Archive for: July, 2015

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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Lullaby for the Dead by Kitty Sarkozy

Jul 05 2015 Published by under The WiFiles

“Un chocolate chaud, si vous plait,” says the woman carefully in a very overdone Pepé le Pew accent. Then in Deep Southern US she says, “I wish I could remember more French; I haven’t taken it since high school. But I am tryin’; it adds to the experience.”
She is maybe 1.5 meters tall with a pale, round face and Shirley Temple curls, dyed a strange copper color, wearing bright clothing and carrying a Hello Kitty messenger bag. I don’t know if it is the childlike way she accessorizes or her size, but it is hard to tell her age. She is at least in her late 20s, maybe a bit older. It is only 6:45 and she is almost vibrating with excitement.
She chatters about the Biodome, fashion, and food in short excited sentences while I get her drink. Normally someone this perky might annoy me, but today I am happy to have her here. Everything is so quiet. I hate opening Second Cup on the weekend. Right under Le Reine Elizabeth and so close to the commuter train station, this place is a madhouse on weekdays at this time. But this early on a Saturday, and it’s dead.
Most of the businesses aren’t even open yet and won’t be for hours. The tunnels, normally so bright, are dark and shadowy. I wish we didn’t go for a cozy book shop atmosphere and instead had bright lights. My customer is a human strobe light, which helps.
She sits down at a table with her drink and starts writing in a notebook. I go back to the busy work of a barista: putting cookies in the oven and making a pitcher of iced coffee. I fill up the ice bin under the soda fountain and walk around the seating area, dusting and restocking.
The woman writes and chews on her pen in turn. I wonder what she is writing: a journal, a story, a list of things to do in the exotic city of Montréal? I think about asking, but she has such an intense look on her little Cabbage Patch Kid face that I don’t want to disturb her.
She leaves off to some grand adventure while I was getting a few bottles of flavored syrup from the back. Even though I hadn’t been talking to her, having another person here broke the tension. With her gone I feel alone and jumpy with an electric tingle to my skin. I also feel silly, because I am not alone. If I stick my head out the door, I can see the light from Tim Horton’s spilling onto the walkway. Amélie is working this morning; we came together.
When I was little, the underground scared me. We didn’t come here often, but when we did I would sometimes cry. My father said it was all perfectly safe and tried to distract me with all the people, shops, and the fun of being on a train. But that just made it worse somehow. I remember telling him that the only people who belong in the ground are the dead, and even they don’t like it. He laughed at that.
The other morning shift barista should have arrived thirty minutes ago. It ‘s not uncommon for people to be a little late after being out partying, but thirty minutes was excessive. I check the schedule. Kevin was supposed to be in. Grrr… freaky emo Kevin is not likely to make being underground more cheery. He is like a barely animated corpse himself.
A little after 7:00, Kevin sidles in. His clothes are rumpled and he is still wearing last night’s eyeliner. He stinks of smoke, cloves, and sweat. I guess he didn’t have time to shower. He leans against the wall drinking espresso for a few minutes, before acknowledging me or putting on an apron. With him finally ready to do what passes for work I get a latté and walk down to see Amélie.
Horton’s isn’t busy either, but they are doing better than us. An elderly couple sits reading the paper together and eating bagels. A young guy with headphones sips coffee, rocking to the music. Amélie is behind the counter, facing away from the door. My heart flutters.
I know, I know. It’s cheesy as hell. I just saw her two hours ago. She spent the night at my place. I spent the whole day with her yesterday. Yet I go all weak in the knees.
Her black hair, pulled back with a scrunchie, hangs almost to her waist. It is mostly straight, with the slightest hint of curl near the end. It would be wavy if she cut it, but I would be heartbroken. Her hair is so soft and smells faintly of apples. The smell lingers on my pillow for a day or two after she sleeps over at my dorm. I wish I could wake up with my face pressed against her hair every day, but she refuses to get an apartment with me. She doesn’t want to rock the boat with her parents. I understand; children learn to creep ‘ere they can learn to go. But I don’t like it. Amélie is just about perfect; to think that her own parents might judge her because of us makes me sad and angry. But her relationship with them is her business. I stay out of it.
“Amé,” I call. She turns towards me and smiles. She has the cutest smile; her canines are tiny and stick out a bit. I think it makes her look a little like a kitten. Her eyes are big and nearly black; her skin is naturally tan, even though she spends very little time outside.
“Matty, hi! You getting any business over there?” she asks in her rich Québec City accent. Hers is the sort of voice that sounds good speaking French; the little lady from earlier should learn how to ask for hot chocolate from Amélie.
“Not really, just a few people so far. Kevin can handle it for a few minutes,” I say.
“Good, I could use the company,” she says.
I order a bagel with cream cheese and sit down at the counter. We make small talk. I want to reach out and hold her hand, but she does not like public displays of affection, especially at work. She just doesn’t want to deal with the stigma. I try not to take it personally. But sometimes when I am feeling insecure, I wonder which part of me she is ashamed of: the lesbian, the Haitian, or the musician? My mother says you can’t mold other people like clay, you just have to take them the shape they are. Best to be happy with Amélie the way she is now, because I can’t push her to be anything she is not ready to be. Someday she will come out about who she is and start living her life a little louder, but today is not that day.
We talk for a while until Horton’s gets a few more customers. A few more customers makes Second Cup less gloomy. Around 11:00, Amélie comes in and works on homework until I get off at 12:15, 45 minutes later than I was scheduled.
We walk over to the food court in Place Ville Marie for lunch. I get a turkey sandwich and she gets some sort of Asian noodle bowl that smells of onions and ginger. I’m a picky eater, but she eats everything and loves trying new foods. She likes me to try new foods too, but thankfully she does not ask me to try this dish. It’s hard enough to eat my own lunch. I feel a bit nauseated and on edge. My skin feels tingly, alternating hot to cold, like the flu but not. It hope it is just nerves over the concert tonight; I don’t have time to get sick.
We head up to the surface, parting ways at the McGill campus. She goes to the library and I go to Schulich to practice. McGill has concerts all the time, but this is a big one for me. Until this year I have always played in orchestra or done little solo recitals, so being the only cello in a small group is hard. If I make a mistake, it sort of hangs in the air and everyone notices.
I practice my part alone for a little while until the other five musicians start to show up. When the director arrives, we run through the pieces a few times. The first time he yells and throws an eraser at us. The second time he walks out of the room for fifteen minutes. And the third time he says it is as good as we will get. I have worked with this director and others like him before; they get themselves way too worked up before the performance and are walking on a cloud once it is over. He is showering us with chalk dust now, but in a few hours he will be showering us with praise.
At 18:00 we go on stage and run though everything once before the doors open. Soon I hear people on the other side of the curtain. When it goes up I feel like I’m going to vomit. Amélie is sitting in the front row; she gives me thumbs up and a smile. I try to smile back, but probably grimace. The director’s hands go up, and I take a deep breath.
Once we are playing, the hard part is over. I can’t worry and play at the same time. The worry takes wing and flies into the rafters with the first notes. There is nothing to do but fall into the music. Maybe it is the acoustics, or that everyone tries so hard when people are watching, but we sound good; really good. This is better than any run though; the concert always is. Time goes by faster than it has all day. It feels like only a few minutes before we are standing up and taking our bows.
A small reception follows; a few snacks and punch. My mother is near the door when I walk in. She pulls me into a hug and tells me I did a great job. Amélie runs up, kissing me on the cheek, taking my hand in hers right there in front of everyone. Mama smiles and gives me a little wink. I’m on top the world. The concert was great. Amélie is behaving like a girlfriend in public. I guess it is true, the ladies do love musicians.
People don’t mingle long. The three of us gather up our stuff and head down to McGill station. Mama and Amélie are chatting with each other. I don’t have much to say; the post-concert high has worn off and all I want is to go to sleep.
The station isn’t busy. I lean against my cello case and watch my two favorite women talk. My eyes glaze over and I sort of zone out. My eyes are still open, but the fog of dreams falls over me, like it does sometimes right before I fall asleep. I can’t move, but I’m aware. I hear Mama and Amélie. I hear voices in my head; screaming, crying voices. They call out for anyone who can hear them. I reach for them, wanting to ease their pain.
I’m cold. The wall behind me feels like ice. Everything seems to be closing in, weighing me down. My hands slip off the cello case and it falls to the ground; my knees buckle right after, and I join it.
“Matty…,” says Amélie, turning to me and kneeling at my head, her warm hand on my forehead. “What happened, are you ok?” she asks.
I try to answer, but no sounds come out of my open mouth.
My mother joins Amélie, taking my hand in hers. “Matty, baby, Mathania…can you hear me?”
I can. I hear everything. I hear more than everything. I hear the voices of many people, close and getting closer. I feel them, freezing cold, scared, and confused. I am with Amélie and my mother on the platform, but I am someplace else too. Walking in darkness, searching for light and heat. I am hungry, very hungry. Amélie’s hands are burning hot, so are Mama’s. Deliciously hot while I’m freezing. I want to take their heat inside me. More than I have ever wanted anything before.
I begin to shake. I can’t help it; it is like every part of my body is cramping up… It hurts; cold shocks of pain rack me.
Mama’s eyes are wide, the whites showing all around. She is crying, gripping my hand hard. “No, Matty, no, no, no. Not you, no Matty. This can’t happen, no Matty, NO!”
I hear screams in my mind and with my ears too. The people on the platform are screaming and then running. At first I’m confused. Are they screaming because of me and my fit? I feel the cold coming closer. Amélie turns her head, and then her whole body towards the screams, and as she turns I see around her. I see what everyone is running from.
Out of the dark of the tunnel they come. They were once people, but now they are rotting, moldy creatures. They lurch towards us, towards all the warm bodies. I feel their need, their hunger. They want to touch life, to be alive. They want to take the warmth inside them and feed on the living. I feel hungry and cold too, I want what they want.
I find my voice and scream. I pull my hand from Mama and flinch away from Amélie. I was thinking of my loved ones as food, hot meat. I feel sick. I can’t allow myself to touch them. I sit up, scooting away from them and the monsters. But my mother grabs my arm with one hand, and turns my face towards hers with strong fingers. She forces me to look into her to wide eyes.
“Matty, listen to me. Listen. I am so sorry, but you have to stop this,” Mama says.
“What?” I say.
“I’m sorry baby, but you are the only one who can make them go back to sleep. I don’t know why they’re awake. I don’t know how to stop them. But you do; you have to know,” she said, her voice shaking.
“I don’t understand. Mama. What are they? I don’t know what to do,” I say, sounding like a frightened child. I just want Mama to hold me and make the bad dream go away. I want Papa. All of a sudden I miss him so much. If he was here, he could fix this. But he has been gone many years.
“You do know; it is inside you. I should have told you, I should have told you. I’m so sorry.”
I can’t deal with this. I don’t know what she is talking about. She must be in shock or something. She’s just freaking out. I have to get her out of here. I stand up, grasping Mama’s wrist, ready to run and pull her away. Then I see Amélie hasn’t left.
She has pushed herself against the wall, frozen in fear. A soft, wheezing scream comes from her; her eyes are fixed on the shambling, rotting people. The ones who still have eyes are staring at her. They are coming. They want her as much as I do. Thoughts of Amélie rush to the front of my mind, unbidden. Her soft lips on mine. Her smooth skin under my callused fingers, her hot breath on my neck, the taste of her flesh. And then I want more from her; I want to taste her blood. I want to sink my teeth into her. I imagine how alive she must taste.
And then I understand.
These creatures are hungry not for flesh, it is life they crave. They’re not evil; they don’t want to hurt anyone. They are beyond such emotions as greed, anger, or sadism. They are confused; feeling the warmth of the living and remembering their own lives. They want to feel the warmth again and feel hot blood inside them; they want their cold, rotten hearts to beat. Like a ghastly sunflower they move towards the light. In this case, the light is Amélie. It is my fault. They feel my need for her; they remember the heat of desire.
They are getting closer. I can’t run; I can’t leave Amélie.
I let go of Mama’s hand and I stand in front of Amélie, careful not to touch her.
I look at these poor people. Even as they want to eat my girlfriend, I know they aren’t monsters. They are scared people who should be resting. Who should be free of need and hunger forever. I think of the stories my father and grandmother used to tell me. A bokor has done this. A person has used magic, a power that until today I had thought was a folktale, to rip these poor souls from their sleep. He has sent them back into the world of the living, where they have no business being. Why would anyone do this? What is the purpose of this dark magic?
I’m angry. My anger warms me. I’m not as cold, not so hungry. I feel protective over them. I want their pain to stop. They shouldn’t be cold or hungry anymore. I don’t want them to be scared. I know they think feeding on life will end their pain, but it won’t . They can touch life, they can remember life, but no matter how much blood or flesh they eat, they can never be alive. As long as they are walking around they will never stop yearning or hurting. They can never be satiated.
I want to hurt the sick son of a bitch who did this to them. Right now I need to help them sleep and protect the woman I love.
Instead of thinking about the feel and taste of Amélie, I think about my emotions when I am around her. The calm of waking up to the apple scent of her hair. The butterflies in my stomach when she smiles at me. The joy I feel at the musical sound of her laughter.
The zombies stop walking, looking at me. They feel my calm, my joy. My emotions feed them more than flesh ever could, but I know I can’t do this for long. They need to sleep, but I don’t know how to make that happen.
I feel a hand on my shoulder and my mother whispers in my ear, “Sing to them, Matty. They are tired. Sing them to sleep.”
I do. I start to hum “Dodo titit” softly because it is the first thing that comes to mind. I realize given the circumstance, a song about being eaten is in poor taste, but it’s too late to change songs now. Anyway the morbid little lullaby always calmed me as a child.
I sing the words, mama sings with me.
Dodo, ti titit manman’l
Dodo, ti titit papa’l
Si li pa dodo, krab la va manjé’l
Si li pa dodo, krab la va manjé’l
Just like at the concert, I melt into the music until singing this song is the only thing that matters. All of their focus is now on me. It’s strange, sensing myself through them. As I sing, the zombies fall to the ground one by one, gruesome abandoned dolls instead of people. I no longer feel them in my mind.
I turn away from them to Amélie. She’s no longer frozen in terror, but eyes shine with tears and her face is strained with fear. She hugs me and whispers, “I love you, Matty.” All the missing warmth from my blood returns with those words, which she has never said to me before.
The emergency responders arrive. In the panic some people were hurt but nothing life-threatening. The police herd everyone out, crisscrossing yellow tape over the entrance. Mama leads me and Amélie away before anyone can ask us what happened. We get a cab back to Saint-Michel with Mama.
Mama makes us tea with calming herbs. When I ask her to explain what happened, all she says is “Tomorrow, tomorrow; it is too much for tonight, you need to rest”. Honestly I am not sure I even want to know what happened, so I don’t argue.

***
Kitty Sarkozy is a speculative fiction writer and homesteader living in Atlanta, GA. She has a rather unspecific set of not very useful skills, a plethora of hobbies, and too many pets. When not writing, she achieves a small income as a background actor and petty thief. You can follow her adventures at kittysarkozy.com. If you have time to kill and don’t mind watching movies frame by frame, you might be able to see her in the upcoming movies “Ant Man”, “Vacation” and “5th Wave”.

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