Cloud, by Michael Croban
He was a cloud. He roamed the skies endlessly. Sometimes he would be a beautiful white cloud on a canvas of a blue summer sky. He gazed at the oceans beneath until the heat from the sun made him disappear into thin air. Suddenly, he would reappear again, somewhere above the mountains, heavy with fresh snow. The fractal pattern of his snowflakes was a language which humans could never decipher. He would precipitate the words out of himself, leaving the ground covered with sentences no one could read. The cycle was never-ending. He could never imagine an afterlife so beautiful.
The Prisoner, by Gordon Lawrie
He'd been warned.
He was punched repeatedly for what seemed like ages, but was probably only 15 minutes, then thrown into a pit to recover.
He was allowed just two hours' respite. Then, he was beaten yet again, before being rammed into a metal straight-jacket and thrown into a cell with a reinforced glass window.
But the cell was warm. He could grow, strong enough to be a match for any warder. He heard footsteps – now was his chance – the cell door opened –
He looked about and saw... the warder approaching with a knife.
"Yum... I love fresh bread..."
Lost, by Ian Richards
The strange light in the sky had come closer and brighter. Now almost blinding, but Sam could make out the saucer shape of a spacecraft within the glare. Turning, he ran, terror driving him tearing along the road. Within seconds he was bathed in an emerald green light, slowly lifted from the ground and drawn screaming upwards his legs still attempting to run in mid air. A moment later he stood inside the ship gazing in horror at a malformed grotesque monster, an alien.
"Sorry to bother you." It said. "Can you point us in the direction of Alpha Centauri?"
Tainted Glory, by Guy Fletcher
Good effort son but with a little EPO you could win, not be an also-ran."
The team leader had been trying to persuade him for months. Now he cracked, he was tired of losing.
"OK. Count me in."
Not long after he found himself on a gruelling mountain slope in France and was amazed how easily he overtook competitors, it was thrilling finishing the race in first place, to the joy of his team.
The initial euphoria wore off like an alcoholic evening, when you awake at dawn.
"I am a cheat," he said to the mirror...and wept.
The Big Prize, by Russell Conover
Robert was ecstatic when he learned he’d won the office’s raffle. Even better, the prize was a new car! His wheels were a bit aged, so this prize came at just the right time.
When he picked it up, though, his jaw dropped. The car had huge wings on both sides, and looked ready to blast into space. Befuddled, he asked the attendant.
“Indeed,” was the response. “This car can go to outer space as easily as to the store for milk. Enjoy!”
Robert’s smile was huge. “My trip to Pluto will finally happen!” he thought. “Think of the possibilities.”
Richard Tusman was having a drink with his neighbour Rupankar Sen, an Indian immigrant. Both of them experienced the 1970’s turbulent era of Vietnam War protests, Hare Krishna religious movement while listening to the music of the Beatles and late Ravi Shankar. Rupankar mentioned that Ravi Shankar’s given name was Rabindra Shankar Chowdhury. Once in the West, he branded himself as Ravi Shankar. Surprised, Richard then put on his favourite raga of the sitar-maestro on his stereo-system.
Rupankar jumped, while remembering that memorable haunting music played in the background during a crime-scene in a thriller directed by genius Satyajit Ray.
The Letter, by Gordon Lawrie
At precisely 10.00 am on 29th March 2017, the Prime Minister of Pluto arrived in person on Earth to deliver 'The Letter' triggering Article 27987645/B/1: Pluto was announcing its intention to become an asteroid and leave the Solar System.
The Head of the Solar Systemic Commission looked bemused: "There musht be shum mishtake," he said in broken English. "Pluto wash kicked out of the Sholar Shyshtem back in 2006. You've no right to leave."
The Plutonian Premier was furious. "You've no right to stop us from leaving!" she said, snatching The Letter back. "We Plutonians must hold a referendum about this!"
The End Is Nigh, by Fliss Zakaszewska
Financial Institutions were battening down the hatches, banks hunkering down for an onslaught.
Mutinous whispers were heard on the streets. “The end is nigh - life as we know it will fail!” Terror gripped the north-bank.
Chaos on the borders was promised as fighting talk was heard. But new allies admitted they had been ‘shafted’ too. Anger flooded through the continent.
Were we on the brink of war? No, just European politicians and merchant bankers whining at the British people’s decision to leave the European Union.
But tomorrow, the sun will rise and we will still be Great Britain.
Life On Pluto, by Emma Baird
If they send a cat to Pluto, its life expectancy increases by 20 years.
So, your average cat should live about 12 years. A Pluto-tripped cat has the potential to miaow for three times as long.
Unfortunately, the same doesn’t apply to humans. Their life expectancy decreases by 10 years.
Alice was yet to travel to Pluto. Though if she did, she could time her demise to fit in with that of her cat. A world without her precious pet didn’t bear thinking about.
She checked Rocket Flights 2Go. March’s special offers included half-price interplanetary travel.
She signed up.
Undercover Boss, by Ian Fletcher
You’ll agree, it’s riveting TV, the CEO disguised as a humble worker, while we voyeuristically witness him testing his employees’ attitude and dedication.
Finally, comes Judgment Day when he’s revealed as God Almighty.
Devotees are praised, saved, bestowed with gifts of promotions or help with debts.
Seeing their pathetic tears of gratitude is like watching manna fall from Heaven.
The unregenerate, though, are berated, damned, told to mend their ways or even fired and cast into the outer darkness.
Follow this show and learn.
Give your heart and soul to your job, for Big Brother may be watching you too.
Lisa Meyers arrived in Chicago for a friend’s wedding. Born and brought up in New York, she never visited Chicago before. Growing up, she learned how much she resembled her past grandmother who, fleeing Nazis, settled here. But no image of her grandmother existed. In between festivities, Lisa went out to explore city’s Museum of History. Once inside, she came across the room of “Diverse Ethnicities”. She located a vintage image displaying an early Jewish family.
Lisa looked intently at the image of the woman in the middle of front row. Her face lightened up, exclaiming “Grandma, is that you?”
Departure, by Hasen Hull
I didn’t really know the guy and I wasn’t going for the drinks after, but I knew him well enough to know, along with half the company, what was going on. He was leaving after five years - I’d been there five months - to travel the world with his partner. Iceland, he said. Japan, he said. Some big, expensive trip before he got too old. Well. But come farewell, after he’d seen the card signed by fifty different people, I gave him a nod, enough to show I meant it. Even a cynic can wish a guy good luck.
He frequently was caught flirting with insanity – hand in hand they stood; it was as though it called for those demons he kept inside. It was what he kept hidden in his shadows that continued to eat him alive, slowly destroying him from the inside out. When, indeed, it was rather simple, all he needed to do was let her love him.
Web Weaver, by Ian Fletcher
None could weave like she. Arachne wove the clothes of kings.
“Even Athena, goddess of crafts, cannot surpass my art,” she declared.
One day an old woman appeared, challenging Arachne to a contest.
Arachne wove a silver cloak from finest silk, but the old woman fashioned one of shimmering gold from the rays of the sun, finer than any mortal hand could make.
The old woman rose 10-feet tall. It was Athena herself.
“Spare my life,” pleaded Arachne.
“Then live on and weave,” said Athena, turning her into a huge spider.
Thus Arachne scurried away to weave her webs eternally.
Signs Were There, by Sankar Chatterjee
America wonders. We were the beacon of democracy led by a highly-educated, progressive and hard-working President with full of empathy. And now this?
The signs were there.
The not-so-subtle racism against the first African-American President, maliciously doubting his citizenship and religion.
An obscene combination of spewed hatred and the availability of firearms, resulting in gunning down of black church-members in Charleston and homosexual patrons in Orlando.
A global financial meltdown with ground-zero, but no bankers served time.
Ever-presence involvement in international warfare, while creating millions of refugees worldwide.
Civility, humility, empathy all became words of past.
The signs were there.
She sat in the corner, legs on a footstool, lips a tight thin line.
“It’s a hard decision, but your mother’s end-of-life care is important. She struggles to stand. Marie’s a first-rate carer.”
Peter shook his head. “Doctor, I don’t think…”
"At her age, it’s best.”
Two weeks later…
“How are we, Martha? I’m Marie, remember? Shall we get breakfast for you…? Don’t get up...”
“Had breakfast at 6.30.” Martha put trainers on. “Leg injury’s recovered completely. I’m ready for my run.”
“Didn’t they check? I still train for marathons. You’re my carer girl; keep up.”
Failed IVF, rising debt, and a husband who absconded when he’d had enough. Lisa was all alone, and faced a childless future. But Lisa knew she wasn’t that person. She opened her laptop, and with a few taps on the keyboard she located an image: the son she almost had. Lisa, thankful for her evening classes, cut the child’s image and pasted into a Photoshop file. She pressed ‘Duplicate,’ and the set of beautiful male quads stared back from the screen. Facebook was launched, and ‘Upload Photos’ clicked. Comment? Beautiful. Swimming champs. Emoticon: Happy Face.
About the Author: Kathy was tugged from her American roots by her English husband, and spent the next 30 years lecturing in psychology and bringing up her children. She now plans to nurture her creative side.
Waging War, by Bobby Warner
We had no choice but to declare war. They were ruining our economy; people were starving; farmers out of work.
Michael Corwin led us into battle; a true general.
The battle waged on and on for days; men stumbled and fell, had to be carried off the field. The situation looked hopeless.
Then the tide turned and, as we called in our last reserves, they broke and ran. Men shouted and cheered and hugged one another, triumphant in victory.
Corwin summed it up nicely: "I'm proud of you boys. You defeated the bloodiest bunch of bunny rabbits we've ever faced!"
Swamp Justice, by Bobby Warner
They gathered behind Jim Lonturn's feed store. Someone passed a bottle around. Another someone furnished several plugs of chewing tobacco.
"Well," said Gramps Willshaw, "let's get this thing on the road, boys!"
Someone brought a frightened looking teenager from a nearby shed and led him by the rope around his neck to the edge of Killgoren Swamp.
"You done slept with the Norton girl before either of you even thought about marrying, right?"
The boy nodded, his eyes full of fear.
"Then stake him out, boys. He's guilty as sin, and Old Long Tooth 'gator is due by here anytime!"
Bobby felt the above story sent out the wrong moral message (!), so the next day he added this:
Swamp Justice Revisited
Jill Norton watched the men tie her lover to a pole and leave him for Old Long Tooth 'Gator. She dashed from the willow grove and cut the leather strips securing Jimmy Vestel.
All the men came back an hour later, expecting to see the ruts in the wet ground where Long Tooth had dragged the boy into the lake. Instead they were confronted by the Norton girl and the Vestel boy. Jill pointed her daddy's .44 at them and told Jimmy to tie them up.
They left the men screaming and begging and made their way back to town.
A Meeting, by Emma Baird
Emma posted this on her website and invited us to share it.
The tutor looked familiar. It took her ten seconds to remember – the sofa in her flat, ten years previously.
Did he recognise her? Hopefully not. She made sure to look at him when he talked, the way someone who has no history with another person would.
Maybe she waved her left hand about a bit too, waggling the fourth be-ringed finger. His own left hand was bare.
Nonetheless, when he said ‘good’ in response to a point she made, she glowed. At the end, she thanked him – glad that his attention was taken up by others anxious to talk.
Rashmita Chakroborty belongs to a new generation of college-educated Indian women. She has been connected to the rest of the world with her smartphone, Facebook-page and Twitter-handle. While walking down the Cornwallis Street in Kolkata, a headline in the evening newspaper caught her eyes. The nationalistic prime minister of the country just appointed a priest as the head of the most populace state. The priest, a religious zealot, supported recently-elected US President for his entry-ban of religious minorities from various countries. He also called Bollywood-superstar (from a religious minority), a “terrorist”.
“What a shame, even hatred became globalized,” murmured Rashmita.
Aunt Quint, by Bobby Warner
It happened so quickly. One day here, the next day gone. It was just like Aunt Quint; always liked to liven things up and get the best of folks. This time it looked like she was gone. A piece in the paper, many phone calls, funeral arrangements made.
We dressed in our finest and went to the funeral home, expecting to see Aunt Quint in her coffin.
Instead she met us at the door, laughing her sides off.
"No, I'm not dead. This is just a trial-run for my real funeral – which I hope won't happen for another forty years!"
Homecoming, by Bobby Warner
The dirt road ended, and the driver looked at his passenger and said, "Are you sure you don't want me to wait on you? It's a long way back to town."
Marcel shook his head. "No, Baines, I shan't be needing you anymore. Here is an envelope with your severance pay, which should be very adequate."
Marcel stepped out of the car and turned to the wall of trees before him and strode toward it.
"Hello, Father. I'm home!"
A loud roar answered him, and a tall, shambling form emerged from the trees, massive hairy arms outstretched in welcome.
The gale thrashed the Cornish coast. Morag looked out of her cottage window as the fishing fleet struggled home. Martin’s boat wasn’t there.
The wind intensified to hurricane-force. By morning most of the fleet had been thrown against the harbour. Morag looked in despair – at least their crews were home.
Finally, the wind died down.
“Morag!” Annie ran in, pointing to the bay. Martin’s boat was limping in!
She flew down to the harbour and flung herself at her brother.
He smiled. “Got caught much further out, so I ran for the lee of the island. Reckon that saved ‘Lucky-Star’.”