It is an object of ingenuity and precision. Metals, pulled from the ground and concentrated. Meta-materials, unusual chemical combinations not found in nature. At its tip sits the heavy element, dreaming of a chain reaction. We look and see a structure built, yes, of mathematics and engineering, but deeper still, of fear and aggression. As we watch, the fuel ignites and this beautiful, wondrous thing begins its final journey. Across the planet, others of its kind are arriving at their destinations, opening flowers of unimaginable heat and fire, that, like their creators, blossom briefly, before fading from the universe forever.
The fire escape was in the alley beside the building.
It was two year since Jim had made it his home. He cooked there and lay there under it to sleep. He bothered nobody and nobody bothered him.
Everything it seemed was as it should be…
Then today, when he awoke, Jim found sitting beside him there was a new mop and bucket.
Strange he had thought, until it dawned on him that now he would be expected to clean the fire escape for in return for his lodgings.
Everything it seemed was to be different...
His left leg is trapped, the broken beam pushes hard against his splintered bone. The blast has affected his hearing and he lies among the ruins of his home savoring the silence.
For days the noise had been relentless; there was relief when the bomb hit.
If he turns to the right he will see his family are dead, but there is no need to look, he knows this already in his heart.
So he lies quietly, shattered and broken, in the dust and destruction of his home, praying for death to arrive before the rescuers.
She retorted sarcastically, a response sure to hit a nerve. He wore the sneer of a predator whose prey had risen to the bait.
Outwardly she mimicked his smug demeanour; inwardly her stomach knotted. She felt her heart pounding. When had she started to mirror his behaviour? He who was once kind and thoughtful but now took every opportunity to demean her.
I don’t like this new me, she frowned.
Later, lured with another morsel of poison bait, she feigned innocence. Responded with a smile and a compliment.
Her heart soared. She felt her soul returning.
His face fell.
Stacy exhaled, smiling, as she adjusted her sunglasses and straw hat, and reclined her green beach chair slightly. The sun was fairly intense, but the cool breeze felt great, and the crash of the ocean relaxed her immensely. Kids were laughing and building sand castles, and countless folks were enjoying this tropical paradise.
Stacy's job had been stressful, and she’d been looking forward to this vacation so much. The beach was a knockout, and her hotel was wonderful. Exactly what she needed to escape.
This is the life, she thought. Just don't expect me to return to reality anytime soon.
Two decades ago. I went on a school trip overseas.
The five of us girls were a pride of lions eating hamburgers in a cafeteria.
A little boy walked along the pavement and stopped in front of the picture window that faced our table. He started shouting.
We had never seen a white child in our country.
Eventually, we realized he was yelling at us.
“Leave, Asian! China go home!”
We avoided eye-contacting at each other and withdrew into silence.
When I looked down, lettuce on the plates awaited for a flock of sheep.
I had her lined up perfectly in my sights. I kept as still as I’d ever been. The slightest movement would stir her, costing me the shot.
It was mine to take. One easy pull and it would be done, my first kill.
I imagined seeing her fall, the pride I’d feel telling my friends what I’d done, the pat on the back my old man would give me.
Then I imagined a nest full of tiny peeping mouths with no one to give them any food.
I let the BB gun fall from my shoulder as she fluttered away.
The alien landed abruptly in our midst; black and white tubular body beneath a slender black neck capped by a perfectly rounded dazzling white coronet that gyrated at the touch of a switch.
Unlike the exotic alien my pale blue body was straight up and down, sparse coronet coloured off-white. The two little ones resplendent as Disney icons, a Minion and a glittering Elsa from Frozen, rattled fretfully behind me shaking our glass receptacle.
Bristling with shock I viewed our impending future; even the little ones were ill-fated. We were three outmoded toothbrushes soon to be supplanted by rechargeable electric versions.
I always try to play it safe, but here was the hitchhiker pointing a gun at me.
“Take my money. Just don’t shoot.”
“Shut up and drive, mister.”
She reminded me of my daughter. “If you’re in trouble, maybe I can help.”
“Sure, help me get to where I’m going and be quiet.”
An hour later, she saw a place to eat. “Pull over.”
Confused, I stopped in the parking lot.
She jumped out, put her gun in her backpack, and held out a ten. “That should cover the gas.”
“I hitchhike a lot. Just trying to stay safe.”
The old man had been confiding in a select few that he was about to make his last will.
All were intrigued at the sudden appearance of a box, chained and padlocked to his cot. His sons were certain it contained the gold bars he had supposedly found while clearing the woods in the compound years ago. That was the only property he had to bequeath.
Everyone in the family vied with one another to please him.
When he died years later, there was a broad grin on his face.
The box contained a couple of bricks.
Bill wasn't looking forward to his doctor's appointment, but he felt he had to share the concerns he and his wife had about his memory, his problem solving, his word finding and understanding.
"I'm having trouble with my memory," he began.
"Just normal aging, but I'll give you a short assessment."
Ten minutes later, Bill had drawn a clock, identified a camel, recited three numbers backwards, remembered five words and completed other similar tasks.
"Perfect score, Bill."
He left the office relieved, no dementia.
Driving home, he mistakenly pressed the accelerator at a stop sign and crashed into a car.
“It's on! Hear the trumpets?”
“Yes, what happened?”
“'Reflection Day.' We're going to have one this year.”
“Oh, glory be!! It's been such a long time, I've almost forgotten everything. When was the last?”
“Four? What changed? Why did the King approve it?”
“There's a new chef at the castle. I hear the Queen's fallen in love with 'The Salad.'”
“Thank the Lord for small favors. What are you going to wear?”
“I don't care, as long as I get to see what the rest of the world sees.”
I see nothing but café blackness, the reflection of sad eyes. Dark circles, concentric waves radiating, bouncing off thick china walls. I see tiredness, the worn and deeply furrowed face of a septuagenarian staring back. It’s my own, I know. Still, there are faintly hopeful signs in spite of... well... everything. I tell myself, try to convince myself “this is a new day, a new beginning.” It’s a weak argument, but it’s all I’ve got... Wait a minute. Is that brightness I see? Some off-whiteness coming into my life? Yes! Or is it... damn... just the bottom of the cup.
Devin penned a love note during Spanish class. He used some of the words he learned that year, like amor, cariño, and lujuria. Easier written than said, but poetry all the same.
He folded the paper into an intricate flower, and asked a girl to pass it forward, pointing in the distance.
He pretended not to look.
When time passed, and nothing changed, he searched for a response. Señora Garcia, the Spanish teacher, continued her lecture until the bell rang.
Leaving, he passed her desk. The flower lay crushed in the garbage can, unopened, unrequited.
"Oh ¡mi amor!" he pined.
A devastating pandemic was tearing apart the country. The ruling party was clueless. Defeated in next election, the party took no responsibility, instead began introducing a new law in various state-houses banning the teaching of so-called critical race theory (CRT). Citizens had no idea of its meaning.
Debated documents shed light. Going forward, teachers in schools can never discuss the history of past racism in the nation. Thus the children will never learn the truth about slavery, segregation, lynches and Martin Luther King Jr.
Half a million victims of the pandemic began getting ready to welcome the “truth” amidst them.
I scroll through the almost 50 comments. Many “miss you’s” and “wish you were still here’s”. Some people acting like they had a deeper connection to him than they did. Remembering small moments, little interactions that would now be ingrained in them because he would always be known as the boy who died senior year. They would move on with their lives. Me too. Max would forever be on that road, in the middle of nowhere, mid-laugh, eyes gleaming, and young.
Humans think I am a monster.
They believe that I have large canines. I don’t. My other teeth are just extremely small. It makes eating vegetables very tricky.
They also think I sleep in a coffin. A coffin. What kind of monster would forego silk sheets and a soft pillow?
Contrary to popular belief, I also have a reflection. I am just so slight that light seems to run through me, but I am there.
Humans are right about one thing, though. I do like blood. And meat.
But then again, so do they.
What kind of monster doesn’t?
They’d been created heteronomous humanoids but were flesh and blood. Then the Creator breathed ‘life’ into them, infusing them with the genes of his children. ‘Angels’, his children were, but one rebelled and was cast from the family.
The now-sapient humanoids too, were troublesome; the Creator, disgusted with his work retreated into myths and ancient tomes, interpreted by the sapient-humanoids as religious mysteries. His children walked the earth, unnoticed. Their genes melded until millennia later, a baby girl was born, stubborn, wilful, powerful. Her parents despaired but unbeknown, her genes perfectly matched ‘the fallen angel’.
She was the devil’s daughter.
I drove down a street I’d walked countless times as a boy, scanning houses that looked vaguely familiar.
Soon I reached the red brick house where I’d grown up. The trees in the front yard were huge. When my father planted them, they were saplings.
I parked in the driveway, walked to the front door and knocked. But no one was home.
I looked around. The color of the trim, the landscaping, even the front door were all different.
All of a sudden, I felt out of place, like I didn’t belong there.
I took off and never went back.
When Miss Vimla took her first class, Raj found her one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen. He wondered why she hadn’t entered the movies.
After a week, she gave the students an essay to write. While Raj scored 8 out of 10, Rahul scored 9. That day Raj discovered that Miss Vimla’s nose was longer than it should be.
A month later the class was putting up a play. Raj, a keen actor, earned the role of the servant and clown, Lancelot Gobbo. Shortly after, he noticed that Miss Vimla’s teeth were not properly aligned.
Billy was browsing Amazon when he saw the t-shirt. It read, "Introverts Unite! We're here! We're Uncomfortable! And We Want To Go Home!"
He laughed out loud and said, "That is so me." He ordered one.
When it was delivered a week later, he washed it, dried it, and put it on. He then went into town to do some shopping. Five people commented on his shirt with laughs, compliments, or asking where he got it.
When he returned home, he took the shirt off and washed it again. The next day, he would donate it to Goodwill.
Giggles erupted among courtroom spectators as a floor-fan played with the judge’s toupee.
“Inconclusive evidence,” he declared in response to the jury’s verdict. “Case dismissed.”
Smiles illuminated faces of the accused, his lawyer and the gathered faithful. Anger painted others with frowns.
Unfortunate ‘accident’? Could the victim have lowered the lid by her own hand? Hers were the only fingerprints found.
The freed man scurried outdoors only to be stopped.
“You’re guilty,” hollered a hooded man, confronting the victor. “Pushed her in, didn’t ya?”
The case of his cousin found dead in a chest freezer needed to be revisited.
Our daughters say goodbye and hand me the phone. I take it to the bedroom.
“Stay true,” you plead.
“I told you. It’s over. I can’t live like this.”
“We promised each other. For better. Or worse.”
“You’ve made our lives worse than worse.”
“I did it for us.”
I hang up. Exhausted. Claire and Michelle burst in. They’re hungry. Disheveled.
I rally to make dinner. Help with homework.
After the divorce, I’ll keep taking the girls for prison visits, for as long as they want. Although I’ll resent it.
I’ll do it for them. Not their mother.
Fallen by the woodshed, covered by snow, Al forgot time. The dog circled him frantically, anxious at his master's stillness. Extreme temperatures expected. Tempted to freeze, he shyly peered through that luminous door. Lila and Ben, his perpetual child, waited for him. Patiently. As waiting was in heaven. Bliss. Motionless, he felt ready to leave.
The dog nudged his hip. ''Sun,'' he mumbled. The folks on the mountain will care for him. Feed him...tied by some shed. Ribs showing, eyes fading... Living chained,... dying chained.
''Damn it to hell!!'' He blurted, hoarsely. ''Sun, help me up!!''
Twelve started the scuba course, nine of us qualified. Three failed, we felt sorry for them, initially.
Professor Entrée expressed his appreciation of our commitment to the University’s new program, Biomedical Initiative To Expand Marine Enterprise. We call it “BITEME”.
Day five it’s my turn in the aquarium, again. One hour, underwater with a shark, feeding it lunch, making friends. On day one I was terrified, also on day two and on day three.
Yesterday Professor Entrée took my turn in the aquarium. At sunset we held a short service of remembrance with speeches and a toast to his memory.