Friday, April 11, 2014

2014-04-10

Having stumbled down the hallway to class, it took the last of Stephen’s energy to drag himself to his seat. He flopped into his chair with a sigh. He was almost asleep instantly when he felt a hand shoving him.
“Yo. Dude,” came Rusty’s familiar voice. “You still recovering from last nights game? Those were some wicked hits you took.”
Stephen could only grunt in reply, face still smooshed against the desk.
“I wasn’t sure if you were gonna get up from that last hit,” Rusty said, “But I guess that the price you pay for being star quarterback, huh?”
“Fuughh  . . .  eeww,” Stephen tried to reply.
“Easy now, tiger.” Rusty said with a laugh. “You know us running backs get banged up pretty bad as well.”
He was cut off as the last bell rang.
On cue the teacher, Mr. Shauk, came into the class.
“Sit down,” said Shauk, “I’ve got a treat for you kids today.”
A collective groan was the class’ mutual response.
“We’ll be watching a film on the history of inter-planetary disease transmission,” said Shauk, “Then tonight you will write a short thousand-word essay summarizing the main points of the feature.”
Another collective moan was the only response.
Shauk started the movie and hit the lights. Even in the darkness he could see heads going down.
“The essay will be worth ten percent of your final grades for the quarter,” said Shauk.
About half the heads came back up.
But Stephen wasn’t one of them.
Rusty tried shaking him again, but to no avail.
The last thing he recalled was the narrator’s droll voice announcing the film’s title.

“Hey! Wake up!”
Stephen blinked as he sat up.
Rusty had been shaking him again, only this time the room was oddly lit.
“What’s going on?” Stephen asked rubbing his eyes.
As he looked around again he realized that the film was no longer going, but it was still mostly dark except for the emergency back-up lights.
“Right after you crashed the lights went out, came one, then went out again,” said Rusty, “They’ve been out about five minutes now.”
The room was almost loud with the sounds of students murmuring while Shauk vainly tried to maintain order. As if sensing his distress, the announcement speaker chimed. It was the alert that the principal was going to make a critical statement.
“Attention students and faculty of Starside School,” came the wizened voice. “We are currently experiencing power supply issues throughout the entire southwest colony sector. If everyone would just remain in their seats, the mechanics and their helper bots  are already working diligently to restore power. We need—excuse me, Ms. Piper. I’m trying to make—what are you doing? No! Stop! I—ARRRGH!”
There was only stunned silence.
“Now I’m sure everything is fine,” said Shauk weakly.
As if to answer, the automatic sealing shutters dropped in front of the door and windows, completely sealing off the classroom. The noise level began to rise as students were quickly becoming excited.
Then something slammed outside the door.
“No, Gabby stop—” came the voice of security guard Sue. She was cut off without even a scream. It was followed by the sound of something being dragged away from the door.
Instantly class erupted into a full blown panic.
Stephen was just taking it all in when Rusty turned to him and smiled.
“Good thing you’re dreaming, huh pal?” he said.

Stephen woke with a start just in time to see the ending credits rolling.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

2014-04-09

Each day Forrest would eagerly scan the flower beds in front of his. Standing a stout six-foot-seven, it was hard to miss his extra large frame.
            Despite his size, he possessed an unusual kindness and dexterity, especially when it came to living things. He had several cats, two dogs, goldfish galore, and even a parakeet.
            Most of all though, he loved plants. Trees, shrubs, house plants, wild plants, annuals, perennials—Forrest loved them all.
            If ever a person had been appropriately named it was him.
            He finally made his way to the beds at the end of the driveway. Using his large hands to clear aside accumulated piles of snow plow cinders gave the rounded, waxy tips of daffodil shoots an added boost to be the first of his children to bloom.

            Leo couldn’t stand it anymore.
            His girlfriends had dumped him after finding out he had gotten fired for the fourth time. Worst of all, she still had all sorts of his things still at her house.
            As he pulled out of her driveway, he felt growing unease about what he should do next. He hadn’t talked to his parents in three years and his sister now lived halfway across the country.
            Leo suddenly remembered that his old pal, Skip, had offered him a place to crash if he was ever put out.
            Without a second thought, he pulled out his phone to shoot him a text.
            He never saw the giant of a man crouching by the curb side, nor did he see anything else ever again.
            Leo in his rush, on top of forgetting most of his stuff, had also forgotten his seatbelt.

            That day he learned, in the harshest way possible, how instant karma can really be.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

2014-04-08

The water cascaded over the cliff and struck the rocks below as long, thin daggers. Despite this relentless assault, the exposed bedrock did not relent.
            Welch just stood back and took in the pitiful view, more than fully aware what it truly meant.
            Up until a few years ago, the very spot where he stood watching would have been under almost two feet of water. The place there the waterfall struck should have been a frothing pool marking the spot where the two streams merged.
            Instead, both locations lay bare, exposed to the sun and all but devoid of life. The small rivulet that wound its way between the rocks barely increased despite the added volume.
            Welch realized that it had been all those damn subdivisions up stream tapping into the water supply. In a way, change was inevitable he supposed.
            It was that very change that put Welch in his current predicament. By his recollection, he had been gone nine years, six months, and four days. In all that time, his own life had changed little. When the opportunity for change presented itself, he had embraced it heartily.
            With no real planning, sans some vague daydreams, Welch had decided to go for it. He was sure that things would work out, although it would likely not be in the way he initially envisioned.
            As he stood there pondering not only his past and current situations, faintly hearing the first sounds of approaching bloodhounds, Welch could feel his own will subside as he started to capitulate to the approaching inevitability.
            As the sounds of men started coming into focus, he couldn’t help but wonder how much longer either stream would persist.
            When the marshals finally caught up to Welch, they were thrown off by his non-resistance.

            When asked why he had stop running, Welch only answered that the place he had planned on going to was no longer there.

Monday, April 7, 2014

2014-04-07

Amy stared at her reflection in the polished, black marble of the gravestone, as she gently traced each letter of its engraving. They formed words that she couldn’t forget even if she wanted to; words that had become etched into her mind. It read, “Thomas Hughes, beloved husband and father of three. He will be missed and forever in our hearts.” It had already been five years since Thomas passed away, yet Amy couldn’t stop the tears from welling up in her eyes. She placed a bouquet of freshly picked lilacs down on the gravestone and became lost in thought, reminiscing about the past and trying to remember all the little things about Thomas that she took for granted. She tried to remember his smile, his laugh, even his horrible singing in the shower, but it was becoming harder and harder for Amy to remember.
It was almost dark when a man made his way over to Amy to inform her that he was about to lock the gates. He had called out to her several times but received no response. Amy just stood there staring off into the distance. “Miss” he said. Amy still didn’t respond. He reached out and placed his hand on her shoulder. “Miss.”
Amy’s heart nearly stopped when she felt his hand touch her shoulder. On instinct, she grabbed his hand and spun around fist clenched ready to punch whomever it was that touched her. Standing in front of her was a handsome, young man. “Who are you? What do want?” she asked, not letting go of his hand.
 “I’m the new cemetery keeper. I’m sorry I startled you—it’s just that you didn’t answer when I called out to you.”
Amy felt a faint flush of color rising in her face. He was not at all how she imagined a cemetery keeper. “I am so sorry. I must’ve spaced out.” she chuckled nervously. He smiled.
“That’s alright, but it’s time to go. I need to lock up for the night, so I have to ask that you finish your visit.”
“Oh. Okay. Could I just have one more minute?”
“Sure. I’ll wait for you by the gate.”
“Thanks.”
            The cemetery keeper left Amy by herself and headed towards the gate. Amy couldn’t believe how much time had passed; she had been there since lunch. She glanced one more time at Thomas’s gravestone and said goodbye. As she turned to leave, Amy took notice of another gravestone. Before her, right next to Thomas’s gravestone, stood a beautifully sculpted monument in her honor, engraved with a personal message identical to Thomas’s. She remembered having bought the two cemetery plots with Thomas, but he had passed away before they purchased gravestones. Amy couldn’t forget the trouble she had finding a gravestone for Thomas or how the engraver messed up the inscription. What Amy found most peculiar, however, was the date of death inscribed on the gravestone. It was today. She rushed to the gate to question the cemetery keeper. He smiled as he saw Amy approach. “Are you all ready?” he asked.
            “Not yet. I am afraid you have made a terrible mistake. There is a gravestone next to my husband’s with my name on it. It’s inscribed and everything.”
            “Miss, there is no mistake.”
            “What do you mean there is no mistake. There is a gravestone with my name on it saying I died today.”
            “I apologize; I guess there is a mistake. Of course you didn’t die today, you died last week. I’ll have someone fix that right away.” Amy was lost for words.
            “What do you mean I died last week? How can you say that when I’m standing right here in front of you? How insensitive can you be?”
            “I thought so” he said looking directly at Amy. “Do you know what today’s date is?”           
“What kind of question is that? Of course I know the date. How could I forget the anniversary of my husband’s death, it’s June seventh.”
“Actually today is the fourteenth.” Amy couldn’t hold back her anger any longer. She smacked the cemetery keeper so hard her palm stung and turned bright red.
“I don’t need to listen to this. I will be speaking to your superior.” The cemetery keeper grabbed her arm.
“Miss, please wait a second.”
Amy whipped around ready to give him another smack when he lightly touched the center of her forehead with two fingers. Several blurry images raced through her mind, then just has quickly everything became clear. She remembered everything. She had taken the day off to drive up to the cemetery to visit Thomas’s grave like she did every year. First she picked up lunch at the local deli and then headed over to the florist to buy a small bouquet of lilacs. She remembered eating her lunch in front of Thomas’s grave and telling him all about the recent events of the family. She got so caught up in giving him a detailed report of everyone’s lives that it was almost dark by the time she left. The last thing she remembered was two bright lights and a loud crash. The color drained from her face as she turned to look at the cemetery keeper.
“Do you understand now?” he asked. Amy nodded.
“Who are you?” she asked.

“Let us save the questions for now. You’ll have all the answers you seek soon enough.” Then he took Amy by the hand and guided her through the gates. “What’s important right now is bringing you home.”

Sunday, April 6, 2014

2014-04-06

The heavy rains from before dawn had left small rivers and lakes in the gutters as Mai made her way to school. Despite being less than half a mile, she enjoyed taking a leisurely, twisting path through various back alleys and side streets.
            On the last stretch, just across from an all but forgotten graveyard, an old man sat on the corner. Crouched a small stool, next to him slept the most ragged, pitiful dog Mai had ever seen. She couldn’t’ even begin to guess it’s breed.
            In his hand he held three balloons tied to short lengths of silvery ribbon.
            “Could I offer you a balloon?” he asked as she approached.
            She stopped, still a good ten feet from him and looked him up and down. She had the feeling he might be homeless, but wasn’t sure.
            Without speaking, Mai just shook her head.
            “Please?” he pleaded, proffering a balloon again.
            “No,” said Mai flatly. “I do not want one.”
            As she said this, the silvery ribbon slipped from his fingers, releasing the balloon into the sky.
            “That is a shame,” he replied as he turned, grabbed his stool, and shuffled away.
            When she looked again she noticed the dog was no longer there.
            Mai told herself the poor thing probably went off to a dumpster somewhere looking for food.

            The next day was a windy one, the kind that ripped the heat from the flesh regardless of how many layers were worn.
            Unlike her usual habit, Mai made a beeline for school.
            Once again, however, she encountered the same old man in the same spot. He got up from his stool at her approach.
            “Could I offer you a balloon?” he asked.
            Mai noticed he only had two balloons this times.
            She shook her head without slowing her pace.
            “That is a shame,” he said.
            Mai looked back just in time to see the silvery thread of the balloon slip through his fingers. She stopped and watched him shuffle away.
            Mai wasn’t sure why, but she couldn’t help but notice he didn’t have his stool with him. Brushing it off, she hurried on to school.

            The following day turned out to be unusually muggy, leaving a thick fog obscuring distant views.
            Nervous about the past two days, Mai left early and took a roundabout way to school, being careful to avoid the intersection where she had encountered the strange old man twice before.
            The school day came and went uneventfully, the heavy fog persisting into the afternoon.
            Distracted by thoughts of an assignment, she headed straight for home.
            “Could I offer you a balloon?” came a voice from the fog.
            Mai let out a small scream and jumped back.
            It was the old man again, holding out a solitary balloon.
            “No!” she screamed. “How many times do I have to tell you?”
            “That is a shame,” he said.
            Once again, Mai watched as the silvery string slipped from his hands. She quickly lost sight of the balloon in the fog.
            When she looked back down he was gone.
            Unnerved, she ran home as fast as she could.
           
            Despite telling her initially she was overreacting, Mai was able to convince her older brother to walk with her to school before he left for work.
            This day was clear and bright, if not almost unseasonably warm.
            As they rounded the intersection, there was no sign of the old man.
            Instead, a woman who appeared in her thirties crouched in the spot where the old man had been. She had in her hands three balloons.
            As they approached, she realized that the woman was praying.
            “Is that your ‘old man’?” her brother chided.
            “No,” Mai said as she punched him in the arm. “Wait here a sec, kay?”
            “Look, I gotta be at work—” her brother started.
            “Thirty seconds,” she pleaded.
            “Fine, fine,” he relented.
            Mai walked up to the woman who seemed to not notice her.
            “Excuse me, miss . . .” Mai said
            “Oh I’m sorry,” said the woman as she stood. “Am I in your way?”
            “No,” said Mai, “I was just wondering . . .”
            For some reason, she suddenly felt foolish and compelled not to ask further. Shaking it off, Mai continued.
            “I was wondering what you were doing . . .” Mai said as the balloons waved in a gust of wind, “With those balloons. What are they for?”
            The woman smiled the saddest smile Mai had ever seen, then answered.
            “My grandfather used to sit on this corner and offer balloons to children as they came by. He never took any money, nor asked for any. He used to tell me that there was enough sadness in the world and a small thing like a balloon could go a long way to brighten someone’s day.”
            Feeling her fear wanting to swallow her, Mai had to work up the courage to ask the question that was suddenly screaming in her mind.
            “What,” Mai said, “What do you mean ‘used to’?”
            “Someone started spreading rumors that he was secretly up to no good and meant to harm children. Eventually, some parent decided to take things into their own hands. When he went to give out balloons one morning, they were here waiting for him.”
            The woman turned away and looked towards the sky.
            “It was a good thing for dental records,” the woman said, “Because even his own daughter, my mother, wasn’t able to identify the body. There was this old hand-made stool he used to carry around. They used it on him until only splinters were left. Even his old mutt that followed him around wasn’t spared from their wrath.”

            Mai felt herself grow weak as she dropped to her knees, tears already streaming down her face.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

2014-04-05

“Hilda!” came a voice for the hallway.
            “Almost ready Euric!” Hilda yelled back in reply.
            She had been preparing for the demonstration for weeks, and tonight it would finally bear fruit.
            Hilda was determined to knock those stuffy old sods in the historic society right off the pampered posteriors.
            The presentation she had arranged for tonight’s event was three-fold.
            First there was a dramatic reading of her historically inspired poetry. She had done her research not only on the local history, but Hilda had also scouted out what sort of preferences these old goats had.
            Adjusting the corset of her traditional attire, she was certain she would blow them away on al levels.
            “You are going to be cutting it close!” yelled Euric again.
            “Fashionably late!” came a sardonic reply.
            Hilda looked at herself again in the mirror, triple checking that everything was in place. For her second element, she planned on giving an account of the historical significance of various practices which were still upheld today. And for her coup de grĂ¢ce, she planned to segue that into baked samples based off of her own Grandmother’s recipes.
            Nothing could go wrong.
            “Hey Hilda—” Euric started.
            “Almost I said!” Hilda interjected. “Unless Thor himself is in the kitchen, I don’t really care! Unless it’s a catastrophe, don’t bother me until I come down!”
            “Well I didn’t find any thunder gods,” said Euric from just outside the bathroom.
            “Then what—” Hilda started then froze.
            In Euric’s hands was a baking dish full of a raw ooze.

            “Does finding out that the breaker for the oven tripped count as a catastrophe?”

Friday, April 4, 2014

2014-04-04

The top of the small hill offered quite the view, but it still wasn’t enough. Miguel looked around in all directions, but still couldn’t find any familiar landmarks.
As he watched the sun start to dip below the horizon he could already feel the temperature doing the same. Having grown up in the hustle and bustle of urban life, he was ill prepared for the scrublands at night.
Randomly choosing a direction, he pressed on forward.
Miguel had at least been fortunate enough to become lost on a night with an almost full moon.
Feeling his lips tingle and his sweat lessen, he thought perhaps he would be alright if only he could find some water, or maybe some fruit. His ignorance kept him from realizing not only how dehydrated he already was, but also how very dire his situation really was.
Miguel looked up again at the moon. This time,  a large shadow crossed it, causing him to cower at first. As he sat hunched in fear, he relaxed as the large moth fluttered closely overhead.
He gave quick thanks that it had not been a bat. He truly and deeply hated those flying rats.
Miguel trekked on, feeling the cold less and less. Thinking, once again mistakenly, that this was a good sign he picked up his pace, or so he thought.
Any onlooker would have just shook their head at the man lurching half delirious. He was in the midst of his blissful ignorance when he all but tripped over the shrub of berries.
Having thought him self saved, Miguel made his final poor choice, and started consuming the berries voraciously.

Several days later some farmers found Miguel’s desiccated corpse. His mouth had a wide grin, covered in the juice of the poison berries he had so joyfully consumed.