Archive for: July, 2017

An Overlooked Note by Dimitar Fabijanic

Jul 30 2017 Published by under The WiFiles

“I never did tell you how I lost my left hand”, ran a voice in the drab, dim lighted bar whose twilight threw an uncanny look over them all, making them appear as nothing more than immovable objects whose shadows seemed more substantial than they were. He sat at the far end of the counter, thinking and remembering something that brought him there in the first place. Yes, remembering something. For he tried to forget that something which crept craftily in his thoughts, budging his conscience, visualizing itself in his memories like a well-remembered dream he didn`t want to have. He came there with the hope that he will be heard, that he might transfer a little from his burden to the rest of them, if only in words.

“What I want to convey to you is the experience of the whole thing, the reality of it.” After he said this he exhaled a grayish smoke from his mouth while a red dot moved along with his right hand, getting ready for the next drag. He cleared his throat and looked at the cigarette.

“I will have to use the clichéd phrase about the curiosity and the cat, but in my case the curiosity killed my left hand, or rather snapped it. It is hard to think of anything else these days after that. When I try to think too hard on it I sometimes ask myself whether it was real at all. But the final verdict I come to is always ‘real’ since my left hand is gone apparently.

For few seconds he didn`t say anything, his eyes fixated beyond the windows, as if brooding upon something inexplicable, something that he began hesitating whether he should relate at all to those present in the dim bar. His eyes now moved and glanced at each of them with a monotonous expression on his face, as though looking for a final approval to begin relating his experience. His face was now half-concealed in the haze of smoke while his eyes were focused and unmoving.

“If you remember the three story house close to the town`s center, the one that recently got knocked down for the new building,” here nods were given, “well, I suppose that you remember the old recluse, Dr. Garret, who rented the whole house for many years before he died some months ago in circumstances not revealed to the public after some noisy business inside the house took place. Some said that it might have been a suicide; others said a burglary, because the old man was seen carrying a gold ring and bracelet every time he went for a walk, so someone might have thought that he had more of the stuff hidden somewhere in the house. Anyway, no one knew exactly what happened that night.

“As you know I worked for the local newspaper then, and this was a story waiting to be written. When I came that night to inquire, I was told to back off the scene. I only saw one police car, an ambulance that carried the body of Dr. Garret and some bystanders. That same night they`ve put the yellow stripes on the door and chained it. But it was easy enough to find a way in; I used the old public building next to it, because they were connected with an underground tunnel for some reason.

“After traversing the short length of the tunnel I entered the basement full of old crates on which the labels were hardly readable; the damp air in the basement was unendurable and suffocating, and in it I could smell a trace of some vague odor which reminded me of rotten plants and rotten meat.

“I entered the first floor of the house, the hall that is. It was dark; the only light was coming from the lamp-posts outside, and was not enough to enable me to see the interior. I didn`t want to turn on the lights and attract attention, so I turned on the light on my phone. The moment I turned it on I saw a door widely open. The room behind it was completely empty and spread on the floor and walls there was something like slime mixed with soil. I then turned to the closed door opposite and opened it. It was the room that preceded the library, as I later found out, with an old chest of drawers in one of the corners, and a fireplace at the wall opposing the windows; above the mantelpiece on the wall there was a recent portrait of the old man. In the middle of the room there was a circular wooden table with four chairs, and on it was a silver candelabrum caked with wax.

“There was no carpet so the footsteps on the creaking floor filled the room when I walked over to the door of the library. The walls of the library were nowhere visible, they were covered with wooden bookcases from the floor to the ceiling; only the windows were left untouched. At the far corner, near one of the bookcases, was a writing desk apparently made from the same wood as the bookcases. When I threw the light on it I saw many yellowed papers scattered on the desk, some lying on the floor, and two old books written in Latin.

“I sat on the chair and opened the drawers. All of them were empty. It started to seem to me that someone came here and in a hurry wanted to find something. I began rummaging through the scattered papers; they all seemed to be research papers of some kind or another. They ranged from biology, botany, geology, geography, chemistry and astronomy, to such obscure and discredited studies such as astrology, alchemy and the occult. On some of these papers were diagrams and illustrations, some familiar from the modern sciences, while the others incomprehensible and even eerie and hideous when I come to think of it. There was some kind of celestial map on which dots were connected to form some route that lead to what looked like to be our Solar System. I came to an old photo showing the old man, then younger, with some man that looked like a Chinese, and behind them a desert landscape filled with sand dunes. On the back of the photo was written `Taklamakan, 1971`.

“Among the papers scattered on the floor I found a torn piece of paper with a note jotted on it. It said: `about their growth, diet and cycles consult the second volume of the Hypostasis`. Suddenly there was a sound from somewhere in the house, and I hurried to take few photos from the scattered papers and the old photo. I then turned to retrace my steps and exit the house.

“I was now at the hall when I heard the sound again. I could more distinctly hear that it came from somewhere in the upper floors. Somehow I felt that I couldn`t bother less if it was someone from the authorities who would throw me out of the house; I took some photos anyway, and it was enough for few speculations. I checked the second floor only to find the two rooms empty with traces of that slime and soil mixture as in the previous room. When I got to the third floor I noticed the same vague odor from the basement, but now more penetrating to my sense of smell. What looked like the door to the attic was locked, so I turned to check the last door.

“It was different from the other doors in the house. This was made from what looked like some strong wood fortified with steel frames. There was no handle on it, but there was a rectangular spyhole in the middle of the door. This opening was wide enough for one to put his whole arm through it. I first illuminated the interior of the room; I couldn`t see anything, only damp walls and that terrible odor. If it could only come to me then to put my phone through the spyhole and take few pictures from the two other corners of the room! In the zest of it all I forgot.

“The next thing I did was to put my right arm through the spyhole and check whether there was any inner lock on the one side I could use to open the door. I couldn`t find anything of the sort. I then put my left arm only to find the other side without a lock as well.

“The second I started to pull my arm out of the hole I felt a firm grip above the elbow. It was some sort of appendage, like a thin, cold and slimy rope tightening around my arm. I tried to pull but it held it very firmly. I then heard a sound as of something crawling on the wall behind the door, something wet. A moment later I felt my arm submerged in a very warm mass of what felt like pulsating flesh. I was so bewildered that I actually didn`t panic, as if I was hypnotized in a way. The odor was now so pervasive that I felt nausea.

“I can`t remember exactly the moment when I fainted, but it was probably when I heard the sound of my hand being snapped. When I came to my senses I was lying few feet from the door, my left hand gone. Now, my first thought was that I would scream the moment I saw that my left hand was gone, but what averted this from happening was that when I looked at my arm there was no blood where the wound should be and I felt no pain; actually, there was only well healed skin, like I never had any hand in the first place.

When he finished that last sentence, he revealed his left arm under one of the bar lights above him. He caused their shadows to stir a bit when in bemusement they saw the arm; it looked like he never had any hand at all, just smooth skin at the end of it. No traces of wound whatsoever.

“It amazes me, it baffles me, and it terrifies me. It is not entirely because of the hand, but because of the whole thing. I didn`t dare to approach the door for the second time and I hurried to the hall. It all started to seem like I was in a dream, but I wasn`t. I exited the building the way I came in and simply went home.

“The following day I called the editor and asked for a few weeks leave, I plainly told him that I lost my hand in an accident; I didn`t want to baffle everyone at work with my miraculous healing wound, and even when I got back to work I had to put a bandage so as to look plausible. I got fired, of course. Why keeping a cripple when you can hire someone with two hands. I decided not to publish the story anywhere because of its improbable nature”.

He abruptly fell silent. They probably expected more, for this was not the way they thought the story should end. But it was all he had to say. All of a sudden he didn`t seem too much distressed as before. Maybe he felt some relief in the telling, or he was already affected by the alcohol. “I think that I will go and get some good rest”, he said. He got up, left the cash and said goodbye. Through the windows he could be seen disappearing between the buildings, with the cigarette smoke trailing behind him.
***
It was less than a week later when rumors spread of a peculiarly beheaded body with a missing left hand. It was said that someone found it in an alley and thought that it was some discarded wax doll, until a vague odor was felt and trails of slime mixed with soil were detected all around the body.

We will never get to know how he felt when the thin, cold and slimy appendage was tightening around his neck and drew his last breath before his head was submerged in a very warm mass of what felt like pulsating flesh.

Among the scattered papers in the empty library of the late Dr. Garret a torn piece of paper was lying on the floor with the note he previously read. What he failed to notice was that the other side of the paper was filled with words as well: `It seems to know exactly how much sustenance it needs and then closes the wound of its victim as a means of conservation for the next cycle of feeding. It is written in the second volume of the Hypostasis that they sometimes follow their victims, but this is yet to be demonstrated`.

Bio: Dimitar recently started writing short horror fiction. He has one story published in Sirens Call Publication, December 2016 issue. For quite some time he indulges in the words of Gogol, Maupassant, Bierce, Poe, Lovecraft, Ligotti, Ramsey Campbell and others pertaining to the weird and the macabre. He lives in Skopje, Macedonia.

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The Large Trade Collider By Matthew Harrison

Jul 23 2017 Published by under The WiFiles

Securities investigator Joe Kormak knew that he had to crack the case, the Attorney General was waiting. But how? He couldn’t understand the thing, let alone solve it. And having such young assistants didn’t help either

He went through it again with the two young people. “You say that guy Sheridan entered a ten billion dollar hedging trade – and forgot he did it?”

“That’s right,” said Annie brightly.

“And his machine’s forgotten too,” said Luke. “No record of the order, firm-wide.”

The two youngsters – bespectacled, pale from long hours at computer screens, and uncannily keyed in to each other’s thoughts – seemed like aliens to Joe. Was it just a generational thing?

“Look again,” he growled. “There must be a deletion log. The order couldn’t have come from nowhere.”

Joe trudged back to his office. This wasn’t just another flash crash. There was public outcry, and with an election coming the AG wanted blood. But who to prosecute? It was a perpetrator-less crime.

#

“I can’t keep up with today’s markets,” Joe confessed to his wife Mabel when he returned home. “Everything’s so fast now.”

“That’s what you’ve got those young people for,” Mabel said. “Your Annie has sharp eyes.”

“It’s way beyond eyes,” Joe insisted. “In fact it’s beyond physics. Do you know that electrons…? Anyway, trading’s so fast nowadays that it’s all down to cable length.”

“A longer cable is further to go,” Mabel retorted. “Electrons have to work, just like everyone else.”

She had one last word before bed. “If it’s physics you’re worried about, I thought that Luke was a physicist. Why don’t you ask him?”

#

Joe set out for the office meaning to ask Luke. But when he saw the pale expressionless face, he baulked at learning from his own assistant. So he browbeat Annie instead. Had she found the deletion log?

Anne hadn’t. And she had feelings about the case as well. She couldn’t believe Sheridan had done the trade because he was so upset.

Joe snorted.

“Something that size is completely outside his limits,” Annie insisted. “It would never have got through the risk gateway.”

“So where did the trade come from?” Joe demanded.

“I don’t think it was a human trade.”

“We know that!” Joe said, exasperatedly. “Nothing’s human in the markets nowadays, it’s all algo.” Didn’t his assistant know that!?

“Algos begin with human design,” Annie said. “It’s like gaming – you know it’s a machine you’re playing against, but it still feels human. This doesn’t feel like that.”

“For God’s sake, what does it feel like?” Joe was beginning to crack. “Aliens, or what?”

#

After a fruitless morning, Joe recalled Mabel’s advice. Reluctantly, he went to find Luke.

The young man was chewing gum, and on seeing Joe hastily scooped it into his cheek. Joe started to speak – but how could he ask advice from someone chewing gum? So he kept back the question he had been intending to ask.

Instead, he got Luke to take him through his charts of the day’s trading. The market was normal until 15:59, just before the close. Then at 15:59:21 there was a spike in order flow.

“That’s some spike!” Joe whistled. “Can you blow it up?”

Luke had a second chart showing the individual orders as vertical lines. The middle of the chart was a forest of black.

“The biggie?” Joe asked.

“Yep.” Luke shifted the gum to the other side of his mouth. “This just shows when the orders hit the exchange server. Actually, with so many orders, the message bus would have backed them up. So we don’t know when they were sent.”

“There’s no time stamp?”

Luke shook his head. The server’s clock recorded only to the millisecond. You couldn’t establish absolute time.

He pointed at the chart again. “Look at this.”

Joe peered. Some of the lines looked strange. Luke resolved the bunched area. When the enlarged image flashed up, Joe saw what he meant. At the centre of the burst, not all the lines were vertical. One curved to the right; another spiralled away off screen.

But what help was that? They were no nearer finding the culprit. Joe told Luke to put the charts away.

#

It was after midnight when Joe got home. No, he said to Mabel as they went to bed, they still hadn’t found who initiated the gigantic trade.

“It’s embarrassing,” he said. “Ten billion doesn’t just come out of nowhere. What can I tell the AG? He wants to string up Sheridan, but there’s no evidence.”

“Maybe the computers did it themselves,” Mabel said sleepily. “They’re clever enough.”

Joe lay awake for a while. And thought.

Finally, he rang Luke, who would still be up. “You’re a physicist, right?” A grunt came down the line. “Particles?” Another grunt.

Joe swallowed his pride. “Do you think that somehow we’re in a kind of laboratory here – atom-smashers at Cern, that sort of thing?”

His assistant’s voice came back excitedly, “Like, I’ve been trying to tell you, man! – I mean, Joe, sir…”

#

Joe and Luke were in the AG’s office to present the findings of the investigation. The great man sat at his desk. He did not invite them to sit down.

Feeling as if he had already been fired, Joe began.

“You have to understand, sir, that in our markets today, we have created conditions under which vast numbers of transactions collide in tiny fractions of a second, literally at the speed of light. And these conditions form a laboratory, in which entirely new phenomena can be seen.”

The AG looked grim. “This had better be good, Kormak.”

“Let me draw an analogy, sir,” Joe continued. “You may recall that in another kind of laboratory, deep underground, scientists smashed particles together at extremely high energies and were able to observe–”

“The God particle,” Luke broke in.

The AG looked confused. “This trade was an Act of God?”

“No, sir,” said Joe.

“What was it, then?”

Joe recalled Luke’s words, and repeated them carefully. “‘An emergent phenomenon generated by the extreme forces of modern markets.’”

The AG thought this over. Finally, he said, “You mean, no one is responsible?”

“No one.”

“Christ! That’s what I tell the public?”

Joe raised his hand. “Your honour–”

“Well?”

“History has been made, sir – the advance of science. A public announcement should be made, world media invited…”

The AG smiled. “Now you’re talking!”

 

–End–

 

Bio

Matthew Harrison lives in Hong Kong, and whether because of that or some other reason entirely his writing has veered from non-fiction to literary and he is currently reliving a boyhood passion for science fiction. He has published numerous SF short stories and is building up to longer pieces as he learns more about the universe. Matthew is married with two children but no pets as there is no space for these in Hong Kong.
www.matthewharrison.hk

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Cost by Kilmo

Jul 16 2017 Published by under The WiFiles

Tins clanked as empty food wrappers rustled in the corner. Jewboy’s head came up fast.

‘Hear that?’

It felt like they’d been in the stores for weeks, the air was so stale it felt like you needed teeth just to breathe it.

‘We’re going to die in here aren’t we?’

It was the most Dr. Sever had said since the wet sound of meat being torn to pieces had ended the begging from the door’s far side. At least she’d spoken, Jewboy had been beginning to worry the woman wedged into the rooms far corner had been struck dumb. The food by her side had stayed where he’d left it as she stared at the splinters round it’s edges like she could hammer them back with her eyes.

‘Maybe, they sound weaker now; it could be wearing off. When was the last time you heard anyone scream? A week?’

‘I can’t remember. If we’d have gotten further…haven’t been myself, I expect.’

‘No shit.’

He was surprised she’d admitted that much. He’d never seen her admit to weakness in all the days since the program started. Then again he hadn’t been either, and he hadn’t seen what they’d done to the rest of her team. Sever put a finger between her teeth and spat it out, frustrated by the lack of fingernail.

Jewboy thought of his kids. He’d taken the placement for them, ‘Volunteering’ they’d called it. A fast track to freedom. Judging by what he could see through the room’s safety glass he might as well have not bothered. They’d be as dead as the rest of the town, and that was if they been lucky.

‘What was it your Dad said? You know, about the operatives eating?’

‘Nothing useful. Just the same right wing propaganda, farmers are all the same round here.’

In fact, he’d talked about pretty much nothing else at breakfast for months before it happened. They deserved it; they had a debt to pay to society, they needed to learn their lesson. But Jewboy hadn’t been able to stop himself thinking it doesn’t matter if they ‘volunteered,’ or what meds you feed them. What was the old saying? ‘Civilization is twenty-four hours and two meals away from barbarism?’ It hadn’t been long before they’d found bones in the fields.

It was the closure’s that had sparked the riots as the unregulated began to be laid off. No one had really thought about what would happen when the corporations dismembered the smaller farms; the ones that had said no to the program from the start. Since then the problem had spread until it had been at the institute’s gates. The early harvest that had burst from the rows of parched corn had changed that.

When the pods had opened. Jewboy brought his eyes down from the window and the clouds of smoke just visible outside. It was hard to scrub from your eyes no matter how hard you tried. He’d never seen insects like that, even if the sight had vanished quick as they began to burrow.

‘What are we going to do Jewboy?’

‘I don’t know. Whatever it is it’ll have to be soon; we’ve no more food.’

He looked at the corner they’d been using as a garbage can. You couldn’t really call it that anymore; cess pit would be a better word.

‘Can you drive?’

‘Only an automatic.’

Neither could he, not really. The blow that had opened the gash on the side of his face had healed, but his legs still felt weak. One was probably broken. He’d certainly screamed enough at the start. There was a car outside close enough to spit on, but he hadn’t been able to hobble across the storeroom without wanting to yell bloody murder. If you counted the drop, there was no guarantee he’d make it without passing out.

‘That jeep might start.’ He made sure Sever could see what he meant. ‘If we’re lucky they’ll have left.’

‘What if they haven’t?’

‘Sever, we stay here much longer we’ll never leave. I can move now. You got a family doesn’t you?’

It was a low blow, but at least it was only her expression that crumpled.

‘Of course.’

Then we’re driving out of here. After that; I don’t know.’

‘We’re three stories up, and that’s not a window; it’s a cat flap. That’s why I chose this place.’
‘Lucky, you’ve got me here then. It’s quietened down enough now; see that?’

Jewboy points at the fire escape bolted to the institute’s side. ‘We’re going out on it. I’ll pull the wires off the alarm. Trust me; I’ve got the experience.’

He pointed at the patch stuck to his overalls and ignored her frown.

‘We were supposed to have burnt that out by now.’

‘Your program needs work Doctor, but it’ll take a lot more than what’s left out there now to rebuild it.’

He envied the other inmates; at least they hadn’t known what would happen to them if they were caught. The fury outside had died down, but not before they’d gotten a good idea of what happened to those they dragged away.

‘I hate them.’

For a minute Jewboy’s confused, the harvest that had sprung from the fields, or the inmates on the program? Sever’s fingers beat a tattoo on the linoleum.

‘They’ve gone and mucked it all up. All those lives lost, some of those scientists were my friends. The subjects should have run when they had the chance if they hated the treatment so much. They volunteered.’

Jewboy decided not to mention that they hadn’t had much choice, incarceration in the collapsing prison system hadn’t been much fun even before the food crisis. He looked outside again; Whitewater’s streets had been bad enough before, now they looked a whole lot worse. He’s impressed it had taken the budget of an operation like the CDC to make the shit hole into a hell hole.

‘Come on, let’s just get it over with shall we? One way or another we’ll know where we stand soon.’

He makes sure he sounds confident. It looks like she needs it, and he doesn’t want any problems when they hit the street.

The window cracks open without a sound although the relief doesn’t last long. It’s worse than he’d thought; bodies lie twisted around each other like worms, and they’re lit by dozens of fires. He supposes he shouldn’t be surprised; there were enough combustibles in the institute to keep it burning for a week.

‘You hear that?’

He keeps his voice low, as something rustles in the shadows, and there’s that sound again, the one that had made his skin crawl as they’d hid in the store room’s depths. It sounds like the ocean sighing. Sever points at the vehicle, and tries not to break his arm.

‘Look.’

Jewboy follows her finger. The jeep better work, because the shapes emerging from the streets around them look a lot worse than dead. The spray’s burnt holes in them so deep he can see bone. Something slips from one cavity to another faster than his eyes can follow.

‘Poor bastards they’d have been better off if their hearts had stopped.’

Sever looks like she’s watching an animal perform tricks, ‘What’s wrong with them do you think? We should take one with us.’

She should know, it was her that designed the program. Jewboy’s not shy of reminding her.

‘Crashing, they won’t last long without another dose, and we’re not taking anyone anywhere. They’ll be in a lot of pain.’

His father had told him about that. He’d been one of the specialists, part of the corps assigned to look after the labor pools. It was a well-known family secret what that entailed. You kept the workers at their posts anyway you could, medication did the trick just fine.

‘Are they going to hurt us?’

‘Depends how desperate they’ve got. We were lucky they’d already been through the stores. They’ll be itching inside by now.’

He thought how that would feel; to know what was crawling through you while you could still think, and fought the urge to stick his fingers down his throat. He’d been lucky; the research hadn’t progressed far when Sever had taken pity on him. He’d been lucky she’d recognized him at all. They weren’t going to be kind if they caught up with her; they certainly hadn’t been with the rest.

The murmur from the torn throats rustling in the breeze redoubles, and a woman’s tonsils rattle. He watches as something like fleas crawl over its surface; fascinated by the life that keeps it moving.

‘Run…. now.’

Jewboy grabs Sever’s hand as more appear behind her, and pulls her with him until they make the car. He slams his foot against the window, but it barely cracks the glass. He’s winding up for a second go when the brick flies past his head.

‘You needed help.’

Sever shrugs her shoulders.

‘Don’t run,’ It’s the woman he’d spotted a minute ago, he’s amazed she can speak at all. There’s so many holes in her face it looks like it should slip off.

‘We’re not going to hurt you.’

He’d have preferred threats, but it’s not the hosts he’s really worried about it’s what’s inside them.

‘…just want to talk….’
‘Yes…’

It looks like they’ve chosen her as spokeswoman; there’s more meat left on her throat than the rest, although the others aren’t shy of adding encouragement. Jewboy tries the direct approach.

‘Leave us alone, or I’ll make you feel worse than you do already.’
‘Can’t do that…’
‘No.’
‘See they’re hungry.’
‘All of them, and we’ve run out.’
‘…don’t have the goods…’
‘Not anymore.’
‘What? Who? Look we don’t have anything, just leave us alone.’

Jewboy shoves Sever behind him as he finishes smashing the glass out of the window, and tries to work out if they can make it without the car if it doesn’t start.

‘All the little uns…Mary… Ryan…Scott.’
‘Don’t forget mine.’
‘Yours as well yes…’
‘They had it…we had to.’
‘We did…but you have more. They can feel it.’

The woman’s fingers tear at her throat chasing the shapes burrowing there, and Jewboy sees a tear leak from the corner of one bloodshot eye.

‘Stay away; there’s nothing we can do to help you.’

The rest of the crowd’s heads come up like water in the wake of a boat, and their eyes focus on the escapees. But, Jewboys already under the dash. Sever hasn’t said a word since she broke the window, and he daren’t look up to see why. He’s not sure he’d be able to start again. Stars erupt behind his eyes as the engine catches and he hits the wheel with his head.

‘Get in; we’re out of here.’

They’re close; a hundred, maybe two, stubbornly warm bodies pack the street.

‘Sever….?’

His voice jolts her into motion.

‘Adios muchachos.’

She gives them the finger and the engine roars as they wheel spin down the street. Another minute and they’d have been driving through a wall of bodies. There’s a bump as someone goes under the wheels; then another, and they’re bouncing down the nearest one way.

‘What have they done?’

Severs voice is low like she doesn’t want to say the words as they reach the suburbs and rise into the hills. What’s left of the town spreads out below them. They can trace the damage that’s gnawed through it like teeth tearing at an apple. There’s not a soul moving down there now even the slow ebb of people creeping their way in pursuit like blind men shuffling toward the light has vanished. Jewboy swerves, muttering under his breath as he passes another barricade.

‘Where are we going?’
‘I just wanted out of there.’ Jewboy shifts down a gear as the incline gets worse, ‘You’re the brains of the operation.’
‘What about our families?’

Happier times flash across his mind, but he’s having none of it.

‘There’s no one down there Sever, no one alive at any rate. ‘

He shrugged and kept his eyes on the road, but it gets hard to see when he thinks of the kids. Something soft brushes his cheek, and he moves his head in time to see Sever sitting back. It’s all he can do to keep the car heading straight.

‘Why’d you do that?’
‘It was only a peck; you wanted me too, didn’t you? And you’re doing your best to save us.’
‘I don’t know if it’s going to be good enough,’ Jewboy’s silent for a moment, ‘If we go by your driveway will that be enough?’
‘It’ll do.’
‘Be quick.’

When it’s done, they sit in silence. Driving the massive automobile any further doesn’t feel worth it anymore.

‘Do you think they…?’
‘Maybe, I shouldn’t have taken you, I’m sorry.’

They hadn’t found them, not breathing at any rate. They hadn’t even found much of their homes either, just smoking ruins and bits of their loved ones scattered over the grass. All of town had been connected to the institute one way, or another, and the operatives had made sure they shared their vengeance equally. Jewboy’s the one finding it hardest to deal with; it’s the first time he’s run from a fight in his life, and the result’s strewn all over his front lawn. The Doctor’s yet to shed a tear. He thinks its shock, but it’s hard to tell. She looks like she’s watching things unreel in a place that has nothing to do with the remnants of the town they’d both grown up in. Sever speaks first, ‘It was my fault. When you’re rested, we’ll leave. I know a place.’
‘Where?’
‘There’s a lake. We used to go fishing there. It’ll be alright you’ll see.’
‘That’s what you said before; I don’t know if I believe you anymore.’
‘Why wouldn’t you?’

Her fingers feel cool; like glass as she lifts them to his chin. He’s grateful for their touch; they stop the images of Mum and Dad unreeling through his head.

‘It’s easiest if I show you.’

This time she kisses him properly, on the lips; it’s like crushing butterfly wings.

The first thing Jewboy thinks when he’s able to is there’s been a car crash. Someone must have hit them, and she’d got him back to the institute, although there’s none of the damage there’d been when they left. He tries asking what’s going on, but if anything comes out of his mouth, he can’t hear it. A woman with metal gray hair, and a Doctors uniform is towering over a female operative that’s just been given their meds. She has the type of beauty Jewboy’s shy of looking at for fear of spoiling it; even curled up on the floor. It takes him a moment to work out it’s a younger version of Sever. When the older woman moves closer, still she moves so fast he can’t follow her. There’s too much blood as the scene bursts apart like someone’s disturbed a wasp’s nest.

Jewboy gets the feeling he’s been spared, and when he can see again she’s in another room, and she’s much younger. It’s dark, and lockers march away further than he can see. There’s a movement in the shadows and a man dressed in sports clothes approaches. Sever looks brittle as though the journey to get to here has abraded her somehow, and the gear she’s wearing looks worn and tatty. He lifts a hand to her face, and for a moment it looks like it’s trying to crawl away. It’s an old game and not a pleasant one, that much is obvious. Jewboy doesn’t want to see any more.

He doesn’t have a choice.

When the man is done he feels cold, and a lot older than twenty. The sports hall fades to be replaced by a child’s bedroom, and there’s plenty of noise now. Shouting thumps through the dusty carpet, and there are footfalls on the steps outside. It looks like a tornado has ripped through it. Jewboy can tell this is the worst of the bunch. This man’s face stays in the shadows where the light from the one up ended lamp doesn’t reach. His hands are huge and broken knuckled, and when he finally enters the light Jewboy can see the family resemblance.

Fresh air rushes over Jewboy. He gasps, and for a moment he wonders if he can stop. He wants that cold, clean air to fill his lungs and wash away what he’s seen. But, it’s over, at least it is for him. He can feel the car seat sticking to his skin. The sun’s leaving the city for the night. They’ve been waiting he can see that much as explosions dot the horizon, and Sever looks at him with eyes so dark he can’t see anything in their depths.

‘Had enough?’

It’s the same voice as well. The one he fell in love with a long while back

‘No.’
‘Good, that’s what I didn’t tell you when we started working together.’ She pauses looking down the hillside as explosions crawl into the sky. ‘That’s why I made them eat their kids.’

END

Bio

Kilmo

Centum Press – Sept 2016 ‘100 Voices’ (Anth)

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Daughter of Jupiter by Linda M. Crate

Jul 09 2017 Published by under The WiFiles

Rochelle Laurent was the epitome of ordinary. She had skin that was lightly tanned and dotted with freckles on her arms, legs, and a few splashes upon her cheeks and nose. She had long auburn hair that went half-way to her back and dark brown eyes that sometimes looked black when she was angry.

She was an intelligent and an athletic girl with an average frame and lots of friends.

However, Rochelle was always nice to everyone in her new school for while she was popular at Hickory High at her old school of Rochester’s Administration she had been bullied and picked on constantly. She knew what it was like to never think you were good enough and to suffer the sharp tongue of fellow classmates. It’s why she never wanted to treat anyone that way because she hated the idea of anyone suffering the way she had before.

Her mother was a nurse at a hospital who had found out a few months ago that she was dying of cancer.

Rochelle’s grades had suffered a little bit under this news, but not so badly that anyone was concerned. She was usually averaging all A’s in her classes, but now she found there were a few B’s intermingled with the A’s.

It was hard for her to focus sometimes when she thought of the idea of her mother suffering. It infuriated her to think about it because her mother was a kind person and one that was undeserving of pain.

Her mother was an only child and her father had never been part of the picture. She didn’t know what would happen to her when her mother passed, and she didn’t want to think of that awful day coming. Her mother would beat this. She had to!

Rochelle walked home from school that night as she always did seeing as her house was only a five minute walk from the school. She bade her friends goodbye as she always did, and then cut across the grass pathway of Mrs. Anderson’s yard as fast as she could so the grumpy old woman couldn’t yell at her for not taking five minutes more on the sidewalk. The direct path was easier and saved her some time.

It wasn’t as if Rochelle took any steps near the cranky old woman’s precious flowers.

Little did she know, her life would change that night.

Rochelle opened the door when she came home from school, surprised to see that her mother’s bag was at the door. She was supposed to be at work. She then found her mother on the ground and unresponsive. The fourteen year old girl shook her mother. “Mom? MOM! WAKE UP!” There was no reply.

Feeling sick, Rochelle called 9-1-1. When she got the operator her voice shook when she told them what she had found and gave them the address. They seemed intent on getting the whole picture and asked her questions which vexed her and made her more exasperated. “I think my mother is dead or dying! You need to get here now!” she cried, tears streaming down her cheeks.

Ten minutes later an ambulance arrived taking Rochelle and her mother to the hospital.

Her mother’s best friend Bee found her waiting in the hall. The black woman smiled at the young woman sadly, shaking her head.

“No, Bee!” she protested.

“I know, sweetheart, I know,” Bee soothed, stroking Rochelle’s auburn hair. The woman brushed strands of her dark curly hair from her eyes. “You’re going to stay with me, okay?”

“Okay, Bee,” Rochelle murmured softly.

“Your mother didn’t have any family, so we have to become one,” she insisted.

Rochelle smiled sadly. “I appreciate it, Bee, I’m just…”

“Overwhelmed?” Bee suggested.

Rochelle nodded.

“Don’t worry, we’ll get through this, together.”

Rochelle nodded again.

This felt as if it were going to be the longest day of her life.

Three days later at the funeral, Rochelle was gazing at her mother’s lifeless body as if it weren’t even real. None of this felt as if it could be real. She glanced at her mother’s brown hair and intense blue eyes gazing upward at the heavens. “Mommy, how could you leave me? This wasn’t fair!” she protested, tears spilling from her eyes upon her mother’s shirt.

Bee turned away, unable to watch. She knew that this had to kill Rochelle because she was a grown woman and she could barely stand this. It didn’t seem right that someone as kind as Doris should have to die when there were people that got off on murdering and hurting people in other ways. She shook her head sadly. Rochelle was only fourteen and already without her mother. It made Bee sad because she knew what it was like. Her mother had died when she was twelve of cancer, and her father had died shortly afterward. Neither of her parents were there on her wedding day. It had been hard.

Rochelle screamed as she felt someone grab her from behind and saw a man she didn’t recognize standing there.

“Excuse me, sir, what do you think you’re doing?” Bee demanded.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle anyone. I’m Rochelle’s father, Bernard. Doris and I made an agreement that we wouldn’t see each other when things went sour, but I thought that Rochelle should come with me now that her mother unfortunately died too young. She’s but a young girl.”

“Oh, so now you think you can just walk into this girl’s life and take her away? She wasn’t good enough for you when she was a kid or a baby. But now that she’s nearly grown, you going to take responsibility? You a real man. That’s for sure,” Bee snapped. “Until you can prove to me that you’re Rochelle’s father, you’re not taking her anywhere.”

“Do we really have to do this?”

“Yes we do. Doris was my best friend, and she mentioned you by name only once. I want proof that you’re this girl’s father before I let her go anywhere with you. Did you really just think you were going to walk out of here with her? She’s grieving her mother, and now the shock that she actually has a father walks into her life? Don’t you think that’s a bit overwhelming for a fourteen year old girl?”

“I suppose you’re right. I apologize. If you take us to the hospital we can find that out, can’t we…?”

“Bee. And yes, we can. Let’s go, Rochelle.”

Rochelle eyed the stranger uneasily. He had long red hair that was tied back in a ponytail and dark brown eyes. He felt familiar even if she didn’t know him. She was a little afraid that what he said was the truth because she didn’t know how she was supposed to feel if this man were her father.

However, they soon arrived at the hospital and she couldn’t tell him or Bee no.

As they waited for the test results she paced the halls. The halls that used to be filled with good memories of her mother’s laughter, Bee and her mother being silly, Bee surprising her mother with birthday cake and Rochelle after school one day. It just wasn’t fair that any of this had happened, and as much as she wanted to get away, she wasn’t so sure she wanted to leave with this stranger. She would rather stay with Bee.

“Test confirms it, he is her father. As much as you may not like it, Bee, you have to let her go with him.”

“I’ll give you a couple of days to say your goodbyes,” the man said. “I know this must be hard on you both. I’m sorry I scared you,” he said to Rochelle. “Thank you for taking care of her, Bee.”

Rochelle didn’t realize that she may have wanted to say better goodbyes after those couple days had passed. She was dressed and ready to go with suitcase by the door, but she didn’t want to go. She wanted to sit here cross legged on the floor in these jeans petting Bee’s chocolate lab Cookie forever. She wanted this moment to never end.

The days blew by so quickly she was beginning to lose track of them and that scared her. Would she one day forget her mother, too? The mother whom she loved so much. She sincerely hoped not.

Too soon there was a knock on the door. Bee opened it and the red haired stranger from before was standing there.

Rochelle had an uneasy feeling in her heart. She didn’t want to go.

She slowly moved forward as if her legs were made of heavy marble or rock that one would find difficult to extricate. She didn’t want this. She didn’t want any of this. It seemed like some horrible nightmare that she needed to snap herself out of, but she couldn’t wake from this bad dream no matter how much she wished to.

Bee hugged her so tightly.

They were both crying when they let go of their embrace. “Bee, I’ll miss you.”

“I’ll miss you, too. You take care of yourself, kiddo. And, you, Bernard, if you ever hurt you so help me God I will hunt you down and destroy you and everything you love.”

“Don’t worry, Bee, I would never hurt her.”

“We’ll see,” Bee scoffed.

Rochelle glanced at Bernard. She didn’t know how she felt about him. It was easy to see she had his eyes and the red in her hair must have come from him, too. She noticed that he had pale skin, but had freckles the same shade as hers. So she had gotten his freckles, too, even if she weren’t complected in that pasty white he was.

His skin almost seemed ghostly or vampiric it was so white. She wondered what her mother had seen in this guy. He was cute, but he wasn’t handsome. Her mother deserved someone who was handsome.

“Your mother was a beautiful woman, wasn’t she? But that’s not a very nice thought, Rochelle.”

“Never realized there was a thought police or that anyone could hear my thoughts,” she growled at him, glaring ferociously.

He only laughed.

“It’s not funny,” she protested.

“I’m sorry. Of course, it’s not,” he said. “Hold onto my hand,” he instructed. “We’re going home.”

“I figured…”

“Hold onto my hand,” he interjected. “And I know you’re upset, but I don’t appreciate the attitude.”

She glared, holding onto his hand just barely. She felt his fingers wrap tightly around hers as if he were afraid he were going to lose her. That’s when it happened, she was wrenched through time and space in a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes. She turned to Bernard, but he didn’t seem too bothered by it. “What the hell is this? Are you a time traveller or something?”

“Or something,” he grinned. “Don’t worry. It won’t hurt you. We’ll be home soon.”

“Where is home, exactly?”

“Jupiter.”

“That can’t be. The force of it would crush you.”

“That’s a front we put up so people from Earth never visit. We don’t really wish to crush any of them, but we will to preserve our resources. Earth is very, very stingy with it’s resources and very greedy always seeking to overtake other countries from one another. We’ve watched and we’ve decided we’re not going to be as friendly as Mars who ought to be more cautious. If they’re not careful they’ll send Earthlings among the Martians and they’ll terrorize them for resources. I wouldn’t be so trusting of those people.”

“Not everyone on Earth is bad.”

“No, and neither are they all good,” Bernard shrugged. “We can’t take chances.”

“I’m never going to be able to go back again am I?”

“Sadly, no. I am sorry.”

“You should have left me with Bee. At least I was happy there.”

He looked hurt by this, but he said nothing.

Rochelle didn’t know how to feel about this. She felt as if she ought to apologize, but then reminded herself that he was the one dragging her to a new world and a new planet. He was the one that had never reached out to her in fourteen years. He was the one that was taking her away from Bee and Hickory High and everything that she had come to love in life. He was taking her away from Earth and plunging her into the throes of some planet that might kill her for all she knew.

They landed suddenly. Rochelle’s suitcase flew through the air and landed several feet from them, her father still clutched her hand rather forcefully.

“Rochelle, stay here,” he insisted, as he walked over to grab her bag. He then pulled her towards a building.

“What is this?”

“Customs.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“You came from Earth, they need to make sure you aren’t bringing any diseases into our planet that could potentially hurt you or them.”

“Okay, where is this one from, Bernard?”

“Earth.”

“An Earthling? But we despise Earthlings!”

“She’s my daughter.”

“Oh, so you fell in love with an Earth girl once. You never mentioned that.” The man grinned nastily. He slicked back black hair and owlish yellow eyes. “The things you learn about your supposed best friends, eh? Come on, girl.”

Rochelle took an immediate dislike to him, but followed after him, wanting to get this over and done with. After a couple of hours of testing, the man was looking at the papers nodding.

“She’s clean, Bernard. No worries.”

“Good, let’s go, Rochelle.”

“Rochelle? What a weird name.”

“I don’t like him.”

“I don’t much like him, either, but he’s my bosses son so I put up with him.”

“He said you were best friends.”

“He exaggerates. A lot.”

Rochelle snorted. “I remember there was a boy like that at school. Once he said he had a lizard up his nose, but the lizard’s tail barely touched his nose.”

“That sounds painful. I don’t know why anyone would brag about that,” Bernard laughed.

“Me, either. Once he said that his mother gained forty pounds, but it turns out she only gained four. Still, she was embarrassed he told everyone that.”

“I bet, that wasn’t very nice.”

“No, he wasn’t a very nice kid. He liked to bully people. I punched him in the nose once, but I didn’t get in trouble because he was bullying my friend. I don’t like bullies.”

“Me, either,” Bernard agreed.

“Will I have a school to go to here?” she asked.

“Certainly.”

“Does everyone here have weird yellow eyes?”

“No,” Bernard laughed. “Just some people. But just so you know, brown eyes are rare here. So they’ll probably stare.”

“Oh, great,” Rochelle grimaced.

Bernard smiled gently. “I’m sorry. I was hoping that you would get her eyes,” he said. “But blue is recessive, isn’t it?”

“It is, but so is red, and I still have red in my hair.”

“I guess some of my genes were persistent,” he laughed.

Rochelle nodded.

Once she was enrolled in school, the principal took her to class. She was a tall woman whose hair fell to her waist in a torrent of naturally pink curls. Her eyes were the same color. She walked Rochelle to class, and pulled the teacher over.

“Hello, Rochelle,” a woman with naturally green hair smiled at her. Her hair was kept short, and she had a pair of chunky square framed glasses. Her eyes were a blue-green. “Welcome to Jupiter, and to our classroom. Okay, class this is Rochelle Laurent. She comes all the way from Earth.”

“Earth? I thought we were against the daughters and sons of Earth because of how greedy they were with their resources,” one of the students piped up.

“Ordinarily, yes. But this girl happens to be the daughter of Bernard Laurent. So let’s be kind, no? Without his help, this world would be a mess.”

It made Rochelle wonder what her father’s occupation was, but she wasn’t about to ask the teacher or her classmates outright for fear of being laughed at. She could already tell that today was going to be a long day. As her father warned brown eyes were something rare, and people were staring at her all day and taunting her about it relentlessly.

All except a mousy looking girl with long brown hair that fell slightly past her shoulders who had brown eyes herself. “They’re rather immature. Just ignore them.”

“Thank you. I’m Rochelle. What’s your name?”

“I am Cornelia.”

A girl with white-hair and blue eyes looked at them with sympathy. “We’re not all idiots who discriminate against people because of the color of their eyes. My name is Metera.”

“Nice to meet you, Metera.”

It was nice that Rochelle was able to befriend anyone, she thought. She had imagined she would be by her lonesome quite often. But Metera and Cornelia were nice and very curious of Earth so they asked her a lot of questions.

This made Rochelle feel a bit better about things. If she had to be here, at least, she could have some fun.

As the bell rang and school ended for the afternoon she headed towards the exit. She found that her father was waiting for her at the door. Before she could tell him how her day went or ask him about his job or say anything at all, he had grabbed her arm.

“I apologize, Rochelle, but I have a summons from the queen. You’re going to have to come with me for a few hours at my office.”

“Where do you work?” she asked.

“I’m one of the bounty hunters on the safety committee for the king and queen.”

“You’ve put a lot of people out of business?”

“Aye. Have to keep this planet safe. There are a lot of people who want to use up all of our resources from this planet alone, and we can’t allow that to happen. Just stay quiet and hidden, all right? She isn’t aware that you’re going to be with me.”

“Okay, got it.”

They walked in relative silence all the way there. Her father glanced at her apologetically. “I’m sorry, Rochelle, I’m rather anxious about this meeting. I’m being terribly rude to you. How was your day, not too bad, I hope?”

“It was all right. I made a couple of friends.”

“Oh?”

“Metera and Cornelia. Cornelia has brown eyes, too, and Metera’s just nice. She thinks they’re stupid for discriminating against brown eyes.”

“I’m glad that you’re adjusting well. I know the transition must be hard for you, but I think, in time, you’ll grow to love this place.”

Rochelle shrugged. Only time would tell, wouldn’t it?

She wasn’t so sure she’d ever get used to the fact that Jupiter was really habitable. She half-expected to pull herself out of this daydream and find that everything was completely normal and she was just dreaming at Hickory High. Yet a part of her knew that even her imagination wasn’t this good.

Rochelle walked into the building that her father walked in, rather curious. She would love the chance to look around for the building was in a shape of a triangle and made of dark glass that was so dark that one could not see through it. Yet while inside the building, the glass appeared to be various shades of blue and purple that one could not see whilst outside it.

Her father made her hide beneath a desk as he nervously paced the floor to his office. She wondered how much time he actually spent here. The carpet was barely worn and the desk looked almost in mint condition. It seemed that this building was really a front which it very well may be if he were a bounty hunter like he said he was. That or he was always out on a job which could be another possibility.

Suddenly there was a knock on the door and her father answered it immediately.

“Announcing her highness, The Queen Alaria.”

Two men stepped inside followed by a tall woman with long white blonde hair and blue eyes who was wearing a pair of high heeled silver boots and a long flowing silvery dress embellished with the designs of crescent moons and ravens in gold and black. Some of her hair was braided back from her eyes, but the majority of it hung loose and down. She was very beautiful, Rochelle noted, but she also seemed very dangerous.

“Ah, Bernard, darling. You’ve been doing good work as usual. But I crave a little something more from you.” She grabbed him roughly by the shoulders, slamming him into a wall.

“Alaria, you’re married. That would be wrong to both you and your husband.”

“Bernard, I simply don’t care. I had to watch you with that awful Venusian woman…it would be a pity if something happened to your son.”

“Don’t you dare hurt him.”

Alaria smirked. Rochelle couldn’t see her father’s expression, but she was sure it was indignant.

“Such fire in those eyes. Reminds me of a comet. I know you were hiding his parentage to spare his life from people like me, but it is my job to collect information.”

“I’ve never liked bullies, Alaria.”

“I am a queen, and a beautiful one at that; would you really deny me what I want? I already killed your Venusian wife and I gave that awful Doris woman cancer so that you could turn your gaze away from that idiot.”

“You killed Doris?”

“Of course, I did. You’re meant to be mine. She didn’t appreciate you or love you in the way that you ought to be loved. But I?” Alaria asked, running her tongue across Bernard’s neck. “I would carry your child and love you with honor.”

“Alaria, I said no.”

“All these things I’ve done for you, and you’d tell me no?” Alaria cackled. She threw Bernard so hard that he slammed into a desk right next to Rochelle.

“You killed Descina and Doris for me? No, more like for you,” he ground out, feeling furious. “Doris was only doing what she thought was right for her child. There’s nothing wrong with a mother’s love.”

“So there’s something wrong with a father’s?” Alaria scoffed, scornfully.

“I never said that.”

Rochelle’s eyes (which were already large and doe-like) became even larger in both shock and fear. Who was this woman that she was so strong that she could throw men around like mere toys?!

It then hit her like an ocean. This woman not only knew who her mother was, but she gave her cancer, too. Her mother who had been the kindest person she knew.

“I’ve left your children alone, Bernard, but I will hurt them, too; if I must. When will you get it through your head that you’re meant to be mine?”

Her mother had to die because of this horrible woman’s jealousy? Rochelle felt fury burn in her like white hot knives, but she knew that she had to wait until the perfect moment to act.

“If I were meant to be yours, you wouldn’t have to beg,” Bernard retorted, stabbing her in the stomach.

She laughed darkly. “Looking for my spleen?” she asked. “I’m not Venusian like your wife was. I’m actually from Mars. It would be here,” she said, pointing at a spot just lower than where her father had stabbed. “Such a fool you are to die for love,” she sneered, snapping Bernard’s neck easily as if he were nothing more than a rag doll.

Rochelle acted swiftly, running at the woman, removing the blade that her father had shoved into the woman and severing her spleen. She had been foolish to say where it was because now Rochelle knew, but she didn’t stop there. She shoved the blade at whatever inch of this woman she could reach.

Alaria seemed amused by all of her rage. “Who are you, little girl? And why do you hate me so much?” she demanded, as she became weaker from blood loss. She knew that she was dying, but she wanted to know at the hands of whom.

“You killed my mother and you killed my father, and that’s something I cannot forgive because I hate bullies.”

“Bernard hated bullies, too,” she laughed darkly, her blue eyes gazing lifelessly at the heavens. Her long white blonde hair still looked beautiful even as it laid lifeless and limp beneath the woman’s body.

“You killed the King’s Wife! You must be finished.”

“No,” came the voice of the yellow-eyed man she had seen in customs. “You will not harm my sister.”

“Your sister?”

“Dad didn’t want me to blow your cover or his when he brought you in, but since these bastards already know that I’m Bernard’s son…there’s no use in hiding it.”

“This is a pardon for the Queen’s death signed by the King himself. My father wasn’t to die, but trust you idiots to get it wrong.”

“But why would our queen be wanted dead?”

“Her husband knew of her infidelity, of course. Not to mention, I’m sure you’re aware of it, as well, judging from those blonde hairs on your clothes. I would shower and change before seeing the king. Also, he knew of her lies and the alliance she was planning on making with Earth’s corrupt king. Fortunately, that meeting was permenantely cancelled.”

“We are sorry, Veras.”

“Yes, you certainly are. You best get yourselves to the king and see what he has to say of you.”

Veras grabbed Rochelle’s arm. “You’ll probably be hated by some people of this country now, but…others will hail you as a hero. Welcome home, Jupiter’s daughter. I know father was always remorseful that your mother would not join him or let you see him, but that was their agreement. He loved you very much even if he wasn’t able to express it. I’m sorry that you had to endure all this.”

“Will I live with you now?” she asked softly, confused.

“Of course. I’m your big brother.” He ruffled her hair.

“Did your mother have yellow eyes?”

“She did. She came from Venus.”

“Venus? Father had a thing for foreign women, didn’t he?”

Venas burst out laughing. “Yes, yes, he did.”

“Do we have any more siblings?”

“No. Mother and he were married, but when she died, he was very depressed and lonely. He found your mother a very interesting person and left to Earth before we could stop him. When he told your mother the truth, she got pretty mad and she was already pregnant…she made him promise to stay away. He stopped looking for love, after that, thinking maybe he was supposed to be alone for whatever reason.”

“I see,” Rochelle said, as she glanced around her at the beautiful starry sky surrounding them. “You can’t blame her. It’s a bit overwhelming. Even for a daughter of Jupiter.”

Venas smiled. “I’m sure, but you’ll get used to it.”

Rochelle nodded. On Earth she always felt like there was somewhere else she ought to be. She now knew she was always meant to be on Jupiter, and she wouldn’t try to fight that anymore. She was finally home.

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Paranoid by Rick McQuiston

Jul 02 2017 Published by under The WiFiles

The little beast attacked him.

Danny cuddled his hand to his chest. He tried to ignore the dull, throbbing pain, but when blood began to seep into his shirt, he found it difficult to do so.

He looked down at his hand. As he had feared, there was an ugly gash stretching from the side of his wrist all the way up to his pinky finger. Dark red blood filled the painful fissure, threatening to spill out.

He hated the sight of blood, especially his own, and he found himself wondering what scared him more: his angry-looking wound or what had caused it.

He decided that it was what had caused it.

Danny thought about the gun next to his bed. It was an old 9 mm, a gift from his late father. If he could reach it maybe, just maybe he’d be able to blow his attacker away. A well-placed bullet would do the trick, right between the…

Right between the…

Right between the what? It didn’t have eyes, or a head, or arms, or legs. It was a vacuum cleaner, a beat-up old thing that he’d used (sparingly he had to admit,) for the better part of ten years.

Now, however, it was a living thing, a breathing organism that was obviously intent on his destruction.

Man killed by vacuum cleaner.

He could practically read the headlines now.

Danny could hear the soft hum of the machine. He couldn’t see it though; it stood in a dark crevice.

Anger started to fester in him. The fact that he, a grown man, was in effect held hostage by a household cleaning item frustrated him to no end.

Standing up, Danny kept his eyes glued to the dark crevice where the vacuum sat humming along. Ten feet was all that separated him from the impossible. Ten feet. A mere stroll across the room and he’d be face-to-face with something that shouldn’t be but was.

He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket, wrapped it around his bleeding hand, and took a step forward, all the while tightening his fists in preparation for a fight. He heard a growl above the hum of the vacuum, but continued advancing.

“This is ridiculous,” he mumbled to himself. “It’s a freaking vacuum cleaner.”

With unwavering resolve, he walked toward the darkened crevice.

A thunderbolt of pain seared the side of Danny’s head. Instinctively, he swung a hand to the point of impact, brushed it with his fingers, and looked at them.

They were smeared with blood.

The vacuum cleaner rolled out of the shadows. Its tough plastic covering, scuffed from years of use, pulsed with a wet rhythm that suggested life. Two beat-red eyes blinked furiously from their inset sockets near the top of the bag compartment, and the cord slithered like a tail behind the thing, occasionally swinging out in front or to the side like a blind snake.

Danny glared at his unlikely adversary, trying to gauge its behavior.

Would it attack him again?

A sharp pain slammed into his back then, forcing him to the floor. He rolled over to get away, but only succeeded in moving a few feet, hardly far enough to ensure his safety.

The vacuum cleaner cord swung through the air with lightning speed, lashing out again and again and its cowering prey. It drew blood with each stroke of its fury, etching away at both the life and sanity of the person before it.

Despite the pain Danny bolted to his feet and squared off against his assailant. He stared the thing and its wavering cord. He watched it roll forward in agitated fashion, only to move back again as if gearing up for a final confrontation.

And then it attacked.

The vacuum cleaner lunged at Danny, slamming into him with a powerful impact far beyond its size and weight. It bulldozed him over and rolled on top. A slit extended

down the length of its bag and opened, exposing hundreds of green-tinged teeth that gnashed within the slobbering crevice.

Danny used every ounce of strength he had, and in one Herculean effort pushed the vacuum off. It fell to the wayside and immediately stood itself upright. A thick clear substance trickled from its sides, along where the bag was located, and sizzled when it made contact with air.

Without waiting for it to attack again, Danny went on the offensive and lowered his head. He barreled into the machine head-first, smashing into the body of it with destructive power. Then he continued plowing into it without hesitation, not stopping until the vacuum cleaner was nothing more than a broken hunk of plastic and metal.

Standing up, Danny regained his breath from the onslaught.

“That’ll show you who’s boss,” he panted.

The vacuum cleaner didn’t respond.

But now he had another problem: he had no way to vacuum the house.

He glanced around, noting how filthy his place was. There was dust covering everything, with tufts of fuzzies littering the floor.

He knew he had to find a way to clean it up.

“I know!” he cried. “The broom! I’ll use the broom! It’ll do as good a job as the vacuum.”

He strutted over to where the broom hung in the pantry and yanked it off the hook on the wall.

Instantly, it sprouted sinewy arms that wrapped around his wrists, effectively stopping him from releasing it. Then the bristles slipped off the block and crawled like worms up his legs.

Danny crashed to the floor, taking the broom with him. It smothered him in its strong embrace, not relinquishing its death hold until it had suffocated him.

The broom then slithered back to the pantry and leaned against the wall.

*                      *                      *                      *

The policemen pushed their way through the door. Wood splintered in the frame, creating a mess in the foyer and letting cool evening air into the house.

“This is the police,” Larry Mettde, the senior officer, stated in a no-nonsense voice. “Is anyone here?”

The younger policeman, Seth Rotorde, had only been on the force a little over six months. He stepped up behind his fellow officer. “Doesn’t look like anyone’s here,” he said. “You want me to call it in?”

“Not yet. The guy who lives here has a history of mental illness. He has a friend who’s worried about him. Says he hasn’t answered his phone in days. We need to check the whole place first.”

Seth stepped into the living room and looked at the chaos in the room. He saw upturned furniture, smashed lamps, and a vacuum cleaner that looked as if someone had run over it with a truck. His hand rested on the butt of his gun, ready to pull it out in a moment’s notice.

“It doesn’t look like anyone’s here.”

Larry ignored him. He had ventured into the kitchen and was standing next to Danny’s corpse. His gun was drawn.

“We have a body here,” he called out to his partner. He leaned over the corpse. “Doesn’t look like foul play.”  He noticed a bottle of prescription pills on the floor. “There’s pills nearby. Maybe he overdosed.”

Seth came into the room. He pulled out a pen and bent down, using it to roll the bottle over until he could see the label.

“Pimavanserin, 200 mg, twice a day. Strong stuff. I’d say he wasn’t taking his medication.” He stood back up and shook his head. “Sad. I had a friend who battled personal demons. He was taking pills like these.”

Larry nodded in agreement. “Yeah, I guess so. I’ll call it in.” He stood and was about to talk into his receiver when he saw something move in his peripheral vision. He spun around but didn’t notice anything.

“You all right?” Seth asked. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

“It’s nothing. Just my nerves. Sometimes this job gets to me.”

“Yeah, me too.”

Larry walked over to the pantry and pulled out his flashlight. He clicked it on and waved the beam of light over the inside of the space.

“Something in there?” Seth asked.

“No, nothing but boxes of food and some cleaning supplies.” He aimed the light on an area to his left. “And a broom that looks like somebody used it to kill someone.”

Seth shook his head. “Now you’re just being paranoid.”

 

Bio:

I’m a forty-nine year old father of two who loves anything horror-related. I’ve had nearly 400 publications so far, and written five novels, ten anthologies, one book of novellas, and edited an anthology of Michigan authors. I’m also a guest author each year at Memphis Junior High School.  Currently, I’m working on my sixth novel.

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