take those soul-less monsters to notice us floating here in this tin can. I suppose they won’t consider their work complete until Earth is transformed into a replica of whatever environment they come from and all Earthlings are dead.” I stepped away from the window and walked over to where Elisa sat, placing my bottle of Bushmills on my desk. “At least the screaming is over…” I said, trying to comfort the girl, kneeling beside her chair.

“It was a good thing when Wesley turned off the radio signals coming up from the surface,” she agreed.

“Two days of trying to tune in on anyone surviving was enough. I suppose our alien demons enjoy hearing the cries of humans, killing us slowly, lapping up our blood.”

“Do something, Father – you must do something... Daniel, please. Those creatures will be docking here in a few minutes. All the others are gone, most done in by their own hands, the cowards. But I am the biggest coward of all. Please, save me.”

I looked down on her lovely freckled shoulders, thinking of the times I had thought of allowing my hand to simply brush the curls away from her young neck. She had loved Wesley and I had loved her. Did I love her enough now to do what needed to be done?

I quietly took out a syringe filled with fluid, one of two I had been handed by the doctor on the second day after the alien capture of Earth. I could hear the space-dock being triggered by the alien ship. The gears were wheeling; there was a sudden whoosh of air. I began to sing gently, so I wouldn’t hear her breathing stop. “Michael row the boat ashore, Halleluiah. Michael row the boat ashore, Halleluiah.” I plunged the needle into the base of her spine. At least she would be going to heaven, but my murderous hands had condemned me to hell.

Why hadn’t mankind ever made it off this infernal rock? Why had we made genocide of the human race so easy? I could hear their shrill voices coming through the station, checking one room after another. I wondered what they looked like. I wondered if they had a god, if they had someone like me who blessed their vile works.

I took out the second syringe, aiming it at my aorta with shaking hands.

The End
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Post April 30, 2016, 09:08:56 PM

Murder on the ISS Challenge

An Incident in Space

George T. Philibin

Wesley was dead. No doubt about that! Olga felt his pulse, checked his breathing and finally realized the Wesley her secret lover was no more. Her American dead. How could this be! Only a few minutes ago he smiled and lived. This could only be the doing of Lin’ Tze Long, that dark haired Chinese physics that conned her way up there by having her father–The Director of New Financial Matters of the People’s Republic—open up a region in China to American businessman Mark Groper, the first cousin to the American President George M. Bowers. That’s how she got up her, and not by her academic standing!

Yet, it couldn’t be Lin. She’s been outside working on the solar panels, and couldn’t possibly have gotten in and killed Wesley. No, she couldn’t have been the one.

Blood from the knife wound started floating out of Wesley’s stomach. The air exchange system slowly drew the blood towards an inlet, but Olga’s mind wasn’t on that. She turned around, and facing her were John Kelly and Georgio Giamoni!

“What the hell did you do!” John blasted out. “What the hell-- did you do!”

Olga glided backward and managed to turn sideway. “It wasn’t me mo. . . believe me it was not me--- I found him this way,”

“There was nobody between you and Wesley! You must be the one who killed him,” Georgio said.

The three faced one another, silent and motionless as the death of Wesley sank in. Two eyes were fixed on Olga and her eyes jumped back and forth between John and Georgio’s.

The long- thin-screwdriver-type prob with its handle protruding out of Wesley’s body, looked almost alien. It wasn’t designed to kill, yet it served that purpose as if by design!

“Please, please you must believe me–I didn’t do it! I swear on Mother Russian that it was not me!” Olga said. “I loved Wesley!”

Behind John and Georgio a voice uttered: “My, God what happened?”

Major George Dickens looked over the murder scene. Olga’s eyes filled with tears while John’s eyes narrowed and his pupils thinned themselves into snake eyes, long and thin. Georgio’s dark eyes hid any expression that fell onto them, but his brow became flushed.

“Nobody killed Wesley! Somehow, Wesley must have slipped and the self-tapping-screwdriver drilled into him. Look--- I told NASA that might happen, but no! They never listen to us English!” Major Dickens said.

It was true. The self-tapping screwdriver was still turning inside Wesley body!

An face looked into the port window and saw Wesley’s body motionless with blood oozing out.
A scream echoed over the radio, and all heads turned toward the port window and saw Lin look.

“You killed Wesley you Russian peasant! Wesley said you wanted him just for the results of the experiment that he proved correct. Wesley didn’t love you, he saw through you that’s why you killed him!” Lin said. Her screams over the radio couldn’t be heard on earth.

“It was an accident!” Major Dickens said.

“You all are in on it! You all killed him!” Lin screamed. She turned and jetted over to the solar panels.

“I don’t know but I don’t have a good feeling about this!” Georgio said. “I never liked her–she reminded me of paparazzi. . . always looking at me!”

“You take Wesley away from me I take this station away from you!” Lin screamed.

“What is she up to?” Olga said.

Before Olga’s words stopped ringing, the space station’s arm swung into the solar panels and knocked half the panel out!

“My God—she’s gone crazy!” Major Dickens screamed.

“We’re all going to die!” John said.

“She’s using the remote to operate the arm!” Georgio said.

“Let me break her connection!” Olga said. Olga floated over to a computer console and typed in a command. The arm stopped within a second afterward.

“Her air will be running out soon, she’ll have to come in,” Major Dickens said.

“Ahhhh,” Lin screamed. “That will not stop me!”

“Yes, I loved Wesley!” Olga said. “I’ll love him until the day I die. He hated you and your smug attitude. He also hated everything Chinese!”

All eyes became wide and large as they turned toward Olga and the words that jumped out of her mouth! Never before did they hear such language! And she continued!

“You were not women enough for Wesley! In a million years you would not be women enough for Wesley, no never!” Olga said,

Lin blasted back in Chinese and whatever she said, felt like a hurricane blowing in. Again and again Lin blasted at Olga. Louder and longer and louder and longer until she was out of breath.

“You were not women enough for Wesley!” Olga said over and over again.

Major Dickens caught on first: “Good strategy, while she screaming she isn’t wrecking anything and her air should run out in not time with her usage now, good move Olga!”

He was right. Lin low oxygen supply alarm sounded. She had no choice but return, and as she fought the urge to enter the she realized that if she didn’t she would die.

Lin kept up her screaming at Olga and her oxygen ran out as she entered the air lock.

By the time they got her suit off, she was unconscious. They handcuffed her and gave her a sedative.

Georgio said it best: They test us for everything before we come up here, except the one thing that makes us all human– jealously.

The End
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Post April 30, 2016, 09:10:34 PM

Murder on the ISS Challenge

- Winner -

Where's Wesley?


Wesley Stephano Rici, a Ph.D chemist and one of the world’s tops most chefs, was absolutely scared of flying. He would actually drive or take the bus from NY to the Cape rather than fly. What and why was he doing working for NASA as the head food consultant/scientist for the space program?

When a reporter asked about that one day, he answered, “ It’s my duty as a citizen, the freedom to create like no other and the fringe benefits are fantastic.” He patted the news reporter’s butt as he saddled up close to her.

He was also the most obnoxious person on the planet not to mention some of his other socially predatory traits. His reputation with women other than his wife was legendary.


ISS Commander, Russian Colonel Natasha Bytatytsove, turned to her co-pilot U.S. Major Ricki Somers and said, “ I hear that the ISS program hired a world renown chef that everyone hates.”

Ricki replied laughing, “Yeah, he’s a pig. He claims he slept with every wife and girlfriend of the ground crew and orbital staff except one.”

“We in Russia heard that too and the money says it has to be the head of security.”

Major Somers turned red. Changing the subject said, “Russia, Japan, China and the US are sending freighters full of food and supplies for the holidays. We won’t be able to store it all on board.”

“Just leave the Chinese and Japanese freighters docked to the unfinished sectors. We’ll unload the rest our goodies first. I heard that your chef prepared a surprise for us. I’m looking forward to meeting him. Her eyes were sparkling. “Food, drink and a little recreation is what some of this crew could use. You agree major?” Asked Natasha with an evil grin.

“I’m a married woman and…”

“You didn’t deny my opening comments,” laughed Natasha. She gave Ricki a pinch and a wink.


After unloading the two freighters:

“Commander there is no sign of Wesley the Chef. He’s on the manifest. The hatch was open when we got to the Space X capsule but he wasn’t to be found,” said one of the crewmen.

“He’s here just keep looking. He could be anywhere. When you find him bring him to my quarters,” ordered Natasha.

Three hours later:

“Rickie was a bit worried and said, “Natasha, still no sign of him. Now what?”

Natasha added, “Maybe he went EVA she said smiling. She had been briefed regarding his fear of flying, and that he had been ordered to make the jump in the spirit of international good will.

“This is the commander speaking. Listen Wesley we know you’re hiding on board. Just get your butt to the command center so we can meet. If you don’t I’m not promising what sort of mess we’ll make of your superb culinary art.”

The crew had been looking everywhere. “Maybe he road the Chinese or Japanese freighters up,” offered another crewmember.

“No, he hates to fly. He just like to cook and screw,” responded Ricki.

Natasha looked at her and nodded. She leaned over and whispered to Ricki, “I hear tell that his food is considered ‘pantie droppers’ by some of his dinner guests ”. She couldn’t help but laughing.

Ricki looked at her and stood up to her full 6-foot height and said, “as a matter of fact, yes his cooking is that good. May you be so lucky. I’m going to get the holiday dinner ready. I’ve seen him cook more than a few times. I think I can handle this. He’ll show up. He’s just a big scardy-cat when it come to any flying.”

Dinner was the best that they had ever had. There were enough left-over packets to go around for a few more meals. Still, there was a no show from Rici. The Commander decided to look for him herself. Not only was this getting annoying but also it could prove embarrassing and politically, she had no idea.

“By god that was the best meal I’ve had. How did he do it? The turkey was great and beef/pulled pork shepherds pie was so tender. The vegetable tasted like they were just picked. How the hell did he preserve the food and wine so well? Major you take control of the station. I’m going to locate Chef Wesley the weasel Rici and have a few words with him personally.” As she got up, floating, turned to the major. “I didn’t mean to embarrass you. We just heard lots of stories about Wesley. There must be a lot of people who would like to see him ‘jump from a window’ as we used to phrase it decades ago.” She added, “You’re correct, his cooking is THAT good.”

Ricki turned to Natasha and said, “Yeah he’s made a lot of enemies. My husband threated to kill him a few times as did almost every other jilted lover or spouse. But by god can that man cook. This meal was one of his best. You know what I’m guessing? He’s got enough money, I bet he paid someone to get him off the flight, fake the manifest, and he’s back on the planet eating, drinking and screwing. That bastard, I did want to see him.”

Natasha just laughed. “Considering we looked all over I would tend to agree. I’m going to have a look at the Space-X freighter. Who knows maybe he’s cowering in there somewhere. And if not, then I’m going to call NASA and ROSCOSMOS and have what you call an APB for put out for your cook-lover.” She thought, I’d like a piece of him too.

Natasha floated down to the air locks and looked at the open hatch to the Space-X freighter. She thought, what idiots some of these ground service people are. Hand scrawled on the inner capsule hatch was DONNER-CAPSULE Bon-Appetite. She thought, Americans, they can’t even spell DONOR CAPSULE. It’s a wonder they ever got off the ground.

The End
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Post May 01, 2016, 09:45:11 AM

The Museum Earth Challenge

The challenge was to tell a story set in a Museum of Earth, 300 years after the Sun mysteriously disappeared.
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Post May 01, 2016, 09:45:56 AM

The Museum Earth Challenge

A Day at the Museum

George T. Philibin

Melvian said, “This is the first intact museum–the word they used–that we have discovered on any alien planet. And may I draw your attention to this two wheeled vehicle.

“Our translators have determined that it was called a Harley Davidson, and many of our archeologists are convinced that it was used for transportation, but also it seemed to belong to a religious sect or clan. Groups of these machines would move together, and the humans often wore totems on their back identifying them as to what sect or clan they belonged to. We also have identified other two wheeled vehicle, but they never mixed with the Harley Davidson machine.

“Now we have this Wesley. As you can see like all human he was extremely ugly, and our historian believe even by human standard he was extremely ugly! This Westley stopped existing when in orbit about this planet, and our historians have given us the possible reason: His ugliness when cramped together in a small pod, drove the other humans insane, and they stopped him from being, or killed him as the word was known in their language. Unlike us, when part of them stopped being, the whole also stopped being. They didn’t have the ability to regenerate from one of their cells into a new whole being. I know it’s hard to imagine not being anymore, but humans had that trait! Once this Wesley stopped being, he was gone forever.

“We never figured out why some of their females show themselves more than others! Observe this picture call Mona Lisa. It appears completely covered by material not grown out of her. Now this picture on the cover of this Play Boy. It is her true outer layering! She does not cover herself with materials from the planet. Yet, they both are females according to our historians that are specializing in this museum. It is baffling to us why?” Melvian said.

“Melvian what are those images over there?” Curator said. “Are they leaders?”

“Do you mean those statues as the humans call them?” Melvian said.

“Yes, I believe that is the right word according to the guide book,” Curator said.

“They were leaders,” Melvian said. “We are intensely studying them for they are the ones that directed many cultures and religious sects on this world that was known as Earth. Unlike us, they needed a central figure to guide them, tell them how to live and think. Most humans obeyed their orders--- a few didn’t and many just went along with the wishes of the leaders without challenge.

“Like I said, we are studying them, and the more we study them the more we become convinced that they were innate followers. Even their highly intelligent humans often fell under this trait, and that is one reason our historians are stumped. We don’t understand their minds, we don’t understand their emotions and we don’t understand their cultures or religions.

“Some of their leaders are put there by their fathers and families. For centuries in some areas of this Earth, clans or families have ruled uninhibited. But we have discovered that people have been given the right to select their leaders in certain areas.”

“Who was that man with the hair under his air-intake organ always with this one arm raised up,”
Curator said.

“Why, we believe that he was this Adolf Hitster or something similar to that sound. We believe that he had a medical problem and his arm would fly upward as a nerve twitch. According to all reports many other around him had the same nerve problems! Sometime their arm would fly up in unison. However this clan or sect didn’t appear long on Earth.”

“And what about that statue over there?” Curator said.

“It’s name was Trump,” Melvian said. “Notice that his fur on the top moves often. It tried to become leader but this female called a Hillary stopped him. It was a big fight but this Hillary won! Yet, when she beat him, she took him in and made him as assistant! We are perplexed over that one!” Melvian said.

“This place is a nothing! There’s nothing interesting in here! Where’s the monsters? Where’s the great stuff? What are you trying to con us with? I want my money back! You hear me!” Curator said.

“Yeah, I want my money back too!” Alternats said. Others in the group also demanded their many back!

The members of the tour group rushed Melvian who quickly disappeared behind a curtain.

When some of the group managed to get behind the curtain, they saw Melvian and his partner racing away on the Harley Davidson as they looked out the back door.
As Melvian sped down a road, his partner yelled, “We got us a whole lot of money! Man do we have the money now. We can slip down south and set up another con. By the way, how did you come up with this one?” Sultonet Melvian partner said.

“When I first found this place, a sign grabbed my interest. I studied it for a week. I finally translated it and it was a name, P.T.Barnum. Then when I managed to translate something he said, it all came together for me,” Melvian said.

“What did he say?” Sultonet said.

“A Sucker is Born Every Minute.”

The End
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Post May 01, 2016, 09:46:50 AM

The Museum Earth Challenge


Joey To

"The line is so long!" – "Didn't you know the Emperor is visiting today?" – "Mummy, I want to snack on something." – "Hurry up, this isn't a ride."

"Actually, it is a ride of sorts," mumbles Penny as she marches by the entire queue. After all, Earth Museum is on a rock which is supposedly propelled along on what was the Terran orbit.

Reaching the entrance, she extends her pale arm with the wrist-comp attached. A pastel-white hand grips it and runs the scanner over it.
"The purpose of your visit?" the guard asks, his slit pupils narrowing. He's also nametagged "Dave".

Penny frowns. "My special journalist's pass not obvious enough?"

Dave simply stares down at her. Even for a vampiric race, he's cold.

Penny shifts her eyes to the floor. "Root beer. Can't get enough of it."

"Fair enough. Just don't get too close to the Emperor. He probably doesn't appreciate your so-called conspiracy theories. But don't worry, I find your articles quite entertaining."

The queue for root beer snakes around the corner. Great. Penny glances at her wrist-comp: graphs constantly orange if not red. At least she's getting anomalous background radiation readings, whatever they mean.

She strides through the "Beauty" section—rolling her eyes at those reflective grooming planes, masking powders and fake ocular lens—and straight to "Technology". She laughs at the bulky holo-projectors.

//…to your left is Mr. Mini-Fusion, a domestic generator manufactured just prior to…//

Penny scoffs. What kind of idiot race installs fusion units in their residencies?

//…Emperor is arriving at Airlock Three. Those who wish to…//

Patrons rush off. Penny's lips curl. She sidles over to a heap of junk, a Terran artificial satellite. She taps her wrist-comp for a wireless connection to the thing. The download begins…

//…this navigational satellite was used by Terran miners throughout their star system. It is hypothesized that the mysterious disappearance of their sun and planets 300 years ago was due to over-mining…//

Penny huffs. As if over-mining can cause that. She turns to see Dave heading towards her. Satisfied with the download progress, she shuffles away. She can use a root beer but time to interview the Emperor first.

Penny slips through the crowd and, in an unthreatening manner, holds out her wrist-comp to the Emperor, his retinue trailing closely. She sees Dave back off.

"Will you be discussing inter-planetary immigration policies at the conference later today? Perhaps adopt stricter controls?" asks Penny.

Without even a glance at her wrist-comp nor slowing down, the Emperor grins, baring his fangs. "My dear Penny, we have a duty to help others… at least when we're not sucking the life out of them."

The people chuckle.

Penny's wrist-comp beeps. They stop walking. She glances at the data displayed and smirks. "According to Terran satellite telemetry, it appears that just prior to their sun and Terra 'mysteriously' disappearing, our fleet of cruisers were near the system. You were already Emperor then. Any comment on that?"

Gasps cascade around them.

The Emperor maintains his grin. "As much as I appreciate your investigative skills, I do have a schedule…"

And as the Emperor mutters something about forwarding her research to his experts, Penny feels very lightheaded.

Penny's eyes flash open, the words "Entertainment" high above her. She sits up. Alone. This is obviously the new extension, yet to open.

"Would you like a game of Twister?"

Penny whips her head around to see a uniform almost as ostentatious as the Emperor's retinue. His nametag: "Melvian."

Penny peers around him to see Dave obstructing the exit. She rises, rubbing the back of her neck and, looking around, sees a colorful dial and a pad with colored circular patches.

Penny frowns and points. "We're too flexible to be challenged by that."

Melvian shakes his head. "I'm the curator. I have doctorates in anthropology and history. Your race is hardly flexible. The Emperor eats everyone within the military's reach. And as you know, even when he acts 'charitably' with his current immigration stance, he only lets in those who threaten your way of life and then uses that as an excuse to launch more military campaigns."

Penny continues frowning.

Melvian smiles, holding up a wrist-comp. She looks down. It's hers. Well, not anymore.

Fascinated by the screen in the corner showing the Terran gladiatorial game called "Football" and a play known as "Blitz", Penny grits her teeth and bolts straight for the curator.

Just as Dave is about launch himself at her, blue pulses streak by his head. And hers. Penny's eyes bulge at the Emperor's guards with their assault rifles. "Aren't you with them?"

Penny, Dave and Melvian sprint out of "Entertainment", through "Law and Justice" and into the airlock docking section.

Penny glowers at the two who have trouble keeping up. But weapons fire is a great motivator.

"Sorry… just wanted your wrist-com… didn't think it'll come to this," utters Melvian. "What did you do exactly?"

"Emperor just doesn't like me." Rounding the corner, Penny notices the strain on their faces. "You two aren't—"

"Yeah, we're Terran," says Dave as another pulse sparks against the bulkhead. "Our ship is ahead."

Melvian sighs at the fast-shrinking Earth Museum. "We made use of our fusion-powered holo-projecting and cloaking technology to hide our solar system. Your Emperor never worked out what happened exactly."

He hands back the wrist-comp to Penny.

"But we had trouble cloaking the sun's emissions during the most intense part of its cycle," adds Dave, wiping powder off his face. "Someone started the museum and we played along, a way to monitor your race's interest and help maintain our cover."

"Now what?" asks Penny.

"Our colleagues will take care of the museum. This can be explained away," answers Melvian.

Penny squints. "I meant me!"

"Oh… umm… live on Earth. Saw those barred cells in the 'Justice' section?"

Penny nods.

"Feed on our criminals, do us a favor. We have plenty of root beer."

Penny tries not to grin but her fangs start to itch.

The End

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