1. GingerCoffee
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    Past Contest Submissions CLOSED for contest 158 Theme: "Persuasion"

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by GingerCoffee, Jun 23, 2014.

    Short Story Contest 158
    Submissions & Details Thread
    Theme: "Persuasion" courtesy of @Paddybass

    Submissions will be open for 2 weeks.

    IMPORTANT: PLEASE READ!

    If you wish to enter the contest please send your story via 'A Conversation' (aka a PM) to me to enter the story via this thread.Don't post the story here directly or it will not be counted as entered into the contest. This is to ensure anonymity, and to make this contest fairer for all - having each story judged based on their merits.

    This contest is open to all writingforums.org members, newbies and the established alike. At the deadline I will collate all entries and put them forward for voting in a separate thread. The winning entry will be stickied until the next competition winner. As always, the winner may also PM me to request the theme of the subsequent contest if he/she wishes.

    Entries do not have to follow the themes explicitly, but off-topic entries may not be entered into the voting.

    Word limit: 500-3000 words
    Deadline for entries: Sunday the 6th of July, 2014 1600 (4:00 pm) US Pacific time

    There is a 10% word-limit leniency at both ends of the scale. Please try to stick within the limit. Any piece outside of the suggested limit may not be entered into the voting.

    If we reach 20 entries, the maximum number of stories for any one contest, I will consider splitting the contest into two. Only one entry per contest per contestant is permitted.

    Try to make all your entries complete and have an ending rather than be an extract from a larger one and please try to stick to the topic. Any piece seemingly outside of the topic will be dealt with in a piece by piece basis to decide its legitimacy for the contest.

    A story entered into the contest may not be one that has been posted anywhere on the internet, not just anywhere on this site. A story may not be posted for review until the contest ends, but authors may seek critiques after voting closes for the contest. Members may also not repost a story anywhere, or bring attention to the contest in any way, until the voting has closed.

    Please remember to give your piece a title and give its word count in brackets [xxx words ] at the top of your story.

    If there are any questions, please send me a PM (Conversation). After the entries close, posting in the thread is open for comments.

    ***And thanks to even more long hours put in by our very special mod/member@@Wreybies, winners are now awarded with olympic style medals displayed under their avatars.

    Thanks, and good luck!

    **If you wish to edit your story after you've submitted it, send the newer version to me in your 'conversation'. I will replace it one time with the edited version if submitted before voting has begun.**
    ** I will replace the whole piece, or a single block of text. I will not make additional line by line corrections, even if it's just one. Give me something I can cut and paste one time! Thank you. :) **

    **Corrections of copy/paste errors do not count toward your one time edit allowance. Be sure to check your entry after I post it and let me know if there were errors when pasted. Usually such errors involve extra line spaces or italics or bold errors.

    With the new board software, italics and bolding are preserved when I copy/paste, while justification is not. But sometimes the end code for bold or italics doesn't copy/paste affecting large stretches of text. If I have to restore too much by hand, I reserve the right to ask the author to fix the formatting. You do that by composing your post, hit 'control a' to 'select all' and clear all bold and italics code. Then re-add it back in using the board's font controls before you hit 'post reply'. Same thing with extra line spaces, delete them directly from the post before hitting 'post reply'. **
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    The Medicine [619 words]

    As the sun strode skyward over the buildings of the Sydney business district, Blakely's eyelids rose to reveal a hollow despondence. His countenance quickly shifted as he realised the gatekeeper of the realm of sleep had turfed him out into the winter misery of wakefulness. His eyes traced the contours of a startled geometry, darting here and there as passers by carefully ignored his presence.

    Looking up he saw the reason for his abrupt awakening. A policewoman stood tall over where he lay in the street. Her bemused indifference stared up and down his shabby clothes, eyeing his worn out, contorted body.

    "Can't sleep here mate."

    He winced tiredly, his incredulity fed by the fact that he just had.

    "Hrmph"?

    "You. Can't. Sleep. Here."

    "Oh."

    She motioned with her head.

    "Come on. Up you get."

    He writhed in a stretching motion, arching his back and taking a deep breath. Becoming evermore impatient, her eyes averted from his person to scan the street.

    "Don't make this more than it has to be".

    "what does it have to be?"

    The officer sighed. Blakely got up.

    "Bottle shop's not open until 9. Not sure what you expect me to do until then."

    "You can't be loitering here, and I've got more important things to do than book you. End of story."

    He Stood, and shuffled painfully off down the street. The iron hand of fate rattled the contingencies of his day like dice, ready to be thrown forth to form another day. As he walked he wondered just what she thought it 'had to be', looking perplexedly skyward, and beginning to wonder what he thought it had to be.

    As the thought of whether he had to go to the bottle shop entered his mind he scoffed aloud. Was it possible to persuade himself otherwise? It seemed to all with eyes that its inevitability was preordained by the very nature of his being. He had been living rough and drinking every day for around 16 years. Was it not as Aristotle said, that we are whatever we do repeatedly? To try and combat a tendency so strongly written into the fabric of his life with a mere thought, to him appeared to be like using ones lungs to counter the force of a cyclone. Yet, he mused, in a former life he had reigned victorious over many a difficult task. Could this not be the case with drinking?

    The police woman's words stood fixedly in his mind. The days of his resistance to the diabolical urge rose to his awareness, and he stared solemnly at the asphalt as he walked. His experiences in drunk tanks, detoxes and rehabilitation facilities had yielded but a thin veneer of hope, inexorably dashed by impetuous frivolity or existential dread.

    He knew that drinking had ceased to console his condition long ago. He harboured no illusion that anything would be made better by the box of wine he was unconsciously ambling his way toward. Immersed in thought, his body obeyed his demons by default.

    Suddenly, his eyes began to widen. He looked up from the ground, and bared his dark yellow stumps in a grin of realisation. Having chosen what to him seemed the only viable alternative, he reached into his pants and drew his revolver. Still smiling, he stared maniacally into the middle distance as he put it to his temple.

    All about him well dressed people panicked, morning coffees in hand on their way to work. Amidst the clamour of departing bodies Blakely failed to notice that the person who had been trailing along behind him had now broke into a sprint. He felt a dull thud as he was tackled from behind, a single shot rocketing into the air conjuring a paroxysm of screams and yells. The policewoman quickly reefed his hands rough behind his back, dislodging the gun from his grip and clapping on the cuffs.

    "You idiot", she kept saying, "you F'ing idiot".

    Sufficiently subdued, Blakely closed his eyes and sighed with relief.

    "I knew it didn't have to be that way".
     
  3. GingerCoffee
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    Wedding Day [2,248]

    The breeze, sweet with rose perfumes, stroked a black night that held neon pits and fluorescent dreams painted on the sky in brilliant towers of steel and glass. It was chilly on the damp pier, and Trevor struggled to keep his mind off the senses while guilt crept through his veins. His recently disposed of cargo was still visible, up and down on the surface of the water, a few meters out. It was too dark to make out, but he could still see the cold eyes that dug deep through his soul. The empty look that came over her eyes while the face sat stuck in its final moment of terror, a tribute carved with the hand of the universe in honor of his work. He squeezed his daughters hand while they took the view in, their usual meditation ritual. They felt the fibers of life pulse through everything, and saw the webs weaved through realities in tangles and drips until it reconnected straight back to them. Their heartbeats danced steady through the palms, and they glowed with an enlightened aura. This was the fifth one this week. Janet took a look at her new address and tossed the ID before they both turned and headed home.

    They walked in silence, hand in hand, down 34th street, over Fifth Avenue and onto their block, the entire world dedicated to only them. A doorman stood lazy on his post at the front door. Janet ran her tiny 16 year-old self up to him in a tender cry for desperate help. “A man just ran off with her purse and he was essential in the capture and arrest.” He was outside and down the block in a second. No one could resist that smile. Those big green eyes that marbled over and tucked under red bangs that hung in spiral columns. A psychedelic angel with golden wings sent for victims of vanity. It almost made it too easy. The halls were clear and the elevator was calm while some cheesy 80′s rock love ballad fought its way through the wiry speaker system to assault the ears.

    Three in the morning, 12th floor, studio. The place was empty except the ragged brown couch and tube television atop a chair across the room. A single window that lead to a fire escape and tattered wooden cabinets painted white with nothing in them. The fridge held a four-pack of Modelo’s and some moldy cheese. The yellow walls were chipped away and hung from themselves while a naked bulb dropped from the ceiling. Trevor cracked a beer and handed it to Janet, then grabbed one for himself. They were warm. The fridge didn’t even work.

    “I’m gonna see if there’s a decent shower in this shit hole. You should join me.”
    “I’m gonna catch the news.”

    Janet smiled and tossed the empty bottle on the ground before she walked off to the bathroom leaving a trail of clothes behind and Trevor flipped the TV on. He sank into the couch under the blue haze thrown at him from across the room and attended some bullshit story about a politicians private life, as if they had some higher moral right to shame him out of his position because they didn’t agree with his decisions. The whole play was gross, and Trevor was past it a long time ago. He took Janet from her parents and went backstage. The costumes and methods wore out quick once he saw how the magic worked. Now he wrote the scripts and tweaked the arcs, arranged and edited chapters of their life as the moments dictate, their own unholy bible. Life was better lived short and intense than long and boring. Like the news tonight. More of the same. Cutaway to a tragedy of five massacred schoolchildren and even paced words with lifeless faces trudge through what’s obviously the thousand millionth of the same story while just thirty seconds ago they were creaming their panties over Senator Saul McCartney’s unfortunate dick pic leaks.

    Steam poured over the ceiling from the bathroom while neighbors banged the walls with headboards and speakers. Trevor felt the quiver in his nerves creep back in to fill the black hole her absence left in his chest. Even after they were safe in the apartment, save some husband or relative or unknown other pops up, it still boiled under his skin. His doses of Janet didn’t come through anymore, and he started to feel lost in disconnection from her, the question of their existence always hovering. She was so happy, though. There was no way he would ruin that for her. The kind of magic she floated on was too precious and nothing could drive him to take it from her. Let her silly little girl crush wear out and eventually she’ll move on. Hopefully. Trevor was stuck with her until then, but when he was honest with himself, it’s a ride no one would have given up. He was copilot to a magnificent installation of art painted with human souls in frozen moments.

    “Do what I say. Unless you wanna get blasted.”
    Trevor turned to the door, wide open, a grizzled man with a black leather on that dragged across the floor like some sorry comic book villain stood with a lighter in one hand and revolver drooping from the other.
    “Who the fuck are you? Did that piece of shit doorman let you through?Get the fuck outta my apartment asshole!”
    “Who you talkin’ to, baby?”

    Janet came out of the bathroom soaked. The man popped a rocket through her rib and pointed the barrel back over at Trevor before he lit the cigarette and pulled cuffs from the same pocket the lighter went back into. Janet fell back on the doorway with a wince and a hand over the wound before she faded into the bathroom for first aid supplies with no success. She came back out and went straight into Trevor’s arms while he ripped stuffing from the couch and doused it in beer to stuff the wound with. The man pulled a badge from his shirt and kicked the pair of cuffs over to the couch, cool with his cigarette as if it was all part of a goddamned Marlboro commercial.

    “Cuff together. At the ankles.”
    “Fuck off”
    “You wanna get plugged like your girl?”

    Janet stood up with Trevor’s support and reached down to put the bracelet on, but came back up with a gift. The cops jaw shattered and spilled through shreds from the splashed beer bottle. Trevor reached for the gun and caught a bullet straight through the palm while Janet jumped on the cops chest with fists and chokes and screams. Trevor went to stomp the cops face and got swept aside when he flung Janet off through some primal strength his body kept tucked away for it’s final desperate fight. She brought Trevor down and the cop shot another bullet that bounced through Janet’s foot while he wrapped a cuff around his own wrist. The other one slapped secure on Trevor, still tangled in Janet.

    ”Let’s go cocksucker. You’re going down to the station to meet my buddies. Nothing they love more than cop killers. We’re gonna have a lot of fun with your little girlfriend here too. Follow us and don’t try anything stupid or he gets a bullet in the fuckin’ face. Ok, sweetie?”

    Janet stood up and scooted after them, out the door and past the nosy neighbors, into the elevator corner. On the main floor a small squad sat, one by the elevator, one by the front door. They fell in line with the cop and filed out the door into a windowless blue van.
    The “arresting officer” spoke first to the passenger, a short man in black leather coat and green turtle neck, black hair slicked back with a curl in the front. His shoes were shined enough to give him an up skirt shot, and the jeans looked loose but crumbled in and clung to his legs.

    “Charlie, what the fucks with the rape van?”
    “It’s all they had, Mickey, what do you want? You only gave me enough for the van and the shit.”
    “Tell me you got the shit straight at least, goddamn. We’re a stoplight away from a finger in the ass and a Shepard in the nuts.”
    “I took care of it.”
    “Good. Wouldn’t want our little lovebirds here to miss the show.”

    Mickey never took his eyes off Janet, she never tore hers from Trevor. From the apartment, Mickey could tell she was the firecracker in this operation’s asshole. Trevor was dedicated but unmotivated enough on his own. He almost seemed resentful even, but he was still a man, and no man in love is safe. Blurred yellows and dull reds faded past them in streams through the chain partition between front seats and back. The rest of the ride played out with only the vehicles own conversation above the rattle of the vans thin chassis.

    “Jesus Christ, Carl.” Charlie popped out at the driver, in his red Adidas tracksuit with white Nike’s and bald head. Skinny, tall, a generally forgettable appearance other than the thick Russian accent that dressed his words.
    “Piss off you fuckin’ fairy. Maybe if you banged out every now and then you’d grow some balls and your wife wouldn’t be fuckin’ everyone on the force except you.”
    “Hey, fuck you Carl. Don’t make this personal. I can go personal, don’t make it personal! All I’m sayin’ is, don’t be shootin’ up while you’re behind the wheel for fucks sake. Is that really so crazy to ask? Get it together, we got three bodies in here. Christ, can’t you wait another twenty minutes, you fucking junkie?”
    “Your mom’s a junkie. Junkie for this dick.”
    “Nice. Real classy. A comeback for the record books over here; the Michael fuckin’ Jordan of comedy. You know somethin’, Carl? That shits messing your mind.”
    “Keep it up and your mind will be the one a mess.”
    “No, I’m serious; you ain’t sharp as you used to be. Just yesterday you nodded off on the highway and almost crashed us right into a fuckin’ money truck. Tell the truth, I was hopin’ you would.”

    The van stuttered to a stop and Trevor was yanked out onto the pier where he stood just hours before. The scene couldn’t have been better if God himself created it just for this moment. Janet stayed to Trevor’s side while they were pushed to the edge by the squad of badged goons, off a walkway and into a small boat. Mickey unlocked the cuffs and pointed his revolver at them in unison with his colleagues.

    “That cop you killed two days ago? That was my sister, Trevor. We got the footage from the squad car you snatched her from, you fucking dolt. After that doorman made a report on a missing purse, all we had to do was look at the lobby footage to nail you scumbags. She just started last week. I was gonna guide her through the ranks. Now she’s in a morgue and here we are.”

    The boat drifted into the Hudson and cut the lights off before it settled a few meters away. The water was rough but rocked the boat gentle. Trevor and Janet held hands as they were drug out of the master bedroom and into an empty one next to it lined with plastic. How convenient. Janet burst with laughter and filled the room with a dead electricity, uncomfortable and heavy. Carl was annoyed, Mickey laughed with her and Charlie was confused. Mickey walked over and shoved the revolver between her teeth, tossing a few to the back of her throat and blood on the floor.
    “You think this is a fucking game you little cunt?”

    Janet laughed even harder, so hard she had tears and stomach aches. Mickey squeezed his trigger and sent steel through her cheek in red confetti, and Trevor on his throat. He took a deep bite out of the apple and caught the revolver on its way down to toss hot missiles at Carl and Charlie before they could gather themselves enough to even react. Two bullets, one to the head apiece. He stepped over Carl and took up the shotgun to blow chunks of skull and mush across the floor before he picked up Janet and brought her to the living area. The first aid kit in the kitchen had all they needed, and there was enough food and liquor for a month.

    “Don’t worry Janet, this time tomorrow you’ll be right and ready, good as new. Just get some rest.”
    “Baby, am I gonna die?”
    “Well, yea. Not right now though. There’s still more for us to do. We ain’t done yet, trust me. You just sleep and I’ll drive us somewhere nice. Where do you wanna go?”
    “I don’t care. Just with you. If I’m gonna die I wanna die somewhere nice though, like Hawaii.”
    “You got it. Don’t worry, our death will be beautiful. The grand ceremony to our eternity, our wedding day.”
    “You’re so romantic, baby. They’re gonna name the oceans after us.”
    Janet blushed and closed her eyes while Trevor watched her drift off, safe, out of this reality. He tucked her in, stood up and made his way to the fridge for a beer, then to the bridge.
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2014
  4. GingerCoffee
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    Goals [3296 Words]

    I don't know why I wrote it on paper. The internet has a million websites dedicated to list making or I could have saved it in OpenOffice or even typed it into a private blog. But no, I scribbled it down in concrete form like an idiot. My heart lurched when I saw the crumpled paper in Billy's hand.

    “Stop! That's mine!” I snatched it away from him.

    “I didn't know you had goals, Samantha.”

    “Shut-up, they're private.”

    “You shouldn't hide your goals.” He smiled in that cute way that he does. His bright green and black mohawk needed a trim. Gravity was pulling it a little to the left, but somehow it added to his charm.

    “It's better if they're private. It's embarrassing. Anyway, I can do it on my own. How much did you read?”

    “All of it, and I'm gonna help. Starting with number four.” I looked over the crumpled paper.

    Long Term Goals
    1. Stop Drinking
    2. Lost Thirty Pounds
    3. Paint something and finish it
    4. Have kinkier sex
    5. Learn to ride a bicycle
    6. Learn to speak Spanish
    7. Learn to make casseroles
    “You weren't supposed to see these. They're stupid.”

    “No, they're not.” Billy bent down, swept my blue bangs to the side, and kissed my forehead. I pressed my cheek into his chest and could feel his dog tags through his shirt. “Baby, if these are things you want to accomplish, go for it. I mean, how can you not know how to ride a bike? If you would stop hiding stuff and let me inside that head of yours, I could help you. Your whole family could help you. You're not an island, ya know?”

    “Alright. I'm afraid people will laugh at me, but I guess it can't hurt to tell somepeople. It might help keep me accountable.”

    “Good, we'll tell everyone at your parents' barbecue.”

    “Well the whole world doesn't need to know! Besides, we're not telling anyone about number four, ya perv.” I kissed him, and then held the crumpled paper to his nose. “Number seven.” Billy pulled the paper back a bit.

    “What about it? Make casseroles?”

    “Yeah, it's a barbecue. I could make something before we leave!”

    “Samantha, you don't cook. I don't know if you should- I mean, yeah! Go for it!”

    “You hesitated! Do you really think I can do these things? Be honest.”

    “You can do anything you want, Baby. Didn't your parents ever tell you that?”

    “Not exactly. You honestly think I can do this? You're not just trying to be the stereotypical supportive boyfriend?”

    “I didn't know there was such a thing, and yeah, I think you can do all this and more. You can conquer the Earth, Babe. But not alone. No one does anything alone. You need people to push you and persuade you and get you where you need to go.”

    Four hours later, I walked into my parents' backyard with a warm casserole dish between my tatted arms. My thoughts were bubbling with happiness. The sun was sprinkling down cheer on me or maybe my own radiance was warming the sun. I couldn't tell which was effecting which anymore. Everything looked brighter and warmer, and for once I felt like I had control. Billy was right! I could do anything! I could ride a bike, learn Spanish, finish a painting, SELL A PAINTING! Maybe my paintings would be famous. I'd quit my job. Exercise and eat healthy. No more booze. Lose weight. Spend my days painting and having amazing sex with Billy. Yes! The world was at my fingertips. I could do it all! I was invincible. One casserole and my whole world opened up.

    “Good Lord, what did you do, Sammy girl? Did you cook?” asked my mama. She still had a curler in her hair that she'd missed, but the bright red lipstick was in place as was the dark rouge moo moo draping her ample figure.

    “I made a meat and potato casserole!” I beamed as I placed it on a picnic table between a pile of burnt hot dogs and blackened cheeseburgers. I'd never seen the table before and wondered what other new treasures my hoarding parents had found at last week's auctions and yard sales.

    “Sammy girl cooked!” My mother yelled to everyone within earshot. “Don't eat whatever this is. Sammy made it. You might get food poisoning.”

    “Ma!”

    “Samantha has some goals she's been working on, and I think we should encourage her,” piped in Billy who I had forgot was by my side.

    “Sam made what?” asked my daddy, beer in hand.

    “I made a meat and potato casserole. By myself. And it's good. Don't listen to Mama.”

    “Did you taste it?” asked Ma.

    “Well, no, not yet. But it smells good.” My mama scoffed and started yelling at everyone to find a lawn chair because it was “eatin' time.” With eighteen people at the barbecue, there wasn't enough room to sit at the dinky picnic table, which served more as counter space for the food than anything else. Everyone sat in lawn chairs scattered about the yard using their laps and beer bellies as their own personal eating slabs.

    “You want a drink?” asked Billy as he tried to wipe the bird poop off an empty chair next to mine.

    “No, I already have a bottle of water. Remember my goals?”

    “Oh, right, stop drinkin'. That's great and all Samantha, but this is a barbecue. It's okay to drink at a barbecue. It makes it more fun. Besides, you don't really have a problem with drinkin' anyway. Why is that even a goal?”

    “Because I go overboard when I drink. You know that.”

    “That's not such a bad thing, and if we're gonna practice number four, you might need a few beers in ya.” He winked at me. The idiot.

    “Fine. One beer.” As Billy scooted off to the designated beer area, I looked around to see if anyone was eating my casserole. People's plates were piled high with burnt meats and mush of various colors, but none of those colors looked like my colors.

    “Is anyone going to try my casserole?” I yelled at no one in particular.

    “Sammy girl, I told everyone not to eat that. You really shouldn't cook.”

    “Ma! Let them eat it. I'm gonna eat it. Billy's gonna eat it.” Billy appeared before me with two beers in his hands, looking guilty.

    “Actually, Baby, I have a full plate already. Maybe if I have room after the burgers.”

    “Fine. Whatever. I knew my goals were stupid. I should have kept them to myself.”

    “I'm eatin' it,” said my daddy pushing a big spoonful of my colored mush into his hairy mouth. “Mmmm.”

    “Bert! If you get food poisoning from eatin' Sammy girl's crap, I'm not takin' ya to the hospital!” My ma smacked my daddy up side his head, and my daddy smiled and pinched her ass.

    “Oh, Daddy,” I muttered, trying not to smile. “At least one person is supporting me.”

    “I heard that,” said Billy, popping a beer top for me. “I'm supportive, Babe. There's just a lot of other food to eat here. Listen, I saw some bikes in front of the garage. Some of those little cusses you call cousins must've hauled them over. Today is the perfect day to learn to ride a bike.”

    “Really?” I asked, sipping my beer.

    “Yeah, I'll help you learn myself. You'll probably be ridin' by the end of the day.” I grinned. The sun soaked into my skin, and a few beers later, my invincibility came back.

    “Rule number one of riding a bike is to look where you want it to go,” said Billy as I shakily mounted the girlish bicycle.

    “Hold on, Billy. Promise me you won't let go.”

    “I'm right here, Babe. I'm always right here.” He kissed my ear and pushed the bike forward.

    “Don't let go!”

    “I have the seat. You're fine. Chillax.” He laughed. My pedals moved on their own, pushing my feet up and down in a circle. “Watch where you're going! You're headed for a ditch. Get back to the middle.” The streamers on the handle bars swooshed back and forth as I tried to steer the bike back to the center of the country road. I forced my alcohol fogged brain to concentrate. Then I put some weight onto my right foot and was surprised at how much my speed increased. More weight. Left. Right. Left. Right.

    “I'm doing it!”

    “You sure are, Baby!” I heard Billy's voice yell back from several yards behind me.

    “You let go?” I whipped my head around, lost control, and fell over hard. Searing pain bit into my knee cap.

    The alcohol swabs hurt more than the fall. Sitting on the bathroom counter I marveled at my parents' expansive first aid kit. It surprised me considering that they have hunting knives on display in the living room and loaded guns hidden all around the house. They never struck me as the careful kind. Of course, once I saw the scalpel and stitching threads, I realized that their first aid kit was actually just another form of carelessness. If anything bad happened, they'd never seek real medical attention. This was their hospital.

    “I don't think you need stitches, Baby. I'll gauze it up and check on it tomorrow.”

    “What if it's broken?”

    “It's not broken.”

    “I'm never riding a bike again. That was such a stupid idea. Why did I think I could do that?”

    “Samantha, it was your first try. Everyone falls their first try. I'd say you did pretty decent.”

    “Never again.”

    “Okay, just put it out of your head. You can put your energy into something else. What was it you wanted to learn? Spanish?”

    “Yeah.” I stared at my newly bandaged knee and sighed heavily.

    “You want to take a night class or somethin'? Babe, I have some savings for you to do somethin' like that.”

    “Yeah, I guess. Maybe once a week? I don't know how any of that works. How long does it take to learn a new language?”

    “I can answer that!” said my uncle Freddie from the other side of the bathroom wall. He poked his head through the crack in the door. “As you know little Sammy, I teach Spanish for high schoolers.”

    “Oh, yeah,” I said. Uncle Freddie always was my least favorite uncle.

    “Even the high schoolers whom I teach every day for four years still only know the most basic of Spanish. It takes many years of college as well as many years spent living in a Spanish speaking country before one can truly call themselves fluent. And even then, there's a certain talent to learning new languages. Some people have a talent for sports, some don't. Some have a talent for music, some don't. The same is true for learning languages. You have to be born with an innate talent for it.”

    “Thank you Uncle Freddie. Don't worry. I've already abandoned the idea.” I hopped off the bathroom counter and tried to squeeze my way between Freddie and the door frame.

    “I'm not trying to discourage you. I'm just saying this isn't something you can do with one class a week. If you really want to learn a language you have to commit to years of hard work and have a born talent for it.”

    “Yeah, okay, we get it,” said Billy. “Come on Samantha, let's get you another beer.”

    I chugged that beer and the next. I wanted that indestructible feeling to come back. Just hours before I thought I could take over the world, and now I was being stomped on by it. I felt so powerless, and hoped the beer would bring the magic back. I pulled the crumpled paper out of my pocket and pushed myself into Billy's side.

    “Let's count all the ways I've failed. I can't ride a bike. I can't learn Spanis. Spanish. Ish. Ish. Ish. I can't even say Spanish.”

    “Okay, Sam, I'm cutting you off,” laughed Billy. His breath reeked of alcohol and I briefly wondered if I smelled the same.

    “I can't lose weight 'cause I drink too much beer, and I can't stop drinking. Teehehehe. 'Cause I'm drunk.”

    “But you can make a casserole!”

    “I can make a casherole. I made a cassole today. I'm a success. I'll drink to my awesome success.” I popped open another beer.

    “What about painting? Let's paint something, Baby, and finish it. Then you'll have two successes!”

    “Woot! Alright! My daddy has paint in the shed out back. We can paint … like, the shed.”

    After finding the paint and spilling the paint and deciding to paint a mural on the shed door, Billy lectured me about talent.

    “Don't listen to that stupid uncle of yours, Baby. He doesn't know anything about 'innate talent.' You got talent. Paintin' talent. That's your talent. He don't have any talent. He's just jealous. You can do anything, Babe. You're, like, amazing.” I smeared green house paint across the bottom half of the rotting shed door. It met in the middle against the blue I had swiped across the top. I then blotted a puddle of red paint in the center of everything, but I used too much and it began to drip down into the green. “Whatchya makin', Baby? Is it like, abstract?”

    “No, it's a suset.”

    “A what?”

    “A sun! But the sun is melting. It's melting into the green. It's supposed to be in the middle of the middle of the middle. But it's going away. Like my sun is going away. And it's all horrible!” I looked up at the darkening sky and then fell to my knees. “I can't do anything.”

    “It's beautiful, Babe! It's like your bloody knee. It reminds me of that. All blood streaking all over the place. You're such a great artist. Let's go home and do number four.”

    “Do what?”

    “Number four. That's what I'm calling it now. Let's kink it up. You made me horny with your bloody knee picture.”

    “Billy, you're kinkier than I thought!” With the sun setting we stumbled back to the house only to have my mama shove leftovers at us.

    “See now, Sammy girl, this is why I keep all my microwave dinner boxes. I re-use them for leftovers. Now you just take it all right home and stick all this in the fridge, and these'll keep just fine in the boxes.”

    “Ma, we can't take all this. It's all cakes and stuff. I'm dying. Di-e-ting. Puh. I said 'dying!'”

    “Girl, don't you know beer has fat in it? You ain't dieting with all you drink. You're such a little drunk. Now you take this and -”

    “Ma, NO!”

    “Ya gonna hurt my feelings, Sammy girl! Didn't I teach you manners? When someone offers you food, you eat it!”

    “Leave the poor girl alone, Martha,” said my daddy, walking through the back door. “She don't want it, she don't want it - Oh, shit.” For the first time in my life, I saw my daddy run. Even if it was just the four steps it took to get to the sink, he ran and then puked all over the dishes.

    Back at home, Billy and I couldn't stuff all fifteen microwave boxes into our tiny fridge.

    “Just throw it away. She doesn't care about my goals. No one does. She wants me to get fat like her.”

    “Oh, Babe, you're drunk. Forget about it. Put the boxes on the table. We'll deal with it tomorrow.”

    “I'm not drunk! I'm gettin' soberer, and she doesn't care. No one cares. And my casserole made Daddy sick and I can't do anything right!”

    “You don't know if it was your casserole that made him sick. Besides, someone does care. I care,” said Billy pulling me close to him with a serious look in his eyes. “I care a lot. I want you to meet those goals. Starting with number four.” I smacked his arm and he broke out laughing.

    “Fine. I might as well get one thing properly checked off my list. You wait here. Stop laughin'. Wait here. I'm gonna get my sexies on.” I tripped my way to the bedroom, took off all my clothes, and put on one of Billy's old military shirts and his old uniform hat and called him in. The moment he saw me, he burst into hysterics.

    “Samantha, Baby, that's not sexy. There are so many other ways we can do kinky, but this?”

    “If you're not gonna stand at attention soldier, then … drop down and give me 50!” More laughter.

    “Yeah, my flag ain't coming up the pole for this, Baby. I used to see other men wearing these all the time. It's the opposite of sexy. Now maybe some real lingerie could make me salute you.” He began to stroke my blue hair, but it was too late, I started to whimper.

    “I can't do anything right. I can't even do kinky right!”

    I stomped out of the room with Billy calling after me. “Samantha!”

    “Just leave me alone, Billy. I'm sorry. I'm calling my daddy to tell him sorry too. I'm sorry to everyone.”

    Daddy's phone rang three times before I heard someone pick up and cough into it.

    “Cahhh, Hello?”

    “Daddy? It's me. I'm sorry my casserole made you sick.”

    “Sam? Honey, your food was fine. I drank too much.”

    “You're just being nice. I can't cook. I probably gave you food poison. Mama was right.”

    “Your mama is one outspoken woman, and I love her for it, but that don't mean she's always right. I'm glad you called though. I wanted to thank you for that pretty bull's eye you painted on my shed. That's gonna make for great shootin' practice.”

    “That wasn't a bull's eye. That was a painting. It was a goal I had to finish a painting. I can't do anything right, Daddy. I had this list of goals, and I can't do any of it. Billy tried to help me but I failed.”

    “You like my picnic table?”

    “What? Yeah. D'you get it at an auction?”

    “No! I built that with my own scarred up hands! It was a goal I'd had for a long time. I always knew I could build my own picnic table if I put my mind to it. So I built it. In secret.”

    “In secret?”

    “Yeah, your mama was so surprised. That's one good thing about keepin' goals secret is that it surprises everyone, but the biggest good thing about keeping these things secret is …. You want to know what the biggest good thing is?”

    “Yeah, Daddy.”

    “The biggest good thing is there ain't nobody around to talk you outta them. One thing I've learned in life is that when you tell people about the things you want to do, they talk you in the other direction. Sometimes they mean well, and sometimes they don't, but it never fails, most will talk ya right outta what you wanna do. Convince ya you can't do it or it ain't worth it. Might as well save your breath and not tell them about it in the first place.”

    “Oh, Daddy, that's weird advice, but I love you for it.”

    The next morning I made a new goal list in a private online blog which I titled “Things Samantha Will Secretly Accomplish.” But I did leave out a paper in full view on the table titled “Kinky Things Samantha and Billy Can Do That Don't Involve the Military.” I left it blank because some goals really are meant to be achieved with others.
     
  5. GingerCoffee
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    When Brandy Speaks (3050 – language)

    “Sheila…”

    Sheila, who was curled into a fetal position and burrowed under the covers, was startled by Brandy’s voice. Ugh, not again, she thought, annoyed. It had been a long and brutal day. Sleep seemed to have magically grown legs and was actively running away from her. Her recent bout of insomnia - three full days of it so far - had been pure hell. Her brain and all that it contained felt full of holes, like gray, mushy Swiss cheese.

    She was mentally fried and had no intentions of talking to Brandy. If she stayed quiet, maybe she would think she was asleep and just go away.

    “I know you’re awake.”

    Shit. Sheila concentrated on not squnching her eyelids too tightly. It would give her away. Nobody sleeps with pinched looking lashes. Only people pretending do. She also worked on breathing more evenly. That was an important part of fake-sleeping, too.

    “Why do you do this? You can’t fool me, Sheila.” Brandy said, heaving a sigh.

    Silence.

    “Okay,” Brandy continued, “I guess I’ll do the talking then. Where have you been? It’s not fair for you to leave me alone like this. I thought we had a deal; I’ll be there for you, and you’ll be there for me. Wasn’t that our deal? It seems I’m the only one trying to keep up my end of it.”

    Sheila realized she was holding her breath. There was truth in Brandy’s words. They had made an agreement of sorts. The moment she made it she knew it was a mistake; a life changing one. But she had made it anyway. Brandy was very persuasive.

    “You keep me waiting, and I’m always here – just as promised. Ever notice that?” Brandy asked. “You know, I don’t understand you. You were never like this before. What’s happened? Is it me? Did I do something?”

    “YES!” Sheila shouted, “You ruined my life!” She was suddenly unable to contain herself.

    “That’s a bit dramatic, don’t you think? Even for you.”

    Sheila could hear the smile in Brandy’s voice. It pissed her off even more. It was condescending…patronizing. Typical. Brandy always acted like she knew better.

    “Of course you would think so, but you’re not the one who…” She paused. Sheila hadn’t said the next part out loud yet; hadn’t been able to. “You’re not the one who lost everything…everyone!” she blurted. “It’s all your fault!”

    She turned her face into her pillow, angry tears threatening. She couldn’t help it. It wasn’t as if this was the first time they’ve had this conversation. But she was on zero sleep and feeling raw; bare, in fact – as if her soul had been stripped naked and stretched out on the clothes line for the vultures and crows to peck to bloody shreds.

    “I know it’s easier to blame me,” Brandy told her. “You always do that when things go wrong in your life. But we both know it isn’t really my fault. You made your own decisions, Sheila. You were the one that chose to hurt the people you loved.”

    Sheila rolled onto her back and glared at the ceiling. Blinking hard, a sob in her chest, she started counting bumps in the acoustic ceiling, what she always did when sleep stayed away. “One, two, three, four…”

    “Please… that again? Is this how you intend to deal with me?”

    There was that smile again. Sheila could hear it - feel it in her voice. Damn her! “Why won’t you leave me alone?” She flung her forearm over her eyes, wishing, praying it would shut her up. “Just GO AWAY!”

    “You need me.”

    Sheila threw off her covers. Most of them landed on the floor as she jumped out of bed and marched into the adjoining bathroom. She slammed the door shut and dropped the toilet lid down with a clang. Climbing on top of it, she hugged her knees to her chest.

    “Sheila…” she heard through the door.

    GO AWAY!” Sheila screamed, weeping, her body racked with emotion. “Go away go away go away…” she said over and over, more to herself than to Brandy. “Please leave me alone, I’m begging you.”

    “I don’t understand why you’re being like this. I’m here for you… I’m always here for you.”

    “But I don’t WANT you here! I don’t need you!” Sheila shouted through frustrated tears.

    “I think we both know that’s not true.”

    The confidence in that statement nearly broke Sheila in two. It was true, or at least close to true. She didn’t have to let it be, though.

    “Why don’t we stop all this? I miss the way it used to be. I know you do, too…even if you say you don’t. And we had a deal…” Brandy said.

    “Well I fucking revoke that deal!”

    “I know you don’t mean that, Sheila. We’ve been here before. You’ve saidexactlythis…how many times? You never mean it.”

    “M-maybe,” Sheila stammered uncertainly, her tears abating. “Maybe you’re right, maybe I haven’t meant it before. But I mean it now. This has to end.”

    “Come out of there, Sheila.” Brandy said impatiently from the other side of the door. “Come out here and talk to me. I deserve that much – don’t I?”

    Sheila eyed the door warily. A small part of her was tempted to do as Brandy asked. She knew it could be dangerous. Conversations with Brandy often were.

    Or perhaps she could just pretend she wasn’t there. Yeah, she thought, a tingle of bravado in her gut – I’ll just ignore her!

    She stood up, wiping clammy palms against the flannel of her pajama pants. They were all sweaty, her body’s way of telling her she was about to do something questionable, something she knew was wrong; like willingly walking into a fire pit, and all the while telling herself it’s just a puddle of rain water.

    She took two steps toward the bathroom door and gripped the antique, porcelain doorknob. It was smooth and cool in her hand; comforting, the way it always feels. Quickly, she twisted the knob and pulled the door open. She walked, feet thumping loudly on the hardwood, through her bedroom, past the bed, straight into the kitchen.

    Coffee; she’d make coffee. Clearly sleep was off running a marathon. She would be getting none of it tonight.

    She snatched up the carafe and stuck it under the running faucet and then back under the drip of the coffee maker. Then she dropped a filter into the machine, dumped grounds into it, and switched it on. Leaning back against the table, she folded her arms across her stomach and waited for the water to trek up the tube and begin its unhurried trickle into the glass globe.

    “Sheila…” Brandy spoke from behind her.

    “Dammit, I don’t want to talk to you.” Sheila muttered, already forgetting to ignore her. The truth was she was too easily triggered. They both knew this. Brandy knew it most of all.

    “I wish you would let me help you. Why are you being so stubborn?” Brandy said gently.

    The concern in her voice - the tender, maternal way she spoke… it made Sheila want to throw up. She despised it when Brandy tried to mother her. It made her feel violated. She couldn’t explain why. It just did.

    “I have no intention of pressuring you. You know that.”

    “HAH! Really!” Sheila laughed sarcastically. “That’s a load of crap and you know it.”

    “Have I ever pressured you, Sheila? I mean really pressured you? If you think about it, if you’re truly honest with yourself - you’ll know I haven’t.”

    “Well I don’t see it that way.”

    “I know you don’t. But you’re not so good at being honest with yourself. Are you, dear?”

    There was more than a smile in Brandy’s voice this time. There was a smirk. A haughty, know-it-all smirk. Sheila wanted to rip it off her face and feed it to the neighbor’s cat, Bonkers. Yeah, he would like that. He was the kind of cat that would hunt and make a meal out of just about anything. The thought of Bonkers chowing down on that grin made Sheila smile.

    She heard gurgling. The scent of brewing coffee filled the air. Just like the smooth porcelain doorknob in the bathroom, the steamy aroma was comforting to Sheila. She inhaled deeply and drew that comfort into the basement of her lungs.

    Suddenly she was reminded of her last morning with Jerry, her almost-ex-husband; the day he left for the last time, nearly two months ago. She had been brewing coffee that day, too. Or was it he who had been? She had come out of their bedroom, or stumbled out, rather, to find him sitting alone at the kitchen table, a bizarre blend of shattered vacancy on his face.

    “Why do you do this, Sheila? It does no good to torment yourself.” Brandy said, interrupting her thoughts.

    “Stop mind-reading me! My thoughts are mine… they’re private! Stay the hell out of them!”

    “I know you too well, is all. Nobody’s reading anyone’s mind here.”

    Sheila pictured Bonkers gobbling up that grin again.

    “You do understand that he would have gone anyway, whether I was here or not. I wasn’t the one that drove him out. Surely you knew that.”

    “No – I don’t know that, and you don’t know that either! He loved me…” Sheila said, humiliated by the whimper in her voice. She cleared her throat and tried again. “He loved me and nothing you say now can change that. He only left because…because,” Sheila couldn’t finish. If she did she would have to admit that Brandy was right, and that would be the end of her. Her heart couldn’t bear the weight of that admission; it would simply cave in, implode, evaporate. “Uh, b-because…”

    “Because he was never meant to stay.” Brandy finished for her.

    “No, you’re wrong. He loved me, I know it! And –"

    “Yes, he loved you. No one’s denying that. But people love and leave others all the time. Loving someone doesn’t mean they stay. You know that’s true. Just look at your mother. She did the same thing, remember?”

    The soft sincerity in her voice very nearly made Sheila vomit this time. It took all she had to tamp it down. Her gag reflex bobbed up and down her throat like a pogo stick before settling down. “Don’t you talk about her! Don’t you ever…”

    “It’s no great secret, Sheila.” Brandy cut in. “Everyone knows; they’ve always known. Saying it out loud won’t change the past. You need to face this. You need to stop believing these lies you’re constantly tell yourself.”

    “She – she didn’t know how to stay. That’s why she left! It was too hard for her with him… with my father. It had nothing to do with me. She loved me. Don’t you dare say she didn’t!”

    Sheila suddenly felt like the five year old she had been when her mother went away. She remembered crouching down, peeking through the spindly wrought iron of the second floor banister, watching her parents fight in the foyer below. Her mother was grappling with the doorknob; a white, antique, porcelain doorknob.

    All of the sudden it dawned on Sheila why she's been drawn to them her entire life. Why she felt compelled to search for them at consignment stores, garage sales, estate sales. Why it was so important when she and Jerry bought this house that they replace each doorknob with the antique porcelain knobs she had spent years hunting down.

    She could still see her mother at the door, hands gripping the creamy porcelain. Thin slivers of white peeked out between her fingers.

    She remembered her father grabbing a fistful of her mother’s hair, twisting the long strands around his fingers like spaghetti on a fork. He yanked her head back, dropping her onto the floor. She scrambled up faster than Sheila would have thought possible; like a determined insect blown head-over-tin-cups by a gust of wind and, without missing a beat, flipping over to truck right along.

    Back on her feet, her mother kicked her dad’s legs out from under him. He went down hard, hitting the back of his head with a loud smack. What she did next was something Sheila has never understood. She smiled. She looked down at her husband, Sheila’s dad, and a creepy, self satisfied grin erupted across her face, sending shivers down Sheila’s spine. Then she shoved his limp legs out of the way with her foot and opened the door.

    Sheila had stood up then; sure her mother would look up and see her. Certain she would beckon her to come down, saying “Let’s go! We’ll be safe if we stay together!” Certain she wouldn’t – couldn’t leave her behind in this house of horrors with this awful, violent man.

    But she didn’t do any of that. She didn’t look up and see her, and she didn’t try to take her with her. And apparently she didn’t care if she was safe or not. Because she left. She yanked open the door and stepped into the black night and never looked back.

    Sheila never saw her again.

    “You see? She was never meant to stay,” Brandy said, as if reading Sheila’s mind. “But you know you can always count on me. I will always be here for you – no matter what.”

    Sheila tried hard not to start crying again. The tears of that five year old had been shed way too many times over the years, and her mother didn’t deserve even one more teardrop. Only now that her heart was primed, Sheila couldn’t contain what was desperate to spill out. Before she knew it, she was bawling… just like a five year old. She cried for a long while.

    “Come now, let’s end this nonsense. Let me help you.” Brandy said.

    Sniffling, Sheila grabbed a paper towel. She blew her nose and wiped her face.

    Let me help you…” Brandy repeated.

    Silently, Sheila walked to her pantry. She stood there for a moment, staring at its door… thinking, contemplating. Exhaling deeply, she pulled it open and looked past the flour and baking powder. She looked to the row of little brown bottles near the back. With sweaty palms she grasped the tall, round one withMcCormick Pure Vanilla Extract on the label. She pulled it out, rubbing her thumb over the red cap. Then she set it on the counter and stepped back.

    “Sheila, what are you thinking?” Brandy asked.

    “Shut up,” Sheila said and headed to her bedroom. She went into her walk-in closet, to the boxes in the corner containing her tax stuff. She yanked folders out and tossed them across the floor; they weren’t what she was looking for. She fumbled around the bottom of the box. It had to be there.

    Ah, finally; under all her old receipts. She pulled it loose and looked hard at it. The pewter had begun to oxidize, a slight patina tint at the edge of the engraving.Lillian, it read in fancy script. It had been her mothers. As a child, Sheila was surprised she’d left without it. It’d been among her most prized possessions. Perhaps that was why Sheila had held onto it for all these years – even if it was simply stuck in a box of old tax returns.

    Sheila shook it. Something splashed inside. She walked it to the kitchen and set is next to the Vanilla Extract.

    “What are you doing, Sheila?” Brandy asked more sternly.

    “I said shut up.”

    Then Sheila walked to the linen closet. She reached into the folded, cotton quilt that Nana, her father’s mother, had made for her when she turned six; something to distract Sheila from the knowledge that her mother had abandoned her. But also, Sheila believed, something to make up for the fact that the son Nana had raised was a monster.

    Nothing could make up for that. And when her dad no longer had her mother to torment, he turned all of his attentions toward his daughter; none of which was welcomed.

    Not long after, Sheila met Brandy. She had been a good friend of her mother’s, so it only made sense that she would want to befriend Lillian’s daughter.

    Sheila found what she was looking for tucked between the folds of the quilt. The smooth glass with the paper label felt good… it felt right. She caressed it with her fingertips – gave it a jiggle. Slosh, slosh. Half full, at least. Her mouth began to water.

    “Sheila…” Brandy said quietly, calmly.

    “Please, Brandy. Just… please…” She walked the bottle back to the kitchen and set it on the counter, next to the Vanilla Extract and the flask. She lined them up, like little soldiers of descending sizes standing at attention.

    “I’m always here for you. I will always be here for you.” Brandy said.

    Sheila twisted off the cap on the Vanilla Extract’s bottle. She passed it under her nose, inhaling. Just as she expected; not even an inkling of vanilla scent. She’d hid something else in there a long time ago.

    She tilted her head back, tipping the bottle ass-up into the air, guzzling its entire contents. It stung, making her eyes water. She coughed hard twice. It’d been a while.

    Then she grabbed the flask. She twisted off the cap and threw it across the room. Feverishly, she drank the liquid down. She coughed several times, but it didn’t smart as badly this time.

    Finally she snatched up the glass bottle. Christian Brothers Brandy VS, it said. It was her favorite. It had been her mother’s favorite, too.

    She unscrewed the cap, hovered the bottle under her nose and breathed it in. The smell instantly took her back to her mother. All that was missing were the hints of Chanel No. 5 beneath the warm, honeyed tones of the liquor. Rejection, longing, sadness – it all welled up inside of her. She wrapped quivering lips around the bottle’s mouth and leaned back, letting the amber liquid fill her belly in huge gulps.

    “That’s it, dear. That’s it. Don’t you worry. I am always here for you,” Brandy said.
     
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2014
  6. GingerCoffee
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    End of the Road - 842 words

    No, no, no!

    This wasn’t good, Kyle thought grimly. As he flew down the road towards the petrol station, he could feel himself weakening. He’d have to get out soon and eat or he’d faint. Pulling into the station, he was sweating, and he parked the Corolla awkwardly, taking up two spaces. It was dark, there wouldn’t be anyone to see it, an embarrassment on his previously impeccable driving. He lurched inside the station, grabbed some chocolate and went to the counter. The cashier was a fat, bored looking woman who slowly scanned the bars as Kyle fought the shakes.

    ‘That’ll be three sixty-seven, please’, she said.

    ‘Thank you,’ said Kyle weakly, taking the bars and turning. A man in the biscuit aisle was feigning interest in digestives, ear cocked.

    ‘Sir,’ the woman said sharply. ‘Three sixty-seven.’

    Kyle groaned, mustering up the last dredges of the power within, the effort hurting him. He leaned into her slowly and said venemously, ‘Keep the change.’ The man slowly reached for a packet.

    The woman looked appeased, opening her register and reorganising some money. ‘Have a pleasant evening, sir.’

    Kyle was already out the door, scoffing down the bars. The woman had been stronger than he’d anticipated, and it had taken it out of him. The sugar was some relief; he barely enjoyed the taste as he simply wolfed it down, coughing between swallows. He entered the Corolla and sat, gasping. He needed to get to Sartorius, now. He pulled out, narrowly avoiding a petrol tank, and headed for HQ. The man in the store nodded at the cashier as he left, wishing her good night.

    Kyle tore down the road, knowing he was running out of time. His erreneous powers had just about got him through the incident at the station, but they mightn’t serve him again. Then he saw a policeman flagging him down.

    Shit. He’d been speeding, and normally he was so clean on the roads, deflecting attention. He pulled over, mentally preparing himself. Policemen were usually the weakest of mind, unjustified arrogance failing to back up their lack of mental capacity. Arguably the most important job, and yet one of the easiest careers to get into?

    ‘You were doing sixty-five in a fifty zone, show me your licence,’ said the policeman.

    Kyle was out of options. He had no licence, just as he had no money. He had to resort to his failing option, summoning up all he had left in him, scraping the bottom of his soul for one final onslought. ‘It’s fine, officer, move along.’ Venom dripped from his voice.

    The policeman studied him for what felt like half an eternity, sweat trickled down Kyle’s side and he almost wilted in his seat. This is the end, this is the end...

    The officer relented and nodded. ‘Carry on.’

    Stunned by his victory, Kyle travelled on, hope renewing his confidence. There were no more obstacles between HQ and he and he pulled into a parking space, comfortably between the white lines. He killed the engine and was about to go into HQ when he saw - The Holy Tree!

    What was Sartorius thinking, leaving one outside? Nicknamed The Holy Tree, it had no name on Earth, and its seed granted the consumer untold Power. Kyle could already feel it coursing through his veins- the Power - the Vision - the Voice - his mouth salivated - he wanted it back so desperately - he reached for it... and then it wasn’t there, a mere illusion, and suddenly Kyle was defeated again, almost sobbing as he pushed in the door and took the stairs slowly up, almost dragging his feet, and when he reached the top, the third floor, he summoned his remaining energy to kick in the door.

    Sartorius was waiting, back to him, looking out the window, hands behind his back. Kyle could feel the Power radiating, more potent than any he’d previously experienced. ‘Kyle,’ he said, his voice dark, teasing. ‘I’m surprised you made it.’ He wasn’t.

    ‘Please,’ begged Kyle. He thought he’d be bravely confronting the madman but he was practically crying, pathetic. ‘I need the Power. I can’t live without it.’ He was on his knees.

    ‘But Kyle, you failed me,’ said Sartorius, turning, a wicked grin dancing across his face. ‘And I don’t enjoy failure.’

    ‘I’ll do anything,’ whispered Kyle, face crumpled, tears streaming down his cheeks, ‘anything. I’m sorry. Please, I need another chance.’

    Sartorius laughed mercilessly, a harsh sound that called the bats from Hell to come forth and unleash devastation. ‘The tears of the fallen are almost as sweet as stripping their power.’

    ‘Fuck you!’ screamed Kyle, rising unsteadily, for one last effort, trying to summon an energy he no longer possessed. Sartorius stood firm, invunerable. A man came in behind Kyle, the same one from the petrol station. Kyle swivelled, feeling the new prescence, dread compounded at the depth of its power.

    Kyle-’ then Nothing.
     

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