Archive for the 'The WiFiles' category

Bugged by J.M. Kerr

Apr 10 2016 Published by under The WiFiles

 

“What’s her name?”

Bill Martin teetered back in his chair, leering at the new I.T. girl across the office.

“Kara something,” said Enrique, Bill’s desk-mate.

“I know that. What’s her last name?”

Bill scrunched his eyes trying to make out the woman’s badge. “Looks like… Wormley? Is it Wormley?”

“That doesn’t sound right,” Enrique said.

“Just tell me what her last name is, Rick.”

“How should I know?”

“Weren’t you with Stan when he hired her? I thought you were his right-hand man now.”

“Is that bitterness, Billy? You said you wouldn’t have taken my promotion even if they had offered it to you.”

“That’s right, Rick. You can be a corporate douche. Not for me.”

“Sure, Bill.” Enrique swiveled around in his chair. “Why do you want to know her name anyway?”

“Facebook.”

Enrique grimaced. “That’s it? You want to invade the poor woman’s privacy just to find a bikini pic to jerk off to?”

“Exactly.” Bill grinned.

A notification sounded from Enrique’s computer. “Sorry perv, but you’ll have to call off your search.”

“What’s up?”

“There’s a shortage in the server room. And, the new I.T. girl isn’t on the payroll till Monday so I need you to check it out.”

“Goddamn rats are chewing on the wires.”

“You’re probably right. Better take a hammer, for protection.”

Bill sighed as he pulled a small ball-peen from his desk drawer. It was stained red from his last trip to the server room.

“Try not to get bit. I doubt workers comp will cover rabies.”

Bill got up from his desk. “Fuck you, fag.” It was a whisper.

“What was that?”

“Nothing.”

Bill made his way down to the basement which housed the building’s servers. Row upon row of buzzing towers lined the floor. The lights were out, but Bill could hear the rats shuffling around. He shuddered. The light switch was at the bottom of the staircase, half way down the wall. Bill would have to grope for the switch in the darkness. In his mind’s eye he saw fat, greasy rats with beady red eyes, scurrying under his feet, and crawling up the server racks. He hurried to the switch and flipped it. The room was flooded with buzzing, florescent light, and a single rat scurried beneath a rack.

Bill searched for the loose wire, and for the new girl’s various social pages. He glanced up from his phone in time to spot two stray network cables that had come unplugged. He reached down for the cables still staring at his phone.

“What was her damn name? Warby, Warmely? Wor… SHIT!”

The rat plunged its teeth deep into Bill’s thumb, and blood ran down his forearm. Bill let out a yelp, and shook his hand wildly. Black tufts of fur filled the air, but the rat’s jaws only tightened. “Fuck. Get off… HELP!” Bill felt the comforting weight of the hammer tucked into his belt. He grabbed the bludgeon and raised it. Just then, a blue cord wrapped around the rat’s torso and squeezed until its eyes bulged. The vermin let go of Bill’s hand, and the cord swung it against the wall where it dropped to the ground and scurried away. Bill saw that the cord wasn’t a cord, but a tail. A long blue-grey, prehensile tail attached to a creature.

The thing was almost human, but smaller, only half Bill’s height. It was covered in grayish skin that was peeling, flaking. Its face was pointed like an iguana, and wispy white fuzz covered its body. At first glance Bill thought it was some little mutant monkey, but then it spoke.

“Her name is Warner. You weren’t even close.” The creature’s voice was raspy. The sound of it made Bill’s anus tighten. He turned to run, but the creature’s tail wrapped around his ankle and pulled him to the ground.

“What, no thank you?”

Bill lay on the linoleum, his finger dripping blood. “What the hell are you?”

“That’s complicated. The name’s Bugg, though.” The creature extended his claw. Bill flipped and scooted backwards, on his ass, banging his head into a server. “Shit!”

“You need to learn some manners, friend. I can help you with those social graces.”

“What are you? Was someone fucking rats down here, and your some rat-human hybrid? Was it Enrique? That deviant. I wouldn’t doubt it.”

“I’ve already told you, I’m Bugg. I live down here with the rats, and the server racks. Soaking up all the wonderful information that runs through these wires.” Bugg held a network cable between his fingers.

Bill sat up. “I should go. Try to forget. Maybe get a CAT scan.” He tried for the door.

“There’s no need to run. We’ve gotten off on the wrong foot. How about a peace offering?” Bugg walked behind the server for a moment. Bill’s phone buzzed in his pocket, but he was too afraid to move. Bugg reemerged. “Go ahead. Answer it.”

Bill got out his phone. “It’s a text message. A picture file.”

“Download it.”

“I’m not going to download it. This isn’t even a real number. It’s only five digits: 8-7-4-2-5.”

“It’s from me, Bill. A gift.”

“What is it?”

“OPEN IT!”

“Okay, okay.” Bill downloaded the photo. His eyes lit. “Holy shit! The new girl.”

“That’s better than what you’d find on her Instagram.”

“Where did you get this?”

“Nothing is safe from me, Bill. If the file is plugged into a network I can get it.”

“You can get more of these?” Bill asked.

“I could, Bill. I could get you anything on anyone. Data, Bill. Information. Knowledge. Power. How would you like to be a CEO?”

Bill wrinkled his forehead. “So you can tell me anything about those people up there?”

“What do you want to know?”

He considered the offer for a moment. A spiteful grin stretched across his face.

“Everything.”

On Monday Kara found a box of dark chocolate wrapped and placed on her desk. It was the third time that she had found a gift sitting there, all from the same person. Bill, again. Dark chocolate, she thought. My favorite. How the fuck did he know that. The day before it was a bouquet of peonies. Peonies were Kara’s favorite flower. Last week it was a vinyl record from the first band she ever saw live in concert. How could he know she had a record player?

Kara saw Bill beaming at her from his desk, leaning back in his chair to see past the fake fern. She glanced down breaking eye contact. He’s spying on me. The fucking creep.

Kara met Enrique at lunch. “Your friend Bill is really starting to worry me.”

“We’re not friends, Kara. Let me make that clear. We share a cubicle. That doesn’t make us friends.”

“It doesn’t matter, Enrique. You know him best. That’s why I came to you. I think he’s spying on me.”

Enrique glanced up from his food. “How do you mean?”

“He knows things about me, Enrique. Personal things. I’ve worked here a month, and he knows the bands I like, the food I eat, and the places I go. How good is he with computers? I swear he’s hacked mine.”

“Bill’s good for plugging in a loose wires. Beyond that, well he couldn’t even figure out the new contact software you gave us last week.”

“I know. He’s sent me a dozen emails about it. I thought maybe that was a ploy. You know, an excuse to talk to me. You sure he doesn’t know what he’s doing?”

“I don’t know, Kara. He could be hiding something from us. He does seem to know things.”

Kara placed her hand on Enrique’s. “He knows something about you, doesn’t he?”

Enrique sighed. “Stan was chewing me out at our last sales meeting. My numbers are down this month, by a lot, and Bill’s numbers have skyrocketed. Bill. He’s an idiot. He tries to fuck half his clients.

“So how did he become the top seller?”

“It’s simple. He stole my leads. All of his new clients are people I scouted.”

“So he is hacking us!”

“Could be. Except I don’t keep the leads here. I keep them in my home office.”

“He stole from your house?”

“He’s never been there. I don’t know how he got those leads. That’s not the worst, though.”

“What is? Kara asked.

“We we’re at this sales meeting, and Stan was reaming me. I guess Bill sees this as a good chance to pile on. He outted me. Told Stan that I was seeing Louis from accounting.”

“Is that true?”

“Yes, but how did Bill know? We’re very careful. Stan already had a grudge against me because of my name. This is just one more strike on my record. I’ll be gone in a month, Kara. Louis too.

“I’m so sorry, Enrique. I wish there was a way I could help.”

“I wish we knew what that bastard, Bill, was up to.”

“We have to confront him, Enrique.”

Enrique frowned. “He’ll just lie to us.”

“Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t care either way. I just want him to know that we won’t take it anymore.”

“Okay, Kara. I’m with you.”

“They’re starting to suspect me,” Bill said to an annoyed-looking Bugg.

“They should. You were sloppy. You outted a co-worker in the middle of a meeting. Have you never heard of subtly?”

“I thought Stan would fire him, but nothing has happened.”

“Of course not. You tied his hands. If he fires Enrique now it’ll be discrimination.”

“Well give me something else on Enrique. Something better.”

“I don’t have anything else. Enrique is a model employee, unlike you. His homosexuality was your best play. Stan is a bigot, but he’s not stupid. He won’t invite a lawsuit.”

“What about Kara? She won’t talk to me.”

“Did you give her the gifts like I told you?”

“Yes, but I don’t think she liked them. She won’t even make eye contact with me.”

“Really?” Bugg smiled. “That’s a shame. I was hoping that would work out for you.”

“So what do we do?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing? You’re supposed to help me.”

“You’re beyond help. I’m not a genie. Besides, we have a bigger problem.”

“What?”

“It seems I over-estimated you, Bill. Now I’ve tapped out all the information I can get from this office. I need a new source.” Bugg circled Bill.

“Do you need to move to another building?” Bill asked trying to track Bugg with his eyes.

“That won’t be necessary, Bill. By the way, do you know how much data is stored within the human brain?”

“What does that have to do with any-”

“-On average, ten terabytes.”

“That’s interesting-”

“Do you know what that means?”

“Uh…”

“It means that even a feeble minded individual, like you Bill, is a goldmine of information. Every person you’ve known, every secret you’ve overheard, every intimate detail you’ve ever had privilege to, it’s all up there. You may not be able to recall it, but it’s there. Tucked away in all those bundles of neurons is every bit and byte of your existence. An entire human experience. Do you know what that’s worth to a creature like me?” Bugg was behind Bill now.

“Yeah, uh, a lot. Maybe. Problem is-”

“What problem?” Bugg was only an echo now.

“Well how could you get at it?”

“I could just crack your head open like a melon. Once I get in there I’m sure I can figure it out,” Bugg said from somewhere above Bill.

“Where’d you go?” Bill’s voice cracked. He had spent weeks in commune with a troll, and never stopped to ask how it was able to produce this information, or why he was giving it away, for free. Bill feasted on every sordid detail that was served, not once worrying that Bugg might be watching Bill closer than anyone else.

“I’m outta here, Bugg. I don’t want anything else from you.” Bill started to back out of the basement, but tripped. He plopped down on his backside.

“What if I want something from you?” The voice came from directly above Bill. He looked up to see Bugg perched atop a nearby server rack. His tufts of gray hair were standing on end, forming a ridged back. He was staring at Bill with his mouth open, drooling.

Bill turned to run, but in a second Bugg was on his back. Bill tore at him, trying to throw Bugg to the ground, but that tail had wrapped around his neck, choking him. He had almost blacked out when he saw the rat-stained hammer laying on the ground. It was his last hope. Bill dropped to his knees and reached for it. Bugg was tightening his grip now. Bill had a finger on the hammer when he felt Bugg’s tail loosen.

“Thank you, Bugg. Let’s talk reasonably.” Bill saw the tail whip out and grasp the hammer. “Oh shit!” It came down on Bill’s crown with a dull thud. Then the lights went out.

“He’s down here?” Enrique asked Kara as they made their way down to the basement.

“Stan said he’s been spending a lot of time down here. Said he was laying rat traps. Who knows what he was really doing.”

“Lights are off.”

“Do you know were the switch is?” Kara asked.

“Yes.” Enrique ran his palm along the wall until he felt the switch. “Got it.”

The lights flickered on.

“Do you see him, Enrique?”

“No.” Enrique cupped his hands to his mouth. “Bill, you down here?”

“He’s unavailable.”

Kara and Enrique exchanged glances.

“Who is that?” asked Kara.

“Kara?”

“That doesn’t sound like Bill,” Enrique said.

“No. That isn’t Bill,” Kara’s eyes darted around the room. She followed Bugg’s voice.

Enrique stumbled over a bundle of cables as they walked. Kara reached out, catching him. “Kara, what’s going on? Do you know who that is?”

“Yes.” Kara turned to Enrique. “Look, you may want to go back upstairs.”

“Why? Is this person dangerous? I’m not leaving you down here.”

“He’s not a threat. He’s… different.”

“What are you talking about, Kara?”

“If you’re not going back upstairs then you need to brace yourself.”

Kara and Enrique turned a corner and found Bugg perched on an unconscious Bill. “Oh shit!” Enriqued backed up.

Kara surveyed the scene. “Damnit, Bugg! What did you do?”

“Hey Kara, funny running into you here.” Bugg said with a sheepish grin.

“Is it, Bugg? I work here.”

“You work here? That’s a coincidence. I’ve been staying here. After you threw me out I needed somewhere to stay.”

Enrique’s eyes darted from Bugg to Kara, back to Bugg. “What the hell is going on? Kara, who… what is this thing?”

“Sorry Enrique. This is Bugg. Bugg is what you call a… gremlin.”

“Sure. A gremlin. Why the fuck not. Why have I never met one of these gremlins?”

“We like to stay out of sight.”

“What are you doing down here?” Enrique squared off with Bugg.

“We gremlin’s have always had a an obsession with human technology. We tinker with your creations, taking them apart, putting them back together. My father could dismantle a plane’s landing gear mid-flight, a real thing of beauty. Lately, we deal with information technology, like these servers. Were actually pretty handy. In fact that’s how Kara and I met. Isn’t that right, sweetie?”

“Don’t call me sweetie. What the hell did you do to Bill?”

Bill laid on the ground drooling. “Oh right, him. He got a little over-excited. I had to whack him with a hammer. He should be fine… I think.”

“You were helping him, weren’t you? You broke in to Enrique’s house.”

“Well… Yes. Sorry about that, pal.” Bugg nodded at Enrique.

“I don’t get it. Why were you helping Bill?” Enrique asked.

“Yes. I would like to know that as well.” added Kara.

“After we broke up I was keeping up with you. Checking your Facebook, Twitter, Google alerts, federal records.” Bugg mumbled that last part. “Just to make sure you were safe. You know how I worry about you, baby.”

“Get on with it, Bugg.”

“I was… around… on your first day. I saw Bill leering at you so I followed him down here. I may have implied that I could syphon information for him from the office computers. Hell, I think I even convinced him I could tap a human brain. It was all for you, Kara.” Bugg looked at Kara with wide eyes. “I just wanted to make sure you didn’t get wrapped with the wrong kinda guy.”

“You’re the one who told him to get all those gifts for me.”

“Yeah. I know how you hate it when men come on too strong. I figured the gifts would scare you off. It worked too. I saved you from the little perv, baby, but I had to give him something real. You know, to make the whole thing believable. That’s why I stole your leads, Enrique.”

Enrique rolled his eyes. “I’m glad it was for a good cause. How did you know about Louis and me?”

“Your profile photo on Facebook is you and Louis sharing a booth at the Cheesecake Factory. I figured it was a safe bet.”

Kara eyed Bugg. “Did you really think you could win me back by stalking me, sharing private information about me, breaking in to my friend’s homes, and assaulting a man just because he was interested in me?”

Bugg looked down at his tiny clawed feet. “I guess so.”

Kara glared at him. “I know we’ve had our problems, Bugg, but that… that’s so sweet. I know my parents say you’re all wrong for me, but I don’t care. I want you back, baby!”

Bugg looked at Kara with glassy eyes. “Let’s get out of here sweetie.” He ran and jumped into Kara’s arms. Kara squeezed the little gremlin tightly.

“Enrique, tell Stan I’m taking the rest of the day off.”

Kara carried Bugg out of the basement. He glanced over her shoulder, and back at Enrique. Bugg gave him a single wink, and they were gone.

Bill groaned from the floor.

“Enrique?”

“Yeah Bill. How are you feeling?”

“Like shit. What the hell happened?”

Enrique stared at the door where Kara and Bugg had exited. He sighed, and looked down at Bill. “I have no fucking idea.”

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Solstice Queen by Alex Jensen

Apr 03 2016 Published by under The WiFiles

Derek Mill wrote a book about his own life. Three years ago the autobiography awarded him 750,000 dollars. This year he was awarded 150,000 dollars for writing the book three years ago. Derek was awarded an undergraduate degree from a top tier university, which awarded him entrance to a graduate program at a top tier university. He was awarded A’s in every class. Over the last ten years Derek has increased the amount of people he governs by 2.8 million per year. This calculation, although misleading as Derek has only been awarded three different positions in ten years, reminded him of his value. Derek needed this type of thing since his father, Arnold who was Derek’s biggest fan passed away four years ago.

Arnold Mill would tell his son, “To govern is to be an angel walking the mountainous slopes of snowshoeing dragons.” Arnold Mill was awarded wealth as an artist of the avant-garde. He mastered the ability of disorientation, causing an audience to argue with one another about what he meant in a way that made everyone believe that they were the only one’s that truly ‘got it’.

This talent caught the eye of large businesses who hired Arnold to weave together words like, maintained, managed, integrity, talking points, seminar and developed in ways that communicated safety and trust while remaining entirely void of meaning. After his stunt in the business world Arnold became an asset to top tier politicians who went to top tier universities and who published top selling books about their own lives.

Which brings us to the well-educated and ambitious Derek, who just finished kneeling before a stuffed doll, chanting, ‘Envy is a reminder of who I can one day become.’ and who was now watching his sleeping wife Darlene.

Darlene Mill, the famous actress and singer. Darlene Mill the woman whose face was inescapable on magazine racks. Darlene Mill the woman Derek watched sleep when too anxious to dream. However this time it was an excited anxiety as opposed to an impending doom anxiety. For today was the day that the Solstice Queen would be announced, and this year Derek was (for the fourth time, and second year in a row) selected to be one of the seven Princes of the Solstice (In fact Derek, at 45 was the youngest man to receive the award four times).

This six others selected for this year’s celebration were:

Dale Burnett – A former all-star shortstop who now dedicated his life to proving that although return on investment will increase faster than economic growth, this is necessary to increase growth and help poverty. He proved this by filming a reality show where homeless people were given money as charity and others were given high interest microloans. Proving that the incentive of a growing interest forced loan receivers get a home faster.

Stuart Bailey – A pop-psychologist who changed the way people thought about marriage by introducing an idea that marriage should be done on a ten year contract so when the contract matured the couple could decide to renew and have a party or not renew and go their separate ways.

Richard Coin – A former lawyer who preached the philosophy of determinism through documentaries, books and television interviews. Informing the public that free will did not exist and therefore the concept of justice was primitive.  Advocating a change in the prison system and a better understanding of incentives that fuel rehabilitation.

David Peoples – A successful film director who created an algorithm for sound and light pixels which would produce a new film each day that struck every human as intelligent, fascinating, funny, emotionally mature and original.

Burt Johnson and Ron Alexander – Two politicians just like Derek selected by a group of anonymous individuals with a high understanding of political theory. The public was well aware that they were not chosen democratically but all agreed that the anonymous individuals had excellent taste.

 

And then there was Derek. Derek eating his eggs and protein shake while he watched his beautiful Darlene sleep. Thinking to himself how he bought her the sheets with the high thread count and the mattress that astronauts use. That he got her the apartment with the skyline view and air conditioner that maintained a perfect 75 and a humidity level perfectly adjusted to the condition of her sinuses. It was he that kept her fed, loved, famous, happy and safe. Whatever desire she had, he suffocated long ago. She was perfect now, with him, she was perfect.

 

At 6:00 PM Derek and the six other elected Solstice Princes were sitting in chairs behind a podium. They were waiting for President Fremont to show so he could practice reading a speech while they practiced sitting in chairs behind him. At some point Burt Johnson leaned over to Derek and said, “Do you get nervous?” “During the performance?” Derek asked. Burt nodded. “You can take a blue one” Derek said. “I don’t like taking medication.” Burt said.  Dale leaned into the conversation, “You need a blue one?” Dale said. “No.” Burt said a bit embarrassed. “Coin!” Dale yelled, “Burt needs a blue one!” “You need a blue one burt?” Richard Coin said. “No!” Burt said, “I’m fine.” “If you’re nervous you should take a blue one,” said David Peoples. “I’m not nervous,” said Burt.

Stuart Bailey jumped in to kill the discomfort,  “Who do you think will be the Solstice Queen this year?” Stuart asked. “Unofficial poll said Mary Winston would win,” said Ron Alexander. “Don’t believe that bull,” said Dale, “After Michelle Davis’ best actress win she’s on everyone’s mind.” “What about your girl Derek?” said Stuart. “Oh I don’t think so,” said Derek. “People love to see a couple share the solstice spotlight,” said Stuart, “besides she’s due for a win.” “If she didn’t win it five years ago, I doubt she’ll win it now,” said Derek. “Jeez brother have some faith,” said Dale. “I just don’t want to get her hopes up, between Michelle and Mary there’s not much room left for Darlene this year.”

“You all speculating?” Said President Fremont entering from stage left. “Derek, Darlene is certainly due for a win, don’t be such a naysayer.”

“Thank you President,” Derek hated calling Ferris ‘President’. Three decades ago Ferris was crying because he claimed Derek hacked him on a layup. Now he was Derek’s superior. For decades now, Derek fantasized about taking a hammer to Ferris’s head so to release the air of pretension trapped inside.

7:15 PM  was television prime time and President Fremont was before a crowd and several cameras, holding a stuffed doll chanting, ‘Envy is a reminder of who I can one day become.’ After the mantra, there were words put together and thrown at the crowd and cheers thrown back. There was then acknowledgement of Derek and the six other princes, their accomplishments, their ideals, their hard work. It was all very motivating to the people. Then each of the men, including Derek, took to the podium and gave a presentation on someone else who they believed took great strides this year in accomplishing achievement.

Finally Fremont took the podium back and said, “Ladies and Gentleman, boys and girls, what we are all waiting for is to hear who will be the seventy-eighth Solstice Queen. The Solstice Queen is savvy, goal-oriented, aware and dedicated to improving the lives of others. Displaying honorable characteristics such as these in her everyday life, both as an individual striding to achieve economic, personal and humanitarian goals, and as a woman who seeks to improve society and the world around her. The award is unprecedented and performing in the solstice celebration is an honor that should only be given to the best. So it is my honor and my privilege to announce that this year’s solstice queen is…” President Fremont opened an envelope, looked at the paper, looked back at Derek and smiled. Derek’s wished he was dreaming when he heard: “Darlene Mill!”

 

“I feel like I’m dreaming,” was the first thing that Darlene said to Derek when she returned from the press. She then said something about walking on clouds and started laughing. Derek tried to ask her a few questions about the preparation she had to do, and Darlene gave a satisfactory answer and showed no concerns. She then said she was exhausted and passed out. Derek watched her sleep and wanted nothing more than to shake her until her eyes opened but instead he paced around the living room and left to go see President Fremont.

President Fremont

FREMONT: Mr. Mill!

DEREK: Hey, look, I had a few questions about the performance.

FREMONT: You’ve got more experience than I do.

DEREK: Is there any way we could change the solstice queen?

FREMONT: Excuse me?

DEREK: Could we replace Darlene with a different solstice queen?

FREMONT: I don’t understand.

DEREK: Could the runner up be the solstice queen?

FREMONT: I get what you’re saying. I just don’t understand why you’re saying it. Is Darlene sick?

DEREK: No. But, uh, I don’t know. I don’t think it’s good for her.

FREMONT: Does Darlene not want to do it? Why wouldn’t Darlene want to be a Solstice Queen. (Fremont Laughed).

DEREK: No she does, I just, I don’t want her to do it. I don’t think it’s good for her.

FREMONT: Derek, excuse me for saying this, but you sound incredibly selfish. The Solstice Queen is the highest honor, I don’t know why I’m even saying that, you know it. But even if she had the flu combined with food poisoning surely any woman would still accept the honor.

DEREK: It’s not good for her.

FREMONT: You are not the one to decide that Derek.

DEREK: I’ve given a lot to the performance and I should have some say in the decision.

FREMONT: Yesterday I saw Josephine Dawson, twenty-five years ago she was Solstice Queen.

DEREK: I know who she is.

FREMONT: You know what she told me? (Derek says nothing) She said it was the most meaningful experience of her life. She said she still replays the memory in her head every day.

DEREK: I know, I know, I know, It’s important. It’s selfish of me to not want her to do it. But I can’t help it, for some reason I do not want her to be the Solstice Queen. Now can you help me out? I’ve done a lot for you Ferris. I’ve done a lot. Can you give me this one fucking favor.

FREMONT: Look Derek, we’re practically family and for that reason I will not repeat any details of this conversation. But I would like for you to leave my office at once.

 

Derek watched the sleeping Darlene snore for forty-eight minutes. He felt like he was going to explode. He wanted to scream thousand of things but he knew that he must remain calm and subdued in order for the strategy to be effective.

The first strategy was to ask her how she felt about the whole thing. Did she feel exhausted? She said the excitement kept her running. She said that their adoration was fuel in her bones. Derek said that the exhaustion might be bad for her health but Darlene said even if it shortened her life by a year it would be well-worth it.

The second strategy was reminding her that it would bring a lot of attention into their personal lives. She said, “I know, isn’t it great.”

The third strategy was asking her if the whole event was making her nervous or if she had stage fright. She laughed thinking Derek was making a joke.

Derek had a fourth strategy but he became so wound up in frustration that he forgot what it was. When she was sleeping, his head was filled with only strategy but now he couldn’t find it. He sat there thinking of something to say but only said ‘Um’ and then the telephone rang. It was Darlene’s choreographer letting her know that she was waiting downstairs. Darlene gave Derek a kiss and ran off.

Derek wanted to strangle Darlene. He felt it was justified due to how she disregarded his wants. The logic of course can’t be translated into words, but as Derek paced the parameter of their bed, the logic was rock solid. The greater frustration was that there was nobody who would sympathize with him. He thought there must be someone who had felt this way. At least once a husband must have forbidden his wife from receiving this award.

So he searched the records and he found that four times in history, elected solstice queens declined the award and let someone else perform. Margo Ruth, Gwen Young, Brita Stillson and Penelope Glass. All of them claiming they couldn’t perform due to illness. But Derek thought otherwise, maybe there was a husband behind the curtain pulling the strings. He searched the internet for the names of their husbands. He found that all of them were dead (Cancer, Heart Attack, Cancer, Overdose). Derek said fuck many times. He searched the women and found that three of them were dead (Cancer, Cancer, Cancer). The only one living was Gwen Young. Derek called her and said they had to talk.

GWEN YOUNG

“Hello,” Derek said. Gwen replied with a ‘Nice to see you’. Gwen had blonde hair that was clearly dyed, Derek thought about why she would dye it instead of let it be grey. She was a wise old woman now not a young attractive thing, besides the blonde dye was visibly obvious, she wasn’t fooling anyone. But Gwen was cheerful despite her fabricated hair color and they talked and drank coffee and pretended they were friends. Finally Derek navigated to the object of interest.

“You were once elected solstice queen [but then you decline] is that correct?

(Derek is young and Gwen is old. Derek was respectful of this and treated her politely, however when attention is thin we must get the point across quickly.)

“Yes, [Why is it that you bring this up?] I was sick unfortunately, a great regret in my life.”

“I’m sure you were disappointed, [I can’t let my wife be solstice queen, it’s not good for her and it does something to our marriage, I can’t explain it. It’ll ruin us.] Did your husband support your decision.”

“Oh yes of course. [Let me show you pictures of my husband. He kept a journal, many ideas and theories about the society we live in today, how marriage should be. He wrote many books but they are all in the basement. They are locked and I cannot remember where the key is but if you answer this riddle you shall find it. [‘Riddle’]] My husband was always supportive.”

“The solstice queen is a great honor, [Answer to Riddle] I’m sure your husband was proud.”

[The walls begin to melt and Derek believes he might be a schizoid. He chants mantras to try and grasp hold of reality. When he calms himself he realizes that the walls are not melting and instead it is actually a hologram being projected out of Mrs. Young’s ears to make the walls appear as if melting. Derek surmises that Mrs. Young is a robot and the answer to the riddle must have cracked open her mainframe.]

[Mrs. Young’s tongue unravels out of her mouth and into Derek’s lap. Derek sees a zipper on the tip of her giant tongue. He unzips her tongue. Several thousand microchips fall out of her tongue and scatter across the carpet. Atop a pile of microchips is a silver key.]

[Derek picks up the key] and goes to the basement.

 

On the morning of the solstice Darlene awakes having not seen Derek in six days. She figured that it was a tradition similar to the groom not seeing the bride’s wedding dress and she wanted to confirm if this was so but didn’t want to risk sounding uninformed, and she was much too exhausted every night from practice to search it on the internet. She hoped that Derek was not nervous as he had so obviously demonstrated that he was when he asked her all those silly questions. It amazed her that such a prestigious man still felt nerves and she reminded herself that everyone is susceptible to insecurity, which of course she knew but seemed to always forget.

Darlene met with the choreographer and went over a few basic things, nothing remotely strenuous. She was a bit in denial that she was going to perform and she was aware of this. She told the choreographer that it felt like a dream. The choreographer said that Darlene was the best Queen’s she ever worked with and people were going to be amazed at her talent. Darlene knew that the choreographer said this to everyone every year but still said thank you.

The Night of The Solstice

Derek arrived just as he was supposed to. However he had missed a week of rehearsal, and been out of touch with everyone involved. But he was allowed to skip meetings and he was allowed to come late, he thought to himself. He was Derek Mill goddammit and he prayed for someone to challenge him, but nobody did. They didn’t care.

President Fremont was talking on stage as Darlene was in a green room meditating in silence and as Dale was teasing Burt about being nervous. Burt told him to shut up and go fuck himself and the only reason you are calling me nervous is because you’re nervous. So fuck off. Dale was a bit embarrassed but smiled instead and apologized. Told him that he would do great and so would everyone. Derek wasn’t listening.

Derek ran on stage.

When Fremont saw Derek he gave him a look a father would give a misbehaving son. But when the crowd saw Derek, they roared. “I have something to say!” Derek shouted, and no one heard because the only microphone was at Fremont’s lips. “Save your speech for after the celebration,” Fremont said. Derek walked over to the microphone and said, “I want to speak to my people.” The crowd roared and Fremont was pissed but had no choice.

“Hello everyone,” Derek said, the crowd cheered. “Before we celebrate the solstice I want to say something. Gwen Young was once elected to be the solstice queen. She declined. She said it was because of the flu. This was a lie.”

The crowd gasped and chatted amongst each other about who Gwen Young was.

“She lied because her husband did not want her to perform in the solstice celebration. See her husband saw the importance in marriage and recognized that our values and ideas are backwards. We’ve become obsessed with progress. Obsessed with doing what makes sense but truly what we think makes sense doesn’t make sense. In Mr. Young’s writings I found many poems about love and essays about importance of staying with one another, I read about how the two of them were going to forfeit everything they had and run away with each other just to be together. He would have her and she would have him and that’s all that they needed. And I read that Mr. Young speculated that nobody could understand his logic because the hemisphere of thought had broken off from love when the god Harotha who lived before time had molested the sand beaches of Naragatha. Harotha was a bastard god and belonged to burn in a separate dimensional vortex. But because of him we are stuck in this chaotic nonsense world, where we can’t control what we love. So Mr. Young set out to destroy Harotha, he found the evil god and he even took pictures. But now that I’ve seen the source of evil in the photos of Harotha I no longer want my wife to perform in the solstice celebration, I’m free and I’m disqualifying my wife and removing her participation. It is my right as her husband, I can recognize this now and you will too once you see the photos of Harotha. Look! Look at the photos!”

Derek reached into his pants and grabbed what he thought were the photos of Harotha. He held them above his head for people to see. What people saw was Derek holding a handful of hair that was obviously grey but dyed blonde. Derek looked at the hair and saw it too. It was then that he realized he was in fact schizoid and he most certainly murdered Gwen Young and hid the corpse in her basement. Derek said fuck many times and was arrested.

The celebration still had to go on and Darlene was still the elected Solstice Queen, for this reason the staff decided it was best not to inform Darlene of her husband’s actions. They did however interrupt her silent meditation to tell her that her husband became very ill and could not participate. Darlene thought maybe he got stage fright. She was upset that he would not share this moment with her and felt a bit like crying but pulled it together and reminded herself about her responsibility to perform.

Meanwhile a politician named Joseph Thornwood was backstage well prepared just in case a freak accident like this occurred. He stepped in with great honor and took Derek’s place. The other six men were chatting about Derek’s incident and arguing about the meaning of what just happened. Burt, however, was not taking part in the gossip, his head was elsewhere. “Dale,” Burt said. “I am nervous.”

“Do you want a blue one?” Dale said.

“Do you have one?” Burt asked.

“Richard’s got a couple. We’re all nervous.”

Burt smiled as a thank you.

“Dick!” Dale shouted to Mr. Coin, “Dick! Burt’s nervous, you got another viagra?”

Richard Coin said he did and tossed it to Burt. Burt swallowed it. He was ready to perform and perform he did along with the other six men they showed the public exactly what they wanted to see and when they finished, just as it happens every year, Satan ascended from the Solstice Queen’s uterus and gave a rousing speech about the importance of being cooperative instead of competitive and how the senior teaching benefits are really the same thing as giving away tenure and that we should remember the importance of using incentives to stimulate an ambition to be an effective teacher as education should be the number one priority.

Derek watched the speech from the jail cell as psychologists tried to determine what was wrong with him. Derek envied the seven men on television and knew that he would never get a chance to be in the celebration again.

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A Chilling Affair by Nathan Elwood

Mar 27 2016 Published by under The WiFiles

It was one of the warmer summers in recent memory the year Lord Raxby was murdered; by late July of 1891 old London Town had only received a few inches of snow through the entire season.

I was lying near the Heartstone of my shared abode when our client arrived that day in early August, enjoying the stone’s emanating warmth and dreaming idly of the balmy conditions of the continent, experienced during my military service some years past. At the sound of approach my ears perked up at once, and I quickly rose from my position.

Sitting nearby upon his favorite recliner was my human companion, Absalom Hume, who I noticed was folding his paper.

“Easy, Winston,” he said. “No need to be suspicious of our guest so quickly, especially when you haven’t even seen the young man yet.”

I let out a low growl. “Suspicion is my business, Hume, as detection is yours. Allow me to keep to my nature as I allow you to keep to your own.”

“Of course. My apologies, old friend. Good dog.” Hume smiled then, just a tad bit more smugly than I should have preferred. Unlike most humans however, his smugness was very nearly deserved. I was already somewhat irked that he had detected the approaching interloper as early as I myself had, but I was baffled at how he could have determined that the visitor was a young man when even I could not yet smell him. As a bulldog, I certainly do not have the olfactory ability of some hounds I have known, but I should dare say that I am better-equipped than any hairless ape.

Seeming to sense and acquiesce to my annoyance, Absalom Hume ventured for my opinion. “Tell me about him,” he asked. I took a sniff of the air. “You were right, definitely male. Smells like… nice leather. Inexpensive cologne.”

“A servant, then,” Absalom said. “His wardrobe and footwear provided by his benefactor, the cologne a personal affectation. Care to make a wager?” “Five crown,” I growled. Devil-take me for a fool, but I can never refuse a gentleman’s wager.

A shadow came under the door as the young interloper reached it. I positioned myself nearby to greet our guest as he knocked. “Enter” Absalom said. There was a pause, a momentary hesitation before the door slowly creaked open. The young man entered cautiously, his eyes down. From his demeanor and the hundreds of smells that I could now perceive off him I knew that my companion was right about his occupation, and that I was down another five crown. My inheritance was shrinking dramatically as a result of my friendship with Mr. Hume.

The boy looked up, past me and straight at Absalom. He was well attired, but conservatively. He had a weak chin, and light hair. Consulting Absalom later, I was informed more specifically that the hair’s color was “sandy blonde,” and that his eyes were dark green. He introduced himself, only addressing Absalom, stating that he was “Henry Cooper, First Footman of the House of Raxby.”

Absalom returned the introductions cooly. “I am Absalom Hume, consulting detective. My companion,” he gestured down to me “Is Leuftenant First Class Winston Barnsley of Her Majesty’s Colonial Brigades.”

The boy started, only now noticing me after perceiving me to be a ranked member of Her Majesty’s Service. “P-pleasure to meet you, Leuftenant Winston,” he stammered out. “I am-am at your service, naturally.”

While the disregard of Canids among the upper class and their livery will always be a source of some annoyance, I rarely let it openly affect me the way my companion does. Bulldogs like myself are, if nothing else, resilient. I decided it would make things far easier if at least one of the two gentlemen in the room could play the host.

“Of course, my good man,” I said. “Why don’t you take a seat and tell us what brings you here on such a fine day?”

“I’m afraid I shall not have time, sir.” He looked back to Absalom. “I must request your presence at the Raxby estates at once.” He fished into his coat pocket and withdrew a letter. Absalom reached him in two long strides and snatched the letter from his hands. In no time at all it was read, crumpled, and tossed into a nearby wastebin. While Henry Cooper began to stammer, Mr. Hume was already donning his coat.

“Come Winston,” he said. “It appears there has been a murder.”

***

As we bumped along in the coach of the carriage that young Mr. Cooper had arrived in, Absalom again seemed again to sense my annoyance.

“What is it Winston? I understand your reticence to seem joyful at a murder, but usually the prospect of our adventures gets at least a slight twitch in your tail.”

I sighed. Stubbornness is something my breed is known for, but Absalom is my friend, and I didn’t wish to maintain bad blood between us. “I don’t like being instructed in the manner you did before,” I said. “‘Come Winston.’”

He paused, staring at the wall of the enclosed carriage. He turned to me. “I’m sorry, old man. I forget at times how recently Canids became true citizens of the Crown. I have never sought to treat you as anything less than my equal.”

There were few under the entirety of the Her Majesty’s dominion that I believed Absalom truly saw as his equal, but I appreciated the sentiment of his apology. I decided it best to simply continue on with the mission at hand. “Tell me about this murder, Hume. Why were we notified by that servant, rather than the police? Why in the form of a letter?”

“The letter was sent as it transmits the necessary information of the case far more efficiently than that stammering young man could ever hope to. As to why the boy was sent at all, I imagine the Home Office would like to prevent rumors getting out of a constable travelling from the home of a well-known Deeist to the apartments of London Town’s consulting detective.”

My ears, flopped over as they were, perked up to the degree they could. I had no idea that Lord Raxby was one of the elite scholars who followed in the footsteps of the great magician John Dee. It was their order that staved off the curse left over by the death of the last Ice Dragon in 17th century.

“Since it is the Deeists that maintain the spells that make Londinium habitable, as opposed to the frozen wasteland that is the rest of the island of Albion, any time a Deeist passes from this life is a cause for considerable worry for the Crown. I imagine they’ll have sent a high ranking officer from Whitehall Place. Someone who would know Lord Raxby outside the context of an investigative matter. Sir Lawrence Eardsley, or Chief Inspector Christie, I should wager. She always delights to be assigned to such grisly affairs, and has many connections amongst the nobility.”

We arrived at the Raxby Estate just past noon, as it was outside old London Town entirely, and on the edges of Londinium itself. We were escorted inside by Footman Cooper, where we were greeted by the butler, an impressively tall, thin man with grey hair and dark eyes. He introduced himself as Mr. Bellamy. I noted a similar set of smells from him as from Mr. Cooper, with some distinct variations. Clearly a member of the serving class, but evidently rewarded for his service far more handsomely than the footman. As he directed us to the parlor, I noticed how cold it was in the building. Though I do not believe that I let loose a perceptible shiver, my companion seemed, as he often does, to read my thoughts.

“Mr. Bellamy, has the Heartstone of this home gone out?” Absalom asked the butler.

“Our Heartstone was maintained personally by Lord Raxby, and heated not only this home but the neighboring servants’ quarters as well. It grew cold shortly after he passed away.”

“I presume you were the one who found his body?”

“No, that was the maid, Ms. Smith. She discovered Lord Raxby early this morning while dusting. Naturally I was immediately informed, and the authorities contacted.”

The butler opened the door to the parlor, and bowed to us as we stepped through. “Sirs,” he said.

There, waiting on the other side, was a bald man with a particularly impressive mustache. Though not tall, and in middle age, he exuded an air of strength. I immediately recognized a fellow member of the Her Majesty’s Service. Though it would be impossible to notice for any human (or even for most Canids not familiar with the man), I registered a sense of shock from Absalom by the unexpectedness of this figure. I should have taken his earlier wager, I deduced.

“Good day, gentlemen,” the man began. “I am-”

“Major General Henry Brackenbury” finished Absalom. “Director of Military Intelligence.” Now I understood his shock. The man before us was a hero of multiple campaigns abroad, and one of the most powerful men in Albion.

Brackenbury nodded. “And you are Absalom Hume, Consulting Detective.” He looked to me. “And Leuftenant First Class Winston Barnsley. Leuftenant, I’ve read your works on the campaigns of the Fighting Dog units in the Boar Wars. Your writings are as exemplary as your own service record.”

“Thank you, Major General, sir.” I sincerely hoped my stub of a tail was not wagging behind me.

“I suppose the two of you are wondering why I am here.”

“It certainly came as something of an initial shock,” Absalom Hume said. “But I can only surmise that when he passed that Lord Edward Raxby was at work on a project deemed of military importance, and that the Crown suspects the possibility of assassination.”

The Major General looked hard at Hume. I imagined he was not a man at all used to being interrupted at all, much less twice within mere moments. Nevertheless, he did not reprimand Absalom.

“Your summations are correct, I’m afraid. Unfortunately I am not at liberty to divulge the nature of Lord Raxby’s work, but know this, Mister Hume. Edward Raxy was a personal acquaintance of both myself and Commander-in-Chief Wolseley. Though there is little reason as yet to suspect foul play, we would like to be absolutely certain of all matters that pertain to this tragedy.”

“Of course, of course,” Absalom said. “Tell me, may we see the victim?”

Major General Brackenbury informed us that we may, and Mr. Cooper was summoned to the parlor to escort the three of us.

As we walked, Absalom began to lightly probe into the matter at hand. “Tell me, does Lord Raxby have family?” Brackenbury responded. “The Lady Raxby passed away nearly four years ago. She and Lord Raxby had two sons, both living abroad at the moment.”

Absalom nodded. Presently we arrived at the quarters of Lord Raxby. Escorted in, we saw the body, laid out on the bed, fully attired, his hands stretched out at his side. He was clearly an older gentleman, though he looked to be of good health. His skin was, however, extremely pale. I did not know if this was from the cold, his passing, or a natural effect of the reclusive habits of mages.

No obvious damage to the body could be discerned. Above and to my left, I heard Absalom let out a small snort, breathing out through his nostrils. A minor tic I had documented of my friend, audible only in moments of extreme frustration.

“Why,” he asked, “was the body moved from the location it was found in? On whose authority was this done?”

Brackenbury stared at him again. “Mister Hume, have a care how you speak. As I told you, this man was a friend of mine. I would not allow him the indignity of lying on the floor of his study.”

“Never mind the contamination of the data!” cried Absalom. He whirled to face Henry Cooper. “The body is useless to me. Young man, escort me to this study.” Brackenbury seemed ready to have Absalom drawn and quartered. If the man had possessed hackles, they most certainly would have been up.

“Now see here,” he said. “Lord Raxby very well may have died under perfectly natural causes. I see no reason not to respect the dead.”

“Major General Brackenbury, with all due respect, if you believed at all that he had died naturally, you would not have brought me. Again, I must see the study.”

***

The study in question was, for one of my somewhat limited means and rather pedestrian education, a wonder. Shelves of books lined the walls, which climbed up nearly 14 feet in the air. Many of the books were mighty tomes; some I imagined likely weighed nearly what I do!

At the far end was Lord Raxby’s desk, covered in sheaves of paper, some of which had fallen to the ground. The chair was tipped over onto the ground, and a few of the fallen pages had formed an odd halo around it.

Absalom dismissed the footman and set to his work, making quick, minute observations of every inch of the room. He approached the desk, but was halted by a throat-clearing from Brackenbury.

“Mr. Hume,” he said. “Some of the items Lord Raxby was likely working on could be of a… sensitive nature to the Crown. I am not sure I can permit you to examine them.”

I could see Absalom open his mouth, about to say something that would undoubtedly get him into trouble. As he had risen to my defense earlier, I decided I would do the same for him now.

“Major General, sir,” I began. Absalom closed his mouth. “Though he may be at times… unorthodox, I can assure you that few possess the loyalty to Albion and level of discretion of my friend Hume. I can promise you that no element of this case shall ever see publication, and that not even I shall be made aware of whatever Mr. Hume reads in those notes. For this, you have my word as a soldier of the Crown. But I am familiar with my friend’s methods, and inspection of every detail, undisturbed, is paramount.”

Major General Brackenbury seemed to size me up then. Admittedly, at only three feet tall there wasn’t entirely much to size, but he seemed to be satisfied. He nodded to Absalom.

I might have saved myself the effort, for after only a few minutes of examination, Absalom promptly announced “I can find nothing!” I’m told that I and the rest of my breed have a naturally dour expression, even when we are perfectly content. I cannot imagine what my face must have looked like in that moment.

He approached Brackenbury and myself as I hung my head, wondering if all my military honors would be summarily stripped from me for this embarrassment. Absalom continued. “That is, I have determined from his notes and correspondence that he had a great many reasons to fear assassination, and his death was quite sudden. It seems it took him right in the middle of a sentence. But I cannot find any physical evidence of an attack on him. No remnants of food that may have been poisoned, no items he may have pricked himself on, no arsenic dust, and none of the characteristic sulfur smell of malicious magic. At least, not so far that I can detect. Perhaps a gifted sorcerer could disguise such a scent to some degree. Winston?”

I looked up. I supposed it was possible, after all. I breathed in deeply, absorbing the thousands of odors of the room. “No…” I said. “No sulfur.” I frowned even deeper and padded toward the desk. There was… something odd, however.  A smell that seemed out of place, something I seemed to remember from…

“Almonds?”

Absalom rushed to my side and knelt down, putting us at eye level. “Winston old man, what did you say?”

“I thought perhaps I was mistaken, but there is a slight scent in the room of almonds, a type of nut that only grows in the East. I encountered them there during my service in the Boar Wars.”

Absalom grinned, clapping me on the shoulder and giving me a slight scratch behind the ears as he rushed to the desk. From the top of it he grabbed a capped bottle of ink and darted back to me.

“Mr. Hume,” cried Brackenbury, “what is the meaning of this?” Absalom ignored him entirely. He uncapped the bottle and held it approximately a foot from my snout. “Winston,” he said, “I need to be absolutely sure. Is this what you smelled?”

I breathed in. “Yes,” I told him. “The ink smells of almonds.” Absalom capped the ink, turned to Brackenbury, and said, “Sir, I can confirm it; Lord Edward Raxby was murdered. If you could be so kind as to assemble the house staff in the parlor below, I believe we can resolve this matter.”

***

In the parlor, the small staff had been collected. There was Mr. Bellamy, Mr. Cooper, another footman, the maid, and the cook. All seemed perplexed at their being brought before us. Absalom paced slowly in front of them.

“As you all know, Lord Raxby left this world sometime this morning. There is no evidence of foul play, and for all intents and purposes it seems as though the patron of this house was victim to a heart condition or similar ailment. An autopsy would likely reveal more.”

The maid, a young woman, no more than 20 at the latest, let out a small gasp of shock. Absalom continued. “Luckily, none shall be necessary.” He turned to Major General Brackenbury. “From the many, many pages on his desk, it was easy to determine that Lord Raxby maintained a prodigious correspondence. Can this be confirmed?”

Brackenbury nodded. “I received letters from him daily, and I do not believe that I was the only one.” Absalom turned to the servants, a questioning look in his eyes.

“Yes, sir,” said Henry Cooper. “L-lord Raxby spent nearly three hours each day writing.” Absalom gave him a small, grim smile.

“I suspected as much. Any of the house would have known this, and likely would have known that Lord Raxby had, I believe, a rather common habit of touching the tip of his pen to his tongue before each new page. Mr. Cooper, can you confirm such a habit?”

The boy looked about nervously, but found no assistance from his fellows. “I-I… It m-might be that I’ve seen him do such a thing, yes.”

Absalom pulled his gaze from the young man, whose shoulder slumped as if he’d been suddenly released from a binding spell.

Absalom reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out the bottle of ink. “That is why,” he said, “the killer decided to poison not his food, which would have been entirely too obvious, but rather his ink.” He addressed Brackenbury directly. “Cyanide, you see, is a unique poison, very hard to detect once it has worked its effects. But it is often discernible from its scent, which greatly resembles the plant from which it originates: Almonds. I have published a light monograph on how to discern commonly used lethal chemicals, Major-General. I’m surprised it hasn’t been distributed amongst the intelligence services. In any case, this ink was the tool of the killer, and I believe that will be corroborated by the chemists as Whitehall Place.”

Brackenbury fixed his eyes on Absalom’s. “But who is the killer, Mr. Hume?”

“It would have to be a member of the staff, someone with access to the ink. Unfortunately, that could be any one of them. However, there is a detail of one of them that I picked up as we entered. I’m certain my osmatic companion Winston would have noticed it even more readily than I.”

I looked up, recalling my initial impression of the Butler as being far better-off than I initially attribute to members of the servant class. “Mr. Bellamy’s cologne. It’s of a far more expensive variety than Mr. Cooper’s, or even that which Absalom could afford.”

We all turned to the butler. “What’s more,” Absalom said, “his gloves are of a particularly warm make. All the servants of this home were uniformly attired by their employer, but he is the only one wearing such gloves. Almost as if he knew that the house would shortly grow very cold. He must have recently come into money, to afford so many nice things.”

Suddenly, Mr. Bellamy shoved Henry Cooper and made a break for the door. Unfortunately for him, I was after him in a shot. I may be older than I was when I fought the Boars of the East, but I dare say I am still more than a match for a household servant. I tackled him at the knees in a lunge, bringing him to the floor. In mere seconds, the footmen of the house were down to the ground as well, holding Mr. Bellamy there. I found Absalom at my side again. “Good man,” he said. “Good man.”

***

Hours later, back in our apartments, I had resumed my place by the Heartstone, though I found it for more difficult to relax than I had that morning. Absalom, as he often does at the conclusion of a case, seemed similarly restless, and was busying himself by practicing throwing cards in a corner of the room.

“This isn’t the end of it,” he said abruptly.

“How do you mean?” I asked. “The killer has been arrested, and we have both of us entered the good graces of the head of Military Intelligence. I should say this is a satisfactory conclusion, Hume.”

“We apprehended the killer, yes, but we still don’t know the why of it all. Who paid him? It may be determined under the questioning of Military Intelligence, but at the very least we have confirmed that this was indeed an organized attack against Lord Raxby. For all we know, all of the other Deeists of the kingdom are at risk. Winston, I feel as though a much greater game is at play, and we have only witnessed the first move.”

He turned back to his card throwing, and I padded my way to the window. Outside, snow clouds had begun to form above the city. So much for my warm summer, I thought.

***

Nathan Elwood is a student of Library Science at the University of Missouri. He has been recently published in Aurora Wolf, Devilfish Review, and Sword and Sorcery Magazine. His interests include writing and craft beers, and he has an unfortunate habit of combining the two.

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TREE FORT by Tom Leveen

Mar 20 2016 Published by under The WiFiles

 

Clown walks into a bar. Bartender says, “What’ll you have?” Clown says, “Gimme a treefort!” Bartender says, “What’s in a treefort?” Clown says . . . 

Playboy mags and cigars, hee-hee-hee!

I smiled but did not laugh. Tommy’s voice rang clear and cold in my ears, telling and re-telling his stale old jokes. I heard him as clearly as if he were still standing there beside me. Our tree fort never had Playboy magazines or cigars; those would come as we aged, but our fort was free from such degradation.

I stopped smiling.

The fort looked like it was still in decent shape. I tilted my head back as far as it would go, studying the warped plywood that served as the fort’s floor. I saw cracks, but no splits. I gazed down the length of the trunk. The wooden crossbeams we’d nailed through the bark all those years ago had been swallowed partially by the growing tree. Where once the rungs were weak and prone to popping off, they were now embedded in the bark. I grabbed the lowest rung and pulled on it. It was like trying to pull off a branch. The rungs were safer now than they’d been when Tommy and I first nailed them in.

Grasping the lowest rung, I began pulling myself up the ladder, careful not to disturb the lower branches as I ascended. We’d built the tree fort when we were ten, and no grown-ups had helped. We’d nailed the old wood together with nails pilfered from Tommy’s father’s workshop, and he’d never missed them. We’d surrounded two sides of the plywood with a short wall, constructed out of two-by-four scrap. We camouflaged one side of the fort with green netting I’d asked my mom to buy us. From the ground, you had to look closely to see it. It felt like a sniper’s nest, exactly what Tommy and I had intended. We even had an emergency exit: a thick, black nylon rope tied to a branch above the fort that we could drop out and slide down in case the fort was ever overtaken—or if we just wanted the thrill of sliding down the rope, which was often. It was a straight drop of twenty feet or so, a stupid height to be jumping from, but we had faith in our rope and our immortality. Even after all these years, the rope still held firm.

I reached the trapdoor and shoved it upward. The hinges complained bitterly, but didn’t resist. The trapdoor fell to the floor and startled a flock of birds, which took flight in a cacophony of whistles and caws. I glanced down, making sure their flight didn’t disturb the branches.

I pulled myself cautiously up through the hole. I weighed a good deal more than I had when I was ten. Back then, Tommy and I could scramble up the ladder and be hidden behind our green netting in about five seconds. Imaginary foreign invaders were always chasing us, but our cap guns held them at bay once we were secure in our fort.

The floor wasn’t big enough for an adult to crawl onto. I knew that from visiting the tree fort previously; once a year since Tommy died. Sort of a commemoration. Somehow it seemed appropriate that Tommy had died here. As if the invaders had finally taken one of our own. Tommy hadn’t gone without a fight. He’d fired his cap gun empty before the end came, and I admired him for that. Even to this day, I admired him.

I heard myself sigh. Tommy never gave up on anything. Even when our imaginary enemies invaded the fort and took us hostage—Tommy and I had tied the rope on ourselves –he was always full of ideas on how to escape, and of course, they always worked. When we were ten, eleven, and twelve, we were able to switch roles on a dime, better than any actor. Make-believe required it. I had to switch from fearless defender of American freedom to cold-blooded mercenary at the drop of a hat. Tommy took his turns too, though his mercenaries were always better—more evil and more sadistic—than mine. I envied his playacting as much as I did his stubbornness.

We were best friends, I almost said aloud as I began working my way back down the ladder and shutting the trap door above me. Even when Tommy got loud and obnoxious, which was frequently, I still loved him. I didn’t have the maturity to call it that when I was twelve, but looking back, I knew that’s what it was. It seemed only logical that the two of us would get our first crushes on the same girl upon entering junior high school. We were that much alike. Like brothers. The object of our crush, Lindsey McNaughton, had been swayed by Tommy at first, but in the end, had come to enjoy my company more.

Maybe it was because she felt bad for me when Tommy died. It didn’t matter to me at the time. Of course, by senior high, Lindsey and me weren’t an item anymore, but Tommy was still dead. I think Lindsey had only gone out with me as a sort of comfort, and I didn’t mind. Tommy wouldn’t have either, I figured.

I dropped the last couple of feet to the ground, careful not to disturb the lower branches. I glanced up at the nylon rope that hung taut from above, making sure everything was still in place. Tommy hadn’t questioned me when I suggested we play War one more time, even though at that point video games and girls had become much more important to us both. He’d joined me in one last daring escapade, this one involving more mercenaries than we’d ever faced before.

Our cap guns almost glowed red with the amount of imaginary hot lead we rained down upon our enemies. We were outgunned, in the end, but determined as ever to go down fighting, even as the mercenaries climbed into our fort. I’d prepared for them, setting a neat trap with a slipknot in the rope that served as our escape route. When the mercs burst into the fort, guns blazing, I’d dropped the noose over Tommy’s head and shoved him out the escape hatch. Tommy stayed in character till the end, firing his gun at me all the way down.

I’d never heard a sound like the one I heard that afternoon, the wet-stick snap of Tommy’s neck when the rope had played out. With that sound, the assault had stopped, and I never played make-believe again. There was no need. Lindsey didn’t play make-believe, and certainly never played War. She wouldn’t understand that I was a hero, that I had saved us both. From Tommy.

I shoved my hands in my pockets as I watched Tommy’s bones sway gently from the end of the rope. The police had never made it this far out of town when they searched for him, and I didn’t feel like helping them out. So here Tommy stayed, where he belonged, his weathered bones and leering skull protecting our fort from all invaders, foreign and domestic.

I wondered how long his skeleton could remain intact. Tommy’s blue jeans lay crusted solid on the ground beneath his fleshless feet where they’d fallen several years ago, his green t-shirt tattered and almost gone completely. But Tommy’s old stubbornness must have run as deep as his bones, for the skeleton was a model of perfection. It looked like a fake, something you’d find in a biology classroom, except for small tufts of brown hair clinging to his dry, ivory scalp. I watched the lower branches sway again in a light breeze, fearful they would disintegrate whatever remained of the sinews and cartilage holding Tommy’s bones together, but the branches veered away from the specter, as if in respect.

“What’s in a tree fort?” I asked.

Tommy’s skull was still and silent, smiling.

He loved that joke.

# # #

Tom Leveen is the author of six novels with imprints of Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Abrams. He can be found at www.tomleveen.com and on Facebook at facebook.com/AuthorTomLeveen.

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Bones By DJ Tyrer

Mar 13 2016 Published by under The WiFiles

 

It wasn’t really his idea of a good job, but sometimes you just had to take whatever you were offered. After all, somebody had to be a gravedigger, didn’t they? If nobody did the job, the world would soon be overrun with dead bodies and piles of bones. If he thought about it like that, he was a freakin’ hero. At least that let him feel good about being there in the graveyard in the middle of the night.

Joe just wished the city council would let him have a digger to do the job, just one of those tiny ones would do, nothing fancy. But, no, budget restrictions meant he was here with a shovel attempting to make a dent in the heavy clay. It was backbreaking work; you couldn’t squash the bodies into a shallow grave. Well, you could, but the bosses didn’t like it and he needed to keep this job. Which meant he had to keep scraping away at the thick earth.

“A stick o’ dynamite could hurry things along,” Joe muttered to himself.

There was a dry, hollow laugh from the darkness in response to his comment. He stuck the shovel blade into the ground and looked around. There wasn’t supposed to be anybody in the graveyard, besides him, unless one of the higher-ups was checking up on him.

“Who?” he called, staring into the darkness. Joe couldn’t see anyone; the night was too dark, overcast. He turned towards where he thought the chuckles had come from.

There was the slightest shuffling sound and scuff of gravel and a figure in a long, dark coat and a hat pulled down low manifested out of the night. Joe couldn’t help but jump slightly at the person’s sudden appearance. They chuckled again, although he couldn’t tell if they were laughing at his reaction or were still laughing at what he’d said. He wasn’t too certain he liked the person. If they were one of his bosses, that would be a solid no.

They hadn’t bothered to answer his question, so he asked again: “Who are you?” Then, he added, “What do you want?” He pulled his shovel out from the cloying earth with a slurp! and hefted it in what he hoped was a subtly-threatening manner. “Well?”

The figure chuckled again, as if Joe were making a jest towards them. Their reaction was oddly disturbing. Joe found himself wondering if he’d been approached by an escaped loony.

“Look, answer me,” he demanded. “Who are you?”

“Heh-heh, my name is Bones. Well, that’s what they call me, at any rate.”

“Bones? Your first name ain’t Dem, by any chance?” Joe sneered.

“No, although it might as well be. Knee bones, toe bones, funny bones – I’ve got ‘em all.”

With a shiver, Joe wondered if he was in the company of a bodysnatcher. He’d heard the odd rumour of such things, but had thought them spurious. Now, he wasn’t so sure.

“In fact,” the man said, “I’ve got nothing but bones.” He reached inside his coat and pulled out a rib.

Joe raised his shovel, ready to strike.

“Oh, don’t be like that,” said Bones, “you don’t know how lonely it gets round here. Sure, I’ve got plenty of neighbours, but they ain’t exactly talkative; know what I mean? Course you do, you’re surrounded by them every night. A dead loss, if you’ll excuse the pun.” Bones sighed.

“I just want to be friends,” he continued. “If you’d like, I could help out. I could lend you a hand – literally, if you’d like.”

“Sorry, are you saying you’re a skeleton?” asked Joe.

“Well, yes. Yes, I am. Is it really such a surprise? After all, friend, you’re a skeleton, too; only you’re wrapped in meat.”

“Very funny.”

“Oh, I’m deadly serious. Or, should I say, deathly serious. After all, I can’t be anything else, can I?”

“Really?”

“In my condition, I mean. See?”

Bones pulled his coat open, as if he were a flasher, and Joe gave an involuntary shriek. Beneath the coat, it seemed he really was all bones.

“No way,” Joe muttered. “It has to be a costume…”

“Oh, yeah,” said Bones.”I go about like this for the good of my health.” He – it – used the spare rib it still held to tap out a tune on its ribs.

“No – no – no…”

“Yes – yes – yes,” Bones replied. It reached up a bony hand and nudged its hat up to show a skull face. It looked as if it were grinning at Joe, but all skulls looked like that, so it was difficult to tell.

Joe reached out with the shovel and poked at Bones’ stomach area and watched the back of the coat it wore sway.

Joe swore.

“Convinced?” Bones asked, crossing his arms and cocking his skull.

“Freaked out might be a better description.”

“Oh, come on, we’re not so different, the two of us,” said Bones, uncrossing his arms and putting his hands on his bony hips. “Take away the flesh and blood and you’re just a load of bones hanging out in a graveyard. I thought we could hang out together. Eternity gets lonely, you know.”

“No offence,” Joe said, stepping back and holding the shovel defensively across his chest, “but I’m rather attached to my flesh and blood, and that makes a pretty big difference between us.”

Bones gave a sigh. “I thought you were the one. That you would understand. That you could feel the connection. That you could be like me.”

“Look,” said Joe, continuing to step away from Bones, “as I said, no offence intended, but I don’t like the suggestion I become a skeleton, too. Hell, I don’t even want to hang out with you – I do this for a pay-cheque, not for fun.”

“I’m sorry,” said Bones, cracking his knuckles. “I didn’t mean to give you the impression you had a choice in this; I’m afraid I must insist…”

“Thanks, but no-ohhh!” Joe took another step backwards and felt the ground give way beneath his feet. He lost his grip on the shovel as he fell into the grave he’d been digging. He lay still for a moment, then tried to sit up. He swore as his head swam. Looking up, he saw the skeletal figure in the flapping coat looking down at him, the shovel in his hands.

“Don’t worry,” Bones told him, as he began to shovel the soil back into the open grave, “I was buried alive and it didn’t do me any harm. You’ll claw your way out soon enough. It’s not like you’ve been embalmed or anything. You’ll rot quick enough, then you can join me. I’m sure we can find ways to make the years pass quickly.”

Joe screamed, but Bones just tossed some of the thick earth down onto his head, filling his mouth and silencing his cries.

“Don’t worry,” said Bones, “it’ll soon be over. See you shortly…”

—–

DJ Tyrer is the person behind Atlantean Publishing and has been widely published in anthologies and magazines in the UK, USA and elsewhere, most recently in Amok! (April Moon Books), In Creeps The Night (J.A.Mes Press), State of Horror: Illinois (Charon Coin Press), Steampunk Cthulhu (Chaosium), Tales of the Dark Arts (Hazardous Press) and Cosmic Horror (Dark Hall Press), as well as in Sorcery & Sanctity: A Homage to Arthur Machen (Hieroglyphics Press), All Hallow’s Evil and Undead of Winter (both Mystery & Horror LLC) and Fossil Lake (Sabledrake Enterprises), and in addition, has a novella available in paperback and on the Kindle, The Yellow House (Dynatox Ministries).

DJ Tyrer’s website is at http://djtyrer.blogspot.co.uk/

The Atlantean Publishing website is at http://atlanteanpublishing.blogspot.co.uk/

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The Memory Rock by Geoff Nelder

Mar 06 2016 Published by under The WiFiles

 

Teresa shouldn’t have left at lunchtime—against the rules, but girls need something the arbiters of school rules didn’t take into account, and the corner shop sold that essential drug, chocolate. She should’ve headed in the opposite direction really, to avoid storekeeper, Mr Pervy-Pimpled-Prost but she’d miss Physics. She arrived at the shop and wavered, leaning against the doorframe, afraid to allow the dangly doorbell announce her presence so he’d ogle her alabaster white legs.

May came out laughing. “He isn’t here, gone to his other shop in Kinnerton. Here, I’ve got your seventy-percent, dark. You and your addiction owe me, let’s see you smile.”

*** 

Teresa turned to the vibrating, rain-splattered window to hide her smile and savouring the last square of chocolate. It was July so the rain was warm, yes? The double-decker bus lurched to the left as the driver rushed a tight roundabout, eager to deliver and be rid of his cargo of chewing gum-flavoured school kids. She’d climbed the swaying stairs of the overfull bus hoping to sit by her new squeeze, Finn. Except he wasn’t there. He’d have known better, and so should she, than to share his journey home with an immature bunch of snots from Dodleston.

A familiar voice startled her from behind. “Hey, Tess, he won’t be here. He got himself excluded from school this morning, the twat.”

“Eh?” She plunged her hand into her schoolbag, shoving aside an Advanced Level textbook on Earth Sciences then stopped, gasped and turned to May, her friend since birth. “My phone was confiscated in assembly and I forgot to collect it.”

May laughed making her marmalade hair bounce as she changed seats, pushing a couple of little year sevens out of the way. “Use mine. Bet he’s in the Red Lion.”

Teresa jabbed at the phone but the cacophony of immature voices made it impossible to hear his hardman act, although she suspected it was a, ‘Hey, May, darling’.

“I’ll have to text him, he thinks it’s you.”

May blushed.

“What? Are you cheating on me?” Teresa’s thumb blurred as she asked Finn his location and got nada in return. She looked up again at May, who’d deflected the question. She dropped the phone while giving it back as the bus braked sharply making everyone grab something, someone.

As she retrieved her phone, May said, “He got caught with vodka. You know, for tonight’s party. The shopkeeper saw it on the cam and told old Barney, who… well, like last time.”

Teresa hated the bus. A travelling virus factory, though the antics of the younger pupils made her laugh. She should speed up getting her licence. Several sixth-formers who lived out in Dodleston and the farms would help with petrol. She looked out at the suburbs of Chester, as a few pupils tumbled out of the door. Their green shirts flapping in the June post-shower sunshine and their legs already going like egg-beaters to get to a snack shop.

“Hey, Tess, what’s that in the sky?”

A dirty, smudgy line grew from behind the bus, overtook it and headed southwest.

Teresa muttered, “That’s not an aeroplane.”

May tilted her head then pressed it to the glass. “Is that rumbling noise coming from it?”

Nerdy Podge had just laboured up the stairs and stumbled to the large curved front windscreen. His voice quivered with exuberance. “It’s a meteor, on its way to becoming a meteorite.”

Many of the kids, now silent, ran to the front to watch, fascinated, but some in horror.

“We’re gonna die when that hits!”

“Someone tell the driver to turn round!”

“Don’t they just burn up in the sky?”

“They explode like nuclear bombs.”

“Ya not sposed to look at them. Makes ya blind.”

“Is that heading for Kinnerton?”

“No, Dodleston. My house. Fuck.”

Teresa stared at the descending trail. They all had homes out there. Cold sweat dribbled between her shoulder blades, while a hot tear rolled down her cheek.

Five kids at the front window elbowed and pushed to get to the top of the stairs and clambered down shouting at the driver to stop. He ignored them. He had a job to do.

She stared at the long line of cloud being made by the meteor, swirling round like the eddies when she paddled a canoe. Dodleston was just four miles away. She saw the line meet the horizon.

Instinctively, her eyelids snapped shut with the dazzling white light.

Next to her, May screamed as the front windscreen blew in, luckily in millions of tiny cubes. Teresa had seen enough nuclear-war films to know the blast was followed by a wave of searing heat and ear-splitting noise.

Teresa gripped the top of the seat in front as the bus swung to the left and swayed, tilted. She couldn’t tell which screams came from the bus, kids, acoustic shock or her. Her eyes now wide open. Her grip slipped. Needed to get May away from her window because it would smash in the fall. She’d be cut, or crushed. They couldn’t get away from it. Falling. Need anti-gravity—how did she have time to think of that? Better climb up the seat. Ah, no need. Bus has stopped tilting. A house got in the way.

Had the bus been blown over by an airburst from the meteorite or was it just careless driving, an overreaction? Too many kids bustling for the stairs, so she and May headed for the emergency exit window at the rear. Then she saw the trees and walls strewn drunkenly over the road. Bloodied people slowly scrambled to their feet.

Teresa and May heaved against the emergency bar and the window reluctantly swung open allowing them to disembark, precariously, lowering themselves to the tarmac. It had stopped raining, thank God.

Teresa jabbed at May’s pink phone to see if Finn was okay.

“He’s not picking up. What d’you think, May?”

“We should go back to school, it’s not far and—”

Teresa gave back the phone and looked south in the direction of a growing dark mushroom cloud. “We must go there, home. Walk, run if we have to.”

She jogged past the bus, followed by a reluctant May, and through the melee of pupils some of whom were crying, others heading for home in her direction but most milled around as if waiting for instructions.

A car horn startled Teresa, but instead of moving off the road and onto the pavement, she turned and held out her arms to force the rusty red Ford Fiesta to stop. Assuming it would.

It did, and Teresa saw the driver grinning. Finn, Year 13, lover, ex, maybe.

“We need a lift, Finn. Dodleston, now.”

He draped a pale arm out of the car. “It’ll cost you.”

 

“Whatever.” Should she sit in the front? A glance at the no-eye-contact May, said yes. Fuck ’em.

***

A mile from Dodleston they had to pull up. A snot-coloured furniture lorry languished on its side across the road, one of its wheels rotating.

Teresa gripped Finn’s skinny arm. “Can we get around it?”

“You’re kidding, I’m not taking my car through muddy fields.”

“And,” May said, “we’ve got to help that driver. I saw him move!” She got out of the car and ran over.

“Like there’s not hundreds worse off just up the road. I’ll walk. Phew, it smells of fireworks out here—cordite and ozone?”

She inched past the lorry. Some trees were down, and pointed away from Dodleston, at her. She couldn’t swallow as her mouth dried. She realised the dark clouds were not rain clouds—entirely—but smoke defeating gravity, from a bonfire a mile wide. Then came a drizzle of smuts, smudgy precipitation. From where they were, near the fishing pond, she’d normally see the church tower and the top of the redbrick primary school but it was too hazy to see anything.

Her house was alongside the school. She started to run but stopped to listen. A low ho-hum of traffic on nearby roads. Did they know of the disaster? Maybe some of it was the emergency services, she could hear sirens way off in the distance. Some of it from behind her. She must get to what’s left of her house and family before police-stop-tape and soldiers block her path.

People staggered out of the fog of raining dust. Was one Phoebe, her little sister? Grief they were all khaki and grey head to toe. Dust? At least their eyes were white, shocked open. There she was, dragging her school bag behind her.

“Phoebe, let me hug you.” Ignoring the dust, Teresa embraced her sister, who stood limply, unresponsive in her arms.  “You’re traumatised aren’t you? What about mum? Have you seen her?”

No answer.

“Of course not, or you’d be with her. Ah, your teacher’s here. Miss Anderson? Is there a crater? How much of the village was destroyed?”

The willowy woman’s blue eyes stared out of her grey head. At least her hair precipitated dust in a gentle fall revealing the blonde beneath. Others from the village stopped too, none talked.

“Are you all in shock? Phoebe, Miss Anderson, say something.”

The teacher finally refocused on Teresa. “Confused. Don’t know who you are. Who I am.”

Teresa walked up to embrace her former teacher. She nearly un-hugged when her nose filled with the burnt dust odour, but she continued. “It’ll be shock. I assume the school wasn’t hit then. I see other pupils. Did the meteorite land on the other side of the village? Surprised anyone survived. Pleased, of course.”

“What meteorite?”

“Ah, you mightn’t have seen it being inside the school. One struck somewhere around here. Look at all the damage.”

“What school?”

Teresa let the teacher go, brushed dust off her white T-shirt leaving ochre streaks. She’d need to use Stain Devil on that in the wash. She kneeled in front of Phoebe and hugged her.

“What do you remember, kiddo?”

“Noth … nothing.” Tears streaked through the dust on her cheeks.

Finn came up behind her. “Always thought Dodleston was the land of the living dead.”

Teresa hit his arm. “Finn, I’m staying with this lot at least till the emergency services arrive. Will you go ahead and see if there’s a crater or anything? Perhaps the rock exploded in the air so there might not be one.”

“Yeah, I’ll be the trail-blazer.” He ran on ahead through the dozen survivors, his red shirt and blue jeans blurring into the dust mist.

A few minutes later she saw him wandering back. “What did you see, Finn?”

He stumbled past her, making her grab and pull him round. “Finn?”

His forehead sported worry lines like an accordion. He trembled. “Who are you?

What d’you want?”

“You just went into the village to see… what did you see?”

“What village?”

Paramedics were leading the confused amnesiacs to waiting ambulances. Teresa was grabbed by the elbow by a policewoman and tugged.

“No, officer, I’ve just arrived to check on my family, but my friend here…”

“We’ll take him too. Do you want to come or can you look after these older folk until more ambulances arrive?”

The dust was thinning over the village. Teresa could see ruined buildings now, but no more people coming out. “Are there emergency services on the other side and on the road from Gorstella?”

The brunette policewoman looked back as if checking she won’t be overheard by colleagues. “There was, but we’ve lost contact with them. They’d reported going to the rim of a crater where the Red Lion used to be…”

A paramedic motorbike growled past them towards Dodleston. Both the policewoman and Teresa shouted at him to stop but he couldn’t hear because of the newly arrived helicopter overhead. Any lower and it would make the dust worse.

A red glow brightened from the motorcycle’s brake light then a thud.

Teresa took a step towards the crashed paramedic, eager to help but also curious in spite of the worry knot in her stomach.

“No, you might lose your memory too,” the police officer said. “I’ll go up to that crumpled phone box and yell at him.”

May had come up behind and pulled her backwards. “Come right back, Tess, I’ve seen footage from that news helicopter. It’s too dangerous here. Come on!”

Reluctant to move, Teresa changed her mind when she saw the policewoman holding her head as if it was about to burst. She shivered—it could have been her. “Where did you see it?”

“There’s a BBC TV van, look for yourself.”

***

At last, she saw the crater even if vicariously via a helicopter and mobile screens. Centred on the edge of the village the meteorite had swallowed The Red Lion and the church with the rim running along the edge of the school. Trees, lampposts, walls outside the circle had fallen outwards like spokes of a wheel. Amazingly, the school remained standing as did a few other strong buildings.

May knocked heads with her. “Can’t see the rock in the middle. Too much debris fallen back onto it, I s’pose.”

“Never mind the rock, where are the people? They can’t have all been vaporised. Can they?” She was being illogical, but then it’s only human for a teen to believe they’re indestructible. Tears rolled down her cheeks.

She was dragged away by May, back to Finn’s car beyond the upset lorry and anguished crowds. She considered driving the car even without a licence but their passage back was blocked by the worried and the gawpers. Where to go? Both May and herself had homes with the last known address in a crater.

Teresa borrowed May’s phone again and jabbed at the number of a nearby aunt, but no signal. The service could be overwhelmed, underground or sideswiped by fucked up electrons. Hang on, she remembered a footpath across fields to Lower Kinnerton, then a jog up the road to the Royal Oak to her aunt’s.

***

“Ninety-eight people,” May read aloud from the Chronicle. “Ninety-eight whose memories were wiped that day and more since. A hundred missing. Even bio-hazard-suited-up scientists were helicopter winched back up as forgetful automatons with lost pasts and names.”

May threw the newspaper in the bin at the MacDonalds Amnesia Clinic. “Come on, Tess. You’ve been a patient here for ten days you must remember something.”

Teresa rubbed her forehead. “I fell over a branch.”

“Now we’re getting recall. Where was this, Kinnerton?”

“Garden. I was three. Nothing since. I’ve tried and tried.” Tears filled her eyes until they dribbled down.

May stamped a foot. “They’re moving Finn from the Eaton Amnesia Clinic to be near you. Thought maybe you’d wandered over to the crater. Maybe you thought the amnesia affect had worn off.”

“I don’t know nothing, not even you.”

Her visitor left to investigate screaming. Teresa should be upset, a wreck of tears butalthough she’s been told her mother’s died, her sister has lost her memory and her dad had flown back from his oil rig, none of it meant anything. Oh, a door bang and that girl, May, was back.

“You’re not going to believe this, Tess. The meteorite. The rock that destroyed our village. It’s left! Flew out of the crater, straight up. You know what this means don’t you? It wasn’t a rock. Some kind of alien ship. Why? Probably off course, crash-landed. Or perhaps it’s gathered all those memories to take home.”

***

Lightning crackled through Teresa’s brain.

“May, May come quick!” Where was she? Screams from the other wards. A man’s grating cough and despairing yell reached her from the next bed. She too needed to cough, and scratch down there—nooooo.

She screamed. Withdrew her now contaminated hands, up to her face, stubble. Argh!

“May, May, May!”

She appeared at her bed. “That you, Tess? In there?”

Teresa could hardly hear her friend over the shouts and cries, but May spoke again, “It’s happening to everybody. So sorry, Tess. Erm he’s back there, his hands all over your…”

“Whose body, May?”

Her so-called friend just shook her head, so the mind of Teresa made the head turn to read the name over the back of her bed. “Mr. Percival Prost.”

 

 

Bio of Geoff Nelder

Geoff Nelder is a professional liar, badass editor, and fiction competition judge. He was awarded Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society for his research into air pollution and microclimates and used his students as unpaid researchers to discover urban heat islands in Yorkshire towns and villages. He taught now-out-of-date Geography and IT to the ungrateful alive but escaped on his bike to write.

His publications include science fiction novels Exit, Pursued by Bee and the ARIA trilogy; and thrillers: Escaping Reality, and Hot Air. Many of his short stories have found homes in mags such as The Horror Zine, Ether Books, Encounters, Jimston Journal, Delivered, Screaming Dreams and many anthologies such as Monk Punk, Science Fiction Writers’ Sampler (with Gregory Benford and David Brin) and Zombified.

Website www.geoffnelder.com

 

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Kepler 186f by Jane VanCantfort

Feb 28 2016 Published by under The WiFiles

When the alarm goes off I feel like I ‘m already at work, since my team member, Bonnie, is sleeping in the bunk above mine. Our quarters are tiny, dating from when we first built the outpost, it was all bare bones in the early days; all we wanted was to build the dome so we could get out of the suits.

I still put on the coffee the minute I wake up, an old Earth habit, gulp it, put on the shoes, and run around the perimeter for 45 minutes; I’m staying off the mood drugs, and the running helps me think.

I dreamed of Earth again last night, my old standard, the field of violets in Pennsylvania, right above the elementary school, the same school where my whole family lined up for the vaccines. I can still see the field, and the flowers moving gently in the breeze, and I remember the path through the pines. Everything and everyone is gone to me now.

When I get back, Bonnie is up and not talking at first, and she’s scraped her hair back into a tight topknot. Not good signs, but I have a deal with myself; however Bonnie is acting she’ll get a “Good Morning” from me. Sometimes she’ll grunt, sometimes she’ll be talkative; sometimes she just wants to talk about work, and sometimes she gives me a glimmer of her violent childhood. She’s always been mercurial, all these years. I’ve spent more time with her than anyone.

“Good Morning!” I say, and head for the sink to brush my teeth.

“Here we are again.” Bonnie answers. Great, it’s going to be a talking day.

“At least its Friday!” I say, like I do every Friday. The old sayings are a comfort to me.

I finish my teeth and she straps on her shoes, and we walk to the canteen. We’ve started having better food, but I still go for the protein bars. The eggs from the cloned chickens taste off to me, and they’ve never gotten the flour on the muffins to be tasty. I have more coffee, and we walk to the “Farmyard”, our work detail.

Bonnie checks the daily work orders, and I go off by myself to the back quadrant, and notice one of the hens is frantically fluttering at the edge of the cage. Then I see that one of her chicks is outside of the cage, also desperate, sticking its head repeatedly through the chicken wire, while the mother is flapping her wings in frenzy.

I force myself to scoop up the tiny body, I’m still afraid of birds. It is one of the blond chicks, one of the largest of this group, and it doesn’t have the same striped markings. It seems special so I want to save it even more, and it was probably my fault that the cage was left open. I notice that my heart is beating very rapidly, and that beat is matched by the heartbeat of the tiny chicken in my hand. It is so soft, so fragile, and its head pokes up through my loose fist. Somehow I open the cage with my other hand. I just throw the chick in there, desperate to let it go, and the mother rushes over and tucks the chick under its wings. I feel a moment of triumph; I’ve saved a life! That’s what this project was all about! I had held the flutter of life itself in my hand!

That’s when I hear Mike clapping slowly. Good old Mike. So tall, so slow, so sarcastic.

“How’s it going, Mike?” He usually just plunges into whatever he wants to vent about, I half listen with one eye on the work orders, and today is no different.

“I don’t know why they think I can get all the carrots done today. It’s the same old thing, no one looks at the schedule but when I’m supposed to get off at two then they think of it.”

“Oh man, sorry Mike.” That is the conversation we’ve been having our entire work lives. Sometimes Mike is interesting, he loves to go on and on about old earth history and politics, which I don’t mind listening to; but sometimes he is just a downer.
I didn’t think my life would turn out this way. When we left, the corporation made it seem like we were adventurers, sailing off into the New World, unafraid of strange new life forms, those coiling serpents lying in the roiling sea on the old maps.

Sometime I wonder why Mike got chosen, I know it wasn’t for his work ethic. The suits wanted to protect their investment, so they had a battery of tests for the trip. Like everyone else, I saw a posting that the testing was open to everyone, and signed up for it. I was as amazed as anyone when they kept passing me on to the next level. I had never gotten the second interview in life.

The crew ended up being a mash up of breeders and science types and builders and off we went, just 30 men and 30 women. We went off with uploaded images of lovely Earth sites, like animals and cities and the wonders we left behind, and we brought a simulation of our old food with us, mostly reconstituted powder, which Bonnie says was like camping food. We had seeds and feeds and human needs; I think that was how the phrase went. We had to dig for water under the surface and process it; half of Kepler is ocean water after all.

We breeders all had a genetic component that made us eligible; our team was called “Potential Progeny”, or PP. My “mate”, Bryan, and I weren’t compatible but our gene makeup was supposed to create hardy, smart offspring, pioneer stock, ha. I guess both of us had native intelligence, though neither of us had even finished high school. He was even from the old neighborhood on earth. Bryan was at the first birth, and I remember looking into his eyes when I pushed. He was so good-looking then. What’s that old earth saying? Handsome is as handsome does. Another old phrase.

By the second birth he was flirting with the midwife, and after that he didn’t bother showing up. Now he’s gone off to the other side of the planet, the underwater side; the corporation calls it Oceanside™. I haven’t seen him in over ten Earth years; there are status reports sent to us but I never check them.

At the beginning there was a lot of visionary talk about a new Eden and the frontier and the beauty of the kibbutz model. Of course, most of us only knew of Israel, really the whole Middle East, as a pile of nuclear ash. We just wanted jobs and everything was covered.

They didn’t even want to have a bar on outpost; they thought everyone would be committed to saving humanity, ha. We’d all be loyal comrades and such, like the posters. But, someone figured out how to brew Keplershine from the compost, and so they had to rethink some things. Without the bar, I don’t know how Mike would have made it. He still liked beer thirty, regardless of the planet, and I think he still smoked; someone in hydroponics must have grown some dope. They actually had a darts tourney.

The bar helped people with the heebie jeebies have an outlet, and the serious types could always get the antidepressants. Funny, a lot of the crew of procreators were rebellious types on Earth, but they now seemed anesthetized. You just never know how it would affect people to leave their home planet. Now they do.

As one of the mothers, though, I stayed clean. Remember that old line, “I don’t care it it’s a boy or a girl, as long as its human”…well, some of us were a little worried about that. So we were given the best food and I spent a lot of time pregnant or nursing in those early years; it is kind of a blur now.

I was terrified when we arrived; all I wanted to do was watch images of Earth for the first three weeks, with a few history documentaries thrown in. I loved the film about the Pilgrims, but now they’ve deleted it from the roster; after all, no Indians were going to show up to help us; we weren’t going to discover the Kepler equivalent of turkey, cranberries, corn, or pumpkin, and feast with the aliens.

Too bad the drones never found any evidence of life. No one has left the outpost, and no one seems to want to especially the second generation. Bonnie thinks the kids are all tweaked. They put all the kids in a nursery, and “parents” could go visit but it was always supervised. I don’t know if it’s the best way to raise kids; I still see my progeny around, of course, and they always give me a big smile and act interested in me, but it isn’t the way it was on Earth.

The worst thing is the second generation can’t seem to procreate. Kepler isn’t the first priority of the powers that be anymore; we are on the back burner. And its weird, the kids don’t even want to have sex. When they post the algorithm pairings to control the gene pool, they weren’t even interested. Mike thinks is the filtered water.

In the beginning, it was an issue that it didn’t seem like home at all. I remember all the talk about the foliage; all the bright red, yellow, or orange. They said that everything that was green on Earth would be perceived on Kepler as red tones, something to do with the cones in our eyes and the radiation. Some said the foliage was actually black and white. It was all about interpretation. But we weren’t out there hiking or anything; we just saw it all in the viewfinder. It was all about the outpost, too, we had so much to do. Mostly I just see the walls of the compound.

Bonnie came sidling into the back room. One of our main occupations was bitching about the supervisor.
“Can you believe Miss I Can’t Do Anything Myself is having me clean out the pig area AGAIN?’
“I don’t mind that so much, but she never fills out the work orders they way we do. And she just can’t lay off calling the office every hour or so; I heard they asked her to quit calling so much.” And we’d be off; we could play that game for hours. We were like an old married couple at this point. And we headed back to our quarters, Bonnie talking on and on and me drifting off into a reverie.

I keep thinking about getting out a little, just a little. I’d love to even go half a mile outside of the compound. They say it isn’t safe and the fear mongering is intense. See, I starting to wonder if it would matter if I died. I gave them six healthy citizens and I’ve never been in love and I don’t value my work…. I might as well risk it all for a few minutes of life, real life, while I still have it. I want to breach the compound; I can’t stop thinking about it.

I imagine going out there, there is talk that you don’t need the helmet and all that freaking gear, and take a little stroll into those intense red trees that I can make out through the dome, even the plastic is scratched and foggy at this point. Take a little satchel of those Kepler crackers that keep me going, and wander around a little.

I have a fantasy for sure; in fact, I’ve dreamed it. I’m walking in the “woods”, but all the plants are different. I see “birds” flitting through the trees, but all the colors are different, so amazing that my dream self gasps. I saw the therapist once and told her about it, and she said I was projecting half memories of earth into my current situation, which is delusional. Whatever. In the fantasy I hear a faint crying, and I search for the source, and I finally find a creature in the undergrowth, a helpless mewling creature. I see it as clearly as I see my field of violets.

I don’t always get to this part of the dream, but sometimes I part the plants, and I see a tiny doughy humanoid, like a fetus, with arms and legs but an unformed face, the eyes are still obscured by a fleshy kind of lid, but you can see them moving. My creature is not pink or brown, like a human baby, but a kind of orange, so it could be hidden in the plants. It is waving its arms and legs and mewling and it seems so natural to pick it up and hold it to my chest, like a baby, and I lift it… And that is as far as the fantasy goes.

Sometimes I have another dream, where ethereal floating life forms are outside the compound, peering in. It is a beautiful sight, like a jellyfish suspended in the air with continually changing glowing orbs of color, the most stunning color.
“Hey, do you want to head out to the bar tonight?” Bonnie asked. “Its Friday night after all!” Somehow we had made it back to our place while I was up in my head. Bonnie rooted there her locker for a fresh shirt, and was actually putting on lip-gloss.
“Oh man, I don’t think so. I kind of have a headache.” I’d been at the bar every Friday night for years. Bonnie took off, in a huff of course, and I lay on my bunk. I covered my face with the pillow; the ambient light was always present in the compound. I could see just a sliver of light, and my eyelashes fluttering as they tried to stay open under the towel. They piped in background music at all times, and I felt like I was drifting into a dream space.

While I was under there I got a vision, of a beautiful colorful glowing oval, and in the center was a brilliant light. It looked a bit like a gorgeous earth flower, with intricate petals and the focal point a brilliant scarlet. The oval kept changing color, but was always intensely beautiful, shifting and changing. I felt a certain peace; perhaps everything would end well. I also heard a faint bell ringing, kind of like when yoga class is over, and the sound grew to a crescendo. Even though I was aware of my body on the bunk, and my eyelids fluttering under the towel, I felt myself lifting and drifting away. Somehow my lovely orb motivated me, that and the music. I felt like I was being summoned, directed somehow. I kept getting the thought that there had to be a corner of the compound that wasn’t completely rigged up; some part of the structure that I could slip through. I guess I fell asleep.

Saturday morning I decided to talk to Bonnie. A tough woman like her was just the person you needed for a mission. We had a feature in the bunkroom, where you could turn down the lighting, and turn on an effect against the wall, kind of like the planetarium I once went to on one of the of the few field trips I had in my school days on earth. A city silhouette was projected with the soft glow of twilight, a purple pink light. Imaginary buildings appeared against the while, with tiny pinpoints of lights in the windows, it was like New York City in the early evening hours. I brewed some tea, lowered the music, and woke Bonnie up.

“Want some of your favorite tea?” She groaned and pulled off her sleep mask, and groggily accepted a cup.

“How was the bar last night?”

“Pretty much the usual. Mike was pretty drunk…his team won the darts.”

“Oh nice.” A silence fell, and I decided I had to take the plunge.

“ Have you ever wanted to breach the dome, just for a little bit? See that foliage they always talked about in the beginning?”

“I don’t know. I hated moving around in that suit.”

“I’ve heard talk that you don’t really need the suit.”

“What fool said that?”

“You know Mike’s friend Donald? He says it was just a corporation thing, so we wouldn’t wander off.”

Bonnie snorted. “He’s the dude who believed in chemtrails on earth, isn’t he?”

“Yeah, but doesn’t it make sense? Remember when Valerie had a rip in her suit when we were building, and freaked out but nothing happened? Wouldn’t you love to see all those red leaves? You loved fall back on earth!”

“Not really, its pretty dry and dusty out there. Hey, do you want to check out the new movies on the roster? It’s our day off after all. We can have popcorn for breakfast!”

Our popcorn always tasted dry and stale, and we watched movies every Saturday. I kept glancing over at Bonnie, but she was already totally absorbed in the action. Another day on the outpost, weekend or not.

That night I dreamed of the orb again. It was in the center of my consciousness. The colors kept changing, sometimes a purple with a scarlet center, always shifting and moving. I had often dreamed of the orb, but suddenly it seemed to speak. I heard a voice, or perhaps it was just a thought, pressing into my mind. It seemed to be telling me where to go, and I went. I kept thinking I was sleepwalking. I crept out of our room, and walked through the corridors to the area behind hydroponics. It was dark and quiet in the corridor, and the air smelled faintly medicinal. Maybe the corporation was piping in drugs. No one was around; I could hear faint snoring but that was all. I had brought my breath mask just in case.

The corner of the compound in the back of the warehouse was open, just like the dream had shown me. I put on my breath mask, and crawled under a table. Again I heard the soft sound of the bell, and under the table I saw a tear in the plastic shield of the dome, more like a crack. I pushed against the crack, and it pushed back enough for me to squeeze through. The next layer was also cracked, a little further down. I pushed the breath mask close to my face, and pushed against the dome with all my strength. It gave, and I squeezed through and into the atmosphere. My heart was beating so rapidly I could feel it in my ears. I had never been so afraid, and yet somehow here I was, standing on this alien foundation. The air was dense and moist; I could feel it resting on my skin.

Kepler had a few moons, so there was a kind of twilight, and I could see the red foliage the drone had shown us, glowing in the distance. Suddenly I felt a calmness come over me, and my heart rate slow to a normal steady beat. I stepped on a kind of pine needle on the “ground”, and heard the faint crackling sound my shoes made. I took off the breath mask and just dropped it, and the first few breaths terrified me, but I was still standing.

I felt that the orb was with me, calming me. I thought I heard a rustling in the shrubs, and looked back at the dome once, now barely visible behind me. I used yoga breathing, and kept walking to the copse. This is what I wanted.

In the leaves, which shifted and shone in the moonlight, I heard a whimper. I crept closer, and knelt where I had heard the sound. Pushing away the leaves, I could almost make out a form, emitting a tiny sound. Something made me reach for it, it sounded so vulnerable, and I scooped it up and into my arms. I could feel something pulsing in it; it was a strangely formless thing, soft and pliable. I strained to see it, to bring it closer to my chest. I cradled it like a baby, and I felt it connect to my own heart.

I slowly stood, clutching the “baby” to my chest, and faced the dome once more. I saw the stars, just like you could on Earth, but so clear, unfiltered by the scratched plastic of the dome, and none of them familiar. The sky was alive. I stood on a planet not my own, and bent my head to a living creature, in my arms. And then the orb was all around us, lifting and pulling us in an undulating light, and I felt myself at one with the orb, and with the vast and beautiful cosmos. Home.

Bio: I got an MFA from USF, moved to the Sierra Foothills, and am a lifelong reader. I also love speculative fiction.

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Divine Trading By Russell Hemmell

Jul 26 2015 Published by under The WiFiles

“Not a good idea. These shares are going to crash today, when Wall Street warms up. As the whole stock market, just to be clear. I’d rather look at something different for real profit. Futures, I’d say. Go short on metals.”

She stared at him, bewildered. “It doesn’t make any sense. The market has been bullish for two weeks.”

“You don’t trust me yet – do you, Amanda?”

But his voice sounded amused, instead of annoyed.

“Of course I trust you. You have proved how good you are with forecasting, but…”

“But you can’t believe I’m really who I told you I am. It doesn’t matter. Now, if I may…”

He pushed her aside and started typing on the keyboard. Selling and buying orders began flashing on the screen. It had been two weeks since she had accepted the boy for an internship and she had been amazed by his prodigious intuition. While easily bored with mathematic models, he was accurate and fast whenever it came to make decisions. He had pushed her to hazardous and sometimes counter-intuitive investments without ever being wrong.

“You’re right. I can’t. I have no idea why you’re so successful, but I can’t possibly believe you are who…what you pretend to be.” She said, laughing.

He smiled, a calm smile on his young, almost childish face. “Too bad. You would become richer if you did.” He took her hands and lifted her up from the chair. “Enough of trading for today. I’m hungry, let’s go dining at The Narrow. You buy.” Jumping in excitement, he hauled her outside.

During the short walk across the Docklands riverside, she couldn’t avoid observing his younger colleague. He looked like a teenager, with his jumper, his washed-out jeans, and his invariably cheerful baby-face. She could hardly believe he had already finished college. And yet, a Wall Street seasoned executive would have not performed better than him.

They stopped in front of the restaurant, where a waitress announced they had been incredibly lucky: the place was fully booked for the night, but a reservation had just been cancelled.

“So, what do you make out of this?”

“That you’re lucky, young man. Just like she said.”

“Not lucky. Told you, I’m a god. Get used to it.”

She laughed. Boy is completely nuts. “Come on, Heavenly Lord, let’s go and dine.”

#

“Holidays? Now? You can’t be serious.”

“I’m always serious, Amanda. Ok, not always. Nonetheless it’s the right time for you to go.”

“There’s money to be made out there.”

“It will still be there when you’re back. Just a few days won’t make any difference.”

“You tell me this out of your preternatural forecasting skills?” She looked at him with a dubious stare.

“No need of them. Common sense would be good enough.” He laughed. “And you have to celebrate.

Impossible to disagree. The market had crashed exactly as the boy had predicted. And following his indications, she had made more money she could ever spend in three lifetimes. Going overseas on a warm seaside destination and pampering herself in a luxury resort seemed just fine.

“Come on. How long has it been since your last holiday? And I won’t even mention dating.”

“I don’t date.”

“Whatever.”

#

The alleys of Funchal were dark and steep, like in the ancient times when the Portuguese island was a pirate cove in the Atlantic Ocean. But the seaside was calm, windy and the eucalyptus’ smell inebriating.

Contrary to her wildest expectations, it had been her best vacation ever. She had got the time of her life, and couldn’t help but feel elated.

As his younger friend had promised, Amanda had been dating

indeed, and while she was not sure it was something that could outlast holiday romance, she didn’t care either. It had been a dream week, only spoiled by the theft of her handbag, containing her documents and a few other important items. But who minded trivial stuff? Happiness is not in details, she thought.

Amanda told her date she needed to remain alone for a moment, and went out for a stroll across the beach. She walked alone in the night, her feet in the sand, finally at peace, and that was a new sensation for her. It was maybe due to the serenity of that place, to the amazing colour of the sea, or to the quiet awareness of her success; but she felt well. Accomplished, in harmony with the universe, and for once, not alone. Just free.

She didn’t even pay attention to her difficult breathing or to the growing pain in her chest. She just experienced dizziness and vertigo overcoming her senses. She fell on the black sand, a seagull’s white wings the last image in her eyes.

#

When she woke up, Amanda found herself in a dimly lit place, plunged in a greenish fog. She lifted her head and looked around. It was not her room. She got up from what looked like a white lined bed and she saw the boy, standing right in front of her. He looked different, dressed with a worn-out cloak and winged boots.

“What are you doing here?”

“You should ask me instead what I’m doing in your life, Amanda. Why I asked to work with you. Did I have anything to learn?”

“I should have known better. Miracles don’t happen, and fairy tales even less. What do you want from me? It can’t be money, you don’t need me for that.”

He shook his blond head with a smile. “You’re wrong. Miracles do happen, it’s just that they work in a different way you people think.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Of course you don’t. You didn’t believe me when I told you who I was, why should you do it now?” He approached, and kept talking to her as he would have done with a child. “When I came to you, you had one month left to live. I made sure you got everything you’ve ever wanted, money, success, fulfilment. Peace. You had it all. Now?” He smiled. “Now it’s time to bring the curtain down. But fear not, Amanda…” He said, extending his hand to her. “I’ll accompany you.”

“Where?”

“To your resting place.”

“Are you here to kill me?” She asked. She was no longer scared, only genuinely puzzled.

“No need to. You’re already dead. I’m only here to take you to Hades.” He bent to kiss her eyes, light as the caress of the wind. “You won’t deny I have done things well though. You had great time, right?”

“Well, since you were at it, you could have avoided the stolen bag.”

He shrugged, a guilty smile on his face. “Conflict of interests. I managed as much I could.”

“Why conflict?”

“I’m the God of traders and thieves. Therefore…”

“I see. Another of your protégées. Do you also make people fall in love?

“I won’t be any good at it. And that’s somebody else’s job. Me, I am what I’ve shown you. Trading and travelling are my domains, with some penchant for nifty tricks and well-executed thefts. But I do help mortals, bringing dreams to inspire their lives. And when they’re done, I accompany their souls to the land of shadow and silence, making sure they won’t suffer.”

“That’s interesting. Actually, that’s great. Something after death is more than what I expected anyway.” She replied, taking his hand and walking with him towards a faint light in the distance. “Tell me, would I be able to trade again once there?”

“I haven’t promised you Heaven, have I?”

 

###

Biographical statement: “Russell Hemmell is a statistician and social scientist from the U.K. He’s passionate about astrophysics, SF and the science in SF. His work has appeared in Serious Wonder, PerihelionSF, Amazing Stories and elsewhere.”

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The Time House by David K Scholes

Jul 19 2015 Published by under The WiFiles

Earth
2458 AD

“We’ve been invited over to an evening meal at Dave’s place,” I said
“Who?” enquired my wife Joy.
“You know, Dave Rugendorf, Earth’s most experienced time traveller. The guy who won the Time Traveller of All Time award.”
“Oh him!” responded Joy “I’ll pass on that. I’ve heard some pretty weird stories about that house of his.”

* * *

So I went on my own. The whole country estate was a teleportation free zone so I actually had to utilise a crude disposable electro-magnetic flyer to get there. How quaint! Just as well Joy didn’t come. Anything less than instantaneous travel tended to bore her and even worse make her physically sick. Dave had apologised earlier saying that high density teleportation tended to interfere with certain operational aspects of his time house.

* * *

It was a great sprawling mansion. Out past Romsey in the English countryside. On an absolutely monstrous estate.

I heard that Dave had dedicated different rooms to different broad time periods on Earth. Past and future. And that, in many ways, the whole mansion was a monument to his extraordinary time travels. I had also heard that the rooms were very authentic for the period they represented. With 3D images captured by one or other of his prohibitively expensive time cameras. It was even rumoured that some rooms contained objects sequestered from the relevant time period if it was thought this didn’t interfere with the time flow.

With just a little bit of time travel under my own belt I was always absolutely fascinated to be in the company of a pro. Especially the ultimate pro.

It turned out to be a very cosy group. Even cosier since Joy was not the only spouse who chose not to come.

As I’m only a reporter for Time Travel magazine I had assumed the evening would be fairly low key. Yet the little group of guests also included Stewart Chapman the Emeritus Professor at the Institute of Time, Rick Alvarez Chief Investigator at the Time Authority, an alien who was vaguely introduced as a time travel expert and last but not least Garry Cartwright the Minister assisting the UK Minister for Time. A part of me wondered what I was doing in such exalted company. Another part had the feeling that the night might hold a greater significance than I had originally thought.

Before the evening meal Dave gave us a short tour, in no particular order of time, of some of the rooms dedicated to Earth’s past. I suppose this was intended as an appetiser for what lay ahead later in the evening. It was all very nice but to be honest mostly fairly tame. At least until the last two rooms Dave showed us. One room dedicated to the hey day of the Roman Empire and one to the hey day of the British Empire. They were so good that I wondered if they might be viewing portals or even actual transport portals into the past. It was really hard to tell.

“If these last two rooms are just viewing portals into those periods of time,” Investigator Alvarez whispered to me “then we would overlook it. A technical breach but that’s all. Though if it’s actually an open portal that any one walking these corridors could be swept up into the past. Well now that’s different.” I rather wondered why he had addressed me rather than the politician or even the professor.

* * *

Then we sat down to an exquisite evening meal. A Degustation with dishes ranging over huge time periods in Earth’s history. If I didn’t know better I would have thought that Dave was accessing kitchens in all of these numerous time periods. And. Lord knows, perhaps he was. Though he did have a formidable retinue of staff.

* * *

After the Degustation we took a tour of some of the “future” rooms.

The rooms representing past Earth time periods had all been fairly centrally located in Dave’s mansion but the future time period rooms were more spread out going to far reaches of the incredibly sprawling establishment.

Each successive room we were taken to moving progressively up through the well of time.

The most advanced room for Earth was for 5585 AD. We all knew why there was nothing beyond this time frame. Though of course no one actually said anything. We were all too polite. Then we were led through a succession of rooms relating to alien worlds. Each room, as far as we could tell, moving up through time. We didn’t actually go into anywhere near all the rooms. At times Dave seemed to glance at our alien companion for guidance as to whether or not to enter a particular room.

Then, finally, Dave by passed quite a number of rooms and headed towards a room that seemed to be at the very furthest extremity of his vast mansion. He was becoming progressively more animated as we approached the room.

Surprisingly the politician, the Minister Assisting the Minister for Time, Garry Cartwright was the first of us to cotton on. “I can’t go there. You must know that Rugendorf. I’m surprised that you even invited me. With that the politician took off down the labyrinthine corridor. He was out of sight even before Dave could offer to escort him back. I thought it inadvisable for him to go unescorted in a place like this. Yet his behaviour was not a surprise. From what I knew of the man he was very confident, very brash.

Investigator Alvarez also started to get agitated but Professor Chapman was positively salivating. As the most junior person present I was also the last person to catch on.

“My pride and joy,” said Dave proudly as he took us into the exceptionally large room. Confronting us, and I do mean confronting us, was the End Time Horizon. This was not just something taken by a time camera, I could just tell. We were looking straight at the real thing.

“It’s only a viewing portal,” offered Dave almost apologetically as if to dispel Alvarez’s rising concerns.
“I can see it’s only a viewing portal,” said Alvarez “otherwise we would all have crossed the End Time Horizon. It’s still not allowed. You know this. It’s not a Time Authority thing. An uptime barrier was placed on time travel by anyone of Earth and somehow you’ve gotten around it.

Dave looked at his alien companion but addressed Rick Alvarez. “We have worked out a way around that up time constraint. Something that’s technically legal. Let me explain.”

Somehow the argument spoiled the whole magnificent moment of witnessing Time’s End.

* * *

When we finally got back to the main entrance/lobby of the Time House, Garry Cartwright was nowhere to be seen and none of the staff had spotted him. More than that his big Government electro-magnetic flyer was still outside.

“Jeezus,” I heard myself say “he could have easily gotten lost, wandered into a room he shouldn’t have. Even one of the rooms that was a portal to the past or future. Even an alien future.” My mind was racing.

I was at something of a loss as to what Dave had been hoping to achieve during the evening. I suppose he wanted to impress us and get all of our seals of approval. Not so much myself but the approval of the others. . . .

Rick Alvarez started to sum it up. “I think this place probably started out okay. The concept was fine. A sprawling mansion containing rooms that very accurately replicated aspects of certain past and future time periods. Then Dave started to increase the authenticity of these rooms with 3D images from his time cameras. That’s okay as long as the time pictures were from times and places he was authorised to go. It’s probably even okay if Dave sequestered souvenirs from other time periods. Provided the souvenirs are innocuous and from sometime on Earth.”

“Yet somewhere along the line,” Professor Chapman broke in “it just got out of hand. Viewing portals and even actual portals were set up and it very much looks as if Dave has been to time periods he shouldn’t have. Lord knows what lies beyond the door in some of the alien rooms. I’m betting that some of them are beyond the up time barrier as well. All in all – I’d say that this place is no longer just a physical place as such but has become inexorably interwoven into the time stream.”

“That’s it,” said Rick Alvarez “I’m closing this place down in the morning once I’ve consulted with the Time Commissioner.”
“Can you do that?” enquired Chapman “I don’t mean do you have the authority but am just questioning whether it is physically possible to close down a place such as this has become?”

“The morning is a long time away,” was my only, rather lame, contribution to the conversation.

We looked around to confront Dave but he and the alien were gone and the staff didn’t know where.

* * *

True to his word Rick arrived with a full squad from the Time Authority early the next morning. It seemed like everyone from the Commissioner down. With Professor Chapman and I there as witnesses.

Except the house wasn’t there any more. Not so much as a trace of it. No foundations, no sewage or storm water drains, nothing.to show there had ever been a house on the site.

“You know what I think?” offered Professor Chapman. “I think this house exists in some appropriate local form in all those time periods for which their were rooms in the house/mansion here. All those other houses in those other times have just had one of their rooms permanently closed. “Of course its only a theory of mine,” he added “and as you all know I have some pretty outlandish theories.”

I didn’t hear anyone racing to disagree with him. As the foremost Earth academic authority on time travel Stewie Chapman’s “theories” tended to be better than most of his competitors facts.

We all knew we had not much chance now of ever getting Garry Cartwright back. We knew that the Minister for Time would be looking for a new Minister Assisting him. Lord only knows where that brash and arrogant but unfortunate politician ended up. Still wherever that was perhaps he learned something from his experience.

 

Bio

In the 7 years I have been writing speculative fiction I have written over 140 speculative fiction short stories.

My publications include six collections of short stories and two novellas. All of which are on Amazon. My most recent publication is “Daughter of the High Lords and other Speculative Fiction Stories.” Published in July 2014.

I have been a regular contributor for many years to both the Antipodean SF and the Beam Me Up Pod cast sites and am fast becoming a regular contributor to the Farther Stars Than These site. I have also been published on a variety of other sci-fi sites including Bewildering Stories, 365 Tomorrows, and the former Golden Visions magazine.

I have written three sci-fi series: the 12 part “Alien Hunter” series for then Golden Visions Magazine in 2011/12. The “Trathh” series for the Beam Me Up Pod Cast site in 2012/13 and the “Human Hunter” series also for the Beam Me Up site in 2014/15.

I am currently over half way through writing a new (as yet unnamed) collection of speculative fiction short stories.

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King of the Hill By Kevin Bannigan Jr.

Jul 12 2015 Published by under The WiFiles

Looking up the giant green hill, Isaac wondered why they referred to the winner as King. Today’s victor would receive no crown. Real kings were worshiped, remembered fondly by legions of people long after their reign was over.

The official standing at the hill’s base blew his whistle. “Okay gentleman, crowd around.”

Including Isaac, six men were competing today. Two of them were twins who appeared to be in their thirties. They looked identical: shaved heads, brown eyes, matching black sleeveless shirts. Great, Isaac thought. Obviously, they’d work together, then battle it out between them. At least they were skinny though. Also, there was a tall lanky man with short blonde hair who’d been chain-smoking since Isaac had arrived. Next to him was a fat kid, no older than twenty, making him the youngest participant besides Isaac. He almost felt bad for these two, who were so obviously terrified that they’d lost already. While the lanky man chain-smoked, the fat kid bit his nails nervously.

The last man was the biggest of them—physically and figuratively. A bald-headed beast, aged forty-five. Most everyone knew who Deadly Daddy was. The nickname had been given to him after the inaugural event when—without shame or a moment’s hesitation—the man threw his eighteen-year-old son down the hill en route to becoming the first ever King of the Hill. A few weeks ago Deadly Daddy announced that he’d be competing again. Since then, Allentown had been buzzing with more anticipation for this year’s event than in the past.

Despite the rigorous training Isaac had done for the past year, despite the determination he had spent just as long building up, he’d almost withdrawn from this event to come back next year. Though his father claimed he could do just that, Isaac knew his family’s poverty would likely result in their starvation long before then. More importantly, his mother was sick. The vaccine was not covered by insurance (not that they had insurance anyway). The price: ten thousand dollars. The vaccine might as well not exist.

The title of King of the Hill didn’t matter; Isaac only wanted the three-million-dollar prize.

With the six participants gathered around the official, the crowd quieted down. At the bottom of the hill, where the six hopefuls stood, was a huge rectangle of grass roughly the size of a football field. About fifty feet behind this base were the bleachers, constructed ten years ago when The King of the Hill Championship first took place and Deadly Daddy forever integrated himself into the mind of every son with a frightening father. The event’s seventy-five hundred tickets sold out in hours each year, and the pay-per view buys this year had exceeded four million households, or exactly one-twentieth of the country formerly regarded as the greatest on earth.

“Okay guys, you know why you’re here. You’re aware what you’ve signed up for.” The official turned and looked at the crowd dramatically, his voice carrying through the mic on the collar of his zebra-striped shirt.

This . . . is . . . Kiiiiiiiingggggg of the Hillllllllllllll.

The crowd stood on their feet, cheering loudly. Isaac quickly scanned the crowd but couldn’t find his father or his girlfriend Bethany, the only two people he knew who’d been brave enough to attend. Whether not finding them was or wasn’t a blessing he couldn’t decide.

The official continued: “Remember folks, there’s only two rules. First, last man standing who gets to the top wins. Second,” he paused so the crowd could chanted along, “THERE . . . ARE . . . NO. . . RULES!”

Isaac tried to feed off the crowd’s frenzy, as if their electricity was contagious.

A huge, black board standing at the top of the hill switched on. Large yellow digital numbers appeared, starting at sixty and counting down.

“Line up gentlemen!”

The six combatants stood ten feet apart, with five feet of extra space on either side of the outermost men. Despite the cool March air, Issac felt sweat trickle down his face. He was lined up in the fourth position, with Deadly Daddy on his right and Lanky on his left. He hoped to quickly eliminate Lanky, then avoid Deadly as long as possible on the seventy-foot-wide hill.

Unsurprisingly, the twins lined up next to each other in the first and second slot. Lanky’s eyes were at their left corners, watching the twins suspiciously. Random chubby kid was to the right of Deadly Daddy, looking as if he wished for a time machine to travel back and correct his prideful decision.

“Bud,” a deep voice said. Due to the crowd’s volume, Isaac couldn’t place the voice’s origin. He looked behind him, thinking the official was talking to him, but the man was turn towards the crowd, gesturing for them to stand and cheer, to which they happily obliged.

He looked to his right. The muscular man was looking straight ahead. Though his mouth didn’t move, it was him talking.

“Wanna team up?” the infamous King asked.

“Together?” Isaac asked, not realizing until after how stupid he sounded.

“That’s right. You take care of the guy on your left, I’ll dispose of this chunky kid to my right. Then we’ll eliminate the twins. After that, we’ll fight it out.”

Isaac agreed, mostly because if he didn’t Deadly would probably eliminate him first, but also because he hoped to take Deadly by surprise at some point. Of course, Deadly might—even probably would—do the same to him.

Isaac agreed, hoping he’d just secured a fifty-fifty shot at winning. Probably more like a ten-ninety chance, he thought.

When the digital clock counted down to five, the crowd started chanting in unison.

“Five!”

“Four!”

“Three!”

“Two!”

“One!”

A loud buzzer went off, and the six men scurried up the hill.

No more than ten seconds later, the game was on for real. Five feet north of the hill’s base, a white line had been chalked straight across. Once all six competitors passed it, the crowd’s volume grew with excitement.

Two large cranes, hooked on prearranged clips at the bottom of the hill, lifted the seventy-by-twenty foot square of land. Amidst an “ooh” from the crowd, the square cutout was pulled back, revealing a furiously burning fire pit. The cool air gained more than a bit of warmth from the powerful flames.

Each year, one ill-prepared competitor made the same mistake. This year, the lanky guy was guilty. With certain, terrible death so close behind, he couldn’t fight the urge to look back in horror.

Isaac was about ten feet higher than him. He took advantage. He started running downwards, picking up steam and drop kicking Lanky in the ribs. The man managed a “Hmph!” sound and immediately lost his weak grip and rolled to the death he had feared just seconds earlier. The crowd cheered louder.

At the end of the day, what this event—like everything else—came down to was money. The more entertaining the show, the more people attended and watched from home. The greater the viewership, the more profit to be made from advertisements. Isaac himself, in addition to the shirt, was sporting a pair of free shoes dedicated to a basketball star named Lebron, who himself had been something of a “king” a century earlier. They’d come in the mail last week, with a thousand-dollar check and a card wishing him luck.

As Lanky’s body disappeared into the fire pit, motion sensors detected his body and blue-colored flames spouted fifty feet high.

The crowd erupted, satisfied that they hadn’t had to wait long to see the day’s first elimination. Certainly the sponsoring shoe company just solidified an upswing in sales.

“And a man goes down!” The official’s voice pointed out. “We’re down to five!”

After the dropkick Isaac hit the ground hard, landing on his left hip. He momentarily rolled down but caught himself on a root that had burrowed under ground from a tree that no longer lived here. The crowd applauded his athleticism, and, despite their sadistic nature, his confidence rose.

After straightening himself out, he looked to his right. The chubby kid was face down, curled up in a ball. Over the roaring crowd, Isaac could just barely hear him begging Deadly to stop.

“Go home! Wanna go home! Please!”

A queasy feeling rushed into his stomach when he saw Deadly smiling with enjoyment. The former King’s fists were pounding mercilessly into Chubby’s exposed back and spine.

Deadly stood, looked out to the bleachers, and flexed his biceps, much to the crowd’s delight. Turning his back to the audience, he lifted the overweight boy, curled him once or twice, then fell backwards while hurling Chubby down the hill with minimal effort.

Like a bowling ball dropping down behind the pins, Chubby’s body dissapeared into the pit.

Isaac still lay there grasping the root. As mesmerized as the crowd by the action, he lost focus. Suddenly he realized he’d forgotten about the twins.

As if reading his thoughts, matching boots stomped down on each of his outstretched hands. Somehow they’d been agile enough to scale high out of sight, move to the right, and climb back down to where Isaac lay.

To help maintain his position, Isaac dug his fingers into the dirt beneath him. While it helped him remain steady, his hands were now in claw-like formations. The twin on his left stomped down on his raised, bent fingers. The impact was much worse than before. Isaac yelped with pain.

To make matters worse, the official had given instructions for the hill to be tilted up slightly, making it tougher to climb. The crowd voiced its pleasure.

He might have given up then had he not heard Deadly’s voice. “Hang on, I’m coming for ya! Don’t let go!”

The twin on Isaac’s right turned his attention to the former champ. The left-side twin stomped again. Isaac knew he wouldn’t last much longer.

He glanced to his right. Fifteen feet away, Deadly and the first twin weren’t quite going at it. Instead, they were circling each other like boxers in the opening round, trying to feel each other out.

Isaac turned his attention back to the twin in front of him. Just in the nick of time, he saw a booted foot about to crash down. Thinking quickly, he used his undamaged right hand to snatch his opponents ankle before impact. The move saved his fingers from being completely smashed, but the force of his pull caused the twin to fall backwards with both legs extended. Instead of his hand, the twin’s boot smashed into Isaac’s face, sending his outstretched body sliding down the hill. With the likelihood of death high, Isaac didn’t see nor feel the blood pouring from his broken nose. He fought the dazed feeling trying to overcome him.

His best move—his only move—was a desperate one. If I’m going, your going too, he thought. His grip tightened on the ankle as they slid toward the fire pit. On his back, the twin had no choice but to slide down with him, despite the frantic kicks of his left leg directed at Isaac’s bloody face.

Ten feet from the fire pit.

Still sliding.

Five feet.

“I love you ma!” Isaac yelled, hoping his cancer-ridden mother (who couldn’t bear to watch) would see the dramatic moments on a later news broadcast.

Just as Isaac’s ankles lost solid ground beneath him, his body stopped sliding. The flames were far below his dangling feet, but hot enough for his legs to feel the blast of heat. He heard the crowd gasping, realized he was still alive, and looked up.

The twin’s body was twisted into a painful-looking position, but he’d managed to grasp the edge of a rock that protruded from the hill. His shaky fingers barely held the weight of himself plus Isaac. The twin’s fingers slipped inch by inch as if in slow motion.

With a deep breath, Isaac tugged the twin’s ankle as hard as he could while simultaneously rolling to his right.

The twin lost his grip. Isaac saw a look of terror in his eyes and heard a scream as the man slid passed him, trying and missing a desperate grab at Isaac’s leg. Into the pit he fell, his screams vanishing seconds later.

Knowing the theatrical blue flames were about to burst, Isaac stood halfway up and lunged forward as far as he could, which turned out to be maybe three feet. He just barely cleared—or at least delayed—a terrible death via fire. The heat of the flames reached his whole body and for a moment Isaac felt as if he had fallen into the pit. A few seconds the flames settled.

No sooner had the blue flames disappeared then he heard Deadly yell: “Watch it!”

Looking up, Isaac saw the second twin’s body, limp and most likely dead, rolling straight for him. He was reverse tumbling down the hill, like an actor falling backwards down a flight of stairs in a comedy movie.

Isaac’s quick-thinking brain and cat-like reflexes spared his life. Rather than lunge forward, he jumped straight up. The body rolled beneath him and he landed crouched down like a catcher in baseball. The delighted crowd cheered his agility.

Exhausted, he wanted nothing more than to rest, take a nap. But he had no wish to feel the heat of flames a second time. While the burns wouldn’t do any lasting damage, the rise in temperature was extremely uncomfortable. He sped forward as if imitating a cheetah, and made it far enough up the hill to only feel a mildly-warm sensation.

After the last few minutes of action, Isaac looked up and saw Deadly Daddy about fifty feet above him, unmoving, smoking a cigarette (which the crowd found highly amusing), staring down at him. Grateful for the opportunity to rest, Isaac closed his eyes and tried to catch his breath.

Then it hit him. Why the hell had Deadly warned him of the oncoming body? Sure, they’d agreed to work cohesively until the final two, but given the same chance he’d have kept his mouth shut watched the dead twin’s lifeless body barrel into Deadly, sending them both over the edge while he ran straight to the top and collected his check. Maybe the guy just wanted a good old-fashioned fight? The suspicion fit him, but Isaac wasn’t buying it.

Deadly waited patiently while Isaac cautiously made his way up the hill. It didn’t help that the official ordered the hill tilted again. It caused Isaac to lose both his footing and twenty feet worth of ground he’d gained. With a grunt of frustration, he’d willed himself to climb back up.

Finally, Isaac approached Deadly. The former champ flicked the butt of his second cigarette down the hill, then jumped towards Isaac so fast that all he could do was ball up in a fetal position like Chubby had earlier. Recalling how terribly that had turned out for him, Isaac tried to stand up before the beating began.

A large hand grabbed the back of his neck and shoved his face into the dirt. Unlike before, this impact made him fully aware of his broken nose, and he let out as much of a strangled cry as was possible.

“Stay down!” Deadly commanded. The way he said—under his breath yet with command—sounded conspiratorial to Isaac. Unless he was hallucinating—which was definitely a possibility—Deadly had told him to stay down for his own good, like a father teaching his son a necessary lesson.

As soon as the man climbed onto Isaac’s back, fists of thunder began to rain down. Isaac must have been imagining things, because he physically felt his skull being smashed to a pulp before he realized Deadly’s fists were barely making contact. When they did connect it was with a loose, open fist.

Isaac felt Deadly clamp his arms around his neck. That’s when he whispered into his ear.

“Listen kid, you’re mother is a fantastic woman. We knew each other a long time ago. Grew up together.”

Isaac felt for a second that he was dreaming, that none of this was happening. He’d wake up soon and have to go to the hill to compete.

Deadly must have sensed his mind slipping, because he gave Isaac’s face a hard slap to help snap him back into focus. Though it stung like hell, it worked. And the crowd certainly appreciated it.

“Let’s just say that she did me a favor once, a favor I promised I would never forget. To myself, I swore if there was ever a way I could pay it back, I would.”

Isaac, both baffled and exhausted, barely managed to say, “Wha . . . wha . . . ?”

Deadly, still softly choking him, chuckled. “I don’t exactly have the time to explain it kid. Listen, you get that check and you take care of her. Got it?”

Later that week, Isaac read the letter his mother received in the mail. It was from Jerry Sears, a.k.a. Deadly Daddy, confessing that he’d blown through his winnings in less than two years and had lived with nothing but a mountain of guilt since then. Everything was gone for him, and the only way to even slightly redeem himself before accepting the death he deserved, the deah he wished for, was to keep the one promise in life that he had truly meant.

“We gotta make this look good now. Throw an elbow at my face.”

Isaac wasted no time obliging. He wasn’t sure if he was supposed to actually hit him, but his elbow smacked Deadly’s face so hard it hurt his funny bone.

Deadly threw another hard punch, putting a dent in the ground inches from Isaac’s eyes. “Again!”

Isaac threw another elbow, Deadly’s grip weakened.

Suddenly the crowd went crazy. Isaac looked up and saw why. A large bulldozer sat at the top of the hill, its large blade overflowing with thousands of tiny marbles. The only man in history to attempt running straight through them and had failed miserably. The rocks were dumped. They sped toward the two remaining combatants.

“Hit me! HARD!”

Isaac threw the hardest elbow yet. He felt Deadly break free. Looking over his shoulder, he saw the man spinning around while trying to steady himself. It looked so natural Isaac wasn’t sure how much, if any of it, was an act.

Deadly’s back was to the hill when the rush of rocks swept him off his feet. Isaac dug his hands into the dirt and held on for dear life as the same load pelted him all over.

He protected his face by laying it down sideways on the ground, watching as Deadly rock-surfed on his back all the way to the fire pit, finally sliding into feet first. He didn’t screamed as his body flew over the edge.

After a moment of silence and a surge of blue flames the crowd began chanting loudly: “Isaac. Isaac. Isaac.”

With every ounce of energy drained from his body, Isaac squared his shoulders to the incline of the hill. He took a death breath. Blood poured from his nose. His eyes stung with dirt. His fingers felt arthritic, but he could see his mother’s beautiful face at the top of the hill. Slowly but surely, he started making his way there.

 

 

Bio: Kevin Bannigan Jr. is an avid reader of all things weird, wonderful, and everything in between. He enjoys the writing of Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Clive Barker, Stephen King, among many others.

He has two published stories: Dealing With the Devil appears in Voices From the Gloom, Volume 1, published by Sirens Cal Publications.

With the Wind appears in the Rejected anothology, published by ACA books.

Both books can be found on Amazon.

 

 

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