Story Thread: September 22 – October 5, 2016 Flash Fiction Contest “Book Title”

The LinkedIn Comment Thread can be found here.

This post is for STORIES related to the Contest theme: “Book Title”.

A book title.  It can be one you’ve read, one you’ve like, one you’ve hated, or just one you found interesting.  Take that title, re-imagine it into a totally different story.

Critiques, comments and feedback are encouraged on the LinkedIn Comment Thread; non story comments here will be deleted.

The point of these friendly contests is to hone our craft and create successful stories within a predefined set of limitations. There is no monetary compensation.

New:

Please Note: comments may be considered “published” in regards to other contest requirements.

All stories are fall under general copyright laws. No part may be reproduced without the express consent of the respective author.

Story Submission Rules:
  1. One story per author. You may post more than one but only the first story will qualify for voting.
  2. Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.
  3. Stories must fit into a single comment box and must be under 1000 words.

Voting starts Wednesday morning at 9:00am PDT / 12:00pm EST / 10:30pm IST / 5:00pm WET/GMT/ 4:00am AEDT (Thursday) and ends the same time on Thursday / 4:00am AEDT (Friday).

  • You may vote only once.
  • You cannot vote for yourself.

***the next writing prompt will be chosen by Travis Keys per the Writing Prompt Roster.

To be included in the “writing prompt roster”, you must have submitted two stories in the last sixty days. The roster is alphabetical and can be found here.

See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.


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9 thoughts on “Story Thread: September 22 – October 5, 2016 Flash Fiction Contest “Book Title”

  • September 23, 2016 at 8:40 am
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    Childhood’s End (With Respect for Arthur C. Clark and Stan Lee)

    Dean Hardage

    He looked out of the window of the room that had been his home for many years. It was beautiful, this tiny world, and he would hate to leave it even though he knew much greater things awaited. The Time was upon him and he knew he could no longer stay among the people he knew and loved. He would carry the memories of them all the long eons of his life.

    He pondered the wisdom of his forbears, the ones that had devised this system. All of his kind were raised on primitive worlds by those who could be regarded as savages. When he had asked why, he was simply told, “They feel.” Those words had not meant anything to him then. He felt. He felt heat, moisture, softness, sharpness, all of the things that one encountered. Now, on the verge of departing from them forever, he understood. They had emotion, they connected with one another in a way His people had not for many millennia. He had learned what it meant to be one of such a group.

    He held the last possession he treasured, given to him by his adopted Grandfather when this form was only a few planetary years old. It was a brightly colored and illustrated paper book, something called a comic. He had learned many lessons from this world but the one from this book remained in his mind. “With great power comes great responsibility”.

    With those words echoing in his mind he walked from his room out of the house and into an open field. He knelt and opened His mind once more to its fullest extent. The human form glowed with the energies that surged through him and dissolved into glowing bits that drifted away in the evening breeze, leaving barely a trace of his existence. Traveling on the folds of space-time an entity left the small planet, taking the equivalent of a backward glance.

    “Farewell, my first home. I shall never forget you nor what I have learned. Excelsior!”

  • September 28, 2016 at 1:12 am
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    The Snowden Confession (The Snowden Files.)
    by Ben Hacked II

    “You can’t be serious,” the President said. “You want me to pardon him?”

    “Yes sir.”

    The President of the United States, and the head of the CIA, stared at each other over the massive polished desk.

    “Explain.”

    That was one of the things Brennan liked about the President, he didn’t mince words. It was a trait they both shared. “You know his background, right?”

    “Snowden?” The President made a guttural sound. “I’ve been briefed. He’s a traitor—and I sure as hell ain’t going to pardon him.”

    Snowden, as most people know, is the young man responsible for the largest breach of classified military information in the history of the United States. But Brennan knew better.

    “The thing is, Mr. President, we’re responsible for Snowden’s actions.”

    “The hell we are! And I don’t intend to get into a metaphorical discussion about our intel gathering and how it affects your pet geeks.” He reached for a folder and opened it, starting to read it while Brennan watched impassively. “Anything else on your mind?”

    “Sir, if I may speak freely…”

    The President stopped reading and looked up.

    “I’m not speaking metaphorically, Mr. President. When I say we’re responsible, I mean that we, ‘the Agency’ that is, created him.”

    The President closed the file and frowned. His silent glare was ominous.

    Brennan self-consciously adjusted his tie and continued. “We created him, we guided him, we goaded him, we manipulated him—we trained him to chase rabbits, then we waved a rabbit in front of him and took his leash off.”

    “So? So what? How does that absolve him?”

    “Mr. President—he did exactly what we wanted him to do.”

    The President’s eyes narrowed. His mouth set grimly. This was not any kind of news he wanted to hear. “I don’t give a rat’s ass. I’m not going to pardon him.”

    “Let me explain, uh, if I may, sir.” Brennan glanced down at his clean and polished fingernails. His cuticles were immaculate. “We—the CIA, we were monitoring Snowden the entire time.”

    The President was grimacing now. The head of the CIA appeared to be confessing to treason.

    “We deliberately offered him key assignments that exposed him to top secret programs. Programs he shouldn’t have had access to. This helped foster an outlaw mentality. We partnered him with special agents who were ordered to engage in dirty tricks: Which Snowden found odious.”

    Brennan backtracked. “Look, we put every single applicant to the CIA through an extensive and rigid battery of extremely revealing tests.”

    The President was understandably confused. “So?”

    “So we knew what kind of person he was. We knew he was more loyal to the constitution than he was to the government.”

    “Really?” The President said.

    “Yes sir. Furthermore, we knew his girlfriend was a subversive. We arranged their online relationship, and they took it from there.”

    The President inhaled deeply, and then exhaled. Otherwise, he was motionless.

    “It wasn’t difficult.” Brennan continued. “We explained to her how valuable Snowden was to the country and strongly suggested that she refrain from discussing politics with our boy. Naturally, she couldn’t resist the temptation.”

    The Presidents chair creaked.

    “When he was sufficiently compromised, we sent him to one of our most critical cyber-counter espionage units: The big Kahuna in Hawaii.”

    The President nodded. He’d been there—once. The facility was foolproof. Everyone and everything was scanned. Everyone was spying on everyone else. There were cameras, listening devices, no nonsense security personal at the one and only entrance in and out of the facility. The security was airtight.

    Brennan continued. “One we’d installed him at our top-secret facility, we ‘accidentally’ informed him that he and his girlfriend were under surveillance, then we put him to work on some of our most valuable, and strictly protected information we have, and waited.”

    The President leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. His face looked as though he was sucking on a stale turd.

    Brennan spread his hands as if to say, ‘Voila.’ There you have it.

    The President shook his head. “So what! So he took the information. What’s your point?”

    Brennan smiled, he enjoyed explaining ‘truth’ to ‘power.’ “See, here’s the thing, Mr. President. We set him up to steal the information, which is all useless, by the way…”

    The President’s eyes opened wide.

    “We gave him the opportunity, and the motive to steal the information. But we had no idea how he would do it. In fact, we didn’t really think he could.”

    The President looked stunned. “But he did.”

    “Yes sir. He did it.” He paused before proceeding but the President scowled and asked, “What do you mean, ‘the information is useless?”

    “Well, seriously Mr. President, Snowden was a patsy. The intel he stole was false, or,” he cleared his throat. “Most of it.”

    “Most of it?”

    “Well,” Brennan said, “we had to seed it with some actual intelligence or the scheme wouldn’t have worked.”

    “Scheme?” The President said.

    “Um, yes sir. That was the strategic mission. To facilitate the dissemination of a shit load of false information. Which—we did.”

    “Using Snowden.” The President said.

    “Correct.”

    “So—why on earth would I give him a pardon. I’m afraid you’ve lost me Brennan. Why not leave the miserable son-of-a-bitch in Moscow?”

    “Well,” Brennan cleared his throat and finally, on this rarest of occasions, he looked uncomfortable. “The thing is—he did the impossible, Mr. President. You know how secure that facility is, and its information—and yet—that so-called son-of-a-bitch managed to outwit the entire U.S. intelligence community.”

    “So? Why should I pardon him then?”

    “Well,” Brennan said, “two reasons. Number one, we need him. We need his intellect, frankly. He’s way fuckin’ smarter than the rest of us. We need him on our side.”

    “And?” The President asked.

    “And number two? We need to bring him back before he figures all this out for himself. And Mr. President? Trust me, he will figure it out.”

  • September 28, 2016 at 9:52 am
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    GREAT EXPECTATIONS

    I have to take the boxes off the end of the machine. They’re flat at this point, of course – they’re only made up when they get to the customer’s factory and there they fill them up with … whatever it is. I don’t give much thought to what they might one day contain. Perhaps I should.

    I clock in at 8 pm, or some time before that. Not too long before – I’m here for twelve hours every night, so there’s no sense giving them too many extra, free minutes. When I first started I remember having a spring in my step as I approached the clocking-in machine: I was much younger, and the job was going to be a temporary one. The other day I caught myself dawdling towards the same machine (or a version of it actually, upgraded many times since I’ve been here), as if hoping that something would happen in those last few metres that would cause me not to have to clock in. Nothing ever does happen, though.

    My work-mate on the end of the machine is Harry. He’s a wiry little man in his early 60s, hunched, busy – like a squirrel, if you remember how they move about and jerk their heads to and fro, on the lookout for danger. We rarely speak – the noise of the machine would drown out any attempt at normal conversation. Sometimes we shout at each other: “NEED MORE PALLETS!” or “BOX CAUGHT UP!” That last warning is for when a box, rushing through the rollers and folders, skews out of line for some reason, gets caught up on the belts and crumples, causing a pile-up of the boxes rushing along behind it. I shouldn’t – because these little incidents cause the company to waste time and lose money – but I almost welcome them; they break the night up.

    Other high points in the long night shift include a change of run. You might be turning out 70 by 50cm heavy-duty boxes and have produced 10k and that’s all the customer’s ordered. So we – Harry and I – finish off stacking the pallet, bind it with reinforced tape, and take it with a pneumatic loader – or a fork-lift truck if one of the lazy bastards that drive them can be bothered – to join the other pallets waiting for dispatch.

    Then we set about cleaning the area around the machine either with brooms or blowers; a lot of paper dust accumulates during the production of boxes and if we didn’t clear it at some time, we’d be knee-deep in it before long. Harry favours the blower but I don’t like it. It sends a lot of dust up into the air, and then we have to breathe it. But I must admit that to get to the dust under the machine, the blower’s the best option. If we didn’t use that, someone would have to crawl in and get the dust out with a brush, and that someone would have to be Harry because his bones are more supple than mine.

    While we’re doing the cleaning, Tom sets up the machine for the new size of box (say 80 by 40), and if it’s a complicated and time-consuming set-up, the foreman might send us off to the canteen for a cuppa – once the cleaning’s done, of course. It’s a good night if that happens; anything to break the routine.

    Stacking is my pride and joy. Some of the boxes come out in good-sized piles that make it very easy to stack them neatly on the pallets. I love a straight line, and if I can stack the boxes so that they make a perfect cube on the pallet, then that gives me a lot of satisfaction. The box sizes that are awkward to stack are a pleasure in a different way – there’s a challenge to finding a way to stack them so that they’re stable before despatching. The stacks might not be pretty at times, but you have to sacrifice that to make sure that they won’t fall over when they’re being loaded onto the trucks.

    Dinner is in the canteen – invariably sausages or a pie, because they’re the only things that are remotely edible. For a spell I brought sandwiches, but a man needs a hot meal to keep him going in work like this. After eating, I might have a game of snooker with Mick off a different machine, or I might find a dark corner and have a nap on a pallet of boxes ready for despatch.

    The last half an hour of the shift is my favourite time; it’s when the day shift start arriving, and there are some nice women working that shift. One of them walks past the machine as if she’s on a catwalk. I like to think it’s to impress me (it’s certainly not for Harry’s benefit), but if I’m realistic, the age difference is vast. Anyway, one can but day-dream …

    So this is me, until I drop. It’s work, and I know many who would like it, so I can’t complain too much. But at times I remember when I was 15 and my bones were better; I wanted to be a footballer. I was good, and my father encouraged me – contacted clubs on my behalf, took me for trials on the back of his motorbike. But I was more interested in girls and then booze and having a good time. The factory wages paid for that.

    I was content then.

    .

  • October 3, 2016 at 5:08 pm
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    The Book of John (Modified, greatly enhanced version)
    by Ralph Jensen © 2016

    Before there was time and space there was love. And love was whole, one with itself yet without self. Its wish was to give without limit, without regard. Through timeless eons love wandered the shores of nothingness and scaled the heights of infinity. And there was not lack nor abundance as love travelled at infinite speed, folding heights into depths and the few into many and many into all.

    Then, at a moment outside of time, at a place outside of space, love became aware of itself and said: “I am TheOne.”

    And TheOne was love and His wish was to give, without limit, without regard. And She thought about him to whom He would give, one just like Herself. And He saw man, a man and a woman, free like Herself, vessels of love that were love once their creation was complete.

    And He saw the world as a home in which they would dwell, a world in their image as they were an image of Her. And TheOne said “May love become.” And love became light in a world of form where it travelled in time that filled space.

    And light gave rise to the elements of the world, which became the world of Her children, one man and one woman. And when the time had come TheOne touched the man and the woman and said: “Become fruitful and multiply and love the universe as you love each other as you love yourself.” And the man and the woman listened and TheOne looked forward to the day of completion when both would turn to him and each say “I have become.”

    But shit happened and the man and the woman turned from light and fell into darkness and the world became filled with the children of the fall. TheOne called many from among them as guides to the light but the fallen ones killed them all.

    Near the time of fulfillment there was a woman whose name was Mary. Mary was pure and had not known any man. And Mary entered the house of Eli, a high priest of the temple and respected by the people. And the Spirit came over Eli and Mary and Mary conceived a child. And Mary left Eli’s house and in the fullness of time she gave birth to a son whom she named Isa. Isa grew in stature and wisdom and studied the scriptures and learned of his people and their ways.

    And TheOne instructed John, Eli’s son, to enter the desert. And John followed Her call and he heard His voice to prepare for the light but John did not understand. Yet he continued in the desert and TheOne sent him to baptize with water until the light would arrive. And John baptized many people but he did not understand.

    And TheOne sent Isa to meet John at the river. And when John saw Isa TheOne send a dove to rest on Isa who shone with bright light. And John was amazed and remembered the words in the desert. And he spoke to Isa with great respect but when the people asked John who was Isa John said: “We’ll see.” And John watched Isa from a distance.

    And Isa went on to preach to the people and so did John. And TheOne was with Isa who preached with great authority unlike all others. And many people followed Isa as many followed John.

    But the priests guided the people and they watched over them. And John preached like them and the priests had high regards of John, the son of Eli.

    But while John spoke of the scriptures Isa spoke of TheOne. John taught how to do while Isa taught how to be. For Isa had become and had turned to TheOne and had said: “I have become.” And Isa’s speech was simple but strong and many people came to him. And the people asked the priests about Isa but they would not know him. And they asked John about Isa and John said: “We’ll see.” But John had forgotten the light.

    Among the people of Isa was a woman named Magdalene whose heart was with TheOne and she was pure and had known no man. And she had money of which she gave to Isa to care for his people. And there was a man among them whose name was Judas. And Judas had not known Magdalene but he desired her every day. But Judas handled the money for Isa and his people.

    And Isa told his people that he had come to take a wife and her name was Magdalene. And Judas heart grew dark.

    But the priests grew jealous of Isa and plotted to kill him. And they plotted with soldiers and they argued with Judas to give Isa away.

    But John went into the desert and he felt like his brother and to be his keeper but he did not know what it meant. And Judas came with the soldiers and John stood between them and said: “Wait a moment.” And John remembered the river and he remembered the light and he spoke about it. And the people listened and murmured with awe and the soldiers grew anxious.

    And John spoke to Isa: “Baptize me.” And they went to the river and as they stepped into the water fire descended and engulfed them and John and the people were baptized with fire. And the word spread and all people came to be baptized with fire. And Isa spoke of TheOne. And he spoke simple and he spoke about love as it flows without speed and delay, without limit and without regard. And the people understood.

    And Isa took Magdalene and gave his people into marriage and the families grew in size. And they listened to Isa and they became free and they grew in love until they became love itself. And the world was filled with it like the waters fill the sea.

  • October 3, 2016 at 9:53 pm
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    Lord of the Rings

    Long ago before the Lord of the Rings was known, four magic rings were created by some minor lords of the universe. The creation of each ring was a jealously guarded secret. Each lord took the element of the cosmos that he or she had mastered the elements of it and created a ring to hold its power within.

    Elvine – Lady of the earth took its elements – sand, rock and soil that she was mistress of and created a ring that shone clear and clean as the purest diamond. The ring had awesome powers in that it had the ability to move the earth and mountains and create ranges, earthquakes and continents and more with the right incantations of course.

    Weathine – Lord of the winds and sky took the wildest of hurricanes and tornadoes and gathered their air currents to bind them into a ring that shone silver blue as the early morning sky on a clear summer’s day. Yet if one looked closely, the darker currents of the night storms were captured within, beyond the horizon’s edge. This ring had power over the air, wind and skies.

    Fithlyn – Lady of the fires and lightening created her ring from the heat of the earth’s centre and the suns warmest rays. Its appearance was that of the fire opal. It gathered its power on the middle finger of her right hand curling its fiery mouth around her slender finger. With a sweep of her hand, she could burn continents to a crisp and plunge nations into droughts and scorch the earth to fields of crisp blackened tree trunks and melted sand glass plains.

    Wallane – Lord of the seas and waters took eons to create his ring from the depths of pure ocean water mixed with the artesian spring waters of inland Australia and the geysers of central America. It shone like sapphire stars in the dark night skies and one could see and sense the oceans, rivers and mountain spring streams in it. With it, Wallane could calm the deepest oceans and raise the waves to the skies in the blink of an eye, creating massive tsunamis as easily as lifting an eye brow.

    All went well for the universe while these four used their rings for good and to help all creatures and aid their passage in life. However in the balance of the world, something changed. Jealousies began to fray the perfect unity that had been created. In addition, an extra element was added when Fithlyn became enamoured of a human youth Eden and told him about the ring’s powers. What was worse, she showed him how to use the ring. Despite her youthful appearance, she was thousands of years old. The other Ring masters were outraged at her folly.

    Elvine tried counselling her.

    ‘This can only last a fleeting moment of your life. You have so much to lose. Why?’

    ‘Ah, Elvine, you are such a mother. Have you forgotten passion?’

    ‘Fithlyn, this is not passion. This is misguided lust for something forbidden.’

    ‘The fires that burn within your loins and with which you and Weathine created your progeny. Was that not passion? And he is such a well formed youth of handsome brow and visage.’

    ‘No. Weathine and I are similar. This youth’s life is but a moment in your time. He will be old before you age one day. You will tire of him once the bloom of youth fades.’

    At this, Fifthlyn smiled deviously.

    ‘Elvine do not make assumptions. You assume I will not do what I can within my power to halt his aging?’ on hearing this, Elvine shrugged, her eyes hardened.

    ‘For that you will need my help. The answer is NO.’ Fifthlyn’s eyes flashed at this comment.

    ‘Well, then, beware. For the crops you nurture for those humans who worship you; they will never be harvested until I get what I want for my friend.’

    Truly the most of crops in the coming months were struck by lightning or fires rose from nowhere to consume them. Famine ensured.

    Elvine came looking for Fifthlyn who was consorting with her human lover among geysers in what is now known as Yellowstone Park.

    ‘Fifthlyn, Fifthlyn. You need compassion.’

    ‘Elvine, can’t you see I am busy.’

    ‘So you play, while his tribes people starve?’

    At this, Fifthlyn giggled.

    ‘Does he care, do you think?’

    The enchanted youth stared vacuously at Elvine. The youth’s bewitchment angered her. She opened the earth and entombed them both in a cavern miles beneath the earth’s surface. This angered the two lords of the Sea and Air rings Wallane and Weathine as they were Fifthlyn’s brothers. Elvine was simply a cousin. Wallane and Weathine were poised to free Fifthlyn and her lover by force. Neither had the power to prolong the youth’s mortal life, but were plotting to ensure that Elvine did give Fifthlyn what she wanted.

    At this point, a new more powerful entity appeared on the scene. Without a face as we know it, without a body as we know it, the entity was felt and intuited rather than seen in physical form.

    ‘KNEEL!’ it commanded. And all four knelt forced down by a power they did not understand nor could they resist doing what it ordered.

    ‘You have betrayed the powers you were entrusted with. Render up your rings NOW!’ The rings flew up from the fingers of the lords as if pulled by a strong magnetic force. The rings flew round and round – the rings started to dissolve and then melded into one gleaming ring that glowed with a powerful light.

    All four saw a hand emerge as if from air. It took the ring.

    ‘I am now the only lord of the rings. You shall become as angels of the earth. Your powers are almost gone. Go.’

    Thus a new Lord arose in the universe. The followers were many. Conflicts then came about among the worshippers how to worship this new Lord. But that is another story.

  • October 4, 2016 at 7:08 pm
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    The Scarlet Letter: Re-Imagined
    By Alice Nelson ©2016

    The body was clean and covered with a simple white sheet. Detective Hester Prynne, fresh off an internal review, was called to the scene at Franklin Park. Her partner Graham was already there.

    “So, how’d it go?”

    “Well, Dimmesdale lied. I’m not surprised. I am officially the scapegoat in all of this.”

    “So what now?”

    “Six months’ probation, and busted down to Detective Second Grade.”

    “That’s fucked.”

    “Oh, I know.”

    “What about Dimmesdale?”

    “Assigned to an administrative position, but he still gets to be chaplain.”

    Graham just shook his head. All Hester could do was laugh.

    The coroner called the detectives over, “Looks like the victim was strangled. But check this out, never seen anything like it.” The Medical examiner, showed Prynne and Graham something he found on the victim’s body.

    “It’s a small letter “A,” he said, “Carved here, just behind the left ear.”

    “What the fuck.” Graham said.

    Hester got a sinking feeling in her gut —she’d seen this before when she was a beat cop in California.
    _____________________________________________

    “This won’t be the last one chief, this guy will kill again, then vanish without a trace.”

    “Like he did in California?” Chief Bergman asked. Contempt for her dripping from every word he spoke.

    Hester stiffened, “Yes, like California.”

    Bergman looked at Hester long and hard. He took a chance on her after what happened in the west, but now, considering her fling with Dimmesdale, he was beginning to regret his decision.

    “So,” Bergman says, “How do we know this is the same guy?”

    “We don’t,” Hester said. “But the MO is similar, how the body was left out in the open, the carved letter “A” behind the left ear, it all fits our guy in California.

    “But you aren’t sure?”

    “No. But I can’t be sure unless you allow Graham and me to look in that direction.” Hester stood and crossed her arms, waiting for him to offer something other than doubt.

    Bergman shrugged, “You and Graham check it out, but you have a short rope, understand?”

    “Yes Chief.”
    _____________________________________

    Arthur Dimmesdale was watching news coverage of the murder in Franklin Park. He smiled when he saw that Hester was one of the officers on the scene. After what he said at the inquiry, he wasn’t sure if she’d keep her job.

    Arthur still ached for her, and felt terrible about how he depicted her in front of the commission.

    “Look Arthur,” his lawyer said, “The department is willing to go easier on you, but you have to give them Hester.” And with his wife and attorney putting pressure on him to blame Hester, Arthur simply gave in.
    He kept searching the television for Hester in the crowd, and every time he saw her, he thought of their last night together —when he told her he loved her.

    “I have to see her again.”
    _____________________________________

    It was 9pm when Hester arrived home. She was tired, and still angry at how she was treated by the commission. “You’re lucky you weren’t busted down to beat cop after what you did Detective Prynne.” The commissioner said, “Dimmesdale is a respected chaplain in this community, it will be some time before this department can move past this scandal.”

    Hester didn’t say, ‘what about what he did?’ She also didn’t say, ‘Arthur was as much a part of this as I was.’

    Nope, Hester Prynne was smart, and she knew that keeping quiet was her best defense. Her role would be that of villain in the whole affair, she’d just have to live with that. Arthur was handsome, clean cut, and never had discipline issues like she did in California. He would simply be seen as the poor police chaplain, seduced by some out of control head case.

    Hester just wanted to go home, and do her best to forget about the whole affair. Seeing Arthur was the last thing she needed.

    But he was waiting for her when she arrived home.

    “What are you doing here Arthur?”

    “I just wanted to see if…if—“

    “If you landed a direct hit, well yes you did.”

    “That wasn’t what I wanted Hester.”

    “Well it was the result, regardless of what you wanted.”

    “Hester please, I just want to talk.”

    Prynne looked at him and shook her head. “Go away Arthur, I have nothing to say to you. After what you told the commission, I’m lucky I still have a job.”

    “I’m sorry.” He whimpered.

    “I don’t give a shit how sorry you are. WE hurt people with what we did, I wasn’t in this alone. But you made me the sole bad guy in all of it.”

    Hester turned to go inside

    “Don’t go!” Arthur screamed, and it frightened her.

    Hester turned to see Arthur removing his shirt. At first she didn’t quite know what she was looking at, then she realized that he had carved the letter “A” into his bare chest.

    Hester staggered backward.

    “I did this for you Hester. I left that man in the park for you too…to help you.”

    “Wh…what?”

    “You told me about that case back in California. You said if you could’ve solved it, there was no way they would’ve railroaded you out of there. I thought if you had a chance to solve it here, then they’d forget all that we did. I love you Hester, and I’ll wear this on my chest to show you that I know what I am.”

    Then he said, “We share this burden, we should both wear the mark.”

    “Arthur don’t…”

    But Arthur had already taken a knife out of his back pocket, and began moving closer to Hester. He was crazed, and didn’t even see her unholster her gun. As Arthur drew her to him, Hester closed her eyes and pulled the trigger.

    She was shaking as she dialed Graham’s number. “Hey, I need a unit at my place. Arthur Dimmesdale is dead.”

  • October 4, 2016 at 11:40 pm
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    Book

    Unlocked – Karen Kingsbury

    The phone rang. Glancing at the caller ID, I froze. Cousin James liked to show up about every five years. Had five years passed already?

    Cousin James is my fathers first cousin.  Growing up I remember only meeting James a handful of times. He kind of scared me. He is a bit  strange. But James is family, you accommodate for them period. 

    The story goes: James was a very bright happy boy. His first word at  nine months was water. By age four his full sentences contained three or four ten dollar words each. Like some miniature professor. Some thought he might even be a prodigy or some sort of an old spirit come back to tell us something important.

    When James turned six he stopped talking and started rocking. No one recalls him having a fever or illness around that time. Family says when he was outside playing he saw something horrific. But he has never been able to say what. 

    Now in his late sixties, James can talk, his words slur a bit making it hard to understand him. He takes these cross country trips in his car arranging his route to stop and see every relative he knows about. We are on the list about every five years. Guess this is our year. You can’t carry on a conversation with him. James will tell us the date and time of each stop and how much he spent to the penny. You can’t interrupt his oratory or he starts over at the beginning.

    “Hello.” I finally speak into the phone.

    “This is James a cousin to Nils. I will be at your house on Wednesday. I will stay two nights.”

    Not may I or are you busy, just I will be there. Two days notice and I am expected to  drop everything and entertain James. I will because he is family.

    James arrives right on schedule. He ask to go to the botanical gardens. Where he takes a million and one pictures. Most of the morning we don’t speak. I just fallow him a round like some sort of stray puppy dog. Finally we stop for lunch. James wants to sit on the grass. I sit beside him. We eat in silence. Once we finish lunch James flops on his back.  That is when I notice the large back pack he has with him. He motions for me to join him.

    Staring at the sky, James points to some clouds. He digs in his bag and hands me a book . . . pointing once again to the clouds.

    The book is Arabian Knights. A bit puzzled I search the clouds. Sure enough there before my eyes is a Genie’s lamp and a horses head. I hear a giggle and James hands me another book. Dumbo. Searching the sky again, I find an elephant head with extra large ears.

    All the sudden books started raining down on me. Transporting me to new worlds and adventures. I get lost in a magical dreamland when I feel a tap on my shoulder. James is handing me another book but this time it is open. He is pointing to a spot on the page.

    I read: * “Some people couldn’t see the inside of a person unless they liked the outside of a person, because they hadn’t learned to hear the music yet. If you look around, a lot of us are different, but we can still have a beautiful voice.”

    James smiled and turned a few pages. directing me to look at the book.

    I read:*” Life is to short too be anything but real with the cast of characters God placed in the story of your life.”

    James turned the pages.

    This time I read*”These are the best of days.’ she said. And so they were. A time when love and laughter were easy.” 

    I smiled and found myself relaxing a little more.

    James gestured to my face and heart and tapped the book once again.

    Reading what he pointed to: *Even when you’re not smiling, I can see your smile. Know why?” she said. ” Because it’s in your heart all the time.”

    James grinned and flipped the pages.

    *”If you woke up today and you- were breathing, God ‘s greatest purpose for your life is still ahead.”

    Many things were on my heart. I wouldn’t say smiles were one of them. Weather the stories about James were true or it was caused by a vaccination, didn’t matter. James had learned to communicate to me in a big way through books. James may never be completely unlocked but he sure unlocked my troubled heart. God had a purpose for James each and every day and he had one for me as well.

    The afternoon went by quickly and more pleasantly then the morning had. I began to see  the beauty of the flowers, feel the warmth of the sunny day and see the child like wonder of James in a new way.
    When we were ready to head home James stopped me. Dug in his bag for the book . He showed me one more passage: *” Their hearts were full and the sun was shining bright white and soft edges. All because they had this day together.”

    I smiled, “Yes James, it is true. Thank you.”

    Then James tucked the book in my arms. I bowed and he drove away for another five years.

    *’s indicate quotes from the book.

  • October 5, 2016 at 10:56 am
    Permalink

    The Last Four Thinges
    By Emmanuel Malho, 2016

    Caleb couldn’t sleep at night. The last couple weeks, his mind simply wouldn’t stop. Night terrors, a psychiatrist friend told him. Caleb wondered that possibility and he couldn’t find anything more ironic in this life. Caleb Thompson, multiple homicide still on the loose, suffering from night terrors. He was also diagnosed terminal lung cancer two weeks ago. Figured smoking 3 packs a day does kill after all. Lying in a hospital bed, his vital signs monitored, Caleb’s body started to succumb. Constantly tuning in and out of consciousness, his brain almost couldn’t differentiate dream or reality.
    The door opened. A rather young and good-looking nurse walked in, graciously. “Now that’s a sight for sore eyes”, he kept to himself. Average height, above average legs, above average breasts, green eyes to get lost in, and certainly more freckles in her face than the number of people he killed in the last five years.

    – I will guide you for the next steps of your journey. It will all seem other-worldly, but don’t worry. I’ll be there. – She calmly said. Then she turned around and started walking to the door.

    – M’lady, in case you need glasses to cover those gorgeous eyes, I ain’t going nowhere but hell. – Despite the terror he’s been living in, he managed to exhale a peaceful tone.

    – Would that be the least of your problems, Caleb Thompson.

    She hadn’t finish to pronounce his name, his blood pressure monitor beeped like a train. One hundred sixty-two beats per minute. He reached for the alarm.

    – Nuuuuuuuurse! – He spoke in a rather elevated tone.

    – The name is Sylvia, by the way. – And the mysterious lady went out the door.
    One hundred seventy-nine beats per minute. Light flashed before Caleb’s eyes like a running train. And all went black.

    – You sure know how to take your time, you persistent asshole. – A voice woke him up.
    A lighter flicked and Sylvia lit a torch. Caleb was lying on a dusty, rock-filled ground.

    – Come on, I don’t have all eternity. – She rushed him.
    She no longer was in a nurse attire, but on a Bordeaux dress, long in her right leg but quite short on her left. Her cleavage left little to one’s imagination. She started walking down the cave-like way. Caleb was still lost in his thoughts. “Where the hell am I?”

    – Where are we going?

    – It’s not where we’re going, it’s where you’re going. I’m just here to show you the way.

    They arrived at a large hall. It seemed like an enormous auditorium. Many concentric arches were building up in height right in front of him, except for the position right in front of him. A single balcony in the middle of the array of arches. Barely lit by the flames right next to him, some of the following arcs held small fires and he could watch shades lifting. The shades took the form of persons. Sylvia dropped her dress right on the ground and covered herself with a long, black, hooded one – ceremonial-like. She approached the central part of the arches and the balcony came right at her. She stepped in, and the balcony went back to its central position. The masses began to shout in devotion.

    – Quiet! – She hushed them in a loud scream everyone could hear in that enormous hall – Caleb Thompson – she took a dozens of pages and took a second to read the first – You are here to be judged for your sins. You are guilty of the murder of two hundred and fifty-one people. – The crowd wooed him. – Silence! – She screamed again, bumping her hand in the balcony. All the shades sat on theirs. – How do you plead, guilty or not guilty?

    – Is this a fucking joke? – Caleb couldn’t believe his eyes. Did he die and just went to his trial?

    – Just answer the damn question! – She bumped both her hands on the balcony this time.

    – Guilty, ma’am. – he sighed.

    – Only one thing can save you from the eternal flames of hell. Repentance. Do you repent for what you’ve done?

    – If I had the chance – he made a pause in his speech to take a look at his audience, smiling – I’d do it all
    over again.

    – Alright. Verdict is done. You will follow your path.

    Caleb lost his consciousness. When he woke up again, that scenery was gone. He was in some sort of forest instead. Bushes, trees, flowers, fruits, as far as the sight can reach. It was rather cold. He sat by an apple tree, took an apple and started eating it.

    – There you are. Did you know that Eva doomed us all eating that? – Sylvia appeared, this time in a white, long, simple dress.

    – What happened to that court room? And your crowd? – Caleb inquired.

    – Didn’t you recognize any of them? They sure as hell knew who you are. Those were the souls of the ones you killed in the last years. Some of them managed to haunt you during your sleep, some didn’t. – She took a look around them. – This is heaven. Sorry, this is the garden of Eden. This is where you could be alongside some of your friends, if you still know who they were, only if you… repented. But it looks like you didn’t want it that way. So…

    And as her eyes focused back on him, a bright flash blinded him. Then it was all dark again.

    – Welcome to your hell, Caleb.

    Caleb looked around. The beeping monitor. The feint light from the lamp. He was back at the hospital.

    – You had what is called a near-death-experience. – Sylvia was back in her nurse outfit. – Your heart stopped for 3 seconds, and they managed to bring you back. Not that it’s a good thing, regarding your heart’s and lungs’ condition… You will stay here. Suffering.

    He couldn’t speak. Sylvia left.

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