I used to like seeing the young woman who shares my daily commute to the office. We’ve never exchanged more than a handful of awkward, polite glances but her seemingly cheery disposition temporarily restored my faith in humanity. However, it did not take long for her to replace exuberance with a vacant glare. It’s the same look I’ve seen on a thousand faces before. I used to wonder if she lived a life more fulfilling than my own but judging by the tear-stricken face I see before me, it’s highly unlikely. I once feared living a solitary existence, but not anymore.
Veronica left the bar at midnight and walked south along Chicago Avenue. She paused beneath a flickering street lamp to check her phone. No calls. He had stood her up again. She decided it was the last time. If he called her she would not answer. She would show him. Let him wonder where she was for a while. Let him wonder if she was with someone else. Let him know how it felt to be put behind everything else in someone's life. To be treated like garbage. Neglected. Used. Suddenly her phone rang. It was him.
"Hello," she whispered.
"The publisher insists on high standards," the editor said to the author. "No spelling errors, grammar misssteps, plot holes, continuity blunders or character inconsistencies. Only perfection."
"And what happens if...?" the author asked.
"Just don't. It's bad. Rules are rules, expect no mercy."
"Wow." The author handed over his manuscript apprehensively. "Isn't it your job to correct mistakes?"
"Nope, my job's to stop them appearing in books."
A week later, they met again.
"On page 167, you wrote, 'The bell rung'. It's 'rang'," said the editor. The author's blood ran cold as he saw the loaded gun turn towards him.
The phone rang.
"Hello," said Sam in a defeated voice.
"How are you, old friend?" inquired Jake.
"I have thrown it all away, a precious pearl into a deep murky lake. It is finished."
Sam had been rich but in mid-life gambling had taken over, an insidious disease.
Half an hour later he switched on the TV to check the Lottery having discovered two pound coins under the settee and bet, without any expectations.
All the numbers came up. He thought he was dreaming.
"This is a new start!" he screamed out loud and yet...only half believed.
The river cards flipped up onto the table. He knew that making the final cut would boost the odds on him winning, especially with the erratic all-in maneuvers he was using. A pair of aces in hand, and none on the river. It was risky, but it was time.
“All in,” he said. He slid his chips forward. Everyone folded, except his nemesis, who flipped up a pair of jacks against his aces.
Queen. A bead of sweat soaked his eyebrow. Jack.
It was over. He lost, and grinned. The bets his friends placed would earn ten-to-one.
Of course I lost her anyway, bang in the middle of the freeway beneath a hot-blue California sky. No-one owned her but she didn’t belong there, not there, under the wheels of that SUV. The day sizzled and the traffic was as slow as a tortoise munching its way through a lettuce leaf. Her diamante shards sparkled the tarmac and there was a slow trickle of blood, the kind that’s so thick you know it’s no good. God it was hot, waiting. Hardly anyone stopped, just this one skinhead guy on a motorbike with a swastika tattoo. She’d have appreciated that.
A man sat begging. Mostly he was ok, automatically calling up at handbags and pockets. But occasionally, he was so violently attacked by shame he wanted to collapse quickly to his left and slam his cheek on the concrete or have someone run over and kick his head right off his shoulders. He watched a seagull do nothing for a few seconds. Then, through the traffic and legs and money, he saw a woman with a long green coat and wondered if he should have sat on that side of the road.
Thanks to rapid-transmission of “facts” in social media, by the time the message (in question / answer form) landed into inbox of Prof. Debashis Sen, a distinguished scholar on Far East Asian sub-continent, it had already grown as follows:
“When did the colonial power come to occupy our motherland?”
“It was right after they were driven out of North America.”
“While teaching us their language, they had made sure we addressed them as “Sir”. And what was its origin?”
“The expression “Slave I Remain”, to impart that inferior mentality.”
Prof. Sen lamented “Alas! The conspiracy theorists even penetrated our Diaspora.”
He's encountered you in New Zealand, in a snowy Alaskan spring, and at a midpoint between desire and need. He's spotted you on street corners and in airports. He even had you at 3 am on the Las Vegas Strip. Your instant effect makes his nerves dance a mazurka, and he daydreams of your refreshing coolness in August and sensual sweet heat in December. He spends too much of his hard-earned cash on you, but he knows you're worth it. You're the first thing he craves in the morning, and in his sleep he mumbles your name: Espresso.
I woke up. I was lying on my back, looking up at sunlight streaming through a hole high above.
I sat up and looked around. Others were waking up too. Some were walking around.
I stood up. I was in a cave, with solid walls all around. The only opening, it seemed, was the hole above.
I looked at the faces of the others. They were the people who, throughout my life, had been my fiercest rivals.
And now here we were, trapped, with only one way out and, then, only if we could work together to manage our escape.
I didn't do it. Someone must believe me.
"Blindfold?" asks the soldier. I shake my head.
I loved that little girl!
Why can't I speak? Tears form in my eyes as I shake my head.
We were just playing in the woods. She had run ahead of me and before I knew it she had fallen into the river and was gone.
I looked for her for hours, until the sun set and I had to return home.
I did not do this!
I loved her!
Even if I could, it's too late to speak now.
He sat on the bench, his back against the wall, feet firmly planted on the floor, hands folded on his lap. The cell was dark, spartan, the soft amber glow of his eyes the only source of light.
It had been his prison for 300 years, the length of his sentence.
A century of extreme power hibernation and scavenging for power units had paid off. Wrongly sentenced to death, instead, his sentence had been served. Freedom was at hand.
As the door clicked open and he stood for the first time in decades, only one thing crossed his mind.
Sammy wiped the sweat from his brow. He was really nervous, since the final contest was here.
The bell rang.
He dashed at his opponent, ready to assert his dominance. The opponent easily dodged him and broke out his heavy artillery. The two went back and forth repeatedly, neither gaining an advantage.
Then Sammy used his secret weapon. He placed one ear bud in his ear and one in his opponent's, and started to boogie to old-time disco.
Horrified, Sammy's opponent fainted. The competition was finally Sammy's.
“Simple as that,” he grinned. “Prom king crown, you're mine. Groovy, baby!”
The pain worked like an alarm, a prompt wake up call that exploded throughout my body at 7:52 a.m. on day 645 of our free falling marriage. Somewhere in another room a woman would be sleeping off the effects of the less than market valued wine that I had supplied. Her shoulder most likely throbbed from its sudden provoked use as she pitched the brass frame that encased the picture of two smiling lovers from so long ago. Today would be the day. The hinges grind their warning as I enter the empty sanctuary.
She has already gone.
The Canadian paper’s headline screamed: ‘Snow chaos. Roads closed, vehicles abandoned!”
Ethan swigged from his bottle of Molson Dry and glanced at the front page. “Sure must be bad to close the main roads.”
Snow swirled around outside; temperatures dropped to minus ten.
McGregor, holidaying in Canada, laughed. “Have ye no read the story?”
“Front page. Is there more?”
“Aye, page three. ‘Blizzards hit UK’.”
Ethan turned the page and read. “’Main roads closed as half-inch of snow cripples Cornwall’. They’re kiddin’, right?”
“Naw. Southern Pansies get snow every seven years – no snowploughs. Does it to them every time.”
I come back from the total darkness into a semi darkness and dizziness. My fingers are holding some curved tube. I'm wearing bulky gloves covered with white crust.
A moment ago I wore a white cocktail dress, and my fingers curled around a frozen Margarita. A moment ago i made fun of an old electric car. I try to look down. My forehead touches polycarbonate plastic of the visor. I'm in that old car, i was making fun of.
I'm wearing a spacesuit. The Earth is nowhere in sight.
I'm sorry, Elon. I'm afraid, Elon. Bring me back, Elon...
Notorious neo-Nazi Dick Spicer, from his underground bunker in the hamlet of Olympia, Mississippi, was furiously spreading hateful Twitter messages to fellow hate-mongers. A new message appeared in his Inbox. Opening an embedded link, Spicer learned that a group of scientists from London announced the result (accompanied with an artistic impression) from a painstaking DNA-analysis on a 10,000 years old male skeleton (believed to be an early European). Found more than 100 years ago in a cave near the village of Cheddar, he was dark-skinned, blue-eyed with curly wavy brown hair.
Spicer dejectedly lamented “Fake news even took over England!”
Under the rules of intergalactic travel it’s illegal to travel through an asteroid belt without coming to a complete stop and looking both ways before proceeding. There’d been far too many accidents in the past. Too many pieces of space vehicles and their former occupants floating among the asteroids.
Increased patrols around the asteroid belt had helped stem the carnage, but every once in a while some hotshot in a sports saucer decided to tempt fate and try to run the belt.
The Solarian space constable just sighed and shook his head.
What was the dummy in the roadster thinking?
"No, there can't be anything there. That's just your imagination."
"No way. I'm telling you those are ruins. A city or something."
"Hell, Harry, you always see things whenever you look through that damn telescope. You'd think there were little green men everywhere!"
"I never said little green men..."
"You know what I mean."
"Why is it so hard for you to think there's life out there?"
"Harry, we been searching forever and never found a damn thing out there... all that UFO mumbo jumbo, too...it's time you faced the fact we're the only life around."
"Christ, I hope not...."
Euphoric citizens earned their first national championship in country’s unique football. During telecast, following conversation was taking place in taverns.
“Who is our massive front-defender?”
“Robert Vaughn, a Brit weighing 175kg.”
“A Brit playing our gladiator-football, instead of gentleman’s cricket? Another pint, please.”
“Ha-ha, it will take him one full day to run once between the wickets; one pint here.”
“What are those two little funny things they put on the wickets?”
“Called bells, more like a set of crowns.”
“So cool comparison dude, one pint here too.”
On Thursday, Vaughn will lead Philadelphia in victory-parade, fifty years in making.
It was an ordinary day at the supermarket. Customers came and went. Piped music played. Suddenly, the cashier burst into the manager’s office. “Quick! There’s a lady making a terrible scene!” she yelled. The manager dropped his men’s magazine and rushed out.
“Tee’s the name, madam, I’m the manager – how can I help?” he panted.
The customer stared at him and answered: “I bought this packet of frozen vegetables and there’s half a rat inside!”
“How aw-awful!” stammered Mr. Tee. “However can we make up for this error?”
“Giving me the other half would be a start!” replied the customer.
If only he'd told her to do so, she'd have left her lighthouse, packed her multicoloured rucksack and come to him. She'd have given him her hand and warmed him with her lips. Her ears would've been ready for him to unleash his most vulnerable secrets and most cumbersome confessions. She would have counselled him as a comrade, embraced him as a friend, and adored him as a lover. But he didn't tell her, so she cut his groin out of every picture of him she could find and acquired the first of many cats.