STORY THREAD; May 12 – May 25 Flash Fiction Contest “Discovery”

The LinkedIn Comment Thread can be found here.

This post is for STORIES related to the theme “Discovery – of or about something, someone, or some place.” 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.

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:

One story per author. Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.
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). Send your votes via email LIFlashFiction (at) gmail.com. Winner will be announced in the Comment and Story thread.

  1. You may vote only once and cannot vote for yourself.
  2. In order for your story to qualify you must submit your top 5 votes.
  3. The winner shall name the next week’s writing prompt.
  4. In case of ties, co-winners may be announced and the moderator shall select a winner to name the theme.
  5. The winner has three days after the announcement to contact either Alice Nelson or Carrie Zylka via LIFlashFiction(at)gmail.com with the next theme/items of their choosing.

See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.


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13 thoughts on “STORY THREAD; May 12 – May 25 Flash Fiction Contest “Discovery”

  • May 13, 2016 at 7:32 am
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    Discovery story below:

    I Saw it First!

    There it was; staring me in the face. On the sidewalk in front me was an old looking and beat up coin. Being superstitious, and not knowing which side was tails, I carefully placed it back on the ground in the position I found it in. If someone was gonna have bad luck, it wouldn’t be me. I’ve had too many bad days in my life already.

    I recall, back in March of this year, I had tripped on a crack in the sidewalk that sent me to the hospital. This happened right after I had inadvertently walked under a ladder. Just about every thing they say you should not do, it brings bad luck, I had tried to avoid. No way was I gonna play this coin trick. I have been lucky so far this month.

    I watched for a while as person after person just walked right passed that coin. They too knew something I suspected. That coin will spell the ruin for some poor soul. Then it happened! A woman picked up the coin and placed it carefully in her purse. She then proceeded to cross the street. The arrow was in her favor, but the next driver never saw her. He swerved like crazy to miss her, and ended up smashing his car into a parking sign instead.

    Lucky for her the man swerved just in time. The lady continued on her way, like nothing had happened. She then walked right into a guy with a loaded coffee cup in his hand that landed squarely on her blouse. She was texting and so was he. The man was feeling terrible and offered to pay to have the garment cleaned. Then he handed her $100 and said: “That should cover it nicely.”

    Now I’m thinking, instead of bad luck, it could be a type of lucky rabbit’s foot for her. If I were to approach her, she would think I was stalking her. Continuing to follow her, I noticed she went into an appraisal store. Watching carefully through the window, so as to not alert her I was out there, I saw her place the old dirty coin on the case for the store owner to examine.

    The next thing I knew they were both jumping up and down. Had she found the missing
    link? They both seemed elated at what this coin might represent. She handed over the coin and her handed her a large undetermined amount of cash for it. What had I given up? Sometimes I think I’m too superstitious for my own good.

    The woman left the store with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen on a person’s face. She had luckily come into a large fortune, but I saw the coin first. I then headed into the coin shop and said I had lost a coin in my possession and began to describe it to him.

    “I’m sorry, but a woman brought this coin in that you were just describing. However, as we all know “Possession is nine-tenths of the law. Do you have paperwork or proof it is yours? Suddenly the woman appeared in the doorway of the shop.

    “Sir, I couldn’t help overhearing you regarding the coin I found. I feel badly that you lost this valuable coin. Here is the money I received for it.”
    I was in shock; this was too easy. But, I’m not anyone to look a gift horse in the mouth, so I took it. She excused herself and left the store. I did manage to get over the shock of my good luck, and thanked her on her way out.

    The storeowner then asked me to sign paperwork for the coin as a legal formality. With a large bag of money, now in my possession, I slowly headed out the door myself. Waiting for me was a couple of policemen who quickly cuffed me, an then read me my rights. What had just happened?

    The store owner did what most people in his profession do, he researched the history of this particular coin. It was part of an earlier bank heist where not only cash but valuables were stolen. Law enforcement had been on the look out for this crook for months.

    Talk about good luck turning sour, I was now on my way to jail; maybe even prison. The police interrogated me and found my story to be true, since I could prove where I was on the night of the robbery. They let me go free! From now on, when I Pick up a coin, it better be heads up. Even if it is, I’ll still put it back where I found it. Picking it up is an act of good luck, putting it back may be our next luckiest move. Cheers!

  • May 13, 2016 at 8:38 am
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    Fatal Error
    by Dean Hardage Copyright 2016.

    “Would you destroy the world to give it a second chance?”

    The question caught Keith by surprise.

    “Why would you ask me that question?”

    “Because you’re an ethicist, for one thing. You’re also the most principled and decent person I know. Will you answer me?”, Allen replied.

    “It’s pretty open ended. Can you be more specific?”

    “Not really. Just assume that you can take the world as it is and revert it back to the very beginning, give all that lived and died a second chance to do it better. Would you do it?”

    “It’s hard to say…..”

    “Really? Our environment is going to hell, species are going extinct and an increasing rate, we’re killing each other over he most petty grievances. I think you can see the logical end of things.”

    “I like to think we’ll figure it out.”

    “And if we can’t?”

    Keith paused. There was a lot of truth in what Allen had said. He’d been all over the world trying to help with one disaster after another, always wondering why the people there had let it get so bad.

    “Any guarantee it won’t be worse?”

    “None. The only guarantee is a second chance.”

    “Then no, I wouldn’t. It’s a pig in a poke.”

    Allen sighed. “I was afraid you’d say that. Now I’ll have to live with it on my own, so to speak.”

    “What are you talking about?”

    “Are you aware of the current hypothesis that the universe is a holographic projection of a higher dimension, a sort of simulation?”

    “Yes, but it a crackpot idea with no way to prove it.”

    “Yes, but no. It is rather crackpot but there is a way to test it. If the universe were indeed a simulation then down at the quantum level there would be patterns where no patterns should exist. The operating system, if you will. Of course, you would have to look at a lot of quantum space to find such patterns. It would take a long time if you could even manage it.”

    “What does that have to do with your question?”

    Allen sighed deeply. “About 10 years ago I started a project, seeding the oceans with nanoprobes. They went to the bottom of the seas and began replicating, forming a gigantic, global sensor array. I’ve been able to look at almost the entire world at the quantum level and I’ve found a pattern that shouldn’t exist.”

    Keith shook his head. “That can’t be.”

    “It is. Beyond that, I’ve analyzed the pattern and determined a way to disrupt it, if only for a moment.”

    “Why would you do that?”

    “What happens to a computer program when it’s operation is interrupted?”

    “It stops, usually catastrophically”

    “Exactly, and you have to restart it.”

    A sense of disbelief and horror crept over Keith.

    “Are you suggesting that you can cause this so-called simulation we live in to crash?”

    “In so many words, yes. It would force the programmer to restart it.”

    “Or erase it, assuming you’re right.”

    “Or that, yes. But it’s a chance for us to start over, maybe get it at least better if not right. I have to believe that whoever or whatever started this program has a purpose and will want to try again.”

    “You can’t know that.”

    “No, I can’t. That’s why I asked you to come by and wanted your input.”

    Allen gestured to a notepad computer on the desk, a single icon displayed on the screen.

    “That’s it? That’s your doomsday button?”, Keith whispered hoarsely.

    “Yes and I’m about to push it, not to doom but to try to save us all.”

    “You can’t.”

    Allen didn’t answer, just touched the icon.

    [*Damn, fatal error. Now I have to start it from scratch*]

  • May 16, 2016 at 12:21 pm
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    Blind Justice.
    by Ken Cartisano © 2016

    Darren and I were best friends in grade school. Born and raised in rural Southern Georgia, you might say we were just a couple of dumb rednecks. Truth be told, I wasn’t all that bad; I aspired to become an enlightened southern gentleman. Darren on the other hand, he was a special case.

    Darren contracted a rare illness at the age of eight that rendered him completely blind. So he was born with sight, then lost it, but was still young enough to adapt to his loss of vision. Darren was an only child so his parents were determined to help him adjust to his handicap. It was unfortunate that they died while Darren was still in his teens. The accident that killed them left Darren with a sizeable settlement: Millions of dollars, in fact. From then on, Darren didn’t want for anything.

    During high school we began to drift apart. He gravitated toward music, while I wound up going to College to become an engineer. After earning my degree, I came home and stayed with my folks while I explored various employment opportunities. I ran into Darren one night at a local pub.

    He hadn’t changed much since our last meeting, but at least his clothes matched, and he was wearing fashionable shades over his sightless eyes. One striking difference in Darren was his choice in companionship; a stunning brunette named Dianna. She was a remarkably graceful beauty with dark skin, a warm smile, a musical laugh and a great personality. She spoke in a silky smooth voice with no trace of an accent. We hit it off immediately, and the three of us spent several nights a week at a local pub where we listened to music, drank beer, and played darts.

    One night we met a fellow named Luke. Darren introduced him as ‘a really good friend from high school’ and assured me that he was an excellent musician as well. But I had a bad feeling about Luke right from the start.

    My sense of unease was confirmed as I watched Luke make silent but otherwise undisguised advances toward Darren’s lovely girlfriend. For her part, she seemed inured to Luke and politely deflected his overtures with a smile or a shake of her head. Her devotion to Darren was obvious.

    “You’re a lucky guy,” I told Darren, while watching Dianna toss some darts.

    “Whatta you mean?”

    “Dianna,” I said. “She’s beautiful.”

    He sipped his beer. With a white mustache made of foam he said, “Really? I wouldn’t know.”

    “Right,” I said, and smacked him on the arm. “She’s fabulous.”

    He tilted his head. “Really? In what way?”

    “Are you kidding? She’s, she’s nice, she’s funny, she’s cheerful, intelligent…”

    “She sounds like a boy scout,” he said, and we both laughed.

    “No, I’m serious Darren. She’s—dynamite.” His muted reaction mystified me. “And she seems crazy about you. It’s as plain as the nose on your face.”

    “Which I can’t see,” he pointed out.

    “Then trust me, Darren. She’s a doll.”

    We were all sitting around the table near closing time when his ‘friend’ Luke decided to make a toast. “To the happiest inter-racial couple I know.” Darren didn’t raise his glass and silence descended on the four of us. Luke suddenly had to leave, and Dianna seemed flustered and excused herself to go to the ladies room, leaving me alone with Darren.

    “What did he mean by inter-racial couple?” He said.

    “I don’t know. The guy’s an asshole. He’s been hitting on her all night.”

    “Oh yeah? He kept mentioning her dark tan. What the fuck was that all about?”

    “I don’t know Darren.” I finished off my beer.

    “She’s not black is she? Or Mexican?”

    I stared at him for a second. “No Darren, she’s as white as you or me.”

    “You’re sure?”

    I saw Dianna exiting the bathroom and stood up. “How long have you two been dating, Darren?”

    “About three months.”

    “You like her? You happy?”

    “Yeah. I guess so.”

    “Then don’t worry about it,” I said, and patted him on the shoulder.

    Dianna returned to the table with a worried look on her face. I had no intention of being a referee in the ensuing spat, so I said goodnight to both of them and left.

    The next day I received an invitation to interview for a job in Atlanta and barely had time to say goodbye to my parents, let alone Darren and Dianna. I took the job and relocated. Darren and I exchanged a few e-mails, but it was a pretty superficial relationship.

    A year went by before I returned to town for a family reunion. I decided to check up on Darren. We agreed to meet at our favorite pub and I was not surprised when he told me about the breakup.

    “That’s too bad,” I said, dispassionately. “What happened?”

    “I’m sure you know,” he said. “You were there when I found out.”

    “Found out what?” My recollection of that evening was crystal clear.

    “That was the night I discovered she wasn’t exactly white.”

    “Who wasn’t white?” I said, “Dianna?”

    “Yeah,” he said. “You were there that night. You remember the toast?”

    I remembered. “That was the night you broke up?”

    “No,” he said, “but it wasn’t long after that.”

    “Why? She was crazy about you.”

    “Yeah, but she wasn’t white. You could’ve told me you son-of-a-bitch.”

    I stood up and tossed some money on the table. “I didn’t tell you because I didn’t think it mattered.”

    “Well it did,” he said.

    “Well that’s too bad, Darren, because she is white, you dumb, fucking redneck.”

    “But Luke said she was…”

    “I don’t care what Luke said, Darren. He was either lying, ignorant, or both.” I left Darren sitting at the table in silence.

    Dianna was waiting for me at a nearby bus bench. We took a shortcut through the park, walking arm in arm. I was finally going to meet her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Patel.

  • May 18, 2016 at 7:49 am
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    Journey of discovery

    The woman sat at the window, deep in thought. To her left were her new neighbours, a young married couple. To her right she could hear the shrieks of laughter coming from two children playing with an old car tyre.

    She reflected on the stages of her life – her voyages of discovery. Looking at the happy couple busily digging their new garden for planting, she cast her mind back forty years, almost to the start of the voyage. A young girl of eighteen, desperately in love with the tall, gangly young man. Together they had explored the boundaries of their love, new and magical for both of them. A short engagement before embarking on the sea of marriage; sometimes wildly happy, sometimes stormy. Would she change anything? Not for one minute.

    Those first few years, they had called it Phase One. The carefree years before the children arrived, a time of getting to know each other, polishing the rough edges until they blended like a jigsaw, each sacrificing a small part of their personality to the other, though both unaware of it .

    Phase Two began with the arrival of little Lisa, and she turned their ordered world upside down. The woman was suddenly aware that she was responsible for this tiny life. She would stand over the cot looking to see if the baby was breathing. Waking up at 2am, in response to a bellow that could be heard a mile away, she would sleepwalk to the nursery and feed the infant. Two years passed and Lisa had a brother, Stephen, altogether a different experience. Stephen was what they called a ‘good baby’. He slept when he should and ate at the right time. Life with two toddlers allowed little time for recreation, and even less for reflection. ‘Where did those years go?’ She asked herself.

    It was during this time that the woman first began to question her role in life. In the long hours when the children slept and her husband worked, she would sometimes think back to when she was free to go out on the spur of the moment, to drive to the beach on impulse and just run on the sand. She wouldn’t have said that she was unhappy, but there was a lack of something – an undefined loss. This she could never share with her husband, he would try and fix things. The slow process towards maturity could not be fixed. The years passed, nursery school then junior school, and more time for herself. A part time job where she felt valued. The woman supposed this must be the start of Phase Three, or was it Four?

    It was Phase Five that engendered –was it guilt, or was it regret? – She couldn’t bring herself to admit to these feelings. The experience itself was so energising, so compulsive; there was no way she could have resisted the affair.
    It started innocently enough, help with a punctured car tyre from a work colleague, the occasional after work drink, glances across the room. Not that she alone had strayed; her husband had tearfully admitted to a brief liaison. Why, oh why must a man confess things better kept hidden? For her part she had kept her secret locked in her heart ready to be remembered in later years with nostalgia, but not regret.

    The woman found herself drifting into a mood of sweet melancholy, and pulled herself up sharply, forcing herself to remember that there were good times as well. Phase Six was a long one, lasting through teenage years, then seeing the children off to various pursuits. The joy of grandchildren and the new mother and daughter closeness that was growing with their shared experiences. Then suddenly, it seemed, she was alone with her husband, whom she still adored after all their upheavals. The discovery of a quiet companionship and shared laughter as they sailed into calmer waters.

    Then came cataclysmic Phase Seven. A sudden phone call. A collapse in the street. A dash to the hospital. All these things remembered and played over and over again like a recurring nightmare, though at the time her perception of events was blurred. The children were summoned and were in time to say their goodbyes. Then came the funeral and afterwards the disbelief and incomprehension; the questioning . Why? Why? Why? Then the anger, the bitter, all consuming anger with nowhere to direct it. Then came the tears. The long months when she wanted only to be left alone.

    Acceptance came, and with it a slow, painful adjustment to widowhood. Slowly, slowly she had reached the point where she could sit calmly and relish the good times they had shared. Bittersweet memories of their forty year journey. A time came when she could remember and smile, a move to a smaller house with a manageable garden and a beautiful view; neighbours who were friendly, involvement with a group of people of her own age who made good use of her organisational skills. She changed her car for a smaller model and explored the countryside surrounding her new home, a ten minute ride from the beach. Was there a Phase Eight ? She didn’t know, but for now she was content to drift.

  • May 18, 2016 at 8:07 pm
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    Hershey

    “I can’t do it! I won’t do it!” Adam cried into his limp chocolate lab in the middle of his sun lit living room floor.

    Matt put his hand on Adam’s shoulder. “You’ve got to, Adam. I’ve done everything I could for him. He’s in terrible pain, and he’ll never be able to stand up again. Look at the way he’s breathing. He’s gasping.”

    Adam sadly looked up at his life-long friend.

    Matt gently grabbed Adam’s other shoulder. He held onto both of them tight and looked into Adam’s eyes. “Adam. Listen to me. To keep Hershey alive in the condition he’s in now would be cruel. It’s time to let him go. Please!”

    “Isn’t there anything you can do?”

    “All I can do is help his pain. I can’t help him stand up, and I can help his breathing. Do you really want him to live like this?”

    Adam sighed. “Sometimes I wish you hadn’t become a vet.”

    Matt loosened his grip. “If it wasn’t me, someone else would be telling you the same thing.”

    Adam fell into Matt’s shoulder, and cried. “Okay. Okay. Do it.”

    “As soon as you’re ready.”

    Hershey began to whimper.

    Adam sat up. “Do it now.”

    Matt stood up. “I have the injection in my truck. I’ll get it. This way you can spend a few minutes alone with him.”

    Adam sniffed. “Thanks.” He scratched Hershey behind the ears and stroked him. Even in his condition, his tail bounced, causing Adam to cry again.

    Matt came back into the house and knelt beside Hershey. “Are you ready?”

    Adam sadly replied, “Go ahead.”

    “This won’t hurt, and it will happen quickly.” Matt inserted the needle, then listened for a heartbeat. “He’s gone.”

    Adam grabbed onto Hershey and sobbed.

    Matt went outside to get some air. He had done this so many times, but it was never easy. It was especially hard to have to put down his best friend’s dog.

    After Adam composed himself, he joined Matt outside. “You okay?”

    Matt replied, “I should be asking you that.”

    “I’m alright.”

    Matt said, “I got a nice wooden box. It’s in the back of the truck. Are you ready to dig?”

    “As ready as I’ll ever be.”

    “Have you picked a place?”

    “In the shady spot in the back.”

    It took hours to dig through the hard, rocky soil. When the hole was deep and wide enough, they lowered Hershey into it. After filling in the hole, they stood there and stared at the dirt in silence.

    Matt looked at Adam. “You’re smiling.”

    “Am I?” Adam laughed. “I was just thinking about the discovery I made ten years ago. Remember that day? I was taking a walk in the neighborhood when I came across an abandoned puppy on the side of the road. He looked so sad. The poor thing was shivering. Remember when I brought him to you?”

    Matt replied, “I do. He was so sick I didn’t think he was going to make it.” Matt looked at the grave again, then back at Adam. “I didn’t tell you that. I was hoping I was wrong.”

    Adam said, “I knew what you were thinking. I could tell by the look on your face. You did a great job bringing him back to health.”

    Matt replied, “I can’t take all the credit. Hershey was a fighter.”

    “He sure was. Remember that time he ripped open the bag of Hershey kisses and ate them all? Foil and all. I knew something wasn’t right when he was being too quiet. I checked on him, and it’s a good thing I did.”

    Matt laughed. “I do remember that. You named him well.”

    “Thanks, Matt. For all you’ve done for him.”

    “I wish I could have saved him now.”

    “You tried.”

    Later in the day Adam looked out the window. He turned to Matt. “I think I just saw Hershey run across the yard. I’m not sure if I imagined it.”

    Matt replied, “We’re both spiritual people. You probably saw him. Maybe he’s letting you know he’s okay.”

  • May 19, 2016 at 8:13 am
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    DISCOVERING

    The day that Sofia discovered David’s infidelity, she discovered various other things – about herself, the people she thought she knew, and her life in general.

    She’d gone into town to send a letter from the post office, something decided on the spur of the moment. David didn’t, therefore, expect her to be there, and obviously wasn’t expecting her to see him going into the shabby Tower Hotel hand-in-hand with a woman.

    Sofia almost crashed her Mini into a line of parked cars, such was her sudden confusion. She gathered herself quickly enough and drove to a multi-storey car park where she parked and sat, gripping the steering wheel until her hands hurt.

    The tears, when they came, lasted only a couple of minutes. Sofia took a deep breath, sighed heavily and got out of the car. There was lighting in the car park but she’d found a darker corner to park and she stood there, looking down at her hands; they were steady.

    Her scream echoed through the several floors. It wasn’t a scream of horror or pain, rather one of frustration, intense disappointment and the shocking realisation that she wasn’t actually as surprised as all that. Things had been okay with David, but just that: okay. The passion of the early times had given way to routine and comfort. For Sofia this was fine – at 54 she expected there not to be quite the intense fire of those days on the Riviera, on the Greek Islands, in Cuba. But for David it obviously wasn’t fine.

    One of the first impulses she had was to call her best friend, Fay. They’d been close since school, and she was the person Sofia most trusted in the world after her father, who’d died the previous year.

    “He’s a bastard, Sofe. I always thought that.”

    “Thanks for telling me!”

    “Would you have taken any notice? … No, I thought not. Anyway, what’re you doing Friday?”

    “What am I … Jesus, Fay! I’ve just told you the most earth-shattering news and you come back with planning a Friday night out?!”

    “You’ve gotta move on, Sofe.”

    “It’s been 23 years, Fay. Hang on. There’s a cop looking over. I can’t be using the phone while I’m driving. Speak soon.”

    Sofia hung up and began to pace up and down the deserted car park, swearing to herself. She stopped and called another number on her phone.

    Her mother listened to the news without interrupting, then gave her verdict.

    “That’s all very sad, love, but you’ve got to stay with him.”

    “I’ve what?!”

    “You’ve got to stay with him. You’re no spring chicken, and–“

    Sofia hung up again. She didn’t know what had got into her, phoning her mother with such an intimate revelation. She wanted sympathy but now that she thought about it, her mother was the last person that was going to give her any.

    The two phone calls had decided something for her, though: firstly, that this was indeed an earth-shattering moment in her life, one that could not be smoothed over with a couple of Friday-night martinis; and secondly, that there was no way she was going to stay with that – Fay’s blunt description jumped to the front of her mind – bastard.

    She got in her car and screeched out of the car park, heading for home at a speed that was unwise but that matched perfectly the urgency of her resolve.

    Once in the house she swept through the rooms in a whirlwind of activity, collecting valuables and keepsakes that belonged to her alone and throwing them into two suitcases, followed by favourite and essential clothes and shoes. In half an hour she was packed and standing on the mat by the front door, looking back along the hall and into the living room that they’d decorated together.

    She gave herself a little emotion inspection and realised that if there were a word to describe how she felt, it would be ‘steely’. This surprised her because she’d always been – contentedly, it must be said – in thrall to David and wouldn’t normally say ‘boo’ to a sparrow, let alone a goose.

    Sofia’s mind drifted momentarily to what David would think about her going – his consternation and mystification, especially as she wasn’t planning to leave a note. A smile crossed her lips and she opened the front door, picked up her cases and stepped out.

    On the front porch she paused. It was a beautiful afternoon, one of those bright spring afternoons that make you want to sing and skip – a perfect afternoon for flight. But she dropped the cases and went back into the house. In the kitchen she opened a drawer and took out a sharp filleting knife. Then she went upstairs.

    On the motorway later, the smile returned to her face as she imagined again what it would be like when David got home to find no one there. And then he’d go upstairs and discover his suits. Oh, how he loved those suits.

    Sofia laughed out loud, turned the music all the way up and gunned the car south towards the capital.

  • May 20, 2016 at 12:44 pm
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    Maisie and the Machine (Chapter 3 of Edgar Poggit)
    by Alice Nelson ©2016

    “Where do they go?” She asked.

    “Well dear, they go to a place where they can be used for a better purpose.”

    Maisie Winslow was his star pupil, someone to mold in his image. Never had he taken one of them under his wings, but she…she was different.

    Maisie stood in The Between, the world that existed in a place between Earth and space, it had been her home for as long as she could remember —and he had always been her Uncle.

    Now 18, Maisie was changing; he could see it, but even he didn’t know how a Human Creature’s changes in his world would manifest themselves. For his kind, these alterations simply showed The Elders where to place them in the workforce; he himself was given the honorable job of protecting the territory.

    “Uncle Edgar, what’s going to happen to her…the girl?” Maisie was talking about Darby Cooper. He left her curled up on the floor crying for her father.

    “Oh, she’ll probably go mad, most do.” Uncle said absentmindedly.

    “But why does she have to suffer too? She didn’t do anything wrong.”

    Edgar Poggit had no feelings whatsoever for the HC’s —except for Maisie of course. Other than her, he never even considered what would happen to them after he left. But Maisie felt differently, and she began to wonder if her Uncle was doing the right thing.

    He furrowed his brow. Maisie Winslow was one of the strongest beings he’d ever met, especially for a Human Creature. But she still held on to the traits that made the HC’s weak. He intended however, to rid Maisie of those flaws and make her more like a Poggit.

    If Edgar Poggit was capable of love, it would resemble what he felt for Maisie. But his feelings for her were tied up in the sheer pleasure he experienced, taking her away from those HC’s who were mommy and daddy. Edgar Poggit didn’t know what love was, he only knew that she was special like him, and those creatures didn’t deserve her.

    When she began to ask questions, he would take her to Building 21, to show her the heart and soul of The Between —that usually made her forget the HC’s. Maisie stood before it; she was always mesmerized by its size, by the way it seemed to undulate as if it were breathing. Uncle Edgar told her that if it weren’t for what they did in the human world, Building 21 wouldn’t be able to protect them. That seemed to do it for Maisie on most days, just not today. Today she was in conflict with herself, and Edgar Poggit could see that.

    Uncle Edgar told her that no one could enter Building 21 unless the structure itself invited them. There was talk that The Grand Elder Titus had been asked inside, but Maisie knew that wasn’t true. She had a special connection to Building 21, it was as if she could communicate with it.

    Edgar saw this connection as well, that’s why he brought her there when she began to question his work; the connection reassured her that things were just fine.

    Maisie stood close to the tall fence that surrounded Building 21, and stared up at the giant eye-like window that looked down on the territory. She closed her eyes and imagined herself inside. She had done this many times since she was a little girl, but the images were always foggy; lately however, they were getting much clearer. She could see a place where there weren’t any traditional floors or rooms, it was just a vast opening, with walls lined in some kind of fleshy substance.

    Then she witnessed something that she’d never seen before. She saw that the building was a living thing —and what’s worse, she saw what fed it. Maisie now knew what happened to people like Hank Cooper when her Uncle and others like him took the HC’s away. There were millions there, waiting to be absorbed by the substance. In some places, all she saw were bones stacked upon each other, while others were in the midst of being digested. Maisie’s eyes shot open, she stumbled backwards, and when Uncle Edgar caught her, she looked at him…no through him, and was certain that he knew what happened in Building 21, and didn’t care at all.

    Maisie ran home and locked herself in her sleeping quarters. Here she closed her eyes and again entered Building 21. As Edgar Poggit drew near, Maisie shut down the building’s security, and began releasing some of the HC’s that were still alive. Just as Edgar Poggit knew he should have killed her that night, instead of bringing her to his home, the alarm bells sounded as Maisie had finally come into her own.

    There was no way Edgar Poggit could’ve known that Maisie Winslow would one day be able to interface with Building 21, or that her ability to do so would happen when she turned 18. The history of The Between extends back even before Edgar Poggit, so there was no way he could ever expect that the machine could be breached.

    None of Building 21’s contingencies could stop Maisie from liberating the captives. She was somehow part of the machine, and moved easily within its walls. She began merging mentally with it; the change that began when she turned 18, was now being fully realized.

    Edgar found her in her sleeping quarters, her eyes were closed but busily moving under the shut lids. He shook her awake, and when she looked at him, he saw that she knew the truth. The love that had been there was replaced by something he couldn’t define.

    “I know who you are Uncle Edgar, now I’m going to find out who I am.” And with that, Maisie Winslow vanished into the intricate web of Building 21.

    LINK TO Chapter 4

  • May 21, 2016 at 1:48 pm
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    The Trail’s End – A Two in One Story
    by Anika Madison ©2016
    974 words

    Approaching the Mountaintop

    It is three in the afternoon on a Saturday and Lily and Marcus have been hiking for three hours. They are about to reach the top of the trail. Lily is trying to be strong, but she knows that they might discover a terrifying sight once they reach the trail’s end. She presses on anyway, dragging Marcus behind her with her hand providing a death grip on his.

    “Lily, I can’t do this!”

    “Yes you can Marcus! Just a little further and…”

    “And what? If we reach our destination we have no idea what we will find.”

    “Yes, but we have to do this anyway. Let’s go Marcus!”

    The zero mile marker is now in sight. Marcus knows that it is a matter of minutes before they get to the top. Tugging on Lily’s hand, he pulls her to a stop.

    Marcus’ desperation has reached a fevered pitch. “Lily! Listen, we already know that help is on the way. Why don’t we just wait?”

    Knowing something that Marcus doesn’t, Lily does her best to speak in a calm tone. “I am sorry, Marky but we have to keep going.”

    Marcus’ fear has now reached its apex. When Lily calls him Marky, he knows that something is either terribly wrong or she wants something from him.

    Marcus carefully asks his next question. “Lil’, why can’t we wait for help?”

    He holds his breath as he awaits her answer.

    Approaching the Exit

    At three thirty pm on the same Saturday, Gill, president of his own fortune 500 marketing company, is making his rounds at his annual networking mixer which is taking place in the ballroom at a five star hotel. He is hoping to discover what a potential client wants in order to get their business. Gill asks his top marketing consultant to use their expertise to make the discovery.

    Gill begins the introduction that he hopes will yield a very profitable return. “Vivian, this is Warren Harrington, he is…”

    With an abrupt interruption, Vivian says, “No need, I know who this is.”

    Feeling the extreme chill of this icy reception and realizing that this introduction is obviously a terrible mistake, Gill looks for the closest exit. He makes his excuses and then a mad dash that is cut short by the sight of Alicia.

    Gill makes the fatal mistake of making eye contact with Alicia and now realizes that he just lost his chance at freedom. Alicia lives for awkward situations and enjoys the challenge of making them worse.

    Gill forms a smile on his face equal to wearing the tightest pair of shoes. Then he slowly approaches Alicia as though he is actually wearing the shoes. Gill is experiencing an extremely painful situation that is about to become excruciating.

    Back to the Mountaintop

    Lily decides to come clean with Marcus. “Listen, help is not on the way. My radio died and I wasn’t really talking to anyone when you saw me earlier. I knew you would panic before we even got a chance to find out what is really happening. So I…”

    Marcus drops Lily’s hand then turns and storms off. He doesn’t get too far because he is too tired to make his way back down.

    Lily cautiously walks up behind Marcus gently touches his shoulder. He angrily withdraws himself from her tender touch. Marcus pushes past Lily and briskly walks towards the mountain top.

    With a defeated and equally angry tone, Marcus takes on the role of leader. “Let’s just get this done.”

    The two nervously look over the grassy area that leads to their destination. They see their guide Tom lying motionless on the ground. Because this is a new trail, Tom went ahead of them to ensure their safety. When Tom didn’t return, Lily and Marcus knew something went wrong.

    They approached Tom and found something that they did not expect.

    Back to the Exit

    To Gill’s horror, he finds out that Vivian is Warren’s ex-fiance and Alicia is the woman Warren left Vivian for that he eventually married instead.

    Gill begins to feel chest pains and is almost relieved that he may be having a heart attack. It seems preferably over this messy encounter.

    The hotel concierge rushes to Gill as though she is a nurse running to her patient’s aid. She tells him that he has an urgent phone call. Gill finally receives his chance to exit.

    The Stories Collide

    It is now 4pm and Gill is on his cell phone. His sister Patty is calling about their other sister Lily. Patty was expecting Lily and Marcus by 2pm after their hike. When they didn’t show and she was unable to reach them, she assumed they got stranded.

    Gill uses his resources to get a helicopter to their location. Fortunately, Lily always makes sure that her brother knows her whereabouts when she hikes. Fifteen minutes later, Gill is advised that the pilot will be taking the hikers to the hospital.

    Forgetting about the insanity that he left and expects will implode at his mixer, Gill rushes to the hospital to meet his sisters.

    When Gill reaches the hospital he too finds something unexpected.

    His friend Tom whom he asked to be Lily and Marcus’ guide is receiving stitches from a head wound caused by Lily.

    It seems that Lily and Marcus were constantly complaining that they would never make it to the end of the hike. Therefore, Tom thought it would be a good idea to teach Lily and Marcus that they could by forcing them to find him. Tom thought it would be a good motivator and a funny lesson. Lily wasn’t amused.

    Gill receives text message that a new discovery has led to chaos at his mixer. Gill texts his CEO to handle the mixer. He has had enough discoveries for one day.

  • May 23, 2016 at 4:51 pm
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    Ouroboros
    by Ralph Jensen ©2016.

    It is said truth cannot be told except by story and myth, that no matter how accurately facts are presented, irrespective of level of detail or sequence of arrangement, once truth is pointed at directly the augurs of heaven, guardians of love, aware that truth can only be known yet never understood, revealed yet not explained, discovered yet not owned, will shuffle their seats, reconfiguring the angles by which the universe looks at itself.

    Something like that.

    Hence it comes with little discomfort that the following story, true as it is, has over the years been told in various fashions with at least two differing versions originating from its main character, August Kekulé, a man of science, who had dwelled among the living until about 120 years ago.

    August initially planned to study architecture and had entered with such intention the University of Giessen, Germany. There, in his first semester, he attended also lectures not of architecture but of chemistry – those by Justus von Liebig, an eminent German chemist of those days.

    It must have been love, because for what other cause would Kekulé have abandoned his plan to build edifices and instead committed his life to the study of matter at it’s minutest level of detail? Four the next four years he studied chemistry, earning a doctorate degree and after several appointments at universities across Europe took final residence at the university of Bonn, Germany.

    August’s main field of study and research was organic chemistry and there the study of hydrocarbons which at his time were understood to be chains of carbon atoms of various lengths plus a few atoms of hydrogen atoms filling in… let’s say… the blanks.

    The underlying principles here are quite simple, at least as far as those stories are concerned. Visualize a drawing where a hydrocarbon is represented by a number of carbon atoms (abbreviated C), connected with each other by straight lines, representing chemical bonds. Either one or two lines can connect two Cs and if all lines originating from one such C amount to less than four then the remaining ones will connect to an atom of hydrogen, H. Have a go, if you wish, at CH4 (methane), C2H6 (ethane), C2H4 (ethylene.)

    Further details are interesting, important and entertaining but of little relevance to the stories which this one is about. These stories now spin around a problem that arose from the research of said hydrocarbons at a time when it was not yet possible to take a ‘direct look’ at the internal structure of molecules. Without such insight chemists could not make sense of certain compositions, as for example that of benzene – C6H6.

    This formula describes a molecule consisting of 6 atoms of C plus 6 of H. Unfortunately, no thinkable linear, chain-like combination of Cs and Hs could possibly result in such quantities – 6 C plus 6 H – in one molecule though experiments and analyses had proven that they existed.

    Kekulé must have been brooding over schematics and notes, verifying calculations for the umpteenth time in his endeavor to solve the puzzle, possibly pounding his head against the wall or using other popular means of supporting the process of thought.

    The final discovery of the ultimate solution now is spun into those abovementioned four stories, four angles of vision onto the path of discovery. Kekulé himself described that discovery in a paper published in 1865. While the elusive structure, Kekulé’s reward, will be revealed here soon, for the sake of this tale the route itself will be the destination.

    One version of the tale of discovery, published in the ‘Journal of the Thirsty (sic!) Chemical Society’ in 1886 stars six monkeys dancing, seizing each other’s hands – a humorous depiction (by that humorous society) of Kekulé’s own, later account, spread by word of mouth. Kekulé himself only spoke of it publicly in 1890 on the ‘Benzolfest’ – an event organized in his honor by the (possibly less humorous but more scientific) German Chemical Society. There, however, he talked of a snake representing the hydrocarbon chain. In another, less picturesque version he later omitted the snake and spoke of C atoms dancing in space.

    Already in his twenties Kekulé had shared with a friend a special type of experience. He spoke of a reverie, in which he saw atoms dancing, “gamboling,” combining, embracing, forming chains in the process. Such dream-like insights had led to his early formulations of carbon chains and their chemistry.

    Still, chains they were, and when it came to C6H6 no chain structure would do the job and deliver the molecule’s diagram until…

    A final, more dramatic vision of the path stems from a book titled ‘Finest Hours of Great Researchers.’ In that version Kekulé, having brooded, cooked, analyzed, documented, calculated and re-calculated for years in pursuit of the fleeting goal, one day caught a cold that came with a fever, which confined him to bed.

    In a feverish dream then he witnessed atoms, C and H, dancing, morphing into a snake… shifting, winding, drawing serpentine trails on the canvas of his febrile mind. On and on went the dance until finally the serpent found its own tail, merged with it and circled in glory.

    Clear as day now stood the structure of benzene – a circular hydrocarbon, six atoms of C, one and two bonds alternating between, six Hs filling in the rest.

    Discovery – gift of the universe to him who had labored (in order to know,) released his grip, dreamt, and, if only for a moment, loved.

    That is a fact.

  • May 23, 2016 at 8:53 pm
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    Tie breaker.
    It was a warm spring day and Tyler was walking down the Champs Elysees in Paris, one of the most beautiful boulevards in the world. A display of jewelry in a store window caught his eye and he stopped to look.
    Suddenly, he felt a presence behind him and a feminine voice said ”Ne bougez pas.”
    He was trying to translate when the same voice said, in English: “You’ve got a brown recluse spider on your collar – don’t move and I’ll flick it off.” There was a tap on his collar and he looked down to see something brown scurry away into a crack in the pavement.
    “You’re OK now.”
    He turned to see what the spider expert looked like: beautiful green eyes and a slightly mocking smile. Now this gorgeous creature was explaining: “I’m sorry I scared you, the recluse spider can give a terrible bite-and if not taken care of can cause a terrible infection-the venom is so powerful…she stopped suddenly and said ”You’re not listening”
    “There’s a Chinese proverb that says” when you save somebody’s life you’re responsible for them as long as they live.”
    “Don’t get dramatic, let’s have a drink and we’ll call it quits.
    She took his arm and they went to a café close by
    “Where are you from?”
    “New York.”
    “Hey, I live there too, a bachelor apartment in Soho – partially owned by my employer so the rent is cheap.”
    “I live on the West side of Manhattan rent a studio in a Brownstone house owned by an old couple”
    She had catlike eyes and natural sculptured cheekbones were enhanced by her olive skin…he was thinking Russian or Balkan?
    As if reading his mind she said “I’m Egyptian, my father was English.”
    “Wow, are there anymore home like you?” Suddenly, a cloud came over her face. He apologized:” That was a stupid thing to say ” But she smiled and said, ”Let’s have dinner tonight.”
    It was a wonderful holiday romance that ended three days later when he had to go back to New York.
    They exchanged phone numbers and she gave him a long sexy kiss at the airport.
    A week later he saw Nadja go into a stationary store near to where he worked. He thought ‘I’ll surprise her when she comes out and apologize for not phoning.’ She came out of the store, looked at him and kept walking. ”Hey, Nadja, it’s me Tyler” “Oh, of course, how are you? Look, I’m in a hurry, will you call me?” And she was gone. What was that all about? Of course he hadn’t known her a long time but it didn’t seem like the girl he had escorted around Paris for three days.
    But she called that evening and they got together again in a whirlwind of dates, outings and sleepovers that culminated in – of all things –an elopement! They drove to upper New York where they were married in a chapel and spent a week canoeing, trekking and a good part of the time in bed. He never mentioned that one incident at the stationary store.
    They talked very little about their backgrounds: Tyler’s parents were deceased. Nadja’s parents were killed in a car accident.
    Back at work, Tyler’s boss called and said he wanted to see him in his office. He entered and his boss was talking to a tall man, elegantly dressed who turned to Tyler and said: ”I’m David Starr, Fraud Office out of Atlanta. Are you Tyler Smith?”
    “Yes, what’s this all about?”
    He took a photo out of his briefcase and said: ”Is this your wife?” Tyler was suddenly wary. “The woman in the photo looks like my wife.”
    ”She says she’s your wife but we know she’s wanted in four states for embezzlement and fraud.”
    “There’s some mistake, my wife’s at home. She took a day off from work.”
    “No, Mr Smith, the woman who claims she’s your wife is downtown and will appear before a judge.
    Suddenly Tyler’s cell phone rang, in a daze he picked it up and hit the speaker button: ”Hello darling, I’d like to take my favorite man out to dinner.” He turned to the agent, ”That was my wife calling from our apartment.”
    Things got complicated after the phone call. Tyler agreed to get his wife and go down to the courthouse and confront this person. They arrived and were led into the courtroom. Now, face to face with the woman there was no doubt, they were twins.
    The judge on call was Judge McCormick a whitehaired woman in her fifties well known for not mincing her words’
    “Agent Starr, you have taken me away from my favorite TV program so this better be good.
    Now let me get this straight: what we have here are twin sisters both claiming this man is their husband. One of them, according to you Agent Starr is wanted for embezzlement and fraud, but you have been unable to obtain any evidence even though you have been tracking her for two years. And the other woman has no record?”
    “That’s correct your Honor.”
    The Judge turned to Nadja:”Are you identical twins?”
    “Yes, that’s my twin sister Magda.”
    The twin sister jumped up: She’s lying I’m Nadja and he’s my husband.”
    The judge turned to the Agent: “What are you arresting them for?”
    “They have not been arrested you Honor, they came down of their own free will.”
    “I’m inclined to dismiss this case.”
    “You can’t do that your Honor, this woman is a felon.”
    “Don’t tell me what I can’t do. Which woman is a felon Agent Starr?”
    At that point Nadja fainted. A doctor was called and they took her into the Judge’s chambers. Tyler and the Judge sat in silence while the doctor examined Nadja in the small antechamber.
    The doctor finally came out rubbing his hands on a towel: “A fine, healthy young woman – are you the lucky father?”
    Judge McCormick:” A DNA sample will clear up the case and I can get back to my TV program

  • May 24, 2016 at 6:43 am
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    Discovery of Betrayals

    She had been a fool not to know.

    The bow was there in her bed. Tucked between the covers midway down the bed, when she returned from down south and the latest round of IVF. It was the sort of bow that a young woman would wear in her hair as decoration. Nothing functional about it. It was black and thin. Sewn into the shape of two rabbit ears with long dangly bits.
    It lay stark against the white sheets. She was so proud of the whiteness of her sheets. She loved the crisp feel of freshly laundered bed sheets.

    ‘What the fuck are you doin’? Changin’ the bloody sheets again!’

    ‘What are you worried for? I’m doing the washing. Not you.’

    ‘Enough of yer bloody cheek.’ He started to walk out the door.

    ‘Where are you going now? It’s 9 o’clock. Don’t you have to work tomorrow early?’

    ‘To the pub. One o’ me mates is celebratin’ his birthday. Another one, his wife just had a baby girl. I’ll be late. Don’t wait up.’

    He did not come back until 4 o’clock in the morning.

    Her lips compressed into a tight line, she got up, showered and dressed for work. Buggered if she would wake him. Let him get up on his own. She was in the hallway, throwing books into her briefcase and some students’ papers she had marked, when he called her.

    ‘Get me coffee. Now.’ He yawned and stretched on the bed, farting noisily as he did so. She paused at the front door, hesitating.

    ‘Fuck you white bitches are so lazy. Now if that were an African woman, uhuh, she have tha coffee there by the bedside before she go out tha door.’ Angry now, she turned and dropped the bag with a thud by the door.

    ‘And if she didn’t..?’

    ‘Tha African bitch will have tha coffee by the bed,… IF she know what good for her! The African bitch she been trained…YO… white bitches, yo lazy.’

    ‘Trained by centuries of oppression. (By assholes like you.) Get your own coffee. I have a train to catch. Bye, SweeTIE!’

    She resisted the temptation to slam the door and closed it with a click. Walking to catch her train, she had little satisfaction and was tired. She had woken when he fell into the bed, smelling of stale beer and cigarettes and a strong perfume of scent and sex. She had moved over to the opposite side of the bed, pretending to be asleep, but unable to in the shadow of the gut wrenching odours emanating from her husband’s body.

    Let him get his own coffee. Later on the train she looked at her calendar and realised she had the blood test for the pregnancy in less than a week. Funny that after all those negative pregnancy tests and previous IVF attempts at getting pregnant, she no longer cared if this last attempt at their marriage and a family was doomed to failure.

    It was only because it was her third attempt at marriage and stability, that she had remained so long and put up with the verbal abuse, late nights, infidelities and gambling. She reasoned perhaps, just perhaps if she suffered it another month or two or year, he would wake up and work with her, instead of against her. It would have been so easy, if only he had played fair.

    Ignore irrelevant behaviour, she thought. Think positive and hope. God there was always hope he may just get tired of the merry-go-round and see how good his life could be. He blamed his infidelities on her inadequacies as a woman. They were still childless. She had not had a child yet, and they had done five years of IVF attempts that she had paid for them.

    ‘For my culture, marriage and children are very important. They go hand in hand.’

    ‘Well, then, let’s call it a day. You find someone else. We divorce.’

    ‘No, you are important to me. We can try again.’

    ‘I have no more money to spend on it. I have nothing left.’

    ‘Ok. Then I will pay some time. You have paid for all the other attempts yourself. I’ll pay some of the expense. One more time.’

    She had been tempted to refuse. But against all reason, she agreed. Even though she had started to pack suitcases for the inevitable, possible failure and her exit from his life to allow both of them to move on. Yet, again she capitulated and thought ok, one more time.

    Also she was beginning to hate how the drugs and IVF medications made her feel. She wanted peace and a family. She wanted a loving husband, not one who spoke to her like trash and treated her little better. She wanted and longed for a child to bring light and life into their home and to make them a family.

    She bought the pregnancy test the next day. That night she used it. Two lines crossed the circle. She gasped. Then she went outside for fresh air. Walked back inside and there they were. Two lines. Positive. She said nothing. Walking down to the supermarket to buy some groceries, she stopped at the chemist and bought two more pregnancy tests. Just to be sure.

    Yes and YES. She did not know whether to be sad or glad. Would he be a good father? She decided to give him one more chance; after all he was hard-working and could be pleasant, when he was not drinking to excess or gambling both their monies.

    She let herself in the door. He was on the mobile phone sitting on their bed, his back to the door – the mobile was on loud speaker.

    ‘Listen Bro, when yo gunna leave that white maggot? My sista she gettin’ tired of yo excuses. Tha bitch ain’t neva gunna have yo a baby, man, yo know.’

    ‘Tell yor sista, be patient. I can’t act now. They too much at stake here. Tell yo sista.’

    ‘Man yo worried about the visa. Don’t be. Yo got friends. Dump the dumb assed white bitch. She ain’t what yo need. Yo need woman who kin give yo beautifool brown babies. Ma sista she got three babies already.’

    She walked quietly past the door. He did not see her. She put her bags carefully down on the table in the kitchen at the other end of the house. One more chance, she thought. She placed her hands protectively over her stomach and thought about when would be a good time to tell him.

  • May 24, 2016 at 3:49 pm
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    Revelation

    “I’ve wanted to come here for years,” said Diana.

    “Really?” said Ed, a gentle smile on the edge of his lips. It didn’t seem someone Diana’s age could really have wanted anything for many years.

    They had met as Diana stepped off the bus at the cave on the Greek island of Patmos where St John is said to have heard the voice of God and written the book of Revelation. The youngest people by far at the site, it seemed natural they should gravitate together.

    “I think I was about 12 when I first read Revelation. It swept me up right away, and I’ve been in love with it ever since. Even now, I think there are many more mysteries to understand. I have this idea if I can walk where the Apostle John walked, look over the sea where he looked over the sea, watch shapes forming in the cloud just like he did – maybe I’ll understand.”

    Ed nodded slowly.

    “Please don’t say ‘really’ again,” added Diana with a sideways glance. “You make it sound like ‘Seriously?’ As if I’m some crazed religious maniac. Which maybe I am. It’s been said.”

    “No, no, I wouldn’t say a word. I strongly admire your enthusiasm.” And thinking, “I wish I could recapture some of your belief.”

    “There. I can tell you think I’m nuts!”

    They stood in silence for a moment. The tour guide for a small tour part started speaking in slow English.

    “Let’s eavesdrop,” suggested Ed, and they edged closer to the group. Diana lapped up all that the guide was saying, from the legends around the Apostle John, or ‘John of Patmos’, right through the vicissitudes of the site under foreign occupation, to the declaration of the cave as a Unesco World Heritage site.

    As they left the chapel, Diana looked slightly troubled. Ed was already noticing how easily he could read Diana’s feelings from her facial expressions.

    “Do you think he’s right?” she said. “About the author maybe not being the Apostle? But could be someone else called John? I really didn’t have a clue about that.”

    “Would it matter? Whoever God spoke to, it’s still the same Revelation.”

    “Yes. But I had this idea I’d be walking in the footsteps of someone who walked next to Jesus. That felt good to me. And – I hate being wrong about things. Especially if it means I’m just plain ignorant. What do you think?”

    Ed felt a little uncomfortable about being put on the spot. “Well, John the Apostle is meant to be a Galilean fisherman – yet the language he wrote in is Greek. Not many signs of it being a second language. On balance, I think it was the other John – what?”

    Diana had stopped and was looking askance at him. “How come you know all this stuff?”

    “You may not believe it, but I was training to be a priest.”

    “Seriously?”

    They both laughed.

    “Not any more, though.”

    “Why did you quit? Sorry, I shouldn’t pry.”
    Ed pulled a slight grimace. “I went to theological college in Cambridge. As part of the training, you study alongside the academics – all the history, the texts in the original language, and so on. For me, the more I learnt, the less I believed. And I felt the call back to my old degree subject – astronomy. There’s a huge universe out there, and it seemed the world I was entering was so small compared to the vastness out there. Here – this is me. Can I give you a lift into town?”

    He presented her with the motorbike he had hired.

    “On this? Is it a real one?”

    “Come on, just jump on. We’ll travel in style.”

    They laughed and talked – Diana occasionally screamed – as they puttered along the winding roads through the mountains back to Chora, the island’s capital.

    “But if you don’t believe, why on earth did you come to Patmos?” shouted Diana as the wind seemed to whip her voice away.

    “That’s the thing. I still love the world I’m leaving behind. Just one last look ….”

    “I’m sure you’ll return to the fold!”

    They parted after arriving back in town. Diana said she had to check on her travelling companion who had been ill on the ferry, and taken to her bed. Though feeling that Lucy was revelling in her infirmity, Diana went out to buy her some fruit and medicine. Then in the early evening, she went out into the town.

    Diana saw him out of the corner of her eye. He was sitting at the back of a café terrace reading a book, against a cascade of bougainvillea in full flower. A quirky but pleasant smile played on his lips as he read. She looked around and noticed that the other customers were all communing with their smartphones. He was reading the old-fashioned way, and it was one more thing she found attractive in him.

    “Hi,” she said, sitting down at his table.

    He put his book down and focused his full attention on Diana. “How’s your friend?” he asked.

    “She’ll survive, she’s such a drama queen!”

    They talked through the next couple of hours, ate and drank, and it seemed to them that they had known each other for years. As she looked at the man smiling opposite, with his dark tousled hair and beard she began to question her rule of never dating someone outside the faith. Well, was he entirely outside it?

    “I know just the best place to watch the sun set. Do you want to ride out there to watch?” he asked.

    Diana tilted her head to one side. “Sure.”

    She leaned on his shoulder as she watched the sun set over the rocky shore and the sea, possibly the most beautiful moment of her life, she felt. Then they returned to his hotel.

    On the ferry the next morning, watching Patmos receding into the distance, Diana felt her heart overflowing with guilt and happiness.

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